Monday, April 2, 2012

Are You The Thrashing Twig or The Tree of Righteousness?

Before I left to Germany last year, I was overcome with anxiety over what kind of person I had become over the past 8 months. I had burned a bridge with a longtime friend of my husbands, I told one of my best friends a secret that everyone knew, except her and I told another friend how I really felt about her. In my mind I felt like I was standing up for people - standing up for my husband, standing up for a friend and standing up for myself. What I was really doing was destroying peoples trust and respect and it left a lot of mess for me to clean up (which I'm still doing). So one night I crawled into bed and opened up my Bible and prayed that God would lead me to find what I was supposed to read that night. He is so amazing in what he had shown me, and I was called to share it with you girls. I have the Bible that contains notes and commentary from Joyce Meyer its called "The Everyday Life Bible", if you don't have this Bible and you need a new one I would suggest getting it, it is so awesome. The passage I read that night was from Isiah 1-3.
"Cease to trust in [weak, frail and dying] man, whose breath is in his nostrils [for a short time]; in what sense can he be counted as having intrinsic worth?"  -Isiah 2:22
The part that hit me most came from Joyce's insight when she writes:

"In Isaiah 2:22 God asks, "Why are you putting your trust in frail people who are only alive for so short a time?" Then in the next verse, God says that he is removing from His people their props - the external things on which they depend, The reason? He wants people to trust Him.

What happens to us when our props are pulled out from under us? We discover what we are really leaning on, what we are really rooted and grounded in. Let me give you an example:

My husband and I play golf frequently . On the golf course are little twigs that will someday grow into trees. Those little plants have no strength or roots and they are so tiny and weak that usually, there are sticks set on either side of them as props to hold them up. Without those sticks to hold them up, the would be destroyed when the wind and rain come.
That is the way we are as new believers. When we begin our walk with God we need a prop system, something to help us stand up straight and strong. We need a group of people around us to keep us studying the Bible, praying, and seeking the Lord. If we do not have that support system, when the storms-of life come against us they will blow us over.
Our support system may take many forms, but whatever it is, sooner or later God is going to start taking it away by removing the props from under us. At first, this is pretty scary because we do not understand it, and we do not like it. Our props may be things from which we derive pleasure and satisfaction - things like singing, playing an instrument, being part of the worship team, or being a recognized leader or pastor in the ministry Then suddenly, for whatever reason, we lost that position or God requires us to give it up. It is then that we discover how much of our sense of value and worth depends on the things we are doing.
In order for us to grow, God sometimes has to strip away everything we put our security in - everything else but him. This is because He is a God of restoration. He restores our minds, our emotions, our souls and our health. When we start to restore a beautiful expensive piece of antique furniture we have to first strip away the old paint varnish before we apply a new finish. We have to sand it so the new application will stick. If you are going through that stripping process, don't be upset. Cooperate with God while He does the work.

Do not be like a twig thrashing about in the wind because its props have been taken away. Instead, put down some roots so that one day you can stand tall and steady and be a tree of righteousness And remember that whatever God takes away from you or requires you to give up, He will give you more than you previously had, and everything will be better than before."

Now I don't know about you, but I felt so convicted after I read this analogy. I asked myself a few things:

What was my support system? I didn't interpret this as being part of anything to do with the Church as Joyce suggests, however I know what my support system is and that is being a good friend and daughter, mother, sister and wife. Up to this point in my life, I had never had anything to threaten my relationship to people who I loved. I thrived on being a good and trustworthy friend, an honest wife and a loving and caring mother. The fact that I was often not home long enough to get involved in any gossip or get upset at the way people treated me or my family was a prop for me. There simply was not enough time to notice! I used this is as a prop to stand tall (or have the illusion that I was a strong Christian). However, being home for those 8 months changed my relationship with a lot of people I love the most.
Who was I when my props were taken away? I was the thrashing twig with no roots set down - I was a bad example of a girl who loves God. I had no control over my emotion, I never went to God or the Bible as to what I should do about the way I should deal with things, instead I acted on impulse and put more weight on how people viewed me. I was standing up for everyone else, except for God and I had no where to run to - no where to escape and resume my illusion of being a good Christian.
What has God taken away from me or required me to give up? Friendship. Respect. Trust.
Has God given me more than I previously had and are things better than before? Yes but slowly, I just began this change but I feel totally restored. My relationship with God has come first, and in turn my relationships with my friends family have started to flourish. I am setting down my roots and keeping my face directed towards heaven so that when God takes away my props the next time I will be standing tall and everyone around me will know what I am really leaning on, and that will be God.

Ask yourself today,
What is your support system or prop?
Who are you when the storms of life comes against you?
Do you lean on God and stand tall, or do you thrash around in the wind? 

If you are like me, and have set down roots in a desert land with no hope of growing, I suggest you hit your knees and ask God to restore you! You will begin to see changes in your life that are so evident you cant help but look up and give thanks!

 If you have a moment read Jeremiah 17:5-8

Written By: Becky Bayda

Sunday, February 26, 2012


As followers of Christ, we are called to serve the Lord with our lives. We all are capable of using our gifts in lots of different ways; whether it’s teaching Sunday school, leading on a worship team, or taking on the tasks of our everyday lives. As important as service is, I think many Christians put too much on their plate to accommodate their desire to serve, and they don’t put enough emphasis on their personal relationship with Jesus. We are called live our lives dedicated to HIM first, OTHERS second, and to put OURSELVES last. Do you do that in your life? Don’t be afraid to say no to new commitments when you already have too many. Intimacy with Jesus is crucial to have every day- and it is so easily ignored. I challenge you to have that mindset this week, and you will see fruit in your life as you experience this selflessness.

A great love is best shown by sacrifice. When was the last time you sacrificed something for your faith? When was the last time you chose to tell your coworker about Jesus, regardless of your fears of what they might think? When was the last time you gave money to a needy cause instead of buying those new shoes?

Malachi 3:10 says “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so that there will be food enough in my Temple; if you do, I will open up the windows of heaven for you and pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room enough to take it in!” God will bless you if you make sacrifices for Him. Sacrificing for Him makes much more sense than building up earthly things, knowing that at any moment He could take your life. Be aware of where your heart is this week: Remember to put intimacy with God first; service to others second; and your own conveniences last.

“Where your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Are you a Martha?

Luke 10:38-42

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her”.
My Martha Story
A few weeks ago I attended a staff wind-up party at a Bible camp I had been serving at all summer.  After a late supper, my friend Shalice and I decided we were going to bake a cake for one of the girls we worked with, whose birthday was approaching at midnight.  It was 9:00 pm and time was ticking. Not only did I tell my family that I would be back home to play board games with them around 10:00pm, but we only had half an hour before the ‘last’ campfire started. With haste, I scoured the pantry and found the ingredients needed. As the batter was being whipped up, I worked on the icing, and before we knew it, the cake was in the oven baking. The only dilemma was that the campfire was starting in less than five minutes, and the cake still had fifteen more minutes left on the timer.
I told Shalice that I would stay behind and come as soon as the cake was finished baking. I would only be ten minutes late, right? I paced back and forth in the empty kitchen, studying the hands on the clock, and watched the timer slowly turn its hand back to zero. “Buzzzzz” Finally! As soon as I took the cake off the rack, I could tell it was nowhere near done. There was only a thin crust layer over what looked like a pan full of chocolate pudding.  “AHHH”. I cranked up the heat to 350 and turned the timer on for ten more minutes.  As I sat there glaring at the clock that now read 9:50 pm, I got a sickening feeling in my gut that I was in the wrong place. As if on cue, that inner voice came up in my spirit saying “What’s more important Jaycee, being here alone in the kitchen baking the cake, or glorifying God by sitting around the campfire singing worship songs to Him?”
 I am being a Martha, aren’t I? The thought brought a silly smirk to my face, and my soul answered a resounding YES!  Earnestly, I shut off the oven letting the cake cook on its own, and sent a text to my husband telling him that I would be late for board games. I could sense the Holy Spirit resting on me as I walked onto the path that led me towards the soft rhythm of the acoustic guitar and what sounded like a choir of angels praising God. Goosebumps slid down my spine as I found my place around the fire and lifted my own voice towards heaven. My heart whispered a sincere thank you to God for revealing the misplacing of my priorities, and for shedding light on the truth about where I should have been at that moment. 
 Back to Martha and Mary’s house
Let’s picture this scenario for a second here. Martha rushes to the entrance of the village and invites Jesus and his disciples into her and her sister Mary’s home.  As she leads them to her home, her heart begins to race thinking about all the preparations that need to be done. Once in the door, Martha quickly rushes off to the kitchen and anxiously starts preparing dinner. With a detailed list of TO DO’s and a houseful of guests she starts to panic Where is Mary?  I could really use her help in here.  Walking towards the kitchen door, she sees her sister sitting beside Jesus’ feet listening to him speak with the rest of his disciples. Martha’s feelings of injustice start to flare up as she shoots glares across the room at her sister. How dare she just leave me in here to do all of this work on my own? A few more minutes pass by of kneading dough until Martha couldn’t take it anymore. Instead of just reaming her sister out, she wanted vindication from the Rabbi himself. I will tell Jesus to tell her to get her lazy little bottom in here and help me. He of all people should understand how unfair this situation is.
But to her surprise, Jesus sides with Mary. Why?  Wasn’t Martha being a blessing to Jesus and his disciples by preparing a special supper for them? Yes. Wasn’t Martha using her gift of hospitality? Yes. So why did Jesus side with Mary, who’s home that was also?
 “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her” - Jesus
The word better, in Greek translation is portion. This is also the same word used for describing food in the Greek language.  By sitting at the foot of Jesus, listening and swallowing each of his words, Mary is choosing the right portion, which is feeding  the hunger in her soul. In fact, she is no longer worried about house chores or dinner preparations because her physical hunger has been replaced by fullness in her spirit by soaking in the words of Jesus. Mary understood that spending time with Jesus and studying the bible was more important than preparing an extravagant meal for him. She chose the right portion.
“A few things are needed- indeed only one” - Jesus
Martha on the other hand, was distracted by all that had to be done in order for her to be a proper host. Naturally, she thought that it was of top priority to prepare a special meal for her guests. I mean after all that is why they accepted the invite, right?  Wrong! Martha missed the intention of Jesus’ stay in their home.  Jesus was more interested in fellowship with Martha and Mary than he was about being catered to by them. Instead of first fellowshipping with Jesus, Martha busied herself with her To Do list, and missed out on the peace that comes from spending time with Jesus. If Martha only knew that relationship is more important to Jesus, than serving him, she would have never placed one before the other. Can you imagine if Martha would have just spent a half an hour at Jesus’ feet, listening to him, asking questions, and getting to know him? I bet that she would have been filled to the brim with his peace and would have received his blessing to prepare dinner. I mean, the story would have changed completely.  Can’t you just see Martha in the kitchen humming to herself with a huge smile on her face as she reflects on the words spoken to her by Jesus? In fact, she would be so filled with joy that her service would be efficient enough to not feel the need to ask for Mary’s help. I imagine that after Martha finished setting the food out on the table, she would quietly take her seat beside her sister Mary, and consciously decide that spending time with Jesus is far more important than the other household chores at the moment.

 Not every decision we make is based on Good vs. Evil. Jesus did not rebuke Martha when she came to him complaining, he gently spoke to her about what was more important in that moment. Although she was doing something to be a blessing to Jesus, he wanted her to know that spending time with him is the better choice. Relationship vs. Service. Similarly, in my experience, choosing to bake a cake for my friend was an act of love, but by choosing to bake it during campfire is where I had misplaced my priorities. I had put my To do list before building relationship with God through worship.
We make thousands of decisions every day. How can we be sure that we are putting our priorities in the right place? It’s simple, put Jesus first. When we do this, we make better decisions because we are relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us instead of habitually responding to our flesh. When we do not put our relationship with Jesus first, we tend to walk around with an attitude like Martha; anxious, worried and stressed out about all that needs to be done. Enter into the peace today that comes from putting your relationship with Jesus top priority in your life. Remember in Jesus’ heart, relationship with him always takes the cake, before serving him.  
“ I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding for I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return” -Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Emily's Story of Motherhood

I think that all my life I wanted to be a mother. Of course, for a long time I knew that I wasn’t ready. But one day, my thoughts when hearing a friend was pregnant changed from “I’m so happy for her, but I’m glad it isn’t me!” to “I’m so happy for her, but I wish it was me too”. And now I am a mother, and I couldn’t feel more blessed. It has been a life changing experience. There has been a lot of good, and a little bad (think sleepless nights, cleaning up barf, and WAY less time to yourself!) But I wouldn’t change a moment of it. I feel so blessed to have been given the chance to have a baby, and I’m looking forward to our family’s future.
In preparing this, Jaycee and I talked about several themes to discuss—but there are two important points that stick out in my mind that I want to briefly discuss:
God’s unconditional love for us, and the example this sets:
“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8:39

God teaches us many incredible lessons each and every day, but one that is very close to my heart is God’s unconditional love for his children. If an all perfect God can love us, despite our many, many faults, we should always love our children, regardless of their behavior. God has provided us with this profound example. Of course, God doesn’t love our sins, and similarly, we do not have to love acts and behaviors of our children which are wrong. However, “love the sinner, hate the sin”.  I grew up in a household where I knew that my parents loved me no matter what, and there was nothing I could do to change that. I can’t tell you how important that was to me, especially as I made mistakes, and disappointed my parents many times over the years. Their love gave me confidence and made me feel so secure. I feel the same way in God’s hands. No matter how many times I fall and falter, He will be there to catch me, and he will love me as I continue to try to live up to the potential He has graciously placed in me. As we all live in our attempt to be Christ-like, and as we fail each and every day, we know that we are in God’s hands, and he loves us regardless. This is such an amazing feeling, and I want to emulate this, in some small way, with my children.

Creation is a miracle of God
 “Everything under heaven belongs to me.” - Job 41: 11
Although I was a Christian well before conceiving my daughter, Ruby, the experience of becoming a mother (what a gift from God!) grew my faith so deeply. Shortly after her birth, I looked at my husband as our sweet new baby lay in my arms, and said to him “After having baby, how can you NOT believe in God?” Is there any greater miracle than the ability to carry a human life for 9 months, and then have the great honor of raising him or her to love God and be a good person? Anyone who has a child, whether biological or adopted, knows this feeling.  I feel so blessed, and hope that I can raise my sweet girl to be a loving, kind, caring, empathetic woman, who knows and loves God. As we live our day to day life, I think it can be hard to remember that God is all around us. With the birth of a baby, He reminds us of his work and his grace. The miracle of creation has taught me such a lesson about the infinite number of ways that God works and touches our lives. And loving my baby as much as I do, the incredible sacrifice that God made, giving his only Son to the world makes me realize what a profound gift that was. Of course, it always seemed amazing, but now it is beyond belief.
In closing, I wanted to leave you with a couple of quotes, by one of my favorite authors—C.S. Lewis. If you haven’t read any of his books, I would suggest it. Two of my favorites are “Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters”.
 "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." — C.S. Lewis
"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." — C.S. Lewis

- Emily

Monday, August 15, 2011

8 Things You Should Know About Loving Your Enemy

1.    Forgive them

     Before you attempt to love your enemy, you need to forgive them in your heart for what they have done to you. When Jesus was on the cross looking at his ‘enemies’ casting lots over his clothes, he prayed “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” Matthew 6:12. Have you forgiven your enemy? The easiest way to know if you have actually forgiven someone is to monitor your mind and your mouth. If you are constantly thinking or talking (gossiping) about the thing(s) they did to hurt you in the past, then more than likely you have not forgiven that person yet. If Satan can get you to talk, and even meditate on past offences, I can guarantee you are going to have a much harder time loving that person the next time you see them.  The Bible says love takes no account to the evil done to it, so stop keeping track of all the mean things people have done to you and taking every opportunity to talk negatively about them with your friends. Remember, when you forgive someone you are releasing a prisoner, and then you will realize, the prisoner you set free was yourself. To forgive is to love.

2.    Jesus said Love, not Like

     There has been a study that has shown that 10% of people who ever meet you will not like you, and vice versa. I can admit to this. I mean, some people I just don’t generally click-with. They have different personalities and character traits that just seem to clash with mine. I think every woman can admit to the fact that we aren’t going to be fond of everyone we meet. That’s fine, Jesus never said we have to like everybody. What he did say, is that we are to love everybody as we love ourselves, including our neighbor and our enemy. Does that mean that we have to feel affection towards them? Call them up to see if they want to hang out? No, loving your enemy simply means that we treat them the same as we would with someone we like. We must be kind and respectful towards them, putting their needs before ours. Not treating them badly to their face, behind their back, or in our thought life. It means we focus on the good qualities of that person, instead of the negative. It means that we keep our mouth shut and resist the temptation to tell others how much we dislike the person, and all the reasons why we dislike them. Instead, we should be asking God to show us how to love this person better. We should be writing down and meditating on every good quality that person has. Once you put those loving thoughts in your mind, they will seep into your heart and eventually those thoughts will come out of your mouth. The Bible says “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). So if you can begin speaking nicely about this person, eventually your attitude towards that person will be sincere in love. We love our enemy with our thoughts, our words and our actions.

3.    The Lord is your vindicator.
     As I mentioned earlier it is our natural instinct as flawed human beings to want to retaliate against the person who has wronged us. In my previous post, I shared my struggle to overcome the countless temptations to get even with my enemy in the midst of her verbal spats. Although I resisted the temptation to fight fire with fire to her face, behind her back I took vengeance into my own hands…or rather in my own words. Here is a little recap of the aftermath; Somehow I knew that in my heart, I made things worse for myself by gossiping about her. Not only did I feel less peaceful, but I sensed the Holy Spirit convicting me of my personal vendetta to get even with Jennifer and how this had replaced the trust I had in God to justify my case.” Talking badly about our enemy is the number one way that we feel justified for vindicating ourselves. However, the Bible says countless times that we are to not curse our enemies, but rather bless them (Lev 19:16) and that holding a grudge and gossiping about them will make us less peaceful (James 3:8). We need to be like David, when he found himself at yet another standoff with King Saul, who had been trying to kill him for years. Moments after he spares Saul’s life for the second time, David says to Saul;

   'I will not do harm to my Lord, for he is the Lord's anointed king.' See, my king, see the skirt of your robe. I cut it off to show you that I would do you no harm, though you are hunting after me to kill me. May the Lord judge between you and me, and may the Lord do justice for me upon you; but my hand shall not touch you." 1 Sam 24:12-15

If David would have stored up bitterness and anger in his heart towards Saul, there is no doubt that he would have probably given into the temptation to attack Saul. Instead, David surrenders all his worries unto the Lord and trusts that God will plead his case and judge Saul according to the evil he has done towards him. Some of you reading this desperately need to start trusting God to settle your cases, instead of being the judge of everyone around you, and every war you find yourself in. We need to stop taking vengeance by talking negatively and ruining the reputations of our enemies. It doesn’t matter which way we go about attacking our enemy, we will never be justified or have a clean conscience unless we do what David did and allow God to be our vindicator. One of my favorite scriptures to rehearse (in my mind) around my enemy are the words David spoke the day he spared Saul’s life:
 “May the Lord Judge between you and me, for my hand will not strike you, my mouth will not curse you and my thoughts will not think evil of you. God is my vindicator” 1 Sam 24:15 (emphasis mine).
When we put our faith in God to vindicate us, we are trusting that He is a better justice maker than we are. This opens the door for Him to come in and settle our cases, but when we put our trust in ourselves and retaliate, we close that door on God.
4.    It is not easy

     After Jesus gave us this radical commandment to love our enemy he says, “What reward will you get by loving those who love you….and by greeting your own people? What are you doing more than others?” Matt 5:46-48. What he is pointing out is that loving people who love us in return, is easy. Moreover, Jesus is saying that loving your enemy is a challenge. You see, as flawed human beings, it is our natural response to want to get even, fight fire with fire, and withdraw our love from those who mistreat us. In my personal experience it was not easy to think loving thoughts about my enemy, let alone sincerely pray and look for opportunities to bless her. However, I can say, that as we crucify our own flesh, and look to the Holy Spirit for guidance, it gets easier and easier to love those, who are hard to love.

5.    Trust Gods Timing and His Will-
     "God has made everything beautiful in its own timing” Ecclesiastes 3:11. If you are expecting to change your enemy into a better person by loving them, chances are that you will exhaust yourself trying, like I did. One day after a failed attempt to get an enemy of mine to be nice to me, I broke down to my husband saying “I just don’t get it, the Bible says that we overcome evil with good, but I haven’t really seen a breakthrough in her life. It almost seems as if she hasn’t been affected at all by my light”. Then Andrew said something that spoke volumes to my heart, “Jaycee, God said that we overcome evil with good, he said the light would flood the darkness, but he didn’t give you a timeframe. We don’t know or understand Gods timing, but you need to trust that his timing is right”. If you are waiting on God to convict someone of their bad behavior, you need to sit tight and trust that everything will work out on Gods watch, not yours. In the meantime, the Bible says to “Pray for those who persecute you and continually use you (1 Thessalonians 5: 17-18). The bible wouldn’t tell us to pray for our enemy if it didn’t generate some sort of change within them. The reason we are called to pray for our enemies is because there is power in prayer. The Bible also says that there is power when two or more people are gathered together in prayer. So why not get in agreement with one of your Christian friends and ask them to pray with you about your enemy. Have faith in God.

6.    God is testing you

     Try to remind yourself that everything happens for a reason. “What Satan meant for evil, God will turn out for good” (Genesis 50:20). One of the Devil’s goals is to cause conflict and destroy relationships between people, and if he can get you to hate someone, then he thinks he has won. Don’t let him win!!!Try to remind yourself that God is not only seeking to change your enemy into a better person, but He has allowed this person to come onto your path to produce some sort of fruit in your life. Maybe it is to teach you humility, patience, kindness or to work on your love walk. God will not allow you to be tested with more than you can handle, so remember that God is with you, watching you and rooting for you to pass this test.  As it is written “we are all, being transformed into His image, from glory to glory” 2 Corinthians 3:18.   So praise God knowing that He is offering you an opportunity to grow from who you are now, into someone better. With each temptation you overcome, your character is changing from glory to glory, so that you may reflect to love of Christ, and be made perfect in His love.

7.Humble yourself and acknowledge your wrongs 

The Bible says “clothe yourself with humility towards one another for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” 1 peter 5:5. If there is conflict going on between you and your enemy, why not be the first one to say sorry. God will give you grace, and the Bible says all peacemakers will be blessed. In some circumstances, it can be really challenging to humble yourself before the person who has really hurt you. In my previous post, I share my very first humbling experience in the midst of the wrath of my enemy.  As soon as I made the decision not to retaliate, I was able to humbly acknowledge my wrongs, and sincerely apologize for hurting her feelings. I can tell you the honest to God truth, clothing yourself in humility towards your enemy is one of the most rewarding things you can do, especially in the midst of their wrath. I received Gods peace, grace, and a clear conscience as I walked away, knowing that I had been obedient to the Word of God. Obtaining a humble attitude in this situation, means honestly answering the following question: Have I done anything to hurt my enemy? If you can’t think of any on your own, ask God to reveal to you the way(s) you have wronged your enemy. The Bible says that you are to humble yourself before God, but it also says that if your “brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”(Matt 5:24).  So be the bigger person, get off your high horse, eat a big slice of humble pie, acknowledge your wrongs, apologize to your enemy and be BLESSED!

8. If you have the opportunity to Bless your Enemy, DO IT!!

 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” Romans 12:21 Not only does the bible say that blessing your enemy will bring them to shame, but it says that God will reward you with a blessing (Proverbs 25:21,22). It is really difficult for your enemy to continue mistreating you, if you show them that it doesn’t bother you. They will be confused, almost annoyed that their bad behavior isn’t rubbing off on you because what they really want is for you to sink down to the same level as they are. When you bless them, in any way, even by just saying hello and treating them the same as everyone else, it brings shame upon them. They Bible puts it like this “for by doing this, you will heap burning coals on their head” Rom 20:21. What this represented, back in those days, was heaping shame upon that person. As you may have read in my previous post, I had an opportunity to bless my enemy. Although she may not see it as a blessing, I was able to give something away in order for her needs to be put before mine. This has resulted in an abundant amount of blessings in my life and I am so thankful that I obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to Bless my enemy. “Do not return evil for evil, but on the contrary, blessings. Knowing that you were called to inherit a blessing” 1 Peter 3:9. Why not ask God today if there is anything you can do to bless your enemy. Maybe you can say hello, start a conversation, bring them a coffee, or offer a sincere compliment. If you ask the Holy Spirit, he will give you some pretty radical ideas, I’m sure of it.  All that is left to do is to Rejoice! Rejoice in the fact that we have been called to inherit the blessing that comes with loving and blessing our enemies.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jehovah Jireh: God is my Provider

A few years ago I took a 4 month trip to Asia, with my boyfriend (now husband) Andrew. It was during this time that I began my journey towards seeking God with all of my heart. Although I had spent three months devouring the Bible, talking with God and listening to sermons on my Ipod during the long bus rides, the last month I sensed my heart communicating to me that something was missing. Although Andrew was a good listener, I had this unquenchable thirst for fellowship with other believers, who were as excited about God as I was. I wanted to be encouraged, mentored and inspired face to face with someone who was also unashamed of their faith in Christ. I wanted to be friends with someone who had zeal for God, a sister in Christ, who I could relate to, look up to, and to encourage me. However, given my circumstances, finding a English speaking friend in the non- touristy city of Cebu (Philippines) seemed impossible. After a few days of searching for this mystery friend on my own, I made my request known to God and trusted that if it was meant to be, then he would make it happen.
 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”- Philippians 4:6
 A few days later, an unexpected, yet divine intervention took place outside of the mall in downtown Cebu. Andrew literally bumped into the lady whom the Lord intended for us to meet. We shook hands with her and her son and couldn’t help but to be drawn to her charismatic friendly personality. She was one of those people who seem to be glowing with warmth, who you immediately feel drawn towards because you sense that they genuinely care about what you have to say. Her name was Ivy, and it didn’t take more than a few minutes for me to recognize that she was a woman of great faith in Christ. If anyone obeyed the command of Jesus, to ‘be the light’ in this world, she wore it best. A few times she said to us ‘Oh that is such a blessing of the Lord’ and ‘God Bless you two’. I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to ask her if she could show me where a good English speaking church is. I am so happy that I did because one thing led to another and before our conversation was over, we exchanged email’s and planned on meeting up the following week. As we walked away from one another, I knew that this woman was the answer to my prayers. A week later she invited me to her place to have dinner with her friend Sara and their pastor. The evening was filled with thanksgiving, praise, laughter and prayer. As I was getting ready to leave they encouraged me on my journey of faith, and prayed over me. A few days later her friend Sara took Andrew and I to her church and then later on we met up with Ivy for lunch and coffee. Before we parted ways, they prayed over us, and gave me a set of earrings and a bracelet to remember them by.
 I was so humbled, not because of the gifts they gave me, but because of the love that they showed to a perfect stranger in a foreign land. These women were truly a gift from God and they will forever be spiritual mentors in my life. I knew in my heart that the author of the universe had planned this meeting all along, to give me the desires of my heart, to be encouraged by other believers and ultimately to build my faith in Him. Praise God!

“Trust the Lord with all of your heart….” Proverbs (3:5)
Trusting God with even the littlest of things, like paying off debts, finding the right job, or meeting the right man in your life, can sometimes be difficult for us. I believe this is because, in today’s society we are trained to trust only in ourselves to obtain our wants and needs. However, this concept is contrary to the word of God. We are told not to trust in our self, but in everything we do, to put God first (Prov 3:6). Putting God first means that as soon as you come across temptation, trials, testing’s, or if you have a need or a deep desire, you will turn to God and ask for his help and rely on his divine council to break the barriers and receive his blessing. I can’t help but to wonder if I would have ever met Ivy if I didn’t first turn to God, make my request known to him, and trust that God would make it happen.

“…And lean not on your own understanding” – Proverbs (3:6 NIV)

 I love how God cautions us from ‘trying to figure it all out’ on our own. When our earthly minds try to come up with our own solutions, we limit the amount of faith in what we believe God can do in our situation. We tell our friends and family “I am just trusting God with so and so” yet we still continue to verbally map out our directions for Him, just in case the Creator doesn’t know how to meet our needs or solve our problems the way we would like. Hello!! This is not trusting God with all of our heart. In order to fully trust that God will provide, we need to humble ourselves, and admit that God’s plan for our life, is better than any plan we could ever think-up on our own. So even though God says ‘make your requests known Him”, we are commanded to immediately surrender our earthly ‘solutions’ of deliverance, and have faith that the all knowing God will take care of your every need according to His riches and glory (Phill 4:19). When I was in the non touristy part of the Philippines, I couldn’t  imagine how the desire of mine, to meet another female Christian believer, would ever be met. However, I knew that God keeps tabs on every one of his Children, and as soon as I rejected my ‘own understanding’ of how this request would be granted, God put this specific person smack dab in the middle of my path so that I couldn’t miss her, even if I was blind. Isn’t that amazing?. God is the author of this universe, he has tabs on you and I every second of our life.  I mean how cool is it, that God can just cross two peoples paths, to meet a need, to increase our faith and bring Him so much glory.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”  Matt 7:11
Did you know the Bible says that one of the names God goes by is Jehovah Jireh. The Hebrew translation for this means God will provide. I Love this. We think that we know how to give good gifts to those we love, but God declares that he knows how to give us better gifts than our earthly parents, if we would only ask him. I’m not going to say that if you ask God for a million bucks that the next day you’re going to get a cheque in the mail, but what I am saying is that, if what you ask for is in line with the will of God, and His will for your life, you can have it. God knows what you need before you ask him, but He still says, to come to him with your requests and supplications and with thanksgiving he will give us the desires of our heart. God is your provider. I dare you to trust God with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding with whatever it is, that you need or desire. Ask, Believe, give Thanks, and Receive.

Praise God for the gift of friendship.  Ivy is one of the members of IWOF and I am so thankful that God has placed her in my life. She was one of the first women who inspired me to be a great woman of faith and our friendship will always be a reminder of Gods faithfulness to the promise He gives us in Proverbs 3:5-6.  Praise God!

What desire or need do you have that you have not yet submitted to the Lord? Are you trusting God with all of your heart or do you tend  trust in your own understanding?  Do you have faith that God alone can provide for your every need? What changes will you need to make, in order to trust God with all of your heart?

Monday, May 16, 2011

"It is time to seek the Lord" Hosea 10:12

I was thinking about when I first heard the phrase “God loves you”. Almost simultaneously, I was taken back to the earliest memories I had from church when I was 5 or 6 years old. I remembered feeling restless having to sit in the uncomfortable wooden pews, and listen to the angry preacher, who I thought resembled a taller version of my father. My eyes would often drift off the pulpit to the women who were, only minutes before, shouting and dancing like buffoons. I didn’t understand how they could, all of a sudden, be so calm and attentive.  Maybe it was because the preacher man was yelling at them. When my mother leaned over and whispered in my ear, I sat up straight, expecting that my fidgeting was distracting the others. “Do you know who God is?” she asked. To my childlike mind, this rang a bell and I was reminded of the “Where’s Waldo?” book. This indeed was a trick question. When my eyes tapered around the room, a sense of relief swept over my body as I located the man she was looking for in a matter of seconds. With poise I responded “Yes”. Just as fast as the word slipped off my tongue I pointed to the pastor who looked like my dad. “No” she said unsympathetically as she pushed my hand down. Shock had now replaced the pride I had felt seconds before. He wasn’t God? Then why are we here? Who is this man? And who is God? I asked myself.
 Reflecting on this memory makes me laugh at how na├»ve I was. It also paints a perfect picture of how many people, even new believers, still do not have a clear understanding of who God is. I am not saying that in our earthly minds, we can understand the complexity of God -just like the cornflakes I ate for breakfast can’t comprehend the totality of me. However, I believe our many attempts to understand God with our ‘head’ have only cheapened him. I can testify that for many years to follow, and many half hearted attempts, I continued to have a blurred vision of the character of God. Naturally, it was easier to believe in a man I could visibly see, to be God, than the reality that there is this invisible God, who required me to have ‘faith’ of his existence. Not only that, I would have to believe that he wanted a relationship with me through his Son Jesus. To be completely honest, it seemed less humiliating to think the pastor of my church was God when I was five, than to admit to myself that I still didn’t possess this intimate ‘relationship’ with Him, 15 years later.
There came a time in my life where I wanted to know why I believed what I did. I no longer wanted to take the preachers word for it. I was tired of hearing about the relationship that other people had with our Creator. I wanted to experience this so-called relationship, if it existed, on my own. I wanted to know him intimately, instead of knowing Him by association. I was tired of being spoon fed by others, (preachers, my parents, authors, blogsJ) It was time for me to take off my spiritual diapers and grow up. It was my time to find out for myself, who is God, and if this intimate relationship with Him exists.
“And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart”  Jeremiah 29:13
When I made the decision to re-dedicate my life to Jesus (for the third time), I also made a commitment to seek God with all of my heart. I brought my handheld leather Bible with me on my four month trip to Asia, and devoted a portion of everyday to read it, starting from Genesis. At first, I viewed reading the small print as an assignment but not before long, finding time to read my Bible became my number one priority. I soon found myself skipping out on days at the beach, to find a comfy chair in a coffee shop, and discover the heart of my creator. I started to pen my thoughts, feelings, the verses that I liked, didn’t like, and the ones that I did not understand in my journal.  Then, to my surprise I began to notice something radical happening on the inside, on the level of my heart. It was like, all of a sudden the words of God were no longer floating around in my mind, but were unlocking the chambers of my heart, and filling it with a divine sense of wisdom. I started to feel him inside of me, I could see Him at work around me, and each day I would hear him speak to me through that inner voice. I can honestly say that my walk with God started to resemble the romantic feelings a couple gets at the beginning of a relationship. As I spent time with him, talking and listening, the butterflies, goose-bumps, and sheer excitement would flow through my body like a title wave of love. Like the highlight of most relationships, I was in cloud nine when He said that he loved me. The phrase God loves me, was no longer a head-truth, rather, it became a truth which pierced my heart to the point where nothing or nobody could ever convince me otherwise. I got to hear it and feel it from my Creator as He whispered it to my heart day after day and I was swept off my feet every single time. From this moment forward, I would never doubt or contradict the fact that God desires to woo me with his Love. And, for the first time in my life, I could honestly say that I loved him too.

“Ask and it shall be give to you, seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened” Matthew 7:7
One morning, in Bali, I took a stroll down the white sandy beach just thanking God for everything that he had blessed me with. I knew He was listening to me, but for the past few days his presence seemed far away. As I dipped my feet into the ocean, I took a leap of faith, and asked Him to reveal himself to me. I said that it didn’t have to be right now, but if he so desired, to please send a reminder of His love for me. Later on in the evening, I went to the local coffee shop to read and write and it just so happened that while I was sitting there, my wish had been granted. God revealed himself to me through a song, the only song in the entire world that could have confirmed that His finger print was on it. As the sweet symphony echoed through all four speakers of the coffee shop, I was dumbfounded. This was OUR song. What I mean is that, this was the song I had dedicated to the Lord only months before. It wasn’t gospel, or popular, most people wouldn’t recognize it if they heard it, but every time I would play this song on my iPod, I would sing it to God, as though I had written the love lyrics myself.  I would have never in a million years, thought that I would hear this song in Asia and I knew better than to brush it off as a coincidence. This was God. The God-Bumps, hair-raising and warmth, swept over my body until I couldn’t contain my emotions. I unashamedly let tears of joy stream down my face as feelings of gratitude poured out of my heart. In response to my seeking heart, the Creator of the universe was expressing His inexhaustible love for me. As I sat there in awe, I sensed Him saying that he has longed for me to experience His love, and that he takes delight in giving me gifts like these.
 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” John 4:15
My whole life I struggled with obeying the word of God. I always justified why my sins were harmless and argued that they weren’t hurting anyone. When I would pray, I always felt like I was going to God with my fingers crossed, knowing very well that the next day I intended to commit the exact same sins again. You see, I viewed God as this angry person, similar to the preacher back in my childhood church days. Even though I heard so many times growing up, “God loves you, He gave up his only son for you, so that you wouldn’t have to perish”. I didn’t feel it, this notion, failed to stir up my heart. As I got older, I was always on the fence about following Christ. I knew deep down that a relationship with God, a real relationship, carries responsibility. I didn’t want to have a close walk with God, because I knew that a part of me, a very large part of me wanted to hold onto the very things that were driving a wedge between me and Him. My sin.
 If you don’t love somebody, it gets annoying when they tell you what to do or what to feel. When you love them, you get pleasure from their pleasure and it makes it easy to serve them. I didn’t love God because I didn’t know God” -   Donald Miller
 For many years of my life, God seemed like an irrelevant distant being to me. Like the quote above says, I didn’t love God because I didn’t know God. I didn’t ever take the time to know God, therefore I didn’t have a deep love for him, which is why I didn’t think my sins mattered in the big scheme of things. I believed the lie, in thinking, that God and I were as close as we were ever going to be, so why should I go the extra mile, and turn away from my sins. However, as soon as I set out on this mission to seek God with my whole heart, He was faithful to fulfill the second half of the Jeremiah 29:13. He revealed himself to me. The truth about His love changed the way I viewed Him and his commandments. One of the biggest revelations for me, was when I learned that when I choose to sin, I hurt God. I realized that He is hurt because the sin itself is hurting me. That is how deep the love of God runs for you and I. Let that sink in for just a second. When you sin, you are hurting God.
Do you love God? Or do you Love what God does for you?
For some people, the scripture above that says “If you love God, you will keep his commandments” is a hard pill to swallow. For many years, I choked on saying the very words I love you, to God, because I knew my actions proved otherwise. It is easy to openly say that we love what God did for us, ( Jesus dying on the cross)  just as easily as it is to say that we love what the cleaning lady does for our house every Monday. But we choke when it comes down to expressing those three words to God because we know that our actions speak louder than our words. Not only that, but how can we claim to love God if we don’t take the time to get to know him? Deep love for another person means you do not continue to do the very things that hurt them, but the exact opposite. But when we don’t have a deep desire to know God then you are missing out on the best part of following Christ, an intimate relationship, and the blessings that come with giving Him you’re very best.
 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”                             - Mark 29:11
The reason why it is so hard for some of us to obey the main commandment is because we haven’t made the commitment to getting to know God, to seek Him, with all of our heart. We think that this distance between us and God, is the way it is supposed to be. But its not. We were not made to do life alone without God, that’s what sin is, doing life on our own, without Him. Let’s take a look at some of the common misconceptions we have when it comes to building intimate relationships.

*It is impossible to deeply love somebody who you haven’t taken the time to get to know. I bet some of us have taken more interest in reading gossip mag’s to learn about the lives of celebrities rather than reading the Bible and learning about our Creator. The Bible is a giant love letter inspired by God himself, written for you and I.  
*How can we claim to have an intimate relationship with someone, but only really know them by association? If my friend was related to Julia Roberts, how stupid would it be if I used all of my friend’s stories as my own, and pretended that Julia and I were friends but I had never actually had a conversation with her before? Going to Church every Sunday, reading Christian books, and blogs may inspire us, but you can’t claim to have an intimate relationship with God simply by using other peoples experiences as your own. God is longing for you to experience his love and  taste the living water for yourself.
 *You can’t have a healthy relationship with someone, if you don’t allow the other person to have a chance to speak. Imagine if every time I invited you over for coffee, I would never let you get a word out, and every time that you tried to speak, I would cut you off and talk about myself again. There are two people involved in every relationship. God is waiting for you to pass the microphone to Him.  
 *You can’t claim to be friends with someone just by reading a book about them. I couldn’t claim to know Suzanne Summers personally just because I read a Bibliography about her. Reading the Bible alone will not make you closer to God. Many theologians have read the Bible and still came out unmoved. God wants you to know about him through the Bible, but he desires real conversation from both ends as well.
 You will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul”-  Deut 4:29
 I can honestly say that if I did not set out to seek God with all of my heart I would not be writing these words today. I would have still been the same half-hearted, lukewarm, unstable Christian, sitting on the fence counting the costs of following Christ with reckless abandon.  I am so thankful that I put Gods word to the test, because He is faithful to his promises. He did reveal himself to me. I no longer have to read the testimonies of other women and feel left out, or wish I had the same relationship as them. Getting to know the author of this Universe, and inevitably falling in love with him, has changed my life completely. And I am thrilled to declare that I have my own authentic relationship with Him.  

 “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after Him”- Psalm 53:2
Ladies, I don’t write this to you to brag about this ‘love relationship’ that I have with God. I do not put it on display as an example of how your relationship with God should be. But I tell you of this journey of mine to give hope to those of you who have not yet experienced the love of God. I encourage those of you who have not already, to make a commitment today, to seek God with all of your heart and soul. God is looking down from heaven, as I write this, into your heart, to see if any of you desire a relationship with him.  Let that sink in, God desperately wants to have a deep, authentic, intimate relationship with you. He wants you to know about him, He wants you to talk to him and He wants you to listen so that he can talk to you. God is just waiting for you to give him the opportunity to woo you, to sweep you off your feet and to express his immeasurable love for you. As with any, there is no short-cuts to building a intimate relationship with God and I can’t write out some special formula to guarantee that you are seeking him with all your heart. But what I can tell you is that God sees your heart, he knows exactly the amount of effort you putting into your relationship with him. Let’s put it this way, if you’re currently only giving God the last two minutes of your day before you fall asleep, mid-prayer, you can expect that your relationship won’t grow. God isn’t just some genie in a bottle who we rub when we want things; He made himself flesh (Jesus) so that He could walk with you and I, every moment of our lives.
As a result of reading this, I hope that you believe that God desperately wants a deeper relationship with you. His words are not spoken in vain, my friends, He will honor his word, and will reveal himself to you. So get excited, make the decision today, and seek God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.
“When you will call upon me and come and pray to me I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13