Archive | December 2014

That’s a Wrap!

dandelion in the wind

Philippians 3:13-14 (NKJV) – Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Wow!  2014 is rapidly closing and I don’t know about you but it feels like it just started.  I know that as you get older the years do seem to go faster but surely the pace in which this year flew by isn’t only those advancing years but a sign of the times.  Regardless of why the days, weeks and months are moving by so quickly, coming to the end of the year always brings about thoughts of what happened that year and usually some excitement that a new fresh year is upon us and we’re inspired to dream about the could be’s of that fresh start.

In reading Paul’s words of Philippians 3:13-14 it brings to mind a couple of things related to closing out a year and starting a new one and how that pertains to our life as a daughter of our Heavenly Father.  My first thought is towards the past, usually the last year.  For me 2014 was quite a wild ride and brought about experiences I did not anticipate when the year started and a lot of questions of what plans God had for me in this phase of my life and how He was going to take care of various situations.  I think it’s normal to have some regrets when looking back at decisions made and the way we handled difficult events wishing we would have had a better attitude or reacted differently when we were in the situation.  So how much time should I spend evaluating my past behavior?  Over the last couple of years the sense I’m getting is a lot less than I tend to.  One of the ways the enemy ties us up is to get us to spend way too much time in what ifs, if onlys and regrets.  We humans can be very hard on ourselves but God says His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) and I’ve taken that to mean that God realizes that we will stumble and fall and that He’s made a way for us to get back up, dust ourselves off (or maybe we need Him to dust us off!) and move forward.

As we wrap up 2014 what do you see when you look back on your year?  Are there things you wince at, hurts that still are painful or a list of if onlys that run through your mind?  If so, I think now is a really great time to let God’s grace, goodness and mercy to wash over you and turn over to your Heavenly Father those regrets, frustrations and anything that could hold you back as we start the year of 2015.  My encouragement to you is to take some time and let the Holy Spirit reveal to you where you may have some unresolved issues and let yourself put those things in God’s capable hands.  Do you need to forgive someone who hurt you, then do!  Do you need to ask for someone to forgive you, take that step!  Are you upset with how something did or didn’t turn out or confused as to why you had seemingly bad circumstances happen in your life and are questioning God as to why those things were allowed to happen?  While I certainly can’t speak to your particular circumstance, this I can say, God knows, He’s got it covered if you will let Him be in control and what lies ahead is more amazing than any of us can even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

I mentioned this has been a crazy year for me and thought I would share a few things.  I’ve worked at the same company for almost 20 years.  Our company was bought out in 2012 and I was offered the top position for my department, which I accepted, and had been leading that for the last 2 years.  Mergers are very challenging and before the acquisition our company had been going through a lot of financial challenges ending in it going through bankruptcy.  As you can imagine morale had been tested for quite a while and then over half way through this year I was laid off.  Now having never been through that, it’s quite an experience and add to that that we have a home up north that we need to sell, a bit of pressure when you are now out of a job!  I’m going into 2015 still unemployed and still with an extra home and I have a choice before me, do I dwell on what happened and wonder why these things are, or do I follow Paul’s example and, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”   I’m choosing to be excited about what 2015 holds for me and I believe with all my heart that everything that happened in 2014, whether I thought it was good or bad, was a stepping stone to something far greater.  God says He knows the plans He has for me and that His thoughts for me are for my good and not for evil.  So I’ve placed my employment and sale of our home in His hands and know that exactly what needs to happen is going to happen and I have no regrets.  Instead I have peace, joy and anticipation to have a testimony to share as God works far above anything I could ask or hope.

I’d like you to join me in letting our Heavenly Father take into His hands the events of 2014, letting them go into His capable hands and say with confidence and peace, “That’s a Wrap!”

Resource (and update):  After posting yesterday’s blog my sister and I were talking and unbeknownst to me their sermon was on some similar things as what I posted here.  Don’t you love how God does that?  They also had a handout to help in looking at how God showed up for them in this past year and I wanted to provide a link in case you would like a tool to help you or you and your family see God’s fingerprints in your life this last year.

Antioch Community Church – Dallas, TX

Last Week’s sermon:
Remembrance

by Joe Paolino

Here’s a digital copy of the handout from the sermon: 
Walking with Jesus Plan
This handout will help you reflect upon the goodness of God in your life in 2014, help you receive His grace presently, and challenge you to make a plan for this upcoming year. Blessings to you Antioch Dallas!

A Daughter’s Prayer – May we not look back at yesterday, as our past is in your hands of grace and mercy.  May we not look forward to tomorrow, as this too You hold in Your hands and all that we are and all we need is found in You.  We live today, the grace You have apportioned for me, like Your manna for the Israelites.  You provided for me today all I need.  Your abundant goodness is available to me and all that I need I have in You.  Holy Spirit, may the eyes and ears of my heart be open.  May I see Your goodness all around me and recognize Your hand.  I have great expectations of good because I am in Christ and I am seated at the right hand of my Abba Father, in heavenly realms.  May Your goodness and mercy overtake us.  I expect good things, good things for my family and friends and all those you bring across our path.  May all that my hands touch have Your anointing on it.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Whom Shall I Fear?

Flowers in Snow

Psalm 27:1 (NKJV) The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

 

Not too long ago I was thinking about what was still an area that I’ve been struggling with and as I pondered that I realized that what was described as the fear of man was something that influenced my daily life greatly.  I’m sure most people have some degree of this but it felt to me that this type of fear had more than your average influence in my life and starting back to when I was pretty young.  That day, a few weeks ago, I decided that I was tired of living with it and began to pray and do some research on teachings on it.  I found a really awesome article by a minister in Oklahoma, Tony Cooke.  I think Tony covers it amazingly well and I’d like to share with you what I read from him.

Tony Cooke Ministries | Overcoming the Fear of Man

Proverbs 29:25 (NLT)
25 Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety.

Fearing man goes beyond fearing physical harm. Many fear rejection, ridicule, or disapproval.  Some even become “approval addicts,” obsessively pursuing human approval at whatever cost and anxiously brooding over what others think of them.  As a matter of fact, the Message version paraphrases the above verse, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.”

That makes me wonder how much we in the Body of Christ – believers and leaders – have been paralyzed and had our potential minimized due to fearing man.  A classic example of “the fear of man” is found in the way certain individuals responded to Jesus.

John 12:42-43 (NLT)
42 Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. 43 For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.

When individuals are ruled by the fear of man, they will shrink from their convictions and violate their own conscience.  We can see from this verse (and perhaps from our own experiences and observations) that “peer pressure” doesn’t simply affect teenagers.  If we are overcome by the fear of human opinion, it is probably because we’ve magnified man and minimized God in our thinking.

Isaiah 51:12-13 (NLT)
12 “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear?  13 Yet you have forgotten the LORD, your Creator, the one who stretched out the sky like a canopy and laid the foundations of the earth.

When we reverence God properly in our lives, and realize that His opinion is the one that ultimately matters, we will avoid the snare, disability, and paralysis that comes from cringing before the potential disapproval of man.  Paul’s maturity in this regard was evidenced in the following:

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT)
3 As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.  4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

Paul wasn’t arrogant, but neither was he apologetic.  He was assertive, though, in his walk with God, and this confidence was based on knowing God and not fearing man.

Commenting on these verses in “Growing Up Spiritually,” Kenneth E. Hagin said, “Paul had grown in grace to such an extent that he sought only to commend himself to God.  He was not influenced or affected by what others thought of him.  He did not get in bondage to anybody.  It was not a carnal independence – but a saintly dignity.”  He went on to say, “The mature believer is God-conscious.  And ever conscious of what God’s Word says about him and to him.  Because he is able to testify with Paul, ‘It is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or of man’s judgment,’ he is free to walk in and voice his convictions.”

Jesus followed this same pattern even when He was twelve years old.  When His parents finally found Him in the Temple, Mary really unloaded on Jesus with much emotion.  Luke 2:48 (NLT) records her saying: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”

Not everyone responds well to such a statement, but Jesus’ response reveals much.

    1. He did not respond with arrogance.  Arrogance would have said, “I’ll do what I want, when I want, and how I want, and I don’t want any lip from you.”
    2. He did not respond apologetically.  An apology would have said, “I’m so sorry.  I’ll never do anything ever again that upsets you.”
    3. He did respond with assertiveness.  Jesus simply said (Luke 2:49), “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  He was so secure, calm, comfortable, and confident in God’s acceptance and approval that He did not need to bristle with arrogance or cower in intimidation.

If we are insecure in the Father’s love and acceptance, we will often try to fill that void in our life by the approval of people.  The fallacy of this is revealed when we recognize that man’s love and approval is typically conditional, fickle, and temporal.  As a result, we are never truly secure because man’s love can be very subject to change.  However, the love of God is unconditional, unchanging, and eternal.  In Him we find true security.  That’s why it is so much better for us to walk in the reverential fear and awe of God than to be on the emotional roller coaster of seeking man’s approval.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT)
5 …God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” 6 So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

This is the type of confidence every child and ever servant of God should have.

It is important to realize that this freedom from the fear of man does not mean that we should have the kind of attitude that says, “Bless God, I don’t care what anybody thinks or says about me.”

It is one thing to be so secure in the acceptance of God that you do not cringe before human rejection or disapproval.  It is another thing to have a rebellious, arrogant, and carnally independent attitude that leads one to disregard and disrespect others.

To properly understand what our position should be, we not only need to observe Paul’s perspective in 1 Corinthians 4:3 (… it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you), but we also need to hear the balancing wisdom he expressed later in the same book.

1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (NLT)
31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God.  33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

Did Paul just contradict himself?  We know that Paul said elsewhere (Colossians 3:22) not to be a people-pleaser, but now he’s describing how he always tries to please everyone.  This may be a bit paradoxical, but it is not contradictory.  Paul is actually talking about two entirely different issues.

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is not describing an insecurity or fear-based pursuit of approval for his own benefit, but rather, a love-based effort to serve others for their benefit.

Notice Paul’s qualifiers:

    1. First, he says we should do things for the glory of God.
    2. Second, he says we should avoid giving offense, or being an unnecessary stumbling block that would keep others from God.
    3. Third, we see he seeks to please others (not just himself).  He does this not for his own personal benefit (to meet a need in his own life) but for the benefit of others that they might be saved.

When we look at the harmonious blend of all these Scriptures, it becomes clear that we are not to insecurely fear man.  But having found our security in God, we are to proactively seek to remove stumbling blocks and express a love-oriented, confidence-based servant’s attitude toward others.  May God help this be realized in all of our lives.

http://www.tonycooke.org/free_resources/articles-tony-cooke/fear-of-man.html

After reading this article and spending time since then allowing the Holy Spirit to help me see when I’m letting my concern about what others think influence decisions or behaviors (over what I feel God is saying to me) I am really seeing a lot of positive change in my life, freedom actually.  I love what David says in the verse in Psalms 27 when he asks of whom shall I fear?  If the Lord is for us, then who can be against us?  Our Heavenly Father tends to ask us to step out into many things that we would rather not do because we will probably look foolish in the eyes of people and I realize that if I am truly going to be My Father’s Daughter, I am going to need to put off my fear of man and be in a place where I want to be obedient and pleasing to Him more than I care about what I look like to others!

A Daughter’s Prayer – God’s peace gives me freedom from fear.  I do not have to be afraid of people.  I can live a life of confidence and security because I live in LOVE.  No strings attached, no conditions, the One who is working all things together for my good.  The One who created me to prosper and be in health as my soul prospers.  Oh Holy Spirit, whisper to my soul, it is well with me!  Everything I need for life and godliness is in my Savior, my Christ, in whom I dwell.  We fragile humans, for whom you made the greatest sacrifice and have unending patience.  I can ask why, but I doubt on this side I could understand or fathom the answer.  It is enough to know that You do.  Holy Spirit, help me to take Him at His Word and grasp the amazingness of what my Abba is bestowing on me.  Let me build from this day forward on the foundation of unconditional love.  To live and behave from the knowledge that I am safe and secure in my Almighty and experience a freedom I have never experienced before.  Freedom from fear, freedom from agitating passions and freedom from moral conflicts.  To receive and live from the peace my Abba has bestowed upon me.  I have from Him perfect wellbeing, I have all necessary good, and I have from Him all spiritual prosperity.  Each of these and all they represent belong to me.  Each day I can be confident and secure because He has bestowed upon me His peace and I have all that I need.  I have Jesus.  In His holy name, amen.

 

Nothing but Crickets

 

cherry blossoms at night

Psalm 35:22 (NKJV) – This You have seen, O Lord; Do not keep silence. O Lord, do not be far from me.

 

You’re going along in this getting to know God path and you’re learning things and realizing that God really does love you and cares about all the things in your life and you feel like you’re hearing and experiencing a closeness that you never experienced before and then for some reason it feels like you are talking and nothing is coming back.  It’s like you’re out there all by yourself and for some reason your Heavenly Father isn’t out there with you.  You’ve probably heard someone say that it seems like their prayers hit the ceiling, meaning they leave their mouth but never seem to make it to God’s ears.  I picture it as I’m talking and the only answer is crickets chirping in the night.  A very lonely feeling…  How do we go from intimacy to feeling abandoned almost over night?  It appears this is a common experience and we see in Psalms 35:22 David asking the Lord to not be far from him and we know that David chased after God with all of his heart and yet there were times he felt like we do.

When we hit the dry places I think it’s important to remind ourselves of what God says to us about His presence in our lives.  In Hebrews 13:5 it says, … For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  I think as a human being one of the most challenging things we have to learn is that our feelings do not necessarily represent what is true.  I’ve had to decide that I believe that what the Bible says is true and when what I feel or what I’m experiencing doesn’t line up with what I know is in the Word I begin to remind myself what the Word says about things and choose to believe what it says over my feelings and circumstances.  I have also found that this is not easy, in fact it can be one of the hardest things we do.  Have you ever known someone or personally had an irrational fear?  It’s when a situation is such that regardless of what is really happening a person is so afraid they cannot move forward.  I’ve seen it with someone being so afraid of heights that they could not jump off the high dive even though they wanted to really badly.  The fear totally overcame any rational thought, that is how strong our emotions can be, so it’s no wonder that they can make what isn’t true feel true to such a degree that we respond to them over God’s truth.

How do we respond to this time where we feel abandoned by our Heavenly Father?  It’s really frustrating when you feel like you’ve been making all this progress and then it seems the river just dries up and I think the natural response is to rack your brain to see where you messed up, maybe made God mad or start to doubt what you had as being real.  This is where the rubber meets the road for us in our continued press to be truly committed to getting to know what it’s really like to be our Father’s Daughter.  I think we need to anchor in our hearts the example Jesus gives of the father in the parable of the prodigal son.

Luke 15:20-24 (NLT)

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[a]

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

While there are so many wonderful examples in this story, the part I want to focus on is just a few words in verse 20, “And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.”  Although the son had left, spent, wasted really, all of the inheritance he had been given and basically just walked out of his father’s life, his father never stopped looking for him, expecting him back and when he did return his only response was to celebrate him and put him right back in a position of sonship within his household.  I use this to help combat that feeling of abandonment or dryness knowing that my Heavenly Father never leaves me nor forsakes me and He cherishes me and celebrates me and regardless of what my feeling and emotions are telling me the truth is I’m still in the palm of His hand.  While I don’t know why I experience some of the things I experience I do know that my Heavenly Father is there and it’s my responsibility to remind myself of His faithfulness.    In Psalms 42 we can see how David turned the tables on these feelings, Psalm 42:5(NKJV) –  Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.

If you’re in season of dryness, or maybe you just happened to wake up feeling differently than you did the day before, don’t let these emotions dictate how you move forward.  Instead, read the story of the prodigal son and see how Jesus showed us how much our Heavenly Father loves us.  Read the scriptures in Psalms and see how David deals with similar emotions and reminds himself of the fact he is not alone despite how he feels.   Instead of feeling alone and abandoned we can abandon the disquiet and frustration and embrace the truth of the fact that we are growing in our relationship, we are pleasing to Him and He is drawing us ever closer.  Don’t give up!  Persistence is the key, keep those words of truth in front of you, keep reminding yourself, pray and ask for help to get past the hard times.  The Word says that it’s through faith and patience we inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12).  Not every breakthrough comes easily and persistence and commitment are the only way to change but Jesus already bought our victory and He gave us the Holy Spirit to teach us, comfort us and bring to our remembrance the truth.  We should be eating healthy every day to ensure our body daily has what it needs, so too we should be putting God’s Word into our spirits every day and if you’re struggling in an area, studying specific scriptures on that subject will probably be very helpful.  Don’t be surprised if you have to come back but you will notice that you are able to recall more quickly the good things and it’s easier to overcome your emotions with the truth and pretty soon those crickets won’t sound lonely, instead they’ll be a song declaring the glory of the Lord!

A Daughter’s Prayer:

Psalms 42

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”

When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.[c]

O my God,[d] my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.

I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.