Saturday, June 10, 2017

Faith and Obedience

Hello dear Reader,

Each morning I read several devotions. Today one quoted 2 John 6.

"And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." (NIV)

The devotion* goes on to say, "If you've made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, you've already taken the first step of obedience." 1 Corinthians 12:3b (Voice) says, "...and no one confessing “Jesus is Lord” can do so without the Holy Spirit’s inspiration."

Faith follows the same suit.  If you change the word 'obedience' in the last paragraph to 'faith' it reads, “If you’ve made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, you’ve already taken the first step of faith.”

The day I gave my life to Jesus was one of the most emotional days I ever had. When the Holy Spirit started calling me, and I stopped what I was doing and listened, the urge to turn my life over to Jesus became so great I couldn't resist it.  I almost literally ran down the aisle during that altar call only 4 days shy of 30 years ago. 

A week had gone by since the very first time I heard those words, the words that formed the most beautiful invitation my heart could receive.  I resisted on that particular day because I was filled with religion and its laws.  But during the week that followed, my heart yearned more and more for Sunday to come again so that I could answer the call.  All week I was thinking about that invitation to ask Jesus into my heart to be my Lord and Master. I had never been asked such things before.  My upbringing in my former religion held me back from receiving the gift of salvation a week earlier.  Being born again wasn't something I was taught, so I knew absolutely nothing about it. I shudder to think where I would be if I had died that week before asking Jesus into my heart.

I always believed in the Trinity, and that Jesus came to earth as a human and died for us. I learned that at a very young age, so I had absolutely no doubt it was true.  It was faith--believing without seeing; and believing with all my heart.  Jesus says in John 20:29b NKJV, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

It requires faith to give your life to Christ.  So we must spiritually accept and understand in a way that our hearts cannot deny, but instead needs more than anything else, to pursue.  This is our greatest faith.  We believe without seeing, and we 'run to the altar' without a second thought. 

The enemy has never wanted this day to come, so he has helped you sin by temptation as often and as long as he could.  You kicked him in the teeth the day you were born again.

The devotion says that when you accepted Christ as your Savior you took the first step of obedience.  That still small voice inside you kept calling, and each time, your heart beat with a yearning and desire to answer the call.  And when you did, when you couldn't say "not now" any longer, you obeyed the Spirit of God.

Was it difficult?  Not for me.  As I said, I almost ran up the aisle.  And as I gave my life to Jesus that day, as I recited the Sinner's Prayer (also called the Prayer of Salvation), the joy in my heart poured out in uncontrollable sobs.  What was empty in my life became filled with the love and forgiveness of God!  It was by far the most incredibly emotional and spiritual day of my life.

I confess that over the last 30 years my faith has wavered and I wasn't always obedient.  Since that Sunday morning on June 14, 1987, the enemy has attacked again and again, sometimes causing me to doubt many things.  That's his main objective--to cripple the Christian and make us doubt God's love for us or that we are precious in His sight.  Satan will tempt us into doing or saying things that will make non-believers have a very poor opinion of Christians.

Though there have been times of great struggle, God has kept His hand on my life.  He has shown me many things, and brought so much joy to my life there aren’t words to tell you. He gave me the armor that defeats the enemy.  He reminded me that faith will carry me through the valleys up on to the peak of the great mountain where the view is magnificent.  I trust that He will always be by my side, that He will never desert me.

We must be vigilant, my dear brothers and sisters, and keep in mind how we 'ran to the altar' without trepidation or doubt, or second guessing, or analyzing our feelings.  We really can have faith in all situations and be obedient.  We just need to remember the first time we did it.  It was so easy and proved to be the most significant moment in our lives. It was the moment that gave us eternity with our Father!

* From Faith to Faith by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland  

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

It's a New Day, Dear Readers!

I am back after a long season of being away.  My life was in turmoil for a good part of 2016.  I had some physical challenges as well as some very hard emotional challenges.  In March, the pain of losing our unborn granddaughter at 28 weeks tore at my heart like nothing I had known before.  The sorrow I felt for my daughter and son-in-law was all consuming, but I had to put it aside in order to help out with taking care of Makayla Grace, their now 4-year old.  

I had extensive oral surgery in May, and one week later I contracted Shingles.  By the end of the year I had lost my desire to write, and my faith was greatly tested.  I doubted God's presence in my life, and I struggled to believe that I would ever write again. I couldn't see the point, and I felt as though there was no reward.  By the time 2016 ended, my hope was just about gone. I was feeling pretty down and useless.  On top of that, I gained eight pounds which doesn't work on my small-framed body. That in itself depressed me.

On 1 January, my church of almost 30 years, Grace Christian Center in Killeen, TX, began its third annual 21-day Daniel Fast.  This is a time to eat only fruit and nuts, veggies and seeds, and only drink water.  There are no sweeteners, caffeine, breads or desserts, chemicals or preservatives, meat, fish, or fowl.  More importantly though, it is a time to pray and draw closer to God.  When we deny our flesh the things it craves, such as ice cream, coffee, steak and potatoes, pizza, or any other foods we desire, a battle ensues over the flesh. 

After the third day of headaches from withdrawals of the above mentioned delicacies, it gets a little easier. I found I wanted to spend as much time with God as possible.  Some days I sat in my office and read and studied the bible for hours on end. It's true that meditating on the Word brings you closer to God.  As the days and weeks went by, I found myself being filled with joy once again.

In those times when I starve the flesh and stay in the Word of God, my heart's ears are opened and I hear so much more clearly what God is speaking to me.  It will work this way for you too. As my body was cleansed of impurities, so my soul was filled with the Bread of Life. 

Since the beginning of the year, God's message, whether through my Pastor's sermons, devotions that I read, or studies that I attended, was very simple.  Listen and obey.  That's all.  Don't procrastinate, do!  I had to go back to remembering what it was that God put me here to do.  He blessed me with certain gifts.  His plan for me is to reach as many of His children as possible and to share the Good News of the Gospel through my writing.  Jesus lives! He reigns! He is eternal and He loves us!

Let me encourage you today to listen and obey without delay.  We have no need to fear, He is ever by our side.  I am happy to be back at my keyboard and being with you once again. I may change up the format of my blog, but I won't change the purpose - to be His representative.  Have a blessed and grateful day, and know that you are loved by Your Creator.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Goodbye (Revisited)

It's that time of year when many of my friends are saying good-bye to their children who are leaving for college, or getting married, or to children who are enlisting in the military.  There is such an ache that comes with good-byes.  For days or even weeks ahead of time (and occasionally months, like me) we feel a stabbing in our heart.  It is real.  I have felt it myself when my own child got married.  I couldn't bear the thought of not kissing her in the morning or when she came home from school or work, or our goodnight kiss.  If you are blessed with affection between your family members you know what I mean.  But even if there weren't always kisses and hugs, if there was the respect from the child you raised, it hurts to see them leave.

So you leave the room and hide in the bathroom for a little while or run to the store real quick so nobody sees your tears and makes light of them.  Because this isn't funny, this is real!  Your baby is leaving home for the first time.  Your little baby, the one that made you forget all the hours of labor when you held them when they were first born.  You think of how you were a little afraid of bathing them the first time.  What if they slipped from your hands? You kissed their precious little feet (now a size 10) and put their hands on your mouth as you smiled and cooed and told them you loved them.  You could hardly wait until she was old enough to have longer hair that you could put a bow in; or until he was old enough to fit his hand into a baseball glove.  You went to all the school plays and sent everyone their school picture every year.  You made sure they bathed and brushed their teeth, and ate all their dinner before they went to bed.  You helped them for endless hours with homework.

You fought and you forgave.  You rewarded their good behavior, and disciplined their disrespect for you or your spouse, or their teacher or coaches, brothers and sisters, and even strangers.  You tried to instill in them a sense of worth.  And now the time has come to say good-bye for a while.  Yes, you can call and email and Skype, but you can't see them in your kitchen.  So what do you do?

If you know God, and have raised them to know God, you take comfort knowing that He is still in charge of this loved one's life.  You prayed over them as a child, and you pray over them today.  In your heart you know that everything will be alright.  If you know God, but haven't had a very close relationship with Him, or if you don't know God at all, don't worry!  He knows you!  And He knows your child.  He created that loved one just for you.  He will be taking care of them, and you.  He always has.  All those fights that eventually wound up in hugs, all those tears that were replaced with smiles, all those worries when they got hurt or were late coming home that ended up alright, that was God taking care of you all.

If you know nothing else about God, know this.  He is love.  He cannot not love!  That's all there is to it!  He knows your heart and your pain, and your sorrows.  And He wants to help you get through it.  He won't make you feel bad about not knowing Him; He's ready to show you just how much He loves you.  All you have to do is ask.

So it's alright to cry those tears at good-byes, the Bible says in Psalm 56:8 of the Contemporary English Version (CEV), "You have stored my tears in Your bottle and counted each of them." Put your hope in Him, He will protect your babies.

If you're the one leaving for the first time, there is that great sense of adventure!  "Finally, on my own!"  Sometimes that excitement comes with a sense of anxiety as well.  You're all grown up, but you'll miss your mommy.  Don't be ashamed, I guarantee her heart will melt if you called her that today.  You may wonder if you did enough for your parents while you were at home, or now feel a little regret that you had an attitude.  They always bail you out of your messes, and always forgave you.  You may wonder," now that I am gone, will they still love me as much?"  Of course.  Now they have something else to be proud of you for.  You're going to college!  You're enlisting in the Military!  They will have new concerns, but they believe you're up to the challenge.

Grow!  Learn!  Plan your future.  Ask God to help you every morning.  Ask Him for strength.  Ask Him to protect you and your family.  Love Him.

So as you say good-bye and start this new chapter in your lives, let's also say hello to God's blessings for our future.  His word says in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV)

Smile, life is good!  God is in charge! ©Deirdre Tolhurst, 21 August 2011 (First Blog)