Faith-Digging Deeper

I was going to talk about faith, but Patty Wysong does it so well that I’m going to refer you to Patterings.

Once you’ve read her post, come back here if you’d like.

Okay, are you back?

Mark 2:5

The Message (MSG)
A Paraplegic

2 1-5 After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.”

Jesus knows we’re human. He knows we’re weak. We often focus on circumstances. This passage shows us that the faith of friends is also important. The friends had heard about Jesus, they believed in Jesus, and they acted on that belief by taking their friend to see Jesus. And they didn’t just walk right up to him. No, they carried their paraplegic friend to the roof, removed part of the roof and lowered him down.

These friends were determined, their faith bold. Can you imagine the smile on Jesus’ face?

There are times when we are weak. Times when our circumstances overwhelm us and our faith falters in the situation. It’s good to have friends, friends who will carry our burdens to the feet of Jesus.

If you are burden, if your eyes are on your mountain and you can’t see your way around it, if you need prayer, please let me know, I’d be honored to carry you to Jesus. You don’t have to give me specifics, you can just type a simple ‘me’ in the box. If you prefer not to leave your prayer needs in the comment sections you may email me. The address is at the side.

Christina

Be Imitators-Love Unconditionally & Forgive

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot and like a root out of dry ground.
He had not beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed ad afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53 (NIV)

Oh glorious day! This account in Isaiah was written almost seven hundred years before Christ’s death and resurrection. And yet it is told with great accuracy. How amazing is God? Very amazing indeed.

Today, as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ we must not forget His motive–love! Yes, because He loved us He set aside His deity and took our sins. Making intercession for us, He suffered the death that should have been ours and because of His righteousness the grave could not hold Him.

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

Hosea 13:14 (NIV)

Check out the meaning for the word grave she’owl in Strong’s Concordance:
-place of no return
-without praise of God

The King James Version says, “O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction”

Yes, Jesus Christ suffered for us. He conquered death for us. He did this because His father God loved the world. He did this to honor His father’s will. He did this because He loved us, too. He did this so that whoever believes in Him, and the power of His death and Resurrection, would not perish but have everlasting life.

Folks, as we dress in our Easter best and attend our family gatherings I want you to take something into consideration–God loved us, He loves us. Jesus loves us.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 (NIV)

That took a huge unselfish act of love and forgiveness. A lot of forgiveness. So, as we celebrate His glorious Resurrection and His motives for doing so, let’s try to be imitators of Christ. Love unconditionally and forgive those who’ve transgressed against us. For God’s word is clear in Matthew 6:14-15 that if we forgive men, He will forgive us, but if we don’t forgive men their sins, He won’t forgive ours.

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

I had the wonderful, blessed opportunity to see Third Day, Matt Maher and Trevor Morgan in concert last night. If you get the chance, do not pass this tour up. At one point, Matt Maher (that’s him right there, see?) sang one of my all time favorite songs, “Love Will Hold us Together”. The chorus goes something like this: And I’ll be my brother’s keeper, so the whole world will know that we’re not alone.

The Hebrew word ‘keeper’, pronounced sh as in shoe and mar as in mare, is shamar, שָׁמַר

According to Blue Letter Bible concordance, it means what we think, to keep, preserve, protect.

Now, Cain went a long way to show by example of how not to be a brother’s keeper. He even went so far to ask God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Even if you’re not well versed in the Bible, I’m sure you’ve heard of this phrase before. It’s Cain’s response to God when asked where Abel was. Of course, God already knew for He is all knowing but He wanted Cain to own up to what he’d done, take responsibility for his own actions.

If we look to the verses leading up to Cain’s murderous actions (did I forget to mention that part), we see the brother’s brought offerings to God. Cain brought some of the fruits from the soil whereas Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The difference between the offerings was that one was a first fruit, the other was not.

Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of they first fruits and of thy liquors: the firstborn of they sons shalt thou give unto me.

Exodus 22:29 King James Version

According to the Jewish Study Bible note found next to the previous verse it says, “The first fruits of the soil and the first-born animals must be given to God, thereby acknowledging Him as the source of the land’s fertility and the true owner of its produce.”

I want to mention, as a little side note here, that the liquors referred to in Exodus 22:29 was most likely not just for the juice of grapes, but that from the olive trees and so on.

So, back to this whole Cain and Abel thing. We see by God’s decree in Exodus how important first fruits are to Him. And I’m betting that it has more to do with the condition of Cain’s heart. He (Cain) withheld the rightful praise and worship due God as his (Cain) divine Creator. A praise and worship that should have come naturally from an all-consuming love of his Heavenly Father.

One thing I find interesting is that Cain took his brother, under false pretenses I am sure, to the fields. Out of Cain’s jealousy over the relationship between Abel and God, he (Cain) shed Abel’s blood, which just goes to show that Cain didn’t quite get it. You see, when Abel brought his sacrifice before God, it was from the first fruits of his flock, which meant blood was spilled. Cain must have believed that God would only accept a blood offering. Cain sought to one-up his brother by bringing a human offering, not some silly little goat.

It wasn’t until God handed down Cain’s punishment that Cain began to realize that, “…I will be hidden from Your presence.” (NIV Genesis 4:14) It was then, even if it was just a little thought in the midst of many, that Cain realized he didn’t want to live outside of God.

There are so many things to take from Genesis chapter 4. Next week I’ll touch on God’s grace and compassion. I leave you with this:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.”

Mark 12:30-31 NIV

I have to wonder if Jesus thought back to Cain and Abel and the senseless murder. If Cain had loved the Lord with all his soul, mind and strength it would have been evident in his actions when he brought his offering to God. And if Cain had loved his brother as himself–been his keeper–he would have kept him, preserved him and protected him.

My question for you today is, are you your brother’s keeper? Are your actions toward those in your life reflecting the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians chapter 5 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)? Or are your actions reflecting opposite?

If you’d like for me to pray for you today, just leave a comment. You don’t have to be specific, you can just simply say hi and I’ll know you want prayers.

Blessed Friday,

Christina

Keep Waiting

When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.
1 Samuel 28:5-6

Lord God, I pray in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, that you would use me as a tool to share the message you would have for us this day. I ask that you give us insight into your word and that you be glorified above all things.
Amen

I read this passage and my thoughts automatically began to bounce all over the place, but I’m trying for sound, linear, cohesiveness here. Pray for a miracle (I think I’m beginning to understand why many pastors have a three point sermon, it keeps them on track).

There are two possible ways I could go with this scripture; Saul’s fear and God’s refusal to answer. But I’m sure if I dig deeper we’ll find that both possibilities really lead back to one thing: Saul’s disobedience to God.  1 Sam 15

I have a tendency to try to go deep and end up rabbit trailing. This time I’m going for simple.

Saul inquired of the Lord. He obviously asked God to answer him through dreams. When that didn’t work he decided to cast lots (Urim), and when that didn’t work he turned to the prophets. When all of those things failed to work, Saul went against his own standards and sought out a medium. Something to note here, Saul had previously banded all mediums from Israel, but Saul disguised himself and requested the woman speak to the prophet Samuel who had died.

Saul was afraid. His fear caused him to think unclearly. He wanted an answer and he wanted it the way he wanted it and when he wanted it.

You might wonder why God refused to answer Saul. For that answer we need to go back to the beginning of 1 Samuel 15.

“Thus said the Lord of Hosts: I am exacting the penalty for what Amalek did to Israel, for the assault he made upon them on the road, on their way up from Egypt. Now go, attack Amalek, and destroy all that belongs to him. Spare no one, but kill alike men and women, infants and sucklings, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

It’s a straight forward command from the Lord to the first King of Israel. And you might think that Saul did not have the stomach for such violence, but that was not the case. Saul chose to destroy the people of Amalek. All that is but their king Agag. And to add insult to injury, Saul and his men “spared the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs–everything that was good.”

I will not pretend to understand the reasons why God would ask Saul to destroy all, even the infants and sucklings, as a mother it makes me sad. What I do know is, God had his reasons and he told Moses back in Exodus 17 to “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

It was shortly after this that God told Samuel He regretted making Saul king. From what I see, Saul had his eyes on the Lord, and then he was anointed King of Israel. Saul no longer cared about God. After reading the rest of Saul’s history it is obvious he only cared about instant gratification, and when that could not be found he often suffered from fits of rage. Not once, at least as far as I recall, did Saul humble himself before God and ask forgiveness.

It should have been no surprise when God had abandoned Saul, especially when Saul had long before turned from God.

Not surprisingly, I found a bit of familiarity within the passages. There are times when I make requests of God, in my impatience, I’ll ask for them to come in dreams when the answers don’t seem immediately evident, and then I seek out counsel (I’ve learned over the years to seek wise counsel), and yes, I’ve even casted lots. Not that those things are wrong. God often has and still does speak to His people through dreams. Casting of lots was something set up during the time of Moses and maybe even earlier. Seeking counsel has never been wrong when it is sought from a Godly source, but we should remember that all men are fallible, only God is infallible.

So, if you’re inquiring of the Lord and it doesn’t seem as if He is answering just keep waiting.

Digging Deeper

Today, I’m going to let y’all participate in my digging deeper segment. So here it is, dig deep into your heart and ask yourself what your life would be like if you filled it with less of you and more of Jesus?

Calling On Jesus

How faithful is our Savior. (yes, I meant that as a statement) Once again we’re going to dig a little deeper into my faith. My family has been having a rough time of it. Somethings, as rough as I knew they would be, I prayed for and had been prepared. Others, seemed to come out of nowhere.

I wondered if the old me would rear its ugly head. At times it tried. When someone messes with a cub, the mama doesn’t mess around, even if the cub wasn’t playing where he/she should. I’ve taken some emotional beatings this week. The whole family has. But God has blessed us greatly in ways I didn’t expect.

Today was one of those emotional days. I’ve continually taken deep breaths to keep from sobbing. Not that sobbing is always a bad thing, but I feared I wouldn’t come out of it. It was difficult not to let the darkness of depression take me down into the abyss. It wasn’t a good time. Actually, no time is a good time, but especially not now.

The house began to settle into the quiet of the night and I knew I was standing on the edge. Each breath brought me closer to falling over. I took a shower, which was challenging since the hot water heater gave out earlier today, but it was a necessity. As odd as it may sound and probably a little TMI, It’s my prayer closet. A place I go and sing praises to the Lord (hey, everyone sings in the shower, right?) I also pray.

A peace began to settle, but the haze was still there on the horizon. One soppy commericial and I would have been a goner. So I sat at the computer. “LORD, I need some help here. I need some hope.”

I surfed on over to Pandora Radio and guess what the first song was. Nicole C. Mullins’ Call On Jesus. It’s one of my all time favorites. I’m having a difficult time embedding the video and adding a link so if you want to hear it you’ll have to google, believe me it’s worth it. I’ve added the chorus, written by Nicole C. Mullins, below.

But when I call on Jesus,
All things are possible
I can mount on wings like eagles’ and soar
When I call on Jesus,
Mountains are gonna fall
‘Cause He’ll move heaven and earth to come rescue me when I call

I tend to call on the Lord in the small things and hold the big things to myself. What about you? Are you accustomed to calling on Jesus in all things? Or only when things seem impossible?

Digging Deeper Into Faith

This segment of Digging Deeper won’t go behind the scenes of Biblical words. Instead, I’ll share how God has shown me to dig deeper into my faith.

Have you ever hiked an overgrown, steep, rocky trail only to come out on top of a precipce and have your breath taken away by the glorious beauty before you? Do you recall glancing over your shoulder and saying, wow, it was rough going, but I made it? Somehow, knowing you’ve accomplished your goal through all the thorny brush and the turning of the ankles makes it even more amazing.

For the last few weeks I’ve worn a cloak of discontenment. Irritation has been choking me like a turtle neck in the middle of a heat-wave. I’ve clawed at the suffocation, stretched the fabric and found relief here and there, but then somehow the fabric would cinch even tighter around my throat.

I’ve sat on the edge of self-pity and wondered why? It seemed as soon as I surfaced the murky water for air I’d be dunked uder once again. And during this time of wallowing, knowing others’ lives have met with true devastation, I’ve carried with me a bag of guilt like a ton of bricks.

But God is Faithful!

As I scraped off my knees after stumbling on one of those annoying little sharp stones I realized I was far from emulating Job’s character. And he had it much worse off . To bring me comfort, hope, I delved into Job. Actually, I opened up my Bible directly to Chapter 29. Purely by accident, or Godincidence, as I was not intending on reading Job.

Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried out for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist him. The man who was dying blessed me; I made the widow’s heart sing. I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. Job 29:11-16

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t long for commendations or pats on the back, but when I read this passage, my heart cried out. “YES! YES, Lord!” I didn’t want to feel the sting of dissension in my heart. I longed to be eyes for the blind and feet to the lame. But how? What could poor, little me do?

Through a series of event God showed me that I’d been living according to my circumstance and not to His plan. Because of this passage I cried out to my Father in Heaven and He answered!

Let me back up just a little. I firmly believe that God has created each of us with creative tendencies. Some people sew, scrapbook, woodwork, bead etc. For me I write. I also love creating blogs/websites, not that I have made one from scratch, but I do like taking themes and doing things with them.

Now check this out:

    • A friend of mine announced that she was revamping her blog.
    • This caused a stirring, but I didn’t want to create another one for me. I have difficulty posting on the ones I have.
    • A critique partner asked for input on his website. One thing led to another and you could say between the two of us we are creating a workable website/blog.
    • As it turns out, he’s blind. Can I brag on God right now?! He fulfilled a desire to be eyes for the blind in a way I never could have imagined.

But wait, it gets better. This wasn’t just about God fulfilling a desire. You see, during this whole process God was showing me something else. He was calling me to dig deeper into my faith.

Dave had asked me to post a scripture on the sidebar of his site. I knew the scripture but couldn’t remember the reference so I thought Google, right? As I typed the words into search engine, something caught my attention. I turned around and there on the television screen was the exact reference I needed. Coincidence? I don’t think so but I wasn’t hearing it for me, if you know what I mean.

The very next morning I was watching Joyce Meyers, and guess what? She quoted the exact same scripture. I’ve heard it said that when things come in threes you better pay close attention. I didn’t need another nudge to know that God was talking to me. I need to walk by faith, not by my circumstances. And I knew He wasn’t just talking to me about my life and all the chaotic mess surrounding it, He was talking about my writing.

I suppose you want to know the scripture. It’s one I’m sure I’ll never forget.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Thank you, Dave. I may be your eyes for a short time but you’ve opened my ears so I can hear. And, God, WOW! Just, WOW!