Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Come, follow me."

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4: 18-22

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. Mark 2:13-14

What made these disciples leave everything to follow Jesus? They left their jobs. James and John even left their father. Matthew says Peter and Andrew left “at once”, James and John left “immediately” and Mark says that Matthew (called Levi) “got up and followed him.”

What is the cost of following Jesus? If it is leaving everything, are we willing to go? Jesus didn’t say “Go, get a job and make lots of money.” He didn’t say, “Go, sign your kids up for all kinds of sports and extra curricular activities so that they will be well rounded.” He didn’t say, “Go, live a comfortable life, come to church when you can.”

He said and He is still saying, “Come, follow me.”

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Mark 10:17-22

This rich young man could not follow Jesus. It cost him too much and he was not willing to give up “everything” to follow the Only One who could save him.

What is your “everything”? For this rich young man it was his wealth. Proverbs 11:4 says that our wealth will be worthless on the day of wrath. For another in Matthew 8:22, it was his father. Jesus says, in Matthew 10:37, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”

Maybe it isn’t money or even material possessions. Maybe it is not your extended family. Maybe it is a sin or way of life that you are not willing to give up for Jesus. Jesus calls us to die to our sinful selfish nature to follow Him. That is what He means in Matthew 10:39 when He says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We must die (to ourselves and sinful nature) to live!

I have to ask myself, if the calling of the disciples cost them everything – what am I hanging on to that I need to let go of to really follow Jesus? And if His calling to His followers is “Come, follow me” – am I truly a follower of Christ if I am not following Him?

Don’t miss verse 21 of the parable of the rich young man – Jesus loved him. He loves us. More than we can imagine. But He is not going to force us to love Him in return. The choice to follow Him is ours. What will we do?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Exploring Canaan

Now, when the Israelites came close to the Promised Land, The Lord told Moses to send some men to explore the land. This is their account, found in Numbers 13:

We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there (these are giants). (v. 27-28)

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we certainly can do it.” (v. 30)

The other men who had gone into the land with Caleb and Joshua said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.” (v. 32)
All the Israelites grumbled and Numbers 14:10 says that they talked about stoning Caleb and Joshua!

These are the same people to whom God has promised time and time again that He will give them possession of the Promised Land! The same people whom God rescued from the Egyptians by parting the Red Sea so they could walk across on DRY ground! The same people that saw God in the form of a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day! And this is the same God that performed these miracles again and again right in front of them! And they still did not believe!

God, who is slow to anger and abounding in love (Numbers 14:17), was fed up with these rebellious people! He forgives His people but He declares, “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb. . . and Joshua. . . As for your children. . . I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But your bodies will fall in this desert. Numbers 14:30-33

They were left to wander in the desert for 40 years! How possible it is for us as believers today to wander in a symbolic desert and not live the life God intended for us!

The place he has for us is filled with milk and honey! It is a place of blessing and rest! It is a place where we will bear much fruit! It is not easy to conquer – there are giants living in the land! But, He will fight for us!

The Israelites were unable to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief! Unbelief is the absence of faith! We must believe God for our Promised Land!

If you are struggling with unbelief – here is some scripture that I hope may help you.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief. Mark 9:24b
“I have spoken to you of earthy things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” John 3:12

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:6

Beth Moore says in her book, Believing God, “If you are not presently occupying your promised land, rest assured the devil is.” We must drive out the inhabitants of our rightful place of blessing and rest! Even if they seem like giants!

Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. Ex. 23:30

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Things that Hinder - part 2

Sometimes the things that hinder aren’t necessarily sin in themselves, but they lead to sin. For example, shopping can lead to idolatry, anger can lead to slander and malice, a broken heart can lead to pride and unforgiveness. Sometimes even good or morally neutral things can hinder us (too much television, being obsessed with our physical appearance, running from one extra curricular activity to another, etc.) Anything that distracts us from being who God desires for us to be is a hindrance!

Be in prayer asking God to reveal anything in your life that hinders you from running the race marked out for you (Hebrews 12:1)!

Remember, God’s Word is our sword. Pray and memorize scripture! This is our key to defeating the enemy who pursues us like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8)! Beside each of these things that hinders is a scripture or two – you don’t have to memorize them all. If there is one or two in particular that you are struggling with pick your favorite scripture and memorize it. It may seem elementary, but try it! You will be amazed at the power of God’s Word when you put it to use!

Anger – My temperament is easily excited, saddened or angered. My emotions come flooding to me and want to come out! It is the way God created me but I also know that I can not use that as an excuse every time I fly off the handle! We have to put to death our sinful nature. His Word says that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). I know that when I am easily angered I must not let my emotions get the best of me. I have to remind myself to be loving, patient, gentle, kind and have self-control!

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19b-20

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Psalm 103:8

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Wounds / Broken hearts – I do not know a woman who has not been wounded. I have wounds going back to childhood that I am just now dealing with in my 30s. God wants to heal us! Dig deep if you have too, don’t be afraid – Let Him heal you!

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Unforgiveness - We need to forgive those who have wounded us. As hard as it may be, we must forgive others as God forgave us. Great freedom will be found in forgiving.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God.” Yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21

Guilt – Many times Satan condemns us for our past sins. He is trying to hinder us. He knows that we can not be who God wants us to be when we are entangled by all of our past mistakes. Don’t let him get you down! Christ paid the price for our sin. You are washed by His precious blood and you are forgiven! Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him. Psalm 32:1-2

You are on your way to your Promised Land! In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord. Ex. 16:6b-7a

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Things that Hinder

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. Ex. 15:13

God wants to lead us to our place of promise! A place of blessing and rest! The road will not be easy. As we have discussed before, our enemy will pursue us and we will have to go to battle! Pick up your sword! Get on your knees!

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

In order to be who God wants us to be we must rid ourselves of our sinful nature and the things that hinder us. Sometimes these things aren’t even sin – but they lead to sin. We must learn to overcome them!

Anxiety / Fear – Did you know that an average person’s anxiety is focused on:
40% things that will never happen
30% things about the past that can’t be changed
12% things about criticism by others, mostly untrue
10% about health, which gets worse with stress
8% about real problems that will be faced

What? Why would we focus so much time and energy on 90% of this stuff? The enemy is after our mind. Paul says, But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor. 11:3

Now, Paul was speaking to the Corinthians specifically about false teachings. But if the enemy is busy filling our mind with useless thoughts – what good is that to the Kingdom of Christ? He wants to lead our minds astray.

I know when the enemy begins to get a hold on me it always begins in my head. He will whisper lies. He will whisper discouragement. If you struggle with fear and/or anxiety, here is some scripture to help you go to battle when the enemy whispers in your ear.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6-7

The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Depression – This is the thorn in my flesh that the Lord will not remove. It does not mean that I am always depressed, but I must be constantly on guard because the enemy knows my weakness. I believe the Lord will not remove it because it is the very thing that drives me to my knees. I can not break free from depression on my own. I must rely on my God. David has many beautiful psalms that speak to me regarding conquering my enemies. Here are a few that I hope will encourage you if you struggle with depression.

2 Samuel 22, He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. (v. 17)

Psalm 18 & Psalm 30

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3

Addiction – Let me also tell you a little bit about my problem with addiction (I should say that this is Becky by the way – wouldn’t want anyone else to take the fall for all my junk!) Addiction runs in my family, smoking, alcoholism, and chewing tobacco, just to name a few. My addiction, shopping. Ok, so you think this might be harmless since it’s not like I am addicted to drugs our out gambling my family’s savings away or even eating too much ice cream. But when any thing, and I mean any thing, has such a firm grip on you that you have to lie about it or do it in secret – you need to ask yourself – do I have a problem with this? If it is the first thing you think about in the morning and it is taking hours of precious time away from your family. Ask yourself if it has mastered you.

For man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 2 Peter 2:19b.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

God’s Word is our sword. If you recognize that you struggle with any of these things, memorize these scriptures. They will help us defeat the enemy!

We need reprogramming every now and then. When the enemy whispers lies to us and takes over our minds we need to be transformed! Only Christ has the power to transform us! Only He has the power to set us free from fear, anxiety, depression and addiction!

Monday, April 27, 2009

He's Coming with Us

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear and oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Ex. 13:19-22

The Lord never left them! In fact, He showed them the way to go!

Now, the Egyptians pursued them. Remember, if we are pursuing our Promised Land, you better bet that the enemy is out to get us. He wants nothing more than for us to fail. Because when we succeed – to God be the glory!

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, "What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!" So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. The Egyptians—all Pharaoh's horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon. Ex. 14:5-9

You may be asking, why did God allow this? I thought He was going to free His people?
He will do what He says He is going to do! But, He will also be glorified! He will display His power, majesty and strength not only to the Israelites but also to the Egyptians. Exodus 14:4 says, “And I will harden Pharoah’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.”

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" Ex. 14:10-12

Ok, so now the Israelites are ready to retreat! They would rather return to slavery than face the battles that lie ahead for the pursuit of their Promised Land! We can not retreat!

Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Ex. 14:13-14

What a beautiful picture of our Warrior King! He will fight for us! We need only to be still!

I do believe He has called us to fight. I have also experienced times of such defeat where I felt as if I could not fight for myself. Cry out to Him. Be still. He will fight for you!

I encourage you to read the account of the parting of the Red Sea in Ex. 14 and also the song of praise and victory in Ex. 15.

The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. Ex. 15:3

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Six Simple Words

This past weekend we had the opportunity to go to Beth Moore's Living Proof Live conference in Portland. It was an amazing of those that leaves an eternal fingerprint on your life. Beth mentioned at the beginning of the weekend that her prayer was that "God would drop" and one of my favorite quotes from the weekend was one of the ladies telling me that God almost gave her a concussion, he dropped so hard on her life and heart!

One thing that Beth had all of us do during the weekend was come up with 6 words that represented our lives. We did it at the beginning of the conference and then again at the end, after spending some reflection and meditation time alone with the Lord. It was extremely powerful!

When she first mentioned the whole "six words" concept I immediately had a phrase come to my mind. It was this: "Completely unworthy, yet used by God." I haven't shared much lately but I want you to know I have been going through a very intense spiritual journey the past couple of months, where my heart has been very heavy and I have been really seeking the Lord and yearning for Him in new ways. I won't go into all that had me at this "place" because I could probably write a whole book about it, but the bottom line is that it had been intense. I needed to be refreshed and restored...again!

I was broken in so many ways. I couldn't comprehend why God had called me to do the things that he has because I have nothing to give. I was feeling very unequipped, very unqualified, very inadequate, etc. etc.

Throughout the conference I felt Him speaking to me on so many different levels, sometimes in the truths Beth reminded us of and other times just by His Spirit refreshing my soul. At the end of our time together, when Beth had us reflect back and write 6 new words I sat for a few minutes and prayed. And then heard the words: "You are are unworthy" and I completely broke.

I have been battling trying to find something about myself that would make me qualified for the mission God has given us and he simply said to me "There is nothing about you that makes you qualified. I need you to be broken so that I can use you." How amazing is it that God's answer to our find fulfillment, satisfaction, joy and peace is to truly undersand how undeserving we are for any of that. It goes completely against what the "world" teaches us...that we need to find strength in ourselves and that finding worth in ourselves will make us complete!

I feel renewed and refreshed knowing that nothing I have, nothing that I am, and nothing that I do is in my own strength and ability!

I know that these were my personal "words" from the Lord and I know you may be at a completely different place in life right now. If you are reading this, and went to the conference, I would love for you to share your 6 words if you feel comfortable and anything that you felt God speak to you during the weekend. If you didn't get to go, know that we missed you tremendously and I would still love to hear what your 6 words would be!

I can't tell you how blessed I am to have all of you in my life! I have no words...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Prepare for Battle

The LORD said to Abraham, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Gen. 22:17-18

Are you ready to take possession of the cities of your enemies?

This means war! Do not be afraid! Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world! (1 John 4:4)

As the Israelites prepared for their Exodus, they plundered the Egyptians! Ex. 12:36, The LORD had made the Egyptians favorable disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. I love it! What our enemy has stolen from us we will gain back and we will plunder him. What could we possibly gain besides our freedom? Spiritual blessings such as knowledge and wisdom, overall spiritual maturity, spiritual gifts, learning to know God and love Him more – just to name a few!

Let’s take a look at Ex. 13:17-18. When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was the shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.

So, God did not lead them out of Egypt the “easy” way. The path He has called you too will not come easy. But all the more rewarding it will be when you get there! The difficult path stretches us and makes us more mature.

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matt. 7:13-14. Same thing, the “path less traveled by” leads to an abundant life! We must pursue it!

Secondly, I love how Ex. 13:18 says “The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.” If we are going to take back our Promised Land – we better be armed for battle!

The enemy will try and stop us! Remember – he is ruthless! He comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a). And he does not want us to live out the abundant life God has for us. Because when we are free – God is free to use us for His glory and to further His kingdom! God wants us to be free! He has come that we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10b)!

In order to go to battle with our enemy we are going to need a few things. Let’s take a look at Ephesians 6:10-18.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Put on your armor: a belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, boots – ready to run with the gospel of peace, a shield of faith, helmet of salvation and finally, a sword of the Spirit which is the very Word of God!

God’s Word, our sword, is crucial in defeating the enemy! Just look at Matthew 4. Jesus was tempted by Satan. The enemy tested and tempted Him three times. And three times Jesus quoted scripture from Deuteronomy.

Hebrews 4:12 says, For the word of God is living and active Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Pick up your sword and get on your knees! That is where the battle is fought and won!