Examine

Posted: November 24, 2013 in Uncategorized
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The battle of Jericho is told in Joshua 6:1 — when Joshua and the people of Israel, led by priests blowing trumpets, marched around Jericho’s outer walls once a day for six straight days. Then, on the seventh day, the procession of priests and people marched around the city seven times. Upon completing the seventh lap, Joshua told the people: “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.” Then the Lord God did what only he could: at the unified shout of his people, the walls of Jericho crumbled and fell to the ground. The Lord God commanded that the silver, gold and containers made of bronze and iron were to taken and placed in the treasury of the Lord — all other property was devoted (marked) for destruction. Everyone obeyed — except one man. His name was Achan, and the Israelites were about to learn just how devastating the sin of one man could be.

In preparation for their next battle, Joshua sent men to spy out the land of the Amorites. Seeing that they were few in number, the spies returned to Joshua and reported that the Amorites would be easily defeated. And they would have been, except the Lord had removed his hand of protection because of Achan’s sin. So when the Israelites attacked the Amorites, it was the Amorites, and not the Israelites, who were victorious. Instead of cries of victory, the Israelite camp was filled with cries of mourning and wailing. Defeated and dejected, Joshua tore his clothes, put dust on his head, and lay with his face toward the ark of the Lord. When he asked the Lord God why they had lost the battle, the Lord replied: “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.” (Joshua 7:10-12)

Joshua called all the people to stand before him, so he could Examine them. When it was discovered that Achan had kindled the Lord’s anger, Achan confessed saying, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” (Joshua 7:20-21)

Achan deliberately disobeyed God’s command — he knew he was not to take anything from Jericho. But when he saw beautiful, valuable things, he was so attracted to the thought of possessing them that he took them, in direct disobedience to God’s command. He allowed desire, rather than discipline, to rule his heart.

Sometimes we commit subtle sins. And other times we directly disobey God’s commands. Yet too often, like Achan, rather than confess our sin, we bury it, hoping to keep it a secret. What about you? Do you know what is hidden underneath the tent of your heart? Sit before the Lord God. Give him permission to Examine your heart, and allow him to show you any areas he wants to change. The Lord God is a gentleman — he does not come at us with condemnation. Instead, cloaked in gentleness and love, he reveals what we have hidden. God already knows what we have done, so confession isn’t for him — it’s for us. Confession is the vehicle which transfers our sin from us to Jesus. Jesus becomes the new owner because he paid the price for it. Sin, once it is confessed, no longer belongs to you. So if you find yourself carrying it around, put it down — it’s not yours to carry anymore.

Only One

Posted: October 21, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Did Jesus really have to die in order to save us from our sin? If you have ever asked that question, you are not alone. Jesus asked his Father that very question. And he didn’t just ask it once — he asked it three times.

On the very night he was betrayed, Jesus lead his disciples into the garden of Gethsemane and tells them that his soul is sorrowful, even to death (Mark 14:34). He falls down on his face and prays to his Father (Matthew 26:39). Being in agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44).

During that intense time of prayer, Jesus asks his Father the same question three separate times: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  The question Jesus asks is a valid one: Do I really have to die on the cross? Or is there another way? Yet without any hesitation, Jesus surrenders his will: “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

In the midst of turmoil, as the will of Jesus collides with the will of God, Jesus begins praying, laying everything down — his questions, doubts, and concerns — at the feet of the Father, knowing that the Father is the Only One who can handle them.

In times of crisis and pain, when darkness threatens to overtake you, seek out the Lord God. He is the Only One who knows the future, the Only One who can answer your questions and remove your fear, and the Only One who can give you the wisdom you need. He is the Only One who can save you from your sin, and the Only One who can bring healing and wholeness into your life. He is the Only One who is available 24/7 so call upon him — he is faithful and he will answer you.

In Matthew 25, starting in verse 31, Jesus tells his disciples that when the Son of Man (Jesus) comes back and all the angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. And before him will be gathered all the nations. At that time, Jesus will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep (those that have surrendered their lives to Jesus) from the goats (those who have not). In verse 34, Jesus describes what will happen to the sheep who are on his right. To them he will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And then in verse 41, Jesus describes what will happen to the goats who are on his left. To them he will say,  “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

In the very beginning, God prepared a Kingdom for YOU. It was designed with YOU in mind. It is an inherited gift, given to YOU by YOUR Heavenly Father. To receive the gift of The Kingdom is to spend eternity with YOUR Heavenly Father.

Although we categorize Hell as a place people go to, a more accurate description is that Hell is a place that God does NOT go to. To be in Hell is to be eternally separated from God.

Hell was NOT prepared for you. God designed and prepared it for the devil and his angels. In the end, when Jesus returns, Satan, who was once one of God’s angels, will be forced to permanently leave Heaven because he will not surrender his own will. From the very beginning, Satan has refused to submit to the authority of God. Instead, Satan longs to be like God — to have his own kingdom — one that is devoid of God’s presence. And God, in his great mercy, will, in the end, give Satan exactly what he desires. Satan’s kingdom is called Hell. And in that place Satan will be free to rule and reign as he sees fit. But that isn’t enough to satisfy him. After all, what good is a kingdom without people? So in order to fill his kingdom with loyal subjects, Satan works day and night, stamping out any belief that God exists, with the ultimate goal of getting as many people as possible to reject God. And when the pews of Hell are full, Satan will require the payment of both their allegiance and their worship.

From the very foundation of the world, two kingdoms have been prepared. Hell, which God prepared for the devil and his angels, and Heaven, which God prepared for YOU.  Both kingdoms are eternal. One is a blessing, and one is a curse. But only one was prepared for YOU.  Why would you want to be stuck, for eternity, in a kingdom that was NOT prepared or designed with you in mind? The Kingdom of God is an inherited gift. And here’s the best part: you don’t have to die to receive it — Jesus already did that for you by taking your place on the cross.  The promise of eternal life is available today. Your gift awaits — accept it. Surrender your life to Jesus, the one true Lord and Savior, and receive The Kingdom that God prepared in the very beginning just for YOU.

In Matthew 25:31-32 Jesus says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Later on in that passage, Jesus says that those on his right (sheep) will inherit the kingdom, but those on his left (goats) will be separated from him. I was intrigued that Jesus would use the terms “sheep” and “goats” to describe people. Being a city girl with limited exposure to barnyard animals, I had to do a little research in order to put this passage into context.

Dumb and fearful, sheep simply do not make good decisions. For example, they are known to eat poisonous plants, and an entire herd can easily be wiped out in a panic-stricken stampede. Sheep are totally dependent upon their shepherd for food and protection. Without him, sheep would not survive. A sheep knows the shepherd’s voice, and the shepherd knows each one of his sheep. And the shared bond between the two is so strong that the shepherd won’t hesitate to search for lost sheep, even if it’s just one.

Goats, on the other hand, do not bond with their shepherd. Stubborn, curious, and independent, goats refuse to Surrender their will. They believe they know what is best for them. They are always looking to go their own way, and when they set out, goats expect to lead, not follow, their shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and those that have accepted him are called his sheep. According to the scripture above, we are either a sheep or a goat. So what about you – which category do you fall under? Do you walk with the shepherd like a sheep, or do you go your own way like a goat? If you’ve walked way from the Good Shepherd, return to him. Surrender. Give him permission to lead you.  He deeply loves you and is ready to welcome you with unconditional forgiveness, and cover you with waves of love, mercy and grace. Let him lead you. Let him provide for you. Let him protect you. Your shepherd knows you. Do you know him?

2 Timothy 2:23-26 says: “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

This scripture holds special meaning for me.  A friend game it to me after my first husband left me — he’d met another woman with two kids and decided that his relationship with them, rather than with me, was the one he really wanted. It was a deeply painful time, but these verses gave me the clarity I needed in that dark and lonely valley.  I kept my conversations professional – I spoke with a calm tone of voice and carefully chose my words. In this way, I did not ignite stupid arguments that would have only fueled more conflict. I began praying for him, his girlfriend, and her two little girls with the hope that God would intervene and change their lives and restore them to him. Praying for someone who has deeply hurt you is extremely difficult. Yet, over time, it not only brought peace into my life, I was eventually able to forgive them and completely move on. Now, when contention or conflict comes at me, especially from close family or friends, I am able to see beyond the flaming darts to the 1 who ignites all controversies  – the devil. He is known as the Father of All Lies, and he is a Trash Talker, an Oppressor, a Manipulator, and an Accuser. He does not know the future, yet he projects F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) into our thoughts, in order to get us to take our eyes off God.

The devil’s twisted words are divisive and destructive, and he speaks through people to get to us. As opposition comes at us, we need to keep in mind that the people projecting contention and strife are simply the mouthpieces – not the source – of the conflict. And our prayer for them should be one of hope: that God would lead them to repentance, with the full knowledge of the Truth. We only have 1 enemy, and he is the only 1 who fights against us.

When conflict arises, give God permission to do whatever is necessary in their lives to break the chains that have Ensnared them. Then let go of it and let God work it out. And the peace you are seeking will be found in the release (not the retaining) of the problem. Want the conflict resolved? Give God permission to resolve it. Then let go and let God.

Pursued

Posted: February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Jeremiah 44:2-5 says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have seen all the disaster that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah. Behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, because of the evil they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to make offerings and serve other gods that they knew not, neither they nor you, nor your fathers. Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!’  But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods.”

When we worship God, we reflect back to him our acknowledgement of who he is – the 1 true God: the Maker and Creator of the universe, our Provider, our Protector, and our Savior. Our relationship with God is a covenant: just like a wedding, we vow to remain in the relationship for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. In worship, we re-pledge our love and commitment – that we will maintain our covenant relationship with him, even when our circumstances and our feelings threaten to lead us astray.

Every day you are Pursued – by your Deliverer (God) and your Destroyer (Satan). The Deliverer wants to give you joy. The Destroyer wants to steal it. The Deliverer truly loves you and will remain faithful and committed to you through the ups and downs of your walk with him, unlike the Destroyer who will never stop reminding you of sin that God has forgiven and forgotten. If painful circumstances and trials have led you astray, turn back. Your Deliverer deeply loves you and wants a personal, committed relationship with you. Enter into worship re-pledge your vow to him. Whom will you worship today? It’s your choice. Choose wisely.

Consumed

Posted: January 29, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Ephesians 4:26-27 says “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” According to God’s word, we have permission to experience the emotion of anger, but we are not allowed to follow our emotions into sin. Left unchecked, anger can become an all consuming fire which will burn every area of your life, destroying all it touches. As the sun dipping below the horizon gives way to darkness, so hearts that allow anger to set in invite dark shadows to enter. At the point that we allow anger to own us, we open the door of our hearts to the devil. Satan’s whispered lies start to sound credible, and as we accept his lies over God’s truth, the light of God’s word gets pushed out, sinking our hearts down deeper and deeper into utter darkness. God commands us to forgive others for our OWN protection. Letting anger control you is a one-way ticket into the dark pit of resentment, bitterness, envy, jealousy and wrath. Forgiveness isn’t a stamp of approval – it’s a release: When you forgive someone, you release them from the responsibility of healing the pain they inflicted by their actions. The person who injured you cannot heal you — that is something only your Heavenly Father can do. Don’t hold onto anger. Let God’s consuming fire devour it before it devours you.