Friday, November 23, 2012

The Thanks-Giving Challenge - Out of the Ashes

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to you all! I hope each one of you had a beautiful day, reflecting on and giving praise to the Lord for all that He has done in your life!

If you haven't visited Out of the Ashes Mission recently, I'm hosting a special challenge this weekend (the 22nd to the 25th) for Thanksgiving. I know, it's already late Friday...but don't worry, there are still 2 more days for you to get involved!

Stop on over and check out The Thanks-Giving Chain Challenge here.

"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God."
2 Corinthians 9:6-12

Thank you so much and have a blessed weekend in Him!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Resting on His Promise

I know. I know. It's been a dreadfully long time since I last wrote, hasn't it?

Well, life has been full...and the Lord is SO good...and next week is Thanksgiving and...where is this year going?

Lately, the Lord has been leading me through a time of disciplinary refinement, for lack of a better term.

You know those times where you think to yourself, "Boy, I haven't struggled with many "big" sins lately...I guess the Lord is really working on my sanctification,"? And then, because you feel so high and spiritual, you pray (even though you know you don't really need to), "Lord, if there are any unknown areas of sin in my life, show them to me. Open my eyes to any area that I haven't given completely over to You." You finish your prayer, feeling content that you are both an obedient and surrendered servant of the Lord.

A week or two goes by and suddenly, things change. The Lord starts revealing sins in your life that you never saw or had simply grown calloused to. To make it "worse," it's not the "safe reputation" kind of discipline. It's the kind where the Lord uses your parents, siblings, and friends to bring those sins to light. It's painful and it's hard. You ask the Lord why all of this is being thrust upon you and He gently reminds you of that proud prayer you spoke, asking Him to refine you.

Mhhmm...can anyone else relate? This is where I've been the past couple days, working through ungodly habits, confessing previously unrealized sins, and re-discovering the boundless grace and mercy of my Savior.

No, it's not fun....but truly, this is where sanctification begins, isn't it?! In brokenness. In repentance. In learning to lay myself and all my failures at the nail-pierced feet of Jesus.

I can claim that I've surrendered myself by prayerfully "giving" all I am to Christ. It sounds good. It feels spiritual. But if I plead for Christ to take all of me and then refuse when He comes to claim His possession, how is that true surrender? If surrender is merely lip action, I've only deceived myself.

arms outstretched,emotions,freedoms,happiness,joy,looking up,stretching,sun,women,peopleYes, it's a struggle, a constant struggle. It's all too easy for me to look at myself, see a host of previously unrecognized sins bogging me down, and become overwhelmed by my failures.

"It's too hard."
"I can never be victorious."
"I'm only good at failing; I'll never succeed!"

And it's true. Being victorious over sin is too hard on my own. I won't ever be victorious in my own strength. When I look at my resume, it's only a list of repeated failures and losses. But that's not where my eyes should be. Because I am "in Christ", there is now no condemnation and He has set me free from the law of sin and death! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

My eyes must continually be focused on Christ!

There's a beautiful example of this in 2 Chronicles 20. It says in verses 2, "Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, 'A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi).'"

Can't you just imagine this scenario?! It's a normal day in the palace of the king. Everyone is going about their business, when suddenly a messenger bursts into the throne room with terror written across his face. He stumbles before the king and announces that a great enemy has come against Judah and is already in the land, ready to attack. Panic fills the throne room, yet each voice is hushed to hear what the king's decision will be. The pale-faced king sits in silence for a moment, pondering the overwhelmingly grave news.

In verse 3, we find out his response. "Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah."

I love how that was Jehoshaphat's first reaction. He was afraid, so what did he do? Turned his attention to seek the Lord.

In verse 6, he begins a prayer to the Lord in the presence of all the people. Notice the way that he approaches Him. "'O Lord  the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You." Jehoshaphat reminds himself and all the people of the character and power of  the God they serve.

And then, if you continue to verse 12, you arrive at the last sentence of his prayer... and one of my favorite verses.

"For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You."

Isn't that just beautiful?! Oh, I have used this verse so many times, when I find myself overwhelmed by my sin. Just like Jehoshaphat, our spiritual enemy is seeking to devour us. And when we are fighting in our own strength, there is nothing we can do to stop him.

We have to come to the end of ourselves and cease striving in our own strength. Only Christ and His power through us will be victorious over sin. We must look to Christ and remind ourselves, like Jehoshaphat, who our God is and what He has promised to do on our behalf. And then, as we'll see from our story in 2 Chronicles, we must trust our God and praise Him that He will do what He has promised.

Let's pick up where we left off with Jehoshaphat. In verses 15-17, we read the Lord's response to His people's cry for help. "'Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's...You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.'"

This is such an encouragement, isn't it?! To know and be able to stand on the promise that our God is with us and He will be our salvation!

One more quick point. After the Lord spoke to the people, observe their reaction (verses 18-19). "..All Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord...[they] stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel, with a very loud voice." They praised and worshiped their God before He had done anything. Their enemy was still marching toward them. No victory had been wrought. They had every earthly reason to continue wallowing in fear. And yet, they didn't. Why? Because they stood on the promise of God, knowing that He would do all that He had said.

Oh, this is so convicting! How much more should we, who have been given the very Word of God and have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, take the Lord at His Word and charge confidently into battle, relying on His Word and the strength of His might?

O Lord, bring us to the end of ourselves. Show us our utter helplessness apart from You. Grow our faith in You and teach us to praise You, despite the circumstances of our life. Thank you for all of the promises that You've given us in Your Word. How blessed we are to be Your children! We look to You now and trust that You will do more than we could ask or imagine. Praise Your glorious name!

"Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, 
and in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than the watchmen for the morning;
indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is lovingkindness, 
and with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities."
Psalm 130

Saturday, November 3, 2012

IDOP for the Persecuted Church

Did any of you know that tomorrow, November 4th, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church? Our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world are constantly beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith. It's so easy to forget about them, while in the comfort and safety of our own lives. Yet, Christ has called us to remember those who are suffering, as if we ourselves were suffering with them.
So tomorrow, as other Christians around the world lift up the persecuted Church before the Throne of our Father, let's join with them and do the same! 

Below is a video from Gospel for Asia, highlighting the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters. Please watch and then be encouraged to pray (and not just tomorrow, but every day).