Thursday, April 21, 2016

~ Don't Judge Me ~ Understanding What That Means

How silly are we to think that we can behave like heathens and God won't see it. What are we thinking anyway?
Out of sight, out of mind? 
That has to be it. 

We seem to forget just how very sovereign He is. He sees every single one of His sheep and knows exactly what we are up to. He knows precisely where we are, who we are with, what we are doing and He even listens in on our conversations. Because He is everywhere, the very idea that we can keep Him out of anyplace is just a joke. He IS there, wanting to be recalled, waiting to be invited, even though it is ALL His and no invitation is ever necessary. 

He has given us clear direction on how we are supposed to handle any situation we come up against in His word and His pride swells when He sees His lambs reading it, deciphering it and putting it to good use.

On the other hand, there must be moments when even God gets frustrated with our lack of desire to seek that wisdom out, seek Him out. I know He gets frustrated with me, and I press in daily. Reading His word, feeding myself only good things and trying to live up to the directions in Psalm 100:4

  "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! 
Give thanks to him; bless his name!"

So even on those days when we loose sight of those instructions; and get frustrated with situations involving our jobs, our families, friends and total strangers and we forget to seek Him first when something happens, and then we just go off on Him, expecting Him to "Please, Fix It", we are forgetting to enter His gates with thanksgiving, enter His courts with Praise and Bless His Holy name. Yet even on those days, He is still listening, still watching and probably sighing a huge sigh because we refuse to cooperate! 

We forget that all the answers to any situation are right there in His Word and we lose our tempers or patience or whatever it is and we get frustrated and sometimes even angry with people and say the wrong things, do the wrong things and make messes we don't have the power to undo. Then we go running to Him to solve our problems for us. If only we would have just listened, if only we had pressed in and behaved according to His instruction. But he forgives us, because he loves us that much and more. 

Funny thing about God is that those, are His most amazing moments, the moments when He can step in and change everything just like that! He knows us and He loves us and He uses those situations to strengthen us and change us. He asks that we do our part to help or asks us to be still and get out of His way (and believe me when we don't be still, we do get in His way with our clumsy attempts to fix things on our own.) I have personally earned this badge.

He pointed out to me one occasion, the significance of being honest and direct when someone hurts you...

Tell them what they did that hurt it out, He whispered (Matthew 18:15)

It became apparent to me real fast that I was attempting to do something that was not welcome, but I didn't give can God be wrong? He can't. 
He's never wrong. His wisdom and promises to us are never to be forgotten, yet somehow I was made to feel that I did something very wrong.

I prayed about it, talked it through with my pastor and then the other day, I was reading some things in my Facebook feed when a small passage jumped out at me. It was a brief entry written by a member of our local area prayer team. It read like this...

Even Today.......When a Believer in Jesus is Offended or hurt by someone, sees something they are doing wrong, and responds by speaking out against them and even prays that way against that person - It is Witchcraft, it is Even Christian Witchcraft. It matters not if the person who offended you is a Christian or an unbeliever. We are commanded by the Word of God to Bless those who Curse us.

I commented on the post: What about Matthew 18:15? 
Within a few minutes, the prayer warrior replied:

 "That's the error most of us make. 
 - We don't go to people and point out their offense, instead, we rant and rave and curse them to others. The scripture reads, "If your brother, (or sister) sins against you, go and show him his faults in private; if he listens you have won your brother. 16. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 

I replied: But people don't like it when you go to them and point out their offense. It makes them mad. Even when it is done out of love and kindness, even when you pour your heart out with sincerity, and even when you have prayed about it and God gives you the words to say. It is still resented it, and then they are the ones who get bent out of shape and they are in fact the ones who do all the ranting and raving, and - they- accuse - you -of- judging -them. 
It happens all the time in our Politically Correct Society. 

His response was this: "Then all we can do is Bless them and Pray for them and for their deliverance and sometimes we need to pray that our own eyes are opened so we ourselves are not deceived." (Galatians 6:1)

This got me thinking about my own situation, and about a similar yet entirely different scripture, also in Matthew, which related in many ways.

I compared them trying to understand how they could be so easily misunderstood, so easily taken out of context. But people do it, in fact... 

Matthew 7:1 has become the go to scripture for anyone who believes that by receiving Grace from God they have the license to sin. The people who subscribe to that way of thinking, believe that because Grace is enough, they can sin and they are covered. They can do anything
they feel like doing and because of that God given Grace, they believe they can do no wrong. 

Woe to those who believe in that fashion, how mistaken they are! 

The Grace of God is indeed sufficient for us, but it doesn't give us the right to sin... period. When those with this attitude are approached concerning any offense, they become defensive and angry and they say things like "Don't judge me," "You have no right to judge me" or "Only God has a right to judge me"  They believe that they have the free rein to carry on with their sin, without ever having to answer for it, or stop it OR until God himself points it out to them. What they fail to understand is this...
No one, besides God, has the right to judge their salvation, but you can and should be judging their sin. 

I love the way the Message Bible explains this concept. 

A Simple Guide for Behavior

Matthew 7 1-5 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.


Work It Out Between You

Matthew 18: 15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you,
go and tell him—work it out between the two of you.
If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start all over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.

It is sad that these scriptures can be so confusing. 
So confusing to some, that they chose to do what is comfortable and lazy instead of being convicted by them and trying to honor Him and do as He requests. 
Oh, that's right... we are only human! 
And being human means we all sin. 
However, being Christian means we help each other with that sin.
Being Christian means we all make mistakes, it's what we do about them that counts

We don't gossip (casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true) to others about what someone did to us that hurt us, instead we go directly to them. 
And we never, ever, ever tell anyone they will go to Hell for anything they do. No exceptions to that rule! Only God can judge our salvation! 

But we can and should kindly, gently, and with the most loving of intentions tell our brothers what they did that hurt us, or what they are doing to hurt themselves or someone they love. Can you imagine how many marriages and other relationships this would save if things were handled this way? 

AND if we are at the receiving end of this, we must always thank them and Praise God that our brother or sister cares enough about us to want us to be Holy.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Faith, " A Belief Not Based on Proof Part 1

The Dictionary defines Faith as 
"A belief not based on proof"

The word Faith is used nearly 450 times in the Bible, that alone should encourage us to have it - live it - and be in it.

A friend of mine, who is studying to be a Prison Chaplin, recently asked me what one personal characteristic I would like to strengthen. He then shared with me that he wanted to work on his patience, which struck me kind of odd as this man is very quiet, very polite and one of the most patient people that I know. 

I reflected on both his question and my own patience or lack thereof.  I am quite a ways away from possessing the patience I would like to have but God gives me grace. He always forgives us. Always. Something we struggle to do for one another.i
Can you think of a time or times, when you were judged or not forgiven by a friend, family member or employer? Maybe you said something you shouldn't have or forgot something important or maybe you don't even know what you did. Well God doesn't do that. He gives us Grace because Grace is something which is not a created substance of any kind but is instead, love and mercy given to us because He desires that we have it, not because of anything we do to deserve it or not deserve it.

How wonderful is our God to love us that much? We sin, He forgives. it's that simple. Can you imagine what it would be like if we all treated one another like that? Wow. I began thinking about how very blessed we all are to be showered with this gift of Grace from Our Father God and then I reflected on how in the world I could ever loose faith in our great God. Loose enough faith to believe for even one moment that He has forgotten His promises to me, or for me to question His timing. And I knew what I wanted to work faith. I want to have Mustard Seed Faith, or as close to it as I can possibly come up with. 

Matthew 17:19-20 the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn't cast out a demon that was possessing a child and ...
He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly I say to you, if you have the faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to the mountain, 'Move from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." 

It is kind of embarrassing when you stop and think about it, after all...a mustard seed is so tiny.
One would think we could all manage to squeak out that much faith, right? But, since I don't see any mountains moving around, so my guess is that collectively, our Faith is pretty far from the Faith Jesus spoke of that day so long ago. 

So, what can we do to change that?  We can start by being truly thankful for everything that we go through. Not just the wonderful things, not just the things that bring us joy, but the things that bring us heartache as well. Not allowing the devil to steal your joy by convincing you that you are a failure in any aspect of your life! Your not a failure as a student, or as an employer, your not a failure as a husband or wife or a failure as a parent. Ask Him to guide you, ask Him to change you...He loves the challenge! He is mighty and powerful and capable of fixing us in any and all areas. 

And the thing that makes all of the depression, sadness and heartache go away is PRAISE!
We all need to praise Him for anything and everything that happens in our lives.  
On happy days or the bluest of the blue, all situations, both good and bad with the realization that...

All Things work together for the good of those who love God, for them who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 

You see, nothing is impossible for God. The idea of anything being impossible comes from within us each time we measure God by the limitations of our own unbelief. He wants us to stretch that belief even if it makes us uncomfortable. He, in turn, gives us the fruits of His Spirit which Paul described... 

Galatians 5:22--23 But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts ( Fruit of the Spirit) into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard..things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. 
We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. 

Francis Chan said, "God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."  

If people would only work on developing that kind of faith, they would know that He has everything under control. Just kick back and be patient and have faith.  With that kind of faith, patience would never present a problem. We would have faith in Him answering all of our prayers and we would understand clearly that everything happens in His time...not ours. 

One good exercise, if you don't already do so, is tithing. People make excuses, they say that they can't afford it. Once you start giving the full 10% of every single financial gain your home receives, you will discover that you can't afford to. God is so wonderful, He rewards us for our faithfulness in ways I can't begin to tell you. The way I view it is that it is His money, to begin with, he is just allowing me to use it. So with that in mind, I write a check and give Him his 10% right off of the top and then the rest is mine to do with what I will.  He makes it work out. 

Chan suggests that we pray big because that pleases God; ask Him for things that may even seem far-fetched, remembering that nothing is too far fetched for our God! 

People think there are no longer any miracles; that's just silly. Of course, there are miracles!
People also think that God doesn't answer their prayers, that's silly too. Of course, he answers prayers. He does these things in His time, not ours and never without that five letter word... 

I bet you have had miracles in your life, moments when God could have easily taken you home, but it wasn't your time... I know I have  

One such miracle happened my junior year in high school.  I went to a party out in the woods with some  friends from school. The girl who was driving the car that day had to head back to town quite early because she had some other obligations. I can remember not wanting to leave in fact, I remember being really anxious about leaving, I was so anxious that I was considering staying on alone. I knew some others that were coming and I wanted to stay and wait for them Finally I couldn't  drag my feet any longer  so I  got into her car and just as we headed up the gravel road to the highway, the other friends I had been waiting for arrived. They urged me to jump in with them and stay, and they didn't have to twist my arm to get me to do so. 
That night  I violated code #6 of My Mother's Rules of Etiquette, which stated, "Always leave with the one that brought ya". I believe as I got older, that rule went by the wayside. It may have been because of that night. 

It wasn't until the next day  when I found out that by violating that law, my life may have been saved.  A mutual friend called and let me know that within a few minutes after they drove away, the car they were riding in...the car I had just gotten out of, was involved in a horrific accident. 
The driver was ejected from the car and suffered a broken neck. 
She was very fortunate, she lived. When she was finally able to have visitors, I went to the hospital to see her. As I stood there, by her bedside in a room full of machines giving her breath and nourishment, I realized that by the grace of God, it could have been me. That thought overtook me and minutes later, in the elevator I fainted for the one and only time in my life.    

 I think about that day often and each time I do, I feel so blessed and thankful to be alive, thankful that I had listened to His promptings instead of worrying about Rule #6.
God was with me then and I have since learned that He is with me all of the time. He has plans for each and every one of us, all we need to do is have faith and be patient. He loves us so much. He challenges us to have patience and faith in His timing without having as much as a momentary doubt in our mind and He hasn't failed me yet. That's the stuff  that Mustard Seed Faith is made of.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Spititual Warfare ~When the Devil Attacks~

I woke in a cold, clammy sweat to a piercing fear.  The feeling was like nothing I had ever experienced. 

As I tried to pray my way through it, the words could barely escape my lips... when they did come, silently at first and then so loud they frightened me. 
Yet nothing changed. 
And then I began to Praise... 
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for my life. Praise you Father for all of my blessings; the ones I have received and the ones you are planning for me in all of my tomorrows. 

Praise you Father for my life, my children, my church family and all of my friends... 

As I praised  Him, a warm, soft comforting feeling fell over me and I drifted back to sleep....

Many people are not aware of the powerful, unseen evil that lurks about trying to steal their joy. Instead of calling it what it is, a spiritual attack, they seek a glass of wine or the comfort of anyone but Jesus. When they do that they are in fact handing the devil a victory. 
And who wants to do that? 
The bad news is this...the closer you draw near to God, the bigger threat you oppose to Satin. 
The good news is this...Jesus is always there to pull you out of the muck and mire that Satan drags you into and believe me, Satan has strategies in place to take you out! 
He targets us through the open doors in our lives, doors we may not even realize are open.
Doors such as our minds; because it is of our minds, that we form our thoughts and our thoughts control the rest of our life. What the mind attends to, it considers and what the mind does not attend to, it dismisses. 
Proverbs  4:23  Keep your heart with all diligence, 
for out of your heart are the issues of life.

HEART, In the Old Testament, deals with your thought life in over 200 of the 800 mentioned times. Proverbs 23 could also read, Guard your thought life with diligence because it will determine how you live. 
Because it is through the thoughts that come out of our minds that we communicate with the Holy Spirit. It is with your mind that you form your social attitudes, your self-esteem (low self-esteem is one of Satan's favorites to attack), your actions and God's word, even your achievements.

Proverbs 23:7  As a man thinks deeply in his heart, 
so He believes. 

Satan slips in through these doors as lies because he realizes that if he can change or influence our thoughts, he can change and influence our behavior.       
His lies are of enticement and deception. 
That is exactly what he did to Eve in the garden. He tricked Eve into enticing Adam and then they both disobeyed God. 
Because he has no control over our will, he attacks the portion of us that controls that will and attempts to taint our minds and hearts against all things Godly and good in an effort to ruin the plans God has for our lives. 
So, we must fully understand that although it is God's nature to influence us with the truth, it is the devil's nature to influence us with lies.
 And he is ruthless, he uses anyone he can find to get those lies inside of our minds and hearts because if he can get us to believe his lies we will never discover God's will for our lives. We will never discover that God has written a beautiful story for each of us. Satan is out to destroy those stories, the more he destroys the happier He is. 

So how do we defend ourselves? Only the inspired word of God can reveal and defeat the devils lies. 
In Matthew 4:1-11 Satan even tires to trick Jesus, but Jesus outsmarted Satan because he possessed all the tools to do so. He knew that he must:

1.Love God's word
2. Memorize God's Word
3. Know God's Word
4. Meditate on Gods word
5. Believe God's word
6. Use God's word  and 
7. Live in God's word.

By following  these steps we are able to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, bringing captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

 Satan doesn't just attack your mind, no...he attacks our bodies because they are God's, Temple 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and because our bodies are God's tool, Romans 6:12-13 
and because our bodies are God's treasure. 2 Corinthians 4:7

He causes suffering, often times in the way of guilt. Reminding us of failures from our past, by either tempting us to repeat them or pressing us to believe that we can never be successful in the area we once failed. Sometimes he tries to make us believe that we failed God either by disobeying Him or just by being human. He also targets those who had issues with their own fathers, leading them to believe the huge lie that fathers as a whole are all the same; mean, worthless, liars, abusers, whatever the case. If he can accomplish that, we might possibly turn from God's great love in shame, anger or humiliation or feel a false sense of rejection. 
Know that NONE of Satan's lies are true. He is the master of deception. He comes to steal, lie and destroy us. He comes to rob us of our relationship with the one true God and cheat us out of all of the magnificent plans Our Father God has for our lives.   

Passion For Truth Ministries

The enemy is committed to making your life on earth as miserable as possible. He knows that if he can exploit your fears, insecurities, and weaknesses then he can cripple your spiritual growth and therefore render you useless to God's Kingdom. Don't buy into the enemy's lies. We are in a war, friends. Put on the armor of God today and stand strong against the schemes of the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18). ~Jim Staley ~
We must know in our hearts that God's grace is sufficient for every need we could possibly have and that we should Praise Him even in the most difficult of circumstances. 
Spend time in His word each and every day and invite Him into every aspect of our lives. Ask Him to change you and take away the pride or shame Satan likes to dine on. 
Tell Him you want to become more of Him and less of yourself. 
He will be delighted to comply. 

When feelings of self-doubt creep in, and they will...

When Satan rips your carpet of self-esteem right out from underneath your feet...and it happens...
When you wake up in cold sweat with his ugly hands gripping your throat or when you feel for even a split second that you are not worthy of every last detail of the plan God has for your life start praising! 
PRAISE GOD!  Thank Him for every single blessing in your life from your running water and flushing toilet to your last bag of rice. From your broken fingernail or skinned knee to your loss of job or disease...Praise Him for the children that He placed in your loving care, anything you can think of! 
He will hear you and He will recognize your voice and He will be there to help and love you through it. Then you can smile and know that Satan may have tried to steal your joy, but your God was bigger and your love story with God is none of his business. 

The attacks on your life have much more to do with who you might be in the future than who you have been in the past. The enemy fears you becoming who God has created you to be. ~ Lisa Bevere ~