When I was a little girl I feared storms. I would either pull the blankets over my head and cover my ears or try to get to the safety of my mom's arms. There was always something so comforting about her arms and her voice. Even though the storm was still roaring, I seemed to calm right down, because Mom was with me.
When we grow up and become adults we still have to deal with storms in our lives and scary sounds of disturbing reports that often rob us of peaceful sleep and sweet dreams. Many of you know that I walked through the storm of breast cancer this past year. Well, just when I thought the storm was over, I was given a test by mistake that showed a great possibility of cancer hiding somewhere else in my body. I had to wait 4 weeks to retake it to make sure the readings were correct. I prayed the storm would pass quickly, that the next test would show everything was fine, but when I took the test the markers were even higher. So I was scheduled for a PET-CT scan.
I've learned it's ok to Ask God questions like why, when, how, etc. Even Mary the mother of Jesus asked, "How can this be?" But I have also learned that we are Not to question HIM - His love for us or His purposes. He is never surprised by the erupting storms that appear in our lives. We never hear Him say, "Oh no! I didn't see that coming!" The longer we walk with Him, the more we come to trust Him, even in the scariest storms.
The Lord doesn't always calm the storms around us, but He has promised to calm the storms inside of us.
The morning of our Saturday WOF (Women of Faith) event, 2 days before my scan, I read a scripture that seemed to jump off the page and into my heart. It was Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."
The entire time of the scan, as I listened to Stan's* anointed piano music, especially 'Draw Me Close', I kept feeling God's presence surround me. I am grateful to report that the scan showed I am cancer FREE!
We don't always know why we are in a storm, the important thing....is to Know the One (Jesus) who speaks to the storms...."Peace...Be Still."
*Note: Stan Whitmire (on tour with Pastor Judy) has played keys for Mark Lowry for ten years. Check out other anointed music from Stan at www.greenhillmusic.com
Prayer is the second spoke in our spiritual wheel that creates good balance. Prayer is simply talking to God and listening to Him talk to us; it is two-way communication. New Christians desire growth in their relationship to the Lord, but find it difficult to know where to start and how to do it.
It reminds me of the story of young Samuel in the house of Eli, the priest, in I Samuel 3. Samuel heard the Lord call him three times but thought it was Eli calling him. Finally, after Eli was woken up the third time, he realized that young Samuel did not recognize the voice of God.
His instruction to Samuel was to say these words when the Lord called him: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
It was then the Lord spoke to him.
How do you and I hear God’s voice? Last week I shared the first spoke – the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than a two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
What does this verse mean? The answer is simple: when we read God’s word, God is talking to us personally. The next time you read the Bible, repeat the words Eli instructed Samuel to say: Speak Lord, your servant is listening.
It would also be a good idea for you to buy a nice journal and record what God says to you.
After you have read the word of God, talk to the Lord about what He said to you. Let’s take Galatians 5:22-23 as an example. This passage refers to the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentles and self-control.
The Spirit of God will draw attention to fruit that you have developed and to fruit that is lacking in your life. Thank God in prayer for the character which has been created and for wisdom and discipline in developing new fruit.
Here is a practical guide for daily prayer. Think of the word ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
Adoration: Begin your prayer time with adoration, or thanking God for who He is. Psalm 100 is a great adoration passage to read along with many other Psalms that extol God’s greatness. God is our Father and wants our love.
Confession: Confess your sins to God through Jesus. I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Confession keeps our communication with God open and intimate. Forgiveness is always extended by God when we confess and repent of our sins. Repentance means to stop doing what you are confessing to God. It may take a few or many prayers of repentance, but the goal is for you and me to stop living wrong and to make right choices.
Thanksgiving: Thank God for all His blessings. I Thessalonians 5:16 – 18 commands us to “rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
A thankful heart focuses on God and His blessings rather than on the negative things. A thankful person is a happy person.
Supplication: Supplication involves petition and intercession.
Petition means to ask. Think about how a child speaks to his or her parents. If he or she needs school supplies or clothes, the parents are eager to meet that need. God desires to give us the things we need. (Philippians 4:19)
Intercessions means we pray for others. All of us have family and friends who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We need to pray the darkness of the world off them so they can respond to the message of Christ.
We are also called to pray for the needs and health of others. Over the past year, I have interceded for my wife, Judy, while going through breast cancer. Many others have prayed for her as well. Today, I can report she is healed and cancer free. I am so appreciative for those who have interceded for her.
If you would like a good place to start in daily prayer, please email Kathy and she will send you the PDF version of my “Weekly Prayer Focus” guide. I use this to pray for my family, church, state, nation and the world. Copies are also available at the church.
Most of us have seen someone ride a bicycle with a wobbly wheel at one time or another. This is caused by one or more spokes missing in the hub of the wheel. The result is an uncomfortable ride and a short life span for the unbalanced tire.
Our walk with Christ is similar. You may have spokes that are in place but if just one or two are missing your life will be out of alignment. You will not enjoy life’s ride and the longevity of your intimacy and service to Christ will be unfruitful.
What is the secret for a balanced life? How do you get it?
Five spokes create a balanced Christian life. This week we’ll focus on the first spoke: The Word.
The Bible – II Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
When we ask Jesus to come into our lives as Lord and Savior, we have a new authority for how we live and make decisions – God’s word, the Bible.
Notice the benefits of reading, meditating and applying the word to our lives.
*The Bible is God-breathed. Our lungs in our physical body bring oxygen through the blood to all parts of the body so life can be sustained.
God’s word brings oxygen to our spiritual body. We actually begin to think the thoughts of God when we read His word. I Corinthians 2:16 says that we, as believers, have the mind of Christ. Every time you read the Bible, you are thinking like Jesus!
*It teaches us how to live and make decisions in life. Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Have you ever woken up in a motel thinking you were in your own bed? Remember how confusing it was to grope in the dark? Everything became clear when you turned on the light. God’s word helps us see life clearly and make good decisions.
*God’s word rebukes and corrects us. None of us likes discipline but a loving parent will rebuke and correct their children out of love for them. These two words are illustrated in this picture:
A boy is walking to school with new clothes. He sees a mud puddle, which always captures the attention of a young boy. Mom instructed him to stay away from the mud puddle but yet he gets as close to it as he can, when suddenly he loses balance and falls into the muddy water.
Mom rebukes him for his disobedience, cleans him up, washes his clothes and corrects the child by walking with him to school so he stays away from the muddy pool of water. Going to school with clean clothes is more comfortable than sitting at your desk in a muddy mess.
*The Bible trains us to make right choices. Ephesians 5:8 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”
God trains us through His word to live like Jesus lived.
Becoming a Christian is like moving to another country. We have to learn the language, customs and culture in order to live freely and effectively. God’s word helps us to live as citizens of heaven. (Philippians 3:20) Becoming a Christian is a radical separation from your former country of sin to life in your new country, the Kingdom of God.
Are you ready to get started reading God’s word?
Start reading a chapter per day in the book of Luke. This shows how we can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
When you have finished Luke, read the book of Acts, which shows us how to receive the power of God through the Holy Spirit.
As you read, ask yourself two questions, and record your answer in a journal. What is it saying? What is it saying to me personally?
I guarantee that this will help you begin living a balanced life.
Let’s all commit ourselves to creating a balanced life.
Next week will be devoted to another spoke: Prayer.
The word "Stuck" is such a negative word, but it is used a lot and it is often accompanied by the word HELP!
Sometimes we even use it as an excuse....Like, "Sorry I'm late I got "Stuck" in traffic or a meeting or on the phone". No matter how it's used, the word seems to give off a feeling of frustration or helplessness.
As Christians we can also find ourselves "Stuck" in a rut of life's circumstances. Just because we have decided to turn our back on our old way of life and follow Jesus, doesn't mean we won't trip and fall on our journey. We may find ourselves stuck in depression, anxiety, or addiction of some kind, or perhaps a person we love just walks away, and we find ourselves with the choice of forgiving them or becoming "Stuck" in our own pain.
There is an enemy who is constantly setting traps for us. He makes things that are dangerous, look harmless...even appealing, but like quick sand...once we step into his ungodly scheme, he watches as we helplessly struggle to regain freedom.
I know the importance of living an example of strength and wisdom in our Christian walk, but it's been my experience that people have often been even more encouraged by watching God in His Mercy, come to my rescue when I'm "Stuck". If we're honest, we'll admit that no matter how long we have walked with Jesus, we have had times that we tripped up and have fallen into a pit of despair or sin of some kind.
David gives us a picture of God’s mercy as a loving Father who recuses him from one of those pits in Psalm 40:1-3:
"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of a slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and stand in awe of His power and love and put their trust in the Lord."
If you feel "Stuck"...Don't struggle in your situation...just call on The Lord, He'll put you on solid ground again.
I have noticed over my years of ministry that there are two extremes people fall into within the church. First, they become doctrinally sound but lose their love for one another. Second, they become careless with life’s choices and blend in with the world, so there is no power or effectiveness in their witness for Christ.
In Revelation 2:1-7, the Apostle John addresses the church in Ephesus. He compliments them for their hard work, perseverance and sound doctrine. Yet in verse 4 he chastises them for forsaking the love they had for one another when the church was created. They had slowly changed into a legalistic church that worshipped the scripture rather than Christ whom the scriptures pointed toward. Love for God always expresses itself in love for those inside and outside the church.
Speaking to the disciples in John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: love one another.”
A good way to define love is to look at the acrostic L-O-V-E.
L – Let go of control of your life and give control to God.
O – Others first. This prevents self-centeredness and keeps Jesus’ heart beating in us.
V – Vows! In a wedding, vows are covenant commitments the bride and groom make to each other. We live in a highly non-committal world where people live according to their emotions, culture and circumstances. Vows mean that I’m committed to Jesus and His church, period. No buts and ifs! Burning bridges to the world and making Christ your focus creates an adventurous life.
E – Eternal! I Corinthians 13 is referred to as the love chapter. It pointedly says, “Love is eternal”.
I John 4:7-8 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for loves comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
In other words, heaven will have the atmosphere of love.
We express love by obeying Christ’s commandments and loving each other.
How do you get back on track if you have fallen into one of these two extreme positions?
John gives the Ephesus church three steps to follow.
First, remember where you were when you first came to Christ. Remember how wonderful it felt to be forgiven from your past life, dominated by sinful attitudes and practices? Remember how wonderful it was to worship with people who had the same Jesus as you?
He also urged them to remember how far they had drifted from love.
There once was a lad who had been brought up in a village. In school he sat beside a village girl; clean, fresh, innocent and sweet.
The lad found his way to the city, fell into bad company, became an expert pick-pocket and sneak-thief. He was on the street one day where he had just picked a pocket – a neat job, well done – and he was pleased with himself. Suddenly he saw someone coming down the street; it was the girl he used to sit beside at school. She was still the same – fresh, innocent and sweet. She did not see him, but he took care of that.
Then he remembered what he had once been and realized what he now is. He leaned his burning head against the cool iron of a lamp post. “God,” he said, “how I hate myself.”
Memory was offering him a way back.
William Cowper wrote, “Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and His word?”
Second, John says to repent. Repentance is illustrated in the story of the prodigal son. In Luke 15:18, the prodigal son finally realized that he needed to return to his father’s house because he had made a mess out of his own life.
His words were simple, “I have sinned.”
In I Samuel 26:21, the cry of King Saul’s heart is expressed when he realizes his own folly, “I have played the fool and I have erred exceedingly.”
The hardest thing about repentance is the acceptance of personal responsibility for our failure and our fall; for once the responsibility is accepted, the godly sorrow will surely follow.
Third, John tells the Ephesian church to “Do”. The sorrow of repentance is not meant to drive a person to despair; it is meant to drive a person to two things: One, it is meant to drive a person to fling himself or herself on the grace of God, saying only, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Two, it is meant to drive a person to action that will bring Godly fruit in their life. (Galatians 5:22-23)
No one has truly repented when they do the same things again. The proof of repentance is a changed life, a life changed by our effort in cooperation with the grace of God.
John’s advice is good advice for restoring your passion for God. The process is simple: remember, repent and do. Obey it and watch your passion increase and your joy return.
A few years ago I experienced the pain and discomfort of a herniated disc in my lower back. I had pain in that area for weeks but I thought it would just go away if I exercised regularly. Wrong assumption!
It worsened and soon I was in a specialist’s office after getting an MRI. His words were sobering and quite frankly, scary. He told me I had an unstable L5 disc and my only option to cure this problem was surgery.
I didn’t want my L3, L4 and L5 vertebrae fused and to be in a cast for six months. I thought it was worth talking to my chiropractor to explore different options. He had some ideas - stretching my back three times per week and swimming 3 – 5 days per week. My back began to heal and soon I was back to my routine exercise schedule.
My chiropractor also suggested I purchase an inversion table, which inverts my body anywhere from 55 to 90 degrees and causes my spine to stretch daily. This brings health to my total spine. In other words, it keeps me adjusted so I can prevent injury and I can function freely and painlessly. Daily use of my inversion table keeps my spine healthy and affects my whole body.
Devotional-adjustments heal our damaged spiritual spines and maintain a healthy focus. People who are careless in this area develop spiritual injuries that ultimately cripple them with pain.
I have discovered in my pastoral counseling that most problems people have are due to carelessness in their daily walk with the Lord. This includes prayer, Bible reading, private and public worship, witness to others and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. These components adjust your spiritual spine and keep it healthy so you move with ease and painlessness. Life then becomes an adventure not an endurance contest.
The apostle Paul prioritized his relationship with Jesus. He expressed his attitude toward intimacy with Christ in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”
It was his personal walk with Jesus that gave him the strength to face adversity with joy and to have endurance to finish what God had called him to do.
On a scale of 0 – 10 (0 being non-existent, 10 being great) how would you rate your devotional life? Once you have answered this question give reasons why you answered the way you did.
The next question is, what would it take to move one more point toward a ten?
Daily adjustments in the areas mentioned will create steady and consistent Christian living. You will become a leader, not a victim.
When you face adversity you will be able to confidently repeat the words of the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 4:7 – 9, “But we have this treasure (Christ) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Are you tired of living with constant spiritual pain that paralyzes your effectiveness for God? Are you tired of being a victim? Are you tired of being ruled by your circumstances, culture and emotions? Are you tired of starting ministries and bailing out when circumstances become difficult?
My advice is to get an adjustment daily so you can confess the words of the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 4:7 – 9 with passion and confidence. I pray each of you would walk in the confidence and authority that God has planned for your life.
Our grandson Johnny visited our home last weekend. We spent the weekend together golfing, preparing my bow-hunting area, watching movies, talking, going to church and eating.
One of the meals I fixed for him was marinated venison steak. I have a special recipe that is out of this world. The meat was tasty, moist and tender. Johnny loved it and, of course, that made me look good as a grandpa and a cook.
As I reflected upon his response to the steak dinner I realized there are spiritual lessons to be learned from our meal together.
First, venison can have a wild taste if the deer is not harvested properly. It’s important that the shooter be accurate so the deer dies quickly. An injured deer pumps adrenaline into its body and makes the meat taste gamey.
Second, the animal needs to be processed within the first six hours if at all possible. The hide needs to be removed, the meat cured and all the meat needs to be deboned. These processing steps result in delicious, nutritious meat.
Third, the final step, preparation for cooking. Marinating is vital before grilling or baking. My recipe fools the most resistant venison diners.
The steps for enjoying this dinner has spiritual parallels. First, we must prepare our lives in such a way that we die to ourselves and totally surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Resistance to the death process only makes our lives distasteful. The adrenalin of disobedience makes our lives toxic and unappealing to others.
Second, we need to allow God to clean us up so our lives will be appealing to others.
Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is true worship. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Failing to remove bones of rebellion or the hide of disobedience makes our lives difficult for others to follow.
Third, our lives need to be soaked in the water of God’s word and the oil of the Holy Spirit. My marinade includes olive oil because venison is lean. Olive oil moistens the meat so cooking does not dry it out.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.
Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which lead to a party spirit. Instead, be filled or controlled by the Spirit.”
Marinate in God’s word and let the Holy Spirit control you. People will be attracted to you and enjoy your company like a delicious venison meal.
Well, it's been just two weeks since I had (what I believe) was my last surgery for breast cancer. I think it's important to have goals in our lives, and mine was to attend the wedding of our dear friends’ daughter.
When the invitation came asking for an RSVP, I replied with a little note that I had every intention of attending, however I wasn't completely sure if my body would be cooperating.
I was thrilled when the Lord gave me the physical strength to go, and that I was able to get into the new dress that my husband helped me purchase a few weeks prior to surgery as incentive to achieve my goal. I must admit (having to wear the special surgical apparatus from my shoulders to my thigh) that it felt more like wearing a suit of armor than the pretty pink girly dress I had I envisioned when we bought it. But when my husband told me I looked beautiful, I put a smile on my face and grabbed a shawl to wrap up in, just in case I needed to hide everything but my smile, and off we went!
Arriving, my eyes searched for familiar faces and the first one I saw was a friend from our home church. He gently hugged me and escorted me directly to a private elevator to the gala event. How sweet of God to think of everything. The service was fun and meaningful, and then we were ushered into the dining area where we sat with close friends.
After hours of laughter and good food, I could feel myself growing tired, but just as we were about to leave another visitor stopped to greet me. She shared with me her battle with breast cancer that led to other cancer battles in her body. As I listened, my heart filled with gratitude to the Lord for my healing and hope for her complete recovery. Deep concern and compassion rose up in me and I asked if I could pray with her.
After I prayed she suggested I search the Internet for more information about the effects of cancer after surgery. I know she was sincerely concerned for me, but I could feel fear trying to enter into my mind. Suddenly, the Lord wrapped His peace around me like a warm shawl, protecting me from a chill in the night and whispered into my heart, "So many people search the Internet instead of searching for the truth in my Word. When you search for Me with all your heart you will find Me, I AM the God that heals you, I sent My Word (Jesus) to heal you of all your diseases."
Jeremiah 30:17 "I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds, says the Lord."
May you also feel the comfort of His Words, sheltering you from all fear.
Just sitting here alone in the quiet, looking at my naked evergreen Christmas tree, I began to feel sad. I almost wanted to apologize to it and tell it how sorry I was that I couldn't raise my arms to put decorations on it. But it didn't seem to mind, it still stood a tall 9-feet high, branches a little miss-shaped, but none the less holding its own in the big window.
It’s only been two weeks since my surgery for breast cancer, and today seems to be a sensitive day for me, my body and my mind. I hate to have to be waited on or to ask for help, because it feels SO much nicer to help others. Mothers are supposed to care for their children, not the other way around. Though this is a humbling time for me, it is also a time when I have received more love than I believe I have ever given in my lifetime.
I've decided that every heart-felt prayer, kind word, gentle touch of the hand, each card or flower, and meal dropped off in love is going to be a special ornament of love placed on the tree of my life.
I shared with my close friend earlier today my sadness at not being able to decorate my tree and house for Christmas, because it’s my favorite time of the year. Knowing her as I do, I'm sure she fought the urge to jump on a plane and get here in 10 minutes! But we can't always fix things for those we love and God wants to teach us beautiful lessons in every situation, if we just let Him.
I thought to myself, “Well I can't put ornaments on the tree, but I can plug in the lights!” Wow!!! The lights took my eyes and thoughts off the nakedness of the evergreen, and I now only noticed how the lights brought the tree to life! All at once I seemed to know that even in the times I feel naked, or ashamed that the light of Jesus’ love overshadows all my imperfections and then the attention is placed where it belongs - on His ability to make something beautiful out of any and every circumstance. We just need to focus on, and do, what we can.
So enjoy the moment, even if you don't have a tree. Put a bow on your lamp shade and turn on the light; it's amazing how a little light can brighten up a dark place.
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. "
Jesus is the Light of the world!
So Merry Christmas children of God, plug into His power-source and let His light shine!
I have always enjoyed sports. I was a cheerleader all through junior high and high school and I used to play basketball, volleyball, baseball, you name it...I loved to play it. There was something great about working with a team of other players and sharing the responsibilities and the rewards of a job well done.
There's no way that you can just show up for the game without practicing with the team and think that you're all going to work together flawlessly. It takes faithfulness, discipline, talent and team work.
But another very important aspect of finishing well has to do with the coach and that locker room experience before the game.
Every weekend at Women of Faith, we gather as a team for prayer and sharing what's on our hearts and the heart of God. We get our direction for the weekend from the Holy Spirit and the strategy to defeat our opponents. These opponents can be in the circumstances that we face in the arenas, or in our own bodies or minds, but with the power of His Spirit working within us, for us and through us, they will be defeated in Jesus’ name!
Paul often related to sports as he exhorted us, the children of God, to never give up, and to purpose in our hearts and souls to finish well in life. We all have our own races to run, yet we are never running alone.
Hebrews 12: 1-3 (Judy's Translation)
"Ok gang, everyone is cheering us on; we can do this! Let's lighten our load, throw off discouragement, self doubt, past failures, fears, that spirit of heaviness, disappointments, worldly distractions - anything that's slowing us down. And then let's run, never looking back, just keep heading for the finish line. Jesus will be there, so just stay focused on Him, keep running toward Him no matter what or how you feel. The cool thing is, He is not only at the finish line, He is also Inside of you, giving you the strength and faith not only to endure, but to finish well. He showed us by example how to win, focus on the joy of The Reward, no matter what happens along the way. He ran His race so we could run ours in His strength, with His heart."
So run children of God, run whole-heartedly. Keep believing and you will finish well!