Thursday, March 31, 2011

Find Your Joy

Jesus Laughing - christianity fan art

I remember the song from Children’s Church, ”The Joy of the Lord is My Strength,” and the verse of laughter when they sing, “Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha,” and so on. What a blessing, hearing the pure unadulterated joy and laughter coming from those precious children as they rejoice in the Lord. Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10, NLT).

But do we as adults share the joy? How long has it been since we’ve recognized His joy in our own lives, and how does that joy manifest itself?

I remember the story in the Bible when King David was returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The joy that King David felt as he ushered in the presence of the Lord was almost more than he could contain.

“And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the LORD with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns” (2 Samuel 6:14-15, NLT).

It goes on to say that King David leaped and danced before the Lord. In those days, the presence of the Lord, the God of the universe, rested upon that one spot, the Ark of the Covenant. Today, that same presence of the Lord rests within us. Oh the joy that comes when we recognize this fact.

I’ve personally seen this joy manifested when a person humbly asks Jesus to forgive their sins, and come into their heart. I have seen people shout for joy upon receiving their salvation, and praise God upon coming out of the water after baptism.

“Then I will rejoice in the LORD. I will be glad because he rescues me” (Psalm 35:9, NLT).

I remember as a boy of seventeen, receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the joy that He brought into my life. I spoke in tongues and laughed the rest of the night!

Some churches have exuberant praise and worship services where people sing, clap, dance, laugh, and release themselves to rejoice in their Lord’s presence, regardless of what onlookers might think. The Lord loves to see their joy and love for Him displayed in such a manner. But He also enjoys the person whose joy is so deep and personal, that it’s expressed by sitting quietly as they bask in their joy, which resides deep within.

Sometimes the cares of life will weigh us down, and it would appear that joy is nowhere to be found. And yes, there is a time for grief and sorrow. Even the Lord Jesus experienced it as He wept over Jerusalem. But when the day is done, the house is quiet, and you relax in the comfort of your dimly lit room, turn your thoughts away from the cares of the day and toward your Lord who lives within you.

Realize that the very presence of God, before whom King David danced, is with you and has shared this day with you. Rejoice, for you possess the Lord, and He possesses you. The communication and fellowship that you have with the Lord is your secret treasure. No one can understand or share in the intimacy that is yours and His alone. The sacredness of this treasure, the presence of God in and with you, is your source of joy and strength. This is not joy as the world knows it, but it’s the kind of joy that comes only from God through the Holy Spirit, “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8 NLT).

Don’t let anyone steal your joy. Jesus said,

“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow” (John 15:11, NLT)!

It is His will that you live and breathe in the overflow of joy that comes from Him. Acknowledge and encourage His presence to be with you in word and in Spirit so that joy, His joy in you, becomes a lifestyle. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, NLT).

Allow the fruit of joy to grow and manifest itself in your life. Your joy in the Lord is your great source of strength, and no bad report, circumstance, or person can take it away from you!

“So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure” (Psalm 32:11, NLT)!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Harvesting the Whirlwind

A modern day prophet received a message, a warning, from the Lord. God said, “Your Nation mocks me. Therefore, expect three judgments. They are tied together. First there shall be natural disasters, floods, tornado’s earthquakes, hurricanes, and temperature extremes. Second, there shall be financial upheaval. Your Nation’s financial systems will be shaken to their very foundations. Third, your political system will be shaken, turned upside down with change. Watch and be prepared.”

This prophecy was given in the fall of 2007. Who would have guessed what the next two years held for America. The initial events of the three judgments have come to pass, yet have we as a nation learned anything? God shall not be mocked and His word will not return to Him void.

Repent America! Cry out to God. We have only begun to see the works of His mighty hand. The prophet Hosea wrote, “They have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind. The stalks of grain wither and produce nothing to eat. And even if there is any grain, foreigners will eat it” (Hosea 8:7 NLT).

Like Israel, will our national folly and arrogance leave us destitute? Is our nation going into a black hole of debt at warp speed as some experts claim? If so, then upheaval and destruction is at hand. It seems like the more we make the less we have, and the more we owe. Even our profits are eaten up by our debt to strangers, foreign nations.

“Look! The LORD’s anger bursts out like a storm, a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked” (Jeremiah 30:23).

God spoke through Hosea, “I will hold my people accountable for their sins, and I will punish them” (Hosea 8:13 NLT). Where are our Godly leaders? So many false Prophets roam the land speaking happy words to itching ears.

“Therefore,” says the LORD, “I am against these prophets who steal messages from each other and claim they are from me. I am against these smooth-tongued prophets who say, ‘This prophecy is from the LORD!’ I am against these false prophets. Their imaginary dreams are flagrant lies that lead my people into sin. I did not send or appoint them, and they have no message at all for my people. I, the LORD have spoken!” (Jeremiah 23:30)

On April 7th, 2009, the President of the United States, while making a State visit to Turkey, stated in his speech that the United States is not a Christian nation. We have been positioned as a secular nation. Have we, like Israel in times of old, forgotten our Maker?

We must repent America! Though our Nation mocks God, we believers in God must seek His face, humble ourselves, and pray. We must ask for His forgiveness and mercy for America. Our future and the future of our children hang in the balance. Pray, for the whirlwind is on the horizon!

Remember that in the midst of the storm, Jesus is with the true believer. He said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27 NLT).

The gift that the world is giving us is the harvest of the whirlwind. Jesus offers us calm in the middle of the storm. So pray!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two Deer on the Range

The other day I made one of my regular pilgrimages out to the range, God’s beauty of nature nestled in the woods by a lake. It was late in the afternoon and I wondered what I could do before sundown. But with an afternoon this beautiful, I simply couldn’t pass up this brief opportunity.

So with my gear in hand, my driver and I headed down a path through the woods. Soon I found myself out on the open range looking square into the eyes of two beautiful deer. I quietly set my gear down and very slowly sat on a wooden leaning rail, carefully observing the deer. They watched me for a few moments, and then continued grazing. They kept picking at the short grass, satisfying themselves.

I looked at my driver, leaning against the rail, and asked, “Do you think we can hit them from here?” No response. I mean, it wasn’t like I was going to kill the deer. I decided not to shoot because they are only about 150 yards out and I’m pretty accurate at that distance. I’ll just watch for now.

Sitting in silence studying the deer, I realized how unaware they are of the nearby danger. Anyone could easily harm them, yet they’re living their lives as God made them, like deer have done since time began. Their world appears one way to them, yet the reality is completely different. Encroachments around them have reduced and changed their habitat.

But for a few moments, it was as if the modern world disappeared and I experienced the peaceful, serene life of the two deer on the range. A Psalm came to mind, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1 NLT). In my heart I thought, “Oh, to have peace like this in a world filled with the clanging cacophony of cluttered chaos.”

Just then, the Lord spoke to my heart and replied, “Son, I have always had a remnant of peace in My kingdom, and people who live in My peace that passes understanding. This peace I give to you and all my children. Fix your thoughts on me. Meditate on my word, soak in my presence, and the peace you seek, the peace you need, shall be yours. I enable my people to rest and breathe the peaceful air of heaven, as they trust in Me and place their cares at My feet. Though you are moving quickly through a world of strife, I will make a place for you where peace exists from the Ancient of Days.”

Lost in these thoughts and revelations, I didn’t notice that the deer had moved further away. Naturally my driver didn’t warn me, so I said, “Let’s give it a fair shot.” Preparing for my first shot, I looked down the shaft, which was painted gun barrel blue, and took careful aim. The sound of the shot cracked and echoed across the range and bounced off the surrounding woods.

Although my shot rang straight and sure, the deer were more than 250 yards away by now, and in no danger from me. Suddenly I heard the sound of a small vehicle behind me and wondered if the marshal was coming to advise me to leave, as it was getting dark. It wasn’t him so I took a few more shots, while the deer pranced safely into the distant woods.

Breathing in the pure fragrance of nature, I stood there pondering the words of the Lord as His peace flooded my soul. Things aren’t always as they appear. We can have peace in the midst of a restless and chaotic culture.

Feeling peaceful and rejuvenated by the Lord, I decided to leave. So I carefully cleaned my driver with a towel…placed it in my golf bag…and left the driving range for the putting green.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you” (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Heal My Land

Are you, like me, weary from all the bad news from around our country and the world? Natural disasters have devastated millions, destroying much of our nation’s infrastructure. Financial disasters have wiped out fortunes, retirement accounts, and devalued our economy. Political upheavals are pitting brother against brother and value system against value system. And yes, as the Bible predicted, there are wars and rumors of wars.

What is going to happen to us! How will all this play out? Have we, as some suggest, brought about God’s judgment upon our nation because of our sin and disobedience? Questions, worry, and fear fill our hearts and minds. What are we to do? Simply stated, the answer is prayer.

Recently at my church’s Men’s Fellowship Breakfast, jovial conversation turned from sports to our national economic woes. We shared our thoughts with each other about how these times are affecting our families. One Brother asked, “Why us? Why now?”

An elderly gentleman who has served God all his life stood up, and with confidence that overshadowed his humble voice proclaimed, “The Lord has never let me down. If we pray, He will help us make it through.”

The word of the Lord says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land” (2Chronicles 7:14 KJV).

How can our nation be saved and survive the many disasters in our midst? Do you share my frustration because it seems like our nation will not do as God instructs and pray, repent, and humble ourselves before Him? How can we expect His favor when we live any way that we want, with little regard to the word of God? Is there hope for those who follow Christ according the word of God and not pop culture? Yes! Yes, there is hope!

Remember, scripture applies to us individually, and not just corporately as a nation. As God honors His word to each obedient individual, then a portion of the nation is blessed. The more individuals who appropriate God’s word, the more of our nation that will be blessed. However, it all starts with one. So I ask you to personalize the scripture as I did, and allow God to bless you and heal your land.

“If Gene, who is called by my name (Christian), shall humble himself, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from his wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive Gene’s sin, and heal Gene’s land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 Personalized).

Though the entire world around us crumbles, the Lord will honor His word to us, if we will heed it. Put your name in the blank, in the scripture. Seek out what you must do to heed His word and God will fulfill His promise for you!

If you align yourself with the freewheeling secular world, then you shall reap with them, suffer, and share in their despair. But if you align yourself with the truth of God’s word, then He will give you peace, and see you through the tough times that try men’s souls. He will make a way for you where there is no way. Your house shall be an oasis in the desert, an ark of safety in a world flooded with crisis.

“Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10 KJV)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Elephant String

I remember reading about how they train young elephants in India. The trainer would tie one of their hind legs to a tree with a thick rope. Naturally the elephant, feeling bound by the rope, would try to break free. Eventually he realizes that his attempts are useless and gradually gets accustomed to being held captive.

As the elephant ages, his restriction of movement will modify his behavior until even a simple string will be sufficient to keep him captive without resistance. The elephant could easily break the string but has convinced himself that the restraining force of the rope is greater than his own strength. So he gives up in defeat.

For many people, past events are like elephant strings. Mistakes, failures, sin, or tragedy which once bound us like thick rope, still holds us captive to the past. If we would only look again, try again, we would find that it is only string that binds us. We have the power, through Christ Jesus, to easily break free.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT).

When you find yourself in one of life’s ruts, stop, look down at the string that holds you, and break free. Even when we receive forgiveness for past sin in our life, often we are not so quick to forgive our self. The sin is forgiven but we allow the guilt to remain.

That string of guilt will hold us back from a deeper relationship with God. So forgive yourself, break the string of guilt and shame for God has removed the rope long ago!

We all have failures and make mistakes in our lives. Learn from them yes, but don’t allow a string of failures or a string of mistakes to hold you. Break free! Try again! You can do it!

Sin can become an old habit. If you lose the struggle to fight it, you can feel hopelessly bound. This is no way to live, so break free from the string of habitual sin. The Bible says, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).

Rip off those strings and be free in Christ! Freedom from guilt is yours.

There are times in every life when we experience tragedy. The loss of a loved one, or a relationship, even the loss of a job can have a debilitating effect on us. We can become so bound by the triple threaded rope of grief, sorrow, and regret that, like the elephant, we become accustomed to being held captive. Efforts to break free may seem fruitless and pointless.

But remember that there is hope in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14).

So try again! Press forward! Move ahead with your hopes and dreams. Break that elephant string!