Many think that nothing good can come from their life, or their efforts for the Kingdom of God. We often compare our lives to our perception of another life and feel we just don’t measure up. Maybe it is because of our past mistakes, or where we grew up, or even the family we came from. Can I remind you today that none of these things define you!
Sometimes our perception deceives us. Many didn’t expect the Savior to come packaged as a baby in a manger. Look at this example in Scripture.
John 1:45-51 NLT
45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. 47 As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.” 48 “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” 49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
I love this story! Nathanael had a perception, or we might even say a prejudice too, he said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” The convincing factor for Nathanael was the way that Jesus acknowledged him when they met the first time. He already knew him because He had seen him under the fig tree.
Have you ever pondered this statement? It obviously meant something to Nathanael. Some commentators suspect that it is possible it was under the shade of a fig tree where he would spend time in meditation and prayer. Perhaps this is why Jesus chose this activity to let him know that He saw him there.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this statement; we know the Bible tells us that He formed us in our mother’s womb. He knew us and saw all the days of our lives before we were ever born! (Ps 139: 13-16)
What is even more amazing is the promise Jesus gave to Nathanael because he shifted his perception and believed. When he realized Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus told him he would see even greater things!
This is the thought I want to leave you with today; do you need to shift your perception and believe you can fulfill the destiny He saw when you were being formed in your mother’s womb? Remember, your past mistakes, or where you grew up, or even the family you came from doesn’t define you, He already did! You just need to walk it out! Be who He called you to be! Know that He sees you under your figurative fig tree, He sees the things we think little of. He sees us in our private devotional time, He hears our prayers, knows our thoughts, and wants us to see the greater things!
Even in the crazy paced society we all live in, many still make a commitment to gardening. When you ask most of those individuals why they go to all the work and effort to garden, the most popular answer is usually about the harvest. They want the reward of the fresh food that the effort reaps.
My husband and I have had different commitments to a garden over the years. I remember the first year we were married and lived by his mom and dad and we helped them with a huge garden, but the reality was, his parents really did the hard work.
In recent years, we have started doing a small garden in our back yard, but we really weren’t too serious or dedicated to it, until three years ago. At that time we decided to make a brand new commitment to gardening and my husband built us an amazing raised bed.
Now the stakes had changed. When we used to just plant a few things out by the fence, there wasn’t much of an investment, so if we didn’t feel like protecting it to see if it would grow, there wasn’t much to lose.
This new garden was expensive to build, and it certainly cost us much time and effort to maintain, but we decided that if we wanted something we had never had, we would need to do something we had never done!
Many could make this relate this same analogy to their spiritual lives. There are seasons in our journey where our devotional lives become stagnant, and our relationship with our Savior becomes a bit cold. It is during these moments that we stand at a crossroads and we determine, “If we want something we haven’t ever had, we are going to have to do something we have never done!” This decision most likely will cost you something; it may be an investment of your time and energy, or some other kind of sacrifice.
Let me be the first to say this is easier said than done….especially for the long term. I vividly remember one Sunday afternoon during our gardening season, that first year we made this new commitment. I was tired and wanted to go crash in my recliner, but I had to travel for work that coming week and there were all of these green beans to work through and preserve.
I remember standing at my kitchen sink and asking myself “IS IT WORTH IT?” I could buy a bag of these at Walmart for $1.44! It was during this moment of weakness that I kept reminding myself about the investment, and I tried to focus on the reward. If you want something different, you have to do something different!
The problem is, we want different without a commitment! We want different without it costing us anything. We do not want it to be INCONVENIENT!
I love the story of the blind man named Bartimaeus that is found in Mark 10:46-52. You know why I love this guy? He decided if he wanted something he didn’t have, he was going to have to do something he had never done and that was crying out with all his might, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
He was committed! When the crowd told him to be quiet, he just yelled even louder, “Son of David, have mercy onme!” Jesus saw his determination, He saw his investment, and He responded, “Your faith has made you well.”
What about the woman with the issue of blood? We read about her in Mark 5:25-34. This woman is another great example of someone who said, If I want something I don’t have, I have to do something I haven’t done! She had seen many doctors, she suffered much, but when she risked everything to touch Jesus, she was made whole!
There is one more example from the Old Testament that shows us a different situation. Let me give you the background because this is a lengthy passage.
There was a great man who was highly respected and the captain of the army of the king of Aram named Naaman. He was a valiant warrior but he was a leper. There was a little girl from Israel who knew the prophet Elisha, and she told Naaman’s wife that if he went there he would cure him of his leprosy. Naaman went and told his master what the girl had said, and he sent him with a letter and payment to the king of Israel to cure him of his leprosy.
The king got upset and tore his clothes at the request, but Elisha heard about it and said, “Let him come to me.” Let us pick up reading the story from there:
2 Kings 5:9-14 NASU: "So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean." 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, "Behold, I thought, 'He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.' 12 "Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, "My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean."
We see a very different example here. I wanted to use this example because if we are honest we often have the same attitude that Naaman had. We want the preacher to pray for us, and the problem to just go away.Naaman didn’t want the process, he just wanted the prophet to wave his hand and pray to God and it be healed. He was mad when he told him he had to go dip in the Jordan, he even asked why he couldn’t go to one of the other two rivers…..IT WAS INCONVENIENT! Naaman had to do something different to get a different result.
I could give you many more examples, but I just want to remind you that when your commitment seems difficult to keep, remind yourself of your investment and focus on the reward.
Let’s consider more about the commitment. Revival is a time where we stir up the gifts God has inside of us. It is a time that we fan the flames and renew our passion for the things God has planned for us, and our corporate bodies we are a part of. With that thought in mind, I want to encourage you to keep pressing forward and to not allow your momentum to slow or your fire to go out by sharing some of the lessons I have learned in my garden.
Lesson #1: Sowing and reaping
Sometimes we plant seeds and nothing seems to happen! I felt like it would take forever before I had my first tomato this year! On the other hand, there are some things that grow really fast, but burn out fast, this was the case with my lettuce…we produced two good crops but then it was gone.
There are other things that take such a long time; they also require patience and hard work. This was the case with my husband’s strawberries! He wanted to get a good base crop, so the first year he had to focus on reproducing more plants that year instead of producing the crop.
What is the point I am making with all these examples? Some things will produce fast in your life. I believe God wants us to have those things to help us to persevere for the things that might take a little longer. Scripture tells us in Galatians 6:7-9 NASU, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
Don’t get weary, and quit! If you sow in the spirit, you WILL reap in the spirit! Remember you can’t have different without commitment!
Lesson #2: Guard against Distractions
Just like weeds in a garden, distractions will choke the progress of growth. While I think we all understand the concept of weeds, I want to give you a very different visual. When we used our raised bed for the first time, we didn’t know the challenge of planting our zucchini and yellow squash in the first section. Talk about a distraction! The large leaves overtook the entrance to the walkway and made it difficult to manage the rest of the crop. They also reproduced at a rate that there simply was not enough room for them to be housed in one section together. This picture shows the end result.
This is what distractions will do to you! You will be divided, not fully engaged in the plan God has for your life. Not fully committed or invested in growing spiritually. One day you are yellow the next day you are green! One day hot the next day cold, distractions will do that to you!
Let me tell you about distractions, they are often used as a tactic of the devil to take away your TRACTION for forward momentum! As soon as you start making some spiritual progress, the enemy wants you to be focused on something else to slow you down or detour you. He wants you to become DIVIDED!
We learned some lessons our first year; we are NOT going to plant our zucchini and yellow squash there again! We are going to put them in our barrels where there are boundaries! Sometimes we need to place some boundaries in our lives to stop the distractions the enemy brings our way!
Lesson #3 is about preservation
Every year we tend to have such an abundance of tomatoes. Our first year at this, I decided I was going to preserve some crushed tomatoes for cooking. Later when I had to buy tomatoes for the first time in a few months, I realized they just didn’t taste the same. Then later that same week, I decided to pull out a jar of the crushed tomatoes I preserved to make some chili, and I quickly remembered the difference in how these taste. Remember, if you want something different, you have to do something different!
This is just one of the things we preserved this year and we continue to benefit from the commitment even after the season is over. My point is, during a season of revival when you are making a new commitment, when you are fanning the flames, when you are stirring up the gifts, you will often get fresh revelation, new direction, a Word from God…you have to preserve it!
Don’t let what God is doing in you die with the first cold spell!
For some preserving it might be continuing to do something different and continuing to go after God with a completely new passion and energy. For others preserving it might be documenting some things you can go back and read at a later time. I am a real advocate of a spiritual journal. The reality is, if you don’t write it down, you will eventually forget it.
God will commune with you every day; He will meet you at your point of need and will give you direction. Those who are faithful with little, He will give much. If you will be faithful to do something with what He gives you, He will trust you with more!
I can take you to the day in my journal on July 9th 2018, when the Lord first spoke to me about my garden. On that particular day, I was calling out to God about prayers I had been praying and answers that seem are never coming.
He said to me, “You planted the seeds, now keep watering them…” In that moment of communing with the Lord, I continued to write. “We are learning first hand this year the work of gardening. It was such an investment to build, we will definitely stick with it. It requires daily watering and weeding and even when it produces – it is messy, so much work to do before the harvest is usable….It is not convenient, but the reward is worth it!”
Doing something different is NOT ALWAYS CONVENIENT, BUT IT WILL BE WORTH IT!!
Today I have the pleasure of sharing a guest blogger’s testimony. If you have followed this site, you are aware that my passion is to take the truths of Scripture and lessons learned in my Secret Place time with the Lord, or by experience to help others to grow and mature spiritually in their walk with the Lord. Today you will read about a wonderful example of God’s grace and mercy as He walked hand in hand with this young woman and brought a beautiful story of healing in her life. This story is near and dear to my heart because it is written by my beautiful daughter Nicole. I hope you enjoy and share with others who will benefit from reading about God’s delivering power.
Today I would like to share the testimony of some of the healing I have experienced in the last three weeks. First, let me tell a little bit of the background story that led me to the need for deliverance. I started struggling with an anxiety disorder when I was 12 years old. I felt sick to my stomach all the time and nervous at school. They put me on medication that controlled my symptoms most of the time, but around age 15, I began to have panic attacks, which continued off and on through high school. My experience of panic attacks is awful. It feels like I am completely out of control of my emotions and can’t catch my breath. As adrenalin gets pumping, I find myself gasping for air. The one thing I have found that helps me is to say the name Jesus over and over.
Fast forward to 2020, which has brought us so many struggles with COVID. I found my stress and anxiety level doubled due to the mandate to wear a mask. I felt claustrophobic and my loss of control in so many things that was happening weighed heavily on me. Since I work in the healthcare field, the stress of the job also increased. Many people going through the pandemic have struggled with stress, depression, or anxiety of some sort, but when you add all that stress to someone who has a preexisting anxiety disorder, it creates the perfect storm.
That is what happened for me three weeks ago when I felt like my world came crashing down. I had to get help both medically and spiritually. I described myself as broken and shattered into pieces. I felt like a puzzle fresh out of the box, all mixed up and could not see the beauty in pieces found in the final picture. I even thought if I bought a puzzle and put it together, I would feel better. It didn’t work. I wanted a quick fix. You know, like take pill, put a band aid on it, get a hug, sleep and be better, just like that. This time though, something had to change. No longer could I stand with the pressure of the world placed on my shoulders. I realized this was not going to be a sprint, but a marathon.
My mother helped me to start sorting the pieces to put me on the right track to recovery. First, I had to give it to God. I had to let Him take my mixed-up pieces and make me feel beautiful again. I started reading two Christian books that we studied at my church 4 years ago, “Telling yourself the Truth”, and “Hinds Feet on High Places”. I also started journaling how I felt and my prayers to God. I started to realize that I had deeper problems than just stress and anxiety. Some of the other things I discovered was that I also was struggling with worry, self-doubt, self-hate, trust, fear, depression, unfair expectations, work pressure, and even pride.
“Hinds’ Feet on High Places” was a book very meaningful to my healing. I have the children’s version and it is beautifully designed with illustrations and devotionals. It begins by saying, “This is the story of a young girl named Much-Afraid who learned to trust the Chief Shepherd. It is the story of how she left her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where ‘perfect love gets rid of fear.’”
Throughout the book Much-Afraid must face her fears, problems, struggles, and pain. Along the way up to the high places each time she laid down her own desires to follow the Chief Shepherd’s, she would build a tiny altar that would turn to ash. In the middle of the burned ash at each altar, she found a stone that she collected along her journey. These stones later are transformed into jewels for her crown at the High Places. She learned four lessons on her way. First, she learned that she must accept joy with every path the Shepherd led her on. Then she learned to forgive others when they hurt her. Third, she learned that the Shepherd never looked at her as weak and crippled. He only saw what she would become. Lastly, everything that happens in life, no matter how crooked and ugly it may seem to be, can be changed if treated with love, forgiveness, and obedience to the Shepherd’s will. When Much-Afraid reached the High Places, the Chief Shepherd transformed her into someone new and beautiful. He even changed her name from Much-Afraid to Grace and Glory.
This book helped me see the transformation happening in me as I let my body and mind recover, learned to give up control, and ask for help. After weeks of studying God’s word and reading my books, I started to give up those problems. A Bible verse that gave me much peace was Psalms 46:1 TPT, “God, You’re such a safe and powerful place to find Refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble, more than enough and always available whenever I need you.” I also would repeat Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I found peace in encouraging songs like “You Say”, by Lauren Daigle and “Fear is a Liar”, by Zach Williams.
I had let the enemy tell me lies for years, like, “Everyone will think you are crazy! You’re not good enough! You’re never going to get better. You’re a bad mom and wife!” Instead of listening to these lies, I determined that I would get better because God said to cast all my fears, worries, and stress on him. He paid the price, so I don’t have to carry those burdens. I then had to learn to listen to the truth, which is that it doesn’t matter what people think, because I only must please my Heavenly Father. The truth is, I strive to do my best and I am successful at many tasks. The truth is, I go above and beyond for my family. I take special time and enjoy the moments we have together. I am loved and adored by my husband, boys, family, and fiends. They love me just the way I am!
On March 21st, I finally felt ready to place all my struggles at the feet of Jesus during a time of worship at my church. I went to the altar, fell on my knees, and gave all my problems and struggles to God! I no longer had to carry that pain, which made me feel such peace and freedom. I just wished I could have had a memorial stone like the character in the book did when she built her altars.
After feeling this deliverance, I wanted to complete a visual part of my healing. I took helium filled balloons and wrote words that represented my problems on them so I could release them to God. I went with my mother to Shawnee Mack Lake, where we have been walking and talking over the last several weeks during my healing process. The wind was strong that day, so we took the balloons along a path to a bridge where it was calmer. When we arrived, we realized the wind had tangled all the balloon strings. We broke some free but six of them were left tied in a bundle. I said a prayer telling God I was releasing all my pain and problems to Him, because I could not hang on to them anymore. Then I raised the balloons into the air and let them fly!
It was a beautiful picture watching my cares float away. A funny thing happened though, the six balloons that got tangled did take flight, but the weight of the strings brought them down on the other side of the bridge into a swampy, brushy, area where they stuck on a twig. We watched hoping the wind would blow them loose. Even though I felt like I got what I needed, I decided to throw rocks at them to try to knock them free. My mom joined in the effort, so you can imagine the funny site of two grown women throwing rocks at a swampy brush pile trying to release balloons. It felt great to throw rocks at “my problems” written on those balloons! While we never got them loose, I felt ok, because sometimes you give your problems to God and the enemy keeps them in sight, yet out of reach to taunt you. When you feel that pressure just throw some rocks at your problems and remember God has them.
I also thought it was important to take communion after I released them. Communion represents the healing work that Jesus did for me on the cross. This seemed to seal the thought that I had nothing left to hold on to and I really released it all to Him. My mother and I prayed over the cracker that represented Jesus’ body that was beaten and bruised for us. Then we prayed over the small cup of juice that represented His blood that washes us clean and protects us. We took our communion together to remember that He died for all my pain, problems, and sorrows, and He paid the price for our salvation and our healing.
Later that night, I returned home from an event and as I was taking my shoes off, I kicked a small white stone that looked like the ones from the lake where I had released my balloons. I asked my husband if he had seen a rock in the bedroom floor and he said, “Yeah, but it was after you got home from the lake.” There are no rocks around our home that looked like that stone, which made me immediately burst into tears. I realized that God had given me my memorial stone I wished for earlier that day at the altar!
I found my freedom by giving everything to the only person who can carry all my burdens and still love me endlessly! God has helped me to start finding the place for the pieces to my puzzle. I’m still working on the final picture, but I can see the beauty in the brokenness. I created a shadow box that displays memorials of my journey and it is now on the wall next to my “Secret Place” to remind me where God has brought me from. I never want to carry those pressures again, and I am refusing to listen to the enemy tell me lies! Thank you, Chief Shepherd, God Almighty, The Great I Am!
Hurnard, Hannah Hinds’ Feet on High Places: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 1993. Print.
Backus, Willilam and Chaplian, Marie Telling Yourself the Truth: Bethany House Publishers, 2000. Print.
This coming Sunday many will gather to watch Super Bowl 55 played from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Florida. I am a Missouri girl, so I guess you know which team I will be rooting for!
Ironically, I have loved the game of football since I was a young teen, and my friend’s family invited me to my first professional football game at the home of the Kansas City Chiefs. Before life with my own family was so busy, I enjoyed playing fantasy football. Then I thoroughly enjoyed watching my son play the game in high school. Since I am such a visual learner, I love to apply the basic concepts of the game to drive some especially important spiritual points.
From a spiritual perspective, I often find myself praying the word, “Contend”. There have been many times I have received important revelations from God where the word “contend” is involved. If we consider the definition of this word, it states:
To strive in opposition or against difficulties; struggle
To strive in competition, as in a race1
When we consider these definitions, one can easily relate this word to those players who will play in the very prestigious game on Sunday. The very basics of the game are all about contending.
Those amazing athletes CONTEND for every single yard as they inch down the field toward the goal line. It is also important to realize that once they push through the obstacles to reach a particular line, they then have to DEFEND so they do not lose that forward progress.
Down the field they go, contending and defending a minimum of ten yards at a time. Sometimes with great effort only progressing ten yards with every three-four attempts, and sometimes with great ease when there is an opening for a quick runner or a wide-open receiver to catch the pass.
Unfortunately, there are also times that the attempts for forward movement are simply blocked. The opposition is too great for the desired breakthrough. It is also possible that the quarterback is sacked, or the runner is pushed back and ground is lost.
Isn’t this a great analogy of our spiritual walk? Every day we contend for forward momentum in our spiritual maturity as we grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some days it takes great effort and somedays there is more ease. There are also times when we are sacked with a hard hit that knocks us off course and causes us to seemingly lose ground. Other times the obstacles and opposition are so great that we cannot seem to break through.
Jude 3:3b NASU says: “…I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.“
The word “contend” from this passage in the original language is epagoonizesthai.
“epagoonizesthai – is one of those words used by the sacred writers, which have allusion to the Grecian games. This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means ‘to contend upon’ – i.e., ‘for or about’ anything; and would be applicable to the earnest effort put forth in those games to obtain the prize.”2
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NASU: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”
Both of these scriptures encourage us to contend in our spiritual life the way these men will contend in Sunday’s big game….CONTEND TO WIN!
I often see individuals who contend, but they are not successful to defend the ground that they take. The helmet is a critical part of the uniform in the game of football. It is also a vital part of the Christian Armor! In Ephesians 6:17, you can read about the helmet of salvation. Our salvation gives us access to our identity in Christ and to the promises of God. This helmet is the protection for our mind, which is essential to defend the ground we contend to obtain.
Let me ask you a difficult question. Are you contending or are you pretending? The battles we have been fighting can cause us to push harder or back off. I can assure you that none of the players who are privileged enough to play in Sunday’s game will be pretending. Shouldn’t we walk out our spiritual life with the same intensity? Do not let the opposition cause you to be sidelined. Focused on the goal and determine to win the prize!
As we enter this Christmas week during one of the most difficult years many of us have experienced, I want to take a moment to share a message I feel is important for each of us to consider as we approach turning the page of our calendars to a new year. In Psalm 25:4 TPT, we read:
Lord direct me throughout my journey so I can experience your plans for my life. Reveal the life-paths that are pleasing to you.
Have you ever experienced a journey that did not turn out the way you imagined? Perhaps it was a vacation trip, a move from one home to the next, a journey to spend time with your family over a holiday, or just 2020 in general! I am sure each of you reading this could share some examples of funny stories, but also sad, scary, strange, and eventful experiences.
The reality is that our lives are a series of experiences and events that make up our journey. So often, we get stuck in one leg of our journey and this prevents us from experiencing the fullness of all the plans the Lord has for us. As we contemplate that thought, I want to consider the life of Mary as an example.
The journey to Bethlehem for Mary was only one leg of her journey. This part of her journey is the one we remember the most, especially at this time of the year, yet there was so much more.
We don’t know much about her life before we learn that she was visited by Gabriel, the angel, who told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).
Obviously, Mary’s journey prior to this moment had to be important since it caused her to find favor with God. As her dramatic story continues to unfold, she learns that she will face a journey with responsibility unlike any other woman in all of history. She was obedient to a life-path that was chosen for her above her own comfort and reputation.
When it was time for delivery, Mary was again in a remarkable predicament. While traveling to register for the census, the time came to give birth. There was no room in the inn, so she was forced to delivery baby Jesus in a stable and lay him in a manger (Luke 2:7-20).
The journey to Bethlehem was just part of Mary’s journey. After Jesus’ birth, she was faced with the next challenge, which was the need to go into hiding because Herod wanted her child destroyed (Matthew 2:13). Mary was not able to return to her home because her journey was now dictated by the destiny of the child she bore. Wow! Her faithfulness to walk out her journey was essential for His purpose to be fulfilled!
Mary was the one who encouraged Jesus to perform His first miracle, turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). She must have been so proud as she observed Him heal the sick, multiply food for thousands, and raising the dead. She must have felt such concern when she watched as He was rejected, ridiculed, and falsely accused. Eventually she finds herself at one of the most difficult parts of her journey, the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27).
Can you even imagine a mother’s heart breaking in this moment? Her innocent Son suffered unbelievable agony as He bore stripes and died for all humanity, so we might have eternal life. Jesus was resurrected three days later, but not long after He ascended into heaven. I am sure Mary missed her Son. Mary was an amazing woman. She walked a difficult journey, but one that benefited us all. She went where none had gone before. Where would we be if she had refused? Jesus fulfilled the journey He was given on this earth, partly because Mary was faithful to hers.
During the Christmas season, we celebrate the glory of God that came to us first through a baby and now exist among us in the form of the Holy Spirit. This glory enables us to walk the journey that God created for each of us to travel.
At times, our human strength is gone and our willingness to persevere the challenges life brings wears thin. There was a process between the prediction Gabriel gave of Jesus’ birth and the promise of his death and resurrection that provides us the opportunity for salvation. The same is true for us, we might call that process our journey.
I don’t know where you are on your journey, but just as Mary had a destiny to fulfill, so do we! We can let her amazing story inspire us to be a person of strength and rise to the challenges we face. We can willingly accept the journey that has been chosen for us and allow God to impower us to walk out every step of our destiny.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus wrote in the dirt that day when the scribes and Pharisees brought before Him the woman caught in adultery? (John 8:3-11) The Bible tells us that they were testing Jesus. In fact, some versions say they were tricking Him to find accusations against Him. I find Jesus’ response to their tactics so interesting. He didn’t engage with a war of words; He simply stooped down and began to write something with his finger on the ground.
I can’t help but reflect on this story as I consider the war of words, the accusations, and even the trickery we are bombarded with every day. There are real issues to be solved, there are extreme opposing views on how our country should be led and should respond to crisis, and even more importantly, there is a war going on for the souls of countless men and women.
In Matthew 24, Jesus warned His disciples about deception that would be prevalent in the last days. As Christ-followers, we must be alert and aware of the tricks and tactics and allow the Holy Spirit who lives in us to provide much needed discernment for the times we are living in.
Deception often comes with partial truths. That is exactly the way that Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. He quoted Scripture when he tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple! (Matthew 4:1-11)
This is the kind of deception that is so prevalent today. We hear partial truths in reporting that strikes fear and sells agendas and programing. We are bombarded with partial truths about key issues, candidates, positions, and parties that has the sole purpose of destruction and trickery to deceive many to support plans that individuals otherwise would never uphold.
What is the solution? It certainly is not simple, but if you are a Christian, you find sound instruction in the Word of God. The book of James gives some practical and spiritual advice we could all use in the days we are living through.
“DO NOT BE DECEIVED!” (James 1:16) Ask God to give you His discernment! Study the truth of God’s Word and you will be more likely to identify the lie when it comes deceptively. Pray that He will give you supernatural help to discern the truth from lies.
From a practical standpoint, can I suggest that you be INCREDIBLY careful with what you share, and what you use to form your opinions unless you fact check and know the full story. I have heard misinformation about critical topics that were appalling to my beliefs, only to later find out they were not factual. I do not want to participate in spreading partial truths, which are really lies!
“BE SWIFT TO HEAR AND SLOW TO SPEAK!” (James 1:19) Isn’t that what Jesus did when He stooped down to write on the ground? He did not avoid the situation, He did eventually respond to the accusers, but this moment in between when he quietly responds with this unusual action is so powerful to me.
As believers, we are not to be silent, but when we speak, let our words be profound all while demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit. There was a time during Jesus’ earthly ministry where He was driven to action. You can read the story in John 2:14-17 NASU
And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.”
Even though Jesus demonstrated action related to His passion for the House of God, He took time to respond appropriately. I can just envision Him sitting down and weaving together the whip that He would use to express His displeasure with their actions. He was not reacting – He was responding!
GUARD AGAINST PREJUDICE AND JUDGEMENT!(James 2:4) Believers cannot love their neighbors as themselves and show partiality. We are called to love the sinner but hate the sin. The fight is not with human beings it is against the powers and principalities of darkness! (Ephesians 6:12)
TAME YOUR TONGUE!(James 3:5-10) This passage tells us the tongue can be an unruly evil and a deadly poison. As a Child of God, we should be speaking blessings instead of curses.
BE PATIENT AND EXPECTANT AS YOU WAIT FOR THE RETURN OF THE LORD! (James 5:7) This last chapter of James is full of pearls of wisdom to guide us through behaviors and actions we should be focused on as we get closer and closer to the return of the Lord.
Don’t grumble against one another. (verse 9)
Use the examples of the prophets of old as they demonstrated endurance even during times of great suffering. (verse 10)
Pray and praise! (verse 13)
Let me close with the end of this amazing book of the Bible as interpreted by The Passion Translation:
Finally, as members of God’s beloved family, we must go after the one who wanders from the truth and bring him back. For the one who restores the sinning believer back to God from the error of his way, gives back to his soul life from the dead, and covers over countless sins by their demonstration of love! (James 5:19-20 TPT)
Isn’t this what Jesus did in the story we began with. We don’t know what He wrote on the ground, we do know that all her accusers walked away and when she was left with the one who loved her enough to see past her sin, He left her with important instructions, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
Years ago, I walked into an Adult Bible Fellowship class with a box of pennies. After passing them out to all who were present, I asked what this coin represented to each of them. I received some interesting responses but did not get the one I was searching for.
As you look at the above photo of a penny, what does it represent to you? The answer I am searching for today is ONE. This is a word that seems to have lost its value. There are so many voices and so many choices, so many distractions and so many priorities, that focusing on just one thing seems impossible. Yet David, who is credited for being a man after God’s heart, penned this important truth.
The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. (Psalm 27:4-5 NLT)
This passage provides us with sound instruction for the unprecedented times we are currently living in. When we seek the ONE true God first, our priorities can come into alignment, and His voice can resonate above all the noise.
While I do not believe God sent the current crisis our world is facing, I do believe He is using it to help us remember the power of one. The importance of His voice and instruction over all other. The significance of making Him our number one priority.
We are unable to possibly decipher the many conflicting reports, agendas, and opinions we are bombarded with each day. Many of our former priorities that competed for our time with God are no longer existent. Could it be that God is reminding us to seek Him first? Is He asking us to make Him number one yet again? In our seeking we can find many benefits.
First, we can access the promise of the second part of the Scripture above. It doesn’t say, “If trouble comes”, it says, “When trouble comes”, we can be hidden in the secret place of the Most High. As a Christian, I am not promised a life with no storms. I am promised that I can be sheltered, and that God will never leave me or forsake me. I can have the assurance that He will calm the storm, or He will cross through it with me to the other side.
Secondly, if we the Body of Christ could all be focused on one thing and one voice, we could see a spirit of unity prevail as it did in the New Testament Church. This group of believers were known for having one heart, one mind, and operating in one accord. They turned their world upside down!
What if the Body of Christ could do that today? What would happen if collectively we all could unite with His agenda, focused on His priorities instead of our own? Now is the time for today’s Church to arise, with a spirit of unity, in one accord, asking our one true God to have mercy on the United States of America and restore her to be “One Nation Under God” once again.
I do not believe God is finished with His church on this earth; I believe her best days are in front of us if we can remember the value of one. We are given the key right there on the face of the coin, “In God We Trust”!
I remember several years ago when I was a teenager at my church’s youth camp, I heard a sermon entitled, “What to do if you miss the rapture”. At that time, the recording was on a cassette tape, and we were encouraged to get a copy to leave where those left behind could find it.
Thirty-five years later, I doubt anyone could find my cassette tape or be able to play it if they did. I do wonder how many people will someday use a search engine to ask this very question when they realize they have indeed missed the rapture of the church.
Maybe you are reading this and you have never heard of the Rapture. Let me explain.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NKJV “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
You will not find the word “rapture” in the Bible. However, it describes a biblical event. The word means, “catching away”, and we use it to refer to the catching away of believers to be with the Lord in Heaven. Here are some facts:
Approximately one-third of all the prophecies in the Bible deal with the second coming of Christ.
Jesus’ return is mentioned 318 times in 216 chapters of the New Testament.
Both 1 & 2 Thessalonians are written around the theme of Christ’s return.
Several New Testament chapters are devoted to this topic.
No One Knows the Day or Hour
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Matthew 24:36-44 NKJV (Also see Mark 13:32-37; Luke 17:26,27,34,35; 21:34-36)
If you are reading this and the Rapture has not occurred, I want to urge you to make sure you are ready should today be the day that the Lord returns! You might be tempted to think this will not happen in your lifetime, but if you study Bible prophecy, you can see the signs of the imminent return of the Lord are all around us! (See Matthew 24) We do not know the day or the hour, but we can know the season, and I believe we are living in the very last days.
What to Do if You Missed the Rapture!
I know this may seem unconventional, but now I want to address anyone who finds this post at some time in the future and the rapture of the church has already happened. I am sure you are frightened, possibly alone, and are experiencing a world of mass chaos. Many who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior disappeared in a moment. This would have caused much disaster with countless vehicles, machinery, aircrafts, and the like left without anyone to operate them. This is just the beginning of the great difficulty to come.
What should you do? Try not to panic; there is still hope for you. It would have been much better if you had accepted Jesus as your Savior before the rapture, but you can still do this. Ask Jesus to come into your life as your personal savior. Repent of your sins, quit sinning, and confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord.
Gather as many Bibles as you can find, keep one close and begin to commit it to memory. Hide the rest, because they will most likely begin to be confiscated. Read the following:
1. The whole book of Daniel
2. Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39
3. The whole book of Revelations
4. Matthew chapter 24
5. Luke chapter 21
6. Then begin reading the whole New Testament. I hope that you are able to locate a study Bible with commentator help. Many of these passages are full of symbolism that is difficult to understand, but it describes the times you are experiencing.
Following the rapture, there will be a seven-year period of great tribulation. Daniel 12:1 and Matthew 24:21-29 speaks of a time of trouble and tribulation such as has never existed. There will be seven seal judgments, seven trumpet judgments, seven thunders, and seven bowl judgments. These will be horrible to endure and many will die. You can read about all of these beginning in Revelations chapter 6.
The first seal in Revelations chapter 6:2 is about the rider of a white horse. He is the Anti-Christ, the ruler of a one-world government, who will quickly rise to power. You MUST NOT take his mark or his number!
Revelation 14:9-12 NASU
“Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’”
It will be difficult to avoid taking this mark, because it will be required to buy and sell. You may be tortured and have to die for your belief, but you must not worship the image of the Anti-Christ.
Here is the good news. If you will stay faithful, you have the below promise:
“Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
Revelation 20:4-5 NASU
Following this one thousand years of peace, you will enjoy the new heaven and new earth for all eternity. (Revelations 21:10 – 22:9) Stay strong and we will meet in heaven some day.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1-2 NLT
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He taught the people using parables and analogies that made the message relatable. This particular passage of Scripture about pruning in the vineyard is packed full of truths that can be applied to our lives. When we consider the practice of pruning, especially at this time of year before growing season, it is relatively easy to consider the importance of pruning away dead or diseased branches. However, the interesting thought found here is the fact that he also prunes the good branches to make them better.
Sometimes the most powerful enemy of “great” is settling for good. These words that Jesus spoke challenge me to be open to the reality that sometimes our Heavenly Father will prune good things out of our lives to create great things.
Letting go of the good can be unsettling and very difficult at times. We like the comfort of the known and the security of the familiar. Truthfully, we are often attached to the “good” in our lives, and it is difficult to release that without knowing what “great” looks like or when it will arrive! This is the point where our level of trust in the gardener will be critical. We have to believe that He knows best even while we wait to see the results that come from the pruning process.
Like many spiritual concepts, this is easier said, than done, so let me try to encourage you further. There are many factors that can affect the overall quality of a grapevine, but the three most important are climate, slope, and soil.1
For the best fruitfulness, vineyards need to be in a climate where there is a lot of sun. When they are positioned on a slope, they get full advantage of the sun, are more protected from the frost, and benefit from the best drainage. Drainage is the most important factor for healthy soil, which is critical for strong root systems. Healthy roots determine level of growth or fruitfulness.
How can we apply this to our own spiritual lives? Keep reading below from the passage we read at the beginning:
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. John 15:4-5; 8 NLT
Just as a climate with much sun is important for a fruitful vineyard, our connection to the “Son” is equally significant. We must remain in Him; spend time in His presence and in His Word if we want to be fruitful.
Our slope is crucial for two key reasons. First, in the context of position to best absorb the sun and avoid the frost. From a spiritual standpoint, we must position ourselves as victors and not victims. We cannot be fruitful with a victim mentality. Secondly, proper slope determines drainage. We have to position ourselves where the pain, stress, hurt, and all other negative influences can drain away. If we allow those things to remain, the soil and ultimately our root system will be diseased and damaged, preventing growth.
If you find yourself in a pruning season, it can be very painful because you often do not understand what is happening. Try to remember that if He is pruning you above the ground, your root system is multiplying below the ground. Even when the process is painful, try to focus on the fact that He wants to take you from good to great!
When the road of life leads us into difficult seasons, it is easy to be tempted to go back to the place that was more comfortable. When we decide to swing for the fence, take the big risk, only to strike out, it is tempting to stick with the status quo. Let’s face it, risk can hurt and leave you horribly disappointed. Change can be unsettling, and stretch us beyond our comfort zone. At the same time, we have heard it said that if you always do what you have always done, you will always have what you have always had.
This makes me think about the Children of Israel. They were held captive to serve as slaves to the Egyptians, yet they were God’s chosen people living so far below their destiny. God raised up Moses, who would lead them out of their captivity and toward their promise. With the Red Sea behind them and their enemy destroyed, they found themselves in the wilderness, in a difficult season wishing to go back to slavery.
For many, the familiar, even if it is slavery, is better than the unknown is. This mentality limits progress and traps us in a place of mediocrity and in some cases misery. Some of the Israelites died in the wilderness and never saw the land they were destined to inherit. They were out of Egypt, but Egypt was not out of them. They could not seem to stop looking back.
We read a different story of a man who was not afraid to head into the unknown. Elijah, one of the greatest prophets of all time, was directed by God to anoint Elisha to succeed him.
Elijah went straight out and found Elisha son of Shaphat in a field where there were twelve pairs of yoked oxen at work plowing; Elisha was in charge of the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak over him. 20 Elisha deserted the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please! Let me kiss my father and mother good-bye — then I’ll follow you.” “Go ahead,” said Elijah, “but, mind you, don’t forget what I’ve just done to you.” 21 So Elisha left; he took his yoke of oxen and butchered them. He made a fire with the plow and tackle and then boiled the meat — a true farewell meal for the family. Then he left and followed Elijah, becoming his right-hand man. (1 Kings 19:19-21 The Message Bible)
Elisha had a very different response than many of the Children of Israel did. He was so determined to avoid being tempted to look back, that he burned his equipment and sacrificed his oxen! He had nothing to go back for.
What encouragement for us today. We can grow and learn from our past, but if we want to move forward, we cannot be tempted to look back. Albert Einstein defined insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Make a decision today to swing for the fence, take the risk, head toward the unknown, and become everything God has called you to be. Don’t give in to the temptation to look back to your old ways, your old life, or your past disappointments and mistakes. The Bible tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)