Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"...And His name shall be called..."

"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Is. 9:6 NKJV) Every Christmas someone will preach a message from this scripture, we reference it in our discussions about Christmas; I have even received several Christmas greetings this year using that particular verse. But how often do we stop to really take in the prophet Isaiah's very descriptive prophecy of who our Savior is? Let's take a moment beloved to dissect and analyze the prophet’s descriptive verse, name by name. Let me begin by saying that very often, I look at scripture through the lens of a writer. By that I mean I look at the grammar mechanics, where commas are placed, is something in parenthesis, is there a word that is connecting one verse to a previous verse, etc. In looking at Isaiah’s prophecy, I see that each name is separated by a comma, and is therefore meant to stand on its own. “And His name shall be called Wonderful,” “And His name shall be called Counselor,” “And His name shall be called Mighty God,” “And His name shall be called Everlasting Father,” “And His name shall be called Prince of Peace.” Each name was a promise of who Jesus would be, for those of us who receive Him as our Savior and Lord. They are not just titles to be recited poetically; they inform us of Messiah’s roll in our lives! His name shall be called “Wonderful.” Wonderful has two definitions, that make perfect sense when used as a name for Jesus: (1) of a quality that excites admiration or amazement; (2) suiting somebody perfectly. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, think about your life before Christ and your life now. Is there something about Jesus, just saying His name that excites you? Does His goodness and love for you sometimes leave you shaking your head in amazement? Does life in the loving care and forgiveness of Jesus Christ suit you perfectly? My answer is Yes! His name shall be called “Counselor.” There are two definitions of counselor that jump out at me when I look at Jesus as Counselor; (1) somebody such as a friend who gives advice; (2) an attorney, especially one who acts for a client in a trial. What a beautiful image. Jesus is certainly a friend who gives advice. Have you ever been in a situation when you had no answer, no one to turn to and the still small voice from within advises you on what to do, how to do or where to go? That is Jesus, our friend, being a counselor. When the “accuser of the brethren” stands to accuse us with our past, pointing out our failures and shortcomings, our attorney, Jesus is there representing us, speaking on our behalf, reminding the Father and Satan that our past has been wiped clean by His blood! Jesus our Counselor! His name shall be called Mighty God! Jesus, contrary to how he is portrayed in some Hollywood productions, is a Mighty God! If you read the Gospels and you see how He faced down His challengers, if you read the Book of the Revelation, you will see that He is a Mighty God! Jesus is not the helpless little baby in the manger, and He is not the broken, disfigured body hanging on the cross, He is our Mighty God! His name shall be called Everlasting Father. In Ephesians chapter one we see Jesus as everlasting, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:4-6 NKJV) Jesus has always been who He is and we were eternally His. And He shall be called Prince of Peace. Have you ever been in a situation beloved where everything that you saw, every report, every word spoken was telling you to fall apart, lose control and give up? Yet you found yourself in peace! There is a peace that comes in Christ Jesus that allows you to lie down and rest when all hell is breaking loose. There is a peace in Christ Jesus beloved that fills us when the report is “the worst case scenario.” Why is that? Because our Prince of Peace is reigning supreme in our lives; He is present and He holds us in the midst of the storm! Jesus, our Prince of Peace! Beloved, this Christmas, amid the joy and fellowship that you share with your family, take time to reflect upon who Jesus Christ is in our lives. He is not the “sweet little Jesus boy,” he is not “Mary’s little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.” Jesus is Wonderful, He is Counselor, He is Mighty God, He is Everlasting Father, He is Prince of Peace! Praise God! Merry Christmas beloved, thank you for stopping by to read my posts this year, I pray you were blessed by them. I hope you will come back in 2014!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Brand Recognition

Have you ever watched the Red Carpet interviews when Awards shows air on television? If you have, then you know that the first question that celebrities are asked by the interviewers is, "Who are you wearing?" And the celebrity responds by giving the name of a top designer. You never hear the celebrities say, "I don't know, I just picked this up at the mall." No, every celebrity on the red carpet is careful to select a top designer, or an up and coming designer with clear brand recognition. These people know that the designer label that they are wearing is almost as important as the award itself. Even the lesser known celebrities want to be seen in the top brand names. There are certain designer labels that are so easily recognized at these red carpet events that no one needs ask the question, "Who are you wearing?" Or, certain designers are identified almost exclusively with certain celebrities, so there is never any guesses about who they are wearing. When Hillary Clinton was First Lady, she always wore Oscar de la Renta. He was even the designer of her Mother of the Bride gown when her daughter got married. Before the sketches for her inaugural gowns were released, even before word of what she would wear to her daughter's wedding got out, reporters were speculating that she would be wearing an Oscar de la Renta gown. Mrs. Clinton was known for her preference for and tendency towards wearing gowns from the De la Renta line, so it was never a surprise when she stepped out in a gown by the well known designer. Which brings me to the thought that sent me writing this evening...as Christians, are we concerned with brand recognition? Does the life we live easily identify us as being of the Household of Christ? The Apostle Paul admonishes us in Romans 13:14, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (ESV) When you step out onto the "Red carpet" of life do the people around you have to guess who you are wearing? Does your conversation say, "Of the Household of Christ" or does it say "gratifying the desires of my flesh" because you are prone to gossip, crude language and hurtful words? When someone needs prayer, do they seek you out because your daily life identifies you as having "put on the Lord Jesus"? When celebrities seek out designers for the awards season, they don't want just any old designer. They don't pick the guy whose designs end up on the worst dress list year after year, no they choose top of the line designers because they know that at some point during the night a reporter is going to stick a microphone in their face and ask the question, "Who are you wearing?" We should also be mindful beloved, what we are showing the world as believers, in Galatians 3:27, Paul again reminds us of who we are wearing, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (ESV) As saved men and women of God we are wearing the "Brand" of the living Christ! Does the world see that in you? Do they know who you are wearing or do they scratch their heads in confusion when you say that you are a Christian? Many people believe that the word Christian is translated "little Christs" but in truth, the translation means "Of the household of Christ." If we belong to the Household of Christ, the world should easily recognize that we are wearing His “Brand”. When we step out, we should be wearing a loving attitude, our joy and peace should be evident, we should treat others with patience, kindness and gentleness. We should be an example of goodness, faithfulness and self control. These are the things that will identify us as wearing the "Brand" of Jesus Christ. You would never see a celebrity altering a gown by Vera Wang or Carolina Herrera, because they want everyone to know that they are wearing a gown from these notable designers’ lines. Our desire should also be that every person we meet will see a true and unaltered Christianity that draws them to our Savior. So here is my question for you, dearly loved ones, who are you wearing and are you easily identified with His brand? I don't know about you, but there are plenty of days that I know I don't wear the brand well, but my prayer and my sincere desire is this, having put on the Lord Jesus, I want to wear Him well! What about you? The world is watching to see who we are wearing, so let's wear the "Brand" in a manner that is worthy of the designer!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cast Out the Idol and Tear Down the Altar

So often, we build certain things up in our lives to the point that they become our idols. We don't think of them as idols, we just see them as our dreams, our goals, and our ambitions; but when those things become the central focus in our lives, they do, in essence, become our idols. Anything that we place above our love and passion for the true and living God becomes an idol. God warned us early on that we were to give nothing first place above Him in our lives, "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." (Ex. 20:3-4 NIV) I confess that I had one such idol and recently, I went before God, and confessed that I had built up this idol. I then cast the idol out and tore down the altar that I had built up in my heart and I surrendered the dream that had fostered the idol to my heavenly Father. Now as you sit with your mouth gaping, trying to figure out to what idol I am referring, let me assure you that I know that there is but the one true God and His son Jesus Christ who died for my sins. I also know that when I received salvation, God and Jesus came to live in me and with me in the person of the Holy Spirit. When I speak of an idol in my life and the altar to that idol, I am speaking of a dream that I have carried in my heart since I was a little girl. As most little girls do, I dreamed of becoming a wife and a mother. I always wanted four children, two boys and two girls. Even as a young girl, I would think of raising a family then having that family go off and build families of their own and then my children and grandchildren would return home to visit my husband and me. When I got saved at twenty-nine, my dream for a family became more. My dream became one of marrying a good godly man and together raising children who would love and honor God. I dreamed of leaving behind a legacy of children and grandchildren whose lives honored God and brought Him glory. As time passed and this dream did not come to pass as I'd hoped and believed, I realize now that it became larger than a dream. It became a source of contention between God and me. My simple dream that most young girls have became my idol. And the altar to this idol became the place where I sent up my sacrifices of bitter complaints and feelings of slight! I lamented about the unfairness of it all; that as a saved woman of God I'd placed my trust in Him to choose for me and He let me down! I'd wasted my childbearing years trusting Him to bring this dream to pass! I was robbed! It was unfair! Where were my children? So these children, this husband that I didn't have became the central focus of my life. They became my god! My bitterness towards God drove me farther from Him and often caused me to make foolish choices and open my life to people that were clearly not God's choice for me, all in a pursuit of my god, my idol. I believed that I was sincere when I sought God for my family, when I prayed about this dream of mine; but in truth it was all about what I wanted not about what God had planned for my life. God didn’t answer this prayer because He doesn’t love me, and it doesn’t necessarily mean this is not a part of His plan for me. The problem was that the asking was not about “God what do you want with my life, what are Your plans for my life?” The problem was that my prayers were more like a spoiled child, “I want and You won’t…” The Apostle James warns of these types of prayers, “Yet even when you do pray, your prayers are not answered, because you pray just for selfish reasons.” (James 4:3 CEV) The longer this dream did not happen for me, the bigger it became in my heart and mind and the more selfishly motivated my prayer became. The thing is that God is not going to change because we get mad at Him or we pout when He doesn’t do things our way. He is sovereign, we are His and He doesn’t alter the plans he makes for our lives, not even for us. We may alter them but that only ends up hurting us! I realized a little while ago that what I wanted more than this dream was a walk with God that would glorify Him; a life that would bring glory and honor to Jesus, the one who died that I could live. My pursuit now is to honor God, to open up the Kingdom of Heaven to all who would receive it. What about you dear ones? What dreams of yours have become your idols? Have you given them first place in your life? My challenge to you is this beloved, cast out the idol that you have built up in your life, tear down its altar and surrender that dream that you’ve carried to the One who always had a greater plan for you, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11 NKJV) The truth is that this life is not about our wants, it is about what God the Father desires of us. Our pursuit should not be centered on us; it must be centered on Him. Jesus gave this directive to His disciples and by extension, to us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33 NKJV) I know that there is more to this scripture, but let’s just focus on this part and let Him do the rest. As always, be encouraged dearly loved ones!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Open the Portal

I love Marvel's The Avengers! It is one of my favorite movies; I could watch it over and over again. In the opening, the Tesseract is activated and opens a portal to earth so that Loki, the brother of Thor, and an army of space invaders can come and conquer earth. When the portal opens, The Hawk asks Inspector Fury, if the Tesseract opened a portal to earth, wouldn't it make sense that there was another door on the other side? No sooner had Hawk spoken than Loki appeared through the portal...so the answer to his question was, yes! So what does this have to do with anything you ask? Well, a lot actually for those of us who are believers. When the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of Heaven would come He replied “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV) How on earth is the Kingdom of God within us? We find the answer to that question in the Gospel of John chapter 14, when Jesus made a promise to His disciples that though the world would not see Him, they would see Him because He would be with them and not only He, but the Father as well, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." (v 23 NKJV) Those of us who love Jesus have Him and the Father living inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit. We find this promise from Jesus also in The Gospel of John Chapter 14, "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (V. 16-18 NKJV) When the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, He brings the Kingdom of Heaven to us! The Holy Spirit is our Tesseract so to speak. You see, when we tap into the Kingdom of Heaven it is not just for us, it is for those around us as well. The portal is opened so that we can access heaven at anytime and when we access heaven we can then share that power with others. Following Pentecost, the disciples were in constant contact with the Kingdom of Heaven; wherever they went peoples' lives were changed to such a degree that when they came to Thessalonica, the people complained to the rulers, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." Acts 17:6 (NKJV) In the movie, The Avengers, the Tesseract was believed to be a source of unlimited power; therefore everyone wanted to control it. For believers, the Holy Spirit is our source of unlimited power. The Apostle Paul said that we have within us the same power that raised Jesus from the dead; and Jesus, when he arose declared that all power in heaven and on earth was given into His hands. We have Jesus, with all this power living on the inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit. When Loki used the Tesseract to open a portal between earth and other worlds, the people of earth were exposed to power they'd not witnessed before. When we who are in the body of Christ open the portal that we received when the Holy Spirit came to live within us, we will again expose the world to a power it has not seen since the Apostles ministered as it is recorded in the Book of the Acts. You see, the door that allows us access to heaven has never closed; but the door that allows the world to experience heaven has been shut up by far too many believers for far too long! If you have received Christ as your Savior then the Holy Spirit has come to live within you, so go ahead dearly loved ones use your spiritual tesseract, the Holy Spirit, to open the portal that can again turn the world upside down!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Would've, Could've, Should've Won't Change the World!

My baby sister has a saying, “Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve caught a rabbit won’t make stew!” It’s a funny saying but there is an element of truth to it. In essence, what she is saying is that you can make all the excuses in the world but in the end, all you will have are the excuses. The Apostles were all men who could have made excuses. At the time that Stephen was martyred for being a follower of Christ, the scripture tells us that Saul (Who would later be called Paul) was in agreement with his death. According to Acts 8:3 Paul was wreaking havoc on the Christians: “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” (NKJV) We find in Chapter nine of The Acts that Saul was intent upon bringing an end to Christianity: “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2 NKJV) What Saul didn’t know was that he was about to have a divine encounter that would forever change this zealous, “Pharisee of Pharisees!” On the way to Damascus, Paul met the Savior whom he persecuted. He was then carried by those who were with him into Damascus, a man blinded and broken. The scripture tells us that the Lord spoke to a devout man named Ananias and told him to go and lay hands on Paul that he might receive his sight. Ananias protested, reminding the Lord that it was this same man who had persecuted His followers, to which the Lord replied, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16) Now here is where Paul might have offered his “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.” Who in the world would willingly go from persecuting and fighting against someone only days earlier to “suffering many things for His name’s sake”, Paul would, and he did. Did you know that Paul was beheaded by the Emperor Nero? Not only Paul, but all those who followed Jesus and proclaimed His name, and continued His teachings suffered. Peter was crucified, Church historians say that he chose to be crucified upside down rather than think himself worthy to be crucified like Jesus. The Apostle John, though he was not killed, suffered for Christ. Church history tells us that he was boiled in oil and exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he received the Revelation of Jesus Christ, prophesying the events of the end times. John’s brother James was the first Apostle to suffer death for Christ; he was stoned and beaten to death in Jerusalem. Peter’s brother Andrew was crucified. Matthew was killed with an axe. Mark was said to have been torn to pieces by a mob in Alexandria after he told them that their god was just a piece of carved stone. Do you think that these men might have had some “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve excuses to offer? Jesus told them before His crucifixion that the world would hate them because of Him. They could have made excuses and gone back to their homes and lived out the rest of their lives, but they didn’t. They chose the tough suffering way, and because they did, we now have what the world calls The New Testament; a series of letters and personal accounts of the work these men did in the name of Christ. Ask yourself these questions, “Could I do it? Do I do it? Do I risk it all to make certain that the people that I come in contact with meet and know the Risen Savior?” The truth is that we are a people of excuses. The doctor says go on a diet, you need to lose weight to get healthy and we offer excuses;"My metabolism is too low!” “Diets are too expensive!” “I don’t eat that much, I’m just big boned!” The pastor and the church leadership ask us to go out and witness in a drug infested area of our neighborhood on Saturday morning and we offer excuses. “Saturday is my only day to sleep late.” “Those people don’t want to know Jesus, they like what they’re doing.” “My child has a really busy schedule on Saturdays.” Jesus, as He was preparing to ascend into heaven left a mandate for His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:18-20 CEV) It is called “The Great Commission.” This Commission was not just for those who followed Jesus during His earthly ministry, or those who came into direct contact with the Apostles, it is for every believer who claims Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Instead of fulfilling the Commission, we offer our “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve(s).” Honestly, if we don’t give up our excuses, and be about the work of spreading the Good News of the love and salvation of Jesus Christ, we are of no benefit to the Kingdom of God; and if we are of no benefit to the Kingdom, we need to stop calling ourselves followers of Christ. Peter, John, James, Paul, all of the Apostles gave up the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve(s)” and as a result, they have stew…or as Paul put it in his final letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV) The Apostles gave up all of the excuses and put it all on the line for Christ and in exchange they received the crown of righteousness. What about you, dearly loved one…are you ready to make stew? Let’s give up our “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve(s)” and let’s go into our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, our nation and around the world and proclaim the love and salvation of Jesus Christ! The harvest truly is plentiful…and the “stew” is wonderful!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Gain, Loss and Value Added

Sometimes people fear living for Christ because they think that they have to give up so much.  There is a fear of giving up a dream career or the love of your life, so they put off coming to Christ in order to have that which they fear losing.  The Apostle Paul was a man who knows something about gain and loss.  Paul called himself "a Pharisee of Pharisees" he was a distinguished member of the Sanhedrin, having been taught by one of the greatest Rabbis of his time, Gamaliel.  Saul as he is also known was a man of position and esteem and yet when he met the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus he left it all behind to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Paul exchanged the life of prestige and privilege that he held as Saul the Pharisee for one of hardship, beatings, stoning and imprisonment.  We see an incredible account of how Paul viewed this exchange in Philippians chapter 3:  "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Phil 3:7-11 NKJV)  What an incredible declaration!  This man, who at one time had been zealous for the Law and persecuted the followers of Christ has come to a point where he says that he counts all things as rubbish or garbage so that he can have Christ and be “found in Christ.” He desires the righteousness that is found in Christ and not in the Law.  Clearly Paul has found something that is worth more than any of the things that previously held such great importance to him; and he did it all in order to know Christ fully.  Not just to know Him but to know his suffering, to be conformed to His death, in other words Paul wanted so much of Christ that he wanted to be a companion in His suffering and he wanted to match His death.  Wow!  Can we say that we have made that same exchange for Christ?  Are you there yet?  I don’t know that I am, but I long to be!  Paul’s willingness to give up everything in order to gain Christ indeed cost him everything, including his life; but in that there was “value added.”  As his life came to an end Paul wrote to his “son” in the ministry, Timothy:  For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV)  Value added…Paul knew that while the Emperor Nero was ordering his death and that of his fellow Christians simply for sport, the Righteous Judge had already declared him a victor!  Despite the persecution, the rejection by his own people and even his death, Paul remained faithful and continued to trust the one who had “arrested” him on the Damascus road so many years earlier.  As a result of having given up everything, the Apostle knew that Jesus, the Righteous Judge” would award him a crown of righteousness because he was willing to give up everything!  Paul’s encouragement to Timothy and to us is that if we are willing to do the same that we too have a crown of righteousness awaiting us.  When I consider all that there is to gain, crowns to cast at the feet of my Lord, the privilege of reigning with Him in His Kingdom, and an eternity with my Lord and with God the Father, the questions that I always come back to are these, “Why do you hesitate to sell out?”  “Why do you look longingly at the piles of rubbish that you consider valuable?”  “Where is the loss in a life that is surrendered to Christ?”  I don’t know about you, but I am ready to cast it all aside so that like Paul I can say: "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…” Be encouraged dearly loved ones…the exchange is so great that you will never even miss the “rubbish” that you give up!  Let’s go for it!  All in and at all cost!  That in the end we too can receive the Crown of Righteousness that has been laid up for us!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Know Your Worth: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You

For most of my life I have suffered with self-esteem issues.  Even as a saved woman of God, I have battled low self-esteem and poor self-image.  What I have found in the past few months, however is that this has served to open the door to people who have used that to their advantage and who have in turn used me.  You see when you don't place the proper value on yourself, there are people who will use you, take advantage of your gifts and talents; while making you feel that they are doing you a favor.  They prey upon your insecurities and hurt you but they never say I am sorry and always manage to make you feel that somehow you are the problem.  Today I can tell you, dearly loved ones that I have been there, done that and have the scars to prove it.  But I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit, who in recent days has begun to minister this truth to me..."You have worth, and value and until you see this, there will always be someone standing in line to use you and take advantage."  So I want to share this truth with you.  As a teacher, and because I know my issue with low self-esteem and poor self-image, I have always counseled young women to "know their worth."  When I see them allowing someone to devalue them, I always ask them the question, "What value do you place on yourself?"  I now realize that this truth has been stuck in my head for many years, but has never made its way into my heart.  I never really knew my worth, never really placed value upon myself until I came face to face with the truth that I was being devalued, and that I had allowed it!  In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells the parable of the woman who lost a coin, “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ I know that this scripture is referring to sinners coming to salvation, but I also believe that in a broader sense, it is talking about the value that the Father places on each of us.  This woman knew that the coin had value, so she didn't simply dismiss the fact that it was lost, even though she still had nine other coins, but instead she went to great pains to find that coin.  This simple story speaks a very deep, eternal truth to me, we matter to God!  He has taken great care in creating a masterpiece in each of us, a thing of beauty; a work of art!  And regardless of the countless billions that have walked this earth, we are each priceless to Him!  When we devalue ourselves, or allow others to devalue us, we are saying that the masterpiece that God created, you and me, is really worthless!  How do you suppose the Father feels as He observes us allowing ourselves to be used and discarded like a Kleenex that someone used to wipe their nose?  I can only imagine that it causes Him great pain.  Psalms 139:14 gives us a good view of how the Father wants us to see ourselves: "I praise [thank] You because You made me in an amazing [awesome] and wonderful way. What You have done is wonderful. I know this very well."(EXB)  We, beloved, are valuable to God!  Even when we don't count ourselves as having value, even when others discount our value, God the Father always knows our worth.  In Matthew 10, Jesus reminds us of this..."29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 
But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."(ESV) During Jesus' time, sparrows were of so little value that two sparrows were sold for less than a penny in today’s currency, but God cared so much for them that not one of them was lost or destroyed without Him being aware of it; but Jesus goes on to remind us that we are so valuable to God that He took the time to number even the hairs on our heads!  Dearly loved ones, I will say this again, we matter so much to God!  So my encouragement to you today is this...see yourself as the valuable silver coin, the wonderfully made masterpiece, the creation so precious that your Father even took the time to count the hairs on your head; and do not allow ANYONE into your life who does not know your value and your worth!  
Be encouraged beloved and keep your eyes on the Father!

  Evangelist Carolyn 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Trusting God: Now Unto Him who is Able

*This is the third in the series on Trusting God and is a repost from September 2010.  If you have read it already, I hope that you will read it again, because the Lord had given me new insights and new things to write.  I hope that it will bless you.
So...trusting God, take 3.  How do we come to the place of total trust in God, in His goodness, in His faithfulness, in His love?  It doesn't seem like the hard places of our lives would be where we learn to trust God, but they are.  Why is that?  Why did God allow Jezebel to threaten Elijah and send him running to the cave?  Why was Abraham tested to the point of taking his son to be offered as a sacrifice to God?  And why do we face our cave, our climb up the mountain ready to sacrifice that thing we love most?  Abraham, Elijah, us--why does God take us through the various trials that we face?  Is He just mean and gets a kick out of seeing us suffer?  No!  First and foremost, we must remember that God is good and He loves us beyond measure.  I know what you're thinking, "Ok smarty pants--then why does He allow us to go through these trials?" I will answer that question with a story.  When I started a fitness program with a personal trainer, he told me that in order to lose the most weight quickly, he needed to start me on a strength building program with weights to build muscle, and the muscles would then burn the fat as fuel.  Now, can I tell you that this was not at all pleasant at first!  Some of my weight routines required that I lift as much as 120 pounds and that was hard!  In the first couple of weeks, I was so sore I hated the thought of going to the gym!  As I continued to go, I began to look forward to my workout time.  A few weeks more and I began to see definition in my muscles, my clothes began to fit better and I had more energy than ever!  The muscles that I had begun to build were now using the stored fat as fuel.  Even when I was doing simple tasks like walking the corridors of my school, my muscles were working, burning fat; the strenuous workouts that my trainer created for me were conditioning my body so that even when I wasn't actually working out, my newly formed muscles were working.  So how does this relate to our learning to trust God?  I believe that each time we face trials, we have one of two choices: trust God to bring us out or hide in the cave.  If we decide, "I really don't know how God and I am a little afraid, but I am going to trust You," what we find is that God does come to where we are and gives us the help that we need.  Every time we make this choice, we build our faith and trust in God.  Just like I build muscles every time I workout, which in turn allows me to get stronger; every time we face a situation where we must trust God and only God, our faith and trust in Him grows stronger!  Our trials create a track record by which we can trace the faithfulness of God, we in turn develop a stronger and more lasting faith.  We must come to know that God does not do things the way that we think He should, we can't even imagine sometimes how God is going to respond to our place of trial, but we must know that our God can do anything.  The Apostle Paul says it this way, "Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine according to the power that works in us."  What power?  The power of the Living God in the person of the Holy Spirit.  The scripture reminds us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is working in us.  How can we fail? How can we be destroyed? How can anything take us down when we have the power of the Eternal God working in us and for us?  This power allows us to stand in the face of our "Jezebels" and "mountain climbs" knowing that our God loves us and He always has a plan for our lives, "to do us good and not evil and to give us a hope and a future."  That being said--Let's keep pumping, building our faith physique..."One, I'll trust you Father, two, I'll trust you Father..."
Continue to fight the good fight of faith dearly loved ones!

Evangelist Carolyn

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trusting God: Abraham's Story

**Reposted from September 7, 2010**
For the past few weeks I have come across people, myself included, who have every reason to feel like God has forgotten or failed them, but as I went back and looked at this blog from 2010, I received a new burst of faith to trust God!  There are actually three posts in the series, starting with the one shared earlier this week...Trusting God.  As I read these posts again, I felt compelled to share them with you all.  I hope that you are blessed by them!

When we first meet Abraham, he is not some strapping young boy itching to go out and conquer the world!  He was in fact, seventy-five years old.  From the beginning of their relationship, God made Abraham many precious promises and the scripture says that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  Simply by believing that God was who He said He was and that He would do what He said that He would do, Abraham was deemed righteous.  This always amazes me.  I think about this man who at seventy-five years of age received a promise that he and his sixty-five year old wife would become parents and he believed God.  Even when it took twenty-five years for this promise to come to pass, the bible tells us that Abraham staggered not at the promise.  Are you kidding me?  There are promises that I have received from God and I'm no where near twenty-five years in my waiting yet there are days that I feel myself begin to stagger!  Sometimes I wonder if Abraham is up in heaven shaking his head at staggering, untrusting me.  Abraham was obviously some special brand of person right?  No, not really!  Abraham was a man who was able to see the promise in the light of the God who was making the promise.  He did not minimize God while maximizing his limitations.  Abraham did not focus on--"I'm seventy-five, my wife is sixty-five and we've never been able to conceive a child!  How on earth can this happen for us now?"  We don't hear Abraham complaining at the five, ten, twenty year marks as he waited on God.  Abraham knew that the God who promised could be trusted to keep His promise.  At the end of his twenty-five year wait, Abraham at 100 years old fathered a son with his ninety year old wife Sarah!  What joy *sigh* life is good!!  Wait a minute, not so fast.  Just as the elderly parents were settling into domestic bliss with their young son, God asks Abraham to trust Him once again.  This time, He was asking for Abraham's son Isaac.  God asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.  Can't you see Abraham's shoulders slump, and just imagine what he must have been thinking..."not again!" Yet Abraham gathered his son, his knife and the wood for the fire and set out to offer this sacrifice to God.  You're probably thinking as I am, "I'll bet he staggered then." Nope, not Abraham.  As they made their way to the place where they would make their sacrifice, Isaac questioned his father, "I see the wood, but where is the sacrifice?"  Abraham's response, "God will provide the sacrifice."  And what does God do?  Just as Abraham raised his knife to kill his son, the Angel of the Lord called out and stopped him.  Abraham looked and God had in fact provided a sacrifice in the form of a ram.  Why on earth would God make Abraham wait twenty-five years for a son then ask him to offer that son as a sacrifice to Him?  The answer is really kind of simple.  God loves us so much that there is nothing and no one that He would not give for us.  John 3:16 tells us, " For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."  God wanted Abraham and us to know that He is prepared to do anything to have us with Him forever because He loves us so much; and what He asks of us is that we love Him so much that we are willing to trust Him with every single thing in our lives.  When we magnify things in our lives, job situations, family situations, whatever the case, we are not trusting God and therefore we are not loving Him.  We don't have to be spiritual giants when we get into a tough place in our lives.  We just have to look at our tough place in the light of who our God is.  Can you trust God with your physical health?  Absolutely!  Can you trust Him with your finances in these troubled economic times?  Without a doubt!  Can you trust Him with your children, your husband or wife?  Without fail!  If we learn anything from Abraham's story it should be that we can trust God.  There is not a timeline with God, just know that He will keep His promise.  There is nothing too hard for God, He will show up in the midst of our situation and bring us peace and provision.  That being said, let's take a deep breath, gather our sacrifice and head out--simply trusting that the Lord will provide...whatever!! 

Keep looking to the hills dearly loved ones!

Evangelist Carolyn

Monday, May 27, 2013

Trusting God

I have been saved for 17 years now, and during that time, God had done some amazing things for me!  Things that give me reason to trust Him even in the most difficult times, yet I recently discovered in my spiritural walk that there are in fact times that I do not trust Him at all.  Shocking huh?  Yet when I study the scripture I see that I am in good company.  The prophet Elijah was a mighty man of God.  Elijah prayed and God did not send rain for three years.  Elijah gathered the people together and challenged the prophets of baal to see whose god would answer by fire.  The prophets of baal called on their god all day without a response.  When it was Elijah's turn to call on God he had the people to drench the sacrafice, the altar and the surrounding area with water.  Then Elijah called on God and He answered by fire, consuming the sacrifice and the water.  Elijah then killed the prophets of baal, prayed for God to send the rain again and outran King Ahab's chariot down the mountain when the rain began to fall.  Elijah knew that God would answer him.  He knew that he could trust God.  Why then did Elijah run scared when he got a message from Jezebel that she was going to kill him?  Why did this mighty prophet of God find himself hiding in a cave with God asking him the question, "What are you doing here Elijah?"  Why do we run scared?  We have evidence of God's faithfulness.  We know His track record in our lives and then we get the doctor's report, the pink slip from our job, a child put in harms way, a marriage in a mess and we run to our cave.  Jesus tells us "In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world."  What Jesus was saying is that He took away the world's ability to destroy us.  Even when it gets hard and there seems to be no way out, God sees us.  He knows what we're going through and He is willing and able to move in our situation...even when it doesn't seem that way.  So what do we do when we come up against our Jezebel and God finds us hiding in our cave?  First of all repent for failing to trust that He is good and that He has a good plan for your life.  Then remind yourself of all the times that God has shown Himself faithful to you.  And when He speaks to you in the cave and asks, "What are you doing here?"  You can say, "I'm waiting on You to move!"  That being said, if anybody needs me...I'll be in the cave!! 
Keep looking to the hills dearly loved ones our God is on the Throne and He is going to move! 
Originally posted August 30, 2010

Friday, April 26, 2013

Know Your Enemy

Over the past several weeks I have had occasion to take part in conversations with people who are believers but seem to have a fear of Satan.  If not fear then there is a sense that Satan is somehow as powerful as God.  I don't want to pretend that I have not had my moments of what Satan "might" do to me, but in all honesty, even before I became a Christian I never bought into the notion of Satan as God's equal opposite.  Even as a sinner, I knew that there was no way that Lucifer, this being that God had created, was some how as powerful as God.  We have to remember that Satan is who he is and where he is because of his failed insurrection in heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15).  What I hope to do in this post is to disabuse you of the notion that we should fear Satan, that Satan is so powerful that we must approach him with caution.  I  believe that this blog post is being written under the unction of the Holy Spirit and will be presented with simplicity and clarity so that no one will come away thinking that I am teaching some strange and flawed theology!  So here we go...Know Your Enemy!  We should begin, well...at the beginning.  The scripture referenced above lets us in on Lucifer's fall, so we know why he was cast out of heaven and how he came to be in the Garden of Eden and use the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve.  In falling to Satan's temptation and being disobedient to God, Adam and Eve ceded the dominion of the earth to Satan.  So for several millennia Satan ruled and had power as the god of this world.  Then Jesus, the Son of God came as a human man and walked this earth, operating out of the same authority and dominion that God the Father had given to Adam.  Jesus did not concern himself with Satan.  In the wilderness when He was tempted, Jesus rebuked Satan and sent him away defeated...this was only the first of many times He would rebuke and defeat Satan!  When the demons that tormented God's children would come face to face with Jesus, they trembled and fell at His feet, crying out, "Why have You come to torment us before the time!"  When He commanded them they would leave!  So you say, yes, but He was JESUS!!! But I want you to remember my assertion that He was a human man, He was not operating out of a divine nature, Jesus, the son of Joseph was a human man!  And as a human man, He recognized His access to the Kingdom of Heaven and His position as the Son of God. Jesus exercised the authority that God had given to Adam in the Garden.  In the tenth chapter of the book of Luke, Jesus sends the seventy disciples out to various cities where He, Himself would soon go; and when the disciples returned, the scripture says they returned with joy declaring to Jesus, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Luke 10:17 NKJV.  Jesus' responded to the disciples, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:18-20 NKJV.   Now tell me, dearly loved ones, why should we be wearied by and worried about a fallen being when we have been given authority over all of the power he has.  Let's look at one thing before I close, the difference between authority and power.  In the Greek, the word authority, exousia, means rightful, actual, and unimpeded power to act, or to possess, control, use, dispose of, something or somebody. Wow! And Jesus gave us this authority over all of the enemy (Satan's) power. The word "power in the Greek means, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.  Just think, our authority is unimpeded power to act; Satan's power is the power that he exerts or puts forth.  Jesus gave us unimpeded power to possess, control or dispose of Satan's power!  Satan can only do what we allow him to do, so why do we concern ourselves with what he is going to do?  If you possess unimpeded power to act, control or dispose of Satan's power, why would you allow him to do anything to you, your family or those in your circle of influence?  Know your enemy dearly loved ones...he is a being created by God the Father, cast down by God the Father, and defeated by Jesus Christ the Messiah, who also gave us authority over his power.  We will ALWAYS win in Christ Jesus.  Be Encouraged!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Many people consider the 23rd Psalms to be a Sunday School verse for children to learn, others think that it is a verse to be quoted at funerals.  But I submit to you that the 23rd Psalms is a scripture related to the Good Shepherd, Jesus, developing in us the character and nature of God.  The image of Jesus as a shepherd is an appropriate one.  You see, the shepherd is the sheep's protector, his provider, his comfort and Jesus is all these things to us.  I believe that in this Psalm, David wanted us to reflect upon WHO Christ is in our lives at all times, even in the difficult places.  Psalm 23:1-3 reads: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."(ESV).  These verses allow us to see Jesus as our comforter, and protector.  He leads us to places of rich provision and calm in our lives.  He guides us along right paths so that our lives bring glory and honor to Him.  All of this sounds absolutely wonderful until we run smack into verse four:  "Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." Huh?  VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH! What happened to the green pastures and the calm waters?  Where's that right path?  Well, what I believe is that the "path of righteousness" takes us into "the valley of the shadow of death."  I know what you're probably thinking, "wait a minute Evangelist, that's a little far fetched."  Just think about David's words for a moment, "He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."  I believe that these two verses are tied together and that the path of righteousness will of necessity lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.  You see, when we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we receive eternal life, but there are things from our old life, our old nature that we still carry and that can hinder us from becoming all that Christ wants us to be.  It is in the valley of the shadow of death that our old man, that old nature dies.  The valley of the shadow of death is not about physical death, but the death process for our old nature.  Remember a few weeks ago I wrote about the caterpillar.  Well, in a similar sense, the valley of the shadow of death is our cocoon.  It is the place where we come face to face with those things in our lives that do not glorify God and it is there that we must willingly surrender them.  David goes on in the verse to explain why we should not fear the valley of the shadow of death: " I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." When Christ leads us into that place where He exposes the things in our lives that must die in order for us to become all that He wants us to be, we don't have to be afraid of any evil that might try to attack us in this vulnerable place, where we are being exposed at our deepest levels because He is there with us.  Not only is He there with us, but He has His rod and His staff to protect us from the evil one and to correct us and keep us on the path of righteousness.  How are we to approach our valley of the shadow of death?  We find our answer in Hebrews 12:12, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (ESV).  When we are going through the valley of the shadow of death, we should look to Jesus as our example, and endure the dying process because in the end it is going to produce righteousness that glorifies God and allow us to share His throne with Him.  So today, dearly loved ones, Praise God for the path of righteousness that leads us through the valley of the shadow of death!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Calming the Storm or Calming His Child

One of my most favorite songs is by Scott Krippayne called “Sometimes He Calms the Storm.”  The song opens talking about how sailors know that sometimes you’re sailing along with calm waters and a beautiful sky when suddenly the sky turns dark and you find yourself in the midst of a storm.  The artist compares this to our lives and having lived through those seasons, I agree with Scott, that sometimes it seems like you are living your life when all of a sudden, this storm arises.  What I love about the song is what Krippayne writes in the chorus:
Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn't mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child

Isn’t this so true?  There are times in our lives when these storms appear that we pray and we stand in faith and our Heavenly Father moves instantly, and as quick as the storm appeared, it’s gone!  Then there are the times when these storms appear and we pray hard and we stand in faith but still the storm rages in our lives.  In these times, we should know that Papa is holding us close, that despite the turmoil and chaos that is going on around us, He is with us and that eventually, “This too shall pass.”  Why is it that sometimes He calms the storm and other times He makes us ride it out?  I am not absolutely sure about that, I do have my opinion about it.  Do you want to hear it?  Ok, here it is…I believe that because He is a father, God knows that there are times in our lives when we are weak and fragile and though we love Him and we believe Him, that in these times, we simply cannot bear the storm, so He has to step in and be Dad and save the day.  Then there are times when, again, being Dad; He knows that it is for our good that we must go through.  He knows that we have the strength to endure that storm, the faith to trust Him in the midst of that storm, and that enduring the storm will only increase our trust in Him.  You see, I believe that in the “riding out the storm” times, we build markers, our Stones at Bethel; those places that we can look to in the next test, the next trial and say, “If He did it for me that time, He will do it for me again!” 
Are you in the midst of a storm dearly loved ones?  If your answer is yes, here is a pieces of advice from your sister who has been there, hang on to Papa, know that He’s got you and that this too shall pass! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Lesson from the Caterpillar

Everyone knows that the butterfly is first a caterpillar, but have you ever really thought about  how this transformation happens?  As beautiful and serene as the butterfly is when it emerges from its cocoon, the process of becoming a butterfly is anything but beautiful and serene.  When a caterpillar is full grown, it begins the transformation process by secreting a liquid that forms a silk-like thread that the caterpillar uses to attach the lower half of its body to a leaf or a stick.  The caterpillar then spins this silk-like thread to cover its entire body.  Once inside the cocoon, the caterpillar actually digests itself, leaving only a few cells and tissues that will eventually become a butterfly.  The entire process takes about four weeks and when the transformation is complete, the butterfly emerges from the cocoon.  The creature that emerges from the cocoon no longer resembles a caterpillar.  It is no longer classified as a caterpillar.  The species that went into the cocoon inched along the ground, across leaves and along twigs, moving slowly running the risk of being destroyed by outside forces.  The species that emerges from the cocoon now spreads its wings and flies, liberated from the things that restricted the caterpillar!  So what lesson, you may ask can we learn from the caterpillar?  It is really very simple, the caterpillar will never be able to leave the ground and fly unless it loses its life and becomes a butterfly.  Jesus said " If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find it." Matthew 16 :25 CEV.  If we are ever to become all that God calls us to be, the first thing we must be willing to do is die.  That part of being a Christian is never easy, because much like the caterpillar's dying process, our old man's dying process is not pretty.  Our old nature goes kicking and screaming into death.  Many times, the dying process for our old man is a lot like the Whack-a-Mole game you find in the arcade; every time you think he's done, he pops up in another area of the new man's life.  The key is to stay on the cross, in the tomb...on the altar until that old man is completely dead.  If  a caterpillar stays in the cocoon and digests itself, a new creature emerges. If we stay on the altar, if we endure the dying process, a new creature emerges..."Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new." 2 Cor. 5:17 ASV.  As Christians, when we come off the altar, when the dying process is complete, we should no longer resemble the old man.  Like the caterpillar, we should be a new creature, one that resembles the resurrected Christ!  Our problem is that we don't want to die, but dying is exactly what it takes for Christ to be able to use us.  Paul gave up everything to follow Christ, he left behind his reputation as one who persecuted Christians, he let go of his spot on the Sanhedrin, he forgot about the prestige of being a student of the great teacher Gamaliel.  Paul climbed up on the cross and stayed there until he was able to say, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me." Gal. 2:20 ASV.  Like the caterpillar, Paul was willing to exchange what he had, go through an often painful process in order to gain something greater on the other side.  So here's my advice dearly loved ones, let's take a lesson from the caterpillar, go ahead, and climb up on the cross, or the altar and give ourselves over to the dying process.  We will never become all that God wants, all that Christ died to give us until we do.  Remember, on the other side of the cocoon, the "new creature" that was the caterpillar never again crawls on the ground or inches its way along a twig! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Shifting Your Focus

It has been a while since I last posted on my blog, but that is about to change.  You see, I have had a wilderness season that has taken my focus away from who God called me to be!  In the early hours of this morning, a dear friend and sister in Christ sent me a New Year's text that included a word from God that said, "Change your focus and take it to another level!" To be completely honest, I did not really want to concern myself with what God was saying because I hadn't been really "feeling" Him lately.  I guess the fact that I reached my 16th "born again" birthday might have had a little something to do with it :-) maybe I'd reached my rebellious teenager stage and didn't really care to hear what "Dad" had to say...In any case, when I received this text from my friend it was absolutely "A Word in Season"!  What it made me realize was that I had changed my focus over the past couple of years.  I have opened doors in my life that I thought long closed! (side note...I guess the Apostle Paul would say that there is a very big difference between closing a door and "considering yourself dead...") Whatever the case, those words from my dear sister, "change your focus" helped me to see that I had in fact lost focus. You see, in my effort to go after the things that I felt like I "deserved," I shifted my focus in a way that changed me!  I entered into relationships that were not "reciprocal" and by that I mean I was the one doing the giving, the pouring into, the making adjustments and compromises!  That is not what God wants for us, it is not what He asks from us; "Come near to God, and he will come near to you." James 4:8 CEV; "Be humble in the presence of God’s mighty power, and He will honor you when the time comes." 1 Peter 5:6 CEV.  Both these scriptures imply a reciprocal relationship.  God our Father says, if you come near to Me, I will come near to you...and when God draws near to us He does not come just to come, as I Peter 5 demonstrates!  We find evidence of the reciprocal relationship between us and God throughout the scriptures, "Do what the Lord wants, and he will give you your heart’s desire." Ps. 37:4 CEV; “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God..." Deut. 28:1-2 NKJV.  There are so many more examples in the word of God about the exchange that takes place between us and God.  So what does any of this have to do with changing your focus you might ask, well I have an answer for you...You see, when we take our focus off of God, the relationship is no longer reciprocal, God doesn't change, He doesn't stop being God but we are no longer meeting His needs!  God created man because He wanted fellowship, He wanted sons and daughters and even though He always does His part, when we don't do our part, we hurt him!  Can you imagine that?  We hurt God, the Omnipotent, all powerful Creator of all things!  The same thing happens to us when we enter into relationships that are not reciprocal.  Our focus becomes so much about someone else and their needs that we fail to see that we are being hurt!  If we are not saved, we become hurt and damaged and we carry this baggage and it spills over into other relationships.  If we are saved, these relationships create distance between us and God, it fills us with guilt, and causes us to doubt God's love for us!  So dear ones, this VERY long blog today is about doing a spiritual "eye exam"  see where your focus is, have you shifted your focus from God the Father?  Has this shift in focus caused you to enter into relationships that are not reciprocal?  If so, allow the Holy Spirit to show you this, let Him work in you and allow Him to cut off those things, relationships, people that draw out of you without ever pouring in to you. That's what I plan to do!  Remember my dearly loved friends, look to our relationship with the Everlasting God as our template, there is ALWAYS an exchange of mutual benefit in good, positive relationships!  I love you all, and we will talk MUCH MORE in 2013!