Friday, November 30, 2012

Danger Ahead

Sometimes when I am talking with my kiddos, the conversation may turn to giving them advice.  Either I give it to them unsolicited or they ask a question that draws out the guidance.  Sometimes I may be giving them counsel for the moment; however, there have been times that I begin to give them instruction for the future.  Maybe it is advice for them in the moment about school but for my son who is in high school I might add, "But when you are in college..."  I think some of it is because I know my time with them is becoming shorter and shorter and I want to squeeze in as much as possible before they are out on their own.  There are times when we read through the Gospels that we see something similar when Jesus is teaching His disciples.  He warns and encourages the disciples by giving them signs of the future and of His return.  Yesterday, I began reading about Jesus sending out His disciples with His authority and the verses I am looking at continue on with some advice He gave the disciples before they went on their journey.  Please read Matthew 10:16-23.

Jesus told the disciples that He gave them authority to cast out demons and to heal people of all diseases, but we see in these verses that it would not be an easy road.  When reading through these verses, we begin to see that Jesus wasn't necessarily referring to the current journey He was sending them on; He was referring to a life-long journey.  He even went beyond their life-time and was referring to the church's life.  We can know this because of one phrase in verse 23 (NLT), "I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel."  Since Jesus hadn't left and hasn't returned yet, we know that Jesus was giving warning and advice to the church.  He was letting us know that our job wouldn't be easy but we would be equipped.

He tells us that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say when we need it.  He points out that the trials we face are also opportunities to tell those in authority about Christ.  We can be assured that we will not be abandoned and instead we will have the power of the Holy Spirit working within us.  Here are some words of encouragement:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.  2 Cor. 4:7-12 (NIV)
 Do you believe that the life-giving power of the resurrection is at work in you?

This post is linked with Faith-Filled Friday.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Everything We Need

Have you ever noticed that God really never wants us to sit still in our faith; He always wants us to do something?  Sometimes we feel ready for the task He put before us, but there are other times when He is taking us far out of our comfort zones and asking us to do something we never saw ourselves doing.  The verses I looked at yesterday challenged us to pray for those who would go out and reach others, but they also challenged us to consider that God is also sending us.  Today, I want to take a look at some verses where Jesus was preparing His disciples for something new and required courage.  Please read Matthew 10:1-15.

The first thing we are told in Matthew 10:1 is that Jesus gave His twelve disciples authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every disease.  This was important because He was sending them prepared.  I think this is also an important point to remember.  We can know that God is sending us to do something, but we feel completely unprepared; however, God always empowers us to do the work He has called us to do.  We can trust that God wouldn't send us to do a job just to watch us fail.  When we depend on His power and authority, we can trust His call on our lives.

Notice that after He gave them authority, He gave them instructions.  There are some very interesting and distinct points that He made with His disciples for us to remember.  First, He gave them a specific message to preach to everyone and was told to heal and to give freely.  He reminded them that God would use the people around them to provide for them.  He told them that it was okay to accept food and hospitality because they were working and were receiving that provision for their work.  He also told them to bless those who open their homes to them.

I think these are good points to remember whether we are out doing what God has called us to do, or if we are on the receiving end of those who are called.  It is okay to accept hospitality and we are to extend a blessing on those who provide hospitality.  But this is also a good reminder to us to extend hospitality for those who are doing God's work.  No matter which part we are playing at different points in our lives, we can also trust that God has given us all that we need in order to do the work.  We are reminded of this in 2 Peter 1:3, "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness."  He has given us the power to live out our calling.

Do you trust that God has empowered you to do His work?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mangled and Cast Away

Yesterday, I began to write this post and because of various circumstances I was unable to finish it.  I had been amazed at how God's timing was amazing because I felt like reading these verses was an answer to a personal prayer I had prayed that very morning.  However, God had more to show me throughout the day yesterday and I want to share a little of the perspective He gave me.  I want to warn you that the next few sentences are very difficult to read and much more difficult for me to pen because they portray a true story that is disturbing and a bit graphic.  I also want to preface it with the fact that I am not trying to shock you but rather share a truth that God shared with me because we need to have more compassion.  

The story is about a little nine year old refugee girl from a war torn country.  When a missionary approached her she asked him, "Are you going to kill me?"  Doesn't it break your heart that a nine year old would even think to ask that question?  She shared with the missionary that her friend was shot by some soldiers in her country and her little body was blown apart.  The soldiers forced this little precious nine year old to piece her friend back together.  There is more to the story that I cannot bear to type out; however, just know this little nine year old girl has seen and experienced more atrocities than we can understand.  Oh, how much pain is in this world!  But I want to show you that God sees and understands the pain and has compassion.  Please read Matthew 9:35-38.

Something caught my attention yesterday and I had to look up the words that the NLT translates as  "confused and helpless."  Skyllō is the Greek word translated as confused.  According to BlueLetterBible.com it means to rend, mangle, skin, flay, vex, trouble, to trouble oneself.  That is pretty graphic, isn't it?  And it seems a bit stronger language than confused.  Rhiptō is translated as helpless and it means to throw or cast, throw down, to set down with the suggestion that it is without care, prostrate.  I guess I am sharing this with you because these strong words give us a description of how Jesus saw the crowds.  We live in a hurting world with an enemy that we are told who steals, kills, and destroys but Jesus has come to give us life to the full (John 10:10).  While most of us don't see a literal mangling and throwing away of life like that little nine year old girl; we can experience that spiritually.

We can have damaging hurts that leave thick, heavy scars on our hearts.  We can be torn apart by the circumstances we face.  We can feel cast away by this world.  We are sentenced to death by the sin we bear - a hopeless fate.  But Jesus sees that and has compassion.  He came to give us life to the full; He came to heal.  He came to sacrifice His life so that we could live.  Notice the statement Jesus makes about these hurting people, "The harvest is great, but the workers are few.  So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into his fields." (Matthew 9:37-38, NLT).  First, we see that we have a responsibility that Jesus gave us - pray for more workers.  But, I also want to point out that we can be the workers.  We can ask God to expand our hearts to understand that people are in pain and we can point them to the way of their ultimate Healer.  We can pray that God gives us the very compassion that He has for all who are lost without Him.

Have you prayed for compassion?  Do you see the hurting people who are mangled and cast away?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What Is Your Response?

We are coming up to Christmas, and there will be many children getting excited about Santa Claus.  When my children were younger, I had interesting dynamics going on in regards to Santa.  One child knew there was no Santa Claus, another child believed in Santa wholeheartedly, and one child was pretty sure there wasn't a Santa but really wanted to believe.  My husband and I never really made a big deal about Santa, so their responses were from what they were exposed to in the culture.  But isn't it interesting how different each of their responses were?  In life, there are two choices we have in response to God: believe or not believe.  There really isn't any other response.  Of course there is always the person who questions and wonders about God; however, if they haven't stepped over into belief in God they don't believe.  The verses I am looking at today show a few different responses that people had when they experienced Jesus and witnessed His power.  Please read Matthew 9:18-34.

The first few responses to Jesus are of great faith in Him.  First is the synagogue official who knew that Jesus could heal his dead daughter.  Does this amaze you at all?  His daughter was dead, but he didn't look at it as the end for her if Jesus would come and heal her.  The other act of faith was the women with the bleeding problem who knew that Jesus would heal her if she would just get a hold of His robe.  She didn't even need to talk to Him or touch Him, she just wanted to get a hold of His robe.  The next moment of faith was presented by the two blind men who knew that Jesus could heal them.  They knew this so much that they followed Him into the house where He was staying.  Finally, someone brought a man who was demon possessed and couldn't speak to Jesus.

But there is one more response mentioned in these verses.  Unbelief.  The Pharisees witnessed the healing; however, their response was that He healed the man of demons because He received His power by the prince of demons.  No matter how much good they witnessed of Jesus, they refused to believe that He was the Messiah.  They refused to believe that He was of God!

We see these responses that are so different because the first several responses to Christ were of total faith.  They knew that Jesus was their hope for healing; they knew that Jesus could do what they needed Him to do.  And then there was the response from those who watched Him so carefully - a response of unbelief.  But the bigger question to ask yourself is what is your response. We may not see Jesus in physical form; however, we can look around us and see the evidence of Him.  I see the man who literally changed from a angry, bitter person to a person filled with joy and compassion when he came to know Jesus as his Savior.  I've seen countless healings as a result of prayer.  I have personally experienced freedom and healing from childhood hurt.  I choose to believe.

What do you choose?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Old and New

Lately, I have had odd things happening in the morning that has preventing me from writing my posts!  For example, yesterday our sink decided to plug up fast and hard and we were working on it to no avail so we could be ready when my husband's parents were coming to visit.  Just a tad frustrating; however, isn't life full of those little annoyances?  Some of those irritations can be found at work with the paperwork that seems to be duplicating other paperwork already completed.  Maybe it is the professor that requires memorizing information that is hard to believe will ever be applicable in day to day life.  Sometimes, it doesn't have to be a big issue that brings us to frustration and moodiness, it can be a build-up of little things that wear us down.  Did you know that we can do that to ourselves in our faith walk as well?  We can fill ourselves up with a bunch of do's and don'ts and walk away dissatisfied knowing that there has to be more to the walk than just rules.  The verses I am looking at today shows us what Jesus has to say about such things; please read Matthew 9:14-17.

Jesus is confronted by some John the Baptist's disciples who asked Him why His disciples don't fast like they do.  Something that making me think a little more about these verses is the very definition of disciple.  Basically, a disciple meant that that person did everything that their Rabbi did.  If the Rabbi took his sandals off, the disciples took their sandals off.  If a Rabbi ate bread the disciples ate bread.  And if the Rabbi fasted, the disciples fasted.  So, I wonder if in their questioning Jesus about His disciples' practices they were actually questioning Jesus's practices.  I really don't know if that is what they were doing, but given what a disciple was you could see how they may have been questioning Jesus.  But notice that Jesus's answer back to John's disciples wasn't harsh; He didn't point His finger at them saying, "Well, maybe you fast too much!"  Instead, He pointed out that there was a time and a place for fasting, and at this point the time had not come to pass for His disciples.

The other thing is that earlier in Matthew, Jesus had informed His disciples to be private about their fasting (Matthew 6:16-17), so they may have been fasting and it just didn't appear so.  This is such a good reminder to all of us that it is not our job to judge whether or not someone is close to God because so much of that is private.  Jesus then talks about new patches on old clothing and new wine in old wine skins.  This is an interesting reply, isn't it?  His message wasn't about the rules that we had to follow, but His message was about where we place our faith and Who we believe.  The word Jesus used for "new" when referring to the wine is neos.  This word means new; however, the definitions listed first are: recently born, young, youthful (see footnote 1.)  Could He be saying that such practices were not meant for those young in their faith?  The word Jesus used referring to the "new cloth" was agnaphos, which means unmilled, unfulled, undressed, unprocessed, or new (see footnote 2.).  The rules were not made to be a burden; we are tried over time and find ourselves following such practices as we grow in our walk with God.  So we are to only look at our own walk and do what God is leading us to do and not focus on what others are doing in their walk.

Are you focusing on the rules or the walk?  Are you focusing on the Holy Spirit's guidance in your own life, or are you watching others?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for neos (Strong's 3501)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 21 Nov 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G3501&t=NIV >

2. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for agnaphos (Strong's 46)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 21 Nov 2012. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G46&t=NIV >

Monday, November 19, 2012

His Purpose

Some of you may remember the old Maytag commercials where they boasted of their machines' reliability by showing a lonely, bored repair man.  Since the machines were well designed, the claim was that their repair men had nothing to do because the machines never broke down.  But, if you think about it, if nothing ever broke down repair men would never exist.  Think about the tech guys at your workplace - so much of their job is fixing problems.  If there were no problems with technology, their job wouldn't exist.  Everything eventually breaks down; the mere fact that repair men exist show us that things break!  How about a doctor?  The doctor can really only treat the patient that knows they are sick because they wouldn't be visiting the doctor.  Jesus came to a broken and sick world in order to draw people to Him as their healer.  Please read how Jesus began to reveal His purpose for coming to earth in Matthew 9:1-13.

The first thing we read in these verses is Jesus forgiving and healing the paralyzed man.  Notice how He first forgives the man, which is scandalous in the Pharisees' eyes.  They did not recognize His authority to forgive and they became offended by His actions.  But then, notice that the crowd stuck around to see Him physically heal the man.  The next story we read was Jesus calling the tax collector, Matthew to follow Him.  Think about that fact for a moment.  He didn't call the teachers of the law, he called a sinner to follow Him.  The Pharisees were then offended by Jesus eating with a whole group of sinners.  Jesus' response was one that told them that this was His purpose for coming.

Here's the thing, Jesus points out that all these people knew they were sinners.  They didn't believe for one moment that they had a righteousness that would save them.  They knew they were broken.  In the first story, we see that Jesus wanted to give a spiritual healing that would surpass any physical healing the paralyzed man would experience.  His eternal healing was far more important than anything.  Matthew recognized that Jesus was willing to be with him even though he was obviously a sinner.  He understood this so much that he invited all his friends to come meet Jesus.  Jesus came to forgive those who knew they were sinners.  He came to make a way for those who were sure that they had no hope.  He came to heal their hearts.  Just as the doctor can help those who know they need help; Jesus can bring new life to those who know that they have no life.  None of us has a righteousness on our own that can save us; we can never be good enough.  When we recognize that we are all sinners and need a savior, we can then go to Jesus who can forgive us.  That is His purpose!

Have you gone to Jesus for forgiveness?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Push Him Away

Have you ever encountered the reality that some people want help, but they don't necessarily want the help that is best for them?  Sometimes it could be pride preventing them from receiving the help that is extended to them, and sometimes people don't want to accept the help because it would require change.  For some, there may be skepticism or fear involved with the help that has been extended.  No matter the reason, we can desire to help people but not everyone wants the help we can give.  Jesus encountered the same reactions from people while He walked the earth.  Some people wanted Him to go because they hated Him while others were afraid of His help.  The verses I am reading today show us an interesting response that people had to Jesus when He came to their region; please read Matthew 8:28-34.

There are so many interesting dynamics in these verses, and I cannot address all of them in one little blog post, so I am going to focus on a few.  First, I want to remind you that just before these verses, Jesus had just crossed the lake after finishing the Sermon on the Mount and calmed a dangerous storm while on the lake.  After dealing with a storm that the disciples were sure was going to wreck the boat, they come to encounter two demon possessed men.  Jesus struck fear into the demons and they begged to be allowed to go into the herd of pigs, so Jesus allowed it.  When the people in the town found out about Jesus, they begged Him to go.

There are two other accounts for this story found in Mark 5 and Luke 8.  In Mark's account, we learn that there were 2,000 pigs that were drowned in the lake.  With that information, it would be easy to think that perhaps they were not happy about the loss of so many pigs; however, Luke adds a few more details.  We are told in Luke 8:37 that a "great wave of fear," came over them.  Before criticizing the village too harshly, consider how many times you were afraid of the help that God wanted to give you.  Consider when God was giving you a helping hand and it didn't match with what you thought you needed.  Maybe His help required a change you never considered and it scared you.  God's work in our lives doesn't always mean that it is something we are comfortable with; in fact it is often something that we don't want to give up.  When we refuse to give up something or accept the help that God is offering us, our reaction is no different than those in the region of Gadarenes.  Even when it is scary or difficult, God wants to help and He wants us to trust Him.

Do you accept the help that God wants to give you, or do you push Him away?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

He Can Calm the Storm

Well, I didn't post yesterday because my daughter had her birthday this weekend.  The kiddos had a day off school yesterday, so we let my daughter have two friends over for the night.  So, our little house temporarily surrendered to the wills of three tween girls who were making sugar scrubs and oatmeal face masks.  Of course, a manicure was in order.  All of this couldn't possibly be squeezed into a few hours the night; that would be absurd!  No, the frivolity lasted through the night and into the earliest part of the morning.  Needless to say, I slept in a bit and fed them breakfast after waking them up so they would be ready to go home with their parents.  I must say that they were wonderful guests and were actually fairly quiet once the rest of us went to bed.

Life is full of its disruptions, isn't it?  Some of them are good-natured, such as my daughter's sleep over, and some of them can be downright scary.  I am facing a couple of disruptions in different spots in my life right now and one of them wants to strike fear in me.  But the verses I am looking at right now remind me that no matter what we are facing, Jesus is with us.  He will not allow the things of this world to destroy us.  So, I have to admit that these verses are comforting to read right now because I have the Most High and Only God who is with me every step of the way.  Please read Matthew 8:23-27.

Violent storms certainly rise up in life, but I want to think about the storms of life that come in the form of stress and anxiety.  These are the storms that make us feel like we just might not survive the storm and see the end.  The loss of a job or home, death, or illness can send us reeling into despair and we just don't see how the raging storm will end.  But remember, Jesus cares and is with us.  We have to remember that He is not going to allow us to be destroyed by the storm.  In this story, we see how Jesus calls the disciples out because of their lack of faith and He instantly calms the storm by rebuking it.  The disciples' reaction is interesting to me because they knew to turn to Jesus in the midst of the storm, yet when Jesus ended the storm they were asking who He was.

Jesus was on a mission and He brought the disciples with Him; He had a plan to get to the other side of the lake.  Tomorrow, I want to look at what happened on the other side; however, we need to remember that He is on a mission today and He is taking us with Him.  We can trust that if it means we need to get to the other side of the lake that Jesus will bring us there - storm or no storm.  Look, He didn't rebuke the disciples because they came to Him, He was pointing out that they needed to trust Him.  He wants us to come to Him in the storm, but He also wants us to trust Him and know that He has authority over the storm.

Do you turn to Jesus in the storm?  Do you trust Jesus in the midst of the storm?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, November 9, 2012

What Is A Cost To You?

Some people believe that there is no such thing a getting something for free.  When you think about it, do you think they are right?  I guess it depends on what you consider cost - do you only consider monetary value or do you also factor in other things that you value?  For example, you may receive a bit of help for free; however, the cost may be a hit a your pride.  Does that mean then, that you really didn't receive the help for free?  We also talk about the free gift of grace through Christ - and I do believe it is free.  There is nothing we can do or say that will make us good enough and restore our relationship with God; Jesus paid a great cost on the cross in order for us to be right with God.  He did this freely out of His love for us.  However, Jesus also points out that following Him is active on our parts and will cost us in the way of sacrifice.  If following were not an active walk - then I guess it wouldn't be called "following."  Please read Matthew 8:14-22.

Yesterday, the verses I looked at showed me Jesus' extravagant heart and how He is willing to heal us - whether physical or spiritual.  Obviously, His priority for us is to cleanse us spiritually so we can have a relationship with our Creator.  Today, the verses I am looking at is challenging my heart at the internal costs to following Christ.  The first example we see is how simply and freely Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law.  Notice what she did next.  Out of His healing she was able to serve.  This is something that I can speak from my own experience - the healing I have received from Him has only empowered me to serve Him all the more.  This is such an interesting thing to think about because how do you explain that in following Him we are healed and we experience great freedom; yet we become the servants of the Most High God?  Perhaps it can be explained like this:  the very things Jesus asks us to sacrifice are the very things that, when shed, bring us even more freedom to follow Him.

Look at the next examples in these verses; Jesus actually tells people that there is a sacrifice when we follow Him.  But, notice that the sacrifice was different for each person.  For one, it was to be willing to go wherever and not have a home.  For another, it meant that he needed to put Jesus before his family here on earth.  These are not the limits of sacrifice; He wants us to sacrifice whatever is holding us back in being able to follow Him.  Maybe it is to sacrifice our pride or our dependence on money.  Maybe it is to sacrifice convenience or our entitlement.  Maybe it is to sacrifice our comfort and do something new in serving Christ.  But when you truly think on how hanging on to these things prevents us from living a full and free life in Christ, is it really a cost to sacrifice them?  It may feel like it at first, but then we realize that Jesus was only making our lives fuller and richer in Him.  How can we actually consider something a cost when we give it up only to have it replaced with a gift far better than we can even comprehend?  What I mean is that our human nature is filled with things that cost us dearly because they only lead to death.  They are worthless, yet we cling to them.  However, when we trade in this worthless junk, God gives us life.  How amazing is that!

Are you willing to sacrifice what is dear to you to gain so much more?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Fridays.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

He Is Willing

Sometimes in order to receive something, we just have to ask.  For example, unless you tell people that you are having financial struggles, they will not know you need help and will not offer it.  However, I have noticed that when people find out someone is in need, they want to help.  We may have a lot of hurt and pain in this world, but overall, people still care about each other.  My church has a few ministries that are designed to help people in our church who are having financial struggles; however, unless someone asks for help we do not necessarily know that they would benefit from those ministries.  But asking for help isn't easy...I understand this so much because it is hard for me to ask for help when I need it.  Asking for help requires us to step outside of what is comfortable and humble ourselves in the process.  Today, I am reading about a man who took great lengths to ask for help and healing from Jesus; please read his story in Matthew 8:1-4.

Our story today is about a man with leprosy.  Something these verses don't tell us is the Mosaic law in regards to a leper and what he/she was supposed to do when they were in a public place.  A person with leprosy was to live in isolation until they were considered clean (which for many people meant isolation for the rest of their lives).  When they were in public a person with leprosy or any other serious skin disease had to tear their clothing, leave their hair uncombed, cover their mouth, and call out, "Unclean! Unclean!" (Leviticus 13:44-46).  Can you imagine the public humiliation the man who came to Jesus had to endure on his way?  The journey through the crowd to get to Jesus could not have been easy, except that I'm sure people moved quickly to get out of his way.  Think on this for a moment...he was coming to Christ yelling out the whole time, "Unclean!"  But he was willing to risk the public humiliation in order to have Christ declare him clean.

Notice, also, what he said to Jesus once he reached Him: "If you are willing you can heal me and make me clean."  I just have to stop for a moment because that statement practically brings me to tears.  First of all, his faith shows that he knows where his healing and cleansing comes from.  Until we understand and truly believe that only true healing and cleansing comes from Christ, we will continue to cry out in our souls, "Unclean!"  But the thing Jesus says that does bring me to tears is: "I am willing."  Oh, how much life and hope is breathed into that phrase!  He is willing!  Do you understand that Jesus is willing - so willing that He made the greatest sacrifice this world has ever witnessed in order to heal our wounded hearts and make us clean?

We have too many people walking around defeated in this world believing that they are subject to a life isolated from their Creator because they are unclean.  Jesus just wants us to come to Him.  The invitation has been made; the sacrifice is complete - we just need to humble ourselves and call out to Him, "I am unclean!  You can heal me and make me clean!"  He is willing and He will cleanse your heart.  The humility it takes to make that journey isn't easy, but it is worth the promise of eternal life that Jesus has extended to all who believe and follow Him.

Have you allowed Christ to heal your heart and declare you clean?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Built On Rock

My heart goes out to the people on the East Coast who have lost their homes and most of what they own.  We need to continue to pray that God will provide all their needs and that they will experience His love in a fresh, new way.  One of the things that caused destruction was the widespread scattering of the sand.  The sand infused cities several blocks from the shore and on the news we saw swimming pools completely filled with sand as well as homes with drifts of sand inside.  So many people have been effected by the devastating forces of wind and water.  Jesus gave us an analogy about different teachings and told us that what we build our beliefs on depends on how we will weather the storms in life.  Please read Matthew 7:24-29.

Jesus tells us that anyone who listens and follows His teachings is like building a house on rock.  When the house has a foundation set in rock, it will continue to stand when the storm comes.  But, He warns that anyone who doesn't listen and sets their belief on any other teaching is like building a house on sand.  There is nothing solid to anchor the home and when the winds and rain come, the house will be washed away.  That really is a powerful analogy because He is basically telling us that the only way to weather the storms of life is to build our faith on Him.

These verses also remind us that life has storms.  Yes, there is incredible beauty and wonderful things in this life; however, there are also storms.  Storms happen whether or not we believe Christ, but what we stake our hope in is what determines how we survive the storms.  The Bible tells us that the storms in life do not have to destroy us, in fact, when we are in Christ they will not destroy us.  Paul reminds us of this truth in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NLT), "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed."  We are not crushed, abandoned, or destroyed because we have the power of the One and Only Living God working in us!  So, as we live this life that has its storms we can be encouraged that for those in Christ there is protection.

Is your faith built on the rock of Christ?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Genetically Altered Fruit

Did you know that most apple tree varieties require cross pollination of a different variety in order to bear fruit?  Because crab-apple trees bloom for a long period of time, apple farmers often plant them in their orchards to have a consistent cross pollination.  That explains why every orchard where I have been picking always has crab-apple trees!  There are also over 2,000 known varieties of apples - many of which have been genetically altered.  Not all those apple trees produce a fruit that we would enjoy eating.  But there is also a reassuring feeling knowing that each tree will produce the type of apple that it has been genetically set to produce.  A golden delicious tree will produce golden delicious apples, while a crab-apple tree will produce crab-apples.  Likewise, God created each of us to bear fruit - when we are in Christ we bear the Fruit of the Spirit.  The verses I am reading today show us some warnings about the fruit that different people will produce.  Please read Matthew 7:13-23.

Jesus shows us that there is only one way to heaven and very few people choose to follow that path.  However, He warns us that there will be people who appear to be following the right path because of what they say and the miracles they perform in Christ's name.  But He tells us to look at the fruit they are producing - how they act.  Basically, Jesus is telling us in these verses that a person who is not in Christ cannot bear the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control).  He warns against following the person who does not show good fruit just because they do things in His name.  When we believe in Christ as our Savior, our spiritual genetics change so we can bear good fruit.

I also want to emphasize that in order to learn how to bear good fruit, we need to commit to a life of following Christ.  This means that we need to spend time with Him; time in prayer and in the Bible.  Just as apple trees require cross-pollination in order to bear fruit, we need to cross pollinate with the good things that God has given us.  How we spend our time determines whether or not we are getting the cross-pollination that it takes to bear good fruit.  Doing what God says is the fruit He desires.  This has to be our priority; this is what Christ talks about when He speaks of true disciples.

Are you cross-pollinating with Christ in order to bear good fruit?  Are you being careful whose message you follow by looking at their fruit?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Just Ask

If you are a parent, you understand how a child can ask for something several times until they hear a final answer.  What I have learned is to be consistent - if I tell them no, they understand that it means no. However, if I am unsure what my decision is and I tell them that I will think about it, they are very quick to keep coming back to find out if I have made my choice.  Sometimes it is good because I have forgotten to put any thought into the matter and their asking again reminds me to make a decision.  In the verses I am looking at, we are told that God will always give us what is best for us so we can ask Him!  Please read Matthew 7:7-12.

We are told in these verses that when we ask God, we will receive what is best.  When we seek Him, we will find Him.  What beautiful promises that our Father gives to us!  Jesus even shows us that He is better than our parents here on earth who want to give good things to their children.  If parents who are not perfect are able and want to give good things, how much more does our Creator and Father want to give us good things.  Things that will be best for us; things that will grow us.  When we are truly seeking after God's heart, we will receive that which we are searching.  Remember, earlier during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that God already knows what we need.

The thing I find interesting is that Jesus then says what we know as the "Golden Rule":  Do to others what we would have them do to us.  Don't you think that statement just doesn't quite fit in with what He was just talking about?  In fact, the NLT Bible separates it with a new header from the rest of the text.  But, we always need to ask ourselves why Jesus said something at the moment He said it.  Jesus had a purpose for everything and it is important to remember that includes how and when He said something.  Why, after talking about good gifts from our Father would He tell us how to treat other people?

Perhaps it was a reminder that just as we desire loving treatment from God, we are also to treat other people with love.  Maybe this goes beyond how we expect to be treated by fellow humans.  Jesus may have been telling us that just as we are treated by our Heavenly Father, we should be treating others with that same standard - with love and care and to desire what is best for others.  After all, we need to remember the overall context in which Jesus was telling us this command.  Preceding this verse, Jesus tells us not to worry because God will always provide.  He tells us to ask for everything.  We are reminded to love even our enemies.  We are told to care for the poor and needy.  We are told that money isn't what brings us life.  So, if we understand that our walk with God requires sacrifice on our part; we can also trust that God will provide all that we need in its place - just ask.  So we can sacrifice of ourselves and treat others with respect and godly love and trust that God will provide what we need in order to accomplish this task.  Just ask and we will receive what we need in all situations!  How great God's love is for us!

Do you believe that if you sacrifice to treat others the way we want to be treated that God will give us what we need in order to complete the task?

This post is linked with Monday Musings and Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Visual Impairment

Jesus had so many things to say that really spoke to those who were "religious" and not necessarily to the lost.  He often was addressing the problems that those who worship God can struggle with that can severely affect their walk with God.  He peered deep in the hearts of those who considered themselves as pious and showed great gaps and caverns in our thoughts and behavior.  Today's verses continue to show us some problematic thinking that we can all have and reminds us again that if our focus is where it should be, we can be spared so much trouble.  Please read Matthew 7:1-6.

Don't judge.  How many of you can admit along with me that you are guilty of breaking this simple command.  There really isn't a whole lot of explanation that needs to go along with this statement except that He warns us that we will be judged in the same manner in which we judge others.  Instead, Jesus tells us that if we are focusing on our own relationship with God, we will find enough things that need to be fixed in us that will keep us quite busy.  He points out that are own issues create a vision impairment that actually keeps us from truly seeing someone else's problems.  So, He tells us instead to take out the plank in our own eyes that is impairing our vision.

Think about His analogy for a moment.  It is interesting, because if our heart issues are visual impairments we can also realize that it also causes us problems seeing our Heavenly Father.  How can we walk in His steps if we cannot see where we are going.  Let's stop worrying about someone else's visual impairment and work on our own blindness!

Are you focusing on your neighbor or yourself when judging?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trust in God's Provision

Going on a mission trip has a dramatic way of changing your perspective.  When I went to Zambia two years ago, I was humbled by the many people who were living on one or two meals a day yet still praised God.  I was humbled by meeting families who all slept in one room of their tiny home, but found great joy in God.  And meeting the man who was diagnosed with HIV and lost both legs to diabetes and lived on his own even though he had no way to support himself, but he treasured the Bible we gave him as the most precious gift he had received.  It made me realize all the more how much God had blessed my family and understand that there is a great responsibility that comes with those blessings.  While my family would not be considered rich, compared to much of the world, we are wealthy.  Going to Zambia helped me understand this all the more.  It gave me the perspective of what I considered a need was really more of a want based on what my culturing was telling me I needed.  Jesus reminded us that God is our great Provider and He already knows our needs and will provide.  Please read Matthew 6:25-34.

Yesterday, I looked at how Jesus reminded us that we are to place God above money and that our true treasure is what we are building up in heaven.  We find true treasure through Christ, reading the Bible, and in prayer not in the material things of this world.  Let's keep that perspective as we read Jesus' words in Matthew 6:26, "That is why I tell you not to worry about every day life..."  Are any of you worriers out there?  I can be the first to admit that have spent many sleepless nights worrying about how a bill was going to be paid or how we were going to afford a field trip.  I've spent those nights worrying about jobs when we saw friends struggling through the loss of a job.  But, in these verses Jesus tells us that we are not to worry about those things.

He is not saying to be irresponsible and lead a life of incompetence.  He is reminding us that when we have our priorities in the right place and we are seeking God, all the other things will fall into place because God knows what we need.  I can tell of so many amazing stories of God's provision for me and my husband through our years of marriage.  One example is the furniture that we currently have in our living room.  After seven years of marriage, my husband was called into ministry and we moved to suburban Milwaukee, where he began his journey in ministry.  Shortly after moving, I began hosting and leading a women's small group in our home.  Our furniture was furniture that my aunt and uncle had given us a few years before and we updated it by having my father-in-law re-upholster the furniture.  This worked for several years, but after having so many people use the furniture during the small group meetings, the couch broke and we were told by my father-in-law that it was beyond repair because the frame was cracking.  A little while later, another pastor in the area called us and asked us if we could use some nice furniture for the living room because there was someone in his church who was replacing theirs.  When we received the furniture, it was high-quality and spotless and we are still using it to this day so many years later.  God knew what we needed and He provided so we could continue to serve Him.

Do you trust that God knows what you need?  Do you trust that He will provide exactly what is best for you?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.