I love trees! I have always loved trees. So it was only natural that after my husband, John, and I moved into our new house, I developed the habit of sitting in our screened room in my spare moments and staring at the majestic live oak in our backyard.
On one occasion when I was enjoying its beauty, a typical Florida storm began to form. The wind built to a high intensity in moments. As I watched the branches of the mighty oak sway in the strong breezes, I made some observations.
"You have the choice of resigning or being terminated, effective immediately." My heart sank. The president of the company had just walked into my office, pointed his finger at me and uttered those words. How could this be happening to me, and what was I going to do? As the director of a retirement community, I lived on the property, so I was losing my job AND my home.
What was the incident that had cost me my job? Reading the Bible and praying for a needy Christian resident on my day off. As a result, I was suddenly without a job, homeless, threatened with a lawsuit, betrayed and slandered. Great fear bombarded my mind. WHAT was I going to do?
I came home from a women's leadership meeting at church one night to find everyone had already gone to bed. Feeling hungry, I went into the kitchen and fixed myself a bowl of fresh blueberries. They were in season and they were magnificent.
Then I heard it. It was a strange noise I had never heard before. It sounded like the lower notes of a cello and it was occurring at five- and 10-second intervals. Not only was this unusual but my dishwasher and the entire kitchen counter would vibrate at each interval.
One of my most poignant memories of my late father is of him seated at his desk with his Bible open, studying. My dad wasn't a highly educated man, but he was devoted to Jesus Christ and had an insatiable hunger for biblical knowledge.
I remember watching him many times as he pored over passages and prayed for understanding. Years later, I had the privilege of getting a seminary education, and one day during a class lecture, I thought of him.
Surrounded by my fellow graduate students in a stately lecture hall, my eyes began to water. I was imagining how much my father would have loved being in this class.
He never made it to seminary, but because he held out before me the example of someone who "trembled" at God's Word, studying it became my own desire. I observed what he did, and I sought to emulate him.
My behavior was not unusual. Children who are nurtured and trained in the safety of their parents' love seek to embrace the parents' qualities throughout their lives.
Not every one of us has the experience of love and protection in an earthly sense. But in a spiritual sense, we can all attest to having that experience with our heavenly parent--God, the Father.
We are commanded to imitate Him: "Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]" (Eph. 5:1, The Amplified Bible). As His beloved children, we should resemble Him and act like Him.
There's a good reason for this. Our nation and the world are longing to see the reality of God in the lives of His people.
The apostle Paul wrote, "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed" (Rom. 8:19, NIV). There are many for whom a demonstration of the reality of the One we worship is long overdue.
If only they could see Him reflected in His church! If only our brokenness didn't cause us to reflect so poorly on our precious Lord!
What is the creation waiting to see? I believe above all things, the unsaved desire to see the reality of Christ's sacrificial love.
Sadly, it seems harder for us to exhibit unconditional love toward those in the family of God than to those on the outside. We hear too many stories about brothers and sisters who are wounded by other members of the body of Christ.
This kind of behavior isn't lost on those who are looking for God. The unbeliever may not have any great knowledge of who (or what) God is, but he or she is quite adept at identifying who (or what) He is not. I believe the biggest beef unbelievers have with us is our lack of real, sacrificial love for one another.
We simply must love one another more. Now is a moment when hearts are being taken captive to fear. Men and women are desperate to know if there is any hope--any security out there.
Let's tell them, "Yes, there is hope, peace, protection!" Better yet, let's show them the evidence of the hope we have: Let's show them how we love one another.
I have been ministering in churches, in home fellowship groups, at Aglow meetings and at conferences for more than 25 years. From the very beginning I have prayed for the sick and have always seen healings and miracles. But there has been an increase in the last nine years.
About ten years ago I found an interesting passage in Isaiah 35 while sitting in church waiting for a meeting to start. I felt as if God said to hide verses 3-6 in my heart and let them incubate. Throughout the next year I read them over and over and looked up some of the more significant words.
In order to gain God's greatest blessings, we must embrace His highest purpose. My sincere conviction is that if this happens in our cities, God's blessing will spread to entire regions, and healing to our land will occur. Without the abiding fullness of Christ in the church, we will have no more impact in the world than a political party, whose strength rests in numbers and finances and not in God.
Consequently, every serious Christian must recognize two priorities. We need to return to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ, and we desperately need divine intervention—or our nation will perish.
In Psalm 90 Moses utters a prayer that everyone who has had enough of his own feeble efforts should pray. In somber and earnest supplication he implores, "Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your majesty to their children. And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands" (vv. 16-17, NASB).
This is a heartfelt prayer, one that is full of deep thought and candid reflection. Moses was not willing to "try something" and ask the Lord to bless it. He prayed, "Let Your work appear." He appealed to God to confirm the works of His hands. What is divine confirmation? It is when the Lord works with you and fulfills your words with His power (see Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:4). God identifies Himself so completely with what you are doing that He backs you up with power. It is endorsement of the Almighty upon an individual's life.
I want to underscore that we have peace with God through Christ's sacrifice. We are not looking for divine acceptance but divine endorsement. The question is not one of salvation but of power in this life to change our world. How, then, can we truly know that we have found God's highest purpose for us? How can we, like Moses, obtain the endorsement of Almighty God?
If we want our works to have permanence, then they must be the eternal works of God and not more of man's ideas. Jesus said, "'For the works which the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I do, testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me'" (John 5:36). Ultimately, we only glorify God when we, like Jesus, accomplish the work that He has given us to do (John 17:4).
You may ask, "Does God have eternal, enduring assignments for me?" Yes, but the first "work of God" that is accomplished in us is not our work but His, that we "'believe in Him whom He has sent'" (John 6:29). We must abandon all hope of finding true spiritual success apart from dependent, steadfast faith in the person and power of Christ.
This forsaking of our ideas to embrace simple obedience to Christ is the "work of God." We must see that we cannot attain to the works of God unless we first become the workmanship of God, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). At this very moment there are eternal, powerful works prepared for each of us. Yet, until we see that the Father's highest purpose is to reveal in us the nature of Christ, we will not qualify for the power of Christ, which is God's full endorsement on our lives.
If we will find the eternal works of God, we must know His eternal plan. He desires to bring the living Christ into each of us as individuals; then as Christ-filled individuals, we can transform our congregations. Finally, from the launching pad of a Christ-filled congregation, we will see things impacted and cleansed with the Spirit of His Son.
Satan has sought continually to hinder and delay this "summing up of all things in Christ" (Eph. 1:9-10). Yet such is our mission, and, in knowing the plan of God, such is our victory. Therefore, in battling for the soul of our cities and our nation, our victory is not in knowing how to command demons but in knowing the commander Himself. We triumph in being rightly aligned with the supreme plan of God, which is to fill all things with Christ.
Therefore, if we want to obtain the endorsement of God upon our lives, Jesus must become as real to us as the world was when we were sinners. He must become our mind, and we must become His obedient body. My prayer is that the vision of attaining the likeness of Christ will be branded upon all our hearts and that, as sincere followers of God's Son, the Father Himself will back our lives with power for His purpose.
Adapted from When the Many are One by Francis Frangipane, copyright 2009, published by Charisma House. This book demonstrates how Christians of every color, culture and denomination can work together to transform our communities. It calls us back to oneness with Christ, so that the power and character of Christ will flow through us to bring transformation. To order a copy click on this link:
Anyone who has traveled with a specific destination in mind knows that before you head out on the road, it helps to map out your route. If you're not lucky enough to own a GPS, then you at least need to use a road atlas or go online and map out your route using a mapping service such as MapQuest.
As many people travel down life's highway in search of happiness, they figure they'll run into it somewhere, someday. They head off in a general direction, assuming happiness will pop up on the way like a highway sign directing them which way to turn, how many miles to go, and what exit to take to get there. Happiness, however, isn't like a tourist attraction, an all-you-can-eat buffet, or a theme park.
Have you ever prayed and felt that the ceiling of the church was a sheet of brass? Has your worship ever felt as though you were speaking into a hollowed log? Or have you ever prayed for a specific need to be met and felt like your words were lost in outer space? Biblically, prayers can be hindered (see 1 Pet. 3:7), delayed (see Dan. 10:11-13), and under some conditions, not even heard by the Lord (Mark 11:25). If prayers can be hindered, then so can the manifestation of your healing.
On one of my lunch hours, I went out and bought a new cell phone. I was ecstatic about the great offer a co-worker had clued me into—more minutes for literally the same amount of money I had been paying for my previous service, and no roaming charges! What a deal!
But I had no idea when I walked out of the cellular store reveling in my purchase, bag full of manuals, brochures and terms of contract in tote, that this new phone had many more capabilities than the ones that had first attracted me to it.
Back at work, I set the phone on my desk, unable to take time at that point to go over the extensive directions. I figured I would just leave it there and wait until the weekend—or some other convenient time—to delve into them.
When I finally activated the phone three days later and set up my voice mail and ring tone, I found myself at a crossroads. Should I brave the textbook-sized user manual? After all, my phone was turned on and functioning. I knew how to send and receive calls. What more did I need? I was good to go.
But the salesman’s pitch about the numerous features my phone had still rang in my ears: “You’ve got caller ID, call waiting, free phone calls to other people in our network…” So, I peeled back the shrink-wrap from the owner’s manual and began to skim it.
At first I was in awe. “Wow,” I thought. “I can send an e-mail from my phone! And would you look at that, I can access the Internet…hmmm, it even has voice-activated dialing. I wonder what else this compact wonder can do?”
Soon, however, I was overwhelmed by the thought of trying to implement all the special functions. “Where would I begin?” I wondered. “I don’t have a lot of time to fool around with all these settings, and I’m not very good at high-tech stuff.”
Eventually, I gave up. “I’m not going to be able to figure this out. I can just use the phone for normal calls and not worry about all this other stuff. Or maybe I’ll get to it later.”
For several days I walked around in cell-phone ignorance, just moving my phone in and out of my purse, hooking it into the wall to recharge, answering and initiating calls. One day, on my 40-minute commute home from work, I realized that the way I was handling my cell phone is the way many Christians handle the gifts and talents God has given them. He invests so many “features” in us—yet, like me with my cell phone, we don’t take the time out to find out what they are and cultivate what He has placed in us.
Instead, we go on in blind ignorance, using only the features that are more obvious and easy to access. We fail to delve into all the “settings” that God has programmed into us not only to bless Him but also to bless others.
In my case, I saw that I had left areas untapped at times because of fear of failure or busyness or just plain laziness. Like the man Jesus described who hid the talent his master gave him (see Matt. 25:18), I too, had buried His investment in me rather than using it wisely so that it would bring Him a return.
Needless to say, this little epiphany changed my way of thinking. I don’t want to receive the same response from God that the servant received from his master. The master called the man a “’wicked and lazy servant’” and took away the one talent he had given him (vv. 26,28, NKJV).
Shortly thereafter I sat down at my kitchen table with my mound of cell phone instructions and plodded through them. I read a good portion of the manual, and you know what? I’m still finding new features available to me! May it be so in all our lives as we hunger after the Lord and truly seek to develop the gifts He has placed in us!
Is the door of your heart open toward God? Can the Spirit of Jesus Christ come in and speak with you? Are you defenseless to His voice? Can you sense both His pleasure and His displeasure? For us to become sensitive to divine realities, we must live with the door of our hearts open. It is impossible to do the will of God otherwise.
King Hezekiah commanded the priests to carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. The call to clean the holy place was not an option; it was a command. "So the priests went in to the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the Lord they brought out to the court of the house of the Lord" (2 Chr. 29:16, NASB).
When the priests entered the holy place, they entered alone; the rest of Israel was in the outer court and beyond. Here, privately before God, they were to remove those things that were defiling this sacred place. No one else had seen these desecrations. They could have remained in secret, and none except the priests would have known; but they did not. They brought out the unclean things. What was unholy was exposed publicly and removed.
From where did these abominations arise? Predominantly they were the sins of their forefathers—the traditions and offenses handed down to them from the wicked generation who preceded them. The careless approach to holiness, the unbelief toward the promises of God, and the idolatry and worship of man-made things were the products of a generation turned from God. They gave to their children, as a legacy, a society oppressed by sin and the devil.
In the new covenant temple, the church, it is our private, inner lives that need this deep cleansing. We have inherited traditions that justify and reinforce darkness of soul within us. Most Christians have little hope that purity of heart is even attainable. The revival that will turn a nation begins in the trembling unveiling of our hearts, in the removal of what is defiled and hidden within us.
I will tell you a mystery. It is in this very place, this chamber of our deepest secrets, that the door to eternity is found. If the Father is near enough to "see in secret" He is close enough to be seen in secret as well. If He has entered us, we can, in truth, enter Him. The key to entering the presence of God is intimacy, and intimacy is secrets shared. To ascend the hill of the Lord, to stand in the holy place, we must have clean hands and a pure heart; we cannot lift up our souls toward falsehood (see Ps. 24:3-4). At this door of eternity we must renounce those things hidden because of shame and, in humility of soul, receive Christ's cleansing word.
Our goal is not merely to be "good" but to see God and, in seeing Him, to do what He does. However, John tells us that he who seeks to "see Him just as He is … purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2-3, NKJV). We can be assured that each step deeper into the Lord's presence will reveal areas in our hearts that need to be cleansed. Do not be afraid. When the Spirit shows you areas of sin, it is not to condemn you but to cleanse you.
Let me give you an example. My wife set herself apart to seek the Lord. Her cry during this time was, "Lord, I want to see You." As she sought the Lord, however, He began to show her certain areas of her heart where she had fallen short. She prayed, "Lord, this is not what I asked for; I asked to see You, not me." The Holy Spirit comforted her, saying, "Only the pure in heart can see God."
In the same way, the Lord desires His church to see Him as well. Thus, He is exposing the areas in us that are unclean. If we will walk as Jesus walked, we must remember that Christ did only the things He saw the Father do (see John 5:19). Out of the purity of His heart He beheld God and then revealed His glory.
This cleansing must become a way of life, but it does not have to take a lifetime. For Hezekiah and the people with him, it occurred in a matter of eight days.
Our prayer should be to bring all the defilement of our flesh and spirit out of the secret chambers of our hearts and give them over to the Lord so that our hearts would be purged.
"O God, thoroughly cleanse my heart; purify me quickly! In Jesus' name."
Adapted from When the Many Are One, by Francis Frangipane, copyright 2009, published by Charisma House. In this book the author calls us back to oneness with Christ, and through Him oneness with other Christians. With the character and power of Christ in our midst, the church can again bring transformation to our communities, our nation and our world. To order a copy click on this link:
There is hope in the middle of darkness. Usually in the midst of our dark times in life, we find ourselves filled with trauma and loss. These elements hide in our very cells. Trauma is like a snapshot from a camera. The picture of the trauma is stored deep in our brains, but the Holy Spirit wants to move in such a way that we are sovereignly delivered. He wants to give us a new perspective on life and the world around us.
When we do not deal with trauma effectively, we allow roots to grow that entangle our feet and keep us from moving forward on our new path of success. Trauma imprinted on our memory systems is also absorbed deep into the tissues of our brain (the processor) and affects our thoughts and our hearts. Trauma becomes the flashbulb that determines what we see and how we define the world around us.
Ever since I was 12, in 1957, I have had a vision for ministry and the harvest field. In 1981 that vision began to include Israel, particularly Jerusalem. God was so wonderful to give my husband and me the opportunity to share the love of Yeshua with those living in Israel not once but twice. We served there for three years and returned home. In 2007 we were able to go back and serve there for three months before having to come home.
Both times we left I felt a sense of loss, frustration and failure in having to return home from the city that had consumed our hearts and lives for so long. After leaving Jerusalem I asked the Lord: "Now what? Am I supposed to just sit back and retire?" I could not shake the restlessness. I felt unfulfilled and useless and went through a deep mourning thinking my "vision" had died.
Not to sound cliché, but when I was 28 I finally had come to realize that fathers really do know best. Now before you start thinking 1950s TV show here, let me explain.
Years ago when I decided to move out of my parents' home into an apartment, I was overwhelmed with the choices out there. I researched for weeks and drove to at least 10 different apartment complexes to check them out.
But I grew discouraged. All the apartments I looked at were unacceptable for some reason. They were too expensive or in the wrong location or didn't have the amenities I needed. I had begun to think there wasn't an apartment out there for me.
But one day I discovered a place that fit my price range and mostof what I was looking for, so I figured it must be the Lord's answer for me. The upkeep wasn't great, and the apartments were kind of jammed in on a small piece of property, but I thought it would do.
However, I decided that before I signed a lease, I would take my dad to see it. It had to pass the "dad" test. As we drove around the complex and then went into the model apartment, I could tell he was not impressed.
I was thrilled to have finally found something, and I thought Dad would be happy for me. What was wrong? Did he not trust my judgment?
Finally he told me he felt it wasn't the best choice for me. I grew really disheartened because I have learned from experience that when Dad had a check in his spirit about something, he was usually right.
Dad suggested that we go visit a quaint complex that I drive by every day on the way to work. I didn't even bother to call there when I first began my search because I thought the complex had only townhouses and would be out of my price range. But when we spoke to someone in the front office, we found out that it was an apartment complex.
Further research revealed that the apartments not only had all the amenities I was looking for in my price range but were aesthetically pleasing as well. In fact, the complex was a place I would LOVE to live—trees everywhere, a balcony overlooking a pond, a front patio, and a lake on the property. It was like a miniature home.
Clearly Dad had been right.
I learned some valuable lessons from this experience. First of all, I realized that I had been ready to settle for less than God's best. Yes, the other apartment wasn't bad, but it wasn't truly what I was looking for. It came close but was nevertheless a counterfeit for what God had purposed for me.
I also began to see why we need other people in our lives, whether it be family, friends or mentors, to give us a different perspective and keep us accountable.
Finally, I recognized that my response to my dad's hesitation was very much like my response to the Lord at times. I don't always like what He has to say or what He is telling me to do, but I know He has only the best intentions and plans for me, just like my precious earthly father. When He says no, He is not trying to rain on my parade or withhold things from me but instead is insuring that I receive His best.
It's not always easy to embrace this truth, especially when there is nothing in sight that appears to be better. But time and again I have seen in my own life that when the Lord convinces me to give up something or release my plans to Him, He gives me peace and brings about a result far better than I ever could have imagined.
So, the next time your dad suggests that you not buy that car you've been eyeing or not date that guy he feels uncomfortable about or not make that investment you and your spouse are considering, STOP! He's probably hearing from our heavenly Father, whose heart is "for you," not "against you" (see Rom. 8:31), and who wants to ensure that you receive His best. If your earthly father is no longer involved in your everyday affairs, rest assured that God Himself is a "father of the fatherless" (Ps. 68:5) and will direct you by His Spirit to all He has for you.
Breathe deeply. Do it again, please. Now, touch the most solid object near you and answer this question: Which of these two is most important in sustaining your life—breath or material things?
Simple to answer, isn't it? Breath, of course. Without breathing we cannot live. Our bodies need a constant supply of oxygen, and it's important for our lungs and respiratory system to work efficiently.
It's the same with God's Spirit, infused with His Word, which together are the source and sustaining power of our spiritual lives.
The one thing in this world that you and I can touch with our fingers that has "eternity" written into its fabric is the Word of God. Every time I take a Bible in hand, I hold eternity, because the life force inherent in the Word exceeds all time and space. Jesus said, "'Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away'" (Mark 13:31, NKJV).
Those words hold the seeds of life. Your life becomes durable, fulfilling and successful in direct proportion to the degree that the Word of God becomes as vital to you.
The Gospel of John says of Jesus that "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14). The Word of God is the source of all substance and life. "In the beginning God created ... " (Gen. 1:1). He did that with His Word. Christ was there at Creation: "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1).
All that is, as well as all that ever shall be, flows to man by Jesus Christ through the Word of God!
I want to do my utmost to ensure you that you know how to keep on receiving the Word of God. I don't mean how to read it, how to memorize it, or how to study it, though all those practices are very important. My primary concern is that your input and application of the Word—as the life-giving breath of God, the very Spirit of the Word—will fill and fulfill your soul continually. It's the only way to keep the "rebuilt you" built up and expanding.
The Word of God is not simply information or facts. It is a living Word, and it is life giving, healing, protecting and invincible. You need to know how to let it work in you. If the Word's reality is at work in you, there is no way you will ever be less than filled with abundant life and fruitful living (see 2 Pet. 1:4,8).
"No word from God shall be without power"(Luke 1:37, The Amplified Bible). This verse, translated elsewhere, "For with God nothing shall be impossible," is a mighty statement. It tells us that every word God speaks contains the power needed to actuate it. Every word of His that directs our behavior also makes the new behavior possible.
This is why Paul assures the Philippians, "It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13, NKJV) And again, "He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it" (1 Thess. 5:24)—a promise that when God gives an assignment to us, His words include enablement.
This is truly a reason for joy. It builds our repentance upon the foundation of deep, trusting faith rather than upon guilt and emotionalism.
A few years ago in my pastorate at The Church On The Way, a new understanding began to dawn on my soul. I was seeking the Lord for guidance concerning my own teaching ministry and inquiring of Him specifically concerning the mood and manner of our congregation's worship services.
The result of my quest was a slow but definite transformation in my approach to leading our services. The continued call throughout the psalms is to praise and rejoice before the Lord: "In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:11). In the same spirit, Paul insists of the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:4, KJV).
The Word that created all the worlds is the Word that is completing you. Rest in that assurance, and rejoice in His Word as He "rebuilds the real you," the "you" He intended when He created you. Rebirth, redemption, restoration and recovery are only a part of His mission. He wants to bring you to the full realization of God's purposes, patterns and promises for your life. You can face tomorrow with joy.
Adapted from Rebuilding the Real You by Jack Hayford, copyright 2009, published by Charisma House. This book is a handbook on personal growth and restoration; it unfolds a clear picture of how the Holy Spirit works to help build you up and make you all God intended you to be. To order a copy click on this link:
While walking through the Publisher's Outlet in the lobby of our building where we sell all the items we publish here at Strang Communications, I was surprised to see a book I had bought a copy of about 14 years ago at a Christian bookstore. I found that our company had secured the copyright to this wonderful book.
When I had first seen the book, my daughters were 5, 13 and 15, so I was always looking for something that might be of interest to them and at the same time, make a positive impact on their lives. The book, The True Princess by Angela Elwell Hunt, looked like something the girls may want to read, and the pictures were beautiful.
I picked it up and started reading the story, which was about a King who had a beautiful little girl whom he loved very much. She had everything any little girl could ever want. Poets wrote poems and musicians sang songs about her. There were maids to dress her and jokers to make her laugh. And she had a caregiver, Nana, who took care of her, and her father, the king, who loved her.
Her father suddenly had to go away and was leaving her in the care of Nana. The princess was worried because she didn't know who would feed her, dress her, sing for her or make her laugh. The king explained that one day she would help rule the kingdom but she had to learn many things first. He comforted her by telling her that Nana would be with her and that because Nana was following his wishes, the princess would never be out of his care.
The King and Nana knew the princess had to be kept safe so they put her in regular clothes and hid her away from the palace in a little bakery house because "no one would expect the child of the king to be living as a servant."
Nana taught the princess how to dress herself and sing songs from her heart, and when the little girl put too much yeast into a loaf of bread and the dough exploded all over the kitchen, the princess learned to laugh at herself.
One day, news reached the kingdom that the king would be returning soon. Everyone had looked all over for the princess, but she could not be found. Many girls in the kingdom thought they could take her place so they spent hours making themselves ready.
When the king returned and was ready to receive his daughter, the guards opened the door and the king surprisingly found 25 little girls waiting for him, 24 beautifully dressed and one in a patched dress at the back of the crowd.
The king smiled at the crowd and asked the first little girl to help his servant put on his cloak. The little girl refused and said, "A true princess has maids to do that." The king stopped in front of the second little girl and asked her to sing a song for the kitchen helpers. That little girl frowned and said, "A princess hires singers to sing for them." The king paused in front of the third and asked her to tell his soldiers a funny story. She told him to "Call the royal jokers. That's what a REAL princess would do."
The king looked at the group and asked if there was anyone who would be willing to serve him in any way. The quiet girl in the patched dress spoke up and said, "I'd be happy to, Sire," she whispered. "Because I love you." The king hugged the little girl close and said, "It is love that marks the true daughter of the king."
Tears streamed down my face the first time I read the story, and it still touches my heart deeply whenever I read it. Why? Because it's the love story that I have come to know so well through my relationship with God.
I have told it to my children and will tell it to my grandchildren. The King went away but He left His Holy Spirit to teach us all things, "to guide [us] into all truth" (John 16:13, NKJV), so that we will be ready when He returns for us. We must be diligent to learn all He wants us to know. And when He returns, He will know us by our love!
On one of my trips to Washington, D.C., I prayed with a prayer group at various sites and memorials dedicated to our veterans who had given their lives for the cause of freedom.
All around me from newspaper stands I read glaring headlines of bombings in the Middle East, rapidly spreading genocide in Sudan, and threats and more threats from terrorists. The voices for violence, genocide and terrorism seemed to be overtaking the voices for freedom.
As I glanced at the papers, I saw other headlines reporting men and women being imprisoned, beaten or put to death for their faith in Christ. In this dark hour of the church, the voices for Christ are surely threatened, held hostage and being snuffed out.
"Lord, what's next?" I asked in desperation. "What's to become of the voices for Christ?
Then came that still small voice of His Spirit: "Is a voice not made for the purpose of speaking?"
I had my answer. Jesus has given us His Great Commission to make disciples the world over (see Matt. 28:18-20). Isn't His Great Commission still in effect even today?
I was reminded of Peter who had been imprisoned for his outspoken faith (see Acts 12:4-8). Behind prison walls, Peter had been placed under the terrorism of four squads of soldiers, bound tightly with two chains and secured between two soldiers. In Peter's darkest hour, it seemed as if his voice for Christ would be silenced forever. It appeared that all hope was lost-that his cause for Christ was too weak a match for the enemy.
But in that darkest hour, voices were still speaking out for Christ. Acts 12:5 states that, "Constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church" (NKJV). The results were miraculous—an angel rescued Peter and led him to freedom.
You and I must not be thrown by the persecutions and threats that come against believers today. We must not be discouraged to the point of not praying or speaking out as voices for Christ. After all, God's Word reveals we might be persecuted, but we are not forsaken (see 2 Cor. 4:9).
In John 10:10 Jesus warned us that "the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." Jesus also stated that He had come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Was not the second part of His statement our promise of victory over all threats of the enemy? So why should we be thrown by the threats and attacks against our Christian faith?
You and I need to keep on speaking out for Christ, never ceasing to be thankful for the freedoms of this great country that still allow us to do so.
The power of choice that God has given to every person cannot be overestimated. How dramatically our right to choose affects the course of our lives! Naomi's choice to return to Bethlehem-Judah would ultimately result in her personal restoration. Ruth's choice to follow Naomi and serve Naomi's God brought her to a wonderful destiny.
Orpah's name means "stiff-necked or skull." The decision Orpah made to stay in Moab reflected the inflexible, unyielding character described by her name and resulted in her death in obscurity—she was never heard of again. Such is the end of stiff-necked people. It is better to have a harnessed heart than a stiff neck.
Ruth's name means "friend." She proved her friendship to Naomi and to God by her willingness to leave all she held dear to follow Naomi and serve her God. This beauty of character is to be revealed throughout the rest of the narrative as Ruth gains a reputation in the whole city of Bethlehem-Judah as a virtuous woman.
Ruth's treatise was a sevenfold declaration that revealed her heart's determination. The key words in Ruth's treatise were "I will." These two words expressed the intent of her heart and formed the basis of her decision. As we observe Orpah's tearful decision not to follow Naomi, we understand that Ruth's choice was not based on emotion or sentiment, but on a decision of her will.
Decision itself is exhilarating and refreshing. Some people never know the joys and delights of walking with God because they do not choose to make decisions in favor of God, His Word and His ways. Decisive people are seldom the subject of continued despair; they are steadfastly minded. As we decide to follow God's will, our decision will have wonderful results in our lives, as Ruth's did.
The treatise of "I wills" made by Ruth consisted of seven elements: "Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me" (Ruth 1:16-17, KJV).
This last "I will," though not explicitly expressed, is understood, for Ruth was declaring in essence, "I will seal this treatise with a covenant. The Lord do so to me and more also if ought but death part thee and me."
Ruth's resolve is a classic for all of literature. As an expression of love and loyalty, these words cannot be surpassed. Here is supreme devotion; here is love to the uttermost, not only passionately expressed, but as history declares, determinedly fulfilled. The beauty of its form and the utter devotion of a genuine and self-conquering love has made Ruth's vow one that never shall be forgotten. The secret of such love and loyalty is kinship in the matters of the soul and of eternity. There can be no true love, no lasting loyalty, without this kinship of soul and spirit.
Ruth's vow has stamped itself indelibly on the heart of the church. Believers throughout history have followed her example in choosing to live, and die, for God alone. How many have gained their courage to face martyrdom from reading the testimony of Ruth!
Like Ruth, we should resolve to pursue God to the end, casting our lot with the separated, sanctified people of God, cleaving to the eternal God of the Bible. Like Ruth we should enter God's field and be willing to serve. Like Ruth, we should abandon ourselves to our glorious, heavenly "Boaz," and stay at His feet until morning.
Adapted from the book From Our Hearts to Yours, copyright 2008, published by Charisma House. This book is a compilation of articles written by strong women of God that will cause you to see how much God really loves you, and empowers you to become a better mother, wife, woman and friend. To order a copy click on this link:
The days in which we are living are some of the most turbulent in history, and they are not without peril. The kingdom of God suffers violence (see Matt. 11:12), yet these are still times of hope and peace for those who know who they are in Christ. In order to survive the onslaught of the enemy against us, we had better learn to become women who are mighty in spirit. During the course of my life, I've found six practices to be very effective in overcoming the power of the enemy and walking in victory.
1. Be confident in your calling
When you are confident in your calling, you don't have to seek anyone's permission or approval. You know you are called because of the witness of the Holy Spirit inside you, but Satan will try to make you doubt that your calling is real.
God never told us that we were going to float along on this journey to become all that He destined for us and never have another problem. But He did promise us this: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you" (Is. 43:2, NKJV). You must decide now that you're going all the way.
2. Have strength in adversity
When I left home to pursue God's call on my life, I knew it was not going to be easy. On the day I was preparing to leave I suddenly thought, Maybe I should go to church, one more time. At the close of the Wednesday night service, my pastor called me onto the stage and said to me, "God says to tell you, ‘You are not your own; you have been bought with a price. I have chosen you and appointed you to go to the nations of the earth, so you can't do what you want to do."
Without anyone touching me, I was slain in the spirit. Hours later, when I got up, I had a new confidence, a greater boldness and a determination to go on that hell could not touch.
Jesus said: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you" (John 15:16).
You too are not your own. Be strong and don't abandon your calling.
3. Develop godly character
You must be painstakingly conscientious about everything-attitude, lifestyle, personal worship and gifts. The enemy of your destiny has already been defeated; so don't allow yourself to be sidetracked by his devices.
4. Practice violent faith
I believe that sometimes we come up against things in our lives when simply believing won't be enough. Violent faith combines determination with spiritual aggressiveness and raw, if you will, guts. As you practice it, your prayer life and hunger for God will increase, and there will be a determination forged in you that nothing can shake.
5. Be persistent in prayer
Taking back what is yours from the forces of darkness takes courage and is not for those who are passive or faint of heart. It is for the person who would say: "This is it. I am drawing the bloodline today. I will never be the same again." You can choose to say, "I know what the outcome of this thing is going to be, so I am going to lift my head up and rejoice, because right now the Father God is working it all out."
6. Praise God
One thing I have learned and am still learning is that you don't praise God when the answer comes; you praise God until the answer comes. Something happens when you lift your hands and your voice to praise God in the midst of all hell surrounding you.
Begin to rejoice in God. See yourself mighty in spirit and walking in victory. What you can see with spirit eyes in the supernatural, you can believe to come forth in the natural.
I see the devil fleeing in terror because you and I are rising up now, and we know that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down [Satan's] strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4). We are women, mighty in spirit, who are strong in the strength of our Lord. And in His power we are victorious!
Adapted from the book From Our Hearts to Yours, a compilation of articles written by powerful women of God intended to help you know the love of God, deepen your relationship with Him, and become a better mother, wife and friend, copyright 2008, published by Charisma House. To order a copy click on this link.
I remember seeing my mother kneeling at the side of her bed and praying aloud for each of her children and grandchildren. That memory is forever etched in my mind and I will never forget sensing a strong presence of God through her intercession. I came away with a sense of reverential fear and trust that no matter what would happen to any of us, God would honor her prayers on our behalf.
My mother is in glory now and it's a comfort to know that the Lord continues to honor those prayers. It encourages me to continue to pray for my own children and grandchildren no matter how uncertain their futures or what they are currently facing.
I am sure that there are bittersweet moments for each of us whose parents have gone on to be with the Lord. We remember them. We miss them. We now realize how wise they really were. Our hope in the Lord is that we will see them again and enjoy His presence together.
Except for Eve, the mother of all living, we've all been blessed with mothers. Our mothers helped shape who we are today—for good or not so good. We learned from their example and from their mistakes. And when we had children of our own we realized what a challenge they faced raising us.
Some of us are privileged to have our moms around to help us with our own children. They bring the wisdom of experience and offer their time, love and energy to the task. What a blessing to have a doting grandma to pour unconditional love on our offspring!
But even with all that, the Holy Spirit is our best adviser, teacher and counselor. He knows what's best for each child and can give us the insight to know what each needs and how to pray His will concerning each one. God hears a mother's prayer.
I am thankful for His instruction and "coaching" as I grappled through years of raising an autistic son in a ministerial fish bowl filled with well-meaning parishioners giving "expert" advice concerning things they knew nothing about. Without the Lord, we would not have made it. Time and time again, He would admonish me to trust Him with our son.
That was not an easy task. We would place him on the altar so to speak, and then quickly take him off, load ourselves with worry, then place him on the altar again. Then we'd call on the Lord for help and take one day at a time doing as He directed. The result was miraculous! Today, he's a grown man who loves and serves the Lord, is gainfully employed and active in the men's group at church. Surely, God is worthy of our trust.
Surely, He knows what's best for us and for our children. He is totally trustworthy.
Sometimes we worry when we don't see our children going in the direction we feel would be best for them. Yet we have His promise that if we raise them and train them in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from them (see Prov. 22:6). Though they may stray as they try to find their own way in life, they will return to what was instilled in them (see 2 Tim. 3:15). It's a promise.
Perhaps you are a single parent wrestling with raising your children and working full time. You feel exhausted and overwhelmed. You wonder how you are going to make it through another day. Take heart. You are not alone. The Holy Spirit will provide and direct you each step of the way. Our Father hears a mother's prayer. Trust Him.
If God has blessed you with a special-needs child, know that He has given you a treasure. It may not feel that way sometimes. You may feel as if you are the only one carrying the responsibility relating to your child, your spouse, your other children and the household. And if you also work outside the home it's a balancing act like no other. But His grace will enable you to do all He requires of you. You will learn the meaning of unconditional love and enjoy deep fellowship with Him. His love and grace is available—and it's free.
Perhaps your children are grown and your mom is in her golden years and needing care. The tables have turned and you are now the caregiver and she is the one needing your help. It's difficult for her to transition from total independence to needing care and provision. Do you struggle with the demands of your own family and her needs? Well, you are not alone. Honoring your mom in this season takes as much grace as handling a household of kids, a special-needs child, a full-time job and a cranky husband. But God is able to sustain you and go even beyond your need. He is there to give you His sufficiency, rest and restoration as you take time to get alone with Him.
No matter what season of life you are walking through, the Lord is there for you. As a daughter honoring her mother, a mother enjoying her children or one who is pulled in many directions at once, our God is more than able to provide you with everything you need to make this the most wonderful season of your life. Remember that God answers a mother's prayer. Happy Mother's Day!
Of all the eternal truths declared in God's Word, one prominent reality is essential to grasp: God made us in His image. We have been exquisitely designed by Him to reflect His image and reveal His likeness. As the "grand finale" of all God's unique creation, mankind stands unequaled, elevated as the Creator's crowning achievement, showing forth His radiance and splendor. Simply put, we're awesome!
Yet in spite of our resident worth and inherent value, many of us deeply struggle to feel a sense of acceptance and love. The recognition of our real significance escapes us, exposing a profound emptiness, leaving us with an acute awareness of unfulfillment. The problem is we were created with an inner desire to be needed and have meaning, with the desire to leave our mark on the world. Consequently, this wanting condition is a set-up for trouble.
Our longing for more feeds the natural obsession to find authentic value through a faulty system involving our own schemes and methods. Although we should be looking to God and His Word to validate our existence, we have, instead, looked to our own ability and human strength to somehow prove our merit. But this striving at importance will prove futile because God has not designed us to find significance through any other means than Himself. Yet the struggle for acceptance continues and the addiction for approval intensifies as we try to fill the void.
So what's up? If we really are so intrinsically valuable and precious, why do we spend so much time trying to improve our self worth? Why are moments of complete self-acceptance so rare and attempts at personal improvement more of the norm? The answer is simple. Our quest for significance is a result of mistaken identity. We have failed to discern, or believe, who we really are and have settled for a self-appraisal with an "as is, scratch and dent" price tag. We are selling ourselves on clearance because we are unable to see that our approval does not come through what we achieve, how much we earn or the amount of accolades we receive from others. Nor are we rejected because we experience difficult personal failures, traumatic childhood events or because we lack certain talents and abilities. Not so!
God loves us unconditionally because we are His possession … not only by creation but also by redemption. Although it is true that in ourselves we fail and fall short of God's original purpose for us, the good news is we are not in ourselves. If we have been redeemed by God's Son, Jesus, through the provision made for us on the cross, then we are no longer "in" ourselves, we are "in" Christ.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight." (Eph. 1:3-4, emphasis added).
We are His dear children, washed and forgiven by His sacrifice and made blameless and holy in His sight. This truth boldly confronts the subtle deception that has so many people bound. They have become slaves to the approval of others and captive to the drive of selfish ambition, all in an attempt to feel good about themselves. But Christ has set us free from this fruitless endeavor and has given us the right to say with confidence:
I am loveable because of who I am in Christ, not because of what I do.
I do not have to strive to earn my acceptance because God has made me accepted in the beloved.
I am not accepted based on my performance or my ability to get someone to like me.
I do not have to keep up with today's so-called standards of living to be worthwhile or credible.
I can have opinions that differ from others without fear of being disqualified from love because God's love makes me secure in Him. Therefore, I can risk being me.
I am free to explore and develop all the uniqueness of my God-given personality without penalty.
I no longer have to struggle or perform to fill the gnawing void that tells me I am nothing without accomplishments, awards or popularity.
Remember God accepts and loves you not just because He's God but also because He created you, He knows you and He is intimately involved in everything you do. Won't you accept His unconditional love today?