Saturday, July 2, 2016

Don't Reject God in Your Pain

It’s easy to allow the pain of life to make us bitter.  Disappointment can run deep, and we may find ourselves nursing a wound that just seems to fester and never get healed.  Nevertheless, for every hurt, every difficulty, and every wound of the past, God has the answer.  He has provided a way for us to move into healing and wholeness.

Though God delivered Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, I believe the healing of Israel’s soul was a process that took time.  Certainly the many years bondage had a profound emotional affect.  After crossing through the Red Sea, the Bible says that Israel journeyed 3 days into the wilderness.  At Marah, they came upon bitter waters.  There they complained against Moses.  Moses “cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” (see Exodus 15:22-27)  Likewise, no matter how bitter our experience in life has been, if we will apply the cross (the tree) to our situation, God can make even the most bitter pain an oasis of sweetness.

If your past has been painful, it’s easy to respond with a bitter complaint when coming upon hardships.  God, however, wants us to respond to hardships with faith in His Word.  The Lord told Israel, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (Ex. 15:26).

No matter how deep the pain of the past may be, we can overcome it!  He is the Lord who heals.  He heals physically, but He also heals emotionally.  But how do we receive His healing?

Certainly God can heal in a moment.  In a moment’s time, He could descend upon us and whisk away all the hurt, pain and disappointment.  I’ve experienced at least a couple of times in my life where God has done exactly that.  But most of the time healing is a process.  We gain much more from the journey than we would if God instantaneously healed every wound.

God wants to do more than simply heal us.  He wants us to grow and mature in the character of Christ.  In order to grow, we have to do our part.  Hebrews 12:12-13 says, “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”  How do we make “straight paths” for our feet?  We do so by walking according to God’s Word.

God’s Word has power to heal!  Jesus healed by the spoken Word of God.  This year I’ve made an effort to begin speaking God’s Word over my life.  Some nights I’ll sit on my bed or stand by my bed in the evening and declare God’s Word out loud.  Though I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be, I believe doing this has made a difference in my character.

Part of God’s healing process is to begin replacing negative thinking with God’s Word.  As we speak His Word, it begins to work down deep within our character, into our souls, and where there was once darkness and shame, light and healing begin to emerge.  Jimmy Evans, one of my favorite preachers, says that the pain of life is not as much the problem as the message in the pain.  In other words, if you were wounded deeply as a child, it certainly hurt, but the devil also came along and spoke a lie to you.  That lie may have followed you all of your life.  Whatever the message was, it may have formed into a stronghold that needs to be broken by the power of God’s word.  

What message of the pain have you believed?  What’s your predominant thought about yourself?  Perhaps it’s one of these:  “I’m a failure.”  “No one will ever love me.”  “God is not good.”  “If God were so good, how could he allow that to happen?”  “God has forsaken me.”  “I guess I’m just stupid!”  “I’ll never be good enough.”  "I'll never be happy."  "I guess I'm just permanently flawed."  Whatever the message is, you can begin a journey towards freedom today by grabbing a hold of God’s truth and beginning to declare it over your life.

Hebrews 12:15 encourages us to look “carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”  What is the root of bitterness?  I believe the root of bitterness is bitterness which causes us to turn away from God.  When the Scripture says “fall short of the grace of God” it’s not talking about doing enough to be saved.  If you’ve accepted Christ, you’re saved!  You don’t have to earn your salvation.  But falling short of God’s grace means rejecting the very one who longs to heal you.

When we become bitter due to life’s pain we may turn away from God instead of running to Him.  We stop praying.  We stop going to church.  We withdraw from fellowship with other believers.  We become angry with God and reject Him.  We may engage in rebellious behavior.  Rebellion is often simply the fruit of a heart that is in pain.  Yet, God holds out His arms, always ready to receive us back and heal us.  

Is life hard?  Yes.  But all that we’ve been through will work for the good if we turn to God and trust Him with our pain.  Instead of getting angry with God, we need to learn to submit to Him in our pain.  Don’t reject God in your pain.  He loves you!

We all, to varying degrees, have experienced pain and heartache.  Often, the pain was not our fault.  Much of that pain may have occurred in the innocence of childhood.  It wasn’t your fault.  The message from childhood pain may have laid upon you a lifetime of shame.  But today, by the power of God’s love, you can walk towards healing, wholeness and freedom.  God's heart yearns to see you free.  He looks upon you with great love and compassion.  I believe that His heart aches for you.  And He sent Jesus, on that cross, to die so that you can be saved, healed and delivered.  Through His resurrection power you can experience abundant life!

Jesus said that in the last days, “many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another… And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:10, 12-13).  This is the age we are living in.  Many are offended.  But we have a choice.  Our hearts can be soured by the hardness of bitterness and cold love or our hearts can be free in the forgiveness, love and grace of God.  In turn, we can warm the hearts of others with the goodness of God’s love.

God wants us to walk in an opposite spirit of this world, regardless of how painful life has been.  Instead of reacting in bitterness, hatred or revenge, allow God’s Word to transform your soul.  James 1:21 says, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”  The NIV says, “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”  God’s word has the power to renovate your soul.  He loves you so very much.  He can make the years to come much greater than the years that you’ve left behind.  Humble yourself.  Turn to Him.  He’s a good God.  He longs to heal and restore you, to repair all that has been broken.  Don’t reject God in your pain.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Leave No Page Unturned

Have you ever started a book and not finished it?  So have I.  I have finished many good books.  Finishing a book provides a sense of accomplishment.  But what if you got to the end of your life, but didn’t really finish it?

Psalm 139:16 says,
“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.”

It’s a pretty awesome thought - God saw all your days before you did.  He saw the good days and the bad days.  He saw the moments of joy and the seasons of heartache.  He saw every hurt and every happiness.

God foresees, but I believe we have to walk into His purpose by faith.  In other words, we don’t fulfill God’s plan for our lives passively.  We fulfill God’s purpose by actively pursuing it.

I am determined to finish my life.  I don’t want to leave anything undone that God has called me to do.  I don’t want to leave a page unturned or not read.  I don’t want to miss out on anything God has for me.  I want my life to count for eternity.    

In 2011 I was in a missions trip in Honduras.  During one of our prayer times, my friend Daniel Harmsen gave me a prophetic word.  He said, “You’re a writer and you turn pages.  The Lord is turning a new page in your life.  The page he’s turning is not a blank page.  It’s already scripted.  You need to let go of the past.  All is new in Christ.  God is doing a new thing.”

Sometimes we go through seasons where we question God’s purpose.  We’re may feel stuck, or feel like God is not leading, or have no clear direction for the future.  He may have us in a season of waiting like Joseph in the dungeon; He is preparing us for greater things.  But when God says move, it’s time to move forward.  God does have a clear direction.  He has a definitive purpose.  It is well-scripted.  It may begin with a step of obedience, a step into the unknown.  But the story is good if we will step out into it.

A little over a year after Daniel gave me that word God began to make some major changes in my life (in November, 2012).  It began with a promotion, a marriage, and a move to a different state.  My story has not been easy, but it has been good.  I’m exciting about the great things that God has in store for us in the future.

You can possess all that God has for you, but you must enter into it by faith.  You may need to let go of some things from the past, but you can do it!  As you seek Him, He will bring healing.  He makes all things new in Christ.  God wants to lead you into a new day in Him.  Leave no page unturned!    

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Violent Take it By Force

God has a door of hope that He wants us to walk through by faith.  If we will walk by faith in the things He has spoken to us, we can possess all He has promised us.  What has God promised you?  Healing?  Deliverance?  Provision?  Peace?  Joy?  All of God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ Jesus (see II Corinthians 1:20).  All the promises of the Word belong to us.  What is the vision God has given you for the future?  You can possess it, by faith.  What battle are you facing today?  You can overcome it, by faith!

Jesus said, “I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).  The pasture represents all of the blessings that are ours in Christ.  The pasture is like the Promised Land.  It is ours, but we must go in and possess it.  We possess it by exercising our faith.  Faith requires action.  We have to declare our faith, speaking life.

Everything you need in this life is found in Jesus, the door.  He promises life, abundant life!  But there is also a thief, who comes to steal, kill and destroy (see John 10:10).  Abundant life is not an unconditional promise.  It is something we possess by faith.

Jesus has given us the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19).  The keys represent authority in heaven and on earth.  What great privilege God has given to us!  Upon the revelation of Christ, Jesus is building his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).  Have you ever felt like the gates of hell have opened wide against you?  Sometimes I feel like the hordes of Satan assail me with ferocious fury.  But, Jesus says Satan will not prevail.  Jesus has given me authority, both in heaven and upon earth, to walk in victory.

There is the ever-present reality of two kingdoms - the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of darkness.  Darkness wants to secure a beach head in our souls, make camp, and continue to advance.  Darkness wants to rule and reign in our personal lives, our families, our cities and our nations.  The enemy’s kingdom is ruthless, deceitful and under-handed.  Sometimes it seems unfair.  But we can rule in the midst of our enemies (see Psalm 110:2).  God will fight for us.  But God wants us to take up our authority in Him.  If we will do our part, God will do what we cannot do.  

The nature of God’s kingdom is that it must be entered into.  We must possess it by faith.  II Timothy 6:12 says, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (emphasis mine).  Jesus has provided everything we need through his life, death, and resurrection.  We must walk in His blessing by faith.

Jesus said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).  This verse stirs me up.  The kingdom of heaven is not for the faint of heart.  In Luke 16:16, Jesus said it this way, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”  God is calling us to a radical commitment to His kingdom.  

Did you sign up for this fight?  Perhaps not!  But you were drafted into God’s army when you accepted His request to become His child.  Welcome to the fight.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.  When we feel the kingdom of darkness trying to impose its way upon us, something ought to rise up inside of us.  We have the power within us that is greater than he who is in this world (I John 4:4).  You can do this, you can be victorious!

What is your fight?  What enemies are coming against you?  Rise up and take your place of authority.  Fight for your family, your children, your marriage, your city.  Stand at the doorway of your home and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord.  In the words of Nehemiah, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” (Nehemiah 4:14)