Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Woman's Security

What are the things that all women have in common, whether they live in the Ozarks or in the deserts of Africa? I believe every woman has been hurt by someone at some time and that they are all leaders. They may not feel like leaders, but they are--as mothers, wives, friends, relatives, employers, employees--leading by example. Leading in the work and purpose that God has given each of us to fulfill.

What do all these women need to help them in their hurt and in their roles as leaders? They need to know they are loved and with that they need security. Where does that unconditional love and sense of security come from?

For those who are in Christ Jesus, we know that He is love and that He has told us that He will never leave us or forsake us. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for us. His love is not based on our merit or good "behavior," but on His love and mercy that He so freely gave when He died on our cross--crucified for our sins. His love is eternal and ever-lasting. It is daily. It is our source of life. It is our freedom from pain and past hurts and it is our security.

I was reading in God's Word this morning about God's greatest gift to us--the Holy Spirit. Upon receiving Christ's salvation, we receive the Holy Spirit--as a seal and deposit upon our hearts. He is always with us and it is He who shines the light of God's truth into our hearts through God's Word, prayer, someone's testimony, praise and worship, or whatever avenue He chooses. He shows us God's great love by His presence in our lives.

I want to encourage women that God has a great purpose for each of us. My life verse comes from Jeremiah 29:11-13, "for I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I am reminded too of a verse that gives us hope as sisters in Christ: (In the last days,) "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy..Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days" (Joel 2:28-29). Don't be discouraged in these days we are in. God is here. He is an ever-present help in times of trouble. He has a purpose for you. He will pour out His Holy Spirit on you to accomplish His will. His Word will not return void. He loves you and He is your security!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Daniel Fast #5--Soaring on Wings Like Eagles

Day 15 of the fast. Yesterday my family and I went to see bald eagles. At the Nature Center we watched an inspirational movie about eagles. Then we got to see the majestic bird, a female bald named Phoenix, and a male golden, Aquila. They were indeed impressive to see--this huge bird with a wing span of 7 and 1/2 feet. With those piercing eyes, and claws and beak that could do some severe damage. Predators that soar high above, swooping down in what looks like an effortless display of power to catch their prey.

Later we went to Springfield Lake and saw a bald eagle sitting in a grassy island. He had just finished a meal. Behind him was swimming another of God's beautiful creations, the swan. We waited and watched the eagle while the swan glided back and forth behind him, dipping his long neck into the water. Then the regal bald took off in flight to settle in a tree.

I was reminded of the encouragement of Isaiah 40:28: "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. THEY WILL SOAR ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES; THEY WILL RUN AND NOT GROW WEARY, THEY WILL WALK and NOT BE FAINT."

Interestingly, both Phoenix and Aquila had been in need of help to survive. They were both found near death and brought back to life by people willing to care for them 24-7. This is a picture of what God does for us--he takes us from a certain death and brings us to life by salvation in Jesus Christ. He cares for us 24-7. He makes us soar on wings like eagles. He enables us to run and not grow weary, to walk and not be faint!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Daniel Fast #4--Out of Exile

Its Day 13. I'm reading in Ezekiel 38-39. God had sent Israel into exile for their sins and unfaithfuness to Him. He had handed them over to their enemies. In doing so He dealt with them severely, even to the point of hiding His face from them. What a terrifying thought. No man's land.

But then as always, God who is Faithful and True brought His people back from captivity. He had compassion on them--out of zeal for His name. The Israelites forgot their shame and unfaithfulness toward God. He provided for them, showed Himself holy through them, and gathered them to their own land, "not leaving any behind." He no longer hid His face from them and poured out His spirit on them.

I look back over my seasons of exile where God put me because of my unfaithfulness and sin. There were many years that I struggled with strongholds of sin in my life, all while I was a believer. Though I believed in Christ Jesus, I wasn't following Him. I understand how a Christian can fall into sin and stay there for awhile. I've been there. I've been in exile. I think of all the time and opportunities I wasted that could have been spent for God's kingdom. I am sickened by my past and my sins. It would be easy for me to get caught there and live in that shame, knowing how I wasted so much of my life, crucified the Lord, and grieved the Holy Spirit.

The entire Bible is a book of God's redemption of man. Over and over again, throughout the Old and New Testaments, man sins and God forgives. The verses that stand out to me about this redemption are Ezekiel 39:21-22. Through Ezekiel, God says to the Israelites that when it is all said and done, "I will display my glory among the nations..from that day forward the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God." When its all said and done, God --because of His zeal for His name, will display Himself visibly to the world by whoever and whatever means necessary. And it will be through His people who sin, fail and are redeemed. He will be glorified. He will be glorified in me. "..he who began a good work in (us) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Daniel Fast #3--Perspective

This morning I was frustrated. Tired of the fast, tired of praying for everyone. Tired from lack of sleep. Tired from lack of time alone without kids. Tired from lack of direction and apparent change in people and circumstances. In short, I had a bad attitude.

I'm still tired, and I could be easily overwhelmed by my lack of accomplishing the tasks before me, but a phone call helped me gain perspective. My mom called at the right time and imparted her wisdom. I told her I was tired of praying for everyone while on the fast. And a mere 11 days into it my impatience with God's timing was rearing its ugly head. She encouraged me to take a step back and visualize me giving all those people and prayers to the Lord. She reminded me that the power is not in my prayers, the power is in Jesus Christ. And His will and His timing are perfect. If every prayer was answered with an immediate "yes" we wouldn't experience the process of trusting in the Lord and growing in faith that His will really is best.

Today I will focus on resting in the Lord and trusting Him. The answers will come in God's perfect timing and way. But I will not just be after the answers --but after the heart of God, my King, Jesus Christ. I will abide.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Daniel Fast #2--The fellowship of sharing in His sufferings

God spoke to my heart today. I've been going through out my day interceding for others. So far that's been the focus of this fast--praying for others that God brings to mind. I haven't felt overly hungry. I've really been enjoying the foods that are allowed on the fast. Today I felt that God was telling me that I need to eat less. Matthew 5:6 came to mind, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." I think He wants me to really hunger for Him, knowing that He alone can fulfill me. I need to feed on His Word. Then I heard Him say, "I want you to fellowship with Me in My sufferings." Whoa! "But God this fast is nothing compared to Your suffering on the cross for my sins. What do you mean?"

So I looked to His Word. I found the verse that He spoke to me about--from Philippians 3:10-11, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Paul here is talking about truly knowing Christ, being filled by the Holy Spirit --having all the power of the risen Christ in me, as well as participating with Him in His sufferings. Becoming like Him in His death--dying to the self-life and living the Christ-life. Dying to self and living in and for Christ alone. In Phil. 3:3 Paul says that true believers "glory in Christ Jesus, and.. put no confidence in the flesh.." We boast only in Him for He alone can save.

Like Paul, Christ is moving me from self-centeredness to being Christ-centered.

I don't know exactly how Christ wants me to fellowship with Him in His sufferings, but I hope I will be willing no matter the cost. No matter how dark our night, how deep our despair, how horrific our tragedy, how terrible our circumstances--our suffering is only for a moment compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord and knowing the power of his resurrection--and spending eternity with Him.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Daniel Fast

Tomorrow will be a week since I started my fast, although I officially started my Daniel Fast 3 days ago. I had already stopped drinking my morning coffee. After the first two days of withdrawals, I felt better immediately without the coffee. I had been having headaches when I drank coffee or when I ate chocolate. A nurse suggested that I stop using any type of stimulant. It was really hard at first--especially when its cold outside and I want to treat myself to Starbucks. But I have felt so much better without it. I don't feel jittery and I don't crash later. (And I don't sweat.)

As for the food, the first couple days of fasting I had a lot of doubts about doing it. I wondered if it really counted as a "fast" since I was eating food. The previous fasts I had done involved not eating at all. My first day I started with a "green smoothie" to cleanse my system. I drank something I never thought I would drink--a smoothie with vegetable in it. The vegetable was kale. I didn't even know what kale was. But the smoothie was pretty refreshing--and cleanse it did. That first day I ate only fruits and vegetables. I figured if I could survive that I could do this fast. Once I conquered that first day of cleansing, I started eating grains, beans, nuts, and nut butters along with fruits and vegetables. After a couple of days without bread I was on a hunt to find yeast-free and sugar-free bread. I discovered some awesome Daniel Fast bread at Mama Jean's called Manna Bread. Delicious!! I also discovered Larabars--the ones that only have fruits and nuts in them. They are delicious and my whole family likes them.

I started making Kristen Feola's recipes from her book, The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast. Date honey--delicious! My daughter loves it. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies--Wonderful! Black bean chili bake--ate it for days! Classic Tomato Sauce with Whole Wheat pasta. Delisioso! My husband said its the best spaghetti sauce I've ever made. Italian salad dressing. Very good! Kale potato chips. I made them too salty, but they were great. In fact my daughter asked me if I would make some more today. And tonight I made the Spinach Artichoke Pasta with Vegetables. Awesome! Can't wait for leftovers tomorrow. Not to mention I have found a new love of eating fresh vegetables and fruits. And smoothies--all fruit and delicious!

So I have really been enjoying the food. And this is while I'm making my family their favorites--pancakes with bacon, fried chicken, rolls, etc. and not taking any bites. In fact now that I can't, it makes me realize how often I take bites of stuff or eat the rest of my kids food. Occasionally I wish I could have some cheese or some yogurt or some other food I would normally eat, but God. Everytime I have been hungry or had a craving or doubted I've prayed and God has literally taken away my hunger and my doubts.

If I get nothing out of this fast except changing my eating habits, getting off of sugar and processed foods, and feeling better physically, I will be so glad. I will feel I've accomplished a goal I've had for some time to make these changes in my diet. Its also accomplishing a renewed commitment to spending time in the Word and prayer every morning before the kids wake up. I am praying throughout the day. I am praying more for others, interceding on their behalf. I'm seeing and confessing my sin. Even my praise and worship at church on Sunday morning was different. More than the lifestyle change in my eating and other habits and the benefits that come with those changes, I am overjoyed at what God is doing in my heart. Though I don't know all that He has for me spiritually through this fast, I am enjoying my time with Him daily--drawing near to Him and He drawing near to me. I praise Him for His faithfulness. More to come--!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bella's Prayer

Tonight at bedtime Bella wanted to read her Bible story books and books about Jesus. After reading she began to sing "this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Don't let Satan blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine. Don't let Satan blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine. Don't let Satan blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine." She had sung the song at church this morning.

After Bella finished singing she said she was going to pray for Jesus now. She put her hands over her face and began praying in earnest for Jesus. She prayed for Him to go to God and for Him to not let Satan blow it out. She prayed that Satan wouldn't come here. I couldn't hear all she prayed with her hands over her face, but I know Jesus was listening and beaming with joy, as I was. When Bella finished I told her that Jesus heard her prayer and that He loves to hear her pray. She announced that now she could get "baptitized." We discussed salvation and baptism and we had a sweet time of prayer. Once again she said that now she could be "baptitized." She asked if she would put her hand over her heart when she was baptitized:)

Bella is only 4 years old. We will continue to pray and when the Holy Spirit prompts her heart, she will be ready to make a public profession of faith in Jesus and follow with believer's baptism. I know the decision she made tonight will continue to grow and her spiritual understanding will grow. Our prayer time was precious, and her faith is beautiful. She stepped out in obedience based on what she now knows at the precious age of 4 to respond to Jesus and to pray. Our teaching pastor just spoke this morning about how it was the children rather than the pharisees/religious leaders of Jesus' time that "got it (him)." Jesus said "let the little children come unto me." The children understood Him and they believed in Him with their childlike, but real faith.

May I continue to respond to Christ with childlike faith based on what I now know. May I step out in obedience in response to Jesus and be the prayer warrior that my precious 4 year old daughter was tonight. As 1 Corinthians 13:12 (and I paraphrase) says, now we see in part, but one day in full..when we see Him face to face; not I know in part, but one day will fully know (Him) just as I am fully known."