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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Do You Need a "Faith Lift"?

Not a facelift, a “faith lift.” * It’s changing how we pray. It’s being certain that God can do it, that God will do what He wants to do.

Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Substance. Evidence.

Even the disciples showed a lack of faith. Jesus said they had little faith (Matthew 8:26). But they changed and grew, and by the time Jesus had ascended into heaven, they only had to wait for the Holy Spirit. Then, they had the boldness, power, and wisdom to preach the gospel, start the first churches, be the first missionaries. They prayed, Lord increase our faith. (Luke 17:5)

He did!

Are you in need of a faith lift today?

Faith—that assurance, certainty, firm belief in what God can do—comes from an accurate knowledge of God’s character. When we know Who God really is, we have a lot less trouble with faith.

God can:
HelpHappy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God (Psalm 146:5).
UpholdFear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness (Isaiah 41:10).
Be our refugeTrust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us (Psalm 62:8).
EnableFaithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
ShelterHe shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler (Psalm 91:4).
EmpowerO God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God (Psalm 68:35).
Supply every needBut my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
Teach us wisdomFor the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:6).
Give us joyThou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11).
SatisfyAnd the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not (Isaiah 58:11).
GuideTrust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Know our heartAnd God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us (Acts 15:8).
Give us knowledgeFor God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy (Ecclesiastes 2:26a).
Provide peaceAnd the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
Cast out fearYea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).
                        . . . and much, much more!

When we meditate on God and on what He can do, then we see how easy it is to trust Him.

It’s so much like a parent-child relationship. A small child thinks Daddy and Mommy can do everything. He has confidence that they can help him, provide for him, and fix his toys. A little person doesn’t worry about anything. He knows Daddy and Mommy are there to cater to his every need. He doesn’t think about money or food. He just enjoys what there is.

People who love God can similarly look to Him for everything. They can enjoy life. They can revel in God’s blessings. They don’t have to worry or go around with long faces, because they know their Father is there. He will help them through the difficult times, enable them to do hard things, lead them even through the valley of the shadow.

They know that He has everything under control. Why worry?

When your faith needs a lift—probably daily—go to the Bible. You’ll find that God can!

He (or She! Put your name here.) staggered not at the
promise of God through unbelief;
but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.
(Romans 4:20)

*I got the expression "faith lift" from Betty Henderson's excellent Bible study, A Woman of Prayer, to be reviewed later.

Monday, July 29, 2013

When God Says No

We know that God answers prayer. But He doesn’t always answer our prayers in the affirmative. Many times, He closes a door or flat out shows us or tells us “No.” There’s always a purpose behind His answers. Sometimes we understand that purpose, and sometimes we really and truly are left asking why.

We’re not alone. Here are some Bible characters that prayed and got “no” answers. First, we’ll look at what they prayed, then what the answer was, then why. Notice that some of the “no” answers were really “not now.”

Genesis 15:2-5
Prayer—Abram (later Abraham) complained to God that he didn’t have an heir. (I guess this was a kind of prayer; he was telling God about it.)
Answer—God said, “Look at the stars. Number them. You will have that many descendants—so many that they can’t be numbered.” (My paraphrase of Genesis 15:5) This was God’s promise. But, the answer didn’t come right away.
Why—God wanted Abram to believe Him. He also wanted to do something amazing. The child of promise, Isaac, would be born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90! (Genesis 21:2-7)

Deuteronomy 3:23-26
Prayer—Moses asked God to let him cross over the Jordan River so he could see the Promised Land.
Answer—God was furious with him and told him “no.” He was to prepare Joshua to go over and lead Israel.
Why—Moses, the leader of Israel, had hit the rock instead of talked to it. He didn’t give God the glory for the provision of water, and he was held accountable. Before he died, he was allowed to see the Promised Land but not to enter it. (Numbers 20:10-12)

2 Samuel 12:16-18
Prayer—David fasted and prayed that his newborn child would survive.
Answer—The child (by Bathsheba) died.
Why—David was judged for his sexual sin and murder. (2 Samuel 12:10-14)

1 Kings 19:4
Prayer—Elijah asked God to let him die.
Answer—God told him to eat and drink, and He provided a cake and water for him. God did not want Elijah to die at this time.
Why—God would further use Elijah as His prophet, to show more of God’s miracles, and to train Elisha and the school of the prophets.

John 11:1-7, 20-44
Prayer—Lazarus was sick, and Jesus was sent for. Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal him.
Answer—Jesus waited to go. When He got there, Lazarus was dead and in the tomb. Jesus went to the tomb where Lazarus’ body was and raised him from the dead.
Why—Jesus wanted people to believe. As a result of Lazarus coming forth from the grave after being dead for four days, Jesus manifested His unique power, and many believed on Him. (John 11:45)

2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Prayer—Paul asked God three times to remove his “thorn in the flesh.”
Answer—God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Why—God desires the best for every one of His children. Paul finally understood that God didn’t want him to think too much of himself, so his permanent physical problem was actually a gift from God, a reminder to give God the glory for any success. (2 Corinthians 12:7)

What are the common threads when God says “no” or “not now”? We can be confident that when God makes us wait, it’s not His time for whatever we’re asking for. When He says “no” it’s because He knows best. God is sovereign. His judgment is always fair, always best. He understands all and knows all, and He is the source of all wisdom.

When we pray, whether God answers “yes,” “no,” or “not now,” we can be sure that He has the matter under control. He knows best. He decides best, and we are always in the best of hands.

We pray.

God answers.

His answer is always best.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Slash and Burn!

What do I do when I write?

Slash and burn.

I’m not talking about cutting and burning a forest for planting later. I am talking about permanent clearing. It’s the drastic cutting of unneeded words. It’s doing away with the extraneous so that what’s left has meaning.

I usually end up with the feeling I didn’t slash enough, that I left too much.

Sometimes, though, I feel that freedom of having reduced the sentence to its bones, of having the right balance.

Did you know that the slash and burn approach can also be applied to our spirit?

What is biblical slash and burn? What are we supposed to totally destroy? Then, what are we to plant in its place?

Read these Scriptures about what we’re supposed to do away with—and what we’re to put in its place:

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:16, 19-23).

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:22-32).

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Ephesians 5:1-5).

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him (Colossians 3:8-10).

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith . . . . (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Notice the perfect balance? Every time we’re told to eradicate a sin in our lives, God tells us what to put in its place.

It’s not only cutting and burning, but after the smoke has cleared, it’s planting something new—something beautiful.

In only the passages we looked at above, look at the positives:
  • Love (mentioned twice)
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Longsuffering
  • Gentleness
  • Goodness
  • Faith
  • Meekness
  • Temperance
  • Honest work
  • Good and edifying speech
  • Kindness
  • Tenderheartedness
  • Forgiveness
  • The new man
  • Patience
  • Purpose in life
  • Looking to Jesus 

Slash and burn, yes.

But then, in the same place, we plant.

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith . . . .

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Spain in Mourning

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has proclaimed three days of national mourning. At least 80 people were killed in a horrific train crash near Santiago de Compostela last evening, the night before Spain’s holiday for the Apostle James. Many Roman Catholic pilgrims plan to end their pilgrimage along El Camino de Santiago (St. James’ Way) on this weekend. It is thought that many of the people on the train were traveling to this important religious fiesta.

My heart is broken for the families who have lost loved ones. At least thirty are in critical condition in area hospitals. This is a tragedy.

My mind goes back to the other notable train deaths—on the 11th of March, 2004, caused by terrorist bombs.

I remember that friends from other countries mourned in solidarity with the Spanish people. They sent us notes of condolence.

I also remember that the country was shaken—as it no doubt is today. So many deaths. A normal activity like riding the train. People on their way to a celebration—that won’t happen this year.

So much loss. Everyone will know someone, or they will know a friend who knows someone.

I remember the last time.

I also remember how fast the people got on with their lives. Maybe a week later, hardly anyone was talking about life and death. The window for ministry was over.

You would think that people would want to make sure about their souls.

You would think that they would think about death. The Bible says, it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Spain is a Catholic country. Most people have been baptized as babies into the Roman Catholic Church, and therefore, if you ask the average person if he belongs to a religious group, he will say, “Of course. I’m Catholic.” But, you’d be surprised how very few take faith seriously. Very few ever go to church, except for baptisms, funerals, and weddings. A lot of Spanish people don’t even believe there’s a God.

Years ago, I remember a friend in Madrid telling me, “You hear a lot about the millions who are eagerly waiting to hear the gospel. What they don’t tell you is about the millions who couldn’t care less.”

That’s our mission field, the one we know we’ve been called to. And that’s where at least 80 partygoers lost their lives yesterday.

Please pray that those of us who know the Lord Jesus would be attentive to any open doors we might have for witness, especially over the next week. Also, please pray that God would do something amazing in hearts and open them to the idea of God, of a hereafter, and of their need.

Thank you.

For God so loved the world (including Spain),
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;
but that the world through him might be saved. 
(John 3:16-17)

The Royal Baby Gets a Name

with “His Royal Highness, Prince” in front.

“George” was the bookies’ favorite name, and really, a lot of people guessed the little prince would be George. Queen Elizabeth’s father was King George. When Prince Charles assumes the throne, he will become King George, and then his grandson will be another King George. Continuity. Royalty that stays in the family, with the same name.

(I have a quiet chuckle, being American, because we won our independence from a King George. But, that’s history.)

Back to names.

I felt sorry for the little nameless guy. (They say it took up to a month for some of the royal babies to be named. What did they do? Call them “Baby” for a month?)

A name shows personhood.

I’m glad the cute little baby got named within a couple of days. George Alexander Louis. It has a ring to it!

The name of a future king . . . . It’s so important to get it right. George for continuity. Alexander for greatness. Louis for Prince Philip’s family.

In the spiritual realm, too, names are important.

Matthew 1 tells us that Jesus’ name was chosen by God before Jesus was born.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (1:21). When the baby was born, Joseph immediately called his name JESUS (from 1:25).

Why did God want His Son to be named Jesus?
Jesus (The Old Testament Joshua and Yeshua) means "Savior" and "the salvation of the Lord." Jesus' name defines Him. When someone said His Name, they were calling Him Savior! They were recognizing the One Who would save them from sin. His Name says it all.

Savor this passage:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

God also hath highly exalted him,
and given him a name which is above every name:

the Salvation of the Lord

Every knee will bow before this King.

My best wishes to Prince William and Kate on the birth of their new little son, the future king of the United Kingdom—George Alexander Louis.

I pray that all of them will come to know the King of kings, whose Name is Jesus.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Royal Baby

Little What’s-His-Name, heir to the throne of the United Kingdom, was born yesterday to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. He was born in the Lindo Wing, the same part of the hospital where his father and Uncle Harry were born. The hospital door has been watched with bated breath. Who will enter? When will we see the baby? Any snippet of news—the arrival of the royal car seat—is greeted by eager journalists trying to figure out what will happen next. Mrs. Middleton says the little guy is “absolutely beautiful.” But of course . . . her first grandchild. What else would she say?

Children are excited. Tourists are gawking. News presenters have camped out for weeks in front of the hospital. The people from Kate’s hometown Bucklebury are ecstatic and planning a village party.

This whole new prince “show” got me thinking about birth, especially a royal birth.

A royal son, presented to the world.

When Jesus was born, it wasn’t in the privileged Lindo Wing. His birth was attended only by animals and Jesus’ stepfather.

Now, there was fanfare, an angelic announcement—better than a framed piece on an easel, I think. Adoration . . . the Son of God. The heavens declare the glory of God: a special star. Never again a birth like Jesus’ birth!

The Bible talks of births and kings. In fact, the whole theme of the Bible is the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus. The Bible also talks about newborn babies. It speaks of children growing in wisdom and in knowledge.

The new Prince Whatever-His-Name enters a lifestyle that’s the envy of many. Privilege, money, all of his needs catered to. Caregivers in every direction. He will be surrounded by attention, photographers, and love.

A newborn Christian starts out in the same way! In a sense, every baby Christian is a blue blood. He has all the spiritual riches in glory at his disposal. All he has to do is to enjoy them.
  • He drinks the milk of the Word. He grows. (1 Peter 2:2)
  • He eats more spiritual food and grows some more. (2 Corinthians 9:10)
  • Eventually, Christian has grown big enough to eat like a big person. He can eat spiritual meat. (1 Corinthians 10:3; Hebrews 5:13)
  • Our Father God has promised to supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). 

The Bible talks about the believer’s kinship with the King. Did you ever think about being adopted as a prince or princess into God’s family, when you trusted Christ? (Galatians 4:5; Romans 8:17)

The royal baby will be called . . . . There are people betting on whether he will be George, Arthur, Phillip, James. Who knows?

When we accept Christ as our Savior, we get a new name: Christian (follower of Christ).

The new little prince is already third in line to the throne. Everyone is saying it will be a long time until he accedes, since those before him have lived very long lives. Heir to the throne of the United Kingdom. Wow! Can you imagine all that that entails? Pomp. Ceremony. The changing of the guard, the trooping of the colors. Today, there were 61 guns going off in honor of his birth. The bells of Westminster Cathedral rang for three hours. This little guy is important!

And, so are we. 
  • We are heirs to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7)
  • Angels minister to us. (Hebrews 1:14)
  • We are rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him (James 2:5). 

So, the next time you see a glimpse of the cute, blond little prince, remember . . .

If you know the Lord as your Savior, you’re as royal as he!

You are rich toward God (from Luke 12:21), a child of the King.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fat Souls!

In a time when many are obsessed with diet, exercise, fitness, losing and maintaining weight, healthy eating, etcetera, etcetera, we sometimes lose sight of the most important issue.

Our soul.

The Bible has a lot to say about leanness and fatness when it comes to the soul. I think it is super-interesting that God’s value system is exactly the opposite of our body ideal.

(I could go on a rant here, but I’ll refrain. Suffice it to say that our body-image ideals are totally fashion. What’s fashionable now, unfortunately, is waif-thin and extremely tall. If you are naturally that shape, you are “in.” If you’re like 95% of the women in the world, well . . . . But that’s a topic for another day.)

God says fat is “in.” Of course, he’s not talking about obese bodies. He’s talking about very healthy souls!

How do you get a godly-healthy fat soul?

“Eat” God’s Word.
  • How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)
  • Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16).

Go to church.
  • They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures (Psalm 36:8).

Delight in God’s blessings.
  • Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness (Psalm 65:11).
  • He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee (Psalm 81:16).
  • And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 31:14).
  • And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:29).
  • And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

Share God’s blessings.
  • The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself (Proverbs 11:25). 

Listen to the Lord.
  • Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness (Isaiah 55:2b).

Follow God’s guidance.
  • And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not (Isaiah 58:11). 

Worship God.
  • As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness (Psalm 17:15).
  • The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever (Psalm 22:26).
  • And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace (John 1:16). 

“Chubby” souls come from lives that please God. Only God gives total satisfaction. He helps us to gain spiritual weight when we fill up with spiritual food.

How’s your soul? Is it fat and happy?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fiction Reviews: The Hidden Son, The Good Girl, Unseen

The Hidden Son by Dianna T. Benson is a pacey novel that begins in the Cayman Islands. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Lelisa Desmond loses her partner on a scuba dive. Later, she realizes that it should have been her. Inspector Alec Dyer interviews her immediately afterward, and their trust and mistrust relationship begins. They need to find answers, and someone is trying to kill Lelisa.

The story is intriguing, especially with Lelisa and Alec’s mutual experience in investigations. Sometimes, though, the truth evades. It’s too close to home. Several near death escapes, too many hospital visits, and the constant death threat cause Lelisa, Alec, and their friends to risk everything for the right outcome.

I had a few ethical problems with people lying and breaking all rules to achieve success. I personally think it’s better to keep silent than to lie. (I’m not so sure about the rule breaking, either.) My only other problem was with the age-old storyline of Christian guy meets gorgeous non-Christian girl (who’s always working in shorts). Though they are not dating, there’s an obvious interest, which grows and changes.

This is a squeaky-clean novel, full of excitement, and a good read. I loved the double plot, the detective work, the adventures, and the outcome. I think you will be similarly entertained.

The Good Girl by Christy Barritt is a mystery that I couldn’t put down. It’s about a young divorced woman named Tara, who is running from all she has known. She needs time to get away, to start over in a place where no one knows her story. So, she goes to house and dog-sit at her sister’s place while her worldly sister romps in Europe.

Mrs. Barritt’s style is so fun and unmistakable. This is the second book I’ve read, and I love her characters. She always includes the kooky people as well as unfortunate people with real needs. She has a knack for making the craziest real and the real crazy.

I loved this book, mostly because of its message—real Christian faith is better than works faith. And, real faith is borne out with true, compassionate, forgiving works. There are many biblical allusions woven into this excellent story.

The mystery is fun. This is a page-turner. Who is the ghost? Where is Danielle’s body? What’s wrong with the neighbor with the binoculars?

The constantly texting girl with blue hair, the nerdy video man, and the ex-Ranger are just a few of the intriguing characters in this ghost story. I believe you will be entertained and challenged by The Good Girl.

Unseen by John Michael Hileman is every bit as enthralling and suspenseful as Messages. I have no idea where he gets his story ideas, but Hileman does it again!

Jake Paris is a normal, everyday guy until Abigail visits him. Abigail is a very old woman who seems consumed with her crazy message and gift of a white rose. The message is, “Be nice to the children.” He starts seeing little children everywhere, and apparently, he’s the only one who does. Is he as nutty as the old lady? What is going on? Then, Jake’s sister Holly finds out her little boy is being held by a serial child killer. Jake and his friend Dan try to help her deal with it. Everything is further complicated by Holly’s drug habit, messages to her from the killer, and Jake’s recurring visions of little children.

The plot thickens as Holly is in contact with the serial killer, Jake is trying to figure out his own private mystery, and all the time, the fate of the little boy is uncertain. I promise this is a nail biter with a very strong message. Kudos, Mr. Hileman!