29 April 2010

cling to the sword!


‘And after him was Eleazar … one of the three mighty men with David … He [Eleazar] arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil.’ II Samuel 23:9-10 (KJV)

What an image!

This mighty man of valor fought so hard and long that his hand ‘clave unto the sword’. The word for clave in the Hebrew is ‘dabaq’ which means: to cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick to, stick with, follow closely, join to…

He was so determined in his fight against the enemy that his hand clung to the sword. It stuck to and with the sword. It stayed close to the sword. It cleaved unto the sword. His hand kept close to the sword. His hand followed closely and joined to the sword.

‘And the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil.’

Because he remained focused, diligent and persistent – because he clung to the sword – the LORD brought about a tremendous victory. And the only thing left to do when it was all over was to collect the spoils from the enemy.

•Do you need tools to fight the battle you are in?
•Do you have a desire to annihilate the enemy?
•Do need a TODAY victory where you can take back all enemy has stolen from you and others?

DO WHAT ELEAZER DID … CLING TO THE SWORD!

Ephesians 6:13-18 tells us to put on the full armor of God when going into battle. But I especially like verse seventeen which tells us, ‘take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’.
• As I stick to (and with) the sword, it enables me to cut down the enemies which have surrounded me
• As I embrace the truth of God’s Word and apply it to my life, I am equipped for an unrelenting battle
• I am empowered as I keep my hand close to the ‘sword, which is the word’ – as I allow it to direct the works of my hands, my actions
• When I am joined to and follow closely the Word of God, which is the sword of God, I have everything I need

The victory is sure if I will but cling to the sword of God, to the Word of God!

Understand, however, that dogged determination is not enough…

My determination must be accompanied by His sword, by His Word, by His Spirit.

This is the word of the LORD: ‘It is not by force nor by strength, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ Zechariah 4:6 (NLT)

CLING TO GOD’S SWORD – CLING TO HIS WORD
DESTROY THE ENEMY … WIN THE BATTLE … COLLECT THE SPOILS!

27 April 2010

'I Do' ... Do I Have to Stop Dating?


Sounds like a ridiculous question doesn’t it? Who would ask such a thing? And if they had the audacity to make such an incredulous and insensitive inquiry, one would wonder why they would say ‘I do’ in the first place.

Imagine the scene …

It’s the big day. She has dreamed of this moment since the day she got her first doll-baby. He is so proud, and still a little dumbfounded, that she actually said ‘yes’. Everything was perfect. The lighting, flowers and music in the sanctuary were, well, heavenly. The reception, nothing like it! The d├ęcor, the food, the music, the dancing and, of course, the beautiful cake – it was like something out of a fairytale. All of the guests remarked that they were not sure they’d ever seen two people so in love.

They boarded the plane, reached their destination and entered the honeymoon suite. Naturally, he carried her across the threshold. Finally! The night they had waited for – and what a night it was. Yet, in the days (weeks and months) that followed, there was one pressing question. ‘I know I said, 'I do' but does that mean I have to stop dating?’

WHAT???!!!!

Now, to avoid the risk of offending my male or female readers, I won’t say who posed the question. It really doesn’t matter anyway. The real issue is how someone could do such a thing to someone they loved.
-- A pledge to love forever …
-- An agreement to be separate by nothing but death …
-- A gift, so precious and intimate - unmatched in value and unable to be returned or exchanged…

Unspeakable! How, after experiencing such a wonder, could one want to return to their old life? And not just return, but to actively engage in both lifestyles and expect their spouse to humbly accept such behavior.

Sounds like a crazy situation, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, it is a true story – very sad, but true.
Some details may have been altered to protect certain parties.

‘They honored and worshiped God, but not exclusively ...They honored and worshiped God, but they also kept up their devotions to the old gods of the places they had come from.’ II Kings 17:33 (MSG)

This verse caught my attention as I tried to read yesterday and I couldn’t shake it off. It was a story thousands of years old. However, I can tell you that I know many people who are experiencing this very situation today – in their relationships with people and their relationship with God. Yet, if we can ever get the heavenly/spiritual relationship right the earthly relationships will follow suit.

When I read the verse in II Kings, I immediately questioned how someone could fear, revere and even worship the LORD AND serve other gods. I just could not get my mind around it. However, I knew it must be possible since He put it in His Word. And as I prayed for understanding, it became clearer.

You see, there are countless opportunities to be that partner who has committed themselves to what should be an eternal relationship - but who still goes outside of that relationship searching for fulfillment. It happens in the natural and it definitely happens in the spiritual. We become the bride of Christ – perhaps even enjoying a wonderful ‘ceremony’ and honeymoon phase and then the response is the same as our ill-fated couple, ‘I know I said ‘I do’ but does that mean I have to stop dating?’

Sometimes there is a draw to old experiences – an impure relationship with an old boyfriend or girlfriend, a drug addiction, an eating disorder. Do I have to give up the people and practices that have become so familiar and comfortable to me?

Sometimes there is the pull toward new gods of career, home, car or self. I’ve heard it said multiple times over and again …
• Just because I don’t pray doesn’t mean I don’t love God. He understands.
• I’m too busy working to go to church. That doesn’t mean God is not a priority.
• I love God … I just don’t believe in tithing.

The same mouth that praises God gossips and complains while boldly declaring, ‘God knows my heart!' We not only serve other gods but we go a step further and try to make God, The Holy & Righteous One into a kind of god that is comfortable to us.

Like the heartless spouse, there is the desire to be married (to experience the benefits of covenant relationship) – yet there is the urge to continue in behaviors and heart attitudes which reflect an individual who has never come into relationship with the One True and Living God. We allow worldly desires to pull us away from our One True Love.

The straying from covenant relationship does not result in a divided heart – it begins with a divided heart.

Therefore, let us put aside unholy actions, wanton gazes and selfish desires. ‘For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father, but is of the world (I John 2:16).’ We must understand that, ‘those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24).’ They have said ‘I do’ to Christ – they have agreed to keep themselves only unto Him - not just until death, but into all eternity.

Yes, saying ‘I do’ does indeed mean we must stop dating.


'You shall love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being and with all your might.’
Deuteronomy 6:5 (AMP)

22 April 2010

the powerful one word prayer ... yes

Recently a question was posed: ‘How can a simple, one worded prayer ‘Yes’ offer so much?’

After taking a moment to determine exactly what was being asked, the answer – being much simpler than the actual question – became abundantly clear.

You see, the ‘yes’ prayer tells God we trust Him - unequivocally. It lays aside individual plans and aspirations and demonstrates a complete confidence in the LORD and the truth of His Word. It acknowledges that the plans He has for us (whatever they may be) are indeed good plans – plans to prosper and not to harm us (Jer. 29:11).

The Word says, in Proverbs 19:21 (NKJV), ‘There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.’ The Message Version of the Bible states it this way, 'We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails.' The individual who offers a simple ‘yes’ prayer, recognizes the wisdom found in God’s Word and makes a conscious choice to leave the planning to God. The humblest prayer that one can utter, the 'yes' prayer admits ‘His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts higher than my thoughts (Is. 55:9).’

The ‘yes’ prayer refuses to manipulate God. It echoes the words of David found in Psalm 23 ‘Thy will be done’. It willingly allows God to be the Shepherd that He desires to be in our lives. It rests in the truth that, even if we face challenging circumstances and perplexing issues of life, we do not have to fear, for He is with us. He cares for everything that concerns us. The ‘yes’ prayer is a complete surrender, where we voluntarily empty ourselves so He can fill our lives, so He can fill us, with His very best. And doesn't His best powerfully offer us so much more than we could ever hope for on our own?

Will you say, ‘Yes’?

20 April 2010

choose to refuse

"God is not man, one given to lies,
and not a son of man changing his mind.
Does he speak and not do what he says?
Does he promise and not come through?"
Numbers 23:19(MSG)


One ought to consult, believe and respond to God rather than men.

There is a voice which whispers and, at times, it screams ...
'God does not work that way anymore!'

It is a voice which seeks to minimize Him by way of human reasoning.

I choose to refuse that voice ...

The last time I checked, HE IS still the One True and Living God, the God who still does exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ask or think!

*************************************************************************************
'Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, TO HIM BE THE GLORY in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.' Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)

19 April 2010

canine college part II

Once again, I have had the unique privilege of being taught by my sweet Min-Pin, Chico.

There is a saying that ‘with age, comes wisdom’ and many believe that to be true. However, I believe that with age, experience and a teachable spirit, wisdom comes. It comes with seizing every opportunity as one to learn something new or to be reminded of something important.

The other day, Chico had just come in from outside. It was early in the morning – a time when I am usually still up in my room reading or studying. However, this particular morning, I was downstairs and standing by the kitchen sink when my mom let him inside. A slight change in routine for me – and a change Chico could sense as soon as he came through the door.

Now, I have heard it said that, as one sense weakens, others strengthen. Well, as Chico continues to age – experiencing some days where his eyesight is better than others – he has come to rely upon sound, smell, touch … and memory.

Well, as soon as he came in, he sensed I was downstairs and started searching – sniffing and checking. I stood motionless, just waiting to see how long it would take him to find me. His first stop was the den. He went right to the chair where I always sit – not there. Then he went over to the desk where I sometimes work – not there. He then came into the kitchen – by the table and near the chair where I normally eat – not there either! He went down the hall, into the living room, back to the den and then came back to the kitchen. And, after checking my chair again, finally found me by the sink.

He was so excited! It made me smile and I just picked him up and hugged him.

Even though Chico could not see me or hear me, he perceived that I was present. Therefore, he used his other senses to find me. He drew upon his knowledge of my nature and his past experience to determine my location. He checked all the places where he normally finds me – places where, apparently, the ‘footprint of my presence’ (my scent) still lingered. He searched and searched until he found me.

LET THE LESSON BEGIN

There are times when I feel like Chico – when I cannot see God or hear Him or physically feel Him. There are times when I cry out like Job, ‘Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat!’ (Job 23:3). Yet I cannot walk by feelings in those instances. I have to walk by faith and not by sight – faith in what I know to be true about my Master:
- There is no one like Him (I Sam. 2:2)
- He delights in me (Ps. 37:23)
- He will never leave me nor forsake me (Heb. 13:5)
- He will be found by me when I search for Him (Lk. 11:10)

‘You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart’. That is what it says in Jeremiah 29:13. And, like Chico, we have to develop a dogged (pardon the pun) determination when it comes to pursuing God.

In doing so, we may need to adjust the methods we have become accustomed to using. Even after I have checked all the places where I usually find Him – old processes, specific places, familiar verses – I might have to realize that He is doing something different. I might have to press in a little deeper and search a little harder but the end result is well worth the search. I will find Him!

He desires to be found and leads us to Himself – and is so excited when we reach Him. Psalm 37:23 states, ‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. That word delight in the Hebrew is defined as ‘take pleasure in; to move; to bend down’. I believe that when we truly seek Him and find Him, God reaches down and scoops us up in His arms, because He is so pleased with our efforts – just like I did with Chico.

Once again, God has used the simple to confound the wise – Zenobia Wise, that is.

Wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8:17, ‘I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me.'

Wisdom can be attained if we earnestly seek it and God will be found as we desperately seek Him.

Be Blessed!

15 April 2010

surviving the storm

As I read my Bible earlier this week, I had opportunity to revisit the 27th chapter of Acts which details a fateful sailing trip of the apostle Paul…

Traveling as a prisoner, on his way to Rome, Paul found himself on board a ship with many others – faced with a perplexing decision: To sail or not to sail? That was the million-dollar question. Paul responded, "I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship—to say nothing of our lives!—if we put out to sea now." Hindsight being 20/20, Paul’s warning was remarkably accurate.

However, the crew of the ship decided to disregard the instruction they received and set sail anyway. What followed was a direct encounter with the ‘storm-of-storms’. The crew and passengers found themselves in peril with no apparent means of escape.

And this is this exactly what we do from time to time – we ignore godly council and then wonder how we end up in the middle of a storm (relational, spiritual, physical, financial), losing control of everything.

BUT, THE STORM THAT YOU FACE TODAY DOES NOT HAVE TO BE UNTO DEATH

There are several important points in this passage of scripture which can help us all safely navigate the storms of life:

DO NOT
Ignore godly council‘11 However, the centurion paid greater attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said.’
Let the winds of life take you where they may.’15… when the ship was caught and was unable to head against the wind, we gave up and, letting her drift, were borne along.’
Seek your own route of escape – ‘30 And as the sailors were trying to escape [secretly] from the ship and were lowering the small boat into the sea, pretending that they were going to lay out anchors from the bow, 31Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, Unless these men remain in the ship, you cannot be saved.’

DO
Lighten the load. Release from your life those things which are burdening you. – ‘18 As we were being dangerously tossed about by the violence of the storm, the next day they began to throw the freight overboard’
Seek God’s Wisdom‘21 But after long fasting [and no doubt, so prayer], Paul stood forth in the midst of them…’NKJV
Be Courageous and believe God‘25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith (complete confidence) in God that it will be exactly as it was told me.’
Release the anchors, loosen the rudders and raise the sail – ‘40 … they cut the cables and severed the anchors and left them in the sea; at the same time unlashing the ropes that held the rudders and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they headed for the beach.’

Understand that you will need to release any anchor that is not God. These men also loosened the ropes to the rudders. In sailing, rudders steer the ship. If you are going to successfully navigate the storms in your life, you will need to take your hands off of the steering and quit charting your own course. Which brings us to the last point – they raised the sail. Traditionally, the raising of a white flag or banner is a sign of surrender. If we are to be successful in the storms of life, we will need to surrender our situations and ourselves to God’s perfect plan and purpose.

Now, the ship still broke up. However, as we see in verse 44, ‘so it was that ALL [all 276 passengers/crew] escaped safely to land.’ It happened just as God said it would.

Trust God, follow the wisdom He has outlined in His Word and you will make it safely to shore!

13 April 2010

focus

It's Spring and I have started walking again. And, as always, the Lord presented me with another opportunity to learn (or re-learn) some valuable lessons.

Strolling through my neighborhood, passing each house, listening to my iPod - I came upon two ducks. The female was sitting in the middle of the road and her mate (I'm assuming it was her mate) was standing by watching her. Now, I am not sure if she was hurt or just decided to take a rest - but whatever the case, she chose what had to be the most terrible spot to take a break. Where she sat was right at the curve in the road and cars come speeding around all the time. It almost seemed like that male duck knew that was not a good place to stop.

Now, one might ask how I know it was a male and a female. Well, the females are light brown while the males are this grey/silver and black with the most beautiful green head, which offsets their yellow bill. This used to bother me, because I always wondered why God made the female duck so bland. Then one day, God showed me that they have a beautiful little secret tucked under their wings - a brilliantly, majestic band of iridescent purple feathers.

But, the difference between male and female ducks was not the important thing that day.

As I walked past these two - and it was early, about 5:50am - I found myself praying for that little duck. I asked God, 'please prompt her to move so that she won't get crushed by a car'. A car could come any moment. And as I looked back three or four times, I found myself saying a short (but urgent) prayer that this little duck would move out of the street before she got mortally wounded. I even found myself thinking about that male duck, wondering why he was just standing there. For some reason, it made me think about Adam ... standing by while his mate (Eve) stood in the way of danger in the Garden of Eden.

It was then that I felt a press upon my spirit:
'Are we not much more valuable to Him than the birds of the air?'

Here I was so concerned about this duck...
Then, I had to stop and think about whether I had prayed for the strangers on the street, my neighbors, my friends, my family with such fervency.

Now, there is nothing wrong with loving animals or caring for them. God cares for them and provides for their needs. However, I had to check my priorities that morning.

Did I recognize that those who do not know Him live in a state of mortal danger just like that duck? Did I empathize with the fact that many of them are wearied with the pressures of life, laying down wherever they can to get a moment's rest - even in the middle of harsh, dangerous, frantic roads.

Did I truly comprehend that many do not even realize the danger that awaits them? Was I as sensitive as I needed to be to the fact that their eternity could change in an instant with one fatal illness, one devastating car crash, a catastrophic natural disaster, an accident or assault - that they could step out of this earthly realm and into an eternity of condemnation?

I had to ask if I was truly focused on the things that mattered most to God. Were the most critical items on my agenda the same as His? Were the request at the top of my prayer list the issues of life that were most important to Him.

Lately, the whole earth has been shaking - they even registered a small earthquake in Virginia this week. And because many have heard for years that Jesus is coming soon, it has become a trite expression which often falls on deaf ears. However, if any should take it seriously, it should be His people. And we should realize that He left us with one responsibility: to got into all the earth and make disciples - sharing the gospel, aiding those in need by helping them discover and receive the free gift of salvation and then equipping them to live a life that pleases God.

You see, 'The Lord is not really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (II Peter 3:9 NLT).'

He is not willing that any should perish.

And, if I care about what He cares about, I must possess His same heart . I must be diligent at all times - recognizing that if I am not, there is the potential for me to consider passersby as common (like that female duck). Yet God sees something different. He sees one uniquely made, with hidden treasure, beauty and purpose. And He cares for them - even more than He cares for the birds of the air. Therefore, I am committed to check myself daily, to ensure that the number one responsibility remains the #1 priority.

How about you?