Friday, February 26, 2010

Forever and For Always, No Matter What.

I have a sign in my kitchen which reads, “Forever and For Always, No Matter What.” It is amazing to me how if we let him, God will speak to us through anything. He keeps the flame of his word stoked within us by reminding us here and there with normal every day things, causing us to meditate on what he has said to us. As I looked at this sign today I was reminded once again to think about what he has been teaching me, the meaning of covenant.

I recently heard a preacher on TV say that we have no idea what is the meaning of a covenant. He explained that God’s word speaks against allowing us to have an intimate relationship outside of the covenant of marriage and if that is what God expects of us then those boundaries will also apply to Him.

He will not have intimate relationship with us outside of a covenant relationship with him. He further went on to explain that a covenant is as follows: Everything I have is yours and everything you have is mine. See Jesus relationship with the Father and us in all of John 17, especially verse 10.

He used the example of Christ on the cross saying that when Christ died for us he took everything that was rightfully ours: sin, guilt, shame and punishment for these, upon himself and he gave to us everything that was his: righteousness, holiness, access to the very throne of God and so much more.

All this stirred deep within my spirit as I had to question my relationship with the Lord. Was I in covenant relationship with him or not? Through my tears I thought, I don’t ever want to wonder about this and right there and then I renewed my covenant with God. I gave him all of myself and took all that was his. This has forever changed my life through a deeper intimacy with him that I have never before experienced, one that can be forever trusted…no matter what.

When Christ says to us that he will never leave us and never forsake us, he means it. It is his everlasting vow to us, his bride. Unlike when we as humans say our wedding vows and then break them later on in life, there is no changing his promises. I can completely trust the bond I have with Jesus. I don’t have to worry that I did or didn’t hear what he said to me clearly. I don’t have to worry that his power won’t be there when I need it to help me through.

My Father, because of the covenant he has with me, will never leave me in times of trouble. He will never fail me and in token I will take him wherever his heart desires to go and I will do whatever his heart desires to do. As a part of the covenant, he will also provide for all my needs. Everything has been given to me that I will ever need to do what he has called me to do. (2 Peter 1:3-11)

Sprinkled throughout Isaiah 41-44 today, I found sweet comfort crystals for the days that lie ahead. In the midst of all the people were going through, God spoke sweetly to them with a calm reassuring voice. See if you can hear him singing over you today. Read these passages and you too will be blessed.

My husband and I have taken a big step this last weekend and we put our house up for sale. We are not sure where the Lord is leading us, but I am sure that because of the covenant relationship we have with the Father he will lead us where we are to go and what we are to do. We are remaining open to his leading and we are staying close to him. It is a big step of obedience for us but we rest in his presence as we look forward to the adventurous journey ahead.

I am so glad that the Lord spoke to us to renew things with him so that we could be assured of our security in him no matter what. I know there will be tough times because Jesus tells us there will be, so we can expect it, but where else would we rather be? I love what it says in John 6:68, “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” There is no other place than Jesus. There is no one like him and never will be. He is our source. Everything I have is his and everything he has is mine.

Galatians 2:20 beautifully speaks what I am trying to convey, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I hope I have spurred you on today to think about the level of intimacy that you have or do not have with Christ. My prayer is that he will stir in you as he did in me to sit at his feet and say, I renew my covenant with you today, Jesus. I give you all of me, good and bad, and I receive all that you have for me. His promises can be trusted. Spend some time with him and see what he has to say to your heart.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lord! Save Me!

Oh, to be like Jesus. Today this is the cry of my heart as I read from Matthew 14. Here Jesus learns of the tragic beheading of his cousin John. This is a gruesome tragedy Jesus suffers and his response to it is to withdraw to a place of peace to be with the Father.

Jesus goes by boat and the people follow by shore. When he lands, he sees them and it says in verse 14 that he has compassion on them and heals them. Even in the midst of his own personal tragedy and grief he is drawn by his heart of compassion to love and minister to the people. He’s so strong as he handles this situation. Grace flows from him as he invests himself in the needs of others.

I am so taken with the depth of his kindness and it doesn’t end there; dinner time has come and the people need to eat. Jesus takes what little his disciples have and breaks it, gives it back to them and tells them to feed the people. He multiplies it to meet the need and then some. Once again love and generosity flows from him through his disciples to the people.

How could I ever doubt that he loves me and desires to come near to me? How could we ever doubt that he wouldn’t provide for our needs? He can’t help himself, he loves us so much.

The scripture goes on to display his glory to those closest to him. He makes the disciples go out into a boat as he once again retreats this time to the mountainside to pursue peace and be with the Father. I want you to see as I did what resulted from his time with God. He walks on water! When we have spent time with the Father, we can walk on troubled waters with grace and peace even as he did. God was his source.

The disciples are afraid by what they see. Think about the miracle they had just seen with their own eyes as Jesus fed five thousand men, not counting the women and children and yet they are terrified by their circumstances. Who will save them?

I love the beauty of Jesus’ words as he immediately speaks to them in verse 27, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Man, he immediately speaks to them when they are frightened! Really think about this situation and allow your thoughts to put you in the boat with them. The wind and the waves have picked up, the only light you have is the moon, you are very vulnerable and there seems to be danger all around when you look out across the deep, black water and what do you see? A figure walking toward you on the water! No wonder they were terrified.

Then you hear the master speak; Jesus wants to speak to you in the midst of what you are facing today and what is he saying to you? Do you hear him? “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” I am so intrigued by the boldness of Peter as he calls back to Jesus saying in verse28, “Lord, if it’s you…tell me to come to you on the water.” This is a lesson to us, as well, when we are seeking guidance from the Lord to test what it is we are hearing and seeing. Jesus says, “Come”. That one word from him is enough for Peter to risk it all and he got down out of his place of safety onto the rough waters to go to Jesus.

Just one word from Jesus and he risked it all, this is so powerful. Then it seems that his senses return to him and he realizes what he’s done. Fear and doubt come to torment him and he cries out, “Lord, save me!” then verse 31 says, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” Jesus chides him a bit but he is still kind asking him, “Why did you doubt?”

Whenever we take a leap into the unknown for Jesus we can expect fear and doubt to come, but we have nothing to fear for Jesus is there to immediately reach out his hand of grace and mercy to save us. Everything about Jesus is salvation. All through this scripture is weaved the golden thread of salvation and Jesus is the one bringing it to everyone.

The disciples worshipped him upon entering their boat proclaiming that he truly is the Son of God. If his kindness to them has found you today and you haven’t yet given your life to him, hear his words to you, “Take courage! It is I.” and don’t be afraid to leap into his arms of safety.

Pray with me… “Lord, save me! I acknowledge that I need you. I’m in a boat with deepest, darkest circumstances around me and I’m afraid for my life. Come into my heart , I acknowledge you are the Son of God and that you died in my place for my sins. I receive you as my Lord and Savior today. Thank you for saving me. I believe! Amen.

If you prayed this and believed it from your heart, the bible says that you are saved. (Romans 10:9) And if you are already a believer and you are facing wind and waves take courage because Jesus is there to save you too! Immediately, he will reach out his hand to you when you call! Have faith, don’t doubt, don’t fear but believe!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Don't Be Surprised that They Hate You!

Ouch! Ever feel like you’re the welcome mat someone has just wiped their dirty shoes on? Recently, I’ve been experiencing this kind of tribulation and it sure does put your flesh on the run. It will keep you up nights if you let it.

It’s hard to be hated and unjustly accused. It’s hard to forgive and let God deal with the situation. I’m thankful that God is the judge and he sees our hearts. I’m thankful that we can come into the light and be free. I want God to see my heart and help me through because only he can heal me.

But if you’re not careful and in control of your thoughts you will watch the movie of circumstance in your mind over and over trying to see what you did to make them hate you. It can make you crazy if you let it. Seeing the pictures over and over can feed the resentment that wants to quietly grow on our souls. Like mold with deadly poison, it wants to consume you until you are completely shut down. The only way to kill it is with forgiveness spray and the stiff scrub brush of Jesus’ blood.

As I thought of my circumstance I was reminded of the many times in the bible where Jesus told us we would be hated for his name sake; Matthew 10:22 & 24:9, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17 and John 15:18 to name a few.

Sometimes people hate us and they don’t even know why. It’s helpful for us to look at things from a spiritual perspective, the world hated Jesus and if Jesus lives in us they will hate us too. I believe that more happens on the spiritual level than we are aware. Ephesians 6:12 helps us to see who the real culprit is saying, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.”

It is not so much the person who hates us but the spirit who is controlling that person. Keeping this perspective will help us to fight against the source and not the person who is before us. Understanding is a powerful gift from our Father that will keep us from taking things personally. Jesus used this approach as he prayed for the people who were unjustly mocking, beating and crucifying him. Listen to his prayer in Luke 23:34 as he hung on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

In fact, all throughout this story in Luke 23 as Jesus was being unjustly tried and found guilty of doing wrong, he was able to keep his cool in circumstances that would have ground us into dust. They killed him and they didn't even know why! I wonder what his thoughts and prayers were during that time. I’m sure he could clearly see the enemy weaving in and out of the crowd inciting the people and rulers against him. Praise God, he knew the bigger plan! He could see the bigger picture!

Hebrews 12:1-2 gives us insight to his thought process and a hidden key to overcoming such dire happenstance as it cries with passion, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus kept his eye on the prize and trusted that God would take care of the rest. Don’t let the enemy trick you into thinking that you can never forgive someone because it is not what the scripture above tells us.

WE CAN throw off those things that the enemy wants to hinder us with and we don’t have to live there. Matter of fact there is a stern warning in Matthew 6:14-15 in regard to forgiveness that helps us to see that forgiveness is not so much for the person who wronged us but for OURSELVES!

Keeping these eternal perspectives will help us when we find that we are in this kind of situation. Jesus said it would come! So don’t be surprised when it happens and gain understanding, so that you can be free from the poisonous mold I mentioned earlier. You are doing yourself a favor by forgiving!

I hope this has helped someone today, I know it has encouraged me in my circumstances. May your day be full of bright hope, peace and freedom! Amen!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Kind of Ground is Under You?

I was challenged in our bible study last night to think of the Word of God in a new light. What will I do with what I have learned? So many times I approach passages in the bible as things to remember instead of things to do. Once again I had to repent. In Luke 6:46-49, Jesus asks his disciples, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” How can I say that Jesus is Lord when I am not willing to let him have his way in every aspect of my life?

Jesus goes on to liken the kind of person who comes to him, listens to him and puts his words into practice to one who builds his house on a rock. This person isn’t shaken because they have built on a firm foundation. God wants me to obey his word so that when the storms of life blow in, I can weather them with confidence. He isn’t trying to just get me to follow some rules and regulations. There is a method to his work.

Jesus continues by comparing someone who doesn’t do what he says to a person who builds his house on the ground without a foundation. Collapse and destruction are the result.

It is so hard to change our thinking. Only daily reading of the word and help from the Holy Spirit can accomplish this feat. If I don’t know what the word says, I’m not putting it into practice and I won’t be ready for what comes my way. I will crumble.

The Word of God is not there for me to just gain fun-filled trivia facts or have “one up” on someone…on the contrary, it is there for me to live every minute, of every hour ,of every day. The Word is there for me to eat, sleep and breathe it. It should be as necessary to me as life itself.

I confess that I cannot do it on my own, but it takes the love of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit to practically implement it in my life. Paul uses the beautiful illustration of a husband loving his wife in Ephesians 5: 25-26 saying, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

Christ uses his word to wash us clean and change the way we think and act thereby making us holy. It is encouraging to me that Christ does this for us through his Holy Spirit, lovingly changing us from day to day. Thank God for that because without him doing this work of restoration in me; my house would be flattened! I hope that you are as challenged as I was today to put the word into practice with the Holy Spirit guiding your steps and to be a doer, not just a hearer. (James 1:22)