Friday, April 4, 2014

After the Fall


AFTER THE FALL

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23

The story of Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall and having a great fall is filled with lessons.  If you try to perch on a wall you will eventuallyfall.  The wall may be a great place to gather your composure, renew your focus, or rest for awhile.  We can only straddle a fence for so long, eventually we will fall backwards or forward.

 The period that began after Adam and Eve disobeyed God is referred to as after the fall  The fall implies that they ventured beyond the God appointed boundaries.  They experienced circumstances that they would have been protected from.  I wonder has everyone had an “after the fall” moment.

As a freshman on “the hill” I was told by a male upperclassman, that there were two types of women on campus: those who had fallen and those who would fall due to fabulous footwear.  I found this to be true. One day after my class was over I was heading for my car.  My left foot slipped and instantly my right hand went down to break the fall.  It happened so quickly that I was back on both feet with the skill of someone auditioning for a James Brown contest (Michael Jackson, Usher, or Bono, according to your age).

My books were still in tow and I never stopped or looked back. I only missed one step.  In fact, only the people who were walking right behind me (if anyone was behind me) knew I had fallen.  I never looked back, so to this day I’m not sure if anyone was behind me.  My recovery was quick. There were no obvious bruises, unless you count my ego, and I continued to my destination.  I have found my life to mirror this moment.  God has an amazing way of being such an awesome Healer that although my life scars are “real” and not egotistical, I can share them and marvel at His handiwork.

There is no fall too great that God cannot break and no pit too deep that He cannot deliver. Sometimes we can be pushed, coerced, or simply climb into a pit.  Regardless of who, what, or when it happened for all intents and purposes, it’s still a fall.  I found that Jesus not only loves me but He’s the One who comes for me, His love always finds me.  He’s not scolding me.  All the things I’d imagined He’d say He doesn’t. Why didn’t I fight back to keep from being pushed? Why did I allow myself to be deceived and take my eyes off Him? Why in the world did I climb my silly self into the pit?

He sits with me in my agony and distress, wipes away my tears and says, “let us get out of here”. He lifts me up and puts me back on my feet.  He allows the moment to teach me and He instructs me to stand in victory. It really doesn’t matter if I spent ten years or ten minutes in a pit, it’s still a pit. I have been in a pit.  I’ve fallen while trying to scale the fence.  May I never take my salvation for granted because it is the gospel of grace that lifted me! As the hymnal says, “Love lifted me, when nothing else could help, love lifted me”.   He used His love to flush my unforgiveness and fill me with His love and compassion.  He alone heals deep wounds.  He exposed the holes in my hemorrhaging heart and He gave me a heart for Him.

Quite naturally I’m attracted to sin.  I was born this way--smack dab in sin and fashioned in iniquity. When I got off Humpty’s wall, when I began to move forward the gospel of Jesus Christ began to reshape and transform me into what I was not. I am becoming who I could never be through my own efforts.  I’m overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony. Jesus did not change my desires, He changed me! Sin had me bond but He set me free. Without a doubt I just know He loves me so much.  He changed my desire! My heart’s desire is to be where He is.  True change, lasting change starts on the inside and penetrates to the outside.  After the fall, Jesus changed my life!

 

 

 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

REFLECTORS


You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Matthew 5:14

My son took the bicycle reflectors into a dark room and closed the door.  Much to his surprise they do not glow in the dark.   Baffled by this he asked, “Mom, what is a reflector?  I answered, “They are small objects that reflect the light.  They work just like a mirror that allows you to see your reflection.  It’s not really you but it looks just like you.  So for example, if you are riding your bike at night and the headlights of a car shines in your direction their light will make your reflectors appear as lights so that the car will see you.  The reflectors do not have any light of their own. They only reflect the light that shines on them."

This made me think about Christians. We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).  The light shining through us is not our own.  We are to reflect the light from and bear witness to the light of the world, Jesus. (John 8:12).  Light has a way of dispelling darkness. The more we empty ourselves the more visible the light. We are jars of clay.  When we are filled with our own goals they color and  expand like coke bottle glass, our purposes thicken and diminish the reflection.  On a rare occasion others may witness the work of God by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  Nevertheless, as we lose our lives our personal ambition grow slim.  As we are weak, and transparent the light of Jesus shines ever so brightly through us.

In Judges 7:15-21, Gideon knew that God had thinned his army but he was willing to go the battlefield with only 300 men.  Instead of carrying physical weapons they carried empty jars with torches inside of them.  They also carried trumpets.  Gideon told his men to follow his lead.  It was around midnight when he led them to the edge of the camp and they blew their trumpets and shouted, “For the LORD and for Gideon.”  They broke the jars that were in their hands. And all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

At the darkest hour, Gideon’s army blew trumpets and shattered vessels and the light surrounded and confused their enemy.  The enemy was planning to destroy God’s people with weapons but God turned that thing around.  God's army used the enemy’s weapon to destroy the enemy!  The supernatural power that believers experience is reserved for worshippers who are willing to risk and steps of faith.  Gideon and His men were willing to obey God.  This sounds like worship:  the broken  vessels , standing in faith, praising God and shining the light.  Consider the bright light that was shining that not only startled their enemy but confused them.

In 2 Corinthians 4:7 we are reminded, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Yielding to God is not always the most natural thing for us.  However, when we yield to Him, God does the supernatural. If you are facing a difficult situation or impossible circumstance I want you to know that this is when God does His finest work.  Although the situations may be impossible for us they are never impossible for God.  All things are possible with God. In fact, many times our limitations set the stage for us to praise and glorify God.

Can you imagine the story being told by the 300 men to the amazement of the listener?  What God will do with men and women who trust Him?  Who knows what God would do with us if we would set our hearts to be reflectors?  Who knows how great a blessing God could make us if we had a single goal…to reflect His light. You and I are reflectors. Our lives bear witness to an invisible God who defies odds, uses less to accomplish more, and gives victory over enemies. Let us not seek to have a light of our own but to be reflectors of the true Light.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

THE SUBSTANCE

THE SUBSTANCE
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
 
According to Merriam Webster, the word substance is a noun that can be defined as a material of a particular kind. And so a substance by its definition something that is tangible. And so I find myself with a dilemma. In the last few weeks I have been asked over and over the same questions regarding my future. Every person that inquires cannot be satisfied with my plan. It is to follow Jesus and trust Him and I don’t have all of the answers. And so they keep asking me what’s my plan and I keep trying to show them my faith. 
 
The problem with showing your faith is most people cannot see it. I don’t have any evidence of what I’m hoping for. Nevertheless, I have faith that has materialized itself in a very tangible way. It is very real to me. And so I’m not sitting around twilling my thumbs as if God won’t come through. I’m living on purpose believing God will do exactly what He planned. I’m trusting that I am who God says I am, believing that I can do what God says I can do and that I will accomplish what God has planned.

 
I believe the rich blessings of God are not when we live at arm’s length away from Him but are in His presence. I’m agreeing with God that His plan far exceeds my own. It may appear weak because I do not control my own destiny to those who appear to be in control. Why won’t I take control of my future? God is in control and those who trust in Him will never be put to shame.
 
I’ve learned that although the pieces of the puzzle may seemed scattered and out of sorts God is always working and fitting them together to bear witness to His goodness and His grace. I die daily to my will so that I may live in His. Greatness in God is found in our willingness to serve others. The astonishing thing is that God’s plans for our lives exceed our own. We have believed the lie far too long that living for God restrains and restricts us when it liberates and delivers us. God is longing to be gracious to us. His plan always includes blessing us.
 
The life of faith stretches us, strengthens us, deepens us, and delivers us from self centeredness. There are many things that I regret about my life but following Jesus is not one of them. He is the Author and Finisher of my faith. Far too long have I ignored His creative plans and failed to follow the story line—it’s all about Jesus. For this reason I fix my eyes on the One who has begun a good work. Not knowing can be hard at times because it is not an acceptable answer. 
   
As I cooperate with His plans, little by little He discloses more to me. By faith, I build my life in consideration of God’s will for it. I have never been more on track, so to speak. I know that without faith it is impossible to please God. And so, I may lack tangible goals or dreams but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve tossed aside my “good” dreams for “God-size” dreams. And so, I live by faith, and it is the substance that is very real. God is building something beautiful and the material He uses is faith.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spreading Fire


Spreading Fire

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

When we follow the prompting of God, yielding to the plan of God, we also experience the presence and power of God.  Faithfulness is being committed to God while loving and serving others.  Paul admonished Timothy to be faithful to the call of God. In fact, Timothy is encouraged to walk in the power, love and discipline infused by the gospel. And like Timothy, sometimes God calls us out, move us around and stir us up for His name sake. I experienced an illustration of this while grilling on a windy day.
With a few match light charcoal and a brand new bag of regular charcoal it became clear how the body of Christ spreads the gospel. The right side of the grill became very hot while the left side was slowly warming.  I waited to see if the left side would respond to what was happening on the right side.  When there was little change, I chose to do something different.   To my inconvenience, I took all the racks off the grill and moved the hot coals around so that the fire would spread. As I moved the red hot coals around they begin to light up as well as warm the other coals. Instantly the temperature of the grill steadily increased. And sometimes God allows us to experience change and transition because He is spreading fire.

There are times in the life of a believer that you may called out of a job, city or even a church so that you can be His instrument in a new place. God begins to add what’s lacking to your faith as well as add your faith to the new place. Our human inclination is to count faithful to God by years of service in a particular place but the true test of faithfulness is our willingness to follow God.  Even at the expense of being misunderstood, ridiculed, and even insulted. Whenever God moves a man or woman wholeheartedly devoted to Him, He rekindles and spreads fire. 
 
The revival the American church so desperately needs starts with personal revival.  Church revival begins when individuals fan into the flame the gift of God.  Sometimes God moves us to strengthen, add to, and share our faith.  By His grace, He uses us and uses others to equip us at the same time. 
The gospel of grace is a consuming fire.  The prophet Jeremiah explains it to us in chapter 20 verse 9, but if I say, “I will not mention His word or speak anymore in His name, ”His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” True revival occurs when we are fanning into the flame and spreading fire.

Thursday, March 6, 2014




Holding It Together When It All Falls Apart

But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.   Acts 27:41-44

Did God entrust you with a storm?  Are you experiencing one disappointment after another?  Do you feel like you aren’t going to make it?  Did God say everything was going to be all right smack dab in a situation where nothing seems right? Has He  previously shown Himself strong on your behalf?  Do you know that you know that He is the Way Maker?  Have you ever experienced a miracle in an awful situation?

I once heard Bible teacher Beth Moore discuss times when we are in awe.  She mentioned that sometimes the awful and the awesome leave us in awe of God.  Sometimes God will allow us to experience storms of cosmic proportion. I’ve found that I trust Him more not in spite of my trials but because of them. When it all falls apart and your faith remains then your greatest asset is intact. 

Without faith it is impossible to please God.  By faith, we receive the miracle of salvation as well as God’s healing, restoration and abundant living.  There are times that the vehicle that God uses to transfer us to a new place is completely destroyed. For example, the job that brought you to a new city may lay you off. I’m reminded of how the Lord visited Paul and encouraged Him and told him to go to Rome in Acts 23:11.

Paul then travels on a ship that was driven by the northeaster wind into a stormy situation.  The trip to Rome that the Lord sent him on (due to His appeal to Caesar) was a turbulent journey to say the least. He did arrive in Rome but the ship that was carrying Him was completely destroyed near the shore of his first destination, the island of Malta.  Paul was not shaken the least by the external situation due to His internal consecration.

Your five senses can experience the facts of what is happening around you but that does not impact the truth of what God will do for the man or woman who trusts Him completely. If God allows something that brought you to this place to be destroyed then He has a plan.  At times the opposition we face is the indicator that we are heading in the right direction.  Quite often we are strongly opposed when God is giving us an opportunity to witness a miracle. 

Cleave to God when the waves are tossing so that you can experience peace and joy in the mist of the storm. We know that Jesus Christ is irrefutably above all, because in Him we can experience life in dead places. We can experience peace in chaos, destiny in detours, and joy in suffering. Surrender to God when the devour roars!   God alone will hold it together when it all falls apart!

 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

PRACTICING OR WORKING OUT



practicing or working out?

Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13

My three year old daughter, Gabrielle loves to work out with me.  She says, “Mom, I want to practice.”  It humors me that she considers a fifty minute Zumba “work out” a “practice”.  I tell her, I’m not practicing, I’m working out.  As I step on the Rizer, she alters the quality of my workout due to her close proximity.   I spend a great deal of time focusing on her whereabouts to avoid tripping over her.  Sometimes I try to sneak and work out without her.  Nevertheless, when she hears the music, she runs to grab her sneakers and her step so she can “practice”. 

This made me think of how many times I go to church and acquire knowledge about God but never actually do what it says.  Week after week I acquire more knowledge and listen to new testimonies of what God can and will do.  I just practice by hearing the word but not becoming a doer of it. If we are not careful our religious experience can become like a performance due to our practicing but not really working out.  We can sing, shout and dance but never really work out.

Through the spoken and written word God is calling us to enjoy a good work out. The Bible is very clear that I need to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. God does the internal change in my heart and I must work out what He has worked in. The thing about working out is that an intimate relationship with God will always work out the external evidence of His hand moving in our lives.  The obvious transformation will not go unnoticed by those around us. What we do in secret will eventually come to the light.  Our small exercises of faith will eventually produce spiritual muscles.

My good friend has committed herself to physical wellness. She’s lost over 40 pounds.  She’s changed her diet, as well as her lifestyle to realize amazing results.  When I see her it is obvious to me that she is working out.  Her results are the evidence of what happens when we commit ourselves to physical wellness.  She attends 5:00 A.M.  Training classes as well as completes distance runs. 

When we cooperate with God there is an obvious spiritual transformation that takes place.  What has happened in my friend’s life is what happens in any person who commits themselves to working out the way that she does. Her results have improved her physical health. Spiritually speaking, as we honor God by working out what He has put within us quite naturally we are changed. People who we admire in Christ are the ones who are willing to do what God says.  The Holy Spirit equips us for every good work.  As we yield to the Spirit of God, God “works out” of us what He has put in.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jesus Loves Me This I Know


JESUS LOVES ME THIS I KNOW


I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:17-19


As a young girl I sat on the pew with pressed curls, fancy socks and patent leather shoes.  Often giggling and playing with cousins while the preacher stood on a platform speaking with authority.  Something special happened in this place called church. Although the music and singing were beautiful, more than that was the peace and joy that exuded the place. At times childhood naps were commonplace which were later replaced by whispers, doodles and note passing.  This was and still is the training center, the place of liberty, new life, and the fullness of joy.

I remember coming to a point of decision. Even as a young girl I knew that I wanted Jesus. In fact, it was clear to me that I needed Him. I spoke to my dad because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. The appeal knocked at the door of my heart and I opened it. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior because I believed He died on the cross for my sins, He was buried and resurrected on the third day. Wow, even then I knew that He was mine and I was His.

In time I put aside those girlish curls and Sunday dresses and somehow the main thing didn’t just stay the main thing. I didn’t intend for it to be that way but it happened that way. Sometimes life can be challenging and navigating it can be even tougher. In times of sure disappointment, loss, grief, sadness, and brokenness it can be overwhelming. I love music and at the points of crisis and sadness I have a song.  The song is, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so”. The depth of my sure confidence in His love is the song that can lift me from any bottomless pit.

He not only calls me from the pit but He comes there to get me. Everyone yells, “get out of that pit,” but not Jesus.  He comes in and takes a seat, not to condemn me but to lift me. He delivers me. In fact, His love is not simply an emotion but a decision to love me. He couldn’t possibly love me more or less, because His love is protected, guarded, unchanging and faithful. When by their actions, others have shown me they didn’t find me loveable, Jesus, is consistent to love me extravagantly.

This deep yearning I have can’t be filled with any one or thing else. All the idols my heart could hold and still I would be left longing.  Nothing else can satisfy. He is the One who can show up in the midnight hour to bring comfort. Elevated, barb-wired, electronic fences and prison bars can’t keep Him out! He is the One who through divine providence, strings along messages to me, open doors for me, and turns it around for me. He is the One who heals the body as well as the heart. He is the One that when you have nothing else but Him, you have everything.  And when you have everything this world can offer without Him, you still have nothing! 

He’s the One! He’s the One! As we celebrate love take time to bask in His. He made sure this song was in your heart as well as mine before we could even speak clearly.  Oh He loves us so and He wanted us to always know!  People may come and they may go but not Jesus. Jesus loves me this I know!