Category Archives: Our Faith Walk

When God Closes Doors

“But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt,

to the end that he should multiply horses:forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you,

Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.” Deut. 17:16 (KJV)

My favorite aunt gave me a small wood plaque to hang on the wall in my office. On it were written these words, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” The inference is that God in His wisdom and providence will always provide a way for us. The question then is, why does God close doors?

 For our benefit. Closed doors often lead to new opportunities in our lives. Closed doors force us to try new options, meet new people, and exercise spiritual gifts and talents that may never have been used. Joseph faced many closed doors in his life. The first door closed when his brothers sold him into slavery; the second door slam in his face when Potiphar’s had him falsely imprisoned. The final door, he thought, shut tight when the cup bearer forgot him for two years. Though the closed doors were first “used for evil, God used them for good.” (Gen. 50:20)

 For our spiritual maturity. Closed doors result in the strengthening of two important spiritual muscles–“trusting by faith” and “learning to wait.” In Hebrews 11 we see the “Faith Hall of Fame”, made up of those individuals who trusted God even when the doors appeared closed. (Hebrews 11 :4-31) Though the closed doors were first viewed as obstacles, they trusted in God’s promises and waited … even unto death. The results were both rewards and “great faith.”

For God’s glory. Closed doors position us to accomplish God’s purpose and plan for kingdom building. The Holy Spirit forbade Paul to preach the word in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). God had a different plan for Paul that would first take the gospel to Macedonia. (Acts 16:6-10) Though this door was first viewed as a detour from proclaiming the gospel, God expanded Paul’s ministry beyond anything he could have imaged; his epistles would become part of Holy Scripture, read and preached in countries around the world.

 In the game show, “Let’s Make a Deal,” contestants choose from “prize doors” that offer either a rich reward or an ugly, disgusting “zonk”. Knowing this, contestants must choose to open the right door and leave others closed. Our omniscient God doesn’t operate like this game show. Whatever door He closes can only lead to our good and His glory.

 Good to the Last Byte…

We are often in need of special assistance from influential people to help us with our request. We may ask them to help “open the door” byway of introduction or getting access to someone or something on our behalf. Are we, in like manner, able to trust God Him to close doors on your behalf” Has He closed doors that resulted in your good? 

Do Men and Women Sin Differently?

In the latest Barna study, the data was put forward that for the most part, men and women admit to being tempted by the same things at about the same level.  There are a few temptations that seem to affect men and women differently.
 On the men list
  •  Pornography (28% versus women 8%)
 On  the women list
  •  Gossiping or saying mean things about others (29% versus men 22%)
  •  Jealousy or envy (68% versus men 20%)
  •  Eating too much  (58% versus men 52%)
  • Spending more money than you have or can afford (39% women versus men 32%)
 I personally think eating and spending more money are really close and should be called a “temptation tie.”

The Top Lessons GOD Taught Me in 2012

God is the greatest teacher in the universe.  He began when He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  I can image He shared with them what He wanted them to know about Himself along with how He wanted them to behavior while living in the garden.  The most painful and consequential lesson was what obedience looked like.  Adam and Eve learned that lesson the hard way!
God continues to teach us today.  He uses our life experiences and relationships to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), to transform our minds (2 Cor. 3:18), and to renew us in knowledge of Him (Col. 3:10).   God also teaches us through the tutorledge of His Holy Spirit, who lives within us (John 16:13).
As I reflect on 2012, I am always obligated to assess my spiritual growth the past year.  To that end, God has put it on my heart to develop a list of the “Top Lessons God Taught Me in 2012.” While I didn’t initially assign a “specific number”, it did result in a list of 20 items–and the list continues to grow.  For the purposes of “sharing” I will list my top 10 items.  It’s been fun reviewing the Scripture God has led me to memorize and become part of my personal “rhema.”

  1. What it means to forgive. 
  2. How to prayer daily for those who “do spitefully use and mistreat you.”
  3. The value of Christian community (outside your local church)
  4. I don’t have to have it “my way”!
  5. What it means to love like God.
  6. Daring to believe God for greater things than I can imagine.
  7. How extraordinary the gift of salvation really is and to read Scripture about it daily.
  8. God’s Word is the final word.
  9. What submission to God’s will looks like. 
  10. Learning to silence myself, listen for God and follow His leading.   
 Like Paul, “I do  not claim to have apprehended.” (Phil. 3:13) I will continue to embrace these lessons and learn from them until either The Rapture or God calls me to heaven.  Now it’s your turn.  We will make it easy only asking for three bt feel free to further expand your list for your own “spiritual review of 2012.”

Examine Yourself

 

This morning I had the opportunity to listen to one of my favorite Christian radio shows. The show is formatted to resemble a Bible study session, where there is an open discussion of a particular Bible passage, character, or faith principle.
Before closing, one of the study member said something that really resonated with me–so much that I had to share it with you.  The question was this, “Do people think well of God from being around me?”  This is a question worth some discussion.

We are told, in Scripture, who we are “in Christ”.

  • We are children of God (John 1:12).
  • We are His workmanship–His handiwork–born anew in Christ to do His work (Ep. 2:10).
  • We are partakers of Christ; We share in His life (Heb. 3:14).
  • We are ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).

Since Christ has done so much for us, we should be the ultimate “poster child” for Him.

  • For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him  (2 Corinthians 5:20).
  • Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).
  • In whom we have redemption through the blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14).
As followers of Christ, we are to be “salt and light” in a dark world.  Our light should “shine” before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.  We are not to be conformed to this world–darkened by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  All this is  passing away.  But he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17).
So, now, your response.  “Do people think well of God after being around you?  If your answer is “yes”,  glory be to God.  Hold fast to your profession of faith, in both word and deed.  If your answer is “no” then it may be time to examine yourself to determine, “why not?” (2 Cor. 13:5)

 

Faith that Perseveres: THE APPLICATION

 Read Hebrews 11.  All the Faith Hall of Famers “died in faith not having received “the promises” but having seen them afar off were and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb. 11:13).  The word “promises” is a metonymy for “the things promised.” This speaks specifically to the promised Messiah and future heavenly inheritance.  
As “partakers of God’s glory”, we have begun to receive the promises of God on “this side” of eternity”(2 Pet. 1:3-11) with the glorious assurance eternal life on “the other side.”   Informed with the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 4:6) and empowered by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), we can move forward with that which God has set before us “being fully persuaded, that what He (God) had promised, He was able also to perform (Rom. 4:21). 
 
Here are key principles we can learn 
from the Faith Hall of Famers on persevering faith.
 
1.      We must believe that He who promises faithful.  This requires you know Him in a personal way—in relationship.  This includes daily communion and fellowship with Him to better understand His will and His ways.  Would you put your life in the hands of someone you don’t know personally?  Confidence comes from knowing Him.
2.      We must understand His promises for our life.This begins by acquainting oneself with the promises of God.  Some scholars cite 365 promises of God for His people—one for every day of the year.  “Seeing afar off” requires visual acuity beyond our physical sight resulting in seeing beyond what we can see.  It is with spiritual eyes and the assistance of the Holy Spirit that we are able to “see afar off.”   
3.      We must look past our experience here on earth and look forward to the effect of our work on the greater effort of “kingdom building.”   We must actively declare ourselves as “pilgrims” traveling through this temporary thing called “time.”  We have an assignment from our King (Matt. 28:19-20) to complete while here on earth.  But we must never forget our home is heaven.  We must, like the Faith Hall of Famers, declare ourselves as “pilgrims on this earth.”

Prosperity In The Word

There is much ado in the news this week about Creflo Dollar, pastor of the World Changers Church International in metro Atlanta, and his recent altercation with his daughter.  I found it interesting that most news releases gave special attention to the fact that Pastor Dollar is a proponent of the “prosperity message”, the size of his congregation, and the monies he earns through speaking and writing.    
 
Let me begin by saying this about Pastor Dollar’s prosperity message.  I think Pastor Dollar has been successful in sharing God’s desire to bless and provide for His children. This is not new information but clearly communicated throughout God’s Word.  In The Sermon on the Mount, specifically, Matthew 6, Jesus shared God’s promise for provision and attempts to relieve the anxiety of people over their needs (vv.27-32). Jesus, however, in the same sermon warns the masses not to lay up treasure on earth but in heaven.  “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.” (Matthew 6:21, New Living Translation)  We are instructed to seek Him first and He will take care of our needs (v.33).  Writers of the Old Testament warn of the fleeting value of riches and the perils of allowing them to become our “idol”. Proverbs 23:4 specifically warns: “Labour not to be rich…”   
While many criticize Pastor Dollar for his “prosperity message”, they must also recognize his success in preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).  I think the “hating on Pastor Dollar” originates from believers and ministries who are being challenged to better present the “Gospel message”—clearly, unabashed, and unashamedly. This is not happening in many of our churches.  Let me further explain, by sharing my experience with the prosperity message. 
While I was “saved” at nine (9), I didn’t relinquish lordship to Christ until I was forty (40).  Good church training but no clear presentation of what it really meant to be “die to sin” and “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:2,4).  What Pastor Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, and other prosperity promoters did was “to stir up in my spirit” (2 Tim. 1:6) the desire to learn more about the Triune God.  In Christ, I learned I had a new identity—I was God’s child and joint heir with Him (Rom. 8:16-17) and I could be in a personal relationship with the Triune God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (who now lived within me). I was familiar with religion but relationship was something new!  And as I drew near to Him, He drew near to me (James 4:8).  The more I studied His Word, God directed me to more light and more truth about Himself.  God then re-directed my study to better teachers and ministers who built on my new knowledge of God (2 Pet. 1:3-8). Isaiah 55:11 best describes my experience with prosperity ministries:  “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
As believers we are personally responsible for developing and expanding our relationship with God. It requires us to get into His presence to know Him and be “known by Him” (Ps. 91:14).  It is God that we must seek—His face and not His hand.  He alone can provide what we really need—“grace and peace through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Pet.1:2) and “an inheritance incorruptible that doesn’t fade away” because it’s eternal (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

The Invisible Cross-How do People See Christ in You?

  I recently celebrated my birthday–praise the Lord!  Before the special day, my husband asked what I would like for a gift.  At first I  couldn’t think of anything but then a thought came to mind–a cross necklace.  I had resisted either purchasing  or requesting a cross necklace before but this year I felt differently.  Why had I declined one in the past?  Perhaps it was because I had seen how people diminished and trivalized this symbol of unconditional love and sacrifice.  
I think crosses reflect people’s personalities and style preferences.  They come in a variety of sizes and metals–some are even fashioned from trees found in the Holy Land.  Some crosses are plain and simple; others are encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones–bejeweled and dazzling. But do people really understand the  significance of the Cross?  Do they full know what wearing one says about  “who and whose” they are?  
For me, wearing the Cross is more than donning a “trendy accessory.”  For me, it is an expression of love and commitment to the Lover of my soul–to my Beloved.  Remember when you would wear your boyfriend’s class ring on a chain around your neck.  And if it got real serious, you might receive a locket (heart-shaped) to wear as evidence of his affection.   It is now Christ who reigns on the throne of our heart (Ephesians 3:17).  The Cross represents the greatest gift we could ever receive–eternal life, freedom from the bondage of sin, peace with God–all purchased with the precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Cross invites “whosoever will” to newness of life (Rom. 6:4) and power to live victoriously.  The Cross transforms.
 
Ask yourself these questions next time your put on your cross.
1.  Are you more careful with your language that day?  
2.  Are you especially patient and kind to rude people you encounter that day?  
3.  Do you find yourself listening to more praise music in your car that day?  
4.  Do you find yourself promising to pray for those who share their problems that day?  
5.  Do you have to adjust your clothing to match your jewelry that day? Too short? Too revealing?
If you answered yes to any of these question, you might want to read Ephesians 4:23-32 and its companion scripture Colossians 3:10-14.  As believers in Christ, our behavior should be guided by more than a piece of jewelry.  Our behavior is motivated by our love for the One who died on the Cross.  I will now wear my cross proudly knowing full well that it is really Christ in me that makes the difference

As I Look in the Mirror…Remembering MOMA

The occasion–my sister’s 70th birthday.  I rebuked the cold of Cottage Grove, Minnesota to spend this special time with my “Sister Dear.”  How much fun it was to laugh and be silly once again like we did when we were little girls.  We even shared her king-size bed for our five days of true sisterhood. As we experienced this special time, I caught glimpses of our mother in my sister–her face, her smile, her gestures, and her wisdom.  Oh my, we DO BECOME OUR MOTHERS.  I had dread that thought as a young woman, believing I had mastered both my life and my personality. But as the Psalmist shared, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Hopefully also, with age comes wisdom and I now see the true gift we have inherited from our mother.

The old folk use to think that our loved ones might be seen shortly after their passing–a quick glimpse to reassure our souls that they are always with us.  Moma never did appear that way.  She did, however, give us glimpse of her in the faces, actions, and wisdom of her children she left behind.  I saw her in my sister Jean this weekend and oh yeah, when I look in the mirror, I see her too!

One Mountain Please!

On December 31st, 2011, many people made New Year’s resolutions that will guide their personal energies for the next 365 days.  One year earlier more than 90 million adults (41%)made similar personal pledges.  Goals will be careful crafted by businesses and organizations as they decide where to focus their financial and human resources.  All these efforts are designed to produce successful outcomes for the upcoming year. But in evaluation of all the resolutions and goals, I am sure, there are few that request “a mountain.” 

Caleb displayed extraordinary confidence as he requested “this mountain” for his inheritance. His confidence stemmed not from his physical strength or his capabilities as a mighty warrior.  His confidence was based on the promises of God, His faithfulness, and His sustaining grace.  Joshua responded to Caleb’s request by blessing him–setting him apart for God’s enablement so he would be enriched and successful in his task.  Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb because he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel. (Joshua 14:14)
2012 will present many challenges and opportunities.  How we respond to both will depend on our “faith perspective.”  If we believe that our success is tied only to our efforts, we open ourselves to personal criticism and negative self-talk when things don’t work out as we planned.  We become victims of self-imposed pressure, resulting in worry and anxiousness.  If, however, we  trust in God and believe His promises for us, we can be assured success. (Prov. 3:5-10)  As we prepare our New Year’s resolutions, we would be wise to adopt Caleb’s wisdom and “look to the hills from which comes our help, our help comes from the LORD who made the heaven and the earth.” (Ps. 121:1-2)

A Closet Full of JOY, Week 2

 Monday , October 17th 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?”  Psalm 27:1
Oh what a wonderful revelation to wake up each day and shout this scripture throughout the house. The Lord is my light and my strength every day of my life. I need not fear because “everything” I go through He goes through with me and strengthens me.


Tuesday, October 18th 

I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.  Philemon 1:7

If there is ever a time during a difficult task or journey in your life that you feel a need to be refreshed in order to continue; lean on Jesus and God’s Word as we will receive strength and encouragement beyond our wildest imagination.


Wednesday, October 19th

He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:3
Tire not because we realize that all we do, we do for God. He will not give us a task that is beyond our ability to complete and He promised to restore us and God keeps His promises.