Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Friday's Favorite"

Praise You In This Storm - Casting Crowns

I was sure by now,God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

Monday, September 20, 2010

“Jehovah Rapha ”

He lay upon the bed, dressed in gown, socks, and a little blue hat that resembled a shower cap. He was awaiting the moment in which the kind gentleman would wheel him away. Positive and determined, he spoke words of hope, encouragement, and of God‘s unfailing love. He truly believed in faith that God was going to heal him that day. Certain that this simple laser surgery was going to be a piece of cake, he bragged about how he was going to be home in just a day or two. He TRULY believed! But when he awoke in pain, he would come to realize that his worst fears had become a reality. The simple laser surgery had taken an unexpected turn. He now was covered in tubes providing an escape for the draining blood due to a tracheotomy. He could not speak or swallow and coughing was a daunting task. It was then that he realized that God had not answered his fervent prayer…or, did he?

Jehovah Rapha - The God Who Heals

“Rapha” is a term meaning “to restore, to heal, to cure” and is used 60+ times in the Old Testament. The word also conveys the idea of restoration to the normal or useful state. God reveals Himself to us as Jehovah Rapha when we are in need of healing. As humans, we experience emotional, physical and spiritual brokenness…and we all know that brokenness can produce bitterness in our hearts if not dealt with properly.

The most crucial form of healing that we can receive from Jehovah Rapha is healing from our spiritual brokenness. We are all spiritually “sick”, but Jehovah Rapha provides us with the only cure; the blood of Jesus Christ. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Sin is a terminal disease, a condition of the heart that cannot be cured on our own. The only hope to keep us from destruction is to recognize our need and cry out to the God who heals. Isaiah 1:5-6 suggests our wickedness affects every part of us. “Why do you persist in your rebellion? Your whole head is injured. Your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness – only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.” But as we read on, verse 18 reveals the hope we have in the healing power of Jehovah Rapha, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Once we take care of our spiritual brokenness, then we can experience freedom from all other chains that hold us captive.

Jehovah Rapha heals our emotional brokenness and repairs our broken hearts. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3). The word “broken” here literally means “to burst, to break into pieces, to crush”. Is your heart crushed into pieces? Are you suffering from a broken relationship that has caused deep, emotional scars? Are you overwhelmed by the aching inside due to someone who has hurt you? Maybe it’s something you are carrying around from your past. Maybe it happened just yesterday. I want to encourage you to cry out to Jehovah Rapha and make a plea to the “God who Heals” to mend your broken heart.

Our physical brokenness should also be brought before Jehovah Rapha. Many of us are in the state of trying to process our physical pain; if not our own, the physical difficulties of someone we love. Frustrations from physical ailments can leave us feeling unfocused, angry, and even abandoned by God. It is at the throne of grace where we must fall to our knees and cry out to Jehovah Rapha. Do we truly believe that God’s will for us is to be physically whole? Do we earnestly trust that He longs to heal our physical impairments? The Bible is full of examples of physical healing. Jesus healed many of blindness, leprosy, lameness, and even physically brought life to those who were dying, but do we honestly believe that He can heal us today?

How do we better understand the healing power of Jehovah Rapha?

Does our pain serve a purpose? I have already experienced pain that has driven me to my knees; difficulties that have drawn me closer to God than ever before and caused me to search out His Word. Isn’t that what the Psalmist says in Psalm 119? “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” The Word says that the Lord can bring good out of every situation. Sometimes the purpose of our pain is to bring hope and encouragement to others experiencing similar circumstances. God calls us to share the miracle of our “healing” with others.

Is my pain caused by my sin? Unconfessed sin must always be taken seriously. Sin can very easily be a contributing factor to our emotional, physical, and spiritual ailments. David writes in Psalm 38, “Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. For I am about to fall, and my pain is forever with me. I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” But we would be remiss if we believed that every pain is a result of sin. Take the story of Job for instance. Job’s friends made a serious mistake in accusing Job that he was suffering because of sin. Why, Jesus even answered the disciples in John chapter 9 concerning the blind man - neither the blind man, nor his parents had sinned. But this happened so that “the work of God might be displayed in his life.” When facing pain, we must conduct a “sin inventory” to better understand if our suffering may be a result of sin.

Is it ok to seek the help of professional doctors? It is my opinion that Jehovah Rapha can use doctors and medicines to display His healing power. God is all-powerful. He can and does sometimes choose to heal by simply speaking it to be, but He also often uses other means by which we are healed. We see a clear picture of this in Exodus 15. Moses had just led the people of Israel from the Red Sea into the desert. They traveled there for 3 days without water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water because of its’ bitterness. So the people began to grumble to Moses saying, “What shall we drink?” Moses cried out to the Lord and in turn, God showed him a piece of wood in which to throw into the water. In doing so, the water became sweet and the people’s thirst was quenched. And the Lord said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all of His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases that I brought onto the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you” (Rapha). God could have caused the water to become sweet by simply willing it. But instead, He “healed” the water through the use of another element - a piece of wood. Notice the wood was the instrument of healing, but we must also realize that the act of Moses’ believing and obeying was crucial to healing. In the same way, the Lord may choose to use doctors and medicine. The key is our faith and obedience, and to trust that He has it all under control.

At the same time, a common mistake of many is to seek help and healing from earthly means without calling on the Lord. The story of Asa’s final years should serve as a warning. When he was sick, Asa didn’t go to God first. Instead, he went right to the doctors. “Though his disease was severe, even in his illness, he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.” (2 Chronicles 16:12) Also take for example, the woman with the issue of blood in Mark chapter 5. This woman had been subjected to bleeding for 12 years. “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better, she grew worse.” (vs. 26) The passage goes on to tell of how she heard about Jesus, she believed that if she could just touch the hem of his garment, she would be healed. After simply touching Jesus, she was cured immediately and freed from her suffering. We all can learn from her testimony of great faith. Our lesson? Don’t drive right by the “Great Physician” on the way to the doctor’s office!

How can we get through all of this on our own? The answer - we can’t! That’s why God has blessed us with the concept of community. We NEED each other! James 5 instructs us on what we should do when we are sick. First, call upon the elders of the church to pray over us. Next, confess our sins to one another and pray for each other. Notice the two main elements here - prayer and people. The people in your community are your friends; the people that you love and trust. As believers, we need to be ready at a moments notice, day or night, to speak words of comfort into the lives of those who are hurting. I experienced this first-hand recently during my dad’s cancer surgery, and even well after. I was so blessed to have friends that were willing to pray with me and for our situation. I was flooded with offers to help wherever needed, with texts, and with phone calls even at the wee hour! What a difference it made in being able to handle the load! We don’t have to (and we weren’t created to) carry those burdens alone. But we also must be willing to lay aside our pride in order to receive the blessing that others eagerly wish to give.

Why doesn’t God heal me, even when I come to Him in faith? Many believe, if we have enough faith, we should be healed of everything. Praying to Jehovah Rapha in faith for healing, believing that He CAN heal, is definitely a biblical principle. Where we run into trouble is when we demand our own will, the way WE think it should play out, and not for the will of the Father. We must consider that God’s idea of healing may significantly differ from our own. He reserves the right to heal as He sees fit and sometimes the healing takes place in unusual ways. Author Tim Hansel dealt with chronic pain for 35 years following a severe climbing accident. He writes, “I have prayed hundreds, if not thousands of times for the Lord to heal me…and He finally healed me of the need to be healed.” Sometimes the Lord chooses to heal us by giving us an unexplainable peace and contentment about our circumstances. We must also realize that God may not choose to heal us here on earth, but as believers we may say with confidence that He WILL heal us on the other side. In heaven, our bodies will be made whole. He will remove all of our pain, and He will wipe away all of our tears! (Revelation 21:4).

Remember, the true source of our healing is the shed blood of Christ who saved us from certain death. “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) Take heart in the fact that Jesus knows our pain and was afflicted with suffering for our sake! Just like the piece of wood that Moses threw into the water to heal it of it‘s bitterness; Jehovah Rapha has used yet another piece of wood to heal our brokenness - Calvary’s tree.

I believe that God did answer my father’s fervent prayer. The process by which the healing takes place may not be the most convenient; may not be the easiest; may not be preferable. But God has a way of taking our pains and turning them into praises. He takes our weaknesses and turns them into strengths. What Satan means to cause us harm, God turns around for good. Our circumstances are continually being used to not only build our character, but to magnify the awesome healing power of Jehovah Rapha in our lives.

"Monday's Moment"

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."     -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Friday's Favorite"

"The Voice of Truth" - by Casting Crowns

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand

But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy, you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
The voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand

But the giant's calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again. "Boy you'll never win!"
"You'll never win!"

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them lookin' down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Thursday, September 16, 2010

“Just a Sling and a Stone”

If you’re like me, you might be feeling a bit like David today. Totally out of your element, just a mere speck on the earth staring up at the 9 foot giant who scoffs and laughs at you. But unlike David’s giant, our Goliath does not sport a bronze helmet, a coat of armor, or a javelin on his back. No, our giants resemble cancer and other physical ailments, unemployment, a broken marriage, abuse, and the like.

But there is a similarity between our giants and the Goliath in David’s day. If you recall the story from 1 Samuel 17, you may remember how Goliath strutted in front of the Israelite army. For 40 days, twice a day, morning and evening, the Israelites heard his taunting. It seems as if our giants stalk us from morning till night; repeatedly hurling insults that wound us, that frustrate us, and that steal our joy. It’s a constant worry and a never-ending thorn in our side.

The question I pose to you today is this…Are we going to be like the Israelites? Are we going to cower in fear because the giant is all we see? Because he towers over us, will he cause us to tremble, tuck tail and run? Or, will we choose the path of David, a mere shepherd boy and a very young one at that. In verse 33 King Saul replies to David, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” We are merely little children compared to the giants we face… and those giants are so good at what they do! We continually hear and believe the voices of those that tell us we cannot stand!

So just what lessons can we learn from David? Here are a few things that I have observed:

Remember what God has already accomplished - David’s answer to King Saul catches my attention. In verse 37, David boldly proclaims, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Like David, I must remember all the ways that God has delivered me in the past. I must focus upon His strength in me and not my own, and trust that He will lead me victoriously once again.

Focus on God alone - When I read closely, I realize that David is the only one even remotely concerned about God. David is barely even on the scene when he blurts out, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” The army, his brothers, not even the king mention God. David continues his “God language” when facing Goliath himself. “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” Do you find it ironic that David never even inquires about Goliath’s skill, his stature, his weapons, or even the number of men he has already defeated? God should be the center of my attention, the subject of my speech, and the focus of my heart!

The armies of God fight on my behalf – In the above scripture, David refers to the army“s” (plural), of Israel as not just the physical army of the Israelites. Instead, David recognizes that spiritual forces in the heavenly realms also fight for him this day. Legions of angels and unseen soldiers battle with spiritual weapons of war on my behalf as I face my giants. “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.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Throw off everything that holds me back – Saul finally allows David to go and fight Goliath. But, before he sends him off to what he believes is certain death, the king clothes David in his own coat of armor. It’s almost comical to picture this puny little boy stumbling around in the king’s armor. And it’s not long that David realizes it will only be a hindrance. David throws it off and with staff in hand chooses his weapon…a mere sling and five smooth stones from the stream. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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) I must throw off every hindrance that keeps my focus on myself and my giant instead of on my God.

Run towards the challenge - “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.” Our gut reaction is to run away. We may drown our sorrows in food, alcohol, keeping busy, but those things only provide a temporary and superficial solution and cover up the deeper issues. When was the last time we shook our fist at our giant and ran toward him armed with the Word of Truth? How many times do we turn and run instead of loading up our sling?

Give God the glory - David comes against his giant “in the name of the Lord” and proclaims, “this day, the Lord will hand you over to me”. David recognizes that it is ultimately God’s battle and the Lord has merely chosen to work through this weak little boy. “And the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel”, implies that God will be recognized for Goliath’s defeat that day. Notice in verse 47, again David cries, “the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.” David did not say the battle was his own. He gives full credit where credit is due. Take into consideration David’s weapon of choice, 5 smooth stones and a sling; certainly not the weapons of a warrior. I mean, he didn’t even choose sharp stones! Choosing unlikely tools just confirms that David’s victory was from the Lord and not of his own doing. Think of the giants that could be conquered in our lives if we challenged them in the name of the Lord; if we viewed each as God’s battle; if we were quick to give all the glory to God. And because we are weak people, God is made all the more glorious in our victory! 

What giant do you face today? Does he torment you day and night? Are you believing the lies the giant whispers in your ear, or are you hanging on every word that comes from the voice of truth? I encourage you to recall all the ways the Lord has proved Himself faithful in the past, to focus on God alone, to be aware that the Lord and His armies fight for your sake, to throw off anything that hinders you, to run towards your giant boldly, and to give God all the glory! In doing so, the giants of addiction, depression, abuse, financial ruin, and more….will be overcome with simply a sling and stone!

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Monday's Moment"

"Often times God demonstrates His faithfulness in adversity by providing for us what we need to survive. He does not change our painful circumstances. He sustains us through them."  -Charles Stanley

Sunday, September 12, 2010

“Beauty by Fire”

I have always been amazed by the process of making pottery. From bowls to tea cups to vases; from ornamental to simple; from intricate pieces meant to display to sturdy pieces meant to be useful…the craftsman meticulously shaped and formed what was once just a lump of clay. And through the process of many hours, he creates something beautiful.

Pottery is made by taking that simple, ordinary lump of clay, and forming it into the desired shape. After the shaping process has been achieved, it must be heated at very high temperatures in a kiln. This induces reactions that lead to permanent changes including strengthening and hardening of the object.

But there’s so much more that takes place than just shaping and firing. Prior to shaping, all the air must be removed from the clay. This process is called de-airing and ensures an even moisture content throughout the clay. The clay is then shaped, but before it can be fired it must undergo a drying process. The clay body is referred to as “bone-dry” when it reaches a moisture content of 0%. At this stage, the object is quite fragile and can easily be broken. Once the clay item has been dried, it must be fired. The maturity of pottery within the kiln is based on achieving peak temperatures anywhere in the range of 1000-1400 degrees Celsius. The length of time the item is fired at this temperature is also an important factor.

Sound familiar? The trials we are going through sometimes feel like we are in the midst of flames, like we are being bent, pressed down, pulled apart. We are that ordinary, insignificant lump of clay that the Craftsman is forming and shaping for our good and for the benefit of others. Sometimes we must become “bone-dry”. All the junk needs to be removed from our hearts and our lives. Just like the pottery, it’s in this state that we are the most fragile. It’s during this process that we are the most frustrated, wanting to give up, complaining about our situation, at our wit‘s end. And then comes the fire….burning away the selfishness, the pride, the pessimism, the self-sufficiency. Our maturity and growth are based upon withstanding the heat‘s intensity. Even though it feels like an eternity that we must endure the hardship, we can be certain that this is all for a purpose.

Isaiah 64:8 tells us, “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” WE are the clay. Clay cannot shape itself. It is at the mercy of the potter, it’s creator, to either create it, or to destroy it. We, the clay, are placed in the potter’s hands to be molded. We are the work of the Lord’s hands. We are dependent upon Him to make us into exactly what He wants us to be. This passage speaks to the sovereignty of God and by Him alone can we be saved.

“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, and people in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:1-4

There is hope! God sees us as His valuable creation! He has redeemed us and called us His own! He promises that even though we must endure these trials, that He will not leave us. He will not allow it to destroy us. We are precious in His sight! Take heart….we may have to pass through the flames, but God’s promise is that we will not be set ablaze!

My Maker takes me, just an insignificant lump of clay. He removes all the impurities trapped inside. He molds me and shapes me, and when I am bone dry, He places me in the fire. The heat rages on for what seems like an eternity, but He promises He will rescue me from the flames. Just as the firing of a clay object produces permanent changes, so it is with my life. I still have to endure a good polishing now and then, but the result is something strong, something precious, a useable tool for Him! Beauty by fire.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” -Isaiah 48:10

“Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” -Psalm 66:8-12

“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.” -Malachi 3:2-4

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Friday's Favorite"

"I Survive" - by Avalon

I can feel it comin' now - that same old pain
Tryin' to work me like a prisoner
Shackled bound and shamed
But in my soul I know
That You give me the strength it takes to break these chains

I survive
Life keeps comin' at me
Doesn't break me
I'm never going down
I need strength I know You'll help me make it
I survive

Don't know what tomorrow brings
Don't wanna guess
But with You by my side I know I can face any test
And so I'll honor You by standing tall
And breathing in this love that I've been blessed

That's my promise - Won't compromise
You're the truth - that kills the lies
You'll pull me through it - I'm not afraid
You rescue me - day by day

With you I can never fake it
Won't go down - You help me take it
Help me make it

Thursday, September 9, 2010

“A Survivor”

April 19, 1995...9:02am…

You may recall the meaning of this date in history. Maybe it doesn’t even ring a bell. It’s one of those days, like many others, you can probably remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. It was on this fateful day when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed and destroyed along with 168 people, including 19 children and 3 unborn babies who also lost their lives along with their mothers who carried them.

A tragic event took place that day in April, 1995. Pain, suffering, and loss experienced by so many. But among the rubble and debris stood a survivor who witnessed one of the worst terrorist attacks in America. At more than 80 years old, she barely held on to life following the bomb’s blast. The survivor is an American…an American Elm that is. Today she is called, “The Survivor Tree”.

The force of the 4,000 pound bomb drove glass into her trunk, buried so deep that more glass is still found each year. The hood from a car was even found lodged among her branches. Leaves were stripped from her and she was surrounded by flames. Considered a loss, no one paid too much attention to her, for there were more important things to be concerned about. Many were grieving and burying their loved ones. Clean-up and healing needed to take place.

Ironically, as the first anniversary of the bombing drew near, the tree’s leaves began coming in. Signifying resilience and hope, the victims’ family members dubbed her as “The Survivor Tree”. Thanks to her strong, deep roots, she had lived through the full blast of the bomb. Today she stands, a thriving and loving memorial of renewal and rebirth. Seedlings taken from her have been distributed and planted all over the United States. The inscription around her reads, “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”

What bomb’s blast are you experiencing today? What tragedy has you holding on for dear life? Are you cut up? Are you surrounded by flames? Have others counted you out, forgotten you? It’s not uncommon for us to wonder if we can survive the trial that we are walking through. But just like the Survivor Tree, our roots must run deep in order to make it through.

Our faith must be:

Rooted in Love:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Rooted in Righteousness:
“The wicked desire the plunder of evil men, but the root of the righteous flourishes.” Proverbs 12:12

Rooted in Christ:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

If we trust in the Lord we will flourish, just as a tree flourishes next to it’s water source. It’s leaves are green and full of life. We will not become anxious in tough times because our minds are fixed on peace and our satisfaction lies in the Lord, our true source of replenishment. As a result, we may continue to bear good fruit even through times of trouble. Because of the work the Lord has done in our lives, we are eager to plant seeds of hope in the lives of others. Just as the seeds of the Survivor Tree re-birthed more trees across the US, we too have a message of renewal that we have been called to share in order to produce more Christ followers. Their very lives depend on it!

As we become battered and bruised on the outside, those deep roots of our faith are what enables us to survive. And just like the Survivor Tree, the inscription placed upon our hearts should read, “The spirit of (insert your name here) will not be defeated. His/her deeply rooted faith in Christ sustains him/her.”

WE too can be symbols of resilience and hope! WE too can be survivors!

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Monday's Moment"

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next."     -Gilda Radner

Sunday, September 5, 2010

“Miracle of the Moment”

The headlines are all around me. I read about tragedies that happen on a daily basis. People are dying in house fires, motorcycle accidents, drownings, murders, and yes, even cancer can snatch someone away very suddenly. All of them leaving behind families and friends unexpectedly. I am sure each victim, if they could, would tell me that they would live life a bit differently had they only known when their time on earth was to end.

But that’s the mysterious thing about life, isn’t it? Most of us truly live our lives as if we will go about our business here forever. We’re busy making plans for our future…setting goals for what sort of job we want to have in 5 years…what sort of car we want to drive in 10 years…what colleges our children will attend…making our living…building our castles…building up our 401K. I’m not saying that preparing for the future and setting goals is in and of itself a bad thing. It is necessary. But, I have been convicted lately that we seem to be attempting to make a permanent residence out of a place that essentially is not our home. We don’t take TODAY seriously enough. We tend to put things off because we have tomorrow, or at least we think we do.

James 4:14 asks, "what is your life? You are but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow". Psalm 144 verses 3 and 4, liken man to a breath whose days are like a fleeting shadow. It’s sobering to entertain the thought that I may not live to see tomorrow. Even though I may have my future all planned out, I don’t get to choose my final day. "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails" - Proverbs 19:21.

I really think we’ve missed the boat! When we aren’t planning out the future, we’re wallowing in the past. Sure, we all have regrets, but we can’t really do anything about the past any more than we can the future. And even if we could change it, would we really want too? Think about where you are and what you have, and how all of that would vanish if you changed your past. What we CAN do something about… is right now. What choices are we going to make TODAY! Maybe it’s sharing what we have learned from those past experiences…maybe it’s telling someone you love them… maybe it’s saying you’re sorry…maybe it’s getting right with God. Remember, you may not have tomorrow!

Yes, it’s easy to stress about the future and linger in the past, but have we forgotten the miracle of this very moment? Listen to your heart beating! Take a look at your loved ones! Make the most of every opportunity that the day brings you! "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!" (Psalm 118:24) Did you get that? It didn’t say tomorrow is the day…it didn’t say yesterday was the day…it says TODAY is the day!

There’s something to be said about making the most of every moment. Not only are we to rejoice in this day, but in Ephesians 4 we read that we are not to allow the sun to go down while we are angry. We are to make those amends TODAY! Hebrews 3 tells us to encourage one another DAILY, "as long as it is still called TODAY"! And most importantly, NOW is the time of God’s favor, NOW is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2). If you have not made Jesus Christ Lord and Savior of your life, I pray you don’t wait until it’s too late!

Each breath you take is a gift from God. If it brings you tears, then cry with passion! If it brings you laughter, then bust your gut! If it brings you praise, then lift your hands high. If it brings you opportunity, then take a risk and step out! Have no regrets…take care of business… discover the miracle of the moment!

Friday, September 3, 2010

"Friday's Favorite"

"I Surrender All" - Clay Crosse

I have wrestled in the darkness of this lonely pilgrim land
Raising strong and mighty fortresses that I alone command
But these castles I've constructed by the strength of my own hand
Are just temporary kingdoms on foundations made of sand
In the middle of the battle I believe I've finally found
I'll never know the thrill of victory 'til I'm willing to lay down
All my weapons of defense and earthly strategies of war
So I'm laying down my arms and running helplessly to Yours

I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams
Though the price to follow costs me everything
I surrender all my human soul desires
If sacrifice requires
That all my kingdoms fall
I surrender all

If the source of my ambition is the treasure I obtain
If I measure my successes on a scale of earthly gain
If the focus of my vision is the status I attain
My accomplishments are worthless and my efforts are in vain
So I lay aside these trophies to pursue a higher crown
And should You choose somehow to use the life I willingly lay down
I surrender all the triumph for it's only by Your grace
I relinquish all the glory, I surrender all the praise

Everything I am, all I've done, and all I've known
Now belongs to You, the life I live is not my own
Just as Abraham laid Isaac on the sacrificial fire
If all I have is all that You desire
I surrender all

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

“I Surrender”

“One of the reasons I loved playing quarterback, was that I got to call all the plays. My cancer put me in a position where I really wasn’t in control anymore.”  -Len Dawson, professional football player and Hall-of-Famer, diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 1991.

If there is one thing I’m learning about cancer, about doctors, about treatments, it’s that I am so NOT in control. It's finally having an answer, then everything changes. It's living in uncertainty and being ready to adapt quickly. So it is with any trial in our lives. Like Len Dawson, we don’t get to call the plays anymore.

We had received some wonderful news concerning dad’s cancer. The spot was not of concern and the doctors had labeled dad at a stage one laryngeal cancer, rather than a stage four. We rejoiced that this meant a non-invasive laser surgery. And with a deep sigh of relief, more news comes, yet another variable that throws me on my ear. There seems to be uncertainty as to the first biopsies and the positioning of the cancer.

The surgery date has been set, but unfortunately another biopsy needs to be taken to confirm the previous findings. Depending on the results, dad could end up having laser surgery, OR a more complicated open-neck surgery. The bad news is, we will not know which type until the DAY OF surgery. It is so difficult to not have any say in the matter. It’s heart-breaking to have to release right of choice and to just yield control over to someone else. So just how do I accomplish this?

Allow God to transform my way of thinking into His way of thinking.
Romans 12:1-2 says: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer (surrender) your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. 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."

The world preaches at us to take control of our own destinies…to always be in charge of every situation…to be independent, call our own shots. If we don’t, we are considered weak and unsuccessful. Paul calls us to renew our minds, not to follow the opinions and stereo-types of the world! For it was God who first showed us mercy and sacrifice and we too can offer our lives in return. But first we must realize that we are not our own. We have been bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). One of my favorite verses is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Not only am I called to no longer live by the patterns of the world, but I am called to put to death (crucify) the person I once was. I sacrifice my old way of thinking and reacting to my circumstances and grab on to the new life, the new way of thinking, I have received through Christ. I give up my rights to control. For the old person is gone and the new one has come. I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Understand that submission to God is for my benefit. He has my best interest at heart.
The Lord knew me before I was even born (Jeremiah 1:5). He knows the number of hairs on my head (Luke 12:7). His ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:9). So if this is all true, why is it so difficult for me to submit to the One who knows when I go out and when I lay down …when I sit and when I rise…the One who knows my thoughts, who knows me completely (Psalm 139:1-4)…the One who knows the secrets of my heart (Psalm 44:21)? It is beneficial for us to trust the One who created us, knows us, and sees our future. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). He sees the big picture, the whole picture, where I only see bits and pieces.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:7-8). The word submit means to “align one's self under the authority of another”, as an army in orderly arrangement under its commanding officer. The word resist means “to oppose, to stand against”. James commands us to take a stand against our true enemy, Satan. When we submit to our commanding officer (God), He gives us power to stand against the opposition (Satan), and we are assured victory. To “draw near to God” suggests that we have voluntarily distanced ourselves from Him. But, He promises that as we reach out, He in turn will “draw near” to us. The requirement is outward and inward purity, represented by clean hands and clean hearts.

In submitting myself to Christ, the One who knows me completely, I receive power to resist the devil. I draw near to Him and He will draw near to me. But God also promises in Proverbs 3 that when I acknowledge Him in all things, when I “submit” my ways to Him, He will direct me!

Walk in obedience, surrendering my will daily.
Jesus sets a prime example of surrendering my will to God. As He prayed on the Mount of Olives prior to His betrayal in the garden, Jesus asked the Lord to take this suffering from Him. Yet it was for God’s will and not His own that Jesus prayed would be done (Luke 22:42). Jesus is also seen in John chapter 5, as the Jewish leaders harass him for breaking the rules of the Sabbath. In this passage Jesus claims himself as the Son of God, but in verse 30 He explains that He does nothing on His own. He can only do what God tells Him, but His judgments are just because He follows the will of the One who sent him and not his own will.

And yet another example is found in Joshua 24. Joshua has gathered the tribes of Israel to renew a covenant with the Lord. He presents a poignant question before the people, who are ya gonna serve? Joshua‘s choice was to serve God only! But the people must break away from all confidence in their own sufficiency, making God their deliberate choice. Joshua binds them to it by a solemn covenant. He instructs them to, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” In other words, surrender your hearts, surrender your idols, surrender your will.

“Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:13-14). I do not obey in order to be redeemed. Instead, my redemption enables me to obey!

I let go of my control because my way of thinking is no longer my own. I submit to God because He has my best interests at heart. I obediently yield my will because I have made a deliberate choice to serve the Lord as an instrument of righteousness. I surrender!