Loving God

Wholly His

26 March 2013
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The Lord said, “Surely I have seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry…I am aware of their sufferings.  So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite…….”  Ex 3:7-8


The eye of the Lord is always watching over His people.  He is watching over those that know Him and those that don’t, because He knows all men.  He sees our suffering and understands it better than we do.  He is the All-Knowing One.  Where we experience abuse, trauma, set-back, and pain and try to understand, “Why me?,”  our Father God has an answer.  He knows His adversary, the devil, is real and has a plan to destroy all of God’s creation.  We may not even believe in the devil, but that does not mean he is not real.  God knows all these things, and He has an answer – His Name is Jesus.  Jesus paid the price for all mankind to be bought back from the devil who led us into sin, who led us away from our Heavenly Father.  The Blood of Jesus ensures that we can enter into God’s Presence and be restored into His family.

God sees the oppression of people today.  He sees the corruption in the world, brought about by greed, lust, and the desire for power.  Just as in Moses’ day, when God’s people were captive under the hand of Egypt’s Pharaoh, we too are held captive by the corruption in the world. God allows this to happen so that we will recognize that our hearts are no longer solely devoted to Him, but that we have embraced the idols of the land.  I’m not talking about little statues!  No, I’m speaking about anything that takes higher priority in our life than God.  The major strategy the devil uses is to clutter our hearts and minds with all kinds of activities, work, and interests.  There is no inherent evil in any of these things, but when we devote all of our time to them, we are, in effect, worshipping them.  We confuse God’s plan of blessing with a twisted lie of the devil.  We may start out thinking, “I  work because I must provide for my family.”  Over time, however, we may get caught in the devil’s trap of becoming a workaholic, because we don’t understand that God has a plan of blessing for us as we seek to obey His command to provide for our family.  In the beginning, God said it was good for a man to work.  Along with that He  instituted a day of rest for our good, and He said He would bless (prosper) the work of our hands when we work according to His plans.  Following God’s plan, we will not be in lack.   Yet, greed for more, bigger and better often overtakes us.  What started out as providing for our family becomes a plan of acquiring more.  We fall into traps of spending more than we make so we can do more faster.  Focus on our family gets lost because we are running so hard to keep up with the plan of oppression that we’ve fallen into unknowingly.  This is idolatrous thinking, we’ve completely lost touch with the way God thinks about work.

The Israelites cried out to God for many years while they were slaves, but the day came when God said, “Enough!”   Today is that day!  Today, God has said, “I am coming down to deliver them from the power of the Pharaohs.”  When I say “today,” I do not mean this very day, March 26, 2013, I mean in this season of 2013.  This is a season of  God’s deliverance.   He is overthrowing evil agents and opening prison doors for many to walk out into their freedom.   God is doing this all over the earth, He is making a way.  However, you must choose to walk out.  God parted the Red Sea, but the people had to walk through it.  You might look at the condition of the world today and ask, “Where is God overthrowing evil?”  Let me tell you, if you will ask God for help right now, He will overthrow the evil in your life and make a way of escape for you.  He says, “You have not because you ask not.”  Ask Him and see what He will do for you.  He loves you more than you know and He is still doing miracles today.

Another great deliverance story is found in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  The Israelites had been taken as captives in Babylon.  They had been removed from the Promised Land because of their idolatry; they had mixed their worship of Almighty God with the gods of the land.  They were divided in their devotion and they reduced God to what they wanted Him to be rather than Who He really was.  God had set a season of time for their discipline, 70 years in captivity.  When that time was over, God said, “I am coming down to deliver my people.”  He caused the hearts of the Persian Kings to be favorable to the Jews and to initiate a return to the Promised Land.  God opened the door for return, but many  people were too comfortable in their place of captivity.  They did not take God up on His deliverance, they stayed in Babylon.

Those who did return to Jerusalem had to examine their hearts and identify the idols, the practices, the desires that would keep them from being wholly His even though they were back in their land.  Just returning to the land would not cause them to love God with all their heart, all their soul and all their strength.  They had to make some changes in the way they thought, in other words, they had to repent.  Repent means to “change the way you think.”

Almighty God is opening doors and calling His people back to the safety of His Kingdom and His family.  All of His plans for you are good.  He truly has prepared for us a land flowing with milk and honey.  He wants to rescue people from the oppression that has come to define our lives.  Can you hear Him calling your name?  If so, get up and walk with Him through the open door.  If you can’t see the door yet, ask Him to open your eyes and make the way clear.  Do not be afraid.  It might seem scary and uncomfortable to walk through a door you do not recognize, but God is our Ever-Present Helper.  Through the person of Holy Spirit, He walks alongside of us, comforts us, encourages us and strengthens us to cross over into a new place of blessing and freedom.  Unclutter your heart and your mind, change your thinking and begin to search out the life that Father God has prepared for you.

This is made possible by Jesus, our Passover Lamb.  He was slain for your freedom.  Receive your redemption today!

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The Dissatisfaction of Smallness

31 May 2012
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We’ve heard a lot about dreaming with God.  We’ve been encouraged to “dream BIG dreams.” What comes to your mind when you hear that?  What are your dreams?  Are they dreams of preaching before the multitudes, writing many books, or leading worship for thousands?  Do you feel insignificant because you don’t really have a “dream,” or at least, not a dream that compares with your friend’s big dream.

Consider what 1 Cor 3:12-13 says, “Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”ith your friend’s big dream?

The work of each man will be revealed and tested by fire.  What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you read this.  My guess is that it’s one of fear….one that says, “what have I done wrong or what haven’t I done that I should have?”  But, my Friends, let me ask you a question, “Do you love God? Do you desire more of Him? Have you told Him that often?  Are you motivated to do the simple things in life because you love Him?”  If you answer “yes” to those questions, then read v 14.  “If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.” Jesus sees the desire of your heart to love Him more.  His eyes are the eyes of fire that test your works and determine what remains.  The purity of Jesus’ eyes refines our work.  When you are caring for your children and crying out for more of Jesus so that you can represent Him to your family, Jesus’ eyes of fire are looking at you and He is smitten by your love.  When you’re in the midst of your job, crying out for more of Jesus so you can represent Him well to your co-workers, His eyes of fire are on you and He is excited about giving you His reward.  His jealous love is stirred and He cries back to you saying, “I want more of you!”

We have been created with a desire to be great, but our perception of what greatness means most likely has been distorted by the world.  We look at the rich and famous and think “they are great!”  Man looks at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.  He sees our greatness in context of Love.  He looks at our hearts and says, “Now, there’s my daughter who has a GREAT heart of love, there’s my son who has a GREAT heart of compassion.” We are constantly bombarded by the enemy of our souls that says what we do is never enough.  He mocks us and tries to make us feel small.  He causes us to compare ourselves to others and agree with him that our efforts are so insignificant that they don’t matter.  But remember, he never tells the truth.  God does not see our love as small, it is HUGE to Him.  He sees our heart as we pray, as we humble ourselves, as we lean in to Him to overcome our weakness and gain victory over sin.  He doesn’t mock us when we stumble, rather He looks at our heart of repentance and sees us cry over our sin.  Then He calls us great.  It is His gentleness that makes us great.  When we do not give up but pick ourselves up and cry out for more grace, we are great heroes in His eyes.  His heart is moved and He rejoices over us.   We must have this revelation of our own greatness in His eyes so that we will not listen to the dissatisfaction that the devil tries to sow into our hearts. The devil’s lies bring hopelessness and despair to our days.  We must feed on the truth that God sees us and He makes us great when we are reaching toward Him.  Our obedience to Him is something that He never forgets.  He writes it in His book and He rewards it!  Most of us will not have a mega-ministry, or have our name on a flashing sign, but our names will be written in His book, and that’s good enough for me.

Settle it in your heart today.  Look in the mirror and say what David said, “His gentleness has made me GREAT!”  (Ps 18:35)

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Don’t Worry, Just Respond

21 May 2012
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Love Maggie Yoingco artwork. Beautifully profound with childlike faith.

 

“We do not become a new person by changing our behavior. We discover the person we already are in Christ and we behave accordingly. Being restored to First Love means returning to a lifestyle of allowing yourself to be wonderfully loved! We therefore need to repent of our focus on our own performance and be restored to a life of responding to God’s passion for us specifically!”           Graham Cooke

I read this and think “I know this,” yet so often this is not where I live.  I look to what I can do, and how I’m doing it, and whether I’m doing it good enough.   It’s all about me, me, me.  Just recently, the Lord gave me a revelation on this, and I realized that all I really have to do is trust in His goodness toward me.  He already loved me and He has already promised me so much, before I ever received Him!  This is a daily pursuit, to stay in that position of responder, instead of feeling like I have to make something happen.  

In our desperation, we can get so busy “trying” that we lose sight of Him and His call to rest and enjoy being His child.  Our focus gets all messed up.  The enemy knows just how to keep us feeling the burden of responsibility for our own lives.  His lies bombard us daily, speaking to us of how “we’re just not doing enough!”  But the Word of God says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Submit to Me and I will draw near to you.”  (James 4:7-8)   Jesus says, “Do not seek what you will eat and drink and stop worrying….because your Dad knows you need all these things….Just seek Him.”  (paraphrased from Luke 12:29-30)  

I don’t know about you, but when I have only $5 left in my wallet and don’t know where the next round of supply is coming from, I still have a hard time not worrying!  Yet Jesus places no conditions on this statement, He speaks in complete confidence, and so should I because never once have I not had what I truly needed.  It might not all come as I hope or expect, but it does all come and I have never been without! Oh that we all could trust Him more, then we could be a lot more joyful!  

I’m  praying for you, my Friends, that all your cares melt away in His Presence.  May you see what He sees when He looks at you, may you experience the delight of His face!  It’s there that all your needs are truly met. 

Shalom!

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The Rewards of the Lord

22 February 2012
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In 2 Samuel 22, David exalts the Lord and recounts the ways He has blessed him.  In verse 21, David states a major theme, namely that the Lord rewards those that have received his gift of righteousness. This gift is not based on anything we do, but it is based on our faith in what God has done for us.  Jesus is our righteousness.  Galatians 3:6 reminds us that “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.”  The rewards that the Lord gives us are not the same as salvation.  Salvation is the starting point, the entrance into the Kingdom.  From that point on, our whole life’s journey presents one opportunity after another to “believe God.”  We believe Him for greater revelation. We believe Him to reveal Himself to us in all the various aspects of His character as our life presents new challenges to us.  When we are sick, we believe Him as Healer.  When we need provision, we believe Him as provider.  When we are stuck in sin or bondage, we believe Him as Deliverer.  When we are hurt and grieving, we believe Him as Comforter.  This is how we grow in our knowledge of God.  At each point, the revelation of His character and the benefits He releases to us are our rewards.   

Secondly, David says, “According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.”  As we know, David was not sinless, yet he trusted God to restore him on every level.  This is another gift the Father gives to His children because we seek to know and obey Him, not because we are perfect in our actions.  Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  When we seek to please God, He rewards us and considers us blameless because the Blood of Jesus was spilled on our behalf.  It is not enough just to believe that God is.  Many people believe that God exists, but He is not real and personal to them.  There cannot be relationship without knowing the nature and character of God.  When we move past just knowing that He’s out there somewhere, and we seek to know what pleases Him and cause our thoughts and actions to line up with His, then you can depend on His reward.  David knew that he sinned, but he also knew the heart of God, and God certainly rewarded him for his pursuit.   

It is amazing to realize that David had revelation of this before Jesus was born!  Because David diligently sought the Lord, God rewarded him with revelation that was “before his time.”  This is available to each of us.  We can pull down revelation that is stored up for future generations.  Because of our hunger for more of  Him, He will respond by releasing revelation it to us in our day.  Don’t you want to be like David?

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100 Thank You’s – Just a Small Offering of Thanks to My God

24 November 2011
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  1. Thank you, Lord, that You are with me, my Emmanuel,

  2. That you will never leave me nor forsake me,

  3. Thank you that you have given me Your Holy Spirit,

  4. Thank you for Your Word that is a light to my feet and a lamp to my path,

  5. Thank you that You are Faithful and True. 

  6. Thank You, Father, that You gave Your only  Son,

  7. Thank you that You saw me before the foundation of the World,

  8. That you made me in Your image and likeness,

  9. Thank you that have an eternal plan of redemption,

  10. Thank you that You are a loving Daddy.

  11. Thank You Jesus, that You went to the Cross because You loved me,

  12. Thank You that were obedient even unto death,

  13. Thank You that You gave Your life so I could live,

  14. Thank You that You forgave and forgive me,

  15. Thank You that for Your shed Blood.

  16. Thank You Holy Spirit that You are my Comforter,

  17. My Teacher,

  18. My Guide,

  19. That you release revelation and truth to me that I might truly see,

  20. Thank you for changing me.

  21. Thank you for all the resources of Heaven that are now mine,

  22. Thank you for the Angelic Host that are here to hearken to my voice,

  23. Thank you for giving me authority in Your Name,

  24. Thank you that You have seated me in Heavenly places with You,

  25. Thank you that you have called me.

  26. Thank you for hope,

  27. Faith and

  28. Love,

  29. Thank you that you never change your mind about me,

  30. Thank you that You have gone before me to prepare a place for me.

  31. Thank you that I am never alone,

  32. That you set the lonely in families,

  33. That you call me as a little child to sit with my Daddy,

  34. That you snuggle me up and hold me close to Your heart,

  35. That nothing can separate me from Your love.

  36. Thank you that you rule and reign for all eternity,

  37. That there is no one greater than you,

  38. That you are all-knowing,

  39. Ever-present,

  40. And All-Powerful.

  41. Thank you that you have the last Word,

  42. That you are the beginning and the end,

  43. That all things are held together by You,

  44. That you are the Firstborn from the Dead,

  45. That you are fairer than the Sons of Man.

  46. Thank you for the beauty of your creation,

  47. That you do all things well,

  48. That you pay attention to every detail in every life,

  49. That you always have our best interest at heart,

  50. Thank you for coloring our world.

  51. Thank you for the awesome wonder of the human body,

  52. For every animal and creature in the earth,

  53. That each one is unique, colorful and glorious,

  54. Thank you for all the plants, trees and flowers,

  55. That you have given us life through your creation.

  56. Thank you that you know every hair on my head,

  57. That you numbered each of my days,

  58. That you carefully watch over me every minute of my life,

  59. Thank you that your eyes are on every person for all eternity,

  60. That you love each one, not because of what we do, but because You made us all.

  61. Thank you that you are merciful and kind,

  62. That your love endures forever,

  63. That you hedge us in with Your love,

  64. Thank you that your love never fails,

  65. Thank you that you are LOVE!

  66. Thank you that nothing is too difficult for you,

  67. That you are a God that does miracles,

  68. That you are the same, yesterday, today and forever,

  69. That you are our Healer,

  70. And that you Deliver us from evil and all temptation.

  71. Thank you that you rescue us,

  72. That you don’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle,

  73. That you know our frame,

  74. Thank you that you are mindful of man,

  75. Thank you that always provide a way of escape.

  76. Thank you that You are Righteousness,

  77. That you are the King of Kings and

  78. The Lord of Lords,

  79. Thank you that you establish justice and

  80. That Your Kingdom will never end.

  81. Thank you that You are coming again,

  82. That your Kingdom is coming to Earth as it is in Heaven,

  83. Thank you that you are releasing Your Glory into the Earth as never before,

  84. Thank you that Your government continues to increase,

  85. Thank you that every knee will bow and every tongue confess, “You are Lord.”

  86. Thank you for the privilege of worshipping You,

  87. That you are a God that makes Yourself known to Your people,

  88. That you are not distant, but you desire relationship,

  89. Thank you that we truly can experience you with all our senses,

  90. Thank you that you are our Bridegroom and we are Your Bride.

  91. Thank You that You are Holy,

  92. That You dwell in unapproachable Light,

  93. That You are the Light of the World,

  94. That you are the Ancient of Days,

  95. That you are the Rock of the Ages.

  96. Thank you that All Power and Glory belongs to You,

  97. That you are the Mightiest of the Mighty,

  98. That there is no God like You,

  99. That Your Name is the Name above all Names,

  100. And yet You know me by name!

I love You, Abba Father, Lord Jesus and Holy Spirit.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Rend Your Heart

8 August 2011
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So rend your heart and not your garments; return to the Lord your God….Joel 2:13

To rend means to tear something violently.  The custom in Israel was for people to tear their garments as a sign of grief and desperation.  God, however, is looking for a deeper response from us.  He is asking us to violently tear away sin from our lives.  He says, “tear open your heart and remove everything that stands between you and Me.”  Jesus stated it this way in Matt 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”

There is nothing gentle about this process.  It is personal and deep, it is painful and costly, but it brings much joy.  If you hear the voice of the Lord calling you into deeper relationship with Him, you cannot be casual in your response.  You can’t just pray and ask God to take away your stumbling block.  He will help you, but you must initiate the process.   You must be willing to look at areas of compromise in your life and be honest before God, confessing them as sin and grieving over how it has separated you from Him. God longs to be gracious to you.

Jesus tore His heart for you when He died on the cross.  God the Father tore His heart for you when He sacrificed His Son.  He continues to pursue you even when you are rebellious and distant.  He tears His heart in this pursuit.  It causes Him great grief when His children do not respond to His kindness and love.  Our God is personal, not distant.  He feels our struggles and our pain and He cares.  He longs to bring us through into the place of safety in His heart.  If you don’t understand His goodness and His kindness you will likely not come to Him.  Many have experienced great rejection and judgment from others and assume that this is how God will react to them.  But this is not God’s nature.  He makes it easy for us to turn and run into His arms of love.  Scripture speaks of His gentleness and mercy:

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  …. For He Himself knows our frame, He is mindful that we are but dust.  Psalm 103:10,14

Say to them:  “As I live,” says the Lord God, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”  Ezek 33:11

Therefore, the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  Is 30:18

But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; and often He restrained His anger, and did not arouse all His wrath.  Ps 78:38

Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.  Ps 18:35

When we understand His kindness, it gives us courage to repent, to tear our hearts and receive His forgiveness.  He helps us to do it, encouraging us in every step.  He meets our little step toward Him with open arms while running toward us.  He desires us, He loves us so dearly, He delights in us.  We are His creation.

If we are to be wholeheartedly in love with Jesus, then we must first go through the process of tearing away everything that keeps us separated from Him.  This may produce pain, but He heals and restores us to Himself.   His ultimate goal is to bring us back into covenant relationship with Him so that He can release the fullness of His blessings unto us.  Let us return to Him with all our heart, for when we love Him with all our heart and all our mind, then we discover that He too, loves us with all His heart and with all his mind.

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Do You Want To Know A Secret?

27 July 2011
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We all love to be told a secret; it makes you feel special, like one with privileged information.  The thrill of the secret comes not only from the information that is given, but the person who is willing to tell you the information.  It is because of the special relationship that you have with the person that you are given ‘privileged information.’  What you do with the information  after you are told reveals how much you value the relationship that allowed you to be one of the privileged few.

Jesus, in Mark 4:11, tells His followers, “The secret of the Kingdom of God has been given to you.”  Hmmm, if this is true, how come so many Christians are walking around in the dark, not understanding the times or seasons?  Jesus goes on to say that those on the outside hear everything in parables so that they may see but never perceive, and hear but never understand.  If they did perceive and understand, then they would turn and be forgiven.

Throughout Mark chapter 4, Jesus speaks a parable and then gives an explanation to his disciples.  He wants His disciples to have understanding, He wants them to know how the Kingdom works and how He and His Father think.  The chapter concludes with the statement, “When he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.”  This is the nature of Jesus.  He considers His disciples trustworthy enough to share His secrets with them.  He is not trying to make them guess what His intentions are. He wants them not only to understand, but to partner with Him in establishing the Kingdom.  How can you build the Kingdom without understanding the blueprint?

We must ask ourselves, “Do I understand the secrets of the Kingdom?”  Have I taken time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His explanations?  Have my thinking and my actions been changed because I’ve spent time with Jesus?

As I was pondering these questions, I thought about how we learn.  As a homeschooling mom, I have the privilege of teaching my children.  Math continues to be one of the most challenging subjects to teach.  I explain the concepts and draw diagrams.  I wait to see if understanding has occurred.  If it has not, I try another way of explaining.  This process may take several hours or several days.  But if teacher and student stay engaged, understanding will come.  The proverbial light bulb will come on and the student will then know how to work the problems.

So it is with us and Jesus.  Just because we read the text in the Bible does not mean we have understanding.  Just because we hear someone preach a message does not mean we have understanding.  Sometimes revelations comes quickly, but usually it takes some effort on our part.  It takes time to sit with Jesus, ask Him questions and hear His response.  We cannot hear when we are always talking or while we are doing other things.  Ever try to learn a new math concept while watching TV or playing a video game?

When Jesus said “those on the outside” I don’t believe He was speaking only of unbelievers, He was speaking also of believers that remained on the fringe of hearing, those that did not press in to gain understanding.  He says, if you ask, then you will receive.  If we ask Him to explain His words, then He will.  Our desire for Him compels Him to make His heart known, but He will not entrust His secrets to those that have no real desire to change or to cooperate with Him in bringing about change.  You will only invest your time and energy in that which you value.  If you labor to gain understanding then when it comes, you’ll be ready to shift your life to make room for a new way of doing things.  You’ll be ready to help establish the Kingdom in your life and the lives of those around you.  If you only hear the words and think you understand, lasting change will not come.  It will be as Jesus described in the parable of the sower, the word will be snatched away because it has no root.

Loving God wholeheartedly requires time and patience.  It requires discipline and diligence, hunger and sacrifice.  What are you willing to give up so that you can gain the secrets of the Kingdom?  This is the measure of your love for Jesus and His Kingdom.  Salvation is free, but being a disciple is costly.  How badly to you want to know His secrets?

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Samson’s Sobering Story

22 July 2011
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Samson is one of the few births foretold and described in the Word.   He was born into a loving,  God-fearing family, he was born supernaturally, he had a calling  and divine enablement.  God chose Samson from before his birth and had a purpose for His life.  Yet as Samson grew, he seemed to have little regard for the special call from God and his privileged position.   Four chapters, 13-16, in Judges are dedicated to telling his life story.  More is written about him than any other judge.  I believe this is because there is so much to learn from his failures.  Ironically, the best judges, those that honored God and walked uprightly before Him are only given a brief description.

In short, Samson was called to live as a Nazirite, set apart for God for his entire life.  He was given supernatural strength to deliver Israel from the hand of Philistine oppressors, but instead he chose to marry a Philistine woman.  He participated in the Philistine culture and disregarded his vow to God.  He had an eye for women and wealth and sought to indulge himself in these areas.  Samson had a problem submitting to authority and yielding his self-will.  This first shows up in his unwillingness to submit to his parents and then to God.

Samson had been nurtured and raised with every advantage, but in the end he was ruled by selfishness and pride.   Just like Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew, Samson was willing to give up the opportunity to co-labor with God and do something great, so that he could satisfy his immediate cravings of his flesh.  He used his calling for his own benefit.  Never did He inquire about God’s heart for His people or express a desire to protect them.  He wanted revenge against the Philistines for personal reasons and maybe even from a general understanding of their oppression, but never with a desire to know God’s heart in the matter.  He did not have respect for the gift of His strength or why it was given to him.  He took it for granted and became haughty, assuming that he could do whatever he desired and God’s gift would be there to bail him out of any mess he got into.  This is a serious flaw!  We cannot presume on the gifts of God.  We cannot indulge our flesh and think that we possess the fullness of God’s spirit.  Instead, we must recognize that indulging the flesh quenches the spirit within us.  We cannot partake of the things of the world and still operate in the fullness of God’s Kingdom.  They are radically opposed and this is why God calls us to be separate.  This is not about legalism and rules.  It asks each one of us the question, “How bad do you really want the fullness of God’s power and spirit in your life? What are you willing to give up to get it?”  The things God asks you to give up may not be ‘bad’ things.  They might be quite acceptable, in fact.  Yet, for you and your particular call, God has a reason for asking you to let go of that thing.  He knows you and your weaknesses.  His desire to see you overcome a fear or a weakness is what compels Him to ask for ‘more of you.’ He is asking you to depend on Him.  You have the choice in how you respond.  It is always for your good!

God gave Samson supernatural strength.  This physical strength was a sign that God would have also backed up Samson spiritually and emotionally if only Samson would have yielded himself to God.  Samson could rip up a lion with his own hands, but he could not free himself from the lustful desire of a woman.  He could tear out the gate of the city and carry it for miles, but he could not maintain his own boundaries when it came to sensual pleasures.  God’s strength was there for him to overcome, but instead he relied on his own ability and desire.  His desire and lack of commitment to the Lord led to his premature death and failure to fulfill His calling.  This is a tragedy.

Though Samson’s failure is great, let us not miss the most exhilarating part of this story.  It is the faithfulness and mercy that God shows to His people.  It reminds us that God can and does use imperfect people to carry forth His plans.  He prefers when we cooperate with Him because He ultimately desires to bless us, but when we do not cooperate, He still uses us.  His mercy endures forever.  God is so patient with His children, but He will not let us continue to operate in our own willfulness without consequences.  Again, He allows His judgment to come because of His love for us.  His goal is always our repentance.  Judgment is a means of moving us toward repentance, for it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.  If our repentance does not come, He sets us aside and waits.   He will limit our exposure and our participation in His work.  “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for him!”  Isaiah 30:18

As we train our children to be end-time warriors, they must understand that they are bought with a price, and they are called to be bond-servants of the Lord Jesus.  This is not a slave mentality, but rather an understanding of how much the Lord loves them  and how He gave His life, so that they can give theirs back to Him and rise to their high calling in Him.  God is looking for lovers, those who willingly and sacrificially lay down their lives for Him.  He’s not looking for law-abiding Christians who  abstain from things or seek to follow  the rules.  He’s looking for passion born out of  love for Him because of His Love.  God does not have a mediocre life planned for anyone.  Whosoever will can be great in His Kingdom.  All it takes is a heart that is willing to submit to His love and His training.  Those who put their trust in Him will not be disappointed!  It may be painful at times, He promises that there will be suffering in this life, but the end result will be glorious forever.  We will never be sorry that we gave it all for Him Who loves us!

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The “Why” Question Will Never Be Answered on Earth

7 May 2011
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excerpt from “Radical Perceptions” by Graham Cooke
“Why me?” “Why this?” “Why now?” “Why?!” Often this type of question can come out of shock, anger, self pity and bewilderment. We seek meaning, purpose and significance. This particular question “why?” can deliver none of the answers that would be most helpful. It’s the question that will leave us trapped in our own grief and misery. It prevents us from moving on. It creates an inertia in our soul and we remain stuck in a moment in time, unable to extricate our emotions. I have seen those moments of grief become despair, self pity, anger, resentment and bitterness. The heart is overwhelmed and we disappear into ourselves and lose the life we could have enjoyed.

I adored my brother Ian. He died in 1975, at age 26. He was walking to work on an icy canal path one freezing winter morning in the north of England. He slipped on a patch of ice, fell on his head, became unconscious, slid into the water, and drowned. He left a young wife and two small daughters. My heart seemed to freeze in my chest. Our whole family was locked in a grief so despairing we were speechless, adrift in shock. I have never known such awful silence. The “why” question was on all our lips, reducing our capacity to think, squeezing our hearts with its iron grip, numbing us from any other emotion, robbing us of life and purpose.

An answer never came. Some people still ask that same question. They are stuck in the present–past. Life eventually moved on and they moved with it, but a part of their heart is stuck in that moment. “Everything works together for good…” (Romans 8:28). God does not engineer bad circumstances so that He can produce good, like a rabbit out of a hat. Rather, He knows that on days life has a capacity to be awful and terrible. In those moments He works within us, around us and often through us to bring about some form of release and blessing. Goodness is part of His Truth, His Nature, His Persona.

Traveling north for the funeral I felt too numb even to pray. A scripture was doing the rounds in my head, like a toy train on a loop track. “Rejoice always, in everything give thanks, this is the will of God” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). When we cannot pray without ceasing, it’s because we have not given thanks enough. I worshipped the whole way home, six hours on two trains and a bus journey to the house of my childhood. I walked into a room frozen with grief, the icicles of despair hanging in the atmosphere, eyes red from crying, family members stumbling around, impotent in their own tragedy. That night I had a dream. Short, simple, and powerful. It was two men walking up a hill. I could see their backs, not their faces. The whole landscape was a riot of color. Flowers of every shade of brightness grew profusely. It was a warm, sunny day; the sky a perfect blue. The two men were laughing, pulling and pushing on one another. Two friends sharing something hilarious. I wanted to run to catch up with them and share in their moment. At the top of the hill one of the men stopped and turned. Jesus looked at me with that slow gentle smile of His that lights up His whole face. I smiled back. The other man turned and it was my brother. Ian grinned at me in that same, mischievous grin that I knew so well. My heart felt like it was coming out of my chest. We looked at each other and… he winked. With that wink of his eye, strength came back into me.

The next morning I told my family the dream. No one spoke afterwards, but the icicles of despair began to thaw. We grieved, and we held onto one another. We laughed too, at memories of him. In some mysterious way life came back to us from the dead. My mother became a Christian as a result of that dream. Family members, still pre-Christian, remember the dream to this day.
The “why” question never gets answered because it’s the wrong question. It’s often an invalid question that makes an invalid of those who pursue it. Mostly it stems from or introduces us to victim thinking.

We are in Christ and no matter what occurs in life, we cannot look for an answer outside of our placement. The two best questions to ask are found in the account of the Day of Pentecost. “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12) and, “What shall we do?” (2:37). As believers we must always ask questions in line with our identity. More than wanting answers, we must seek Presence. The Comforter is the only One who can help us. In His Presence I get to ask my favorite question of all, “Lord, what is it that you want to be for me now, that you couldn’t be at any other time?”

That question has always been answered.

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Entrusted to God

13 April 2011
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Have you entrusted yourself to God?  Really?

Contrary to popular wisdom, the Bible does not say, “God helps those who help themselves.”  God does say, “ I will be your God and you will be My people” (Lev 26:12) and “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)    Does that really mean He’ll take care of us on a daily basis?  Then He says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, nor about the body, what you will put on. .. do not seek what you should  eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. ..  Your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. (Luke 12:11, 29-31)  What does that really mean?  Can we believe this Word above the nightly news report?

What happens when we lose a job, get cancer or our retirement savings disappear in stock market crash?  We feel sick, victimized, and can become hopeless because things didn’t work out the way we thought it would.  We ask, “Where is God in this? How can God be with me and there still be this great “calamity” in my life?  Why would He allow such evil?”

Maybe it’s our perception that is wrong.  Maybe “good” and “evil” isn’t so subjective.  Doesn’t the Word say that God is Good?  In order to walk in the peace that Jesus promised to give us, we must look beyond our circumstances and look to the One Who is always Good.  Actually, evil can only be described by an “absence of good.”  It has no basis of its own just as darkness can only be defined as the absence of light.  Death is the absence of life.  So then God is good, God is Light, God is Life.  When we live independent of God, defining good and evil on our terms, we are separating ourselves from Him and His goodness, light and life.  This drives us toward evil, darkness and death.  This is no small matter to God.  Our lust for independence is based on self-preservation and self-centeredness.  It actually causes us to keep major areas of our life “hidden” from God.  We feel we can do a better job of managing our own life than leaving it up to the One Who created us.

We have been conditioned to believe that dependency is weakness.  We really don’t want to depend on anyone for anything.  We pride ourselves on our independence and self-sufficiency.  This does not please God.  It may please us, it may make others envious because we seem to have it all together,  but this is not the life that God had in mind for us.  Jesus emptied Himself of His rights and became the ultimate servant.  He lived from a position of relationship to His Father.  He did only what He saw the Father doing.  And then He said to us, “Follow Me.”  Jesus’ first disciples left everything to follow Him.

God is inviting us into a life of knowing Him, trusting Him and resting in Him.  He truly wants us to know that He is inherently GOOD.  In His Word, He commands us, “Abide in Me.”  He doesn’t want us to bear the burden of managing our own lives.  This is a weight we were not made to carry.  He invites us, “Come unto me, all you who are heavy-laden, and I will give you REST.”  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows our end from our beginning, He planned our future.  A good parent will train their child to obey because they know how valuable that will be to them in the future.  This obedience brings trust. So it is with God.  He trains us to obey because He wants us to learn to trust Him in all things, to trust His judgment, to trust that what He allows into our lives He will work for our good.  In the midst of our crisis, God is thinking of our good.  He has a plan to lead you through that thing and bring you out in wholeness.  Our perceptions, fed by the lies the enemy speaks to us, tell us that the crisis is our end.  We see darkness, maybe even destruction and death, but God sees Light and Life.  He sees the way out.  He sees an end that is greater than the beginning.  Can we trust Him?  Can we trust Him in our suffering?  Can we trust Him in our barrenness?  Can we trust Him in our loss?  Is He really good all the time?

He is calling us up into freedom.  He is calling us to give up our rights and receive our sonship in His Royal family.  He has made a covenant with us based on the blood of Jesus, not upon our strengths or merits.  It’s not about us.  It’s all about Him, His grace, His love, His promise to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  We must learn to let go of all that we perceive to be our security so that He can show us what real security is.  We must learn to let go of our knowledge in exchange for the knowledge of the One Who created everything. We must tear down our walls of self-protection and allow ourselves to be vulnerable so that we can experience the love and healing that He so graciously wants to give us.  Relationship with Him is what will bring us the security we so desire.  It will bring us Wholeness, it will bring Peace.

Shalom!

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