Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What does God say about giving up

1 Kings 19

In case this is an unfamiliar story to anyone, let me give a brief background. (HA! Like anything I say is brief!) The people of Israel were worshipping other gods, specifically Baal and Asherah. Elijah was truly the only prophet of God left. He had the king assemble all the people of Israel along with all the prophets of Baal and Asherah which numbered 850. They decided that they would each pray to their gods and Elijah would pray to God. Whoever showed up with fire to consume the sacrifice would be the true God. Well, of course, God won and Elijah slaughtered the prophets of Baal and Asherah. Boy, did that make Jezebel mad! That is where our story picks up today. 

Elijah was afraid and ready to give up. I have asked myself so many times when reading this story why Elijah was afraid. He had just seen the God of Heaven reign down in fire when Elijah asked Him to. Why didn't he just call down some fire on Jezebel? That answer I may never know, but I am sure from what we do see in scripture that Elijah felt very alone. He says to God twice that he is the only prophet left and that the people are now trying to kill him. He felt discouraged, isolated, and ultimately defeated. 

What really struck me this morning as we were reading this story as a family is not what God said, but what He did not say. He did not say, "Oh, get up! What's wrong with you? You have me! Now get back to work!"  He had no condemnation or judgement at all for his servant. Instead he told him that he was not alone and even instructed him who was going to succeed him as a prophet of God. God did not want him to feel isolated or discouraged, and I believe He understood Elijah's real need for companionship and fellowship with another believer. 

Have you ever felt like giving up? I sure have. One of the things that has kept me from giving up is that for some reason God has blessed me beyond measure with people that love me and lift me up in prayer. At the darkest time in my life, actually one of the darkest days of my life, God woke up a friend of mine in the night to pray for me. How amazing this God is that we serve. I hope you know that He has not given up on you and even when we feel like giving up, He stands ready to see us through. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

Satan's Game

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

Sin. It is a universal problem. All of us have sin in our lives. The only thing that separates my sin from the sin of a lost person is the blood of Jesus. Does a Christian have as much sin as they would if they did not know Christ? Hopefully not, but we all still struggle with sin. Attitudes, actions, pride, selfishness, our thought lives, unforgiveness, etc. Can you identify? I certainly can. Have you ever asked yourself 'will I ever be free from this completely'? If you have then I have good news for you. Yes! We will be completely free from all sin in heaven and we can live in consistent victory on Earth if we are dependent on Jesus Christ daily to help us in our weaknesses. But, I want to take it one step further.

We are not meant to live in isolation. We, as Christians, are meant to be a fellowship of believers that lift each other up and carry each others burdens. But, so many times in my life I try to do it alone. Even in the areas where I am depending on Jesus to help me daily, many times I have never told another breathing soul. Why? I do not think it is because I am too prideful to ask for help or prayer. I do believe it is because I have believed one of Satan's many lies. "No one will understand", "you are the only person that struggles with this", "you are definitely the only person at your church that struggles with this", "you will embarrass yourself because they will not be able to identify". Sound familiar?

Although I have believed this in the past, I am drawing a line in the sand. Based on scripture, which is truth, these are all lies. There is nothing you or I will ever struggle with that is not "common to man". So we are not alone. We are not isolated. We can trust someone to help us carry our burdens and lift us up in prayer. But who? This is a hard question, but we must not allow Satan to lie to us again that "no one can be trusted". That is a lie, but it can be difficult to find someone who you can trust completely. However, we can ask God to show us which person in our life He wants to use to help us. We can ask Him to be perfectly clear on who He would have us be able to confide in, walk with, trust. This person is not to take His place. No one can bring the victory other than Christ, but another person can walk with us.

Is there an area you are struggling with that you need to seek counsel of a friend or counselor? I pray that if there is, that today you will stop believing Satan's lies. You are not alone. There are people that will understand. There are people that care. Let's trust God to show us one person we can turn to for prayer and support.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Parenting Prodigals Part 2

Luke 15:11-20

If you missed yesterday's devotion, stop now and read it or today will make no sense! Let's continue on with the last three principles for reaching your prodigal and removing any barriers that would keep them from being able to come back home.

4. Allow sin to run its course.
Everyone must be allowed to live with the consequences of the choices they have made. I remember when I was a young adult and living away from God, a very close friend of mine that was significantly older told me to look in the mirror. When I did she said "that is the face you are going to have to answer to for every decision you make". I remember thinking that she was so right. My decisions were mine and I could not blame the consequences on anyone else. Prodigals must be allowed to face their consequences as difficult as that may be. How can unconditional love and consequences happen at the same time? By telling your prodigal that you love them no matter what, but that "this" is the consequence for their actions.

5. Be willing to guard you words.
This one is so important. We must guard what we say about God, other Christians, and the Church. We must be uplifting about the church and other Christians. Many prodigals have left the church because they or someone they loved and trusted was hurt by the church. When we put down other Christians it only feeds their belief that the Church is all a "bunch of hypocrites".

6. Pray specifically for your prodigal.
There are two specific prayers to pray for the prodigals in our lives. The first one is to ask God to bring people into the lives of our prodigals that have a heart for Him. Now this is where it gets touchy. If God answers our prayer, but the people He brings are not the type of people we would have chosen, we have to go back to number 5 and guard our words. If our prodigal comes back to God and goes to a different church or even a different denomination, we must rejoice that they have come home and not complain that they did not come back to "our church".

The second prayer is even a little more difficult. Many prodigals come home when someone they love gets very sick or dies such as a grandparent, parent, brother, or sister. This lose makes them look at their lives and evaluate their lifestyles. Are we willing to be the one to get sick and possibly even die so that they will come home? Can we truly ask God to do whatever it takes to bring our prodigal home?

I hope this has helped you in some way. It so impacted me I wanted to share it with all of you. If you have no prodigals in your life, first of all, PRAISE GOD! But secondly, when a friend shares with you about their child or grandchild, I pray God will remind you of these truths so that you can have some encouragement to share. To learn more about Parenting Prodigals and Phil Waldrep you can visit his website at www.philwaldrep.org

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Parenting Prodigals Part 1

Luke 15:11-20

This past Sunday at my church we had a guest speaker/writer named Phil Waldrep. He has written an amazing book that I truly believe was ordained by God. The book is called Parenting Prodigals. Phil's teaching in this book is truly phenomenal and I wanted to share my notes with you. If you were there, please feel free to add what you learned in the comment section and if you were not I hope this will bless your life and help you deal with a prodigal in your life. We all have prodigals in our lives. They may not be our children, but most of these principles can still apply. You may also have a friend that is struggling with their child. Please pass this on to as many people as you may believe would benefit. The remainder of my blog today will be my notes from Phil Waldrep.

Two questions that parents ask when they have a prodigal child are:
1. What did we do wrong?
2. What can we do now?

Six Principles for reaching your prodigal and answers to the two questions:

1. Learn to live guilt free in your own Christian life.
There are two reasons for guilt: 1. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). We are all bent toward sin. If we do what is natural, we will all become prodigals. A prodigal child is just doing the natural, human thing - being a sinner. 2. Many parents feel guilty because of Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child..." Since their child is not living for God, they automatically feel that they did not raise their in the ways of the Lord. The meaning of this verse is very complex and there are many different views. However, the Hebrew actually means that whatever you teach your child, they will never forget it. Based on Phil's research, he says that this is true in all prodigals lives. They all told him they knew what they were doing was wrong. When asked who told them their lifestyle was wrong, the answer was always my parents and that their parents taught them what was right.

2. Ask for forgiveness for past mistakes
Many parents know that they made mistakes in their child's life. None of us are perfect parents. If the Holy Spirit has revealed something to you that you need to ask forgiveness for, go to your child and confess your sin and ask their forgiveness. They may not forgive you, but you will have taken down part of the barrier when they decide to come back home.

3. Love your prodigal unconditionally
At first glance this sounds like the easiest principle, but Phil asked some very pointed questions like: Do you ever hope that others do not know that is your child? Are you too prideful to request prayer for your own child that is struggling? Do you ever wish, in the quietness of your own heart, that your child had never been born? Unconditional love is divine love and can only be given to you by God. People in general do not know what to do with this kind of love, especially prodigals. They are used to everyone being mad at them and they can handle that. Unconditional love will be very difficult for them to deal with, but is essential to removing the barrier for them to come back home.

I will post the last three tomorrow. I pray that this has blessed someone who is reading the way it did me. Let us never give up on our family and friends that have walked away from God. They are still breathing so God has not given up on them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Most Dangerous Sin

Revelation 20:1-10

I know that most of us do not do a lot of studying from the book of Revelation, but this passage holds a particular piece on interest for me. Pride. It is truly the downfall of man, the root of all sin, and extremely dangerous. It is pride that makes us think we do not need a Savior. It is pride that makes us think we have gone too far and that God cannot forgive us as well. Anytime we think we have found a better way or know more than God, it is pride.

Many times we put everything off on Satan. "The devil made me do it" we have all claimed. Many times that is very, very true. Satan is the father of all lies and if he's talking he is lying (John 8:44). But, this passage digs deep into human nature and shows us that Satan is not always the cause of our failures. Let's look deep into this passage.

In verse 3 we see that after the tribulation, Satan will be thrown into the Abyss for 1000 years to "keep him from deceiving the nations anymore". So Satan is banished for 1000 years and Christ is ruling on Earth. Chist, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is literally ruling on the Earth and everyone knows He is God. According to theologians this will be a time of peace, but it is not heaven. Babies will be born, people will go to work, etc. However, after the 1000 years are up Satan is unleashed and goes out to deceive the nations once more to have one final assault against God. We would think that after mankind had reigned with Christ for 1000 years that Satan's army would be a one man show. But the scripture says that the number that come to fight against God "are like the sand on the seashore" (Rev. 20:8).

Amazing. They have seen the Living God with their own eyes, Satan has been bound, and yet their pride says, "why serve God when you can be your own god". Their own flesh deceives them. How is our flesh deceiving us today? Is there an area of pride that is telling us that we have it all figured out? My prayer is that we will ask God daily to strip us of all pride that we might be of use to His kingdom. Let's not allow Satan or our own flesh and blood to deceive us. Our only hope is in the Lord.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who Can Satisfy My Soul?

Isaiah 41:21-24, Ephesians 5:18

Satisfaction of the soul. This is a running theme in my life. It comes up in the Bible studies that I teach. It comes up in my daily reading. It comes up when I talk to other women. Obviously, God is still teaching me this lesson. Maybe because this is a lesson that we will have to use everyday. Everyday we have the choice to allow Christ to fill our lives or to allow something or someone else to fill us. The problem is that no one else can.

Although the scripture readings for today may seem abstract, they actually do have the same theme. Over and over we see that the Israelites turned to foreign gods. As a young believer I always thought, "why?". Now when I say that, I hear a Voice from within say, "why do you?".

For some reason or another, we try to fill the empty places within us that is meant to be filled by God with other things or people. In short, these can easily become our idols. One of the best things I have ever heard my pastor, Buddy Champion, say was in reference to Ephesians 5:18 and it had nothing to do with alcohol. He said that so many times we read this verse and get all hung up on drinking when what this verse means is to not be filled or controlled by anything other than God. So, take out wine and put in "work" or "material possessions", or "your children" or "your grandchildren" or "your husband" or "your girlfriends" or anything else that takes precedence over Christ in your life.

Isaiah's wording is a little harsh when we put it in the context of our children or husband, but it is still true. These people can not save us. We are just meant to enjoy life with them and to enjoy their lives. They cannot fill us up not matter how hard we try to make them. Anything other than Christ will still leave us empty.

So, why am I saying all of this again? Because we can see that throughout the history of God's people they fell over and over again into idol worship and God records it over and over again. There must be a reason. We are no different than them. This is a daily or possibly even a moment to moment decision to be filled with Christ instead of with something else. So I ask you today, is there anything you are trying to fill your empty places with other than Christ? If so, can you put it down until lunch? And then can you turn to Christ and ask Him to help you put it down until dinner? And then can you ask Him to help you put it down until bedtime? And then in the morning you might have to do it all over again, but eventually, through His grace, you will be satisfied by the only One who was meant to fill our empty places. I have walked this road (that way in fact) and I promise you, He is faithful and He can satisfy our souls.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grace and Love in Action

"...From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48

I had one of the most awesome experiences of my life this weekend. B. J. and I took our boys camping for the first time Thursday - Saturday. It was very exciting for them to get to sleep outside and have a campfire, etc. But, God was up to something even bigger.

We truly wanted to get away and have kind of a "spiritual retreat" for just our family. No TV, no computer, no cell phones. Just our family and the Lord. We had no idea what God had in store through some people that we met on the mountain. When we arrived on Thursday it was already getting late so we had to hurry to get our tent up and get our fire going before it got dark. Our "neighbors" came over and introduced themselves and offered to help us in any way they could.
Their names were Gary and Miriam. As we were talking about where we were from, Miriam said that her "sponsor" was from where we lived. We were a little puzzled, so I just asked her, "sponsor in what?". She proceeded to tell me that she was a member of NA or narcotics anonymous and that this weekend was an annual spiritual retreat for NA. She laughed and said, "Oh no! I can't believe you didn't know! You will be surrounded all weekend by a bunch of recovering addicts!" We just laughed and said, "that's fine with us!". We finished setting up and went on to bed.

Over the course of the weekend, we did meet some more people, but spent a good bit of time with Gary and Miriam. What they had in their lives was truly amazing. All day cars pulled up to their site. We could see them hugging, praying, and encouraging everyone that came into their presence. They brought us ice cream and invited us to breakfast one day. During that meal, I asked Miriam if she would tell me her story. She did and it was an amazing story of redemption and restoration through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I learned something from her. She has so much grace for others because she has been given so much grace and she is so thankful. She has so much love for others because Christ has so much love for her. She said that drugs had taken her to the "very gates of hell" and now she knows what it's like to be rescued from the fire. Thankfulness, grace, and love radiated from her very being. It was truly amazing.

Today, can we ask God to help us be a graceful person? When you get right down to it, we are all recovering addicts. We were all once "sin addicts" and Jesus rescued us and put us into a right relationship with God. May we remember the verse for today and remember how much we have been given and how much it cost Christ. Ask God to fill you with the fullness of His grace and love that it might spill over to everyone around you today.
"...From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Lord's Call

1 Samuel 3:2-10

This passage of scripture has particualarly touched me this week. I know it is a well known story, but verse 7 really stood out to me this week. You see, Samuel, had known about God his entire life. His parents were Godly people. Then Samuel came to live in the temple and ministered before the Lord under Eli. Surely this was a young boy who knew all about God, but according to the scripture Samuel "did not yet know the LORD: the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him."

But, then God does an amazing thing. He calls on Samuel! Not only calls him, but according to verse 10 the "LORD came and stood there, calling...". I am amazed by that! How precious Samuel was to God that He came and stood in His room and called to him.

What is even more amazing, is that if we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God has done the same thing for us. If you trusted in Him at a young age, you may have a hard time remembering exactly when it happened, but if you know that you have asked Him to save you and forgive you of your sins, it is because He was calling to you. I truly believe He came and stood in our rooms and called to us.

Let us never think that we are without worth. We are obviously God's most precious possession. He sent His Son to die and He reveals Himself to us so that we can be saved. Thank God today for that amazing fact. Ask Him to help you see yourself for who He says you are and not what the world says you are. We are precious to Him, please do not believe anything else.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Going to God First

Daniel 6:10:11, Philippians 4:6-7

Most of us know the story of Daniel and the Lions Den. (In case you need a little refresher on it, click here.) The decree was issued that no one was to pray to anyone but the king for the next 30 days. This decree was meant especially for Daniel because the men wanting Daniel out of the way but, could not find any fault in him. They knew they had no charges to bring against him unless it had to do with his God. So they tricked the king and went in for the kill.

What is amazing to me about these verses is that Daniel was in good with the king. He could have gone to him and argued the decree that was just issued. He could have talked to him about it, but first he went home and turned to his Source of peace and comfort for all the years he had been in exile. Oh, that someone would find me praying over an issue before discussing it with someone else!

Unfortunately, sometimes we tend to talk to everyone except God about an issue in our lives. Sometimes He might even be our last resort! Philippians 4:6-7 has been one of my favorite passages since high school. However, it really became alive to me a few years ago when I was doing a Beth Moore Bible study. She asked us to turn the verses into the negative and read them aloud to our class. Mine went something like this...

Be anxious about anything and everything. Do not pray about anything or petition God, but do talk to all of your friends and anyone else who will listen. Do not give thanks for anything and do not present your requests to God. This way you will have no peace, just more anxiety and your hearts and minds will not be guarded in Christ Jesus.

Sounds pretty terrible doesn't it? But how many times have I done just that? Too many. May we today make a commitment to seek God first in our problems and situations and in just the everyday decisions of life.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Integrity Issues

Psalm 51:6
Other scriptures: Proverbs 10:9, Zechariah 8:16, Proverbs 20:7, Proverbs 28:18

B. J. and I just finished taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course. One of the things that he said, I had a hard time believing. He said that he had interviewed many of the richest, most successful people in the world and that they all had one thing in common. He interviewed their employees, friends, and neighbors as well and still came up with the same quality. Integrity - crazy amounts of integrity. I know that might not seem right. Sometimes all we see in the media are the Richard Scrushy's of society and think that is the norm. Apparently it is not.

I am not saying that if we will use integrity we will be rich, but what I am saying is that God desires for us to use integrity in all areas of our life. God has convicted me of this and as embarrassing as this is to tell I am going to because it has really opened my eyes to how serious God is about truth and integrity.

I am a coupon fanatic. If I do not have a coupon to eat out, we usually do not eat out. I use coupons everywhere and if I do not have one, I ask for one! Expiration dates on coupons annoy me. I have never understood them. Many stores will take their own coupons even if they are expired. They can do that because they own the coupon, but if an expired coupon is used at just any grocery store, the store is not reimbursed by the manufacturer. The store eats the cost. Well, I used to use expired coupons knowing they were expired. If the clerk checked them it was no big deal, but hopefully she would not and I would get my 50 cents off and move on. One day while leaving the grocery store, I knew I had used some coupons that were expired. I was justifying it to myself and God that we were trying to feed a family of four on essentially one income. I needed to use those coupons. Finally, I sensed the presence of God so clearly in my car say to me, "Is your integrity worth 50 cents?". I finally got it. I cried out in repentance, "No, it is worth more than all the money in the world!".

That experience, while it may sound legalistic to you really taught me that God expects us to be completely truthful and use integrity in all issues. I ask Him regularly to show me anywhere I am not being truthful - even truthful with him and with myself. He has shown me many areas where I needed to change. Praise God He is that concerned about me! He "desires truth in the inner parts" - the parts no one but you and God see.

2 Chronicles 16:9 says, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." May He find us today fully committed to Him.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Spacious Place

Psalm 18:16-19

As I was preparing for my Bible study class this week I came across this passage of scripture and it literally jumped off the page to me. I realize that this is a Psalm of David and therefore applies to a circumstance that David was in when he wrote it, but I believe it can still apply to each of our lives today.

If you have accepted Christ as your personal Savior, then God has literally "reached down from on high and [taken] hold of [you]." Whether we knew it or not, we were drowning in our own sin and he "drew [us] out of the deep waters". He has rescued us from powerful enemies, mainly Satan. And when we are confronted with disaster, He is our support. All of this is absolutely wonderful, but the best part for me is the next verse.

"He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in

The picture here is of a place where we are free to roam "unconfined by threats and dangers". No fear of anyone or anything. A place where we are not held captive by any sin or our own minds. The picture is of freedom. Why does God offer this to us? The answer is simply because He delights in us. Not because of what we did or did not do. Not because of what we look like or how much money we have. He offers us freedom in Christ because He wants to. Oh, how I love Him! I have spent my life trying to earn the approval of others, especially God. His word teaches me that I have had it all along. The only thing that stands in the way of us and freedom is ourselves. We must choose to believe Him over our own thoughts and feelings.

It is a fight to stay free. Satan will always try to weigh us down with the things of the world. My mind has been so bombarded lately with the world I feel as if I am digging my way out again. But, we can come to the "spacious place". He offers His hand to you today to bring you there. Will you take it?