Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Live Life Firsthand

Paul’s First Missionary Journey

So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus. There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant.
Afterward they traveled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing.
Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. 10 Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? 11 Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.
12 When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord. Acts 13:4-12 NLT


Okay this was Paul's first missionary journey.  I love it because this is where it is first mentioned that Saul, was sometimes known as Paul.  If you start reading in verse nine you get to see Paul truly minister what he knew!  Before Saul served God he was traveling on the road to Damascus to torture and kill the Christians. The word says that a bright light blinded Saul and that is how God got his attention, it was a pivotal moment for him.  It was when he was blinded for three days that he was desperate and prayed to God for help.  If you want to read the story it can be found in Acts 9.  So fast forward to Acts 13 and now Paul is on his first missionary trip to tell others about Christ.  So how did Paul minister? Paul shared what he knew that worked for him! He basically prayed or used the authority of the Lord. to make this man BLIND! 


Let's shift gears for a moment. Let's say that I am struggling with my weight and someone really heavy tries to sell me this amazing weight loss program but they are still heavy, why would I want to invest in that program?  However if someone who used to be heavy, and lost weight with this amazing program then shares with me her before and after pictures, wouldn't I be more inclined to invest in the program for myself?  Same thing with our walk with Jesus.  We need to experience it for ourselves and then share what we have learned!

Paul ministered what he knew and what he had been through.  Isn't this how we should minister? When we spend time with God, in word and prayer, He teaches us in how we can apply his word to our lives.  It is what we have learned through those experiences that we can share with others because we have lived it out for ourselves! When we spend more time reading books and listening to sermons about other's experiences (not that it isn't good to read books or listen to other pastors) than we do reading the word, we are regurgitating someone else's stories.  When I read stories on Facebook about "someone's neighbor's cousin" how do I know if it is true? When all we have to share is other people's testimonies it does not have the same effect, because we haven't experienced it for ourselves firsthand.  When we spend time with the Lord we are developing our own relationship with him. When we live out our own encounters with God first,  then we can effectively share what we have learned with others!


Praying that you live life first hand!


Shanin



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Decision Time


“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:14-18 NLT

This is a great story about three young men taken captive from their Country.  Not only were they kidnapped but their captor changed their names from Hebrew names to Babylonian names.  Hannaniah, which means, “My God is gracious”, was changed to Shadrach (which is believed to be a reference to a pagan god, Marduk).  Mishael’s name meant “Who is what God is?” was changed to Meshack (another reference to Marduk). Azariah (Yahweh has helped) was changed to Abednego which meant servant of Nebo.  The young men were immersed in the Babylonian culture and language.  This was all part of the plan of assimilating them into becoming Babylonians.

The three young men were placed in a position of where they were ordered to bow down and worship this statue.  When they refused to bow down they were given a choice, worship the statue or you will be put to death by being thrown into a furnace of fire. Now although these young men had learned the language, culture and name change, they still loved God. 

Let’s reflect on this situation for a moment.  How many of you let your circumstances determine your current relationship with God?  These three young men were kidnapped, had their names changed, immersed into a foreign culture and now were being forced to either bow down before a statue or die.  Not once does it say that they abandoned their faith.  It certainly would have been easier to bow down when commanded.  After all, there was a bit of peer pressure being put into play. I have heard so many people say, “Well when I prayed and asked God to do this and it didn’t happen, I decided to no longer believe in him, or I got so angry with him.”  Let’s pick back up in the story verse 16.

Their response was to stay faithful to God and not bow down or cave in to the pressure.  They made a decision that they were going to remain faithful to God no matter what happened.  They answered the King, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  I love verse 18, but even if he doesn’t…  They had made a decision to serve God no matter the circumstance and it showed.  They had made a decision to serve God no matter the outcome, even when faced with death.  Wow, that is so impressive. 

Did you know that when it was all said and done, the three young men were thrown in the fire?  They were bound by ropes and thrown in to be burned alive.  When the King looked in to watch them burn, he didn’t see three men, he saw four men.  He said that the fourth man looked like a god.  He had them brought out of the fire and not even their hair was singed or was one thread of their garment burned, shoot, they didn’t even smell like smoke! What a testimony of God’s greatness!  Even if they would have died, it would still have been a testimony of serving the Lord God Almighty.

I want to reflect a little further on the story for a moment.  What would you do if you were placed in a situation like this?  Would you stand by your decision to serve God no matter the circumstance or outcome?  Think back across your life, when tough times have happened did you press into God, or when things didn’t go as planned did you just jump ship?  If you have gotten mad at God, it’s okay, He won’t abandon you, He loves you.  He simply desires to have a relationship with you.  It’s not too late to make a decision.  When you are weak, He is strong.  Cry out to him to give you strength.  Sometimes he delivers you from those tough situations and other times he walks with you.  He will walk with you through the fire or floods.  Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
Bottom line, you are loved.  He desires to walk with you through good times and bad!  Make a decision today!  Choose Jesus.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Devil is a Liar


8-11 Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. I Peter 5:8-11 Msg                                            (the Message is a paraphrase)

I remember writing a devotion years ago about the devil is like a lion roaring, seeking whom he may devour.   Did you know that the purpose of a lion’s roar is to transfix and actually paralyze its prey?  Well, that is what the enemy would like to do to you.  Paralyze you in fear, so much, so that it consumes you, instead of picking up your sword of faith and going forward into battle.  He likes to distract us from prayer, from ministry, and from focusing on Jesus.  The enemy would love to do nothing more than kill, rob and destroy you.  If he can simply conquer you by making you afraid (paralyzing you in fear) then he has nothing to worry about.

The second thing that I noticed is that most usually, the Lion represents Christ, however the enemy loves to counterfeit the King.  He has counterfeited so many things of the Lord, twisting them about until they are so distorted and nothing like the original, our Abba Father.  The Word of God says that he comes as an angel of light (total counterfeit).  It says in 2 Cor. 11:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 

This morning I was reading from Reality Exercises to Develop the Inner Man, by Janice Seney.  I found it funny that just as God reminded me about my devotional that I had done before, that this would be one of the first things that I read in her booklet.  I would like to quote her prayer.

“Knowing that my enemy roams about like a lion seeking someone who will allow him to devour them, I bring myself under the mighty hand of God, casting all my care over on Him.  I am calm and watchful.  As the enemy approaches I stand firm and resist him because I understand he uses the same methods on us all.  As I stand firm in faith, under pressure, then my God will make me mature, establish me, strengthen me and settle me.”

If the enemy has been roaring in your life, know that he is looking for an opportunity to scare and distract you.  Keep your focus on Jesus and keep praying.  God’s Word will prevail and it never fails. I hope that this speaks to someone today.  God is faithful and bigger than any circumstance.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Living Life in Full Color



Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.

Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene,[a] get up and[b] walk!” Acts 3:1-6


I love this passage of scripture.  I have read and written about it many times but today I saw it a little differently.  Yes the physical healing is still the miracle of the story but something different stood out different to me today. In verse 6 Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have.”


Today we see people begging for money every day.  Money may help their problem for the short term but what if we were to give them what we have that would last forever?  What if every time someone asked us for something, that we gave them all what we have, Jesus.  Jesus is the ultimate solution.  We have been given this amazing gift of salvation and relationship with Jesus.  Shouldn’t we share Jesus? 


I see people who are so excited about their make-up or the latest weight loss supplement and they can’t seem to talk about anything else and they want to share this love of theirs with the world.  I see people who cannot seem to focus on anything except for politics and they literally cannot talk about anything else without relating it to the latest political temperature.  If we have Jesus, shouldn’t we desire to share him with as much passion as a political meme, a patch, or a tube of mascara? If we were to stop and truly examine the troubles of this world, we would see the need of Jesus, our Savior, the Redeemer, Restorer, Healer, Provider, and our only Hope.


If you don’t have hope or know Jesus, can I share Him with you?  He really is real and He loves you so very much.  A relationship with Him doesn’t cost money; He has already paid your lifetime membership. Don’t you get tired of carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?  Let Him carry your burdens for you.


If you are a Christian already, may I challenge you to reconsider your focus, your Band-Aid approach to today’s epidemic?  You should filter everything through Christ.  Listen to what you “preach” into the world by your words or actions.  Do you season your words with grace and love?  Listen (or read) to what you say, can you take the “red face” test and pass?  Who are you representing with your passion? Are you being a good representative of Jesus or are you leaving a bitter taste in people’s mouths?  Maybe it is time for a refresher or realignment in life! It is never too late.  You will find that when you change your focus to Jesus, everything in life is a little sweeter.  It is like going from a black and white film to a Technicolor production! 


Living every moment of my life in living color!


Shanin


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rewriting Your Story


This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, 7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, 9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. 12 After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, 15 Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. Matthew 1:1-16 NIV
This is the story about redemption. God is the God of second chances. Normally I would just skim or hurry past my readings in the bible where it lists genealogy. Today when I was reading I took my time and even though I know that God is the Redeemer, this time it hit a little closer to my heart.

Tamar, out of desperation, became pregnant by posing as a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law, in order to conceive, to continue the family line. Rahab was the harlot in Jericho who hid the two spies from Joshua’s camp. Then there was Ruth, another “outsider” who honored her mother-in-law, by following her back to her home country after both of their husbands’ death. She stayed close to Naomi instead and worked to provide for her. Solomon’s mom, Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, had slept with King David while married to Uriah. After Uriah was killed in battle, she married King David but there was already a history of a child conceived out of the affair and then lost to a miscarriage. Then last but not least, Mary, the young girl, who was betrothed to marry Joseph, who was still a virgin yet became pregnant with Jesus, the son of God.  Joseph stepped up when he could have discarded her, after all if your fiancĂ© got pregnant and you hadn’t slept with her that would be a deal breaker! Yet he obeyed God (and he loved Mary), and became the step-dad to Jesus. What do these women all have in common?
They were all “outsiders or outcasts” and yet they are all listed in the genealogy of Jesus, son of God. Some of these women would be labeled as damaged goods or throw always, even today, they would be whispered about or plastered on Facebook, because of a few bad decisions or even perhaps just because of a bad family situation. Did they have a history? Absolutely. Did that part of their history just go away? No, but instead their stories of tragedy were turned into stories of redemption and grace.

You see, God wants us to know that there is no one excluded in His offer of salvation and grace. He didn’t just accept these women as a package deal, in dying for everyone on the cross, but He gave them a place of honor. Jesus wants to do the same thing for you. Do you have a history? Everyone has a history. Have you ever made a bad decision? Everyone has made a bad decision at some time in their life. Perhaps you are a victim of circumstance like Tamar or Bathsheba, it doesn’t matter who your family is or what they have done that won’t discount you in God’s eyes.
I have great news for you! Jesus’s offer of salvation, mercy and grace is available for anyone and everyone! Jesus is the Restorer! He can take prostitutes, harlots, the lost, broken and anyone who has made a bad decision or decisions and make their story a story of redemption. The first step is telling him your story, your mess-ups and saying you are sorry, making Him, Lord of your life. Then your story of Redemption has begun! One day you can tell others of your history and how Jesus took a tragedy and turned it into an amazing story of restoration and your story will give them hope for their situation and future.

I'm thankful that my story was rewritten and I now have a happy ending because of Jesus.

Shanin

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Vision Check


Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” 4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mark 3:1-6 NIV
Clearly Jesus had been performing miracles on a regular basis because the Pharisees were stalking Jesus so that they could “catch him in the act” of healing someone on the Sabbath. Jesus knew that He was being watched. It says in verse 5 that Jesus looked around at them in anger and distressed at their stubborn hearts. He then healed the man with a shriveled hand, on the Sabbath, in front of everyone including the very people who were looking for a reason to destroy Jesus.

I have read and reread this passage. It makes me so very sad because the Pharisees were so intent on “catching Jesus” breaking the rules that they missed the whole event! They were blinded to the fact that He was there to heal and save! He even tried to reveal it to them when He asked in verse 4, Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” He was there healing someone on the Sabbath while they were there plotting, on the Sabbath, out an evil plan to kill Jesus. They were blind! They were so obsessed with trying to find fault in Jesus that they missed witnessing another miracle of Jesus! He healed someone right before their very eyes and all they could see him doing was “violating the Sabbath” when in all reality they were doing the very thing they were accusing him of doing.

Recently, I think of all of the times I hear people quote “judge not lest you be judged!” when in all reality they are guilty of doing the very thing that they are accusing others of doing, just like that day when Jesus was there to heal the man with the shriveled hand in the synagogue. I think how sad it must make Jesus when people are missing the whole point of Him coming to heal and save everyone.

Today, it seems as though people, are so busy looking for offensive behaviors that they become blinded to the million examples of kindness and love that surround them each day. Sometimes we need to do a vision check! You don’t want to become so focused or jaded on one thing that you become blinded to so many other wonderful things! When you become driven by one event in your life then not only are you cheating yourself of many blessings but you are cheating others of the blessings that you can to be to them.

So today I challenge you to do a vision check! Are you focusing on one small field of vision or are you looking beyond the small picture in your immediate world? You see, Jesus came to heal, save and reach the lost and wounded. He didn’t come for just the pretty, the rich or royal people. He came for the very Pharisees, who were watching Him just so they could catch Him healing a man on the Sabbath. Jesus died for everyone. His desire is not that one person would perish but that everyone would choose everlasting life through Him.

I want to love how Jesus loves. He loves everyone, unconditionally, beyond their flaws or shortcomings.

Shanin

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Balanced


Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Zech. 7:9 NIV
This scripture stood out to me today when I was doing my reading. If we administer true justice with mercy and compassion then it is balanced.

It becomes unbalanced when we do one without the other. For example if you are a mercy driven person but you enable someone by just being merciful all of the time, and not wanting to “be mean and tell them the truth” in fear of alienating them, then it is totally unbalanced and you are not really helping the person. If you bring justice without truth, mercy or compassion then aren’t you just issuing a punishment and not a correction? It is when you bring about “true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” that it truly helps one another. When you bring about the whole package in love then it truly helps someone and then the responsibility of what they do with it lies at their feet.
Think about it. Are you being a balanced friend in life? God calls us to be balanced.

Shanin