Sunday, June 19, 2011

To Know Him

Once upon a time I did not know God and I chose to walk my own way without concern about anyone except for myself and my wants and needs. But God still chose to love me while I was yet His enemy. 

Choices were made that made me question what was going on in my life. And through the boldness of a preacher’s wife, I found the courage to face who I was in light of who my Lord is. On that day, I became a child of God.

Choosing to become a child of God changed everything and yet it changed nothing. In the spiritual realm I became an adopted daughter, a high priest, a bride, a sister, and the knowledge that forever I shall be in companionship with God in Heaven. In the physical, I still had to deal with the consequences of the decisions I had made while not walking God’s path for me.

It was a time of life that I wouldn’t wish on anyone; hardships and stresses unfolded daily upon me. And yet, through it all, there was the redeeming presence of my Jesus.  

Taking the time to getting to know Him and to understand Him, He started changing me from the inside out. Guiding, directing, leading and transforming me into the person that I am today. He gave and continues to give me grace, wisdom and strength to endure trials and persecution that I brought on myself for decisions that I made when I did not know Him and for being a Christian.

He extended forgiveness to me when I didn’t deserve it. He extended friendship to me when I thought I was alone. He extended grace to me when I deserved punishment. He taught me to forgive others and then taught me to forgive myself. And as I grew in Him I found that I was taking on His characteristics.

Now on the other side of a twelve year consequence, I have been asked: “Was it worth standing for God when you were persecuted so much?” And my answer: “What I have done is nothing compared to what He has done for me.”

Am I perfect? Not at all; far from it. Do I stumble? I try not to, but I do. Which leads me to this point: As believers we are faced with temptations that are not of God. Our response to these temptations is our own with its own consequences to pay – whether the consequence is good or bad. It is my belief that our response to temptation is directly in proportion with how close our relationship is with our Father.  How close our relationship is to our Father is in direct proportion to how much time we invest in getting to know Him.

At work, I am found to be on the outside of the team I am on when I do not participate in the foul language, the sexual innuendoes and the getting drunk talk. Out of a 10 hour work day I find myself feeling alone while surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who are watching me speak, interact and display my character but the real question is whose character am I displaying? Mine or God’s? How are they seeing me – a devoted woman of God or a hypocrite when I fall below their unspoken expectations? Herein lies the principle of the confliction of the two natures that resides in all believers. Many examples are shown in the Bible where great men and women of God have battled with this same principle. Paul wrote in Romans 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand, for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but am doing the very thing I hate.

At this moment, my coworkers in whom I am around 10 hours a day four days a week, are walking in their life as an enemy of God - - as I did for 24 years and 50 weeks of my life.  God loves them just as He loved me. God’s will’s for them is that they come to know Him just as it is His will for me to know Him. But what does it really mean to know Him?

Knowing God means experiencing God. And to be able to experience God means that we need to slow our life down enough to read His Words and to gain an understanding of Him. Also, through our adversity in this life we grow in knowledge of Him because we are searching for answers as to why some things happen in life. God gives answers. He gives direction, conviction, wisdom, counsel, spiritual gifts and assurance of faith. To know Him consists of having a better understanding of who God is and a deeper insight to His will for each of our lives.

Even after we come to know our Lord, sometimes decisions are made that are against what He wants for us. He gives us that freedom to choose. I believe it breaks His heart when we go against His instructions. His instructions are not there to hinder you but to save you from pain because He loves you. His instructions are there to make you holy. It is never too late to make right your relationship with Him.

Colossians 1:21-23 (MSG)
You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God's side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don't walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message. 

It is my prayer that you get to know Him intimately and passionately and allow Him to revel Himself to you in His wonderful, marvelous, unique ways that He does.

The beauty of the gracious Cross overcomes all the evil in this world. And I pray for you – that through your own trial that you may get to know Him and in knowing Him, you will love Him.

Isaiah 30:18-22 MSG
But God is not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right – everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones. Oh yes, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, your time of tears is over. Cry for help and you’ll find its grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: "This is the right road. Walk down this road." You’ll scrap your expensive and fashionable god-images. You’ll throw them in the trash as so much garbage, saying, “Good Riddance!”

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Unexpected Twists

How many of us actually live the life we thought we would have we were young? My own aspirations were to have a family, a house with the white picket fence, the dog and the cat and six kids. Well, God had other plans for my life up until now and He still has plans for my future. And He does for you too. 

Some of the “twists” that we experience in life are painful. In fact, in a world full of anger and death, where does God fit in? Where is God when life isn’t going well…when it is so painful that you don’t think you could endure a day more?

Please tell me that there are more people out there than me that have felt this way - - the person who had to bury their child too early, the person who endured divorce, the person who endured abuse or the person who endured addictions.

For those that don’t know God these events can inspire two reactions: 1) either draw them to God or (2) push them away from God.

For the sake of the rest of this thought process let us take a look at the persons who know Christ as their Savior and have an established relationship with Him. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are not exempt to hard times; however, their response to hard times should be different than those who do not know Christ. The key word being “should”. I know in my own experiences there have been times I have excelled in that process and others times I have failed but in both I have learned the character of God in a more intimate form.

And that brings me to the question, “How can I praise God when life doesn’t go well?”

Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
  • Make a list of blessings God has bestowed upon you
  • Tell someone about your salvation experience. Retelling the moment when God lovingly adopted you into His family helps you recall the beauty of His matchless grace
  • Read a Psalm each day.
  • Try to imagine how God can use negative circumstances to glorify Himself.

Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethrens.
  • Remember your purpose in life is to be molded into the likeness of Christ so that you can have an intimate relationship with Him and glorify Him. 
  • Ask Him to change your perspective so that you will see your life circumstances as He does.
  • When we see things as He does, we begin to see truth and in that truth, we shall find ourselves praising God.
  •  By exercising your will, you can make a conscious choice to praise Him – in spite of how you feel at the moment.

Life may not always be what you may think it should be but knowing that God is the same – for the past, the present and the future – will bring about a peace to your soul. God does not favor one over another either. He wants to know each of us on an intimate fashion and He is on each of ours sides regardless of what may be going on in your life now. Trials last only but a season but His joy lasts forever!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dare to Live Free

It is hard. I want to quit. This is too difficult. It really isn’t worth the effort because no one notices anyway. I wish things were different. I have been a failure my whole life, why is that going to change now? Success is for other people not me.

Many of us have had these thoughts at one time or another in our life. In fact, I would dare say that many people live in an attitude of defeat. But Jesus doesn’t want us to see our lives as a disappointment or as worthless or as unworthy of His sacrifice.

Some of us are deceived into thinking that “other” people have it “all together” when reality may be just the opposite and that the image of the person that you are seeing is barely “holding it together”.

This is your time and I challenge you to dare to live free. Free from stereotypes, free from prejudices, free from guilt, shame, doubts and past failures. I dare you to live your life viewing others and yourself from the eyes of Christ……….as He hung on the Cross, there were the ones He loved spitting on Him, cursing Him, gambling for His shredded clothes and mocking Him and then there were others who were weeping for Him because they loved Him during their time. In every generation there are the two groups of people. Which one are you in?

But I digress a bit….back on point….Let us look at some of the scriptures so we can see others and ourselves as He is cheering each of us onward towards our goals:
  1. Isaiah 50:7 The Lord God helps me, so I will not be ashamed. I will be determined and I will not be disgraced.
  2. Ephesians 3:18-19 And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love – how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God.
  3. Zechariah 4:6 Then he told me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘You will not succeed by your own strength or power, buy by my Spirit,’ says the Lord All-Powerful.”

Reading, Reciting and Remembering the Words of Christ allows us to defeat, maim and destroy our enemy because we are not acting in and of ourselves but in the name and might of the mighty One who lives within us.

As you go through your daily moments remember that this is building who you are moment by moment and ask yourself, Would your actions be pleasing to our Father? The very Father who is in cheering you on in your pursuits?

If the answer was yes, then great; however, if the answer is no – do not worry. You see, the grace of God is big enough to cover all mistakes, any mess ups and His love extends to places you can’t even see. It is an Agape type of love.

So if you are off track, what does it take to get you back on track? Refocus. In a world full of noise, renew your mind daily. Allow your heart to hear and to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as He speaks love, joy, peace, encouragement and guidance to you. Search yourself and accept chastisement towards yourself gently. Allow yourself to dare to live freely from everything that has been holding you back from becoming the man or woman that God intends and expects you to be.

As Pastor Todd Nelson from Christian Faith Center in San Angelo Texas has stated often, “The only reason for failure in whatever you pursue is broken focus.” Renew your mind in the Words of Christ at this very moment in time and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you in whatever you are pursuing today. And may the race that you are running be a testament to the Living and Holy God and when your race is finished, may it leave a heavenly legacy.