God is Greater

Devastation of man.jpg“Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man.”

Job 33:12

Last year our beloved Smokey Mountains were ablaze with fire. The devastation that man’s carelessness caused broke my heart as I traveled around Roaring Fork Trail and captured the charred remains of  age old trees. I wanted to cry. But as I hiked up the side of the mountain and looked out over the scene before me, my focus went from the burned stubble to the new life springing up all around. Sprigs of pine trees dotted the mountain floor and other green vegetation poked sturdy heads above the earth. I took this picture, because it spoke God’s life into me.

I sat down and prayed. I asked God’s forgiveness for only seeing the charred remains first. I asked God’s forgiveness for the individuals who caused the fire. And I found peace that in the midst of the ruins, God is greater.

I’ve been through many trials in my life. Some so bad that there will always be a scar. But the thing about scars is that the wound itself is healed, the scar is mark on me is a reminder of God’s deliverance.

I saw that in the forest. There were scars all around, but the healing was in the new growth. The healing was in moving forward and trusting in God who cares more about the foliage than I ever could. The Creator is greater.

 

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Saved, now what?

how to receive the holy spirit - good news unlimited on Image Of The Holy Spirit“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

John 14:26

Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples. This time was not always spent in walking, fishing, and telling jokes, although I’m sure they did their share of that. Most of Jesus’ time was spent in teaching lessons that the disciples would need after he left them. Lessons on how to talk with authority when you don’t agree with them, lessons on how to show love to the unlovely, and lessons on repentance when you fall short of God’s expectations.

I have a heavy burden for those who accept Christ and are not taught the “what’s next” of a Christian life. My burden was given to me from God and through that burden I wrote “From Self-esteem to God-esteem.” These words on paper are a guideline to listening to the Holy Spirit in the “what’s next.”

When we accept Christ as our Savior and acknowledge that he has forgiven, and always will, our sins, we are free. We are free to be whoever we want to be. But as we are told in Psalm 37:4 that if you, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” our desires will be the same as God’s. Dwelling in the relationship with God is where the Holy Spirit comes in, and also where we fall short in mentoring new Christians in their walk.

Our strength to walk with God comes from the strength of God in us. Jesus did not leave his disciples, or us, to their own devices. He left them with an indwelling Holy Spirit that provides a way to continue walking with Christ. The Holy Spirit teaches us as Christ taught his followers: talking, loving, and repenting. He gives us wisdom and understanding for living in a sin-full world. He  teaches us meaning when we read the Scriptures, and he reveals sin through discernment.

We should never neglect the Holy Spirit power in us. I spent many confusing years trying to do it on my own, because I was saved through a denomination that made me feel like the Holy Ghost was a dirty word. I didn’t realize that I had all that I needed right with me from the moment I accepted Christ to live a Christian life. I worked, I studied, and I did. And I searched for something I thought was missing.

What a revival we could have if we would only take the time to mentor Christians and show them through God’s Word the power against the world that we have inside of us. My pastor has been giving out the “From Self – esteem to God – esteem” book to new converts at the time of their salvation. But we need more. That book is only a stepping stone to helping each other draw on the wisdom, strength, and power of the Holy Spirit living inside each of us.

Who can you mentor today?

The Lesson from a Grain of Wheat

wheat-field-640960_960_720 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

John 12:24-25

A loved one of ours is going through a really tough time right now. Her children are grown; she is alone and scared. Her whole life has been spent trying to hold onto her status as a needed role in her children’s lives and now that they have families of their own, it is hard for her to understand the change in the way that they need her. She is miserable and that in itself is pushing family and friends away. Her whole life is wrapped around her unhappiness in this world. And my heart breaks.

Jesus knew that this life was only temporary when he gave the parable of the wheat seed. The seed in and of itself is not life, but it plays a role in bringing life. Just as Jesus died and was buried in the earth to bring us life, so must the seed be planted so that it can die and bring forth new life in the stalk of wheat. If the seed does not die, then new life does not grow. And so must we be the same.

I have a good life here on earth, but I know that only in dying to self can I be truly satisfied and fulfill my calling to produce good fruit. I cannot cling to the comforts of this world and still grow in Christ. I cannot look at what I have and don’t have (friends, family, possessions) and keep the joy of Christian growth in my spirit. I have to die to self, I have to let go of earthly life in order to embrace new, eternal, life in Christ. And I have to die to self so that others might see the fruit of that death.

We go through stages in this life: single, married, divorced, widowed. And each stage has its own God designed purpose as I wrote in Submission is NOT a Four-letter Word, “God doesn’t call the roles of wife, single woman, or widow…God calls each (person), regardless of role in this life, to serve Him fully. We are to do this wherever we are and no matter what the role.”

I pray for my friend. I pray that she realizes that her life is not over, it is just beginning a new phase. I pray that she finds comfort in Christ and that she allows Him to direct her every thought, desire, and prayer. I pray that she would embrace this new relationship with her children and that she supports them as the generation that she instilled God’s love into as she raised them. And I pray that she realizes that she is never alone.

The Will of God

Jesus_black“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:40

 

Last night during our weekly Bible study, a discussion started around God’s will and the conditions of the world. I know, this isn’t a new topic among Christians, but as the views and beliefs circled the room, I felt God nudging me in truth: God only has one will for us. God’s will is that all should be saved through belief in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Everything else along our journey depends on how close we are to God and listening to Him. Psalm 37:4 gives us the roadmap, Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.”  

Many people are serving God in countries that are dangerous to Christians, and we pray for their safety. Is it God’s will that they be in danger? Are we thwarting God’s will by praying for their safety? No, I don’t believe that we are. God’s will was completed the minute these precious missionaries looked on Jesus and believed in Him; they have eternal life and that is God’s will. As they walked with God and became closer to Him, He placed a desire in their heart to serve Him through mission work and that is what put them where they are today. And we are all called to pray.

It is not God’s will, or even His desire, that we suffer, but He warned us that we will as long as we live on earth. If we look at the book of 1 Peter (I’m not going to write it all down, but please, do read it today), we see many times where Peter writes similar to the following in 1 Peter 3:17 “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” God’s will is that none would be lost, that all would be saved to eternal life. But then He lets us know that from that moment of salvation, if we are living a Christian life, we will be persecuted. In the verse above, I looked at the Greek translation and it defines “will” as being more toward God’s inclination. In other words, God is sovereign, and He can step in any time to deliver us from what the world throws at us. Why doesn’t He protect us and deliver us always? Why did our child die? Why do I have pain? Why is the money too short for the month? On and on and on come the “whys.”

There are many questions that we will never have answered here on earth. We can feed depression, fear, and hatred by allowing those questions to grow in our spirit, or we can trust in almighty God whose desire is for us to trust Him. Sure, we miss our loved ones here on earth, but we will not have that loneliness when we get to Heaven, which is our eternal home. We may be miserably in pain or in a wheelchair or otherwise debilitated, but we will be free of pain and encumbrances when we get to Heaven. We may struggle with paying our bills, or even be homeless, here on earth, but we have golden streets to walk on when we get to Heaven.

God’s will is that we come to know Jesus as our Savior. Period. His desire is that, once we are saved,  we walk close enough to Him by reading His word, fellowshipping with His people, and learning from His teachers, so that we are always doing what He desires for our lives. In that, we will put our faith in the things above and not in the misery of this earth.

When God was silent

enjoy_the_silence“Four hundred years after the last Old Testament book was written, the story of the New Testament begins to unfold, around 6 BC.”   Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. All rights reserved.

Because there has been found no written word from God at that time, it is often called “the four hundred silent years.” Four hundred years of not hearing God’s voice. Of not receiving direction for their lives. Of walking in their own light. Or were they?

I have often felt that I have not heard from God in what seemed like a hundred years. (Exaggeration, of course, but you get the message.) I pray and my prayers seem to stick to the ceiling like the flies on my home farm house. Staring at me darkly and mocking me because they aren’t going anywhere.

Or maybe I have continued, in my own light, to build a ministry, because I didn’t feel that God was speaking another direction to go in and I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult to get the resources, help, or interest.

Or making the decision to marry someone, because you didn’t hear God’s voice say, “No”.

If we look at the book of Daniel, we can see that God was far from silent about those four hundred years. He had already told the people what was coming, Who was coming, and when He would return. God had already outlined the rest of eternity. And we thought He was silent.

As I look at my life and the times when I thought God was silent, I realize that He has already said all He really needs to say. It is all written down for me in His Holy Bible. Every direction I need, every decision I make, is already addressed in these precious words.

I have learned that when I think God is silent, most of the time it is because I am so loud that I can’t hear Him. When I pray and my prayers stick to the ceiling, I can possibly find out that my prayers are not in line with God’s desires. These are times when I must make myself go to the Bible for direction, you know, His Voice in writing. And as I read, I listen for the Holy Spirit inside me to interpret.

God is never silent. He may be quietly speaking to us at one time for another, but He is never silent. “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20. The earth was silent for four hundred years, but God still spoke to his people. He is speaking to us today; let’s be silent and listen.

The “proper” way to worship

Interior-large-worship“And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”

Nehemiah 8:6

Bullying hurts. We teach each of our children how to avoid the devastation of bullying from other children. Hopefully, we are also teaching our children how to interact with others who are different from them without putting the other child down.

But what about bullying in our churches. Oh, it may not be as obvious as some of the things that happen in our schools, but it’s there. There seems to be such a division in our denominations that we use their beliefs as put – downs against each other.

For instance, I overheard as I was leaving a church one time. First man:”I am having some pain in my back today.” Second man: “Just think, if you went to the Pentecostal church down the road you could go up and let them pray you well!” And they both laughed sarcastically. When did praying for a healing become a negative? Maybe one church is more open about their prayers, but does that make them wrong? Or….maybe God is trying to open our eyes to pray more boldly.

If we raise our hand to swat at a fly in church, we may be labeled as charismatic. If we want music with more praise to it we may be labeled as new age. And f we DON’T want praise music, well, we get labeled as stuck in a rut. If a church is huge they are following the world. If a church is small, they don’t have anything to offer. Why do we have to label??? I have seen large churches that have prayer warriors working inner city. And I have seen large churches that are just for the notoriety. I have seen small churches with Holy Spirit power. And I have seen small churches that were led by the few who were left from a bygone era and don’t want it to change.

Personally, I let the Holy Spirit direct when and how I worship. I often am driving down the road, listening to K-Love (my favorite Christian station), and a song will touch my heart right where I need it. I will raise one hand in praise (don’t worry, I don’t close my eyes) and thank God for sending that message to me. In my prayer room, I often kneel with my head bowed and my hands reaching upward to my God. And how I pray is however the Holy Spirit leads me. Quietly in worship, loudly to let Satan know his place, or in an unknown tongue because I don’t have the words. All I want is to be able to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit without being judged.

Let’s stop the bullying and name calling. It’s time to accept the Holy Spirit as our guide and if a person raises their hands in praise in a Baptist church, well, let’s praise with them even if we don’t raise our hands. And if a person sits quietly in their pew and praises in a Pentecostal church, then let’s praise with them however God leads us. Together we can bring revival. But separate we can bring destruction to the family of God.

 

The moment you begin praying

 prayer-warriorsWhile I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.”                                Daniel 9:20-23a

I have often wondered why I should pray. I mean, God is sovereign; He knows all and directs all and is all. How can anything that I say to Him change things?

First, let’s think about God. What are His thoughts? What does He stand for? What is His desire for us? God will never change from Who He is.

  • God cares about us
    • He listens to our prayers and answers when we pray for anything that is good for us. Matthew 7:11
  • God is good
    • God hears us and responds favorably when we ask according to His will, because if we walk with Him, our will is aligned to His. Psalm 37:4
  • God is patient
    • Praying in the spirit is praying with understanding of God and His desires. Prayer that God answers line up with His ability to know the proper timing. Romans 12:12
  • God is eternal
    • Prayers that affect another person’s eternal life are always heard by God. He will supply what is needed for each person we pray for to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So when I pray for my family to receive Jesus as their Savior, He will provide a way for them to know Him. John 6:27
  • God is jealous
    • God provides our needs; He hears and understands what it takes to live on earth. God will not answer a request to provide anything that He knows will take the place of Him in our lives. Praying for a new job, but the answer doesn’t seem to come? God may know that this new job would take up so much of your mind that we put God at the back of our thoughts. 1 Corinthians 10:21-23
  • God is righteous
    • God answers all prayers for righteousness. Matthew 5:6
  • God is merciful
    • Our prayers must be merciful. We can take anything to God that is from a forgiving and contrite heart and know that He will answer. Isaiah 57:15
  • God never gives up
    • We may think that God does not hear us, because it is taking so long to see the answer. God never gives up in doing good. He never stops offering His way of life to our fallen self. Until the end, God will respond to our prayers for goodness, mercy, and salvation. But remember, God also gave us a free will and how we or our loved ones respond is not something we can control through prayer. We can pray for a softened heart and many times that happens because of the testimony we see in front of us. God never gives up. Colossians 1:23
  • God is holy
    • Our requests must align with God’s holiness. He is ready and willing to answer all requests that glorify Him and His holiness. Romans 12:1

Does God answer prayer? Yes. He responds to every prayer offered within His attributes. When I fall to my knees I will ask God to create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me before I start asking. And I know, that as soon as I do this, God will send the word out for action.