Winter Is Past Part 4 - I will meditate on Your Word, and it will bring life and prosperity.

bloom-blooming-blossom-211451.jpg
Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

    So, I don’t know about you, but often when I think about meditating, I think of a person sitting cross-legged on the ground, emptying their mind of all thoughts, and becoming one with nature and the universe. Rest assured, this is not what we are talking about. I mean, if you were to tell me that I needed just empty my mind and think about nothing, one of two things would happen: I would fall asleep, or my mind would soon wander to thinking about many different things! 

    Biblical meditation, on the other hand, is not the absence of thought, but the action of thinking! In fact in the Greek, the word "meditation" means “to ponder, to muse.” We aren’t just thinking about something, we are only thinking of that something.

    Now again, if you are anything like me, trying to think about one thing is a recipe for mind-wandering and day-dreaming. But check this out: another way that "meditate" is translated in the Greek is “to imagine.” Look at that! Day-dreaming is exactly what I should be doing! I should just be day-dreaming about the Word of the Lord and it’s effects in my life! 

    Ok, what on earth am I talking about here? Let’s look at it this way. I am a dancer. I lead a worship dance team at church, and we dance during the praise and worship service every Sunday morning. When I am dancing for the Lord, I am thinking (almost) exclusively about Him and the words that I am singing to Him. I take it a step further in my choreography. The patterns that I put together have scripture verses and meanings behind each one. I have pondered a verse, and imagined a physical expression of that verse, until I have a choreographed pattern that is the representation of that verse for me. When I repeat the choreography, that verse resonates in my soul and spirit each time! It’s a beautiful thing!

    Perhaps there is a way that you like to express yourself to the Lord. Maybe you like to paint or sculpt. Or perhaps you are singer or a musician. Or maybe you aren’t very artistic, but you enjoy journaling word puzzles. Whatever your passion is, the Lord put that inside of you, and He wants you to use it! So, here is an exercise for you, picking up where we left off in our last study. Choose a verse that applies to your situation. In Part 2 we chose II Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.” We personalized and confessed it, declaring that we ourselves have this power, love, and sound mind to replace the fear. Now begin to meditate on this. What does that mean to you? Imagine that this power, love, and sound mind are yours. And if you are a painter, maybe paint a picture of the spirit of fear leaving, and being replaced with a sound mind. If you someone who journals, write about a time you were afraid and how power and love pushed out the fear. If you enjoy music, begin to sing the words and make a melody out the verse. If you like to hike, recite the verse as you climb. Whatever you enjoy, incorporate the verse into your daily life! This is meditation!

    Perhaps there is a way that you like to express yourself to the Lord. Maybe you like to paint or sculpt. Or perhaps you are singer or a musician. Or maybe you aren’t very artistic, but you enjoy journaling word puzzles. Whatever your passion is, the Lord put that inside of you, and He wants you to use it! So, here is an exercise for you, picking up where we left off in our last study. Choose a verse that applies to your situation. In Part 2 we chose II Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.” We personalized and confessed it, declaring that we ourselves have this power, love, and sound mind to replace the fear. Now begin to meditate on this. What does that mean to you? Imagine that this power, love, and sound mind are yours. And if you are a painter, maybe paint a picture of the spirit of fear leaving, and being replaced with a sound mind. If you someone who journals, write about a time you were afraid and how power and love pushed out the fear. If you enjoy music, begin to sing the words and make a melody out the verse. If you like to hike, recite the verse as you climb. Whatever you enjoy, incorporate the verse into your daily life! This is meditation!

Prayer
Lord, I praise you for Your Word! I delight in Your Word! And I will meditate on Your Word, because you will keep me planted by rivers of water, growing and prospering. I declare in faith that “I will meditate on Your Word, and it will bring life and prosperity.”

Winter Is Past Part 3 - I have found Your words and they bring health to my body.

citrus-cold-cup-416489.jpg
Proverbs 4:20-22 My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.

    Jeremiah 15:16 says “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight.” Psalm 19:9-10 tells us that the laws of the Lord are “sweeter than honey!” In Job 29:23 the Lord says “They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain.” The picture of eating and drinking is so powerful! It really gets to the heart of what we are supposed to do. Memorizing verses and passages of scripture gets the Word into our spirit and soul, feeding us and bringing us life! Most of us cannot imagine a day going by without eating and drinking our fill of food, so why do we let a lifetime go by without feeding our soul and our spirit?
    My prayer is that you will make a commitment for the next few weeks to memorize the verses we are learning.
    Memorization does not come easily for everyone. You might have to work at it. But as I tell my children all the time, anything worth having is hard to get! My dad reads and rereads a passage until he finds himself reciting the Words without looking. My sister-in- law writes verses on a card and tapes it to her mirror. Then every time she brushes her teeth or combs her hair, she reads them over. I write cards and keep them in my bag. If I have a few minutes waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in a waiting room at the dentist office, I can pull them out and work on them. Whatever it takes! And isn’t that what our attitude should be? That we will do this “whatever it takes!” We know it is worth it! It brings life!
    One last thought. The phrase, “I know it by heart,” is one that you may have heard or even said before when referring to something you’ve memorized. It comes from the ancient Greeks who believed that the heart was where thoughts were held and decisions were made. While we now know this is not scientifically true, does it not have some truth in it? After all, our heart is where we want to “hide God’s Word!” (Psalm 119:11) Should we not learn His Word by heart? It is health to our flesh!

basket-bread-cheese-262937.jpg

     Take the time to journal the verses that apply to your situation. Then copy the verses to note cards and place them by your bed, on your fridge, in your wallet, on your mirror - somewhere that you will see them frequently. Commit to memorize, meditate on, and confess them, even placing their importance over your next meal. Ask your friends and family to hold you accountable. Pray for the grace to hide these words in your heart.

Father,
     Thank you for your words that give life. I commit that I will "devour" Your words and keep them in my eyes and in my heart. Please give me the ability to read, study, and memorize your words. I confess in faith that, “I have found Your words and they bring health to my body.”

 

   

Winter Is Past Part 2 - You, O God, are my salvation. No matter the circumstances, You are saving me.

blank-bouquet-card-356390.jpg

Romans 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

   The word used here for “confession” in the Greek is homologeo, which is best translated, “to say the same thing, to agree.” It is often translated “profess” or “confess.” We often think of confession as admitting we did something wrong, but here we are going to think of confession as admitting the truth of God’s Word. We put ourselves in agreement with the Word of God and apply the Word to our situation.

    If you read my last post, you may have written down your struggles and investigated what the Lord says in His Word with regard to them.  Did you then take it to the next step and put yourself in agreement with the Word? If you did, great! You “confessed” the Word over your life! If you did not, consider going back and doing so now! Confessing the Word over our lives is a daily habit that we need to cultivate. I don’t know about you, but it is not something I think to do regularly. But if we would do it - if we would read the Word of the Lord, put ourselves in agreement with it, and confess that it applies to us, just imagine how our lives would change! 

    At the time in my life that I was sick and scared, I began to practice daily confession, a practice which I continue today. I purpose to agree with the Lord and what He says about my situation, and then I verbally, aloud, proclaim it - to the Lord, to the situation, to the devil, to myself! Can I admit something a little silly to you? I found that the best time to confess the Word of God is while I get ready for work in the morning, during my shower, brushing my hair and teeth, applying make-up - it’s been during these daily, mundane tasks that the Lord meets me with His truths, and I confess truth back to Him!

blossom-bouquet-card-356331.jpg

     Find a verse (or verses) of scripture that directly speaks to an illness or situation you are facing today. Rephrase the scripture by putting your name and your problem in place of the pronouns in the verse. For example, if you are struggling with fear, 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given you the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.” Now rephrase it and say, “God, I know that you have not given me the spirit of fear, but I receive your gift of power, love, and a sound mind, in Jesus name!”

Dear God,

I believe in my heart that You are God, and I am grateful that You have made me righteous. I confess aloud with my mouth that You raised Jesus from the dead, and I claim Your salvation. You have saved my soul from hell, and You daily save my life from death and destruction. So in faith I declare, “You, O God, are my salvation. No matter the circumstances, You are saving me.”

Winter Is Past Part 1 - My time of winter and rain is over, and my time of growth and peace is here!

3.jpg

Introduction to Winter is Past: A devotional for people who are hurting

     Two years ago I wrote a devotional with expectations that the Lord would use what He has taught me over the years to bless others. For one reason or another, it was never the right time to share this devotional. But today, after a particularly long and bleak winter, I feel the Holy Spirit leading me to release this message. So many people I love are struggling, not just because the weather has been tough, but because life has been tough. Illness, pain, stress, infertility, disease, loss...I could go on and on naming the afflictions that I and my loved ones have been suffering. Today I bring a message from the Lord of defiant hope! We do not need to stay in the winter! The Lord has promised that springtime is coming. I pray that you will be blessed over the next several weeks as we discover, claim and see the fulfillment of His promises.

snowdrops-3236773_1920.jpg
Song of Solomon 2:10-13 My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

   Those of us who live in the northeast understand what winter is like. Where we live in upstate New York the leaves fall off the trees in mid October, and they do not return until May. This means six months of brown and grey mountains, grass, roads, and woods. Couple that with nearly constant grey, cloudy skies and dirty, brown snow covering the roads, and winter is, at best, bleak and dreary. 

    The sub freezing temperatures can seep into your bones, driving you to the warmth of a fire or furnace, and forcing you to cover in so many layers you can barely move!

    Then the snow storms, freezing rain, ice and hail create a recipe for a really bad time. Downed power lines, cars sliding off the roads, driveways that need to be shoveled...winter is no fun!

    But during the winter months, we wait with patient expectation for the beauty we know is coming. There is nothing better than the thrill that comes when the hyacinths, daffodils and tulips begin to peak through the frozen, snow-covered ground, or the exquisite yellow forsythia leaves and the purple and pink azalea petals pop out in early spring. And the first time that a chirping bird awakens us in the morning, we cannot help but feel glad to be alive! 

    I went through my own personal winter a few years ago. The diagnosis of stage 2 aggressive breast cancer came like a nor’easter that blanketed my spirit in a terrifying, frozen panic. The double mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive surgery caused physical pain and emotional anxiety that seeped into my body and tried to take up permanent residence. The weeks of chemotherapy drove me to a place of despair and made my spirit feel grey and bleak, as week after week my body was slowly poisoned. 

    Those who are struggling in pain and illness can relate to this kind of winter. The shock of injury, the constancy of chronic pain, the helplessness of mental illness, the hopelessness of a terminal diagnosis - all of it can paint a grey, bleak future.

    But God, in His faithfulness, does not leave us in winter. He keeps His promise and returns to us the fragrance of flowers, the sound of the birds, and the taste of fresh fruit. 

    Every spring I am once again amazed by how beautiful life can be, and today I stand in awe of how He brought so much joy, grace, mercy and peace to me during and after my winter. 

    I pray that this is an encouragement you can hold on to - wait with patient expectation for the beauty and newness of spring!

flower-3161201_1920.jpg
Prayer
Beloved Lord, 
I praise You that winter is always followed by spring. I am thankful that the rain does end, the flowers do appear in the ground, and the birds once again do sing in the trees. Please remind me while I am in the midst of the cold and scary times that You are bringing me through to warmer, brighter days. Help me to make this confession of faith, “My time of winter and rain is over, and my time of growth and peace is here!”

 

Take some time to journal what your winter looks like. What are your struggles, your fears, your pain? Now take some more time to investigate what scripture says about this situation. Find several verses that give you hope that winter will pass, and springtime will come, and record them in your journal.

 

Elijah: The Prophet of Selfless Faith Part 4

umm-el-kanatir-site-israel-damaged-house-golan-heights-49061916.jpg
I Kings 17:7-10 "Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: 'Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.' ” 

    Once again Elijah received a word from the Lord that required complete obedience and selfless faith. The prophet was asked to leave the brook where he had been fed and taken care of for about a year and head to the land of the Gentiles. He was asked to trust that this woman that the Lord had chosen to take care of him would respond to the Lord’s call and obey with her own selfless faith. 

     I wonder if the ravens, being, as we mentioned, an unclean animal, prepared Elijah to leave the land of the chosen people and go to Sidon to live with a Gentile woman. As an Israelite, Elijah had been taught not to go into her house, much less to live in her house. And yet, the Lord called Elijah to obey despite what the culture thought was acceptable. 

I Kings 17:10-14 "So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, 'Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?' As she was going to get it, he called, 'And bring me, please, a piece of bread.'
'As surely as the Lord your God lives,' she replied, 'I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.' 
Elijah said to her, 'Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

     As I read these words, I find myself imagining what I would do if I were in this widow’s place. I cannot even fathom what it must have been like to realize that she and her child were going to starve to death, and there was nothing that she could do about it. Then along came a man who insists on eating her last meal. What assurance did she have that she would have flour and oil to make food for her son after she fed this man of God?

      Yet, she must have had some sort of hope - some expectation, because the Lord has told her to expect Elijah’s arrival. And despite the fact that she was not an Israelite, she had faith in the God of the Israelites, reminiscent of Rahab, Ruth, and many other faithful Gentile women who trusted the Lord and were grafted into HIs family. God called her, she responded with selfless faith, and she and her family were saved. 

I Kings 17:15-16 "She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah."

      Both Elijah and this faithful woman reacted to the Word of the Lord with obedience and selflessness, and the Lord saved them. We would do well to follow their example.

 

Elijah: The Prophet of Selfless Faith Part 3

desert-279862_960_720.jpg
I Kings 17:2-6 “Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.’ So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” (NIV)

    We ended our last discussion by examining how important it is for us to recognize that we are not God, and therefore we need to stop worshipping at the altar of selfishness and self-reliance, and return to worship of the One True God and reliance solely upon Him. 

    In these verses, we see Elijah’s complete obedience to the Lord and acknowledgement of His authority when he leaves Ahab’s presence to spend about a year hiding at a brook and trusting  the Lord for His provision.

    Some teachers and commentators imagine that the Lord sent Elijah to the brook to protect him. It is very likely that Ahab and Jezebel wanted to kill him. I mean, the prophet declared a drought which would last three years before it was over. Think about what this would do for the economy of Israel during that time. The United States has experienced drought before, including  a drought in the southern U.S. in the 1920’s that contributed greatly to our Great Depression in the 1930’s. If there had been a man who had declared that it would not rain until he gave the word in the 20’s, you had better believe that our government would’ve tracked him down to force his hand.

    Elijah was not the only prophet of the day who was hiding from Ahab and Jezebel. We learn in I Kings 18 that one hundred prophets were hiding for their lives and were being aided by Obadiah, a servant of the Lord. 

    I Kings 18:4 “While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.)”

    This begs the question, why didn’t Elijah hide with the other prophets? He could’ve stayed in the caves with the one hundred and had his food and water from Obadiah instead of hiding all by himself by the brook and relying on the ravens for help.

    Well, there are lots of opinions regarding why the Lord led Elijah to the brook at Cherith. One idea is that Ahab would not have been the only person to put pressure on Elijah to relent. Remember, Elijah has said that it would only rain when HE gave the word. It is a definite possibility that even his friends and neighbors would push and even threaten Elijah to give the word and stop the drought. They were suffering with the lack of rain. Some of those suffering did not even deserve it. Yet God wanted to bring about His purposes, and this required that Elijah wait for three years. Consequently, God sent him away from all others so he could not be influenced to recant. 

    Another idea is that the Lord called Elijah away from distractions to a place where he would commune with God and learn to hear from him. Jesus did this often, didn’t He? He would go where no one else was so that He could spend time with His Father away from distractions. If the Lord called Jesus, His Son, away to spend time alone with Him to be rested and refreshed and receive a word, it is very likely that He called Elijah for the same reason.

    A third thought is that Elijah needed to learn reliance on the Lord in a manner that he could not any other way. If he had gone to the caves, it would have been Obadiah and others who would have met his needs. If he had gone home or established a dwelling elsewhere, he could meet his own needs. By going to a brook to be fed by the ravens, he learned to completely rely on the Lord. In the same way that the Israelites had to trust the Lord for their daily supply of manna as they wandered in the wilderness, Elijah needed to trust that God would send him his food every morning and every night. His faith was not without reward! While the prophets in the caves were eating bread, Elijah had a steady supply of not just bread, but also meat. 

    It is worth noting that the Lord commanded ravens to bring Elijah his daily food. We have all seen ravens…they are greedy, never satisfied birds who would likely eat the food they were to deliver to Elijah as give it to him. In addition, these birds were unclean under the Mosaic Law. Consequently, it might have been difficult for Elijah to trust that they were truly God’s messengers, or that they would actually deliver to him the promised sustenance. It was a step of faith for Elijah to head to the brook as the Lord commanded him.

    Some of you have been given a word from the Lord. It might be a hard word, one that will make you feel that you are suffering. There will be those who who will try to influence you - even pressure you into giving up on the Lord’s word. In these times the remedy is to dedicate yourself to spending time alone with the Lord, listening to His word, and obeying what He tells you to do.

Elijah: The Prophet of Selfless Faith Part 2

dead_sea_israel_landscape_salt_travel_east_mineral_coast-1011297.jpg!d.jpeg
I Kings 17:1 “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’ “ (NIV)

    We’ve had our introduction to Elijah, now let’s learn about Ahab. In the books of I and II Kings we hear about every king of Israel and Judah from the reign of King Solomon, David’s son, through the split of the nation into two nations, Israel and Judah, and up to the time of the Babylonian exile of both nations. As each king is introduced to us, they are characterized in one of two ways: either they did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, or they did what was righteous in the Lord’s sight. Some were more evil and some were more righteous, but all fell on one side or the other. Here is how Ahab is introduced:

I Kings 16:29-33 “In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.”   

    Wow! Now there’s an introduction! Verse 31 mentions that he married Jezebel. She was like Cruella Deville, Maleficent, and Ursula all rolled into one. She vehemently worshipped the false god, Baal, and even more vehemently persecuted the prophets of the Lord. 

    These two were a power couple for evil, and God was not happy with them.

    Enter Elijah, as we said, somewhat mysteriously, to let them know that it would not rain nor would dew be on the ground until he gave the word. As it turns out, this would last for three and a half years. He would later explain to Ahab why this was happening.

“ ‘I have not made trouble for Israel,’ Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.’ “ I Kings 18:18 (NIV)

    Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about Baal:

“As such, Baal designated the universal god of fertility, and in that capacity his title was Prince, Lord of the Earth. He was also called the Lord of Rain and Dew, the two forms of moisture that were indispensable for fertile soil in Canaan. In Ugaritic and Hebrew, Baal’s epithet as the storm god was He Who Rides on the Clouds. In Phoenician he was called Baal Shamen, Lord of the Heavens.” *

    By declaring that there would be no rain until Elijah received word from the Lord that it was time, Elijah was basically telling Ahab and Jezebel that their god, supposedly the god of the rain and dew and the heavens, was a fraud and could not stand against the One True God. 

    I think it’s hard for us to imagine a time when people would set up altars and make sacrifices to a god or gods. We certainly wouldn’t consider doing such things ourselves. And yet, whether we realize it or not, we do build for ourselves idols that we worship. In fact, I submit to you that the Baal of 2018 is “self.” I heard recently that studies show this is the most narcissistic generation in history. We rely on ourselves to meet our own needs; we post intimate details about our lives on social media and expect people to be interested; we are concerned more about what is best for us than what is best for those around us; we believe we can be anything we want, do anything we want, have anything we want - if we can only dream it, we can make it happen! And we won’t let anything - or anyone - stop us!

    So what happens when God reveals that we are frauds who worship at the altar of selfishness and self reliance? What happens when the Elijah of this generation calls us to repent - calls us to admit the fact that we are not the be-all-end-all, and that we are nothing without the God who created us and His Son who died to save us?   

     Next week we will take a look at what Elijah did next after his confrontation with King Ahab. In the meantime, spend some time seeking the Lord regarding the object of your worship.

 

    * “Baal:Ancient Deity.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Baal-ancient-deity.

Elijah: The Prophet of Selfless Faith, Part 1

Photo credit: The Cycling man

Photo credit: The Cycling man

    I mentioned in my last post that there is some mystery surrounding the prophet Elijah. As specifically relates to his origin, there are more questions and speculations than definite answers. His story begins in I Kings 17.

    I Kings 17:1a "And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead…" (KJV) 

    This introduction is pretty strange. Often when a character in scripture is introduced we learn who their father was, where they were from, and a bit about their situation. But here, we learn only his name and that he was a Tishbite or from Tishbe, although no one is certain exactly where that was located, except that it was in Gilead. Gilead was a region east of the Jordan River where the tribes of Rueben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh were situated, yet we do not know from which of the three tribes Elijah came. And this begs the question: Why would Elijah leave his home country, travel over the Jordan into Israel - a place where prophets were being slaughtered by a regime that hated God - and begin his ministry to a people who did not want to hear from him?

    The mystery surrounding his origin and how he seemingly just appeared out of nowhere has led some commentaries to make comparisons between Elijah and the High Priest, Melchizedek, who we read about in Genesis 14 and who the author of Hebrews describes in this way:

    Hebrews 7:1-3 “This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him.  Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.” There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God.” (NIV)

    Melchizidek is the forerunner of the Son of God, and Elijah is the forerunner of John the Baptist. Jesus said in Matthew 11:14 about John the Baptist:

 And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come.” (NIV)

      He was quoting from Malachi 4:5:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:” (NIV)

    Just as John the Baptist courageously called out the sin of an evil king (Mark 6) and declared the coming of the Messiah, (John 1) at Elijah’s sudden appearance, as we will see later, he made a bold declaration of judgment against the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and to all the backslidden, idolatrous Israelites, and called the people back to worship the One True God. 

    Elijah means, “my God is Jehovah.” As we study this amazing prophet we will see how he lives out his name. Everything that he said and did declared that Jehovah is the only God. He stopped calling good evil and calling evil good. (Isaiah 5:20) Obeying God through faith, He selflessly left his country to preach the Word of the Lord to a people who would likely reject him and his message. 

    It's the beginning of a new year, and many people use the fresh start to kick off some new good habits, get rid of bad habits, and set a few new goals. I encourage you today to take away two things from this study of the prophet Elijah. 1, it does not matter where you come from, nor does it matter who your family is - God has a powerful call on your life, and He wants to use you to spread His Word to a world that has forgotten Him. 2, take some time to examine your own life. Is there an idol that you have placed before the One True God? Do you have unrepentant sin that you need to be rid of once and for all, or have you found yourself calling what is evil good? Have you selfishly pursued what you want above what the Lord has for you?

    As you seek the Lord for answers to these questions, I pray for boldness and selflessness to make any changes He calls you to make.

Grow Like a Tree in 2018

    Happy New Year! It’s 2018, and I am so excited to see what the Lord will do in and through His body this year. It is my fervent hope and prayer that He will use me and this blog to bring glory to His name, to call His people back to Him, and to bring many to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    In 2017, we experienced such a shaking in the United States, both inside and outside the church. So much that had been hidden in our country for decades has been revealed. Harassment and abuses; slavery, oppression, and suppression; addiction, greed, and selfishness, and a whole lot more ugliness. Things that were kept in darkness are being brought into the light.

    My pastor, Ryan Alsheimer, challenged our congregation to read the Bible through entirely this year. As I took the challenge with my family and friends, I was reminded that it is the Word of God, the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, that shines a light in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it! (John 1:5) And as our congregation and others in the body of Christ commit to study and meditation of the Word of God, the promises to us personally and to our communities and nations through us are numerous. Psalm 1 says it like this:

1 Blessed is the one
   who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (NIV)

     I have felt the Lord leading me to do an in-depth study in His Word for some time now. And every time I sit down to pray and study, I feel a prompting to examine the life of Elijah. He was a call-it-like-it-is kind of a guy. He spent time with the Lord, and then acted when the Holy Spirit led him. He was a selfless man with strong faith - the kind of man we could use in America today.

    Perhaps I am drawn to the prophet Elijah because the he seems larger-than-life, on par with some of the superheroes whose movies my kids love to watch. Elijah is one of only two men in history who did not die. Enoch walked so closely with God that he was here one minute and with God the next. But Elijah’s departure from earth was dramatic and exciting as God sent a chariot of fire in a whirlwind to pick him up and take the prophet to heaven. He is also one of the two men, the other was Moses, chosen to meet with Jesus during the Transfiguration. 

    Or maybe what draws me to examine his story are the many miracles that he performed during his ministry. Calling down fire from heaven, raising the dead, stopping the rain for three and a half years, causing a poor widow’s coffers to never run dry…it’s all so mind-blowing to think about!

    Still perhaps the most intriguing aspect of his life is that James 5:17 tells us that he was a human being, just like you and me. What a thought! In fact, the King James Version says that he was “subject to like passions as we are.” And it’s true! He was bold and courageous one minute, and running like a scared rabbit the next. He had a sense of humor one minute, and was in the depths of depression the next. At times he gave in to pride and exaggerated his importance to God, and other times he was hungry and tired and frustrated. Yea, I really get this guy.

    The truth is that I can relate closely to his humanity, having seen and experienced many of these “passions,” but I have never seen the incredible miracles, seemingly superhuman capabilities, and dramatic happenings that Elijah carried out. And I wonder why… 

    Maybe this is why I am drawn to examine his story. There is so much about him that I understand, but way more that is still a mystery. Over the next several weeks I intend to diligently search the Word of God for answers to these mysteries, and humbly ask the Lord to reveal to me the lessons and character qualities that He would have me learn from the life of the prophet Elijah. If you stick with me, I promise it will not be boring, but we will grow together and in God! I don’t know about you, but I want to grow to be the tree, not the chaff!

A New Holiday Tradition

thumbnail-7.jpeg
It's the most wonderful time of the year!

I know some of you are purists out there who wait until after Thanksgiving to start preparing for Christmas, but I just cannot hold out that long!

Now don’t get me wrong…there are limits to how early I will begin prepping for Christmas. I mean, when Hallmark runs their Christmas in July movie marathon, I boycott it completely! I live in the northeast - there is no way I want to be reminded that frigid weather is only a few short months away! (Ironically, this summer when the leaves grew on the trees by my house, they blocked the satellite signal, and Hallmark Channel was the only clear reception that would come in! Needless to say, my boycott meant a few silent nights in the Kropp house in July.)

But somehow when Hallmark starts their 24 hour a day Christmas programming in November, it just seems right. Maybe it’s the colder weather or the shorter days, but it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and I am just ready for the celebrating to begin!

Please don’t think we skip Thanksgiving in my home. I love Thanksgiving and everything it stands for. We just kinda combine holidays. I mean, when we gather around the Thanksgiving table and share what we are most grateful for, Jesus is number one on everyone’s list! So you see, Christmas celebration mixes in nicely with Thanksgiving!

So we tune the tv to Hallmark, (still the only channel that comes in, despite the fallen leaves) and the holiday traditions commence! In early November, we begin by filling shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child to pass out to children in need. Then my kids and I embark on a two-day cookie baking frenzy to ensure that we have enough cookies for parties and gifts throughout the season. Thanksgiving week comes and we transform the house into a winter wonderland! (Hey, this teacher knows how to take advantage of vacation days!) And on Thanksgiving Day we give our kids a special ornament, which we choose to represent a significant event or milestone from the year. 

I could go on and on sharing the various traditions my family and friends have observed over the years. They are a comfort when life gets turned upside down; they are an expectation of wonderful things to come; they are a way for us to reconnect with each other despite the craziness of life; and most importantly, they are a reminder of everything that the Lord has done for us and will continue to do.

Exodus 12:14 (NLT)  “This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.”

The Lord commands His people here and throughout scripture to keep memorials, feasts, and holidays to remember what He had done for them. And so, we do the same today.

Building memorials to the Lord in the form of traditions for my family and friends has increased my faith, even in the most difficult times. And it’s for the purpose of helping others build memorials with their families, that I have chosen to write an advent calendar to share with all of you!

thumbnail-6.jpeg

My incredibly talented sister, Kimmy Alsheimer of Drift Design Co., created the most beautiful Christmas artwork to adorn your home. These are 25 uniquely designed cards that could stand alone as a piece of art, but together are stunning. 

thumbnail.jpeg

But these are more than just decoration for your home. Kimmy honored me when she asked if I would write a daily devotional for the back of each lovely card. For 25 days leading to and including Christmas Day, you and your loved ones can spend time together reading the Word of God and learning about the songs, traditions, and treats of Christmas season, while making memories and creating traditions of your own. 

thumbnail-8.jpeg

We created the Light of the World Advent Calendar so you can enjoy it as individuals, couples, or families. Better yet, invite friends and extended family over to join you in the journey! I promise that it will beautifully add  to your holiday home decor as well as add meaning and purpose to your traditions and celebrations.

You can check out the Light of the World Advent Calendar here. 

And while you are there check out all the other great products that Drift Design Co offers!

Let Your Light Shine

pexels-photo.jpg

It’s been a while since I’ve been here. 

I have been busy with kids and with work; with ministry, and family and friends. And dinner is not going to cook itself, nor are elves going to do my laundry.

But honestly, that’s not the real reason that I have been absent.

Fear of failure and rejection had taken powerful hold of me, paralyzing and convincing me that I really have nothing to say…and if I did have something to say, who would want to hear it?

So I put down my pen and picked up broom. I swapped my laptop for the vacuum and used “being busy” as an excuse to take a break.

I am so thankful that the Lord never leaves me, even when I stop walking in His calling. And I am very grateful that He has placed people in my life who will not allow me to wallow in anxiety and fear.

Matthew 5:14-16 (KJV) “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Some people in our lives offer words of encouragement. Others give a gentle push to help us to realize our potential. Still others are great examples and serve as inspiration for us to have the courage to boldly accomplish our purpose. 

My little sister, Kimmy, has served me in all these ways and more. In fact, if it weren’t for her, I can honestly say that I would never have started this blog in the first place. She bravely started her own business from the ground up, giving me an example to follow.

When I am discouraged, she lifts me up. Those who know me well will recognize a favorite quote of mine from early church leader, Irenaeus,

The glory of God is man fully alive!

For Christmas a few years ago, Kimmy hand lettered this quote for me, knowing that it would inspire me to live for the glory of the Lord. Today it hangs in the main room of my home so I can see it daily and remember to let my light shine before men. And as I do, I bring glory to my God!

And most recently, when I thought that I was finished with writing, Kimmy pushed me to get back to my keyboard and let my light shine, offering to collaborate on a project. I was thrilled to join her in combining our two giftings - her incredible artistry and my writing. Next week we will release our finished product, and I could not be more excited. 

Kimmy is a pastor’s wife, and it occurs to me that these are the exact qualities a woman in her position ought to have. She knows that the Lord has made her a light for the world, and she has not hidden it. And she loves her sheep enough to help us realize who we are in Christ and what it takes to shine our light for the glory of God. I am proud to call her my sister and honored to call her my friend.

Run Out of the Grave!

I heard a powerful song on the radio the other day called Glorious Day by Passion.

It starts like this:

"I was buried beneath my shame
Who could carry that kind of weight
It was my tomb
Til I met You
I was breathing, but not alive
All my failures I tried to hide
It was my tomb
Til I met You."

Boy, I tell you what...I can relate to these lyrics. Now I know the writers and performers of this song are sharing what life was like BEFORE they came to know Christ as their Savior. But you know what? There are times that I feel like I am living in a tomb built of my failures and  shame even now. 

And I think, "Jesus, I have met you! I have made you Lord of my life! Why am still buried under the weight of my sin and struggles?

"You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day!"

The Lord answered, "Amy, YOU have to run out of the grave! I've called you...I've saved you...now YOU need to act."

John 11:43-44 "When He (Jesus) had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Can you imagine what would have happened if Lazarus, the resurrected man in these verses, had not come out when Jesus called his name? What if he was too comfortable or complacent to get up and live again? What if he was too scared to be alive? 

But for so many Christ-followers, this is exactly what we do. We stay IN the grave after He has called us out! It's somehow too much work to get up out of the pit of regrets, hurts and illnesses and leave the tomb to allow Jesus to unbind us from what has kept us trapped!

What if Lazarus had just peeked his head out the door...and, you know, inched his way out...afraid to open his eyes to see the light of the glorious day and the face of his wonderful Savior?

When it comes to getting in the water, I am a one-toe-at-a-time kinda girl. It takes me about half an hour to get ankle deep, at which time I am usually ready to retreat to the safety and warmth of my beach towel. 

I am often like this with my struggles, too. I try to give my fear, my guilt, my pain to the Lord one step at a time. And it's two steps forward, two steps back into the grave. 

But I hear the Lord call my name! "Don't stay!" He says. "Don't creep! Just RUN!"

So I run out of the the grave!

"When I was broken
You were my healing
Your love is the air that I'm breathing
I have a future
My eyes are open
Cause when you called my name
I ran out of that grave!"

 

 

My Salvation

    It’s the second night in a row that I can’t sleep. Instead I lie here minute after minute, hour after hour…thinking…a lot. I consider what I could have said, what I should have said….what on earth did I say? And why did I have to cry so much when I said what I said? 

    I toss and turn...partly just to give me something to do and partly because my neck and head hurt like the dickens! I find myself squeezing my shoulders together, scrunching the blades to my neck. I talk myself into relaxing them, only to realize that I have been clenching my teeth so tightly that my jaw aches.

    I pray…for about thirty seconds. I manage to sob a “Lord, help me!” before my mind has wandered back to the reason I am struggling tonight. Minutes later when I recognize that my prayer disintegrated before it ever really started, my cry becomes, “Lord, forgive me.” But this prayer doesn’t last long either.

    I’m not a worrier by nature - at least I have never been one before. Even in the darkest moments of my life, I manage to find rest in the Lord and His promises for me. But lately fear, frustration, anger, worry, helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness - all these emotions and more have overwhelmed my usually calm and optimistic head. 

    Now what? I can’t pray, I can’t sleep, I can’t relax, I can’t do anything but think - and that I should not be doing!

    So I ask the Lord to help me focus on something - anything - that will distract me from the pain and despair. 

    I remember when I was in labor for my first child. The breathing techniques that I had learned in child birthing class only managed to make me hyperventilate. The pain was so much more than anything that I had ever experienced, and I sought the Lord for a distraction. He gave me His Word. Over and over again I quoted verses of scripture to get me past each contraction.

    In a way, I feel like I am in labor tonight. So I ask God for a promise from His Word that will get me through this “contraction” that is the long, lonely night. 

    “Behold!”

     "Yes, Lord? Ok, I am ready for this…lay it on me!"

    “God is my salvation!”

     "Oh, Lord! Are you truly my salvation? There seems to be no way that I can be saved through this!"

    “I will trust, and not be afraid!”

    "Well, goodness gracious, if I could do that I wouldn’t be calling on You right now - I’d be asleep!"

    “For the Lord my God is my Strength and my Song, He also has become my Salvation!”

     "Lord, you are my Strength! Without you I will never make it through this night! But my Song? I confess that I do not feel much like singing…"

    But I sing anyway. I will sing tonight and tomorrow and the day after that… because a song of praise is about all I have right now.

    I sing…and the Lord becomes my Salvation.

    “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water from the well of salvation!”

    It has been a while since I have done anything with joy. But tonight as I sing my song of praise, I feel the joy begin to bubble ever so slightly deep down in the well. And I begin to trust again…I trust that my salvation is coming.

"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." Isaiah 12:2-3 (KJV)

 

No Sacrifice

sea-1062846_1920.jpg

     Last week on Good Friday I found myself reflecting, as is often the case at this time of year, on the sacrifices my Savior made in His life and death. But this season, I found myself asking a question, “What can I do? How can I repay my Savior for His sacrifice for me?”

    The answer seemed to echo through every fiber of my being…”Nothing, nothing at all….but....everything!”   

    “What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?” Psalm 116:12 (NLT)

    It’s a rhetorical question. There is no answer. There is nothing that I can do for the Lord for all He has done. So I do the only thing that I can.

    “I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.” Psalm 116:13 (NLT) 

    So I worship and praise the name of Jesus for all He has done for me…for giving up His rights as God to live as a man….for being tortured and then killed on the cross…for being separated from His Father so He could go to hell for me…

    And yet, this season, somehow this does not seem like enough. There is more that He is asking me to do. I wrote recently that He is calling me to surrender my all to Him, but this surrender is preceded by death. My death. Dying to myself is necessary so that I can live for Him.

    Romans 12:1 “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (NLT)

    This is the “everything” that He so gently is calling me to sacrifice to him. Surrendering myself, dying to myself, sacrificing myself, living for Him - this is what I can do for all He has done for me. 

    There is a song that the Lord has brought to my mind often lately.

    No Sacrifice by Jason Upton
    To You I give my life
    Not just the parts I want to
    To You I sacrifice
    These dreams that I hold on to
    Your thoughts are higher than mine
    Your words are deeper than mine
    Your love is stronger than mine’
    This is no sacrifice, here’s my life!

     And I realize, it really is not a sacrifice to give Him my life. It is the least I can do. It is the best I can do. It is for my good - for my best. It truly is “no sacrifice.”

Surrender!

     “Moody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.” (Henry Varley to D.L.Moody)

     This quote has been resonating with me lately. It is often credited to Dwight Moody, a shoe salesman turned evangelist who lived in the 1800’s. Moody, however, only quoted his friend Varley, whose statement in a private conversation rocked Moody’s world. Dwight took this statement to heart. He surrendered himself to the Lord to be fully consecrated and used by Him, and the results were astounding! 

     Varley may have had a point - that there has never been a man or woman who has completely and entirely surrendered every aspect of their lives to the Lord. However, there are certainly some great examples of what God will do in and through a man who surrenders even a part of their lives to Him. Moody was one such person. He was uneducated and was not ordained by any church, and yet he preached to an estimated 100 million people, and hundreds of thousands - perhaps even a million people came to a saving knowledge of Christ. Today he is considered one of the greatest evangelists who has ever lived. 

     Paul also exemplified what happens when a person is willing to surrender everything to the Lord to be used by Him. In his letter to the Romans, Paul encouraged believers to surrender or “offer” themselves to God as “instruments of righteousness.”

Romans 6:12-13 (NIV) “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.”

     Paul certainly practiced what he preached, surrendering his life to Jesus on the road to Damascus. During his thirty-five year ministry he traveled to almost fifty cities, wrote at least thirteen letters to encourage believers in those cities, was imprisoned several times, was stoned, shipwrecked, and martyred for the cause of Christ. Without doubt, he offered every part of himself to God as an instrument of righteousness. 

     Reexamining Varley’s quote, who is today’s Paul? Or who is the D.L. Moody of this generation? 

     Lately, I have felt the Lord asking me this question. “Is there a man or woman who is willing to surrender themselves entirely to me to be used of me? Is there one who would consecrate themselves fully to me so that I can change the world through them?”

     I want to say, “Oh, oh, oh, pick me, Lord! I am that person!” But then realty strikes and I wonder, “What on earth would that look like? What would it require of me?”

     And so the word “surrender” echoes in my mind, challenging me and, quite frankly, terrifying me. 

     I confess to you that when I hear the word “surrender" the first thing that goes through my mind are the lines from my all-time favorite movie, The Princess Bride. Westley and Buttercup have narrowly escaped from the Fire Swamp and its three terrors, only to find themselves cornered by the evil Prince Humperdink and his men. 

     “Surrender!” commands Humperdink.

     But Westley doesn’t give up easily. After some witty banter back and forth, Humperdink is fed up and cries in disgust, “For the last time, surrender!”

     “Death! First!” declares Westley, defiantly.

     It occurs to me…maybe Westley is right. 

     Maybe death does precede surrender.

     Consider the portion of Romans that comes just before the verses above:

Romans 6:5-7 “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”

     And there it is. To surrender to God is to die to sin. My flesh is crucified so that I can be free to be completely consecrated to Him.

     I think back to when my Savior was crucified. He surrendered Himself to do the will of the Lord in His death. And I think Varley was wrong. The world has seen what God can do through a man who is completely consecrated to Him. Jesus was that man. And He calls me to be that woman.

My Mom, the Servant Leader

When you walk through the front doors of my church and pass through the foyer door into the sanctuary, the first thing that will catch your eye is a gorgeous mural depicting Jesus Christ ascending into heaven, surrounded by a column of rich deep-stained wood. As you glance around the sanctuary several beautiful stained glass windows will come into view, also surrounded by columns of the same dark wood. But it did not always look this way. When I was a kid, these amazing columns were covered in a not-so-spectacular shade of 80’s blue. And I am sure that before they were painted blue they had been painted at least once, if not several times in the church’s hundred year history, in an equally tragic color or two. 

    As a teenager I have a vivid memory of my mother, Jackie Yarborough, pastor’s wife and servant-extraordinaire, on a scaffold in this same sanctuary. Perched thirty feet in the air, armed with a heat gun and a scraper, she spent hour after hour heating the many layers of paint until they bubbled up and released from the wood underneath, and she could scrape the paint, allowing it to fall in a thud to the floor. Hour after hour she spent uncovering the beautiful wood, which, incidentally matches the ornate altar, pulpit and organ surround original to the building. Then she spent several more hours- even days - staining and protecting the naked wood. The result is a labor of love appreciated by every congregant of Community Gospel Church, although I am sure that most are unaware that it is my mother’s handiwork.

    The truth is that there is almost no place in the entire huge building that has not been scrubbed, painted, scraped, and cleaned by my mother. This is what she does. This is who she is. Many pastor’s wives enjoy standing next to their husbands, speaking to the congregation, leading from the front. But my mother, she leads...but she leads from behind, or perhaps it’s better said that she leads next to the members of CGC. She walks with them, serving and ministering, quietly, softly. She never asks for recognition, never seeks attention. She just does what she does, and to God be the glory.

    Jesus said this in Mark 10:42-45 (NLT)

"So Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.' ”

    This is my mother. She did not seek to be a leader, but by being a servant of all she has become one. As Jesus came to give His life, my mom gives her life daily for the cause of Christ, for the furthering of His kingdom, and for the edification of His people. 

    As a teenager, the last thing I wanted was to be like my mother. I craved spotlight and honor. But a wise friend lovingly rebuked me. She said that my mom was an amazing, Godly woman, and I could do no better than to end up just like her. She was completely right. 

    The truth is that I can never achieve the greatness my mother has. Few can say that they have served more constantly and selflessly than she has. But I do strive to follow her example and live as a selfless servant. I love you, Mom.

Exceeding, Abundantly Above All I Could Ask Or Think...

     I am currently sitting in beautiful Florida and contemplating the last few years. Exactly six years agoI was here, in this same resort in the same town at the same time. I had just found a lump in my breast - a lump that I assumed at the time was cancer, but would not confirm until I returned home to New York. So, for the time I was on vacation, away from the frigid northern weather and the hustle and bustle of work and family and church, I tried to relax and trust the Lord...it didn’t work all that well...

     If I had only known then what I know now.

     Two scripture verses keep playing over and over in my head. But before I share them, let’s have a brief Greek lesson (according to the Strong’s Concordance:)

Hyper - above, beyond, exceeding, superior to

Perissos - superabundant, superior, excessive, beyond measure

Dynamis - force, miraculous power, abundance, mighty (wonderful) work

Energeo - to be active, effectual, efficient

Energeia - efficiency, strong working

Hyberballo - to throw beyond the usual mark, to surpass    

Megethos - magnitude, greatness

Ischys - ability, force, strength, might

Kratos - vigor, dominion, power, strength, might

Ok, are you ready for the verses?

Ephesians 1:19 - (That you may know) And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power
Ephesians 3:20 - Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

     Now let’s plug in the Greek:

Ephesians 1:19 - (That you may know) And what is the hyperballo megethos of his dynamis to us-ward who believe, according to the energeia of his ischys kratos...

     The Amplified Bible says it this way:

...and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of His mighty strength

     Isn't that incredible? I don't know if it would ever be possible to know something that is immeasurable, unlimited and surpassing! Now for the next verse...

Ephesians 3:20 - Now unto him that is able to do hyper perissos hyper all that we ask or think, according to the dynamis that energeo in us.

     And in the Amplified:

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, 

     I weep as I write this, because the Lord has done this in my life! He has far surpassed anything that I could’ve thought or imagined six years ago! He has turned my mourning into dancing. He has perfected His strength in my weakness. He has poured out his abundant love, amazing grace, and unending mercy on me. And I sit here in Florida amazed at the abundant, exceeding, beyond measure, unlimited power that He has worked and is working in my life! Praise be to God!

Con Creces

    Con creces is a Spanish phrase that means “with growth,” but the application is so much more than this! For example, you might say, “I will pay you back ‘con creces,’” which means ‘with interest.’ Or you could say, “She won the race ‘con creces,’” which translates to, ‘by a landslide.’ Or one might say, “He passed the test ‘con creces,’” which we might say, ‘with flying colors.’ You see, it’s above and beyond, over and abundant, exceeds all expectations kind of growth. 

    This phrase began to impact me when I heard a song by Nancy Amancio called Arrebato. My friend, Eunice from Mexico introduced this song to me when I was sick, and it had a great impact on my life. In it, Nancy tells Satan that he is done messing with her and she is taking back what he has stolen. She declares in the chorus, “What you have taken from me you will return to me “con creces!” 

    This brings to mind a favorite verse of scripture. Jesus said in John 10:10,

“The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; but I am come that you might have life - and life more abundantly!”

    The devil is here to try to rob us of the life that God has for us, but Jesus returns life to us con creces.

    A close friend, Terri, has survived both thyroid and skin cancer. She told me once that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to her. I have to admit I was incredulous! How could she say that? But she explained that it was cancer that drew her to her loving heavenly father and introduced her to her Savior, Jesus Christ. What the devil had intended for evil in her life, the Lord turned around for her good - in fact it was way better than good! She received back her life con creces!

    When I was first sick, Terri said something like, “I know you won’t believe me right now, but this will bring more blessings than you can imagine!” She was speaking life to me as a friend who knew from experience what the Lord of abundant life would do in answer to the devil’s intention to steal, kill, and destroy.

    You know what, she was right! The devil tried to steal my joy, rob from me my peace, and take my life. But the Lord answered with His abundant life. The blessings that I have received as a result of my struggles have increased my joy, peace, and faith.     

    Paul in the book of Romans says this...

 Romans 8:18 "Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later." 

    To me, this is life con creces! The devil comes, he tries to bring death and suffering, and the Lord’s response is abundant life full of His glory!

Even if you do not know Spanish, I encourage you to listen to this powerful song! Believe that God will bring you abundant life con creces!

Stand Still and See the Salvation of the Lord

     D-Day is what I affectionately call the day I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. I hope that our incredible veterans don’t mind my borrowing that name. I fully recognize that my situation could never come close to the storming of the beaches at Normandy, France to take on the evil Nazi regime. However the feelings of horror and terror - of hopelessness and helplessness - that I experienced on my Diagnosis-Day echo in a small way what those brave men must have felt on D-day. 

     In Exodus 14 we read about another seemingly hopeless situation as the children of Israel are trapped between the Red Sea and the army of Egypt. As sure destruction is bearing down on them, Moses admonishes them in verse 13,

“Fear not! Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord this day.”

     We all know what happened - how the Lord parted the sea for the Israelites to walk through and how the Egyptians drowned in the sea! All the Israelites had to do was stand still!

     The Sunday after my D-Day, the elders of my church pulled me aside to lay hands on me and pray for me according to James 5:14-15.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” 

     One elder, George, shared with me that salvation is not a one time deal with God. We don’t get saved one time at the point we accept Christ as our Savior, and that’s it. No, the Lord brings salvation whenever we need it! In Hebrew the word for salvation is “Yeshuwah,” and it’s from this word we get the name Jesus! Jesus is with me every day - every minute, and He brings salvation for me. That day I committed to believing that all I have to do is stand still to see His salvation.

     The next day, I considered skipping the women’s prayer and accountability group that I had been a part of for many years. I was physically and emotionally spent, but my husband encouraged me to go, so I did. What I did not know was that my friend Tammy had arranged for me to have a “birthday party.” She said that the Lord told her that it would be a new beginning for me. She painted me a beautiful painting with a rainbow background and cross in the foreground with vines growing up it. She explained that the rainbow represented the beauty of His promise, that the cross was vow to save me, and that the vines represented the new growth that I would experience through the struggle. She did not know that I was claiming the promise of His salvation - salvation through Yeshua and what He did for me on the cross of Calvary!

     A short time later, another friend, Laura, gave me another beautiful painting. This was a water color rainbow background with Jeremiah 29:11,

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord...”

     The Lord in His faithfulness was making it abundantly clear to me that His plans for me were for my salvation, if I would only stand still and allow Him to do it! 

     And for six years, He has been saving me. Every day. Every moment. And I am so grateful.

The Lies of the Devil

     I get very upset when I hear people accuse God of bringing bad things into a person’s life. Let’s look at two scriptures. 

James 1:7 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  
John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (NKJV)

     I ask people all the time, is it good and perfect? Does it bring abundant life? In that case it’s from God so accept it and say, “Thank you!” Does it bring death and destruction? If so, it’s from the devil and you can give it right back and say, “No, thank you!”

    Instead what I see these days is a whole lot of people accepting the devil’s gifts and even claiming them as their own! Pay attention to the people around you. Listen to how often they claim an illness or difficulty for themselves. Watch a few commercials on TV. In nearly every prescription drug advertisement,  we are encouraged to accept these “gifts” that the devil wants for us. My depression; my asthma; my cancer; my rheumatoid arthritis; my bipolar disorder. Since when do these afflictions define us? Now that I’ve said this, you will start to hear it everywhere. Your grandmother takes blood pressure medication for “her heart condition.” Your father suffers pain in his feet because of “his diabetes.” I tell you what - I am leading a one woman revolution to stop the madness! It is not YOURS! You don’t have to keep it! Send it back to the pit that it came from, and start claiming the perfect gifts of healing and comfort and love and abundant life that the Lord has given to you!

    Now don’t get me wrong. I am in NO WAY encouraging anyone to stop medically treating the illness that they have been diagnosed with. If I did that, I would be a hypocrite indeed, as I treated the tumor that I discovered in my breast with everything available to me. And early along in the process I would say, “My tumor is this size.” Or, “My tumor has these characteristics.” But the Lord pulled me up so short! He challenged me to change my language, and claim His perfect gifts while rejecting the devil’s gift of death. 

    As I began to change my talk, so did the conversation of those around me. I have a precious student named Montanna who has suffered with asthma her entire life - the scary kind that has often sent her to the hospital. When I first began teaching her she would consistently tell me how “her asthma” was affecting her. Today she and I pray against “the asthma” that still tries to keep her down, and we claim the Lord’s breath in her lungs!


    Now, I do not say that simply changing the words you use when you discuss whatever affliction is troubling you magically makes it go away. Nor would I say that you should not talk to others about what you are struggling with...I am just challenging you to consider changing “the way” you talk about it. Try it, and see if I’m right. I am willing to bet that before long you will be more focused on the Lord and His promise of abundant life than you will be on the devil’s lies!