2015 Word for the Year — Embrace!

Embrace

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We have all heard the Lord’s Prayer:  “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses  as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever.  Amen.”

I learned this while I was still attending church as a little kid.  Immanuel Baptist Church in Hoquiam.  The full impact of that prayer never really got me until quite a few years ago.  I came back to Christ on September 4, 2004.  I was reading my Bible plus all sorts of other books about prayer, how to pray, what to pray, etc.  I remember at one point telling God “it shouldn’t be this hard to have a relationship with You.”  In that gentle, quiet, still voice, he replied “it’s not.”  I got rid of all the other books and focused on His Word.  When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He gave them the Lord’s prayer.

The part of the Lord’s prayer that is sometimes hard though is “Thy Will be done”.  I’ve found myself in the past praying that, and then bracing for what was to come next.  I’m sure I’m not the only one!  I’ve totally braced.  Then I had an epiphany when chatting with a friend the other day — don’t brace, embrace!!  My word for 2015 is “EMBRACE”. I pray the Lord’s will be done every day, so whatever that looks like I praise Him!

Each night I pray His will be done and each morning I pray for His will for that day.  I don’t worry about tomorrow or the future because He tells me not to.  He tells me not to worry about anything, and to pray about everything.  I’ve started doing that more and more, at the very moment that I feel worried.  He tells me not to fear.

If you read His word you will see that He tells His people ALL throughout the Bible “do not fear.”  So this is very common to man.  He tells us not to fear because He is with us all the time.  He tells us that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  When bad things happen, praise Him.  I’m not praising Him for evil, I’m praising Him because He is with me and He is good to me, even when bad happens.  When good things happen, praise Him.  Find something good in the midst of the trials you’re going through, and praise Him for those.  I’ve praised Him for the difficulties that I have going on because through those difficulties He has changed my heart about so many things!  For that I’m thankful!  I’m thankful for the trials I have had.  No they have not been easy, but with His strength I have gotten through them.

So EMBRACE each and every day and all He has for you because:   Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Amen

Your Best Life Now?

Joel and Oprah

1 Peter 2:21 – 24 “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps:  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.”  When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.  He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

When Jesus’s disciples abandoned Him (Matt. 26:56) and He was arrested for something He did not do, do you think Jesus was living “His best life now”?  When Peter denied Jesus three times, and Jesus knew His friend denied knowing Him (Matt. 26:69-75), do you think Jesus was living “His best life now”?  When the high priests and other leaders spit in His face and struck Him with their fists (Matt. 26:67), was Jesus living “His best life now”?  When Judas (one of Jesus’s 12 disciples) betrayed Him so that He would be arrested, was Jesus living His best life now?  How about when the crowd is chanting that they want Jesus crucified and a murderer set free instead (Matt. 27:21); when the soldiers took Jesus and gathered all the rest of the soldiers, stripped Jesus and put a scarlet robe on Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, a staff in His hand and knelt in front of Him and mocked Him (Matt. 27:27-29), was Jesus living His best life now?  When the soldiers spit on Him, struck Him with the staff on the head again and again, continued mocking Him, then took Him away to crucify Him (Matt. 27:30-31), was this Jesus’s best life now?

According to main in today’s Christian culture, if this was to happen now, Jesus must be doing something wrong because God just wants the best for you, right?  If you’re not rich, healthy, wealthy and wise, then you must be doing something wrong.  There must be sin in your life?  You must not be praying hard enough?  Or maybe you have a demon?

Oh, but someone is going to say, Jesus took all that on so that we COULD have the abundant life and live rich here on earth.  Okay, then explain to me why all of Jesus’s disciples went through what they went through AFTER Jesus rose from the dead.  Peter was hanged upside down (which Jesus told him of in advance).  Paul was beheaded.  John was sent to live on a deserted island alone as punishment.  Many of the other disciples were also beheaded and tortured for their faith in Christ.  This was after Jesus’s crucifixion and rising from the dead.

Hebrews 11:35-40 “Women received back their dead, raised to life again.  Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.  They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.  These were all commended for their FAITH, yet NONE of them received what had been promised.  God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

Just because bad things are happening to you dear Christian does not mean God is not with you.  Just because good things are happening to you, doesn’t mean that God IS with you.  The pharisees during Jesus time equated wealth with God’s blessing in their lives.  You know what Jesus called those men?  White washed tombs, hypocrites, blind fools, full of greed and self-indulgence, said they do not practice what they preach, they tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders but are not willing to lift a finger to move them, that everything they do is for men to see.  (Matt. 23)  White washed tombs look beautiful on the outside but on the inside they are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean (Matt. 23:27).  The pharisees called Jesus demon possessed!

I believe that some of the teachings of today are false, and that these teachers are making a god in their own image.  What else does man want?  Wealth, health, lots of friends, lots of great things to happen to them, beautiful homes, beautiful cars, beautiful children with no health issues, etc.  According to these false teachers if you don’t have these then you’re not praying hard enough, you have sin in your life (we all do by the way, even them), you have a demon (not possible if you have the Holy Spirit inside of you), or that you are doing something wrong.  Really?  Is that what the bible teaches??  I challenge every Christ follower to read the book of Job.  God’s ways are not our ways.  His ways are higher than our ways.

If our words have power (just as God’s words have power) as these false teachers claim, then Job should have been struck dead.  Job cursed the day that he was ever born.  Job Chapter 3.  “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said “A boy is born!” That day — may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine upon it.”

These false teachers claim that if you just speak it, then it shall be.  Wow.  I speak one million dollars into my life (POOF!).  These teachers take one scripture and twist it to their own needs and desire, again, making a god they have created into their own image.  I heard one false teacher claim that if you speak to your billfold that it is full of money then it shall be.  Wow.  Really?  Then why aren’t all Christians rich?  Is it because they don’t have enough faith?  Jesus tells us that we need faith the size of a mustard seed — that is a very tiny seed.  You only need a little faith.  So why is it?

Could it be that when they are speaking to the god of the image that they have created is the god of this world?

Matt. 4 Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil.  Yes, He knew He was going to be tempted by the devil.  The devil (Matt. 4:8) took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and said that if Jesus would bow down and worship him that he would give it all to Jesus.

You see these are things that our “itching ears” want to hear.  This is definitely what our flesh wants — the things of this world.  1 Tim. 6:9-10 “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  v. 11 “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”  2 Tim. 4:3 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

For those Christians who are rich Paul commands them:  “those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”  This is not so we will be MORE rich on earth, this is to do good to lay up our treasure in heaven.

Bottom line, if a teacher is only telling you what you want to hear they are not doing you any favors, and they don’t love you.  If they never talk about sin and repentance, again, they don’t love you.  Christians read your Bibles so that you will know the Truth, the real Truth, not what some false teacher’s truth is that will lead you down the wide path to destruction.  1 Tim. 6:3-5 “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”  Choose today Whom you will serve.  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  Josh. 24:15

Are you playing a Christian?

CrossAre you playing a Christian?  2 Corinthians 5:17 says “ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  This means that we are new and if we are in Christ we should be changed, we should notice a change in our lives, we should not be as the world is.  We should continually be changing for the better, not going backwards and into things of the world and what the world says are good.

I see so many people who call themselves Christians today engaging in constant, sinful behavior.  Yes, we all sin and we all fall short of the glory of God.  I am FAR from perfect, however, I am FAR from what I was 10 years ago when I gave my life wholly and completely over to Christ.  We cannot be Christians and continue to be content in our sin.  When we sin (and I say when because we will sin), we should be convicted of our sin in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  It should bother us when we sin.  If our sin doesn’t bother us, then we might want to question the fact of whether we are saved or if we are not.

Prior to giving my life to Christ I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  I was diagnosed in my 20s with it and had dealt with those symptoms for many years.  I used to hear voices and even had hallucinations.  It was constant torture in my mind.  Then in about 2001 I had a boss who was a Christian that I worked for part-time as a legal assistant.  I worked 3 days a week.  There were some days that he would come in and just talk to me about Jesus!  He was even paying me while he talked to me.  He would bring his Bible to work with him, and read to me from it.  He would answer my questions and my arguments from God’s word.  He would pray with me.  I’m positive he was praying FOR me also, as were several other people I found out later.  I was SO far from God at that time and my life was a complete mess.  I don’t know how long he did this, but at one point I finally realized that Jesus is Who the Bible says He is and I knelt down in the office one day and gave my life to Christ.

My boss then invited me to come to church with him.  I told him no thanks, that’s not my thing.  I’m sure he continued to pray for me.  It was in January 2002 that I separated from my husband of 11 years.  I didn’t realize it until many years later that my bipolar symptoms went immediately away after I invited Jesus into my heart!  Praise God.  However, I still hadn’t surrendered my life to Christ.  I tried to not sin, but it was impossible for me not to.  I gave up and gave in to the world’s way again.  I figured I had done too much at that point for God to want me back, so gave up.  (Note:  I had not done too much, that was a lie from the enemy of our souls.)  I was also afraid of what others would think too.  Peer pressure as an adult is VERY real. I didn’t want to be called crazy, or a fanatic, or any other nasty name that Christians get called.

Then in about August of 2004 a series of things happened.  I watched “The Passion of the Christ”, I met a Christian man who had more joy than anyone I’ve ever met before who preached to me without words, I had a dream where an angel told me I was going to hell (and I also experienced God’s immense love during that dream), and then the worst of all:  I experienced about a one minute moment where I felt my bipolar symptoms again.  That horrible feeling in my head.  I cannot explain it except it is torture.  I dropped to my knees and prayed for God to reveal Himself to me, show me that He is truly real, to give me a 2×4 up the side of the head because I either wasn’t listening or wasn’t getting it.  I asked Him “what do I need to do so that I don’t go back to that?”  I needed Him.

Nothing happened.  I felt defeated inside and went to bed.  I woke up the next morning.  It happened to be a Sunday.  I sat up in bed and thought “everything’s the same.”  I turned on the tv to some Christian show and remember thinking that the music sounded “weird” and “off.”  I shrugged and got out of bed.  I decided to shower and start my day.

As I’m in the shower it dawns on me “was that my sign? was that You God?”  I even said out loud while looking up “was that You God?”  And like a FLOOD from Heaven, being poured out from a large pitcher and into my body came God’s words to me more clear than I had EVER heard before!  Everything that I was doing that needed to be changed.  How I was living a life full of sin.  That I needed to give my life wholly and completely over to Jesus if I didn’t want to go back to the bipolar life of madness.  He told me to stop having sex outside of marriage.  He even told me which church He wanted me to go to.

I had NEVER had God “speak” to me.  I used to mock and make fun of people who would say “God told me…”.  I was SO wrong!  God opened my eyes for the first time in my life!  The song “I once was blind, and now I see” was FINALLY true for me!  I knew I was a sinner in need of a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus Christ!

I have never cried so hard.  After that shower I was the cleanest that I had been in my entire life, both inside and out.  God washed my sins right down that drain!  He placed a right Spirit right inside of my heart and began at that very moment to make me a new creation — IN HIM.

My boyfriend showed up that morning at my house and by the time he got there I had been crying and praying for quite some time.  He walked through the door and I told him that I had given my life to Jesus Christ.  I told him that I was not having sex again until I was married, and that I was going to start going to church.  He decided to join me and the following weekend he gave his life to Christ!  He is still serving God to this day!  We never married and he is now married to a wonderful woman of God, who also serves the Lord.

I knew the minute I walked through the doors of the church that he and I were over.  God immediately told me that.  I knew if I broke up with him that he would not continue to come to church.  We stayed “boyfriend and girlfriend” for six more months because I wanted him to make friends, get grounded and rooted in the Lord, and then let him go.  I am so glad that I did that.  We also no longer had sex of ANY kind because God had told me to stop if I didn’t want to go back to my old way of life, and I didn’t.  I wanted what He had for me now!