Monday, April 20, 2015

Waiting on God in an "Instant Gratification" World

Whatever we need in today’s world of convenience can be had within minutes, if not seconds. We definitely live in the age of instant gratification.

Need to talk to someone? Pick up the phone. No need for wires anymore. No cords. No dials. 

Need something to eat? Fast food. Microwaves. Boxed, prepared dinners. No need to wait. (We won't get into how unhealthy this can be...that's another blog!)

Want to get caught up on the news? Turn on the TV. Or the computer. Within seconds, you’re all caught up.

Folks, we are losing our ability to wait. And it’s killing us spiritually.

Let’s think for a moment…

Noah waited 120 years from the moment he started to build the ark to the moment God brought the first rain drop.

The Israelites waited 430 years in captivity to the Egyptian nation before God rose Moses up to lead them out of their slavery.

There was no word from God for 400 years until Jesus Christ finally came and fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies as the Messiah.

That’s a lot of waiting. 

A lot of years. Centuries, in fact! We can miss the years and years of waiting as we quickly turn the pages of our Bibles in these stories. But don’t you just wonder what those times of waiting must have been like? Clearly, the promise was not forgotten and there was always a remnant of faithful believers who stayed focused on the promise, while living in what seemed to be silence. But I believe there were many who began to doubt.

Are you waiting on something? I know the struggle of waiting. 

Waiting on a phone call from a doctor with a biopsy result. 

Waiting for a word about whether or not I was being offered a job. 

Waiting on an update from family about a sick loved one.

Waiting on God to handle a situation where I saw injustice. 

I’m still waiting on some loved ones to trust in Jesus Christ.

Some things we wait for are serious and some are just the fulfillment of a dream. Sometimes we’re waiting for God to act when we’ve seen and experienced terrible injustice. 

We often have to wait on God. I’m beginning to realize that in that wait, God is allowing us to be tested. He is growing our faith. He is preparing hearts around us and He’s preparing our own heart, too. He is lining up His perfect timing. 

Sometimes He even gives us an answer we do not want to accept after we wait - but we can trust He is protecting us and lining up His plan in the midst of our heartbreak. God is good. Our disappointments and times of waiting do not change that fact.

The Psalms and Proverbs have beautiful scriptures on how we can wait:

Wait honestly:
I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Psalm 69:3

Wait quietly:
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. Psalm 62:1

Wait hopefully:
I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:81

Wait patiently:
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

Wait courageously:
Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Wait expectantly:
Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:30

Whatever you are waiting for, I want to encourage you to keep believing and use this time of waiting to draw near to God, to learn to trust Him in new ways, asking Him to prepare your heart for the answer. Wait honestly, expressing your feelings to God during those times of weariness. Wait quietly, not complaining to anyone who will listen. Wait hopefully, knowing God hears and God has a plan. Wait patiently, trusting God’s timing is perfect (and usually not the same as ours!). Wait courageously, not fearfully or doubting. Wait expectantly, knowing God is working and He hears you. 

Yes, you can have instant gratification when it comes to waiting on God. But not in the way you might think. You see, it depends on where you choose to place your focus. If you are focusing on what you’re waiting for, you will be disappointed and will not have that instant gratification you’ve probably come to expect in today’s world. 

But if your focus is on God and knowing Him in a deeper way, you will be fully satisfied - instantly - as you seek His face, His purposes and His will. 

Come to think of it, that may just be what you’ve actually been waiting for all along.

Isaiah 30:18 So the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for His help.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hold On

Hopelessness.
Despair.
Doubt.

There’s no question in my mind that the disciples must have felt these
emotions as they watched Jesus being brutally crucified. What was going on? They gave up everything to follow this man and believed He was the Son of God – the promised Messiah!

Just days earlier, the people of Jerusalem lined the streets while shouting, "Hosanna!" with palm branches and shouts of joy as Jesus made His triumphant entry. But now, there He was, dying a humiliating and horrifying death on the cross. Some of those same people who had earlier hailed Him were now cursing Him and spitting on Him. Some were, along with the disciples, weeping over Him as they still had hope He might be their salvation, their King.

The disciples could not understand at that moment that all was well. They could not understand that the plan was going just as God designed from the beginning of time. At that moment, things looked so dark and discouraging to them…. but resurrection was coming.

Hope was around the corner. If only they had a glimpse of that coming glory!

Friends, if life seems hopeless, overwhelming or confusing, please hold on.

There must always be a death for a resurrection to come.

Death of a dream, death of a relationship, death of a habit that you feel you can never break or even death of our foolish pride – these are types of deaths we all experience in our lives every day.

If only we could have a glimpse of the coming glory!

Maybe we cannot understand at those moments that all is well, that things are going just as God designed from the beginning of time. Things may look dark, difficult and discouraging…but resurrection is coming.

Yes, things looked hopeless the day Jesus took His last breath.
But resurrection came. 
And resurrection is coming for you, too.

Hold on.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Those Awkward Years (And How to Love Your Kids Through Them)

The highlight of my week in third grade was when Mom would drop me and my sister off at the local Roller Rink. Carpeted walls.  KC and the Sunshine Band playing "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!".  The mirrored disco ball. The hokey pokey.  The dice game.  Couples only.  That funky smell of the spray they use in the roller skates to "disinfect" them.  

Yeah, it's still the same.  

If you don't believe me, go to the roller rink.  It will take you back. 

I have some good memories from third grade, but honestly, it was a tough year for me.  I was overweight, wore glasses, had no confidence, was totally insecure and nobody really liked me.  During "couples only" at the roller rink, I was always sitting and watching everyone else holding hands, slowly going round and round the rink, wishing I was out there skating with someone like everyone else, but no one ever asked me.  I wasn't exactly what you would call popular and I was socially awkward.

I think it started when we were sitting against the wall at gym class and we had to sit "Indian style" (it wasn't a politically incorrect thing to say back then - now we call it "criss cross applesauce").  I felt a bubble in my tummy and tried to straighten out my legs to keep it from escaping, but my teacher yelled at me and made me sit "Indian style" again.  Before I even knew it was coming, my "tummy bubble" escaped and it thundered loudly against the wooden suspended floor in the gym.   Everyone looked at me "Ewww!!!  Gross!!"  

Giggles. 

Pointing. 

Judging. 

Like no one else ever did it but me!  

It was the end of my reputation, if I ever had one.  Oh, do I feel for kids in school!  One good thing about third grade for me was my friend, Jimmy.  He had a wooden leg.  I thought that was pretty cool but nobody else would talk to him. It's like they were afraid of him. I never understood that.  I would sit with Jimmy at recess on the bench and he would teach me math since he couldn't play on the playground equipment like everyone else.  I liked Jimmy a lot.  But I hated third grade. I hated math too, but that's another blog.

Did you ever have a year like that?  An awkward, socially destructive, frustratingly difficult year?  Oh, it's the worst.  The only thing worse is seeing your child live through a year like that.  If I didn't know those difficult days were what God used to build so much of who I am, I'd give anything so my kids would not have to go through it at all. But I know He taught me to become more compassionate, empathetic, humble and sensitive to others through those experiences. 

Romans 5:3-4 tells us, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation." Your child's character is going to strengthen through their struggles. They will become more empathetic, more humble, more compassionate and a lot more sensitive to others who are struggling.

If "awkward years" describes your child, share your stories of your awkward years with them.  Make them laugh.  Listen.  Hug them a lot.  Encourage them. Teach them the truth about who they are, according to God's Word. Be patient. Trust God and try not to "fix" it (I know that's a hard one)!

And one more thing...

By all means, please...don't ever insist that they sit "criss cross applesauce" on the gym floor. (smile)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Sinking Ship

We watched the movie Titanic the other night for the first time in years.  It always makes me cry, never fails.  I remember when the movie first came out many years ago that I watched it several times and I think there was this part of me that hoped that maybe...just maybe...it would end better if I watched it again.  I know that sounds crazy, but a girl can dream, right?

While watching the movie this time, something else struck me.  (I've given up hope for a new ending at this point!) I was watching as the boat was sinking and so many of the people on the sinking ship were so clueless as to what was really going on.  They were listening to the musicians, who kept playing so everyone would stay calm.  They would look around them and everything looked so normal, so they just didn't take it seriously.  Many of them didn't even put on life-vests.  The rich people were still more concerned about being separated from the poor people.  The rescue boats were not filled to capacity.  Nobody seemed to understand that the boat was truly going to sink and they didn't have much time!  It was dire.  Nobody seemed to notice or believe that the boat was actually slowly filling up with water underneath of them.  Until it was too late.

The Bible clearly tells us what signs to look for in the last days.  I keep hearing people say, "Things have always been like this.  It's not any different than it's ever been."  Maybe that's true.  But when I hear this, I immediately recall the scripture in 2 Peter 3:3-4:
Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, "What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created."
If you look around, you will see that the headlines in today's newspapers are like reading prophecy from the Bible.  Israel is surrounded by her enemies.  Famine.  Earthquakes.  War.  Pestilence.  Persecution. Beheadings. All the while, a talk of unity and peace while our leaders from every country come together to attempt to make a one-world government.  Crazy weather.  Fireballs in the sky.  It's all in the Bible.  And the Bible says when we see these things happening, the time is drawing closer. Friends, our ship is sinking!

The signs were given to us for a reason.  I'm sure that iceberg didn't look quite as daunting from the surface, either.  But it was huge underneath it all and it sank the Titanic within a couple of hours after impact.  Some of the scriptures you can look up for yourself about these prophecies can be found in Matthew 24, Luke 17:20-37, Ezekiel 37-38, Daniel 11-12, 1 Thessalonians 5,  2 Peter 3 and of course, the book of Revelation.

Before you decide to argue eschatology with me (I had to look up the spelling of that word, by the way), please know this:  I'm not an end-times expert and I don't know a lot about details, politics or how it all fits.  I'm just an evangelist at heart - someone who knows the truth about Christ and desires to tell the world about Him.  I'm certainly not one to say that Jesus is coming back on a certain date and I'm not going to predict the end of the world by any means. I'm also not going to argue with you or be offended if you don't agree with me on this, I'm simply sounding the alarm and telling you what I believe to be true, based on the Scriptures.  Of everything I don't know, I do know one thing to be true: we are living on a sinking ship. But Jesus has provided a life-boat for us!

I bet there are many folks who were on the Titanic that wished someone had been honest with them about the dire situation they were in.  I can only assume that many of the lives lost were lost because people were living in denial of the severity of the situation.  God is sounding the alarm, my friend.  Every fulfilled prophecy written in the scriptures has come to pass with 100% accuracy in the past and God's track record is not going to change.  The ones that are still to come will come.

We don't know when, but we do know that God in His mercy gave us signs to look for and they are unmistakeable.  Some folks say we shouldn't get "all wrapped up" in prophecy, but I say that if God put these scriptures in His Word, He wants us to know it.  All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

I know I'm not the only Christian who senses something is going on in this world.  In 1Thessalonians 5:4, Paul tells us "But you aren't in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won't be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don't belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clear headed."

Believers:  are you sensing it?  If so, what are you doing to warn others?  Are we like the musicians on the Titanic, playing soothing music that makes others feel like nothing serious is going on or are we helping load up the life-boats to their fullest capacity?

Just like when I watched Titanic, the ending will not change.  It has been written.  The ship is sinking, but it hasn't sunk yet. That means we still have time to warn others and let them know that our God is mighty to save.  

I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going way but I will come back to you again...I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.  (John 14:27-29)

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Crisis of Doubt

Funny story...

I was struggling a bit with some doubts recently and I was praying for some insight. After I prayed and searched the Scriptures, I felt led to search on the internet for articles about doubts in the heart of a Christian. I didn't want to say anything to anyone because I was afraid I would make someone stumble, so I struggled silently. The only One who knew what was going on in my heart was God Himself.

Here's the funny part...

When I searched the internet, a blog I wrote over a year ago came up in my search. Yes, you read that right. I wrote a blog about doubt! And I had completely forgotten about it. For crying out loud, could it be possible God would use me to help me?

Well, He did. Needless to say, I'm a little rough around the edges and sometimes it takes a few times before Truth really sinks into my thick head! Thank you, Lord, for not giving up on me. I'm reprinting the blog because I know I'm not the only one who struggles with the occasional doubt. I hope and pray it will encourage you today!

SEASONS OF DOUBT

"I think the Bible was written by men. It is a political thing to try to control people." Those words just broke my heart. I was speaking with someone I love last week who has many doubts about God, religion, who Jesus is and what it all means. This is someone who grew up in a Christian home and even would have said they were a Christian several years ago. But doubts, fears, and wordly wisdom have invaded the heart of this precious person. And things have changed. After a long conversation, I realized my "arguments" were useless. I needed to pray and trust God but I had no power to make someone change their mind.

Later that day, someone on Facebook, who is an atheist, posted an article that basically says Jesus is not real but was made up by the Roman Government to control the Jewish population. I couldn't even read the whole article because I felt nauseous. It seemed everywhere I turned last week, there was another violation of my faith and I was getting weary.

I'd be lying to you if I told you I didn't start to doubt. What if they were right? What if I'm a fool? What if Jesus was just a made-up story? Have you ever been face to face with serious doubts like this?  Not only have you probably had doubts race through your mind at some point, they have also run through the minds of some of the strongest Christians in history. Even John the Baptist had his doubts - and the Bible says he was "filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb"! He was the voice calling in the wilderness, telling others the Messiah was coming - He saw the dove land on Jesus and heard the voice of God say, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." If he doubted, why do I think I wouldn't struggle at some point with doubt? You can read about his doubting here.)

As I have struggled and wrestled with God in this season of doubt, I've really come a long way in a short period of time! He is so faithful to meet us where we are, to answer our questions, to bring us encouragement and to renew our faith when we earnestly seek Him. Here are some of the things I've learned in this "doubt crisis" that I want to share with you:

1.  Confess the Doubt 
My first thought was that I shouldn't tell anyone about my doubts. I don't want anyone not believing because of doubts I would have. I don't want to make people think I doubt to the point of unbelief! But if I wasn't honest, it would stay in the darkness and it would certainly grow. That's what happens when we pretend. And then we do not walk in truth. God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all. I decided to voice my concerns and shine light on my doubts by speaking with a couple of trusted friends. And I found lots of company and more encouragement than I could have imagined!

2. Renew Your Mind
When doubts arise, it's an all-out intellectual and spiritual battle. But I'm reminded of how Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 how the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. God saw to it that we would never find Him through human wisdom! He prefers to use His Word and what the world considers "foolish preaching". If you are struggling in the darkness of doubt, find a way to go toward the light of truth - where God is. Spend time in His Word, with His people and in prayer. Let Him renew your mind. He will do it. Some of the scriptures that helped me this week are listed in this blog. I encourage you to look them up - memorize them and know them (1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Hebrews 11, Mark 9:14-25, Psalm 94:19).  It's transforming!

3. Ignite Your Faith
Keep in mind that Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. He loves our Help my unbelief!" I can totally relate. God answered his prayer of faith and healed his son. And Jesus didn't scold the man for his confession.
faith! He is drawn to a humble heart that is seeking Him by His grace through faith.  Fan the flames of faith by remembering and thinking on the promises God has given and recalling the faithfulness of God in your past. Read through your old journals, recall times when you know God moved in your life. Remember the Dad whose son was possessed by demons in Mark 9? He asked Jesus to heal his son and then Jesus said, "If you can believe, all things are possible for him who believes." The father then replied, "I do believe!

4. Keep Your Doubt in Perspective
Finally, remember that doubt is not unbelief! There is a big difference. Doubt is questioning what one believes, but unbelief is choosing not to believe despite the evidence. The reason you are struggling with doubt may be because God is getting ready to deepen your faith even more! Take courage - and stand firm.

"When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer." Psalm 94:19

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Sweetest Hug I've Ever Received

I was emotionally exhausted. I'd been crying myself to sleep for four nights out of loneliness and homesickness. I was in a small village called Lijiang, a Southwestern village in China. I had been away from home for almost eight weeks. I was on the adventure of a lifetime, but it was the last leg of this adventure and I was emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically spent. I missed my family. I didn't speak Chinese. The people I was traveling with were a lot of fun, but most of them did not understand me at all. My faith was challenged in ways I'd never experienced before.

A little over three weeks earlier, I had been voted off my tribe on the reality show, Survivor: China. The protocol is that the contestants who are voted off do not go home until the show wraps up production, therefore there are no "spoilers" back at home before the show is aired later in the year. So all 16 of us had to go back home at the same time. Six of us who did not last long enough to make the jury were treated to a wonderful trip in China. We had visited Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and now we were in Lijiang. We had seen the Great Wall of China, the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the Forbidden City and more culture than I have ever experienced! As beautiful as the trip was, I was really missing my family and I was desperate for connection with other believers in Jesus Christ.
The ancient streets of Leijing, China

As I prayed one morning, I prayed a very specific and desperate prayer. I wanted to meet another believer in Jesus Christ and get a hug! It seemed a strange request, but I knew it was something my spirit was in need of, and I wasn't afraid to ask. Of course, I had in my mind that it would probably be some Christian couple that was staying in the same hotel, there to pick up their adopted daughter because in every hotel we stayed in across China, this was commonly seen. We saw dozens of families there on route to pick up their sweet new little one! It really warmed my heart.

So that morning, I set out to the restaurant for coffee and looked around for someone God may have sent to encourage my weary heart. But the restaurant was empty. I was so sure God was going to have someone there that I was a bit shocked, honestly. We ended up leaving the hotel awhile later and walked around the cobblestone streets of the ancient market. As we walked, I prayed and was still looking for a connection with someone, knowing God had a plan.

About twenty minutes into our excursion, I saw something unusual from a distance. Every shop had Chinese writing and I couldn't read any of it, but one shop straight ahead had an English word on it. As I walked closer to the shop, I realized it said "Emmanuel". My heart raced and tears immediately filled my eyes. I ran into the shop and looked around. There were little carvings of Biblical stories that were all hand made. I saw Noah's Ark, the 10 Commandments, Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, you name it - tons of sweet carvings encased in beautiful glass.

In the corner of the shop was a young Chinese woman who was carving away at a cross. Our eyes met and I said, "Jesus?". She looked at me and her eyes grew wider and she shook her head up and down saying, "Shi De!"(this means "yes") I pointed to her cross and then pointed to my heart and she stood up and hugged me as we both sobbed. We were sisters, but we had no means of communication except "Jesus". She didn't speak a lick of English and I didn't speak a lick of Chinese, but I have never felt so close to someone as I did that day!

There will come a time in the future when I believe I will see my sweet Chinese sister again in heaven, and on that day we will communicate with no language barrier and I will share with her how she was an answer to a desperate prayer in China in August of 2007. Hers was the sweetest hug I've ever received. I look forward to this reunion!

If you are waiting on an answered prayer, I want to encourage you to get the picture of what you think the answer should look like out of your mind and hold on tight! God's plan is going to blow you away. I believe He used that precious young woman because I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He sent her to me. Hang on and trust Him. He's working. And if you're looking for what you think He will do, you may miss altogether what He is actually doing.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Unforced Rhythm of Grace

What was I thinking?

Those were my first thoughts one morning when I tried to get out of bed after I first started working out after a two year hiatus. Everything hurt! I pushed harder than I should have, hoping that if I did I would see quick results. I enjoyed the fitness class I was attending but was being reminded with every step, every movement, that I was going to have to pay for the time I spent not working out consistently over the past couple of years. I wasn't mad about being sore, I was mad that I allowed myself to get so out of shape in the first place!

When you take time away from fitness, you lose your fitness. You are more sore. You are less flexible. You are more tired. You cannot go as hard as you used to go.

And you know better.  

It takes a few weeks to make a habit and I found that just before I would get to the place where it might become a habit, I would always find excuses not to continue.

I'm busy. I'm tired. I'm worn out. I'm....well, you get the picture.

I can get into this same rut with my spiritual fitness. I find myself slipping away from God, away from His church, away from His Word, not listening to His voice. I find myself more weary. I'm less hope-filled. My focus turns to the negative.

And I know better. 

But I'm busy. I'm tired. I'm worn out. I'm....well, you get the picture.

Why is it so hard to do the things that are the most important for us? Why must it be so hard to do the things that matter most? Maybe it's because we need to want it more than anything else and sometimes wanting something important over wanting something comfortable and easy can be tricky. It's easy to lose sight of that in this busy world. But what do we really want?

It's so hard to get in the habit of going to church and so easy to lose it.

It's so hard to be still and spend time listening for God's voice and so easy to ignore it.

It's so hard to pray and so easy to lose my focus.

It's so hard to do the right thing and stand for Truth and so easy to compromise.

It's so hard to go to the gym and so easy to stay home.

Life can be so hard.

But it doesn't have to be.

There is a place you reach in your spiritual and physical life where it's not as hard to do these things anymore, it's actually harder not to do them. I think it's called the unforced rhythm of grace. And it is possible to live in that rhythm! It will take discipline and time. But it will be worth it. Don't give up!

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fear and Death Have No Hold on Us

Hope for the Fearful 

June 14, 2007. It was the night before I was leaving to go to China to compete on Survivor and a heavy, terrifying and almost paralyzing wave of fear swept over me. I told my husband I had changed my mind and didn't want to go because I was afraid I would die and I didn't want my family to have to go through that pain and hurt. Rod and I prayed about me being a contestant on the show and knew God was directing our steps for me to go, but I still had incapacitating fear. My husband said something so wise: "We know the Bible says that our days are numbered, that God knows our time before we even come to be, right? Well, if it's your time, you will die no matter if you go or not. Wouldn't you rather die being obedient, than disobedient?"

I will never forget the impact that had on me. To this day, I fear less, knowing God is in control and I can trust Him. Not only does this help me fear less in my own life, but it also gives me comfort and peace to let go and trust God with the lives of those I love.
"Our times are in God’s hand; it is well they are so, for he will take care that those who are his shall die in the best time: however their death may seem to us untimely, it will be found not unseasonable." -Matthew Henry
I love this quote above because it reminds me that when we pass away unexpectedly, we can be sure it was never unexpected with God. Our days are numbered from the moment we were just a thought in God's mind. He takes us home at our best time. Psalm 139:16 says, "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." 

Our time to step into eternity from this temporary life is determined and set, and there is nothing we can do to make it happen sooner or later. (You might be wondering about someone who takes their own life. There's a wonderful article written from a biblical perspective here that can help you understand the complexities of this situation.) Knowing our time is set doesn't give us a ticket to be reckless, mind you. We are still told we are to take care of our bodies, as we realize that they are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We will answer to God for this one day. God expects us to be good stewards of this incredible gift! But it does mean that we cannot let fear hold us back from obedience. Every day we wake up and have breath, we can be sure there is a plan in motion for our lives. A life lived in fear is not a life fully lived!


Hope for Those Who Have Lost Someone

The Word of God can bring healing and hope to fearful heart, and also to a hurting heart. Scriptures remind us that when we lose someone unexpectedly, we can still find peace in knowing that God is in control and has a greater plan we may not see. Nothing is unexpected with God! Isaiah 57:1-2 says, "The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death."

Often, when someone we love passes away, we are left with the "what if" and the "I should have" questions. These thoughts can be paralyzing and incredibly painful.  When one of my college roommates passed away after being in an automobile accident one morning in 1988, I kept telling myself, "I should have stopped her from leaving at that moment." And "If only I had breakfast with her instead of sleeping in, she wouldn't have left at that moment and she'd still be alive." I took responsibility for something that was not my fault, and the fear and guilt was overwhelming. Honestly, it wasn't until I understood God's timing and purposes that I realized, years later, that I was not to blame. But for a long time, I was deeply troubled by these thoughts. 

We never will understand, this side of heaven, why things happen the way they do. One thing we can understand, however, is the heart of God. From His perfect perspective, He sees the bigger picture and even when we cannot understand His plan, we can understand His heart.  Whatever the purpose, we can always trust the plans of God, who is sovereign over everything. His plans are beyond our comprehension, but His love and His heart has been revealed to us through His Word and through His Son. 

I pray that if you've lost someone dear that you will find peace in knowing God loves you deeply and His heart breaks for you as you mourn the loss of someone so precious. He knows your pain and He hears your cries. He bottles your tears. His heart breaks for you in your time of heartache. It's okay to mourn, it's okay to feel the way you feel. And I pray that if fear is holding you back from living your life fully, that you can let the fear go and walk in the boldness and confidence that God has you in His arms, and He will never let you go.

Walk confidently knowing when the day comes for you to step into eternity, He knew that day was coming. He's been expecting you! The party on the other side will be beyond your comprehension.

The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. -John 10:10



Saturday, January 3, 2015

Wake Up!

Have you ever been in a dark room, sleeping peacefully, completely unaware of anything and someone comes into the room and flips the light on? You wake up, completely offended. You want to punch whoever turn on the lights right in the face. How rude! You were perfectly fine in your darkness! You were sleeping, completely unaware of anything and oblivious to the world around you.  

When I share the truth about Jesus Christ with someone who has spent their life in the darkness, I get the same reaction sometimes. They can be completely offended. How rude! They were perfectly fine in the darkness! They were sleeping, completely unaware of anything and very satisfied. Now that the light is flipped on, they have to deal with reality. Reality can be hard to deal with, especially when you’ve been in the "comfortable darkness" for so long.

I was reading about Saul (who later became Paul) this morning in Acts, chapter 9. When he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was literally, physically blinded by His Light. It had been days and he was still blind. His spiritual eyes were now open, yet he couldn’t physically see yet. A man named Ananias was told by God to find Saul and pray for his sight to be restored. He obeyed and as he prayed for Saul, the Bible says that “at once something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.” Interesting.

In the Bible, Satan is often referred to as the serpent. The deceiver. Here’s another description of him:

“Satan has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don't understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

We are also told, in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. That means, he comes in an pretty package. He comes as an angel, as one telling the “truth”. He makes sense. His words add up and satisfy our desire to turn the lights out again and go back to sleep. 

It never occurred to me until this morning that the “scales” that fell off Saul’s eyes could represent the serpent himself.  Satan blinded Saul to the truth for so many years.  Saul was a killer of Christians. He persecuted them. He hated them. But now Saul met Jesus and things were very different. He was no longer blind to the Truth, but was finally able to see reality as Satan’s lies fell from his eyes. And he embraced the reality of Jesus.

John 3:19-21 says, “….God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” 

Basically, when we realize we are sinners, we have a choice to make. We can turn the lights off and go back to sleep (the comfortable choice, obviously) or we can deal with reality and admit that we are in desperate need of a Savior. Our sin has completely taken us over and the only Hope we have is Christ. Sin is what separates us from God. Sin is what keeps us from seeing the Truth that God doesn’t want us to be separated from Him. The Bible says “All have sinned and fall short of God’s standard.” But it also says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ came and lived a sinless life because He knew we couldn’t do it. And when we put our faith in what He did for us, asking forgiveness for our sin, we are given full access to that relationship with God!

My friend, don’t be naive. Don’t fall for Satan’s schemes. He is not a little demon-looking, pitch forked, red, horned creature. He disguises himself as an angel of light. He will tell you to deal with it later and just push the snooze button, it's not that important. He makes sense. He is real. He is fighting for your soul. There is an invisible battle going on for you. You can only see this when you allow the lights to come on in your life.

You need to know this: God is fighting for your soul, too. What He did does not make sense. Max Lucado says it best:

It is inexplicable. It doesn't have a drop of logic nor a thread of rationality...

Bloodstained royalty. A God with tears. A creator with a heart. God became earth's mockery to save His children.

How absurd to think that such nobility would go to such poverty to share such a treasure with such thankless souls.

But He did.

And the only thing more absurd than this gift is our stubborn unwillingness to receive it. 

God sent Christ to rescue you from the darkness. Don’t turn the light back off. You are more than a victim of Satan’s schemes. You are loved and there really is a fight going on for your very soul. Please…allow those scales to fall from your eyes and embrace the reality of Jesus. 

Isaiah 9:2  The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Ephesians 5:14  Wake up, O sleeper! Rise up from the dead and Christ will give you Light.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Gift to You

Merry Christmas! I love this time of year. What an amazing opportunity to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Some may not know who Jesus is, though. Some may not understand He is the Promised Messiah, born so that we might live! Prophets throughout the Old Testament foretold of His coming, giving hope and peace to those who were looking forward to Him and giving proof to those of us who would come after His appearance.

This year, as a gift to you, I wanted to share a list of 44 prophecies that Jesus Christ fulfilled. This is not an exhaustive list, of course, as He actually fulfilled over 300 prophecies given in the Old Testament. The chances of Him fulfilling even one or two as exact as He did would be slim. Actually, according to researchers, the odds of even just eight prophecies being fulfilled exactly as they happened have been shown to be similar to the odds of filling the state of Texas with silver dollars, about 2 feet tall and having a blind-folded person go in and pick out a single, pre-marked silver dollar correctly! But when God is the One giving the prophecy, He can fulfill each one exactly as He says. And He did!

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth; peace and good will toward all men!" 

44 Prophecies Jesus Christ Fulfilled

1. Messiah would be born of a woman.
Genesis 3:15 - Prophecy
Matthew 1:20 - Fulfillment
Galatians 4:4 - Fulfillment

2. Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
Micah 5:2 - Prophecy
Matthew 2:1 - Fulfillment
Luke 2:4-6 - Fulfillment

3. Messiah would be born of a virgin.
Isaiah 7:14 - Prophecy
Matthew 1:22-23 - Fulfillment
Luke 1:26-31 - Fulfillment

4. Messiah would come from the line of Abraham.
Genesis 12:3 - Prophecy
Genesis 22:18 - Prophecy
Matthew 1:1 - Fulfillment
Romans 9:5 - Fulfillment

5. Messiah would be a descendant of Isaac.
Genesis 17:19 - Prophecy
Genesis 21:12 - Prophecy
Luke 3:34 - Fulfillment

6. Messiah would be a descendant of Jacob.
Numbers 24:17 - Prophecy
Matthew 1:2 - Fulfillment

7. Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah.
Genesis 49:10 - Prophecy
Luke 3:33 - Fulfillment
Hebrews 7:14 - Fulfillment

8. Messiah would be heir to King David's throne.
2 Samuel 7:12-13 - Prophecy
Isaiah 9:7 - Prophecy
Luke 1:32-33 - Fulfillment
Romans 1:3 - Fulfillment

9. Messiah’s throne will be anointed and eternal.
Psalm 45:6-7 - Prophecy
Daniel 2:44 - Prophecy
Luke 1:33 - Fulfillment
Hebrews 1:8-12 - Fulfillment

10. Messiah would be called Immanuel (God with us).
Isaiah 7:14 - Prophecy
Matthew 1:23 - Fulfillment

11. Messiah would spend a season in Egypt.
Hosea 11:1 - Prophecy
Matthew 2:14-15 - Fulfillment

12. A massacre of children would happen at Messiah's birthplace.
Jeremiah 31:15 - Prophecy
Matthew 2:16-18 - Fulfillment

13. A messenger would prepare the way for Messiah
Isaiah 40:3-5 - Prophecy
Luke 3:3-6 - Fulfillment

14. Messiah would be rejected by his own people.
Psalm 69:8 - Prophecy
Isaiah 53:3 - Prophecy
John 1:11 - Fulfillment
John 7:5 - Fulfillment

15. Messiah would be a prophet.
Deuteronomy 18:15 - Prophecy
Acts 3:20-22 - Fulfillment

16. Messiah would be preceded by Elijah.
Malachi 4:5-6 - Prophecy
Matthew 11:13-14 - Fulfillment

17. Messiah would be declared the Son of God.
Psalm 2:7 - Prophecy
Matthew 3:16-17 - Fulfillment

18. Messiah would be called a Nazarene.
Isaiah 11:1 - Prophecy
Matthew 2:23 - Fulfillment

19. Messiah would bring light to Galilee.
Isaiah 9:1-2 - Prophecy
Matthew 4:13-16 - Fulfillment

20. Messiah would speak in parables.
Psalm 78:2-4 - Prophecy
Isaiah 6:9-10 - Prophecy
Matthew 13:10-15,34-35 - Fulfillment

21. Messiah would be sent to heal the brokenhearted.
Isaiah 61:1-2 - Prophecy
Luke 4:18-19 - Fulfillment

22. Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Psalm 110:4 - Prophecy
Hebrews 5:5-6 - Fulfillment

23. Messiah would be called King.
Psalm 2:6 - Prophecy
Zechariah 9:9 - Prophecy
Matthew 27:37 - Fulfillment
Mark 11:7-11 - Fulfillment

24. Messiah would be praised by little children.
Psalm 8:2 - Prophecy
Matthew 21:16 - Fulfillment

25. Messiah would be betrayed.
Psalm 41:9 - Prophecy
Zechariah 11:12-13 - Prophecy
Luke 22:47-48 - Fulfillment
Matthew 26:14-16 - Fulfillment

26. Messiah’s price money would be used to buy a potter's field.
Zechariah 11:12-13 - Prophecy
Matthew 27:9-10 - Fulfillment

27. Messiah would be falsely accused.
Psalm 35:11 - Prophecy
Mark 14:57-58 - Fulfillment

28. Messiah would be silent before his accusers.
Isaiah 53:7 - Prophecy
Mark 15:4-5 - Fulfillment

29. Messiah would be spat upon and struck.
Isaiah 50:6 - Prophecy
Matthew 26:67 - Fulfillment

30. Messiah would be hated without cause.
Psalm 35:19 - Prophecy
Psalm 69:4 - Prophecy
John 15:24-25 - Fulfillment

31. Messiah would be crucified with criminals.
Isaiah 53:12 - Prophecy
Matthew 27:38 - Fulfillment 
Mark 15:27-28 - Fulfillment

32. Messiah would be given vinegar to drink.
Psalm 69:21 - Prophecy
Matthew 27:34 - Fulfillment
John 19:28-30 - Fulfillment

33. Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced.
Psalm 22:16 - Prophecy
Zechariah 12:10 - Prophecy
John 20:25-27 - Fulfillment

34. Messiah would be mocked and ridiculed.
Psalm 22:7-8 - Prophecy
Luke 23:35 - Fulfillment

35. Soldiers would gamble for Messiah's garments.
Psalm 22:18 - Prophecy
Luke 23:34 - Fulfillment
Matthew 27:35-36 - Fulfillment

36. Messiah’s bones would not be broken.
Exodus 12:46 - Prophecy
Psalm 34:20 - Prophecy
John 19:33-36 - Fulfillment

37. Messiah would be forsaken by God.
Psalm 22:1 - Prophecy
Matthew 27:46 - Fulfillment

38. Messiah would pray for his enemies.
Psalm 109:4 - Prophecy
Luke 23:34 - Fulfillment

39. Soldiers would pierce Messiah's side.
Zechariah 12:10 - Prophecy
John 19:34 - Fulfillment

40. Messiah would be buried with the rich.
Isaiah 53:9 - Prophecy
Matthew 27:57-60 - Fulfillment

41. Messiah would resurrect from the dead.
Psalm 16:10 - Prophecy
Psalm 49:15 - Fulfillment
Matthew 28:2-7 - Fulfillment
Acts 2:22-32 - Fulfillment

42. Messiah would ascend to heaven.
Psalm 24:7-10 - Prophecy
Mark 16:19 - Fulfillment
Luke 24:51 - Fulfillment

43. Messiah would be seated at God's right hand.
Psalm 68:18 - Prophecy
Psalm 110:1 - Prophecy
Mark 16:19 - Fulfillment
Matthew 22:44 - Fulfillment

44. Messiah would be a sacrifice for sin.
Isaiah 53:5-12 - Prophecy

Romans 5:6-8 - Fulfillment

This Christmas, please consider the baby born in Bethlehem who spent His first night on earth in a manger. What if He truly was the Messiah? What if He truly did come to earth to live a sinless life and die a sinner's death so you and I can have an opportunity to have a restored relationship with God through His sacrifice? My friend, this could be the best Christmas you've ever had! I pray you will know Him this Christmas and that you will trust Him with your life. He loves you so much.

Knowing Jesus is a matter of reaching out to Him in faith. He is right here with you, in this moment. Speak to Him in prayer, from your heart. Here's an example of a prayer you can speak, but please know that your salvation does not come from a prayer - but from your heart. If you speak these words, but don't have conviction in your heart about what they are actually saying, it's just words. Your commitment comes from a true belief - a firm conviction, a full surrender. Your life will reflect that commitment! 

Father, thank you for sending Your Son to the earth as a humble servant and for living a sinless life. Thank you for dying for me and for the strength you showed as you hung on the cross - taking on my sin and shame. I admit that I am a sinner. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short, and I am no exception. I admit that I have lived my life for me and for me alone. But I am tired of living my life for me. I want to live my life for You! I humbly ask you to forgive me for my sin and to take my life into your hands. I give you my heart. Please, give me Yours. Give me strength to live for You and help me to know when I am going my own way. I know You don't expect me to be perfect, but I also know You can give me strength to make the choices You want me to make by the power of your Spirit. I ask you to fill me with Your Spirit. I want to live for You alone and I trust You to help me do that. Thank you, Lord! You are so good to me. Merry Christmas.  In Jesus' Name, Amen

For more information or to speak to someone about who Jesus is and why knowing Him is so important, please visit www.needhim.org

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