Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Man With A Nature Like Ours!

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain and the earth produced its fruit.” James 5:16b-18

Elijah was the most famous and dramatic of Israel’s prophets.  It is only fitting that God would use him during Ahab’s rule. Ahab is known as the most evil king of Israel. Ahab, along with his famous wife Jezebel, established the worship of a false god called Baal. The god Baal was worshipped because they believed that Baal was the god of the dew and the rain.

Elijah Proclaims a Drought

In order to turn God’s people back to the One and Only God, who is the Creator of the Universe, the rain, the wind and the thunder, Elijah was sent by God to Ahab. Elijah walks onto the scene unafraid, unannounced and uninvited and says this to Ahab, the King of Israel, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years except at my word.” 1 Kings 17:1

God’s unfailing love for His people is proven as He uses Elijah to get his people’s attention.  At that time, their eyes and hearts were on the false god Baal. Elijah challenged the worshipers of Baal to a contest. Elijah said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” Elijah said, “Call on the name of your gods and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God. So all the people answered and said, “What you say is good.” 1 Kings 18:24

The Baal worshippers called out to their god to answer by fire from the early morning to the late evening but there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.  The Baal worshippers were so desperate in wanting their false god to answer them that they even danced around the altar and shouted loudly and slashed themselves with swords and spears, until their own blood flowed. But there was no response, no one answered or paid attention.

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” Before Elijah called out to God to answer by fire, he instructed for this to be done, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” Elijah asked for the waterpots to be filled and poured out on the altar three times until the water ran all around the altar. Elijah even made sure that the trench was filled with water! 1 Kings 18:30, 33,35

Now it was time for Elijah to prove who is the only God who hears! Elijah said, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” 1 Kings 18;36-37

“Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces, and they said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’”1 Kings 18:38-39

The Bible says that Elijah seized all the prophets of Baal and did away with them at the Brook Kishon.

The Drought Ends

What happens next is one of the main reasons I wrote this blog – to encourage you to never stop praying! Elijah was so confident of God’s promise (1 Kings 18:1) that he immediately tells Ahab before he sees one drop of rain, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.”

Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.”1 Kings 18:42

Elijah was bowing down, praying to God asking the LORD to end the drought after 3 years and six months. He was asking his servant to go up and look towards the sea for a sign that rain is coming. But his servant came back and did not see a cloud in the sky!  His servant said, “There is nothing” (1 Kings 18:43b). However, Elijah doesn’t give up! Instead Elijah sends his servant back to check the sky seven times!  Don’t miss Elijah’s tenacity! The Bible says that on the seventh time his servant went looking towards the sea, he came back saying this to Elijah, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!”  That is all the confirmation that Elijah needed to hear!  Elijah immediately said this, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you’.”

I love His faith! Elijah did not give up in praying to God – even when there was not a cloud in the sky!

May I encourage you today?

What have you been praying for?

Have you been discouraged because your prayers seem to go unheard and unanswered?

Have you been waiting a long time for God to fulfill His promise to you?

Continue praying! Remember Elijah’s faith – he told his servant to go check the sky seven times before there was a sign from God in the sky!  Elijah was acting based upon God’s word spoken to him in 1 Kings 18:1 when the LORD came to Elijah and said this, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.”

I love that all it took was a cloud in the sky as small as a man’s fist, for Elijah to confirm that a great, abundant rain was coming to shower the earth!

“Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain.” 1 Kings 18:45

I pray that we will not give up praying for what is righteous and good in God’s sight.

If we are experiencing any form of “drought” – whether it is in our relationships, our finances, or in our spiritual growth, I pray that even though we don’t see the small cloud in the distance, we will continue to pray!

I also pray that when we do see the small cloud in the distance, we will have the same confidence and boldness and faith as Elijah did to know that the rain is coming!

Blessings to you in the New Year!  May we continue to say what the people said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!”

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fine Dining

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and him with Me." Revelation 3:20

Do we hear the knock? Do we hear the Lord knocking on the door of our hearts? Many times our hearts are full of our own desires, our own ideas of how we would like our days and our life to be. Our hearts are full of all the things that we want to get done on our check list. Consequently, when we hear Jesus knocking, it is faint compared to all the loud knocks that are competing for our attention like: Last minute sales, Christmas dinner preparations, after Christmas sales, returns, etc.

"But God is patient and persistent in trying to get through to us - not breaking and entering, but knocking." commentary

Jesus is simply knocking - gently knocking on the door of our hearts and He says, "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and him with Me."

Next time we hear His gentle knock on our hearts, let's choose to OPEN the door and enjoy the finest dining that we will ever experience!

"The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consits in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in." C. S. Lewis

Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't Be A Beast!

"Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind, I was foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven buy you? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:21-26

Have you ever lost perspective? Have you ever only focused on the "short" term and on the here and now?

In the above scripture, the Psalmist was grieved because of his own lapse of faith. He speaks of his own foolishness.

The Psalmist compared himself to an animal, a beast, when he lost his eternal perspective. Why did he compare himself to a beast? An animal has no sense of eternal or divine perspective. An animal only focuses on immediate gratification - this for that!

This is what happened to me. Or, should I say, this is what "happens" to me when the pressures of this world causes my perspective to be tweaked or when my patience wears out and I want immediately - this for that!

But because of God grace, and a little rest, I come back to my senses and I recognize as the Psalmist came to recognize  -  that God never left him - and God never leaves us - even though for a moment - we leave God. This is what the Psalmist realized, "You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

Don't let the pressures of this world turn you into a "beast". But rather, when you feel those pressures all around you, tighten up your squeeze on His Hand, and remember, when we lose our grip on Him, He never loses His grip on us!

"But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works." Psalm 73:28

Friday, December 13, 2013

He Notices

“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, on the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.” Malachi 3:17-18

What does it mean to serve God? Does it mean you need to be a pastor or a nun or a missionary?
“One who serves God is one who puts Him first, obeys His will, and finds your chief joy in life as the advancement of the glory of His Name.”  Commentary

Can you sense the pride God has in His children as you read the above scripture? God calls those who love Him, serve Him and obey Him – His jewels – His special treasure! According to 1 Peter 2:9, believers are God's treasured possession.

If you are a father or a mother, you know what it means to call our children, “our jewels”. We love our children unconditionally but we also know the joy and pride we feel in our hearts when we see them choosing the right path and honoring those things that are right before our eyes but better yet - before God’s eyes.

Your heavenly Father loves you unconditionally but He also notices all the things you do that others may or may not see:

He notices when you give not out of your wealth...but when you give out of your poverty...

He notices when you take the time to pray for someone else's needs...

He notices every act of kindness that you show to your husband, your children, your friends and even strangers...

He notices you.

There is nothing we can do to cause God to love us more – He loves us because His Name is love. But be sure of this - when we choose to obey Him and put Him first in all that we do, God notices and He delights in our obedience and in our reverence towards His Name! It doesn't mean we walk a perfect walk, it simply means our desire is to walk in the direction of His light.
Not only does God teach us to remember and value the good that other people do, but He Himself remembers the good that you do and calls you His jewel!

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and honor His name” Malachi 3:16

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And All These Things...

"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, “have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise'?" Matthew 21:16

Today I was having a conversation with a dear friend of mine. She shared with me that her granddaughter's elementary school teacher asked the class to draw a picture that would represent what Christmas means to them. One of the parents, who volunteered to help in the class, noticed that all the children began to draw beautiful pictures of Christmas trees and gifts. However, the parent volunteer also noticed that my friend's granddaughter was the only one who drew a picture of a nativity scene.

I love Christmas trees. I love seeing all the presents wrapped under the tree - gifts meant to bring happiness and blessings to others. Giving gifts is a special way that we can communicate our love and emotions to others. But sometimes, Christmas trees, gifts and all these things..., can mask the true reason of Christmas. Sometimes this happens to me more often than I would like to admit. What a gentle and powerful reminder my friend’s young granddaughter made when her little hands drew what her big heart was filled with. Christmas is a time that we should remember God's greatest gift - Jesus Christ - for He is the reason for the season.

"And a child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

JOY to the World!

"...for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10b

Yesterday, my oldest daughter, Natalie, had the day off from work. I never knew that my Monday was going to be filled with so much CHRISTmas joy!

Early in the morning I asked my daughter, "What are your plans for today?" She replied, "Oh, I have plans all day - I am going to be very busy." After making her morning coffee she went up to her room and closed her door half way. Soon I heard joyful singing coming from her room. Hours passed by and she was still singing. I tapped on her bedroom door - I wanted to get closer to her - when I walked into her room - I felt like I was walking into a little bit of heaven. Christmas lights were strung throughout her room and she was painting special Christmas gifts for each of her co-workers and friends. Her joy filled my heart and my home and the singing of Christmas songs did not end until late that night.

"The joy of the Lord is the joy that springs up in our hearts because of our relationship to the Lord. It is God-given gladness found when we are in communion with God." Commentary

 At the time that Nehemiah encouraged the people with this scripture in Nehemiah 8:10, the people were sad and were weeping. They had just heard the Word of God read to them and they recognized how far they were from obeying and following God. But Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
There is always something in each person's life that we can all become downtrodden about. Whether it is our relationships, our finances, our work, our health - you name it - we all have issues. But as we are preparing for Christmas this month, remember that this celebration is not to be self-centered. When we give to others, we are strengthened spiritually and filled with God-given gladness! Ask God to fill you with His joy! He loves you and cares for you and His joy is for all people!
The angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds living out in the fields and said this, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)

FATHER, thank you for this great joy that is for all the people. We receive your Son Jesus – the greatest joy that we could ever receive!

P.S. The name Natalie meaning and name origin refers to: The birthday of Christ, or Christmas (No wonder why she is always filled with CHRISTmas joy!)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Shoes and Socks"

"Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines...” Song of Solomon 2:15  

The first time I heard about John Wooden, the famous and former late coach of the UCLA basketball team, was when I found one of his books at an estate sale. I did not know much about him at the time but when I read his book, I was very impressed with his wisdom on life. Since then, I have purchased several of his books for my family and they have been a great blessing to all of us.

When researching Coach Wooden on the internet, I found the following write-up by Don Yaeger, a New York Times best -selling author and award winning motivational speaker:

"The first day of practice at UCLA was always a day full of anticipation and excitement as the new recruits awaited the arrival of Coach Wooden, known affectionately as the Wizard of Westwood. As they waited, each wondered what secrets of the game, what strategies for winning would spring forth from the famous coach on Day One.

“Please take off your shoes and socks,” Coach announced to the team, seating himself upon a locker from bench.”I’m going to show you the proper way to put them back on.” The new players looked at one another in disbelief – had the old man lost his mind? What on earth did this have to do with basketball? Not wanting to question their leader, they all complied and waited for what would come next.

“Now, when you pull on your socks,” he said showing them through example, “I want you to make sure that there are no wrinkles or gaps," as he put his socks on. “Make sure your heel is full seated in the heel of the sock; run your hand over the toes and make sure to smooth out any bumpy areas.” Then he showed each player how to properly lace his shoes and tie them snugly so that there was no room for the shoe to rub or the sock to bunch up.

As Coach Wooden got up to leave the locker room for the gym, the players behind him were silent, still wondering what their coach would possibly be doing by starting out the season talking about shoes and socks. Here they were, the best schoolboy players in America, and this legend had just spent 30 minutes teaching them about shoes and socks.

Just then, Coach Wooden would turn around and, with a glint in his eye say,”That’s your first lesson, you see, if there are wrinkles in your socks or shoes, or if your shoes aren’t tied properly, you will develop blisters. With blisters, you’ll miss practice, if you miss practice, you don’t play. And if you don’t play, we cannot win.

“If you want to win Championships, you must take care of the smallest of details.”

Coach then walked away, his first practice complete.
John Wooden understood the importance of the little things in terms of preparing for something bigger. Many people thought that he was a great coach because he had such a talented collection of players, but the students who played for him knew better: Coach Wooden was great because he focused on the small, basic tasks that are the building blocks of every major victory.
“His secrets are rarely about anything dramatic but instead, are focused on the tiny details of each day that most of us overlook.”

What a great reminder to remember to begin our days with the basics: God's Word, prayer, and to not ignore or minimize the tiniest details that could escalate to serious issues in our life. In my opinion, the John Wooden's coaching style was to be actively watching for the “little foxes” that could potentially destroy the vine.”

We have a Good Shepherd who carefully watches over us. Through His Spirit He reminds us to pay attention to not only the "big" things but also to the “little foxes" that we could easily ignore and that could fall through the cracks - things that could impact our marriages, friendships, positions, businesses, finances, health, etc.

What has God’s Spirit been bringing to your attention? Are we listening for and acting upon the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit in our life? Or, are we just hearing and saying to ourselves as the new recruits thought to themselves on their first day of practice when asked by Coach Wooden to please take off your shoes and socks, What on earth did this have to do with basketball?”
The answer: EVERYTHING!

“Preparation doesn’t start when the buzzer sounds to begin the big game; it starts with the first action at the first practice on the first day of the season. Greatness is not achieved in a moment – it is the result of hundreds of small acts of preparation along the way." Don Yaeger.
The same is true in our faith as we need to be obedient to the smallest whisper of God's direction in our life - for God's Holy Spirit never prompts us without a reason or a purpose. 

“Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines...” Song of Solomon 2:15  

“The prudent give thoughts to their steps.” Proverbs 14:15b

Monday, December 2, 2013

His Most Beautiful!

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:5-8

No matter who you are - no matter how young or old you are - no matter if you believe in God or not - everyone is drawn to humility. The Bible says that even God gives grace to the humble but is opposed to the proud (1 Peter 5:5).
As I was reading God's Word this morning, I came across this definition in my "Word Focus":
Humility/meekness signifies strength of character in enduring suffering without resentment. Such character is rooted in a strong faith in God and His goodness and a steadfast submission to the will of God."
With further investigation on this subject, I found this article that I would love to share with permission from the site of Doug Britton.

God and humility: The meaning of humility in the Bible

 Many people have the wrong idea about God, the Bible and humility, or being humble. They think being humble means groveling in front of others or thinking we're no good and others are good.

That’s not the Bible's picture. God says when you are humble; you are free from pride and arrogance. You know that in your flesh you are inadequate, yet you also know who you are in Christ.

You don't need to defend yourself when you understand the Bible's picture of humility, for you know who you are in Christ. You are able to be a peacemaker without needing to fight for your rights. You are able to walk humbly in the power of God’s Holy Spirit, not your own personal power.

Godly humility is being comfortable with who you are in the Lord and therefore putting others first. The meaning of humility in the Bible is one of loving others, not being a wimp!

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3).

In the Bible, we see that Jesus gave us a good example of humility in action. Although he was humble, he also was strong.

 I am gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29).

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8).

Humility in action

Many people misunderstand the Bible, God and humility. The following statements show the power in humility.

You can defuse arguments when you are humble.

You do not need to stand up for yourself in an angry manner. And you do not have to win every argument.

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

You can handle unfair treatment peacefully when you are humble.

You can respond to unfair treatment without being overcome by bitterness. Godly humility means you do not feel a need for vengeance or revenge.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).

You do not have to put on a "false front" when you are humble.

When you understand God and humility, you don't need to act like a big shot. The better you know God, the less you have to prove.

You can eat "humble pie" without being crushed when you are humble.

When you are humble, you can respond to and learn from criticism without defensiveness—whether it is deserved or not deserved. Likewise, you can be aware of your failures without being emotionally devastated.

You can ask forgiveness when you are humble.

Even if you think you are only one percent wrong, you can easily apologize for what you did wrong.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24).

You can talk with the right attitude when you are humble.

You can talk courteously and lovingly, regardless of the situation—even if you need to be firm or take strong actions.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).

Being humble does not mean being a wimp.

As I already wrote, many people misunderstand humility. The following statements correct three inaccurate pictures of humility.

Bible-based humility does not mean groveling.

When I humble myself, I feel strong in the Lord. I don't need to be defensive.

Bible-based humility isn't being unaware of your gifts or calling.

Although we should avoid self-pride, godly humility does not mean we should pretend we are unaware of the gifts God has given us. The key is to remember that they are from God.

Although I am less than the least of all of God’s people, this grace was given to me: to preach to the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).

I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing (2 Corinthians 12:11).

Bible-based humility does not mean never speaking directly.

When God says to be humble, He lets us know we must examine our motives and attitudes. We also must examine how we take action.

But there are times when we need to take strong actions. Here are two examples of taking strong actions while maintaining a humble spirit:

Jesus was meek of spirit, yet he chased the moneychangers out of the temple (Matthew 21:12 and Mark 11:15-16).

As an employer, I can discipline or fire someone, yet do so quietly and gently.

God and humility: Enjoy the power in humility.

The results from understanding what the Bible says about God and humility are more successful than those taking an arrogant approach. (When you are humble, you are likely to have more influence than when you fight abrasively.) Even if your results are not successful, you have the joy and pleasure of having acted in a godly manner; you are a winner even if you do not "win," when you understand the meaning of humility in the Bible and put it into practice.

The more I learn about humility, the more I realize that I am not as humble as I wish I was. This Christmas season let’s look to Christ as our example of humility - who humbled Himself and was obedient to His Father.

As you attend the many family, work and friend gatherings this Christmas season, cloth yourselves with humility as the Bible exhorts, and I can guarantee you that regardless of what you are wearing, in God’s eyes, you will be one of His most beautiful!
" clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5-6