Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #192

#192 "Winning"
March 30, 2011
Thanks to one famous celebrity, the catch word recently is "Winning!" I don't think that I need to tell the story. If this strikes you as unfamiliar, just Google the word. I'm sure you'll come up with more information than you would ever want to know. A quick synopsis reveals the story of a man who is supposedly the highest paid actor today. He lives in a mansion. He has ex-wives and children. He lives with women who he calls "goddesses", that are at his beck and call.  He has fame, fortune, and everything this world has to offer at his fingertips. His life's description, in his own words, is "Winning!" Millions of folks are captivated by his every word, his every tweet, and his every movement.
Personally, I prefer the story of another Man. During the days that He breathed our air and walked our sod, I don't think anyone would have ever described His life as "Winning." Here is a bit of His self-description:
"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matthew 8: 20)
"I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting." (Isaiah 50: 6)
"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified." (Matthew 20: 18-19)
He was never taken seriously by His family. He was watched from a distance by those who sought to trick Him, trip Him up and turn Him over to the authorities. He suffered such anguish that His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. He was betrayed by a close friend. He was arrested and beaten so severely that He was unrecognizable. His inner circle turned tail and ran. He carried a cross beam. He died a violent, excruciating death. Winning? I think not! Or was He?
Never for one moment did this Man consider Himself a loser. If He had access to Twitter here's what it would've said:
"Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up. Winning!" (Isaiah 50: 7-9*)
*except for the Winning part*
Things are never what they appear to the human eye. One would think that with all of the possessions, fame and fortune our celebrity has that he would be full and satisfied and at peace. One would also think that the Man who lived an earthly life with none of those things to His credit would have been the one losing his mind. The kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom. Give to receive. Lay down your life to take it up. Return good for evil. Pray for enemies. A life that is truly a winning life doesn't always bear the marks of success, fame or fortune. It is often characterized by heartache, loss, grief, trouble, trials and tribulations.  It is often a life that is classified as a losing life by the masses. But it is a life with the sure promise that the Sovereign Lord is right there in the middle of it, working out His plans and purposes.  
The life of the One and Only shows us that there is purpose behind our trials and our pain. He assures us that we are not "losers" in this life, no matter what it may look like to the human eye. In every season of heartache, there is a purpose. A lesson to be learned. A character quality to perfect. A movement toward making you more like the image of the Son. There is not one "losing" situation that is wasted. Set your face like flint. You will never be put to shame.
Be encouraged by the closing words to a song by Carman:
Forty days and nights they fought, and
Satan couldn't touch Him.
Now the final blow saved for the final round.
Prophetically Christ's hands came down
And Satan struck in vengeance!
The blow of death felled Jesus to the ground.
The devils roared in victory!
The saints shocked and perplexed as wounds
appeared upon His hands and feet.
Then Satan kicked Him in His side, and blood and water flowed.
And they waited for the 10 count of defeat.
God the Father turned His head,
His tears announcing Christ was dead!
The 10 count would proclaim the battle's end.
Then Satan trembled through his sweat in
unexpected horror, yet...
As God started to count by saying,
"Hey wait a minute, God..." "...9..." "Stop!
You're counting wrong..."
His eyes are moving...
His fingers are twitching...
"Where's all this Light coming from?"
"He's alive!"
"Oh - nooooo!"
"And yet,"
He has won!
He has won!
He's alive forevermore!
He is risen, He is Lord,
He has won!
He has won!
He's alive forevermore,
He is risen!
He is Lord!
Proclaim the news in every tongue,
Through endless ages and beyond
Let it be voiced from mountains loud and strong
Captivity has been set free, salvation bought for you and me
'Cause Satan is defeated,
And Jesus is The Champion.

Winning? Oh yeah!!!!!!!!

Living the Word along with you,  
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #191

#191 "Never Too Far"
March 22, 2011
During my quiet time this weekend, my devotional referenced Hebrews 10:23, which says, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;). In "Sparkling Gems from the Greek" by Rick Renner, the author spoke quite a bit about Abraham and Sarah. He spoke of how their promise from God, the promise of a son to an old, barren couple, looked like it would never come to pass. He referenced their many hardships, challenges and tough circumstances that would've given anyone cause to say, "We give up. This just isn't happening for us." The lesson that day was to never give up the dream that God has placed and promised in your life. But my thoughts started to go in a different direction as well.
Not many folks have the odds stacked against them as much as Mr. and Mrs. Abraham did. To make matters worse, this couple made some mistakes. Some pretty hefty ones if you ask me. In Genesis 12: 10-20, Abraham lied to Pharaoh and his officials saying that Sarah was his sister and not his wife, in order to save their skins. Again in Genesis 20:1-18, they committed the exact same deception. Their worst mistake however, came in Genesis 16. Sarah was tired of waiting on God for her child. She decided to take matters into her own hands. After all, she wasn't getting any younger. She came up with a "brilliant" scheme to have her maidservant Hagar sleep with her husband (who does that, by the way?) and through Hagar she would have her promised child. Being somewhat technologically and scientifically challenged back in the day, there were no labs, no in vitro fertilization, no donor banks. Nope, Abe had to sleep with Hagar and willingly, that's exactly what he did. We all know how well that turned out, don't we? Ishmael was not the promised child. Sarah blamed Abraham. Abraham blamed Sarah. Sarah hated Hagar and the Bible says that Hagar despised her mistress. Sarah mistreated her until she had to run for her life with her not so promised child.
Thirteen years later the promise was fulfilled when Sarah did indeed become pregnant and give birth to Isaac. The promise was fulfilled in spite of all of their mistakes.
When God births a dream on the inside of you, it doesn't always come to pass in the time table you would construct. As time goes on, you think you know better. You get tired of waiting, like Sarah. You come up with a plan. But it's not God's plan. And it's a big mistake.
The longer time passes without seeing the fulfillment of your dream; you may sin and make mistakes. One day you find yourself thinking that your dream and God's promise will never be fulfilled because of all the poor decisions and mistakes that you've made. You're sure that God has taken that promise off the table because you've messed up one too many times. Be encouraged today by the life of Abraham and Sarah. In spite of themselves, they received their promised Isaac. When Abraham was called by God, he was given this promise: "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12: 2-3) That promise came to pass. In spite of lies and deceit. In spite of wrong decisions and poor choices. That's because the promise was based on God's faithfulness, not theirs. When God gives you a promise in His Word and you believe Him, it is credited to you as righteousness (Genesis 15:6) and it will be like receiving a check that only needs to be cashed at the appointed time. God's promises and covenants with you are based on His faithfulness to His Word, not on anything that you do. Your dream can still come to pass. Your promise can still be manifested in your life. Don't be discouraged. Don't think you've gone too far. Don't, don't, don't give up.
Read for yourself the stories of Moses, David, Peter and the prodigal son. These are not sinless, perfect men who lived lives without ever making a mistake or two, or three. Yet God used them mightily, loved them dearly, forgave them freely and not a word that God spoke was ever not fulfilled. The devil would have you believe that you can never be used by God because of the mistakes that you've made. Remember, precious one, the devil is a liar. (John 8:44) Your truth is contained in the Word of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and sure to come to pass because your God, the One Who made the promise, is trustworthy. (Hebrews 10:23 NET) Dream on, dear one, dream on!
Living the Word along with you,  
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tuesdays with Jesus #190

#190 "The Three R's"
March 16, 2011
My favorite place in the whole world to go for some rest and refreshment is Caseville, MI. I love the air. I love the people. I love the sights and sounds and I particularly love sitting on the beach, listening to the seagulls and the waves beating against the shore. The one thing that can spoil a hot day at the beach is flies. These babies are big and they are mean. In the heat of the afternoon, they land on your legs and make them their dinner feast. And they hurt...gosh, they hurt. The only thing that I've found to keep them away is to keep my legs wet. The minute they dry, the flies are back. Those little nit-pickers can ruin a most lovely day.
If your weeks have been anything like mine, you've had some nit-pickers biting away at the lovely days of your life lately. You know what I mean. They are those things that you wake up to every morning and hold closely in bed when you lie down at night. They bite at you throughout the day. Call them concerns. Call them issues. Call them trials. Call them tribulations. Your days could be really lovely if you could just get rid of those things that bite at your mind all day long. Some of them aren't even that big of a deal. Some of them are huge. They bother you. They irritate you. They upset you. They put a big damper on your otherwise lovely, lovely day at the beach.
We can't throw water on ourselves and make them go away. But we can extinguish their power with three principles straight out of the Word of God. Remember. Rest. Resist. Say those words out loud.
Remember. Rest. Resist.
REMEMBER the goodness of the Lord. Instead of focusing on the trials of today, focus on the goodness of the Lord in the past. I know He has done great things for you in your life so far. I just know it, because He is a good God. When David was facing times of distress and great challenge He always took his mind back to what God had done for him in the past. He encouraged himself in the Lord and in His goodness to David. The Lord didn't get up this morning and decide that He's helped you enough and now He's done. He is the same today as He was yesterday. If He was good yesterday, He is good today. Call to mind every blessing, every miracle, every answer to prayer that you can. Write them down if that helps. Pour over those things and take heart that God is a God who hears, sees and knows every detail of your life. Remember His goodness, His grace, His mercy, His compassion, and His great and mighty deeds in your past. He is that same God today. And He has been good to you. "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." (Psalm 116: 7)
Did you see that? REST. I'm about to get very practical right now. A body that's worn out cannot properly withstand the assaults of this world and the pressures of everyday living. A stressed out, worn out, tired body cannot fight. We are in a real battle, girlfriend and guyfriend. We have an enemy that wants us to break down and give up. We run frantically to get everything done in a day with not enough hours granted. We attempt to meet the demands of everyone we know and love, even if those demands wear us so thin that we're about to break. We need to get us some boundaries. When Elijah was being threatened with death by Jezebel, he was so worn out that he actually wanted to die. He said, "I have had enough, Lord." (1 Kings 19: 4) Ever said that? "I have had enough, Lord!!!" An angel came to minister to Elijah and said "Get up and eat." (v. 5-9) Are you eating? Are you eating healthy foods? Or are you living on caffeine and sugar? Take some time to eat good food at regular intervals of the day, not on the fly.
It isn't selfish to take some time out of your busy day or week for yourself. You need to rest. You need a good night's sleep. You need some down time. Eat right. Rest and sleep. Do something good for yourself. Take a good look at your life and make a list of all of the things you do in any given week. Are they all necessary? I'm not asking if they're good. Are they necessary? So many of the things that we do are "good things". We need to get our priorities straight and not do good to the detriment of our health, our focus and our mental well-being. Become a friend of the word "no". You can say it. It's okay.
Nothing is more important to your rest than regular quiet time with the Lord. Life is throwing you so many curve balls and you absolutely must have a purposeful time with the Lord to talk to Him about it and get His perspective on it. How many times do you catch yourself saying, "I can't even think straight?" God thinks straight every time and in His Word and in sitting quietly before Him, you will find rest for your body, soul and spirit. I promise you that you will come away from that time refreshed, renewed and with a whole new perspective on your situations. His Holy Spirit will counsel you, advise you, reassure you and set you back on your feet, ready to start the new day with confidence in Him.
When you're exhausted, in poor health, and worn out you do not have the power or the energy to fight the battle against wrong thinking, destructive decisions and if you're not careful, a total melt-down. You have no power to resist.
RESIST. Resist the urge to worry about tomorrow. Jesus said, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6: 34) The King James Version of the Bible says to take no thought. The word translated "no" means "no". Nothin' fancy there. No thought. No care. Not to be troubled with cares about tomorrow. Has your penchant for worry ever achieved a purpose other than an upset stomach? Did it put the check in the mail? Did it make your child behave in the way you wanted? Did it bring your husband back? Did it heal your body? Absolutely not! What worry did bring however was a bad mood, a bad day, it affected your relationships with others, it kept you up at night, caused you to not feel like eating and didn't do one constructive thing to solve your problem. Resist the urge to give way to worry. Jesus has it covered. It's in His perfect hands. He knows just how to do it and He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all you could ever ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) You can't change people, but Jesus can. Stop trying. You can only do so much in certain situations. Do what you can and leave the rest to the One who is able to do the impossible. He has only begun to show His greatness and the strength of His hand to you, His servant. There is no one in Heaven or on earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as He does. (Deuteronomy 3: 24)
The devil, your enemy wants you to worry, because he knows that it will render you ineffective for anything good that you will do for the Kingdom of God. It will distract you from your destiny and God-given purpose in life. RESIST the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4: 7) Make him turn tail and run and bother someone else. Don't give him the satisfaction of falling into one of his cleverly orchestrated traps. The trap of worry.
Remember. Rest. Resist.
God has been good to you in the past. Today you need to rest. Resist worrying about tomorrow. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:  8)
Living the Word along with you,  
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