Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Don't Stop - Keep Praying And Believing

The other night, my husband and I spent some time in prayer. The next morning he left my Bible open to this verse for me to read.
Mark 11: 20 – 24
“Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”
22So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
If you read some of the stories in the books of Acts you can see amazing things the apostles were able to do in the name of Jesus. Peter and John were going to the temple and told a begger to get up and walk in Jesus name. He walked. Paul prayed for a sick guy and he was healed. He even got bit by a snake and nothing happened to him.  When Peter was taken captive one time, the other believers prayed and he was miraculously led out of the prison cell by an angel, even though he was chained and had two soldiers watching him.
When I read these stories in the Bible and all of the stories of Jesus healings, I sometimes think, why don’t we see these things more often, today. The Bible says, Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever, so, He hasn’t changed at all.
When reading the stories of Jesus I noticed He admires the faith people have, and He includes their faith in the healing. One guy however, when Jesus asked if he had faith, covered his bases well. The guy admitted he had faith, but asked Jesus to help his unbelief. And Jesus did.
This morning while reading this passage, I wondered about times my prayers didn’t seem to be answered.
Did I not have faith?
Did I doubt?
I prayed and asked God how can a person live in such a way that this verse would be a reality for their lives? And I asked Him about the times where it seemed my prayers weren’t answered. (God always answers prayer, yes, no, later, or in a different way than we plan for Him to answer.)
The first thing that came to my mind was the story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemene just before he was taken to be crucified. In Luke 22:42, He prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
So praying is more than just asking. Praying is putting our request before God and then aligning it to God’s will.
Jesus made the request to have the cup taken away from him, but it was the Father’s will for Him to die for the sins of the world. And Jesus walked in the Father’s will. After all the miracles and raising others from the dead. He died on the cross for us.
Another story in the book of Acts about Paul is, he was told he would be bound when he went to Jerusalem. Now this is a guy who previously praised God while bound in a jail cell and all the prisoners were set free. Then the jailer came to know God through that incident. This is a guy who was stoned, dragged out of the city and taken for dead. But Paul got up and walked back into the city. But yet, when told he would be bound in Jerusalem, there was no way out of it. He was in captivity for a while and wrote some of the letters in the New Testament.
Peter stood before a crowd and brought thousands to a relationship with Jesus. Peter was freed from a prison cell. Peter healed many. And yet was crucified upside down (it is said he didn’t feel worthy to be crucified the other way like Jesus) on a cross.
Each of these stories brings glory to God the Father. Each time it looked like it was a negative answer, it brought good to many, many lives.
Luke 18:1 – 5
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying; “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Do I give up to soon?
Do I need to keep praying about the issue?
Or is just time to let it go and accept the answer is no?
I’d say, the answer is, to keep on praying and believing for the answer, until the outcome of the prayer is clear.
A prayer for health, for financial crisis, a job, a salary increase, a home, a family, a career move, a relationship, a spouse, no matter what it is, until the Father makes His plan clear, keep on praying and believing. Because the Bible says in
1Peter 5:6-8
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Don’t doubt and don’t stop believing. Pray.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Who Will You Choose To Follow?

I was reminded during our James study at church of one of my favorite stories in the Bible about Elijah.

In 1Kings 18:21 – 40, Elijah stood before all Israel and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who were supported by Jezebel. He asked, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

He then had them pick between two bulls, and to cut the bull into pieces, then build an altar of wood without setting fire to it. He too would build an altar of wood and put a bull on the altar without setting fire to it.

He challenged them to call on the name of their God and He would call on the name of the LORD. “The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

So he let them go first (the prophets of Baal). They called out to Baal and got NO answer. They danced around the altar, they cut themselves, they shouted louder and louder all the way to the time of the evening sacrifice and they didn’t get ANY response.

So Elijah called the people over and after he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down, dug a trench around the altar which was large enough to hold three gallons, he piled wood on the altar, laid the cut up pieces of bull on the altar and then poured four large jars of water over the wood and the pieces of the bull. Then he had them do it two more times until the water ran off the sacrifice and filled the trenches.

Elijah called on the Lord, and immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the bull, the wood, the stones and the dust. It even licked up all the water.

After the people saw it, they fell to the ground and cried out, “The LORD he is God! Yes, the LORD is God!”

You know, there are many different opinions out there today about who is God and what happens to a person when they die. There are tons of different religions and people seem to have come up with their own conclusions of what the afterlife will look like for them.

But are there really a million roads that lead to one hereafter or to God? Will people really end up in the same place, will everyone be able to enter heaven’s doors or will people end up where they have imagined?

Well, according to Jesus, the answer is “no’. According to Jesus, there is only one way to the Father who is the Creator and that’s through Him.

John 14: 1-6 says;
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

For many years of my life, I had my own ideas about God and His way. Then in 1986 I started listening to what the Creator of this world had to say about it in His Word, the Bible.

Yes, I’ve heard the arguments that the Bible has been translated so many times it can’t be consistent and true. I’ve heard the arguments, that times have changed it’s an archaic book and cannot relate to today. I’ve heard the arguments that it’s a fairy tale about an old guy up in the sky with a long white beard.

And I’ve heard many other things. And I’ve spouted off some of my own opinions before I turned to Him and started listening. Since that day, it’s been my hearts prayer that others would hear His voice too.

I once believed that God would understand my way of thinking and living. After all, His Son died on the cross for me and He forgives sins. Isn’t He a God of love? I believed He understood that times had changed. So I could live the way I wanted and He understood.

Then one day, I was in dire straits. The next day looked pretty bad to me. I called out a 911 prayer and because God is so loving and gracious, He answered me. My eyes were closed and I was praying. Suddenly, in my mind I saw a very clear picture of a hand that reached down from Heaven. I wanted to hold on to that hand. And then, right after that, I felt like I was supposed to read the Bible.

So I turned my bedroom light on and opened up the Bible. My eyes fell directly on this passage. "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today..” Matthew 6:34.

I sat there with my mouth open because the Bible had just talked to my situation. So, I decided to do just that and not worry. I went to sleep and the next day I told everyone at work about this amazing thing that had happened.

And you know what? The very thing I worried about was taken care of…it wasn’t as big of a deal as I had made it out to be. It could have been, but I believe God took care of the matter.

I wish I could say, from that day forward I followed Jesus with my whole heart, but I didn’t.

What I did do though, is, I started getting to know Him. I started really reading His Word and listening to what He had to say. If there was a radio program, a song, a testimony, I wanted to hear it. I wanted to know Jesus and why did He die on the cross?

I started asking one Christian after another, question after question.

Then I moved out of the area to where my cousin lived and she was so different. She did more than go to church on Sunday. She had like this twenty-four hour thing with God. I didn’t get it. I mean what was that all about?

I wanted to know more about it and I wanted what she had. Because when I was young, I loved going to church, singing hymns, and reading the Bible, but then one day I put it aside, it didn’t fit into my life after Sunday morning church time or Wednesday evenings.

But “it” fit into her life and her friends lives too. I wanted to know how it would fit into mine.

And then one day while I was driving down a freeway in Seattle, the pastor on the radio asked me (I know he was talking to me that day) if I wanted to know how to have Jesus in my life and give my life over to Him.

Yes!

He explained the gospel and led me in a prayer.

My life was never the same after that because from that moment on, I got it. I got that Jesus loved me and died for all of my sins on the cross. He didn’t come to condemn me, but to save ME. And if I believed in Him, I would be saved.
                 
Okay, I already knew the basic message, but that day, I really got it and believed and then the Pastor gave me the key to what I had watched in my cousin and her friends lives. Now, I was to follow Jesus. And Jesus would change me.

Follow Him?

He advised to get a Bible and go to a Bible teaching and believing church.

That’s what I did and Jesus started changing me. I tried to change myself to fit in, but that didn’t work. I finally submitted and let the potter be the molder of the clay. Like it makes mention of Him being in the Bible.

At the same time that was going on in my life, I had a group of people trying to get me to believe in some other way of faith that denied Jesus as the “One way to the Father”. I started studying the Bible and had to search for what words meant in the original Hebrew and Greek language. (No, I am not a scholar. I only studied enough to get me true answers to what they were bringing to the table).

I was put in a position of having to study the Bible and look for answers. It ended up being such a blessing in my life, because it built my faith, I had a strong foundation in the Word of God and
my studies drew me closer and closer to Jesus.

Jesus had a lot of work to do in me. I’d made a lot of mistakes doing things my way. There were things I had to learn to believe were truly forgiven by Jesus. He had paid the price on the cross for ALL my sins.

This last week in church, the pastor talked about condemnation and that the Bible says in Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Because when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, the Bible says He died for ALL. And the pastor pointed out that ALL in the Greek meant ALL.

So, why am I writing this in my blog today?

For a couple of reasons.

It’s because wherever you are in your life, Jesus loves you and my hearts prayer is still the same as the day I came to know the truth. I want everyone to know the truth about Jesus. You can have an opportunity to choose to follow the LORD, who when called on started the fire even though the target was drenched with water. He was and is the God who answers when His people call on Him.  

Maybe, you have already received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and follow Him, but you are stuck holding on to some past regret and beating yourself up. I just want to say, God’s way is for you to believe in the forgiveness He has for you. Jesus already paid the price for what you have done. Part of faith is learning to believe in that.

 Quite a few years ago I took a class on the “Wordless Book”. One of the things the instructor made clear to us was, 1John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

She said, “If we mess up. We confess our sin and then thank God for cleansing us from all unrighteousness and believe that He cleansed us”.

I realized then what an act of faith it is to believe that God has completely washed me clean from the sins I committed. Living in guilt, regret, or condemnation isn’t God’s plan. His plan is for us to TURN from our evil ways and walk in the forgiveness of sins.

Before I started reading the Bible, I believed it was okay to do whatever because Jesus died on the cross for all sins. So I was forgiven. It was a free for all.

But that isn’t what this gift of salvation means. It means He has forgiven my sins and does forgive my sins. But like the stories in the New Testament tell us, when Jesus interacted with someone, He would change their lives and showed them His way of living.
Matthew 7: 24 - 29
24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

The other day my husband and I were going through our stuff in the garage. I actually came across a Wordless booklet we had made to pass out at our wedding.

It is a very unique way to share the gospel message of Jesus that is in the Bible through different colors. Gold, Dark, Red, White, Green and sometime later, the color Blue.

So I would like to share this with you. It is simple and usually used for children. After we went through the class we got to help out at a carnival and do the face painting. I had a great time sharing the gospel through these five colors. Most of the children already knew and had made a decision to ask Jesus into their hearts previously. Still it was great fun.

The first page is the gold color which stands for heaven. The streets in heaven are made of gold and it is a beautiful place. It’s where God lives. God is perfect. He is holy. God loves His creation, and wants to be with them. There is just one problem, sin cannot be in heaven.

The second page is the dark color which stands for sin. Sin is when you do something wrong, no matter what it is, even bad thoughts. The Bible says that everyone has sinned.

Romans 3:23
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Sin separates us from God. Because of sin we cannot go to heaven.

The third page is the red color which stands for the blood Jesus shed on the cross for the world. God sent His Son into the world to save it. And whoever believes in Him shall be saved.
 You can read about that in John 3:16 -17.

The fourth page is the white color which stands for clean. When we believe in Jesus we are now reconciled to God and cleansed from our sin. If we sin, we confess our sins and He cleanses us.
1John 1:9

The fifth page is the green color which stands for growth. As we read the Bible, pray and fellowship with other believers we grow in Him.

And they added a blue page which stands for the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised us He would not leave us alone but would send the Counselor to guide us who is the Holy Spirit.
So if you have decided to follow Jesus you can say a prayer that goes something like this.

Jesus, I believe You died on the cross for my sins. You have paid the price. I ask You to come into my life and make me new. Cleanse me from my sins and may Your Spirit guide me to follow you.
In Jesus name.

If you prayed that prayer for the first time or to rededicate your life, just so you know the angels are celebrating in heaven. The Bible actually says that. I am celebrating too. Please get yourself a Bible and start spending time with the God who loves you so much and go hang out with other’s who love Jesus. Also, find a church that teaches from the Bible.

You life will never be the same. And that’s a good thing.

Oh and if you are hanging onto guilt, remorse, condemnation. Pray and ask God to cleanse you and go talk to someone who you can really trust to help you to let it go.

God sent His Son so you could have life and have life abundantly. Not all bound up in chains.

Okay, just so you know if you read my blog I prayed for you. And I hope your eyes are wide open for God’s blessings.
Philippians 2:9-11
New International Version (NIV)
 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
   and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father.
NIV Bible and NIT Bible Translations