Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't Live "Close" to the Beach!

My kids are on Spring break this week (yes, I think it's too early for Spring break too). We just spent a long weekend at the beach and drove home yesterday.

On the way out of town, about 15 miles from the beach house, my husband said to me, "this little stretch of road always seems so depressing". I said "I'd be depressed too if I had to live out here when I knew I was this close to the beach!"

Even though I was kidding (sort of), I started thinking from a spiritual perspective, how many of us are so close to our "promise land", and live just outside on the banks of the Jordan. We were supposed to camp there temporarily until we crossed over. For some, unfortunately, it has become our permanent home. It can be discouraging when you seem close, and yet feel stuck and can't go any further.

This reminds me of a word I don't like to use much because it means times are tough and I can't just relax, stop, give up, or pull back. That word is...Perseverance. No one really likes to hear that word, unless they are on the other side of it, and they can say "I persevered".

But that is what the Bible tells us produces character, which then produces hope. (Rom. 5:4-5) It's like someone who keeps getting knocked down, over & over & over again, but they KEEP getting back up. Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. Don't be discouraged...you keep getting back up! Everyone wants to focus on the knock down, they forget to congratulate you for getting back up.

I've heard some godly people who I greatly respect say that they've seen too many Christians give up or fall short of their purpose, like a runner who quit just before the finish line. Isn't that terrible?

If you're going to quit at all, at least do it near the beginning. Better yet, count the cost before you even start the race! I could even understand throwing in the towel mid-way cause you're just too exhausted. But right before the finish line? All that hard work for NOTHING!

Some may say "well, if I could just SEE the finish line and knew how close it was...then I would hang in there". Here's the good news...God sees the finish line, and He can give you the grace & strength to help you persevere if you'll let Him.

Disclaimer: This is simply an example to prove a spiritual point. I'm not discriminating against anyone who lives near, but not on the beach...that would make me a hypocrite seeing as how our family beach house is about 5 blocks from the beach...just saying...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Did They Die?

Have you ever thought about what happened to the Disciples after Jesus went back to Heaven?

Yes, they were filled with "power from on high" on the day of Pentecost. They went on to boldly preach the Gospel, and perform many miracles, probably only some of which are recorded in the Book of Acts.

However, most people may not be aware of how they died, or to what great lengths they were tested for their faith.

I received this email on "How the Disciples (and Paul) Died".

I just wanted to point out the incredible sacrifice of some of the "Great Cloud of Witnesses" that surround you and I in our faith. When we think we've had a hard time, been treated differently because of our beliefs, or God has called us to walk through a hard season, let's remember the ones who paved the way so that we would know about Jesus Christ, and His wonderful, saving grace. This same grace that enabled the disciples to endure, will also carry us through our deepest hurt, and toughest challenges.

Matthew - Suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia. Killed by a sword wound.

Mark - Died in Alexandria, Egypt, after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

Luke - was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.

John - Faced martyrdom when he was boiled in huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos . The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey . He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.

Peter - He was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross. According to church tradition it was because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died.

James - Just The leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller's club. This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation.

James the Great, Son of Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade when Jesus called him to a lifetime of ministry. As a strong leader of the church, James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem. The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial. Later, the officer walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian

Bartholomew - Also known as Nathaniel Was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed for our Lord in present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.

Andrew - Was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras,Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: 'I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.' He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.

Thomas - was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the sub-continent

Jude - was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

Matthias - The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.

Paul - was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write his many epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire . These letters, which taught many of the foundational doctrines of Christianity, form a large
portion of the New Testament.
"You will be hated by all because of My name. But he that endures to the end shall be saved". Matthew 10:22

Monday, March 7, 2011

Can Your House Hold Up?

I was reminded of this Scripture this morning:
Matthew 7:24 - “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Anyone would tell you that it's better to build on a firm foundation like rock, rather than sand. We've probably all heard enough sermons on this passage to know that the rock is Jesus and His Word.

I find it interesting that it's the exact same scenario for the wise and the foolish man, only with a different outcome due to one thing - their foundation. What determined their foundation? The wise man heard the Word and put it into practice.

It says the rain came down. . .
Have you ever had a rainy, cloudy day in your spirit? Have you felt depression knocking at your door? Are there more bills than money to pay them? Maybe you or a loved one is facing health problems. Whatever the problem(s) may be, sometimes it feels like all rain and no sunshine.

Then it says the streams rose. . .
How many know that when it rains in your life long enough, the streams begin to rise and it seems as if the water is going to overflow the banks. Often this is how we feel when we focus on all our problems, until they become larger than life and we are overwhelmed.

As if fearing a flood isn’t enough, it says the winds blew and beat against the house . . .
Here is where the enemy has kicked it up a notch – this is no gentle breeze we’re talking about here. Satan is whipping the winds of lies, accusing and tormenting thoughts in an effort to bring your house down.

Why am I bringing this up?

Because too many Christians have been deceived into thinking that if they love God, and God obviously loves them, that they won’t have to face the rain, rising streams, and wind in their lives. They seem to think that is reserved for the foolish man only. Do not be deceived, the Bible says in Matthew 5 that He causes the sun to shine on both good and evil, and the rain on the righteous and unrighteous. If He didn’t spare His only Son from the cross, how do we think we’re to escape sharing the fellowship of His suffering? It is for a much bigger purpose than our minds can even comprehend, and we don’t have the whole picture.

At the end of the day, we have to trust in these fundamental principals about God:

God is good, all the time! (Psalm 73:1), God is fair & just (Hebrews 6:10), God is not like man, He never lies (Numbers 23:19) , God doesn’t want to harm us, but has a plan to give us hope and a future – (Jeremiah 29:11), God loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)

The promises go on and on – we just need to HEAR them, and then put them into ACTION!

Then we’ll be like the wise man with a firm foundation…and we’ll be able to stand against the attacks of the enemy! (Isaiah 54:17)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Are You a "DIY" - Do It Yourself Person?

Yesterday I walked into the kitchen to discover my youngest son Josh, standing on the counter, going through the cabinets. He was in search of a band aid. I then glanced down to see the trail of blood droplets he'd left on the floor.

Me: What are you doing? What happened?

Josh: Looking for a band aid, I accidentally cut my finger.

Me: How did you cut your finger? Here, let me do it. (I get a band aid & inspect his finger. It's not too bad, thank God!)

Josh: I was trying to make a spear out of that stick.

Me: You were using a knife?

Josh: No, I used that other thing.

Me: What other thing? (I went to the porch and saw the stick, and the object in question...a box cutter! Yes, I was horrified! The kid is 8 yrs. old and you still can't turn your back on him for a second.)
So I handled the situation, but after it was over, I realized how little Josh ever asks for help. I love his independent spirit at times when it's safe & convenient. But other times, it's frustrating that he wants to "do it himself" when all he has to do is ask, and I would be glad to help him.

Isn't that the way we are with our Heavenly Father? Sometimes we strive & strive, trying to be so independent. It's almost as if we think we'd be bothering Him if we asked for help. So we keep plugging away, and He's often our last resort when all else has failed.

In these cases it would behoove us to remind ourselves that God Himself told us to cast our cares on Him. He even went on to call Jesus our "Good Shepherd". What do shepherds do? They lead, guide, and care for the sheep's every need. Add to that that fact that the Holy Spirit's name means "Counselor" or "Helper".

How many different ways does God need to tell us that He WANTS to take care of us? He said pray about everything, don't be anxious for anything, don't worry about what you'll wear, or what you'll eat...wouldn't that also include where we live, what we do for a living, who we'll marry, IF we'll marry, how we'll raise our kids, if we're healthy, if we have enough money to pay our bills, how we interact with others, what church we attend...on & on it goes. It covers EVERYTHING. There is nothing that our Father in Heaven isn't concerned with, if it concerns us.

So, let's not wait until we've exhausted all our human effort before we go to God for help. If we will go to Him FIRST, I guarantee you we will NOT need a band aid.