Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #188

#188 "Living the Word"
February 22, 2011
"Every word you give me is a miracle word-how could I help but obey? Break open your words; let the light shine out, let ordinary people see the meaning. Mouth open and panting, I wanted your commands more than anything."  (Psalm 119: 129-131 The Message)
Good Tuesday to you! I see a few feet of snow piled up outside my window here in Michigan. Out of its tent in the heavens, the sun is shining brilliantly in the sky like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion. Each day of its rising and its setting brings us another day closer to spring, because God is so faithful, dear ones. He is SO, SO faithful!   
Everything that I read in my quiet time this morning pointed to the same theme. I think when that happens, God is truly trying to make a point with us on that particular day. Maybe I just needed a reminder. Maybe you need the reminder too and that's why God laid this one theme on my heart today. Everything pointed to His Word.
If you've followed my writing over the last six years, or been present in any number of my Bible studies, you know that I am a woman of the Word. I love God's Word. It is life to me. My Jesus, through His Word and His Holy Spirit, literally saved my life. The Word of God is everything to me and that's why I even named my ministry, "Living the Word Ministries". Not that I have already attained it, my deepest desire is to know, love and walk in God's Word every day of my life. I pray that my passion is contagious and that I can disciple believers, particularly women, in the same love and walk of victory that God's Word accomplished for me.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we begin a journey that can be certifiably amazing. Our sins are forgiven and we have the certain hope of eternity spent in the presence of God. That would be completely enough if it weren't for the fact that there is so much more. When we put our faith in Christ we know that we are Heaven bound and for some that is quite enough. But I believe and I know that I know, that I know, there is so much more victory to be had on this side of the grass, in the land of the living. However, I don't believe it can truly be had without the truth of God's Word front and center in our lives. I started to ponder why in the world believing folks wouldn't want some of that? What makes us just settle for a life of defeat? What contributes to a life of defeat? Why are so many believing guys and gals not reaping the victory over situations and circumstances that are sent by the enemy to steal, kill and destroy the abundant life that Jesus died to give us? I came up with three reasons.
We don't know what God has to say in His Word. Some people believe that knowledge and study of the Word is the job of preachers and priests, but not the common folk.  It's for someone else to exposit, and to explain to us what it says, and what it means. This could not be further from the truth. Paul and Silas preached in a place called Berea. The Bible tells us that the Bereans received their message with eagerness and ... watch this... "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11) If you don't know for yourself what God says in His Word, you run the risk of falling for just about anything. You also run the risk of living a life of defeat, despair and believing the lies of the devil.
The preacher or priest can't be with you every minute of every day and certainly not every time situations come and give you a punch square in the gut. You need to know just who God says that He is. You need to know just what God says He can do. You need to know just who God says that you are. And you need to know that for yourself. Without study and knowledge of God's Word, you will be defeated every time. I see it happen over and over and over again, sadly among believing men and women. The Word is called the sword of the Spirit in Ephesians 6. It is the only offensive weapon listed in the whole armor of God. Without the Word, you are left on the battlefield empty handed and defenseless against the onslaughts and strategies of the enemy. You have nothing to fight back with. You are at the mercy of your enemy.
Just the other day, someone very close to me who is very skilled in the subtleties of making me feel inferior and not a good person, threw some of that strategy in my direction. If I did not know who God says that I am in His Word, and who I am in Christ, I would have fallen hook, line and sinker for the whole thing. Believe you me; I used to fall for it every time. It would send me into weeks of second-guessing myself, self-condemnation and days of trying to figure out how I could make it all better by doing just what this person wanted. But because I know truth, for myself, and it is hidden in my heart, I can speak, OUT LOUD, what God says about me. I can take the double-edged sword of His Word and annihilate the enemy and his tactics. It works every single time. We must know what God has to say in His Word to live any kind of victorious life. Read it. Memorize it. Speak it out loud. "Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me." (Psalm 119: 98 NIV)
We hear the Word but don't heed the Word. James, the brother of Jesus says this: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1: 22) All over your Bible are promises from the mouth of God about how your obedience to His Word brings success, prosperity, safety and protection. Proverbs 1: 33 says, "But everyone who listens to me will live in safety and be at ease without fear of harm." Every precept, command and word of God is for our own good. We often think we know a better way. We don't like to give up control. Sometimes what God is telling us to do can seem so contrary to what would make more sense. We say, "Oh, you just don't understand MY situation!" Or, "It's too hard!"  Just as a good parent only gives their child sound advice, for their good, never to harm, so our Heavenly Father knows the perfect way to guide us in every and any situation that we may face on planet Earth. It's not enough to just sit in church every Sunday and hear the preacher preach. We have to take what we hear, and read, and study and put it into practice in our daily lives. We won't ever be able to fix our broken car if we just read the manual, or watch the instructional video, and never take the tools out of the toolbox and use them. So it goes for our broken lives. So it goes.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in Matthew 7: 24-27. It's the story of the wise and foolish builders. It's the story of two people who built two houses. A vicious storm came and blew and beat on both of those structures. One house stood and one house fell with a great crash. The people are the same...human. The houses seem to be the same. The storms were identical. So what was the difference in the final outcome? It was all in the foundation that the houses were built upon. Jesus said that the house that stood had its foundation on the rock of obedience to the words they heard him speak. He said that the house that fell did not put his words into practice and the house was destroyed. What is your desired final outcome for the house that is your life? We need to hear the Word and HEED the Word.
We don't believe the Word. So perhaps we know the Word. Perhaps we do our best to obey the Word. But do we really believe the Word of God? Do we believe that God is just who He says that He is? Do we really believe that He can do what He says He can do? Do we believe what God says about us?  Do we believe that His promises are for us? Aah, that's an important question! Maybe we think those promises were for the saints of long ago, the Abrahams, Isaacs and Jacobs. The Ruths, the Esthers, the Marys. "But not for me." Do you ever think that way? "It always happens for someone else, but not for me. That may be true in YOUR situation, but it's just not ever going to happen for me." Be honest, dear one. Do you ever say those words?   
How that must grieve the heart of God! What if you had everything in the universe to offer your child and you told them repeatedly what you would do for them, and they didn't believe you? Wouldn't you know that they  just plain out didn't trust you? That's what it boils down to, my friend. When we don't believe God, we simply don't trust Him enough. Look at this verse with me: ""You are my witnesses," declares the Lord, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He."" (Isaiah 43:10)  Those words are boldly speaking to you right now where ever you're sitting. God is saying, "Believe me....believe me."
Sometimes, despite your unbelief, God will deliver you and answer your prayer just to show you that He can be trusted and that His words are trust-worthy and true. But beware of repeated unbelief.  Israel wandered in the desert for forty years due to their unbelief. They were not able to enter the Promised Land, "because of their unbelief." (Hebrews 3: 16-19) If you're anything like me, you long for the Promised Land, overflowing with milk and honey. You long to live in the promised spacious place, whose boundaries have been hand-laid by the Lord God Himself. You long to live in your God-ordained purpose and destiny. You long for His delightful inheritance. It can be yours. Just believe.
I just got an e-mail a few minutes ago that ended with these words: "Do not ask the Lord to guide your footsteps, if you are not willing to move your feet." Start today, right now, if you can, to walk in the wonderful Word of God. Take a stroll that begins in a garden called Eden and walk all the way to a new Heaven and a new Earth where Christ is King and nothing but perfection surrounds you. God will give you directions all along your way. He will never lead you down a path that will harm you. He will never make you walk the journey alone. When He directs your path, go in that exact direction. But even if you stray once in a while, know that He will leave the others and search you out and carry you on His shoulders back to the path once more. As if you were the only one. He loves you that much.
Know the Word. Heed the Word. And by all means, BELIEVE the Word.
"Don't ever deprive me of truth, not ever-your commandments are what I depend on. Oh, I'll guard with my life what you've revealed to me, guard it now, guard it ever; And I'll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom; Then I'll tell the world what I find, speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed. I cherish your commandments-oh, how I love them!-relishing every fragment of your counsel." (Psalm 119: 41-48 The Message)
Living the Word along with you,  
To unsubscribe, reply to this e-mail and type "unsubscribe" in the subject line.
If you are viewing this on Facebook or Blogger and would like to receive "Tuesdays with Jesus" in your e-mail box each Tuesday, please visit our website or e-mail tuesdays@livingthewordministries.org and you will be added to the list.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #187

#187 "Let's Try Again"
February 15, 2011
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." (John 15: 4)
How many times have you asked God for a second chance? A third? A one-hundredth chance? Come on now, I can't be the only one! On this eve of my 54th birthday, I found myself doing just that. Asking God for another chance. Either because God calls me home or because His return is imminent, the bulk of my years on planet Earth are behind me. It's time to get serious. Seriously serious.   
"Here I am. Again, Lord. How many times have I broken your heart? How many times have I disappointed you, quenched your Spirit? Worse than that...grieved your Spirit? How many times have you been displeased with my words, my actions, my thoughts? Here I am again, Lord. Today's the day. This is the hour. Now is the time. I want to start fresh, from this day forward, for better or worse, again." Oh, how many times I've said those words. What about you?
We are so hard on ourselves aren't we? Because of things in my past, I'm really hard on myself. I have a great fear that without constant tending, I'm like the tree that Jesus saw in the distance as He was leaving Bethany one day. He saw the tree filled with leaves. It was a good looking tree, but when He got closer He found no fruit on its branches. Jesus cursed the tree and it never bore fruit again. (See Mark 11: 12-14 and 20-21) I wonder sometimes if I just look good, act like a good Christian, and put on a good face, but that I am bearing no fruit at all.
When I think this through, I believe that we have to keep starting over and over again because we are trying to bear fruit and live for Jesus all in our own strength. We know the things that we're supposed to do and we strive and struggle and try, try, try to do it all right. And what about our service to God? We try so hard to make things happen so that we can bear fruit for His Kingdom. We run ahead of God. We come up with plans that we ask God to bless, instead of waiting for His already blessed plans to unfold before our eyes. Control freaks. That's what they call us.  
My illustration works much better when I'm preaching, but I'll try to explain it on the page as best as I can. Think of a fruit tree. Apple, pear, any ole fruit tree you want to visualize in your mind. When you pass by that particular tree, do you hear anything? Do you see anything? Is that tree groaning and grunting and bearing down hard to push a piece of fruit out of its branch? Unless you're one of those apple trees in the haunted forest of Oz, I think not. Fruit bearing is effortless, and the dynamics of it are pretty much invisible to our eyes. The roots of that tree are buried deep in the soil. It receives its nutrients for growth and fruit bearing from the roots up. Outwardly its branches blow carefree in the breeze and one day, fruit appears. Beautiful, shiny, juicy fruit. Pleasing to the eye and delicious on our tongues.
Like the fruit tree, girlfriend and guy friend, we need to stop trying so darn hard. Jesus told us that we can't do it without Him. We cannot bear one piece of fruit apart from our connection with Him. No amount of making up our mind, straining to remember the rules, let alone keep them, or groaning and grunting our way through life trying to be good enough and do enough good will ever bear fruit.
We need to take a lesson from the fruit trees. We need to get our roots deep down in the soil where we can daily be nourished with prayer and the Word of God. Ephesians 3: 17 tells us to be rooted and established in the love of God. What better thing to sink our roots deep into than the width, the length, the height and the depth of the Father's love for us? We need to acknowledge that God is God and that He has a plan for our lives that will unfold with His blessing, in His time, in His own way. When we yield to Him and feed on His Word, and bask in the sunshine of His love, our branches will sway gently with the breeze of the Holy Spirit's breath. Before we know it, without straining, and groaning, and grunting, and trying, we will bear beautiful, delicious fruit for His Kingdom. There is such amazing freedom in that kind of living, precious one.
On the eve of my 54th year on planet Earth, I'm going to relax. I'm going to dig my roots deep. The pressure is off. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Fruit will be borne. That's what He chose me for.  "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last." (John 15: 16)
Living the Word along with you, 
To unsubscribe, reply to this e-mail and type "unsubscribe" in the subject line.
If you are viewing this on Facebook or Blogger and would like to receive "Tuesdays with Jesus" in your e-mail box each Tuesday, please visit our website or e-mail tuesdays@livingthewordministries.org and you will be added to the list.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #186

#186 "I Saw You"
February 1, 2011
"Mark well that God doesn't miss a move you make; He's aware of every step you take." (Proverbs 5:21)
"I saw you at the bar last night. I watched as you drank your margaritas and hung out with your friends. I saw you in your hung over misery this morning. Isn't it nice to have friends that give you their advice on remedies that will work for you?
I heard you express your views on abortion and homosexuality.
I heard you when others didn't agree with your political views and you called them "racist". I watch as you align yourself with others in your country with no regard for my laws and no fear of Me.
I saw the videos that you watch. I heard the music you listen to.
I heard you complain about your job, your co-workers, your kids and your spouse.
I saw you smiling for the camera in inappropriate dress and making inappropriate hand gestures. I hear your obscenity, foolish talk and coarse joking, which My Word clearly says is out of place.
Problem is…everyone else saw you too. You profess to be Mine. You bear the Name that you so carelessly dishonor. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish you from those who don't believe in Me."
"But Lord, when did you see me at the bar, or hear me express my views, or call people names, or murmur, grumble and complain about my life? When did you see the photos I've taken and the things that I've done that were inappropriate? When did you hear obscenity or foolish talk come from my lips?"
"Facebook, my child. Facebook."
Living the Word along with you, 
To unsubscribe, reply to this e-mail and type "unsubscribe" in the subject line.
If you are viewing this on Facebook or Blogger and would like to receive "Tuesdays with Jesus" in your e-mail box each Tuesday, please visit our website or e-mail tuesdays@livingthewordministries.org and you will be added to the list.