We have choices each day and they matter greatly. When we choose the God-Centered path our lives are building for eternity. When we go off on our own, what we are building will never last.
I was reading a 2 Chronicles 36 today and it is the tragic story of the fall of Jerusalem after King Josiah went out to fight against Egypt when he was supposed to stay home – was told to stay home. This king did some great things but he got off track. When he got off track it cost him his life but that is only part of the story. The rest of the story was that Egypt took control of his country, then Babylon. Israel ceased to be a nation – millions died and almost all of the others went to prison (i.e. captivity).
Here is my question – Could the outcome have been different had he made a different decision? I believe the answer is yes. When he turned to God and did all that he did to restore his nation to the God of their fathers, a prophetess told him that because he did that he had stayed the countries destruction.
So with that being said, let’s look out our decisions. Is there something we can begin to do differently that would be Christ centered and eternity building? There are many thing in our lives that are self-centered or maybe something that is inherently good, but it is simply isn’t what we are called to do.
So my challenge for you today, just like it was for my discipleship class I teach on Sundays – Pray this little prayer –
“Lord, open my heart to what you would have for me today. Lead me, guide me, direct me, protect and correct me as I go through this day, for I long to be the Man/Woman of God that You have called me to be. AMEN”
Look out, because God will answer this prayer. But I want you to take this one step further – I want you to live in expectation that God is going to answer this prayer. Get excited about your future with Him because the plans He has for those that seek Him are beyond anything you or I could ever imagine or plan for or …… He knows what our gifts and talents are because He is the One who created us and gifted us.
One last thought – our failure to heed the word of God, can also have disastrous results. Josiah loved the Lord but didn’t listen when it mattered most. It cost his country a great leader and the men that took over after he was gone, drove it into destruction. What if your actions or inactions could have a similar result? What would you be willing to do differently now that you know that all of it really matters. I am challenged by this fact daily. I don’t get it right all the time either but I am seeking Him and He tells us when we seek Him, we will find Him. When we have found Him, we have all the answers we need – Jesus Christ! AMEN!
In the passage – Isaiah 61:1-3 – we all want to rush off to the “Beauty… and the oil of joy… and the garment of praise’
Before there could be an exchange for beauty – there had to be a fire to create the ashes. That means that something went horribly wrong. Yet, Christ has an answer for that to. In order to get to that we must begin with the ….
We have to
Jesus Came to Preach the Good News to the meek
To bind up the brokenhearted
To set free those that are bound
To open the prison doors and set the prisoner free
The meek are
The One’s whose lives are just not want they ought to be and they know they need a change.
Some of the Meek in Jesus day were the Tax Collector’s, the prostitutes, the people that no one else wanted to have anything to do with – because they knew they needed help.
The Meek are really you and me – He came for us! Sinners in need of a Savior. But if we miss that then we can miss the greatest gift the universe has ever seen or will ever see.
To bind up the broken hearted
Anybody here eve have their heart broken?
Anybody here ever lost anything precious to them?
Anybody here ever been lied to by the person they are supposed to be able to trust?
Christ came to deal with those hurts in a way that only He can – I call it Holy Heart Surgery.
The passage says He came to bind up the broken hearted – so that means that He is reaching inside of us, at the point where the pain is greatest, where the need for healing is the greatest and where if healing doesn’t come, all the rest will be wrecked.
He isn’t just touching it, He is binding – hearts take time to heal so He binds them so that they can.
To set free those that are bound
These things can be more oppressive than any prison.
To set the prisoner free
The Bible is full of examples of this chainbreaking freedom
To me the greatest example was the thief on the cross – He wasn’t set free from the penalty that the worlds system had imposed upon him but he was set free from a far greater eternal punishment – He was in paradise that day!
Beauty for Ashes –
Before there were ashes – there had to have been a fire.
What caused the Fire
Fill in the blank
Why didn’t the fire get put out sooner?
Why did it burn to the ground
Why did it get out of control
What was the trigger
What fueled it
What do we do with the mess?
Did anybody Notice?
Can hide it?
How do I begin again?
How can I put my life back together?
YOU CAN’T – HE CAN!
Didn’t Surprise God
Ashes can’t be restored – they blow in the wind
Jesus will take those ashes and give you something new – Beauty
The beauty is Himself
The beauty is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit
The beauty is an eternal home
The beauty is an everlasting hope
The beauty is healing
The beauty is transformative
The beauty includes the gifts of the Spirit
The beauty gives us the confidence to say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13
The beauty tells me that I am more than a conqueror
The beauty tells me that I am not my own any longer – I am a child of the King – saved by grace – adopted into the family of God
The beauty means that I am now “ God’s Masterpiece – created anew in Christ Jesus for the Good Works that He ordained since the beginning of time.”
The beauty means that I have a job – “ the good works” “ to build, raise up & restore”
The beauty give me double for my trouble.
The beauty restores my family
YES – REAL CHANGE IS POSSIBLE! THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED IN YOUR LIFE DOESN’T HAVE TO DEFINE YOU!
Jesus Christ will perform this Great Exchange & do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
THE OIL of Joy for mourning!
If there is mourning, there is loss
Loss takes on many forms
Loss of a loved one
“ “ friend
Christ understands – He wept when he saw the mourning of the people who loved Lazarus
He promises the Oil of Joy for Mourning
Oil is thick
Oil sticks with us
Oil soaks in and goes down deep
Oil becomes a part of who we are
SINCE IT IS THE OIL OF JOY –
His joy is thick
His Joy can stick to us like glue
His Joy can sink down into our hearts and change everything
His Joy becomes a part of who we are
But we have to be willing to say – LORD, I’m hurting and I need healing – my heart is broken and only you can heal it.
Binding – Oil – And a touch from the Masters Hand – The Great Physician.
THE GARMENT OF PRAISE FOR THE SPIRIT OF HEAVINESS
Depression – The worries of the world weighing you down? This is one of the greatest problems in America today. Many have a general sense of hopelessness because there is a general decline in the morality of America, a decline in the family unity and way more problems than we have the time to go into here. The common denominator with all of them is the fact that each day, God is being taken further and further out of this society.
The answer is Jesus Christ – when we turn to Him and give Him our lives to Him, we can put on the garment of praise. Depression cannot remain when we are praising God.
I can tell you from experience that this has happened to me. I could feel depression like an 800lb guerilla on my shoulders. I gave my life to Christ at the lowest point in my life and the ugly monster of depression got up off my shoulders and walked out the door.
You need to know that sometimes depression has come back to visit to me. When it does, it sneaks in like a thief, trying to steal my joy and make me not want to praise. I find myself praying and wondering what is wrong. What I learned is that, on my own, I cannot win but if I will turn to God, depression will flee. So let’s get practical – how do you do that? What I will do is pray and then put Christian music in my ears as I go about my day. When I do this, before I know it, I am praising God and depression is no where to be found. I have put on the garment of praise and there is no room for anything else.
Where does this leave us?
Christ has a great plan for you and me. He came for us – at our worst – He came for us. He came to bring healing, to set us free and cut us loose from the pain of our past decisions. When we turn fully to Him, we get the exchange of beauty for the burned out shell of an existence that we had before – aka “Ashes”. We get the oil of joy for mourning over the past destructions of life and peace that we experienced. Then we get the garment of praise, for the weight of the world we use to carry around with us. He does all of this because He has a plan for us.
He wants to be planted by the river so that we can be examples of grace – for His glory.
Then He has a job for us –
“And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolation of many generations… For your shame ye shall receive double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion; therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.” Isaiah 61:4 & 7
You have a job – a divine mission that has a specific reward.
There are many times when we go through things and we have no idea why. In fact, we may voice the following to God –
“Why would You allow me to go through this? What did I do to deserve this?”
In previous posts we have talked about King Jehoshaphat and the trouble and the trials he went through and the time he was almost killed for hanging out with King Ahab. He learned in that trial that his hope and only real strength could be found in God Almighty. In Chapter 19 of 2nd Chronicles we see that he brought the whole nation into a full on revival.
When a football team goes through Spring Training or two-a-days before the season starts they are being prepared for something – the games. So King Jehoshaphat was being prepared for something as well – war – but not just any old skirmish. No, a group of armies from at least three different kingdoms had joined together to come up against Judah.
These forces vastly outnumbered the King’s army and he could see very quickly that he was in trouble. So what was he to do? What would you do? The King did what he had been prepared to do – Call On God!
“And said, ‘O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? And rule not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? And in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to stand thee?…. And now behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir…. Come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given to us… O Our God, wilt thou not judge them? For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee.” 2nd Chron. 20:6-12
This is not the typical response of a king. Most military leaders would be all about rallying the troops – making battle preparations – calling on allies and anything else they can think of. But this king was different – he was a man of God. His previous tests and trials had shown him that his King could be trusted at just such a time as this. King Jehoshaphat was not disappointed.
God sent a message through a prophet that told him…
“…Thus saith the Lord unto you, ‘Be not afraid, nor be dismayed by reason of the great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.” vs. 15
WOW! What a message. Now the word went on to give them instructions. They had to go out to the field of battle but they would not fight; only observe what God was going to do for them. So the next morning, the King got everyone together and went out as instructed. On the way to the battlefield, the king stopped everyone and decided to make one of the boldest statements of faith I have seen in scripture. He put the choir out in front of the army to sing praises to God. Telling the world of God’s greatness and that His mercy endures forever. Again, this is not the typical battlefield strategy but God doesn’t require our ingenuity to be successful. He wants us to believe and testify.
Here’s what happened next –
“And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against …Mount Seir, utterly to destroy them: and when they had made an end of … Seir, [then] everyone helped to destroy another… none escaped.” Vs. 22-24
So what is our take away from this event? I believe that it should give us great confidence in the face of our daily tests and trials; knowing that there is a greater purpose than we can begin to imagine. I believe that we should be willing to step out in faith, even in the midst of impossible odds, knowing that God is with us and that means everything.
This story should also force us to look inward and check our faith in the mirror and ask the question – Do I really believe? Do I truly trust? For a long time I said all the right words but down deep, my belief was in me – If it’s to be, it’s up to me. That strategy didn’t work out so well. Today, I have been through the valley and the enemy is overwhelming in my tiny personal perspective. But when I turn my eye to He who created the world and place my trust in Him saying – I don’t know what to do but my eyes are on YOU LORD – He makes a way through it or delivers me from it, using methods and people that I would have never known were available. My King is bigger than all the kings of this world and no weapon formed against me will prosper.
If you are going through a tough time right now, I want you to do something that seems to be against everything the world teaches – put the choir out front. Begin to praise God for the challenge, the test and the trial. The only reason your going through it is to prepare you for something even greater and a victory so large that it can’t be contained. That’s what He did King Jehoshaphat – the spoils of that victory took his men 3 days to gather up and carry back to Jerusalem – that was a lot of stuff. But not only that, the chapter goes on to say that –
“And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel.” vs. 29
What you may be going through right now may just be a prelude to not only a great victory but a huge testimony for the Glory of God and an incredible blessing for you.
“Why? Why would you write this book? Why would anyone want to read it?” I have to say that, I was a bit startled by the question. The man asking the question was not only challenging the work that I committed myself to do for several years but, to me, it was also deeply personal because this book that I am writing tells my story and what I believe to be God’s message to a broken and hurting world.
As I am preparing to fire back, he hits me even harder as he asked,
“There are tons of books on ‘recovery’ and memoir’s are a dime dozen. What makes your book so special?”
My pride wanted to rise up in me and vigorously defend my work. When I was done with that, I was thinking that I could then turn the tables on him. For me, there was no way he could be asking those questions if he had really read what I had written. When I was about to fire my first salvo in what was getting ready to be a war of words, I felt the Holy Spirit tap me on the shoulder and tell me in my spirit,
“Stop and listen, he is right and trying to help you… Let the questions sink in and I will guide you to the answers…”
It was then that I understood… “Why should he read it?” was an excellent question that needed to be answered. In fact, why should you read this blog? I can tell you that seeking the answers to these questions created a whole new outlook and also a lot more work. As I sought the answers to the questions for myself, I began to turn the questions over and over in my mind. I began to make them very personal – Why did I write the book? Why should someone read it? How does it differ from the others?
Internally, as I began to process this, my first response was that, “God told me to write the book.” But then this just leads you to the next logical question, “Why would He want you to do that?” I this question isn’t clearly answered to me, how can anyone else get it? There has to be a greater purpose behind this than just getting a story published.
As I dove into these questions, I began to see and really understand that while there are many books on recovery and memoirs about changed lives, none addressed the real power that is truly required for transformation. There are many “step”-based programs out there like – A.A., N.A., G.A., O.A. and the others. There’s even the “Christian 12 Step Program” which is just the A.A. program with a couple of words replaced. They are all functionally the same and it was in this that I saw a problem. While they all addressed the basic broken condition of men and women due to sin, they stop short of all that God intends for His children. We need to finish the job. I knew that what God had brought me through, that continues until this very day, has radically transformed my life.
Since this is a story for His glory and not mine, I had to check all my motives in the mirror and understand that I might have to go places that I would rather avoid – that might be embarrassing. But if my story helps someone else, even though it embarrassed me, isn’t it worth it? I think it has to be.
So as I looked down the path I had walked, I saw distinct steps that God had taken me through. They are all laid out in the Bible and are consistent the Christian 12 step plan plus about 5 or so more. As I reflected back on the questions my friend asked me, I saw what God had directed me to do. This story is important because it puts His grace on display in the life of truly broken man. How God was able to take man who had broken the law, broken hearts, betrayed the trust of many, destroyed his family and the lives of the people he worked with.
If this story gives one other man or woman hope that real change is possible for them, it will have been worth all the hours/years this story has taken to get put down. My prayer is that this story points everyone willing to read it and apply it to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. I believe this story is important and needs to be read because we live in a broken world and the only real healer available is Jesus Christ.
What started out as just a memoir has turned into so much more. Part One is my story. Part Two is Your Story. Part Three is a Bible Study and devotional. I tried to combine it all into one volume but it got to big. So it will be coming out in three volumes. I will be posting portions of it here at least weekly as it is coming together. So stay tuned.
As I was studying this morning I thought I would start writing about what I am studying. Since it is God’s Word I believe that it is significant.
I began this morning in the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles chapter 14. In it we find the story of King Asa of Judah. We will stick to the chapter at hand and not get ahead of the story. A little background though might be helpful. Asa had a good father who followed God. His name was Abijah. He stood up against the evil King Jeroboam in the name of the Lord and spoke words of great faith and courage in the midst of overwhelming odds. Jeroboam tried to be sneaky and do a flanking maneuver while Asa was telling Jeroboam about God and how he needed to get right. Well Abijah saw what was happening and cried out to God.
When a man of God, cries out to God before his men and leads them in a godly way, this gives them courage as well. They know that they can trust God because their leader trusts God. So the men shout – the priests shout and blow the trumpets. This whole scenario had to make God smile. Men who professed Him as their God and Father and Savior, calling out to Him for deliverance and then stepping out in faith into the battle trusting that God would indeed do what Had promised to do.
God did and the enemy ran for their lives. They ran for their lives, even though they were superior in number. They ran for their lives, even though they had the tactical advantage. They ran because they were no longer fighting man, they were fighting God Almighty. One man or woman, fighting in that power, is the overwhelming force of the day and will carry every battle to victory!
Now that I have told you a little about Asa’s dad, let me tell you a little about Asa. The chapter begins with telling us that “…Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God:” vs.2
What did he do to earn such an acclaim – He took away idols, their altars, the places where these idols were worshipped and led the nation to worship God, the God of their fathers and to live in accordance with His word.
Can you imagine for a moment if our leaders took such a stand? What a different world this would be. But let’s not stop there, in fact let’s begin with ourselves. How different would our lives and families be in we led our families in this way? It would require that we lead by example more than word. It would require that we know God, have a personal relationship with Him. It would require that we take time to worship Him, pray to Him and share what we study with those that we love. It would require that we destroy the idols, altars and remove ourselves from the places where God is not honored.
This is tough but if we want the blessings, the abundant life and the peace that passes understanding we need to learn what it means to take up our cross and carry it daily. Our cross is the cause or mission that God has placed on hearts that is worth dying for dying for. So let me ask you a question:
1. Are there idols in your life? (an idol is anything we give an inordinate amount of affection or another of looking at it is – Is there anything in your life that takes you away from what God would want you to be doing? If so this could very well be an idol.)
2. Do you know God’s word?
3. Do you spend time with Him?
4. Do you truly know God – I don’t mean know who He is, I mean have a personal relationship with Him?
I know that there was a time, ok the majority of my life where, if I was absolutely honest, I would have to say that
– yes I had idols.
– No I didn’t know God’s Word
-No I didn’t spend time with Him.
– (And here is the clincher ) I had no personal relationship. I was lost.
But glory be to God I am not there any longer.
Asa was given mighty victory and I have seen victory in my life as well, now that I have not only turned my life over to Christ but seek Him daily. He has transformed me, and brother or sister, if you knew me, you know that I was in dire need of some serious fixing – I was very broke.
If you are struggling today – look to Him. Lean into Him and He will do more for you and with you than you can ever imagine. I still have a long way to go, but thank the Lord I am not where I use to be.