By Kathi Woodall –
Amy is a newborn whose mother died in childbirth. Her aunt and grandfather walk eight miles to bring her to a milk clinic run by an orphanage in rural Haiti. At the clinic, they receive clothing and infant formula for the precious baby who weighs less than five pounds.
A few days after a clinic visit, our group joined the orphanage director as she went on a home visit to see the aunt and grandfather plus visit baby Amy. Due to the poor conditions of the roads it took us close to an hour to travel the eight miles by truck. After asking around, we found Amy’s hut and were glad to find her family home. A brief exam found her in good condition, relatively speaking. I then had the privilege of rocking her while the pastor who came with us visited with the grandfather and aunt.
My French is too poor to understand much of their Creole dialect; I’m afraid I can’t retell the conversation that transpired between the two. After several minutes of conversation, though, Pastor turned to us and said, in English, that they wanted to accept Christ as their Savior. They bowed down to pray and I could make out enough of their words to know they recognized the sin in their lives and accepted the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross as the payment for their sin. They understood this decision enabled their eternal life in heaven with Him.
As they prayed, I silently prayed for their newfound faith, spiritual protection, and growth. Here is where my story turns ugly. As I stood in the filth of their hut, holding a sweet infant who smelled of her own waste, I found myself praying, “Lord, what a blessing it would be for You to return soon and lift this family out of these desperate, dirty conditions.” Here is my confession: At this point in my prayer, my thoughts shifted. In that squalor, my bizarre mind wondered if God will hose us all off as we leave earth and enter His heavenly presence. Please don’t leave me nasty comments; I can’t help it these weird thoughts pop into my mind.
As soon as the thought entered my head, the Spirit reminded me that in God’s eyes, all of us are more dirty and filthy than the aunt and grandfather were in my eyes. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). In our sinful state, we are so nasty, so dirty, that Holy God has to turn His back to us. In His glory and perfection, we can’t even be in His presence.
The wonder of it all is that God couldn’t stand for us not to be in His presence. His sacrifice on the cross made the way for us to be clean, and, in a way, He will hose us off when we stand before Him someday—it will just be a little more spiritual.
“‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:7-8).
By DiAne Gates –
It can begin with a thought, a song, a word. Or perhaps an emotional tug that swirls through your heart like a recurring melody that won’t go away. For a moment, a day, maybe much longer. Ever whispering. Ever nudging. Ever growing.
That is, if you listen.
In the beginning, God’s Holy Spirit moved over the dark, formless void of the waters and stirred them in preparation for His magnificent work of creation. This same Spirit now rouses the believer’s heart to accomplish the Lord’s sovereign plan in this age.
Have you experienced this flow of the Spirit that moves through you like a current? How do you respond? Have the crashing tidal waves of life drowned the sound of His whisper and swept you away from the blessing of obedience? Or have you disciplined yourself to be still, to be quiet, and tuned your ear to hear when the Spirit of God stirs your heart?
If you turn away from the Spirit’s prompting, He will find another heart. A heart that desires to please God. Another heart that will do what you refused to do and you will miss the blessing. But if you choose to allow the Spirit to fill you, you will become like a mighty river that swells and grows with purpose and direction under the power of God’s hand.
In 539 B.C., God stirred the heart of Cyrus, King of Persia, just as Isaiah prophesied.
“It is I who says of Cyrus, He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire. And he declares of Jerusalem, She will be built and of the temple, Your foundation will be laid” (Isaiah 44:28 NAS).
God called Cyrus by name, one hundred seventy-five years before he was born. His purpose was already anointed and at the appointed time, the Holy Spirit stirred this king’s heart. And Cyrus listened.
He released those Israelites whose hearts were also moved by the Spirit of God to return to Jerusalem to build a house for the Lord God. And Cyrus paid all the building costs.
Then the king went into the treasuries of Babylon and brought out all the vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had removed from God’s temple, before he destroyed and burned Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and Cyrus returned them to the new temple in Jerusalem.
The Book of Ezra records how God moved the heart of this pagan king, the Jewish people, the priests and the Levites to rebuild the House of God and the Holy City of God at the appointed time.
But how about your appointed time? How long has it been since the Spirit of God stirred your heart? To rebuild a broken relationship. To listen for the whisper of the Spirit’s direction to complete God’s plan in your family, your church, or your nation. To anoint you as a conduit to pour out His love, His grace and His mercy on the hurting folks your life touches every day.
The Book of James tells us faith without action is dead faith. To maintain true faith we must be continually stirred, filled and spilled by the Spirit’s work in our hearts.
“For just as the body without the Spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NAS).
By Pat Hodges –
I have been listening to the news quite a bit as of late. Actually, probably too much. I’ve noticed a trend. It’s been affecting my emotions, mood, and general outlook on life.
With all the negative news that’s been flying around with what’s been taking place in our nation, the erosion of our freedoms, the lack of integrity in the political arena, the economic troubles we are facing, and everything else that’s been going on in those aforementioned areas, I realized that I’ve allowed it to compromise my peace.
In John 14:27 we read, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
The peace the world gives is purely circumstantial. The peace the Lord gives is in fact an impartation of peace despite our circumstances or situations. This peace transcends what’s going on in the economic and political arenas of the world and is not subject to the natural laws of this world. This peace comes from heaven and therefore is subject only to the laws of heaven.
The law of heaven is founded upon His eternal Word. “For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome” (Jeremiah 29:11 amp).
So where do we go from here?
Simple. Repent for unbelief. That’s the source of fear, unrest, or any other tag we might want to put on it, and then make the conscious decision to shift back over into His peace, which opens the door to enter into His rest.
Prayer: “Father, I repent for allowing myself to fall into unbelief concerning your Word and what Your will is for me. I make the conscious decision to shift back into your peace. Thank you for opening the door to enter into your rest where I can abide because of the work of the shed blood of your Son. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
By Marcus Smith –
“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39 NIV).
This verse reveals one of the many ways in which the economy of God is the opposite of the economy of the world. How many people, merely when threatened, rush to defend themselves with force? People operating under the world’s economy seek the biggest weapon, the smartest put-down, the solidarity of friends to lock out an offender. Whatever resource will defeat an enemy physically, mentally or even socially becomes acceptable.
Yet in the race to win, what is forgotten is God’s call. God calls us not to win, but to love.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-4).
Christians do not have the privilege of hating their enemies or of failing to pray for them. Although not expressly forbidden, the reliance on physical weapons is discouraged as Matthew 26:52 and Revelation 13:10 warn that those who kill with weapons are themselves subject to such death. Likewise, when we find enemies on any number of other less lethal but no less spiritually damaging arenas we must consider whether our response should leap to the weapons of that arena.
As a young man growing up in Texas, my enemy could take the form of another young man. Perhaps even a friend. And with few unkind words, a flurry of fists and dirt and blood, another battle would be over. Another victory won. Another cheek not turned.
Among women, the conflict increasingly looks the same, but Rachel Simmons in her recently revised breakaway best seller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls reports on the devastating consequences of social exclusion and ostracism in female culture. From dirty looks and taunting notes, to sudden removal and ostracism from even an established group of friends, girls have their own techniques for punishing their social enemies.
As we struggle in this life, it makes perfect sense, natural sense, common sense for us to hit back when someone attacks. And if we have the opportunity, why not hit first? If we have an opponent we cannot out debate, we can strike first in a new arena by attacking them socially.
Christians have an even trickier struggle as we are prone to spiritualize personal strife. Our enemies become spiritual enemies, our struggles with them become discussed in spiritual rather than personal terms, and our disagreements move us to create spiritual walls that separate us into convenient camps of worthy and unworthy.
But Matthew 5:43-4 teaches us the mark of God’s presence in a person’s life is that they do not hit back, much less hit first, or hit in a new way.
To be a Christian is to set aside any mindset that prevents us from treating our enemies, all our enemies, with love and prayer. Only then do we display the presence of Christ in our lives.
As Oswald Chambers writes, “…you cannot imitate the nature of Jesus—it is either in you or it is not. A personal insult becomes an opportunity for a saint to reveal the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.” He goes on to say in eloquence that, “It is not your duty to go the second mile, or to turn the other cheek, but Jesus said that if we are His disciples, we will always do these things. We will not say, ‘Oh well, I just can’t do any more, and I’ve been so misrepresented and misunderstood.’”
The call of these passages does not go out to those with specific spiritual gifts. The call is not to be listened to under the right circumstances. The call is not to be obeyed whenever it is convenient. More than duty, our service to God is both privilege and sacred trust, and in our service, we never cease to offer mercy, never cease to offer compassion, never cease to offer love. The call of the Christian then is to represent God’s love in this fallen world.
By Lori Freeland –
“For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Luke 1:49 NIV).
Some life lessons come harder than others. Being good is one of them.
While I’ve struggled with various temptations and issues as a child, teen, daughter, friend, wife, and mother, I’ve always understood one truth.
Without the Lord in my life, I am nothing. Nothing good anyway.
Left on my own, I tend to cross the line, dabble in what pleases me, explore areas of life better left unknown.
Yes, I might manage to hang onto to a husband, produce little people that grow up to be functioning members of society, and enjoy a few close friendships.
I may have more happy days than sad. When you look at me, you might think I have it all together, that I’ve figured life out, that I’m sure about my path. That I am a good person.
But you would be wrong.
Inside, where it counts, I could never claim to be innately good.
I do what’s expected. Cover feelings considered unacceptable. Bite back words I know shouldn’t say. Work hard to fit in. Smile and frown on cue. Move forward. Juggle life. Deal with some issues. Bury others.
But anything truly good, anything right, anything pure does not originate in me. Because inside, I hide anti-good behaviors and thoughts. Inside, I squelch desires I know I shouldn’t have. Inside, I am a completely different person.
Although on the outside it may look like we’ve become better people as adults, sometimes we’ve just become better at masking our flaws and insecurities. Emotions like jealousy, hate, and anger never completely disappear just because we age and develop a few wrinkles.
Some days maturity has more to do with what I censor and harness inside my head than how much I’ve really grown and changed.
Sad, but true.
But hiding is not what God has asked of me. He doesn’t want me to conceal who I really am. He wants to change what’s inside me to reflect what’s inside Him.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).
Those are the qualities God asks me to seek.
And so I do. With His help. Hoping one day, what He wants for me will be what I am.
He wants me to be honest. Stop hiding. Quit covering. Be real. Change inside and out. Permanently. He wants a new me. A renewed me. He wants the best for me.
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9,10 NIV).
Thankfully, it is in His strength that I find the best things, put them on, and offer them back to Him.
For in my strength alone, I will always remain helpless, insecure, and eons from innately good.
Lord, help me put on the new today. Help me look to You for the things You want for me. Change me in a way that means I can never go back to the old.