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31 Jan 2012 Uncategorized

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Man vs. God (a.k.a “The Church”)

20 Jun 2011 Devotionals

Scripture to reflect upon: Hebrews 10:24-25

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (The Greek word for “give up” refers to desertion and abandonment.)

Going back to church was a very difficult task for me; one that took over ten years to do. I never stopped believing in Christ, but often found my faith wavering. I know full well that staying in church would have helped prevent some of that teetering back and forth.

Some of us have been scorned by members of a church. We’ve been highly disappointed and sometimes even disgusted by things we’ve seen or heard. God recently reminded me that although difficult situations take place within the church, it should never reflect upon who He is and who He is to me. Because let’s face it…God is NOT the church! Too often, though, those of us who have been disappointed in “the church” end up blaming God as if He were the church itself.

I’m reminded of incidents that took place during the Iraq war in 2003. You may remember the horrific and inappropriate photos that were plastered everywhere that a few soldiers took of some of the prisoners. Everyone was quick to blame President Bush, but they forgot that soldiers, although revered as heroes, are also still—and very—human. How could the President be to blame for their actions? He couldn’t. Bush didn’t direct them to do this. This story is no different than what we do to God when people get in our way. We get angry and resentful and give up on Him—even if we think we haven’t. We instead blame “the church” and make every excuse as to why we’re just not ready to go back.

I’m going to shock you now with this revelation, but it’s time you heard the truth: humans are flawed. Gasp! I know.

Bury this in your soul: Man is flawed. God is not!

I went through several incidents in two churches that left a very bad taste in my mouth for attending church ever again. The first incident didn’t make me leave entirely, but the second pushed me over the edge. My father-in-law, my husband, my brothers-in-law…they have all experienced terrible things from heads of their past church that left every single family member resentful of “church” and what it stands for.

It’s shameful that as Christians we can do such horrible things to make other Christians feel so incredibly tainted against the church. But for those who are using that as an excuse, it’s time to get over it and realize you are not there for them to please you. You are there to partake in a community of fellow believers, to worship, and to be fed. This should never be about pride! It’s highly possible, too, that you may have offended someone so greatly that they are now miserably sitting on the couch every Sunday morning. You know why? Because you, dear friend, are human, too, which means you are flawed also.

Those who have said something to hurt you were maybe saying it with good intentions. But maybe—just maybe—you were too quick to judge them! I chose to forgive and chose to move on.

I could no longer make excuses for not going to church. God was calling me, and my spirit was aching. It was incredibly difficult to get out of my comfort zone of lounging away a Sunday morning, but ever since I’ve gone back, I am quite literally, counting the days until the next Sunday! And believe it or not, God led me back to the second church and I’m happier than I’ve ever been!

If you are refusing to go back to church, you may also find yourself questioning your faith from time to time, too. Why in the world are you allowing man to come between you and God!? With my new outlook on man vs. God, I refuse to let anything (or anyone!) stand between us ever again.

I am spurring you on towards love and good deeds, and encouraging you to go back to church–because the Day is approaching!!

Voice of Reason

19 Jun 2011 Uncategorized

Scripture to reflect upon: Genesis 4:6

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

I’m sure I could easily state the obvious in this scripture, but instead I want to take you down a different path. The Lord said to Cain…

I am a firm believer that we were all born with the Spirit of God inside of us. (I talked a bit about this once before in a previous devotion.) God is our conscious. He is our voice of reason. He speaks the truth in our spirit even when we don’t want to hear it. God resides in us, even non-believers. Why? Because even non-believers were created by God. They weren’t born non-believers. They became non-believers either through their upbringing or through experiences in the world.

Even though you may hear your own voice speaking in your head, it is God’s voice speaking through you. So many would read this scripture and think, “Hmmm, that must have been his conscious speaking to him.” Absolutely. Cain heard what was right and true, because it came directly from God.

Cain had free will to listen to God or act on his anger. Cain chose to dismiss God and acted violently against his brother Abel.

We have choices everyday to listen to God or act out. Your conscious would never tell you, “Seek revenge. Kill your brother.” Your conscious is always good, always kind, always loving. Because your conscious is God speaking directly to you. Can you hear Him now?

Forgive Me

18 Jun 2011 Devotionals

Scripture to reflect upon: Colossians 3:16

Bear grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

I listen to Joyce Meyer quite often and sometimes she says one little phrase that will trigger a mindful of emotions in me. The other day she said that God wants us to forgive others for our benefit. She didn’t elaborate on that, but I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days now.

Why would God feel that we would benefit by forgiving others’ transgressions against us?

I know that when I feel the weight of someone’s hurtful ways or words towards me, that by truly handing the situation over to God I am released of the pain and sorrow. That’s a plus for me, right?

I can also begin to walk in peace rather than frustration and/or condemnation. When we are scorned by someone and don’t forgive them, we carry it with us wherever we go. We linger over it with our morning coffee. We refuse to let it wash away in our daily shower. We brush our teeth moaning and groaning over it. We drive to our errands beating our fists on the steering wheel. We lose sleep tossing and turning as we rehash the words that were said, or the action that was done.

Through it all, we make our own conclusions about everything. We start making irrational assumptions about why they did what they did. We then seem to think we’ve got it all figured out, when in truth, it’s farthest from reality.

So again, I ask you: what are the benefits of forgiving? Not having to go through all of that.

When I found Jared’s hidden sin I initially got angry. I wrote him a letter and had assumed he was drinking because he was just so miserable with me and our son. My assumptions claimed, “If that’s how you feel, then maybe you should just leave.” After rereading it, I crossed out “maybe” and indicated that he should just leave. Irrational. Anger will do that.

Later that day I prayed. I realized that making assumptions and accusations wasn’t the answer. I know Jared loves me and Tavin, but my unforgiveness caused me to do and say things I didn’t honestly feel. While I was praying, I realized I was completely helpless in the situation, but God showed me that He could restore Jared, but even more so, He would restore me almost immediately upon releasing it to Him.

I instantly texted Jared and told him that I forgave him, but also told him that it was now between him and God. You see, I trust God even if I can’t trust Jared yet. I know God will do a mighty work in Jared if he allows Him too. And I know Jared is accepting of God’s mercy.

Please notice I didn’t wait a month, a week, or even a few days to forgive Jared. I forgave him that day. And it truly benefited me. It allowed me to continue moving forward. I still struggle with it, but it’s nothing like the struggle I would be going through if I hadn’t forgiven him. And also take note that I told Jared that I forgave him. We can’t honestly forgive someone if we don’t tell them.

Forgiveness is easy if you nip irrationality in the bud. Go to God with a clear mind and He will show you the way. Jesus made the way…

Cracks and Crevices

17 Jun 2011 Devotionals

I have a confession to make…

Scripture to reflect upon: James 5:16

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with—The Message.

Joyce Meyer says that temptation starts with the little things. King David was tempted by Bathsheba, and my husband Jared always insists that his real sin was looking in the first place. It starts with the little things…

Where does sin begin to seep into our lives? When we leave ourselves vulnerable to the little things, the big things spiral out of control. When we lock our sins away in secret, they are anxiously waiting to be exposed—and they will almost always be exposed!

I pray daily for the Holy Spirit to reside in my home, but to also go deep within the cracks and crevices. That’s where the little things find a way inside. It’s the little things…

He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light (Job 12:22).

We can never hide from God. Never. And God will never hide things from us. He will bring to light any sin in our lives, and even the sins of those we love. He will expose it.

My husband’s secret was exposed to me two weeks ago in the dark of the night. It was 1 AM and something about Jared was incredibly off. I had noticed it several times before, asked him about it, and he would brush it off insisting that I was silly for asking. This night, though, Jared was not Jared but a man possessed of darkness. A voice unlike his own kept repeating in a whisper to me, “Trust me. Trust me. Trust me.” My skin crawled.

When Jared fell asleep God directed my path. He led me downstairs and told me exactly where I would find Jared’s secret lurking. I opened his backpack and found two large plastic bottles of vodka. One was empty, the other was half gone.

I stood there, not fully surprised, but utterly outraged. Hiding his drinking wasn’t what bothered me most. It was the lies to my face when I would ask him point blank if he was drinking that crushed me the most. It was the look in his eyes when he lied to me and made me feel foolish for even considering such a thought. “I’m just really tired,” he would always say. “And when I get tired I begin to slur my words.” As if he was talking to someone who hasn’t lived with him for four years and knew the difference between him being tired and drunk.

My husband is an alcoholic.

There. I said it. Does it make me feel better? No. But I’ve been trying to hide the truth even from myself. I can tell the story of what happened, no problem. But admitting that my husband is an alcoholic is not something I’m eager and proud to admit. It scares me. It ridicules me.

My husband is a liar.

Jared has always prided himself for being a man who respects women. He has always gotten so mad when he hears stories of how men mistreat women. But Jared has become the very man he despises. And he has been lying to me and lying to himself.

Jared is not a bad man. Nor does he mistreat me. But…he lied to me. And that is disrespectful in an emotional manner.

I chose to forgive Jared. There was nothing else I could do. I gave it to God and told Jared that it was between him and God now. Jared is attending AA meetings and a church recovery program. I am proud of him for the efforts he’s making to right his wrong. But anger now lurks inside of me and rears its ugly head in strange places, like when my son refuses to swallow his food. I find myself at times crouched down on the kitchen floor, trembling and crying out loud. I find myself paralyzed in fear, but having no choice but to keep moving. I have become resentful and bitter that he has somewhere to go with this.

I’m facing this on my own. God has given me grace and mercy, but sometimes I find that hard to completely grasp. I hand it to God, but the darkness finds its way in the cracks and crevices. My weak spots: My children. My temper. My lack of patience. But I am exposing our secret today so the enemy will no longer have any control in these areas. I am claiming victory over my weaknesses and victory over my husband’s alcoholism.

Jesus is restoring my husband and our family. I pray earnestly that God will restore my faith in Jared again soon, too. And now I need the Holy Spirit to fill my mind’s cracks and crevices before it’s too late, because it’s the little things.

(I love you, Jared. Thank you for allowing me to share our story today. I hope anyone who reads this will find comfort and peace. If you are reading this, I pray that Jesus’ redemptive power and God’s gracious mercy overflows in your life, particularly in those cracks and crevices that leave you wide open.)

I Do

16 Jun 2011 Uncategorized

Scripture to reflect upon: Hosea 2:16

“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’”

So today I am making a commitment to my Beloved, my “husband,” God. Today I want to explore the idea of making a vow (pledge, promise, declaration) to God.

Consider marriage vows: I take you to be. I vow to be. I vow to do. These are all intended as a way to promise something or another to your spouse. In order to start the life-long commitment, you need to set some guidelines of expectations that often include declarations of love, pledges of faithfulness, and promises of eternal commitment.

Here’s a sample of a traditional wedding vow:

I take you to be my lawfully wedded <husband/wife>. Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. I take you, with all your faults and strengths, as I offer myself to you with all my faults and strengths. I promise you that I will be your loving and loyal <husband/wife> from now on. I will share with you all of life’s joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, until death parts us.

On this day, Thursday, June 16, 2011, I vow my commitment to You, God. I promise to be faithful through good times and bad. I pledge to remain loyal only to You, as You are God Almighty. I will surely make mistakes, but I know You are the God of grace and mercy, and as long as I remain Yours, You will always forgive me. You are the God of Life, so I give my life to You and everything it. This includes my family and relationships. It includes my finances and home. It includes all that I am and all that I do. My trust is in You, O Lord, to be my Provider, my Protector, my best Friend, my Teacher, my Director and my Husband. On this day, I pledge my love to You. I promise to be Your loving, loyal companion and wife.

Take time to make a vow of commitment to God. Share your vow in the comments below, or share on my Note to Self: Daily Reminders from God facebook page (http://on.fb.me/iGTsM2).

(Please acknowledge that my words, my blog, my devotions, my rebukes, my lessons are written to me as reminders to myself. This originally started out as a, “Hey you, yes you, I’m talking to you, a-ha” moment. God was teaching me things in order for me to grow and know Him better. I decided to share what God was sharing with me in hopes that I could reach anyone else out there who may need those a-ha moments, too. I pray with all my heart and soul that some of you who are reading these blogs are getting fed the way I am through these “reminders.”)

It’s a Miracle! (Or is It?)

15 Jun 2011 Devotionals

Scripture to reflect upon: Exodus 7:8

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, and it will become a snake.”

Miracles: Science or science fiction? God or man? Supernatural or natural?

Some of you who read my personal facebook status know that I recently purchased an Archaeological Study Bible. It provides insights and evidence (proof) that the accounts in the bible are indeed fact. But how can we explain miracles?

I had a conversation with several people yesterday concerning the miracles of Moses before Pharaoh. And upon revealing the scientific “theory” of how those miracles could have been possible, everyone around me explained miracles away. Instead of calling them what they are, they decided to claim that miracles aren’t really miracles, they’re just things we haven’t figured out how to do yet ourselves.

Scientific proof shows that the “miracles” Moses performed were indeed plausible based on certain things that take place within nature. But let’s not forget who created nature!

One example is the Nile turning to blood and all the fish dying and the river sinking. This is how that “miracle” was performed:

“When the [Nile] is at its lowest, in May, the water is sometimes red (from the soil brought down from Ethiopia) and unfit to drink, and fish do die” (Exodus 7:14-24 study notes, NIV Archaeological Study Bible).

If this statement gives evidence that “nature” was the cause of the miracle, does that then discredit God? It continues:

“God directed Moses to lift up his rod at precisely the right time. Once the time was disclosed the Egyptian magicians were able to do likewise.”

God created everything. He is all-knowing. God knew how to use his own creation to allow Moses to perform miracles; and He provided the timing. Science doesn’t explain it away; it only solidifies the actual miracle! How miracles are achieved, scientifically, does NOT negate the actual miracle itself.

It’s wonderful to know that there is rhyme and reason to God’s ways. But let’s never overlook the splendor and glory of God’s creation and His technology. God is the ultimate Scientist. He is the founder and creator of technology and science. That is how miracles happen.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

14 Jun 2011 Devotionals

Scripture to reflect upon: Numbers 22: 32 and 34

(32) The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me.” (34) Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing there in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.” (NIV)

Compare with The Message: God’s angel said to him: “Why have you beaten your poor donkey these three times? I have come here to block your way because you’re getting way ahead of yourself. Balaam said to God’s angel, “I have sinned. I had no idea you were standing in the road blocking my way. If you don’t like what I’m doing, I’ll head back.”

Closely evaluating this scripture from verses 21-34, we understand that Balaam’s donkey saw the angel of the Lord, but Balaam did not, which is why he beat his donkey several times. Eventually God allows the donkey to speak! He basically says, “Hey man! What’s your problem?! I’m your donkey! I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t need to protect you.”

Sometimes it takes an ass to show us our faults; to help us understand our sins. But instead of heeding the warning, we take issues with the messenger. We mentally or verbally beat up on those who call us out and try to protect us.

Balaam had no idea—NO IDEA!!—he was sinning against the Lord. God told him to go to Balak, but this scripture indicates that Balaam was maybe lured by the reward rather than the command of God. “Your path is a reckless one before me.” This reiterates the notion that God knows the heart. You may think you’re on the right path, but your heart is leading the way. What’s in the heart then?

God may lead us somewhere, but once He does, what are our intentions? Are we seeking some kind of glory or reward in return?

Balaam, who was keen to God’s spirit and presence didn’t have a clue that the angel of the Lord was before him. He purposely had his eyes closed to the spirit. That’s what sin does. It makes us blind. It makes us seek our ways with our own eyes rather than God’s. We somehow think we can direct our own path without the guidance of God Almighty.

Balaam suddenly realizes his sin—or so he thinks—and says, “If you are displeased, I’ll go back.” Going wasn’t the sin! God told him to go (v. 20). This indicates that Balaam still didn’t understand his sin! And the angel had to repeat what God told him in the first place: go with them, but do only what I say.

How many times does God need to tell you to do something in order for you to fully understand what it is He’s relaying to you? Are you misunderstanding God’s plan for something that only makes you happy or content?

Ask God today to open your eyes the way he did for Balaam (v. 31) so that you will not need to be told by anyone else what God is trying to do. God provided a way to speak to you, but you need to listen, and listen closely. Otherwise, you will be dumbfounded like Balaam and not even realize that God is opposing the very path He set you on.

God doesn’t want you to go back, either. He wants you to move forward, but only with His guidance and approval. Even if you’re on the wrong path, an angel of the Lord is standing before you to lead the way.

What You Love is What You Are

12 Jun 2011 Devotionals

Scripture to reflect upon: Hosea 9:10 (end of verse)

“But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.”

This scripture features words that put the fear of God in me: consecrated, shameful and vile…and then loved?

What is it that you love so much that you are becoming? What is in your life today that you love more than God and is making you vile and shameful?

God later says in verse 15: “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds…”

What amazes me is God says, “hate” in this verse. He hated them there. God didn’t want them there. He hated them being there and hated what they were doing to themselves. He hated that His chosen people loved a “calf-idol” instead of the Living God! He hated that they chose to become violated and corrupt.

Are you in a place that God hates? Did you stray off the chosen path only to find yourself bowing down to a calf-idol of sorts? God said they became as vile as their idol. That idol was dead. That idol was nothing. That idol was shameful. And God said they loved it so much that they became just like it.

In chapter 8: 4 (end) God said, “they make idols for themselves to their own destruction.” What idol do you carry in your life that is destroying you today? What brings you down? What makes you feel miserable? Have you made it your idol and pushed God aside so you can worship it?

God hates when we stray. He hates when we give our love to something else; something unworthy of our love and attention.

There is an idol in my life. It was brought to me not by my choice, but by someone else’s. Although this idol demands me to bow down to it, I have to fight almost every minute of the day to refuse doing so. The idols we choose become our destruction. It is vile. It is shameful. And it takes us to places that displease God.

Cast out your idols today! God is so merciful. “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger…For I am God, and not man—the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath” (Hosea 11:8-9).

Thanks to Jesus, we have Someone who will put our feet back on the right path. It’s as simple as asking.

Praise God!

10 Jun 2011 Devotionals

A couple of months ago a friend on facebook wrote on her status update: “I’m a believer in God, but why does someone have to say ‘Praise God’ after everything they do?” And the utterly disgusting and ugly comments that followed became something that triggered a faith in me that I didn’t even know existed inside. Little did she know that her status criticizing Christians who need and want (and have the right, I might add) to say “Praise God” would start something utterly amazing in my life.

See, she may be a believer in “something,” but she’s surely not a believer in God or Jesus Christ. If she were a believer, then she would know why we say Praise God after just about anything good that happens in our lives. It could be as simple as a great parking spot. Praise God. Or finding a great deal on something we’ve wanted for a long time. Praise God. Or a beautiful day. PRAISE GOD!

There is so much for a believer—a true believer—to praise God for! So much!! But non-believers don’t get that, and they surely don’t understand why we would want to Praise God, because they don’t feel the need to say it all the time, if ever. They find comfort in believing in only themselves, giving themselves the credit for anything good.

Miracles. Sun shining. Warm days. A smile. A tasty iced coffee. A prayer answered. A friendly hello. A long lost friend finally found. A healing. A new friendship. A deliverance. A good day with family. Praise God!

It doesn’t have to be out of the ordinary. It just has to be good. And if it’s not good…praise Him anyway. My friend doesn’t get that, otherwise she wouldn’t have asked. We praise God simply…because. In good and bad, we praise Him.

The other night was unusual for us. Tavin (our 2 year old son) was up pretty late and we were driving his grandma home. It was dark out and I thought nothing of it. Tavin is obsessed with the moon; and since finding such a fascination with the moon, he has yet to see it beaming in the night sky. Driving home that night, he shouted in pure delight, “THE MOON!” Praise God.

Yep. It’s the little things. And anyone who doesn’t get that doesn’t get God.

What are you praising God for today? He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy…

Scriptures to reflect upon:

Psalm 44:8
In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise Your name forever.

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.