Our Value to God = PRICELESS!

Our Value to God = PRICELESS!
"Allow God to place His own values." - A.W. Tozer

Monday, December 28, 2009

Love Defined

“’What does love look like?’ is the question I’ve been pondering. ‘What does love look like?’ is the question I’ve been asking of You. Once believed that love was romance, just a chance. I even thought that love was for the lucky and the beautiful. I once believed that love was a momentary bliss, but love is more than this. All You ever wanted was my attention. All You ever wanted was love from me. All You ever wanted was my affections to sit here at Your feet and tell me ‘What does love look like?’ If all of life comes down to love then tell me, ‘What does love look like?’

Then I sat down a little frustrated and confused. Your fire of life comes down to love. And love has to be more than sentiment, more than selfishness and selfish gain.

Then I saw Him there. Hanging on a tree, looking at me. He was looking at me looking at Him, staring through me. I could not escape those beautiful eyes and I began to weep and weep.

He had arms wide open, heart exposed. Arms wide open, He was bleeding, bleeding. Love’s definition was looking at me, looking at Him. Hanging on a tree. I began to weep and weep and weep and weep. This is how I know what love is.

And as I sat there, weeping, crying, those beautiful eyes full of desire and love. And He said to me, ‘You shall love Me. You shall love Me with arms wide open, heart exposed. With arms wide open, bleeding, sometimes bleeding. ’

‘If anybody’s looking for love in all the wrong places. If you’ve been searching for love, come to Me. Come to me. Take up your cross. Deny yourself. Forget your father’s house and run. Run with Me. Cause you were made for Someone greater, Someone bigger, so follow Me. And you’ll come alive when you learn to die.’” – Lyrics to Arms Wide Open by Misty Edwards (a worship leader @ International House of Prayer – IHOP)

Note: I do not say these things below to condemn of the love we lack, but to challenge and encourage us to love like Jesus does. Just like the quote, “Jesus loves us where we are, but He refuses to leave us there.” We were made for so much more! :)

We’ve made love into “What can he/she do for me?” Love has become all about “What can I get out of it?” rather than “What can I give to my loved one to show I appreciate them and care about their needs above my own?” My favorite part of this song was where Misty says “Love’s definition was looking at me, looking at Him. Hanging on a tree….This is how I know what love is.” If love is this kind of sacrifice, how come we are seeing such flaky love in the world?! When did it become all about ‘ME?’

I challenge you this week (it’s a big challenge, that we’ll constantly have to work on throughout our lives) to love like God loves - selflessly and unconditionally, with arms wide open, heart exposed. Remember that God’s command to love was not a choice or option.

For help with this, ask the Lord to humble you and see others the way He does. And ask Him to give you the strength to love when you no longer feel like loving others. May you walk in His love!

With prayers and love,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Extraordinary Proposal and The Bridegroom

Note: This message applies to both women AND men.

It is said that an individual’s greatest desire is to love and be loved. The best news about this is that our Heavenly Father loves us at all times as a flame of fire. His ardor never cools and His longing for our love and affection is deep and constant.

I am really excited to write this devotional , along with yesterday’s devotional, because I just recently found out of a few symbolic parallels in the Bible that I’m interested in sharing with you all.

A recent book I’ve been reading, called Completely His by Shannon Ethridge, devoted an entire chapter to the Lord’s passionate love for us, so I have included a few points below:
The First Last Supper – The night before Jesus was crucified, He gathered His twelve disciples in an upper room, where they experienced the origin of a sacred tradition we call “taking communion.” Jesus’ body (the bread) is “broken for you” and His blood (the wine/grape juice) “was shed for the remission of your sins.”

A side note: In Biblical times, a bride-to-be had a say in whether she would marry her potential groom. After he had negotiated a bride price for her (I’ll explain this more later), the groom would seek her approval of the arrangement by pouring a cup of wine and handing it to her. The quality of the wine signified, in his opinion, the bride’s worth. By this act, he was saying, “I offer you my life.” At that moment, the potential bride had a decision to make. If she did not care to marry the man, she could refuse the cup. But if she was willing to marry him, she would take the cup and drink from it. By her actions, she was saying, “I receive your life, and I give you mine in return.” Then preparations would begin for a wedding celebration, which included the groom’s returning to his father’s house to build an additional room where the marriage would eventually be consummated.

With this in mind, let’s return to the Last Supper. When Jesus handed the cup of wine to each of His disciples that night, He was saying, in essence, “Will you marry Me? Will you be My spiritual bride?” At that moment, His followers had a decision to make. They could reject the cup and refuse Jesus’ spiritual marriage proposal, or they could drink from it, receiving His life and offering theirs to Him in return. Once they drank from the cup, Jesus explained that He was going away and that they couldn’t come with Him. The disciples were bewildered, but Jesus responded, “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in Me. There are many rooms in My Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am” (John 14:1-3).

Jesus was referring to the Jewish tradition of the groom’s going to prepare a place for his bride that adjoined his father’s house. He was saying, “I am going to My Father’s house to prepare the wedding chamber, where we will one day consummate our love for one another and enjoy each other’s presence throughout all eternity.” He was telling His disciples – and you and me – that He was returning to His Father’s house in order to prepare a place for each one of us, for we are all His beloved bride.
How incredible is this that God would make such an offer, particularly when He knows our tendency toward unfaithfulness?! :)

An Unfaithful Bride
None of us are faithful to our Bridegroom – not one – but He has known this about each of us all along. The Bible is filled with unfaithful brides, from Adam and Abraham in the Old Testament to Peter and Paul in the New Testament. Yet these stories of sin often turn out to be success stories of how God cleansed these individuals and called them His own. He can do the same for us. In fact, God in His loving kindness, has already taken care of the necessary wedding arrangements in order to make good on His extraordinary proposal. Two important arrangements – the payment of the bride price and the provision of the wedding garments.

Payment of the Bride Price
In ancient times, a suitor was expected to pay the bride’s family a hefty price in order to receive her hand in marriage. Jesus did the same for us (His spiritual bride). However, Jesus wasn’t simply negotiating the price for one individual, but for all individuals, for all Eternity. So what price did He pay? No amount of money could possibly have made that kind of purchase. The price had to be exorbitant. It had to cost Him everything. And it did. It cost Him His life. Yet He paid the price willingly.

Just hours before He died, Jesus fell face down on the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from Me. Yet I want Your will, not Mine” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus paid a high price for each one of us. He drank the cup. He offered is very life to purchase His beloved spiritual bride, to purchase you and me. I love this analogy, because it makes me see the importance taking communion truly has! It is as if we are accepting Jesus’ marriage proposal or rejecting it, depending on whether we partake in it. It also is a great reminder to embrace our roles as His spiritual bride. Jesus has also purchased our wedding dress…

Provision of the Wedding Garments
He knew we could never purchase our own garments for the wedding supper of the Lamb, but He could, so He did (see Revelation 19:6-7). However, we need the proper garments – we need to be clothed in righteousness. The problem is, we cannot clothe ourselves with the necessary righteousness, regardless of how successful we are in refraining from sin or how many good deeds we manage to squeeze into a day. We can never be good enough. But when Jesus paid the price for us by dying on the Cross in our place, the blood He shed cancelled our sins and paved our way into the presence of God. He clothed us in His righteousness (see Isaiah 61:10).

Because Jesus has clothed us in His righteousness, we can proudly wear white at the wedding feast of the Lamb. And when we clothe ourselves with the white wedding dress that Christ has purchased for us to wear, we are the fulfillment of all he has dreamed about for us from the beginning.

A Pure and Spotless Bride
At the wedding supper of the Lamb, we will have absolutely no regrets. All our guilt and shame has been completely washed away by what Christ has already done, and we will know that we are the pure and spotless bride that God intended for His Son.

Perhaps you struggle with feeling less than worthy of God’s love because of your unfaithfulness to Him. Perhaps you can’t see yourself as a pure and spotless bride. If so, let me put some light back in your eyes. In Colossians 1:19-23, 28, Paul says we are perfect in Christ and that we are holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation. It doesn’t matter that you don’t feel worthy, because God’s lavish love and unconditional acceptance of you isn’t based on your worthiness. It’s based on HIS goodness. It’s based on the bride price that His perfect Son has already paid for you and me. We are no longer just anybody. We are His chosen. We are His beloved bride.

We may remember the sins we’ve committed in the past, but as far as God is concerned, we’ve been justified (meaning “just-as-if-I’d never done those things!”). Our sins are no longer held against us. We’ve been set free. We’ve been redeemed. Even in our unfaithfulness. Jesus has betrothed (engaged) Himself to us forever.

How Will We Respond?
It is the most moving and compelling love story of all time – Jesus extending such an extraordinary marriage proposal to us, paying the exorbitantly high price to redeem us, and permitting us to wear white as His pure and spotless bride. But the ending is up to each of us, individually. Will you dismiss this as some fairy tale? Or will you embrace those Truths and give Jesus the response He longs to receive?

May the Lord give you wisdom in this decision and bless you richly in your obedience to Him.

In Christ,

“I Can’t Wait” – Merchant Band: Lyrics (Sorry, I could not find a video this time)
“There's a place I've been more real than what I've seen
You led me by the hand into the chamber of the King
Take me away to the place that I never want to leave

I've tasted and I've known of a love that's better than wine
Come to me my Lord only You can satisfy
Take me away to the place that I never want to leave

I can't wait for our wedding day to come
Let me see Your face let me feel Your arms of love

I have been betrothed to a King above all kings
I am not my own and You've pledged Yourself to me

I can't wait for our wedding day to come
Let me see Your face let me feel Your arms of love

Take me away to the place that I never want to leave
Take me away to the place that I never want to leave

I can't wait for our wedding day to come
Let me see Your face let me feel Your arms of love”

The Tabernacle and Salvation Parallel

I recently heard some mind-blowing insight on the Tabernacle that is discussed in the Old Testament. Below I have described a general idea of the parallel the Tabernacle has with salvation, which is defined as deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.

Hebrews 8:4-5; 9:1-28
Tabernacle means “tent,” “place of dwelling” or “sanctuary.” It was a sacred place where God chose to meet His people, the Israelites, during the 40 years they wandered in the desert under Moses’ leadership. It was the place where the leaders and people came together to worship and offer sacrifices.

The Tabernacle of Moses is a lesson of unquestionable authority.

The Tabernacle was more than just a dwelling place. All the components of the Tabernacle were part of an intricate visual aid to illustrate God's relationship with His people. One aspect of this relationship was God’s requirement for complete obedience. God told Moses to create the Tabernacle exactly the way He commanded (Exodus 25:9).

To this end, God gave very specific instructions about the size of each component and the materials the Israelites were to use. These seemingly cumbersome rules were not intended to burden the people, but to show God’s unquestionable authority and holiness, and emphasize that people could only come to God on God’s terms, not on their own. They had to obey reverently not only in the construction of the Tabernacle, but also in the way they worshipped. Any irreverence or ritual uncleanness could result from an individual being cut off from his people or in death.

The Tabernacle really was a prophetic projection of the Lord’s redemptive plan for His people. Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.’”

Here are a couple pictures of the Tabernacle of Moses:


Something to note: There was only one gate by which people could enter into the Tabernacle courtyard. This symbolizes Jesus’ statement that He is the one gate by which we can enter God’s presence. John 14:6 -“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 10:9 - “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved” -John 10:9.

[Refer to Hebrews 9] - The Tabernacle was always to be set up in the midst of Israel’s campsite. This symbolized God’s desire to dwell among His people. God does not desire to be aloof or distant—He desires to be accessible to us. In fact, He desires to dwell within us.

But there is a problem, and the Tabernacle also symbolized this problem...
(Refer to the linked pictures for understanding) Any Israelite could go into the outer court of the Tabernacle as long as they were ritually clean, but there were restrictions and barriers that prevented most people from getting any closer to God. Only the Levitical priests could go into the Holy Place, the sanctuary in the Tabernacle. And no one (with one exception that I’ll explain soon) could go into God’s dwelling-place, the Holy of Holies. A thick veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies—this was as if God was saying: “Yes, I desire to have you in My presence—but you are not allowed the way you are. There is a serious problem that separates us, and until that problem is resolved there can be no real closeness between us.” That problem was explained (symbolically) by what was inside the Holy of Holies...

Their only piece of furniture in the HOH (Holy of Holies) was a wooden box called the “Ark of the Covenant.” And most important of all, it was over the Ark of the Covenant on the mercy seat that the very presence of God existed (Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2). Every article in this box was highly symbolic:

Inside the box were three things that symbolized the problem God had with the Israelites. There was a jar of manna. This was the food that God supernaturally provided for the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness (story in Exodus). This was the same food that the Israelites complained about—so it symbolized their ungrateful rejection of God’s provision. There was also Aaron’s walking stick. This stick represented God’s leadership through Moses and Aaron. Over and over again the Israelites rebelled against their leadership—so that God had to vindicate that Moses and Aaron were his chosen leaders by supernaturally causing his staff to bud (Numbers 17). So this staff symbolized their rebellion against God’s leadership. Finally, there were the 10 Commandments (Exodus 19-24)—the two stone tablets that summarized God’s law. Even as Moses brought these tablets down from Mt. Sinai, the Israelites were having an idolatrous orgy. Moses furiously threw them down and smashed them—so God made another copy and told him to put them in the Ark of the Covenant. They symbolized their disobedience to God’s law. This is not a pretty picture—and God has the same problems with us! What do we find in the meeting room with God? A record of why we deserve to be condemned by Him!

*Ultimately, the problem, discussed above, is sin.*

BUT there is good news to come so I encourage you to continue reading :)
Refer to Hebrews 9:1-4. “Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A Tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lamp stand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. This Ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.”
On top of the ark stood two statues of cherubim—angelic beings who are associated with banishment from God’s presence (Genesis 3:24). The cherubim’s faces were directed downward, into the contents of the Ark. It’s like they are saying: “Look at what these people have done! God definitely has a problem with these people. God has to judge all this!” And that’s the point. Yes, God loves us. Yes, God desires to have personal closeness with us. But He can’t—because we have violated His righteous character in many ways—and the penalty for this is death. (THE GOOD NEWS IS STILL TO COME…)

If this was all there was in the Holy of Holies, this would be a very depressing message. But there was something else—something called the “mercy seat.” It was the lid over top of the ark—and what happened on this lid symbolized God’s solution to our problem with Him. Because God is holy, God must judge our sin with death. But because God is loving, He provided a way to judge our sin without judging us. He provided a substitute who was killed in our place. Once a year, the high priest (the only one allowed in the Holy of Holies) selected a goat without any physical defect. After symbolically transferring the nation’s guilt for that year on to the goat by laying his hands on the goat’s head, the goat was slain and its blood (demonstrating His death) was carried in by the high priest into the Holy of Holies and poured out onto the mercy seat. The blood covered the lid so that the cherubim now “see” the death rather than the sins. The sins have been covered by the substitute’s death. After pouring out this blood, the high priest came back out and laid his hands on another defect-free goat. Then he sent the goat off into the wilderness. Symbolically, then, God’s judgment for their sins was “sent off” because of the death of the first goat.

This ritual sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, then, was a BEAUTIFUL picture of God’s plan of forgiveness. But it was never more than a temporary and defective picture—it never actually solved the problem of our separation from God. This is what the author emphasizes in Hebrews 9:8-10. The problem was not solved, because the high priests were sinful people just like us, not sinless mediators (9:7). They only went into a man-made tent, not into the actual heavenly presence of God. The sacrifices they offered were only animals, not human. (In fact, the Old Testament strictly forbade human sacrifice. It demanded human death for human guilt, but prohibited sinful human sacrifices.)

The Tabernacle system only cleansed people ceremonially/symbolically (re-qualified them to come into the outer court), it didn’t actually forgive people. The proof of this is two-fold: the sacrifices had to be repeated every year, and even then the worshippers couldn’t go into God’s presence. As 9:10 says, it only applied until God brought the real solution... :)

The Fulfillment in Jesus
Refer to 9:11,12. Here is some really good news! Jesus came as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Tabernacle system:
He was the real High Priest - the sinless High Priest who is therefore qualified to fix our sin problems with God because He doesn’t have any of His own sin problems. He went into the real Tabernacle—the actual presence of God—with His solution. He voluntarily offered His own blood—His own perfect and sinless life—to pay for our sins.

Therefore, He has accomplished a permanent solution for our guilt before God—He has died “once for all” and obtained an “Eternal redemption.” See 9:13,14. The most that the Old Testament sacrifices could grant was ritual cleansing—the right to go into the outer court. But Jesus’ sacrifice actually removes our guilt and cleanses our conscience (experience God’s forgiveness) so that we can serve (“worship”) God and enjoy his personal presence! By His blood, we are now able to enter into God’s presence.

This is why Jesus, just before He died on the Cross, cried out “It is finished” (Matt.27:50; John 19:30). What was finished? All of the Old Testament sacrifices and the whole Tabernacle system were finished, because what they symbolized was now accomplished by His death! And this is why the moment Jesus died, the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was torn in two (Matt.27:51). The separation between us and God that had stood so long, because our sins, was now bridged by Jesus’ death. The way into God’s presence was open for everyone—as long as we come through what Jesus did for us.

Ritualistic worship of God is now discarded!

The implications that flow from Jesus’ death and resurrection are huge! It changes the whole way we relate to God. One big change is that ritualistic worship of God is now discarded! That’s what is implied by the Temple veil being torn when Jesus died.

God has now called us to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (see John 4:24). This means that now God’s presence resides inside of us when we follow Him, and we can worship Him whenever and wherever we want. There is no need to sacrifice animals anymore, because Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice. Now that the real High Priest has entered the real Tabernacle to offer the real Sacrifice, Christianity is about a personal love relationship with God, not about ritualistic worship!

How amazing is it that God would give us such a clear picture in the Old Testament of how the Coming Messiah - JESUS - would redeem us all?!
I pray this novel as a devotional message touched you and gave you more knowledge into God’s love and forgiveness.

May your faith increase always! :)

For more information on the Tabernacle of Moses, you can refer to Exodus 24:12-27:21.

Here is a song that talks about the Tabernacle:
“Take Me In” – Kutless

P.S. – Thanks to Jennie Reeder for help on this one :) Love you!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Skeletons In The Closet - Pastor Chris Brown

Refer to Exodus 2:11-15

Do you seek freedom from your past? What skeletons do you have in your closet that you hope no one finds out about?

Something to remember is that when we do not deal with the past, it will rob us of our future. Do yourself a favor and do not rob your life of what God has in store for you.

How To Clean Out The Closet:
Face the Truth – you can’t outrun you or your past. If we run from the Truth, we cannot be who God called us to be.

Accept the Truth – go back to the ashes in your life and accept them. Thank God that, in spite of this moment, you are loved, you are valued, and you have purpose. You are adopted. You are given grace. You are given forgiveness. If we do not accept our past, it will continue to own us.

Accept grace, not guilt – your past mistakes do not affect who you are in Christ. You don’t need to continue to ask God for forgiveness. Ask once and you are forgiven in FULL! You are free from your past. :) When we do not forgive ourselves, we are saying that Christ’s death on the Cross is not good enough to free us from our failures/mistakes. Do not let Satan trick you into living a life in guilt.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:1-2

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." – Luke 19:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2

Other Bible verses to reference if interested: Hebrews 7:24-25; 1 Peter 2:24; Revelation 12:10; 1 Peter 5:8; Romans 7:24-25; 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Living with the door open:
Often the greatest force working against you is you.

Your skeletons can be Satan’s greatest weapon, or God’s most powerful tool.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9

"Failure is an event – NEVER a person.”

May you be able to walk back to the skeletons in your life and face them with boldness, knowing that God is with you. I pray that you learn to accept your past and walk in freedom.

God bless,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Leave Room for God

Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head." – Matthew 8:20

I read a great devotional tonight from Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” and I found it insightful so I included some excerpts below:

“As servants of God, we must learn to make room for Him – to give God “elbow room.” We plan and figure and predict that this or that will happen, but we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses.”

We live in a world today where Jesus is given little to no room. In Jesus’ time, the reason for this was often ignorance. Indifference and being too involved in their own lives were also factors. This may be why today we are seeing people give God little to no room as well.

Some questions to consider: Do you have a careless attitude about the message of Jesus? Does the Word of God move you to action? Or is the busyness of your life the reason you no longer have time for Jesus?
Today, will you choose to continue to fight with God for room in your life or will you humbly step aside and give Him full reign?

Let us examine our hearts (see Psalm 139:23-24) and ask ourselves why Jesus is given little room in our own lives. Once you’ve found your answer, give it up to God and then give Him a “place to lay His head.” (If you think you have given God full range in your life, I would like to remind you – “there is always room for improvement!”) =)

Chambers advises us, “Keep your life so constantly in touch with God that His surprising power can break through at any point. Live in a constant state of expectancy, and leave room for God to come in as He decides.”
May our hearts be like a stable, open and transparent, so that, as Jesus comes by, He can readily see what is in our hearts.

“Arms Open Wide” – Hillsong United

God bless,

Smiling in the Funeral Parlor

A cheerful heart is good medicine.” – Proverbs 17:22

Below I have included excerpts from Ch. 6 of Dan Willis’ “Freedom to Forget”:

If the devil steals your joy, he automatically has a hold on everything else.

Satan wants our holiness, morals, youth, marriages, and traditions. However, while this is true, he tends to go straight for your joy. If he can get our joy, he has an automatic hold on everything else. Someone who loses their joy no longer cares about holiness, morals, marriage, going to work, worshipping God, or anything else.

For this reason, the best thing you can do to forget after you forgive is laugh. A huge part of the healing process and learning to forget is remembering to smile and laugh again. After all it’s the best medicine, right? :)

My challenge for us is to quit preparing to be unhappy. Let’s expect the best in every situation and in everyone we interact with.

Here’s a cute video to make you laugh.

May you find joy in the simplest things today - “with a little bit of bacon” ;)

With love and prayers,

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Hope of the Christian Life

Have you ever wondered, “What is this ‘hope in Christ’ pastors always refer to?” After searching Scripture, I came up with three hopes that I believe they are speaking of.

-Hope that God is with us and will help us in time of need.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

“… we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5

"For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4

My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense; I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength and my refuge, is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us." Psalm 62:5-8

-Hope that we are free from the enemy’s strongholds, because God has already overcome death and given us Eternal life in His Son, Jesus Christ.

“…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world...” – 1 John 5:4

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” – Revelation 12:10

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

-Hope of Christ’s Return and the coming “Day of the Lord.”

We can wait in eager anticipation for the coming “Day of the Lord” with all of its wonders and rewards. When Christ returns, our faith will be made righteous (see Galatians 5:5).

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5:1-2

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope.
For who hopes for what one sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait with endurance.”
(Romans 8: 24 – 25)

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body...." Philippians 3:20-21

Lastly, I want to leave you with an encouraging quote I read from Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul. “God’s driving this train. So as long as we stay on it, everything will be all right.”
I pray that you will continue to keep fighting and trusting that God will be your shield.

God bless,

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Jeremiah 2
Israel Forsakes God
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:
" 'I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the desert,
through a land not sown.
5 This is what the LORD says:
"What fault did your fathers find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
and became worthless themselves.
6 They did not ask, 'Where is the LORD,
who brought us up out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness,
through a land of deserts and rifts,
a land of drought and darkness, [a]
a land where no one travels and no one lives?'
7 I brought you into a fertile land
to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land
and made my inheritance detestable.
8 The priests did not ask,
'Where is the LORD ?'
Those who deal with the law did not know me;
the leaders rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
following worthless idols.
13 "My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
32 Does a maiden forget her jewelry,
a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten me,
days without number.
33 How skilled you are at pursuing love!
Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.

I chose to write on Jeremiah 2 tonight because I felt God set it on my heart. Earlier today a friend had read it to me and later tonight it was read during a Christmas program. There are no coincidences! ;-) I love this message because it speaks to those who are beginning to backslide (turn from God), those who have been backsliding for awhile, and for those who will in the future (as a warning to them).

When we begin to backslide, God instructs us first to “remember” (vs.1). He is telling us to remember the beginning of our love relationship with the Lord. This is such great advice! Think of what marriage counselors say to couples during a session, “Tell me about what life was like for you both when you first met.” It is important to remember all the work that God has done in our lives for us to avoid taking Him for granted. In the beginning stages of a relationship or marriage, your loved one holds chief priority in your life. God is asking us, “Remember when I was more than enough for you?”

The passages above goes on to talk about how we have left our first love (God Himself). In spite of the past, where are you now? What choices have allowed you to get here? Has forsaking your first love been one of them?

The Lord uses a visual of broken cisterns to describe the life of those who have left Him for other things (other lovers). He is warning us that these other lovers that we are pursuing for fulfillment such as other relationships, money, sex, etc. are like broken cisterns that hold no water. We will always come up again and again running dry. He goes on to say those who pursue these worthless things, become worthless themselves. This is so true! Here’s an EXTREME example: Think of someone who gets so caught up in their looks that they end up having multiple eating disorders and become so self absorbed that they cannot hold a conversation that does not include, “Me” or “I.” They are empty cisterns! They have forsaken the God, the “river of life.” It’s absurd, right?!

Why does this person do that? Or the real question, why do WE do this?
It is because we have lost our sense of who God is. We have forgotten His worth, the greatness of His being, and the ability He has to fill our hearts with the utmost joy! :) Without Him, we begin to deteriorate inside. Our insecurities drive our actions, our fears dominate our thoughts, and Satan gets that foothold we were warned against! How disguisting we must look when God sees how we lust after anything that comes along with a temporary high, thrill, or drive. How easily we are satisfied!

The beautiful part of this story, however, is that time and time again God calls us back to Him. He is a devoted and faithful love. In Jeremiah 3:22 He says, "Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness." Let us recognize our wrongs and return to His unconditional love. His love is unfailing and it radiates with grace. What greater love is there?! He is waiting to heal our hurts and beautify us once more. God calls us saying, "Return to Me. Come back. It's not too late. I will restore you. I will open your eyes. No longer will you have to walk in ignorance or darkness. I will heal your faithlessness."

How will you respond?

I pray that you will rejoice in His gracious and undeserved offering for our return. May your eyes be opened and drawn back to the Lord.

God bless,

Friday, December 11, 2009

God Is Love

"God is love." - 1 John 4:16
"Love one another as I have loved you." - John 15:12

Christ gave His love when it was not deserved to people who did not deserve it. That's the principle to practice! Love is the one ingredient of which our world never tires and of which there is never an over abundance. The world will never outgrow its need for love. God created us in His own image, which means we were created to function on the fuel of love. The world cries out for genuine love, love that heals, love that unites, love that forgives, love that encourages.

Love is essential to our emotional, physical, mental, and social well-being. There's a quote I like that says, "Our lives are shaped by those who love us and by those who refuse to love us." If you give love away, it will be renewed each day and become stronger and purer.

Last quote I want to leave you with - "Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love is not love until you give it away."

Note to remember: We enrich the world by what we give.

God bless!
<3 Shannon

Movie to check out on loving God's way: Fireproof

Song: "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love" - Jars of Clay

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Relying on His Energy

A Story of A Man and A Fly
There once was a fly flying inside a flying plane. I inquired, "Mr. Fly, why do you fly? Why don't you sit down and enjoy the journey?" His reply smacked of smugness. "And let the plane crash? Why this craft needs me. My wings are essential to our safety." And with a puff of the chest he flew toward the front of the plane. As he returned some moments later, he didn't look so confident. Fear flicked in his tiny eyes, "I don't think I can keep up!" "Keep what up?" "The plane! I don't think I can keep the plane up. I'm flying as furiously as I can. But my wings are weary. I don't know how long I can do this." I opted for frankness. "Don't you know it's not up to you? You are surrounded by strength, held aloft by power that is not yours. Stop flying! It's not up to you to get this plane home." He looked at me as if I were crazy and told me to buzz off.

I wanted to share this short story (from Max Lucado's "Come Thirsty") because I feel so often I find myself trying to "fight the good fight" or "run the race" on my own. But after reading this part in the book, I was reminded of the support we have in Christ. We are the fly in this situation. God is telling us to slow down and rest. If we rest in Him, He will be our strength.

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." - 1 Peter 5:7
"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13

I pray that today you will take full advantage of Christ's empowering Spirit within you and let His wings sustain you.

In Christ,

Being Open To God

"God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus."

This is an introductory quote from one of Max Lucado's popular books, "Just Like Jesus: Learning to Have a Heart Like His." I chose to refer to this book, because today I have been listening to a song (the one I posted in this message) and I felt it had a great message so I wanted to find a good book to go with it.

Max Lucado talked about how God loves you just the way you are and how we should not confuse His love with the love of people. Whereas the love of people is often based on performance, God loves you right where you are. The author then gave a beautiful analogy of what it would be like if, for one day, Jesus were to become you. He raised some great questions that I challenge us all to ask ourselves: Would your priorities change? Would those around you detect more joy? Would you treat the less fortunate the same? And your friends and family?

The main message I'm hoping to send is a reminder to be open to God's leading in your life. See people the way He sees them. See trials, struggles, and daily circumstances the way He does. Ask Him to open your eyes, ears, mind, and heart the way Shawn McDonald does in the song posted.

I pray the Lord stirs something in you and you have a desire to let Him live through you even more today. Let His light be the light that directs your actions.

God bless,


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Let Him Direct Your Steps

Recently I've been reading "Streams in the Desert" devotional by L.B. Cowman. Tonight I read one about letting God lead our paths and I found it really inspiring so I wanted to pass it along. Here it is below:

"I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps." - Jeremiah 10:23
Take Home: God's ability to direct our lives well is infinitely beyond our ability. Sometimes we are afraid of His power and His plans because we know His power would easily crush us if He used it against us. Don't be afraid to let God correct your plans - He will give you wisdom if you are willing.

"Lead me in a straight path." - Psalm 27:11
How do we receive God's guidance? The first step is to want to be guided and to realize that God's primary guidance system is in His Word, the Bible. Psalm 119 tells of the endless knowledge found in God's Word. By reading the Bible and constantly learning from it, we will gain the wisdom to perceive God's direction for our lives. When we are willing to seek God in prayer, learn from His Word, and obey Him, then we will recieve His specific guidance.

"Many people want to direct God instead of surrendering themselves to be directed by Him. They want to show Him the way instead of submissively following where He leads." - Madame Guyon <-- I love this quote! :) How true is this in our lives?! Sidenote: Some people call Christianity a "crutch," but when you get down to the basics, you realize that this is far from the Truth. Living for Christ and being His follower requires submission on our part and self-denial, which are not easy things. They must continually be given effort. Something to think about: The life we're living now determines where we will end up. Let us take this into consideration and surrender our paths to the leading of our Heavenly Father. We may be tempted to demand answers from God, but instead let us ask for direction. I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend and staying warm. I pray you remember the infinite knowledge God has the next time you are seeking guidance and, as a result, turn to Him for direction. With love and prayers, Shannon