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Archive for the category “Faith”

The Floater

The start of a new year is always a little daunting to me. New slate, new beginning, new… what? I really detest making goals. I detested it for my employers – because you know making goals never reflect in the raises we are given. It was always a budgeted amount regardless of what was stated on our reviews. I got a few promotions along the way because I was a good worker and did more than what was expected – but the raise was never given in proportion to the amount of effort put in and the goals that were attained. I did the work because I was given a job to do and I did it without much fanfare.

But I must tell you, through much of my life I have floated from one decision to another. I have led a quiet life. I don’t put things on a goal list or things I want to attain before I die. However, my Pastor challenged us today. He wants us to think of our funeral. I don’t like to think in those terms, but I see his point. God is a strategic God. And He wants us to be involved in His plan. His goals for our lives should be reflected in the way we live.

I have started reading through the Bible as my yearly endeavor. Right now, I am in Genesis – yep, just starting out. But I am reminded of a few things of significance – God has an order to things He creates; He puts things into place exactly at the right time and in the right order. He uses unlikely people for His purpose.

I am in the story of Jacob at this time. He’s an interesting character. Jacob’s name means deceiver and he lived up to his name. He stole his brother’s birthright and his blessing through deceptive means with the help of his mother. Jacob married a woman through deception – his future father-in-law switched wives on him and Jacob didn’t realize it until after the wedding night. Oops – married the first daughter and not the one he truly loved. Hate it when that happens!

But eventually He did marry his beloved Rachel. His first wife, Leah started having sons before his second wife Rachel. Jacob didn’t love Leah but yet she kept producing sons. Rachel was barren for many years then had Jacob’s favorite son Joseph and eventually Benjamin. He had twelve sons and one daughter through four different women – fascinating story; you’ll need to read it for yourself (Genesis 26-35).

It’s interesting to me that God didn’t use Jacob’s favorite wife to produce the heir to God’s Kingdom – His story is through the least favorite Leah and not through the favorite son but through one of Leah’s sons, Judah. Interesting, right? Jacob’s name is eventually changed to Israel and the blessing that was given to Jacob has been transferred from one generation to the next. The blessing given to Jacob (Israel) is that those who curse Israel will be cursed and those who bless Israel will be blessed (Genesis 27:29). God’s blessing is still reverberating through the centuries. God’s promises never fail.

As I contemplate God’s strategic plan, He has a place for me too. My Pastor told us we are to be intentional about our lives. We will never create a life of influence by accident. God has given us a vision for our lives – we are to bring Him glory in whatever we do. He has left it open to how He will use us, but He leaves nothing to chance. He uses it all for our good and for His purpose (Romans 8:28). When we go in the wrong direction, He uses it to build our character; for our future. But we are to surrender today and let God direct our steps for our future. He did this with Joseph, which means we will be exactly where God wants us to be at just the right time.

God gave Joseph a dream. The dream looked like nothing Joseph experienced along the way. However, Joseph stayed the course and chose to honor God in each and every situation until the dream was fulfilled. Joseph’s life wasn’t easy – first sold into slavery (by his brothers), then prison for something he did not do before he ever knew God was still working out the dream through him. The dream was fulfilled when Joseph rose to the second in command in Egypt. It was a road full of obstacles but one that finished at the right time and right place.

When I contemplate my own funeral, will it be a quiet affair with just a few friends and family in attendance? Will I have a life of significance? As long as I have breath in my lungs, I have an opportunity to live a life of purpose – glorifying God and letting Him lead me on a path with complete surrender of my own hopes and dreams. It’s His vision and dream that will be the most influential in all of history.

Can I be a part of His story? God’s Word tells me I can and you too. His Word also says to lay down our lives and take up the cross. That’s the life we’re meant to live – not a floater, but intentionally surrender every day. Not my will, but Yours be done; forever and ever. Amen.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Peace Beyond Understanding

When circumstances keep piling up from one thing to another, where do you turn for help? Over the last couple of months, I have seen circumstances change dramatically for several of my extended family members. One family lost their Mom suddenly; well, within 6 weeks time. The other family is in a battle that we all fear – cancer. Having experienced this myself, I know how their world can be rocked to the very core.

My Mom’s diagnosis ten years ago, will forever be etched into my memory. Devastation. Overwhelming sorrow. Shock. Questions of “what to do now?” seem to be unending. But right in the midst of the storm, peace. I told my Mom the peace I was experiencing and she too felt it. It was totally unexpected. Yes, overwhelmed with a sense of great grief, but peace in the midst. This peace transcends all understanding, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippi church (Philippians 4:7).

To be at peace, no matter what happens, is just not humanly possible. It’s an act of the Holy Spirit. I experienced it during those next two months as my Mom succumbed to the natural order in which we are all called. We do not get out of this life alive, but we are appointed to die at least once. However, that was not the end of my Mom’s story; she lives today with the Lord!

With my extended family’s ordeal, I visited my beloved aunt and noticed her own peace beyond understanding. She has the unbelievable peace knowing this is not the end. She knows her eternal home. Her joy was evident when I was sitting with her. She tried to explain this peace to me. She said she felt Jesus right beside her and knew He was there in the midst of her battle. She said no matter if He called for her today or in nine months, she was ready. Peace beyond understanding.

As I turn to a new year in just a few hours, I wonder what 2020 will bring. As the year indicates, I hope it’s a year of vision. I hope I can see clearly – both physically and spiritually. It seems this last year has been one of darkness. I can’t explain this cloud that has hung over me but something has kept me from writing or even had the ability to sit quietly in the Lord’s presence. It’s been a tough year. I do not have bouts of depression. I have joy and peace most of my days. The darkness has nothing to do with me physically. I believe there is a battle in the heavens that is playing out here on earth.

2020 may be another year of darkness, but I am praying for the rays of God’s light to shine brightly through the darkness. The world has turned upside down and I don’t expect it to right itself anytime soon. With the tumultuous political climate we’re in, this year may be a difficult year for us here in the US. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but I believe we’re in for quite a ride. So be ready for it. Prepare for the battle – with prayer – so that you will be at peace no matter what happens. I ask for God’s protection from this darkness. And pray consistently for His help for our nation.

I hope you are ready for the battle because it’s coming whether we’re ready or not. It could be a personal battle like my Aunt’s or a national battle that affects us all. We all come to a battle we cannot face alone. But we have One who will be in it with us just as my Aunt has experienced Him there beside her. I know God has all things under His control. He has the time of all events – life, death, Jesus returning, or the daily battles we all face – He’s got this now and forever. I trust Him to complete the work He’s started – in me, in my Aunt, in this country, and in the world. And I know His peace is for each of us to experience – beyond our understanding – now and forever.

May God’s light shine upon you and His blessings flow in you and around you for this next year. Keep focused on the His will; be obedient to His calling, and let Him use you mightily for His Kingdom throughout this New Year. Let’s move forward with His peace in this new normal and let Him get the glory. Here’s to a new decade of fruitfulness! Happy New Year!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Learning from John

For the last eleven weeks, my small group studied the letters of John (1 John, 2 John and 3 John). If you have read those letters, you probably noticed a theme – God is love. John pointed to the fact that if we know God and are found in Him, then we are to love as well. In John’s words: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Another point I picked out from reading these letters is that truth and love go together. This point may seem obvious to you, but it did not occur to me these two should always be together. It makes perfect sense because Jesus is Love and He is Truth. When we walk in truth and love, we are the reflection of Jesus. Just speaking truth without love, is harsh. Just giving love without truth is incomplete.

I noted in a summary of one of the weeks: love is the indicator of our relationship with God through Jesus. If we love, it’s because of God’s Spirit in us; if we live in fear, God’s love is not there. Love drives out fear. John stated it this way in 1 John 4:18b: perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

It all makes perfect sense – when we are abiding with Jesus, day in and day out – we live with no fear, we live in complete love and we know the truth. Our joy is complete. However, it’s hard to live like that. It takes a daily grounding in God’s Word to sustain my mind in the truth and in love. I have to provide a shield over my mind and my heart. Because once I step out of my house, the world wants to influence me. Actually, I don’t have to step out of my house. The world creeps in when I turn on the television or I log on to the World Wide Web.

Another point John made that really hit home for me. We need to watch out for false teachers. He called them antichrists. We definitely have a problem today with false messages. John wrote two thousand years ago, we are in the last hour and antichrists are among us. His words in 1 John 4: 2-3: This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

How much more today than when John first penned these words. And the false messages are being broadcast across the globe. We need to watch who we let into our circle of influence – no matter if it’s a friend or a famous speaker (or singer for that matter). John wrote we should not let these who speak falsehoods into our house – check it out in John’s second letter: If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

The teaching he referred to was the teaching that Jesus did not come in the flesh; basically a deceiver who teaches falsely. Anytime we turn on the television or log on to the web, we are letting them into our house. Anytime we listen, we welcome them into our spiritual house unless we are grounded in the Truth and know the Truth and recognize their falsehood. John wrote in his second letter we are to test the spirits. This is how we will know if what we hear is truth or lies; compare it to God’s Word.

Last night, I listened to a show concerning the Hebrew year 5780 that just started a little over a month or two ago and the coming year 2020. The speaker said that “80” represented the mouth; 2020 is for vision. He mentioned this year there will be more speaking and more vision. If this is true, then we need to be grounded in God’s Word – first to understand truth, second to cover our minds with the helmet of salvation to protect us from negative influence.

God’s Word says it this way: Proverbs 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.

And in Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Be careful who you let influence your thoughts and your decisions. These days will continue to get darker. We are the light and we need to shine the light in this darkness. We are the ones who walk in love and in truth. Let us be the influencers we are called to be. Stay grounded. And stay focused on what’s important for this life and the one to come.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

Having Sight for the Future

Greetings! It’s been quite a while since I have posted so let me catch you up on what’s going on in my world. When I woke up on Easter Sunday, I had trouble with my sight. I realized at one point in the day, it was just my left eye that was blurry. I thought eye drops would help; they didn’t. I waited a week, then a month, then two months – still no change.

When I finally went to the eye doctor, he sent me to a surgeon because I had a macular hole, which is a hole in my retina. There is no sight in that area. It actually distorts my vision with blurriness along the edges. The surgeon fixed the hole, but the vision hasn’t returned. It’s a little better, but it’s going to take up to a year to know how much of my vision will be restored.

Long distance isn’t a problem, but close up work is – details are hard to pinpoint. Writing was put aside in June because of my sight – both physically and spiritually. I wasn’t in a place where I could trust my vision. The words were not flowing anymore. You may have noticed over the last year or so this difficulty since my writings have been sporadic. For six years, I wrote every week, then something happened and the words quit flowing. So I decided to step aside until the words started to flow again.

This morning felt different. Words were flowing before my eyes opened. The trouble with that is – I can never get the words to flow when I sit down to write. I had such a good blog posting before I woke up fully! I need a tape recorder of my thoughts! So I will give it my best effort and ask the Holy Spirit to intervene in my ramblings.

For the last few months, I have been watching the world fall apart. Have you? The times are just crazy, right? Where has civility gone? For the last year or two, political correctness has gone to the extreme; and it seems everyone is getting offended over something.

People are rising up for change. Change in politics. Change in how things are done in our government and even in our religion. Christianity needs to change, they say. Prominent pastors and teachers are straying from the word they have spoken from the pulpit and written in their books. There seems to be a “great falling away” from morality and spiritually in this day like never before. Seems this was mentioned in the Book they say is out dated and not culturally relevant. Seems to me it’s more relevant today than at any time in history. We are seeing a great shift in attitude; the Bible told us it was going to happen in the last days.

Last night, I had a few minutes before my bedtime. I turned on a 30 minute program speaking on end of times events. I love this stuff! I love to see how God is working; but sometimes, I fell to see. Others seemed to be more attuned to these things so I listen to what they have to say. Pastor Jimmy Evans, from Gateway Church, was on the program. He said he has been studying Bible prophecy for forty years. He seems to be attuned to what’s going on today.

Pastor Evans mentioned the book of Malachy’s Prophecy, a book written about the future 112 Popes. If this book is true prophecy, then Pope Francis is the last Pope; he is the 112th Pope. Does that mean we are at the end of the church age? If this is so, then the end of the church age will mean the removal of the church from the earth by the way of rapture – Jesus snatches us from the earth. The Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth when we leave too.

The Pope is an old man; he doesn’t have many more years ahead of him. Apparently in the prophecy, the last Pope will go through the tribulation period found in the Book of Revelation. Do you see where I am going with this? Time is very short. The church age is coming to an end and judgment is coming. Pastor Evans spoke about this time when the church will be divided. Isn’t it more so today than ever before? Whole denominations are moving away from God’s Word.

Jesus spoke about this time in Matthew 25. Pastor Evans mentioned the parable of the ten virgins. Jesus refers to the Kingdom of God like a wedding. He is the Bridegroom. In this parable, the Bridegroom is coming, half of the virgins are ready; the other half are not. Pastor Evans mentioned if this is true, then 50% of the church will miss the rapture. Five of the ten virgins had oil for their lamps (oil represents the Holy Spirit). The other five ran out of oil. When they tried to get into the house, the door was locked and the owner said to go away for he did not know them.

It’s a sobering word. But the Word says to stand firm until the end. Keep the faith. Do the work we’re called to do. There will be crazy times ahead just as the Word states. I truly believe it is God’s Word which never changes. It’s relevant and it is the Truth. We are to encourage one another and keep looking for His appearance even if it takes another ten years or 20 or 30. His Word said He is coming to take us to the biggest wedding feast and it’s going to be amazing! Don’t miss it!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-9

Tokens or Devotion?

There have been a few times when something has lain heavily upon my chest. For the last few months, I have had trouble writing. The words come in starts and spurts. And a dark cloud seemed to stay between me and the Lord. I would get a word but before I could sit down with my thoughts, it was gone. I still may not be able to articulate it properly, but something is marinating in my head and in my heart.

It seems the world is spinning out of control and upside down. We know these times are spoken of in the Bible. It’s considered one of the “end of times” signs. You might say, people have talked about the end of times for generations. But nothing has pointed to the end events as we are experiencing today. You might decide to quit reading about now. But this stirring of my heart isn’t really about the end of times. It’s about the people of the early church, what they experienced with Jesus and my desire to see it again in my lifetime.

I must confess a couple of things to you. One thing is I am a bit jealous of those who walked with Jesus. They saw miraculous things. They heard Jesus speak with such authority that it caused quite a stir with the religious folks. But the true kicker that made everything come alive for them was the resurrection of Jesus. Everything changed for the disciples with that event.

I know. We have it so much better today because we have the Spirit of Jesus living in us if we are truly saved. The ancient ones would be jealous of us if they had known the Spirit of the Living God could dwell in them like we have it today. They would want to experience these things first hand. Some had the Spirit for such a time, but it was not like what we have today.

However, the Spirit of Jesus seemed to do more in the early church than what is experienced today. Why is that? If it’s the same Spirit (and it is), shouldn’t the Spirit still be working through the Church today? I would say yes. But I fail to see Him work these days like He once did in biblical times. I read about the wonders that happened with the early church through Peter and Paul and the other disciples. People came to know Jesus by the thousands by the words of the Spirit spoken by these disciples.

One thing that has come up for me is the word devoted. The early church was devoted to meeting together, reading God’s word and taking the Lord’s communion. They were devoted to prayer and fasting. The work of the Spirit was powerful in that day because of the devotion of the early church.

My second confession is this: maybe the reason I see nothing happening with the Spirit is because I am not devoted to the things that pleases God. I think the second thing that is brewing in my heart is the need for fervent prayer. We should all be devoted to prayer – not these light weight prayers but ones that shake the heavens because of the mighty forces we stir in Jesus’ name.

In Francis Chan’s new book Letters to the Church, he wrote about his daughter’s birthday. He asked his daughter if they threw a party and just offered cake would anyone show up to celebrate her birthday. She said a couple would. Francis asked if he provided unlimited tokens, food and prizes at a local kids place; how many would show up? She said the whole school would be there.

Church in this day and age is more on the “unlimited tokens and cake” page than the “devotion to things that please God” page. How many would show up if our gatherings were like the early church, just reading the word of God and prayer? Prayer has become more of an opener or a closer to the worship experience instead of a fervency to bring heaven to earth.

If we want to experience change in our culture, in our communities and in our families; it’s going to take fervent prayer. Another confession, it’s been a real long time since I’ve prayed fervently. I haven’t experienced a Holy Spirit filled moment in church or in my quiet time in years. I have drifted away from the devoted things in this last season of my life. It’s been a tough season. Maybe it’s because of my lack of devotion to the things that please God. Maybe it’s time to change my focus again. Maybe it’s time to learn how to pray effectively with fervency once again.

If we are truly at the end of times, then we don’t have time to lose. If there are prayers that need to move heaven and earth, it has to come from us – the church body. There is no one else that can do it and we can’t do it alone. We need each other to be united in focus – to the things that please God. No more tokens for me. I want the real deal. I want the Holy Spirit to move like never before. How about you?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

The Tribe

We live at the most social time in history. We have never been as connected as we are today. Looking at my Facebook friends, I realized there were friends from every aspect of my life represented. I have a few childhood friends and a few friends from high school. I lived in two different places during those two seasons and had to make new friends in my new place. I moved on to college, and friends from college are included on Facebook.

There are several friends from different employment opportunities. There are church friends represented as well over the years. The neat thing about Facebook is connection. Through Facebook, we can still experience life together even though we’re miles apart. Well, that’s the idea. I’m not sure we’re really experiencing that same connection as we once did in real life. My friends I’ve had over the years have shaped me into the person I am today. We have experienced something special. We each made it through our seasons together.

We survived childhood together – not everyone does. We survived high school. Today, it’s a wonder anyone gets through those difficult years. However, we made it. Then college, the experiences we had back then, well, I don’t really talk much about those times. It’s like Vegas, what happens in college stays in college (for the most part). It’s done, it’s in the past; but friendships are made solid in those years because of the experience we had together.

Work and church in those early years – the growth that happens – it really shapes us. Mentors help us through. We learn from them then we move on to a new place to learn and grow from there. Every step of the way, friends have helped us to survive and thrive. Connections are great, but experiences shape us.

There are a few on my Facebook account who I don’t really know, but hopefully the encouraging words they find on my page helps them too. It’s all about community. The school I went to in New York for health coaching called community our tribe. We were called to be leaders of our tribe; to show them the way to a healthier, better life. They encouraged us to reach out and build our tribe – it helps us as we gain a bigger platform to spread the message of change.

One of my favorite television shows is Survivor. I love the concept of putting people in an uncomfortable island setting to survive for thirty-nine days. I wouldn’t do it, but I love to watch others do it. They have to pull together to build their shelter before darkness falls on the first day. They have to be able to make fire, find food and water in order to survive for the next three days.

Then the games really begin. Games are for rewards and for elimination. The teams have to work together in order to outlast the other teams. Eventually, every person has to take on the challenge solely to survive until the next round. But through the time on the island, alliances are formed. The social game is really the key to becoming the sole survivor to win the million dollar prize.

We are social creatures. God made us that way. Community is the key to our survival. Jesus had His tribe as well. He reached out to twelve men who were His disciples. Jesus had an inner circle of three who He picked to share His more intimate experiences. There were a few more that followed Him as well. Mary, Martha and Lazarus seemed to be very important to Him. He stayed with them whenever He was near Jerusalem. Jesus had crowds following Him wherever He went. But crowds are fickle. They tend to follow as long as their needs are met. There was no real connection to the crowds. They followed until the message became too hard to bear.

Some friends are like that as well. They stay with us as long as their needs are met until we disappoint them or hurt them. But true friends are with us through thick and thin – hard times and great times. True friends stay when the crowds leave. The twelve stayed with Jesus even when the crowds left. They were determined to stay even if it meant death to them. Eventually, they too left when it was apparent Jesus wasn’t going to make it out of His circumstances. Jesus was going to die and the twelve scattered – well, eleven scattered. The twelfth had already left Him for thirty pieces of silver. Judas betrayed Jesus for the cost of a slave.

Jesus is the sign of a true friend. After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus found His disciples and restored the relationship. He didn’t leave them but sought them out. He found Peter who denied Jesus and gave Peter a new purpose. Jesus set Peter’s course. He strengthened and encouraged Peter to follow His example. Jesus’ tribe changed the world. We are living in this time with the resources we have because of the tribe of Jesus.

Friendships matter. Connections and experiences make us who we are to become. We are told in God’s Word not to forsake the gathering together – our church community keeps us on the right path. We need each other in order to survive and thrive in this life. Thank you, friends, for being a part of my life. You make me better for the experiences we share. Let’s continue to learn and grow together. Our world needs us to be connected – we could change the world by the love we share with one another.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

Kingdom Purpose

Over the years, I have listened to many speakers on health-related topics as well as biblical-based teachings. Every once in a while, I will run across a webinar or series of talks on a particular subject that interests me that has nothing to do with health or the Bible. I listened to a series a couple of weeks ago on money. I let this message marinate since that time to discern what should be shared on this blog site.

Usually I post my health-related articles on my newsletter, which I post on my Denise4Health Facebook page (you can “like” my page to get my articles). The biblical-based articles I post on this site. I have chosen to write this article for this site because it does have a spiritual application. Jesus taught quite a bit about money – usually the relationship we have with it. We all know how to spend it really well. But do we really have God’s perspective on it? After all, the money we receive comes from Him. It’s all His – we’re just managers of His resources.

The series started out with a talk on debt. I have often heard how debt was bad, but one of the speakers talked about how the wealthy use debt to increase their wealth. Let me give you a bit of my back story. One of my previous jobs was with a real estate company who purchased or built buildings for leasing purposes. They would get so excited when the banks would raise their debt ceilings to increase the loan potential and thus buy or build more buildings. I would get perplexed when that would happen. I thought debt was a bad thing so why would they want more of it?

I had a bit of a light bulb moment when the speakers revealed the reasoning behind the debt. Money is supposed to work for us. Apparently my former employer understood this concept and it made good business sense. They used the banks money to make them money and fulfill their vision of why they were in business – to provide quality buildings for businesses and to make some money for their shareholders (or that was my concept of their vision).

Debt was interesting from that perspective but I don’t foresee going into debt to make money for myself – just not going to happen. However, there were other speakers on different aspects of investing to create wealth. We might have a bad concept of wealth – money is the root of evil. However, wealth isn’t really a bad thing. Yes, the love of money is – the Bible tells us so. But wealth can be used to God’s advantage. God is looking for someone to fund His vision.

In Joel 2:28, we are told in the last days old men will dream dreams and young men will see visions. Totally out of context; but maybe in the last days, the old ones will be funding the visions of the young ones. Just a thought.

I believe in divine connections – old and young alike, we are called to help one another fulfill God’s vision. I also believe God calls all His people to be investors. But most of us don’t know how to invest. And most of us don’t have additional money to invest. Most of us live from paycheck to paycheck barely making ends meet. We survive rather than thrive. I believe God wants us to thrive; it’s better for His Kingdom. We just have to learn how to manage money wisely. Like Jesus’ disciples, we have to be taught the skills to help the Kingdom.

We have many teachings from Jesus on money. One story concerned three managers (Luke 19 and Matthew 25) who were left in charge of the business (gold) while the master was away. Another story concerned the rich man building bigger barns (found in Luke 12). The first story was about increasing what the master gave the servants (investors for the Kingdom) and the second story was about sharing the increase God gives us and not storing it up in bigger barns (bank accounts) for the future.

This is not about socialism – take from the rich to give to the poor; but giving in response to what has been done for us. The first century Christians shared with those in need. It’s what made them different from the rest of the world. We are to learn how to put God’s money to work for His Kingdom purpose. I believe this is the true definition of wealth. We all need to learn how to be wealthy and it might be we have to take a risk or two to get there.

We can all be risk adverse; I know I avoid it, if possible. However, I believe someone is going to be called to fund someone else’s vision for God’s purpose. It will take a step of faith to be that someone. In order to be that someone, we need to get our finances under control. We need the resources to be able to fund the vision.

Like any skill, we have to learn how to master the skill of building wealth to build His Kingdom. It means surrendering to God – everything is His – and let Him direct our steps to financial freedom and wealth investing. Just saying “yes” to His vision means He gets the glory and we get the blessings. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:29-34

The Sacrifice

Throughout centuries, words were written down for eternal purpose. These words were complete when it was put together and called God’s Word – the Bible. It’s interesting to see how each author had a message to share. Scholars point out stories which depict Jesus Christ from one book to the next. The books are intertwined to relay God’s message – we all need a savior to save us from our sins. In the first book of the Bible, we see our need for a Savior.

Genesis 3:13-15 tells the story of sin entering the world for the first time. The woman ate the fruit that was forbidden because of the serpent – God’s enemy (and ours) Satan. God said because of this act of defiance, there will be “enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” From this account, we know the why of the story. But the Bible continues as it answers the how, where, and when this will come about.

Scholars point to passages throughout the Bible giving foreshadow of Jesus. Abraham’s sacrifice on Mount Moriah was one of the passages foreshadows Jesus’ sacrifice. Genesis 22: 2 begins the story of God’s call to Abraham concerning his promised son. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” On the third day of traveling, God showed Abraham the place where the sacrifice needed to be made.

The story continues in Genesis 22:6-8. Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

God did provide the sacrifice for Abraham’s offering after God saw Abraham’s willingness to obey. But the real sacrifice still needed to be displayed in other ways. We jump a few centuries later to a captive people in the land of Egypt. At the right time, God made a way for His people to be delivered from their bondage. It took four hundred years to come to the point of sacrificed lamb’s blood to be poured out for the sake of the people.

This event was called Passover because of the sacrificed lamb’s blood was put on their door posts so that the angel of death would pass over that house. Everyone in the house would be saved if the blood of the lamb was poured out for them. After the Jews were delivered, they celebrated this event year after year. It was the first of the seven major festivals they celebrated each and every year.

It seems pretty cruel to sacrifice animals, but God said it must be done in order to cover sins. Leviticus 17:11 stated: For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

It seems harsh to sacrifice animals, but sin was the reason. Sins of the people had to be resolved. Year after year, a lamb had to be sacrificed until Jesus. The perfect Lamb needed to be sacrificed for all sins – past, present and future. A one-time act of sacrifice will wipe away every sin. It was God’s plan from the beginning.

John the Baptist was the first one to recognize Jesus as the perfect Lamb. In John 1:29, John said of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” When Jesus was baptized, God spoke this word about Him in Matthew 3:16-17. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Only a perfect Lamb was able to take away the sins of the people.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17). God’s plan was coming together perfectly.

At the right time, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy Abraham spoke about to Isaac when God would provide the Lamb for sacrifice on the very mountain God showed Abraham thousands of years before. At just the right time, Jesus’ fulfillment was made on the celebration of Passover – the time of recognition of Israel’s deliverance from death.

God’s plan is still at work. The world is still being redeemed by the blood of His perfect Lamb, Jesus. He fulfills everything as He states in His Word at the right time. He did everything for us; all we have to do is believe. Something I heard not long ago – sin doesn’t keep you out of heaven, unbelief does.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:37-38

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

Do you believe Jesus is who He said He is? Do you believe Jesus did what He said He would do? Believe in the one who was sent to take away your sins. This is the season to recognize Jesus’ sacrifice. Remember what He did for you today.

The Underlying Issue

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about some of the deception that has crept into the church body. It generated a few comments on my Facebook page. I don’t claim to know all the answers to the questions that have been raised concerning church issues. It’s an imperfect world that is ruled by our sin nature.

We don’t like to talk much about our sin nature or our sins in general. I have things I deal with on a daily basis that I don’t really like talking (or write) about. It’s only by God’s grace that I survived my past and live to confess I am saved by the grace of God, not by my works or by my “good” nature. Nothing in me is worth saving, but Jesus sought me and caught me and transformed my thinking.

I couldn’t change my nature on my own. It goes against who I am as a human being. I have proclivities that are natural to me and my nature doesn’t want to change. Yet, I changed. Not because of who I am, but because of whose I am. Jesus bought me at a huge price. It was a very slow process to change the way I think and the way I act. It’s because of Jesus that I live differently today. I’m not perfect. I still fail to live as I should as His follower. When I wake up in the morning, I am given a new day. The old has passed away and a new day has dawned. I can start over with a clean slate. That’s God’s mercy at work.

We have a big problem in this world today. We are all sinful people. The things that hinder my relationship with Jesus are probably different from the ones that hinder you. But we all suffer from our sin nature. In God’s mercy, He sent Jesus – not to condemn the world, but to save us (John 3:16-17).

God could not and will not look upon sin. Sin was introduced to the perfect world and the world has been forever changed. We are condemned to live a life less than what God intended. Sin does that. God cannot overlook our sins. Our sin nature condemns us to live without a relationship with God. Today, the world is going further away from God. It’s like a vortex pulling us down into the abyss. But we don’t have to go as the world goes. Jesus breaks the pull of the abyss and sets us free. Jesus loved us enough to pull us out by His death and resurrection – death was defeated by the blood of Jesus!

If you remember from my previous post, my friend thought God changed with the times. I countered with I didn’t believe God changes with culture. First God is love. True – He is but He also does not love sin. He never has and He never will. Second, sin has always been sin. Sin never changes. Culture just changes what we call sin; it deceives us into thinking we are right when God says it’s wrong.

Jesus loved everyone He met. But He did not tolerate their sin. He told the adulteress woman, to go and sin no more. He told the rich young man to sell all his possessions and come follow me. After spending the day with Jesus, the tax collector recognized his sins and changed the way he conducted business. Jesus told the Pharisees to repent. He cried over Jerusalem because of their unbelief. Jesus grieved over those who were hard-hearted and would not repent.

Some of the folks listened to His teaching and chose to walk with Him; but many turned away because His teaching was hard to live out. His teaching goes against our nature. Jesus’ teaching still tells us to live differently. He calls us to repentance – to turn away from the life of sin and to walk with Him. When we walk with Him, we change. It’s a transforming life, a process to become more like Him.

God does not change and His love endures forever. That knowledge is the foundation of my hope. If He changed, how firm would be my foundation? He doesn’t change like shifting sand. We are told to build our lives upon a rock – one that is unmovable – a sure foundation.

Culture is constantly changing. What’s good today will be old and outdated tomorrow. I can’t live that way. I need something more secure. I have found the answer in Jesus. For this I am truly grateful. My sins of the past have been removed and I have been redeemed for the new life in Jesus. Everyone has the opportunity to follow Him, but not everyone will. My prayer is that you are walking with Him today. If not, then I hope you will be one of the few who find Him today and let Him transform you too.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:18-21

Hard Truth

All day, I have been avoiding this post. When I woke up this morning, a conversation I had yesterday was on my mind. When I had my quiet time, the conversation was still there – even more so after praying about it. After my quiet time, I went to the gym. I came home for lunch; it was still there. After lunch, I worked out in the yard. The longer I put it off the more it burned in my heart. So I guess I need to convey what was said and what’s troubling me about it.

For the last few weeks (months?), I have been praying for opportunities to talk with a friend about her beliefs. I have had a couple of occasions where I got bits and pieces and the picture is getting a bit clearer. It is as I suspected which makes me pray even more so. However, what I didn’t really pray about was another friend’s beliefs. I thought I knew what she believed and was not as concerned about her.

A couple of weeks ago, the latter friend and I started a conversation about the decision handed down from the governing board of the United Methodist Church. She’s a member of the UMC. I thought I knew her position and didn’t want to debate her about the decision. The decision the board revealed at that time was the decision to stay with the traditional views of the church doctrine. She was upset with their decision. The conversation was interrupted and we never got back to it until yesterday.

She received an email from her local church concerning this traditional plan and their denouncement of the board’s decision. She wanted me to read the email, which I did. Then she wanted my opinion. I told her I disagreed with the principles they were laying out for their church to follow. She was floored by my views, but I knew she would not understand. She started questioning me about what I believed about the Bible. She said she believed that it was not to be taken literally. But the kicker for me was that she said that God had to change with culture. I was floored. Why would God change on the fickleness of human thinking? It made no sense to me.

I don’t know everything about the Bible; there is still room to grow in my knowledge. However, I feel confident that what I know to be true is true – God does not change. The Bible is God’s Word and I believe every word of it. I didn’t know how to respond any further to her. If we can’t agree on the foundation of the Bible, there wasn’t anything more I could say that would change her mind. The conversation has left me with feeling a bit perplexed.

Many years ago, my viewpoint was totally different. I was very liberal, just like my friend. But I was living a lifestyle that was against God’s teaching. I wanted my beliefs to line up with my thinking. I was discounting the verses that didn’t line up with my thinking. The Bible cannot be bent to please my ears. After I left that lifestyle and started listening to sound teaching and reading the Bible daily, I began to see how deceived I had been in those early years.

What I find so disconcerting right now is the spiritual battle being waged in the church body today. I think some of the funk that I have been in for the last few months is the darkness that is being revealed in the church body. I feel the oppression like a weight bearing down on my soul. I don’t know everything about spiritual battles, but I know enough to see how the war is being fought hard for the church to survive in America today.

The Scripture tells us Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Jesus said that the Way to heaven is narrow and few will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). One other Scripture comes to mind, Jesus said that the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13). In the verse before this, He said sin will be rampant everywhere. How true it is today – even in the church. But to the ones who stand firm on His teachings will be saved – it’s His promise. The others? The future isn’t that promising.

I turn to Revelation and see the last church mentioned before the end of the church age – the church in Laodicea. The church is lukewarm – neither hot nor cold. The church thought they were rich; but by Jesus’ standards, they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:18). Jesus said to be earnest and repent. He stands at the door knocking, waiting on us to open the door and let Him in. In the church. In our hearts. When we give Him access, we change, He doesn’t.

The one who is victorious will have the right to sit with Jesus on His throne. Stand firm on God’s Word. Don’t let culture deceive you into thinking that God’s word is outdated. God’s Word stands forever. God does not change and He will not be mocked. I truly believe this. Do you?

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

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