Thank You Heavenly Father!

Good and bad will pull at you, but when God wants you to do something HE will get your attention!

One night a few days back my sister and I spoke on the phone as we usually do when I remembered a very significant time in my life – 2005. The week of June 18th, 2005 to be exact. God gave a message to a complete stranger to confirm what He had already put on my heart to do!

A few years before, my sister joined a church that I periodically attended. After a couple of years, she decided to get baptized in the summer of 2003. After witnessing how God worked in her life, several family members decided to get baptized: Our Dad, brother, myself, as well as I decided to dedicate my son to God. We started our six week Bible study to prepare for baptism at the end of April or early May. Our pastor wanted to ensure we understood fundamental things in the Bible and that life wouldn’t magically get easier. God will allow us to be tested.

We finished our six week Bible study and looked forward to my son’s dedication to God on June 18th, 2005.  Then my dad, brother, and I would be baptized the following Sabbath. A week before my son’s dedication, my husband said lets find our own church. We can go to a few churches, see which one feels right for us, and then get our son dedicated. I was completely shocked! This was coming from my husband who believes in God but doesn’t practice his religion. He never attended church as an adult.  He always declined my offer to go with me because I worship on Saturday. I told him “NO, I’m not going to cancel our son’s dedication! I feel like this is what God wants me to do.”  Everyday that week before the dedication my husband asked me “Are you sure? We can find another church if you just wait.” He even called me at work saying he felt like I was “just doing what I wanted to do and didn’t care what he wanted for our son.”

At this point I felt torn between obeying God’s words to me and my husband’s words to me. I wanted my husband to feel what I felt: that the dedication of our six year old son to God would become the best thing we as parents can do for our child. When I left work that day, I felt overwhelmed and drained.  I found myself fighting a battle, but I felt unequipped to fight!

On my way home my best friend Crystal called and asked me if I could take her by her church and drop her home. When we arrived at her church, Crystal’s aunt was in the parking lot with a friend of hers. We said hi and spoke for a moment before we went inside to printout some papers. On our way out, the lady with Crystal’s aunt stopped me.  She said she felt afraid to tell me when I first arrived, but she knew she couldn’t let me leave without speaking what God put on her heart to say.  she said, “Whatever you are planning to do, do it.” She didn’t know what but whatever it was God wanted me to follow through. “Don’t let anyone change your decision.” I stood there absolutely shocked! She went on to say “don’t worry about fitting in or if people who may not even know you don’t like you. Their evil spirit makes it impossible for them to like you.”

My flesh felt confused like how would this person know such a thing. Then instantly I felt overcome with love and amazement! God would use a complete stranger to get my attention. He instantly confirmed what He already put on my heart to help me from wavering from the path He designed for my son. I couldn’t help but to cry with joy. The lady gave me such a comforting hug. When I told her what I was struggling with, she was in awe! Our faith grew even stronger that day!

When I got home I spoke with my husband and told him what happened. I couldn’t perceive for sure if he completely believed me, but he didn’t question our son’s dedication anymore. That Saturday, June 18th, 2005 we woke up and went to the church as a family. We stood before God giving Him charge over our son’s life and asking for His guidance and protection each and every day.

Looking back over this experience, I realize how blessed I am. That God would get my attention in the midst of all the chaos! Letting me know that what’s on my heart came from HIM! Thank you, thank you, thank you heavenly Father for your love!

7 Key Points From the Story of the Centurion and Widow

 

Step #1: We need to take our burdens to God with humility.  There are some struggles we cannot overcome on our own no matter how hard we try.  The sooner we realize this fact, the quicker we will turn to God to help us.

Let’s look at the heart of the Centurion requesting help from Yeshua to heal his elderly servant who was dear to him, sick, near death and ready to to die–Luke 7:2.  A Roman army unit of 100 back in the time of Yeshua was led by a Roman officer known as a Centurion–“centurion” in Latin means 100. The Centurion’s officer’s humility and desperation really struck me.  When Jesus approached his house, he sent friends out to Jesus to say the following:

Luke 7:6-7 “…Lord, trouble not yourself: for I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof:  Where neither thought I myself worthy to come unto you: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.”

Luke 7:10 And they that were sent, returned to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

He was so humble he didn’t even think he was worthy enough to come to God.  Well God wants us to cry out to Him so He can help us overcome sin and death that binds us.  He wants to free us from the penalty of sin and death that we deserve and that causes us to suffer.  When we like the Centurion exhibit sincere and heartfelt humility, faith and cry out for Yeshua to help us, we like the Centurion will see miracles too!  

 

Step #2: Faith in God is essential.

The Centurion’s faith amazed Yeshua because he didn’t need to see or touch Yeshua to believe.  He knew Yeshua’s power. Do you know Yeshua’s power?  Yeshua praised and marveled at the faith of the Centurion.  He said to the people around Him in Luke 7:9 the following:

I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.

God can speak life back into both dying and dead individuals!  What state are you in? The three states are the following:

1)Dying

2) Dead

3) Alive in Christ by the power of God’s Holy Spirit living in you

 

Step #3) God sees our tears and loves us.

God does not want to see us weep.  He is here for us to help us overcome our struggles.  Like any parent, God wants the best for His children.  Luke 7:12-13 states,

Now when he came near to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 

And When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said unto her, Weep not.

Then in Luke 7:14 Yeshua speaks life into her dead son.  [*A bier a movable frame on which a coffin or a corpse is placed before burial or cremation or on which it is carried to the grave.]

And he came and touched the bier*: and they that bare him stood still.  And he said, Young man, I say unto you, Arise.  And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.  And he delivered him to his mother.

The truth is that God does not want to see us suffer.  Our bad choices caused us suffering.  He is waiting upon us to humble ourselves and cry out to Him.  He wants us to repent and say that we are sorry that we sinned against Him.  He is waiting for us to ask Him to break us free from sin and suffering and tell Him that we want to live a life free from sin with His help.  Then, He will intervene in our suffering and stop our weeping once we discover the true cost of sin. 

 

Step #4: God shows us compassion and sets us free from bondage to sin.

Yeshua saw the widow’s tears, struggles and showed compassion.  The widow represents us.  We are alone with our problem.  Only God can stop our weeping and suffering and bring life back to us.  

 

Step #5 Yeshua calls us to arise from our dead state.  

The widows son came back to life when Yeshua touched him and called him back to life.  God likewise calls us to emerge from darkness and enter back into life with Him.  We possess an opportunity to arise from our old life of death and sin and to walk in newness and righteousness.   Yeshua’s Holy Spirit gives us life and empowers us from within.  

 

Step #6: An Encounter With God. 

Yeshua heals blind eyes, deaf ears, lame legs, lepers and dead people.  He brings real life and real hope of eternal life to us.  We no longer need to walk in darkness, sin and death.  We can walk in newness of life with God.

Have You Had This Life Changing Encounter With Yeshua?

 

Step 7: God visits His People.  

We know God and God knows us.  We have a friend in God.  God’s name does not offend us; therefore, we become blessed.  We sought God out and discovered that He is with us.  When we follow the six steps to Yeshua, we discover the wonderful truth: God’s word is true and God is real.  He is who He says that He is; He can do what He says He can do.  We discover what the phrase means: the joy of the Lord. As a result, we can recognize Yeshua has stopped by to see us.  We can share this story of God’s visit with us and testify of God’s goodness.

Meditations from the books of Timothy

This image of Paul above comes from wikimedia.org.  Paul may or may not have written both books of Timothy. Timothy was a son of a Jewish mother (Afro-Asiatic) and a Greek father.  Paul profoundly took interest in the development of young Timothy.  He provides instructions for his Christian development into a strong leader. He reminds Timothy of his personal testimony regarding his early history; he implores Timothy to behave in a righteous and moral way worthy of his calling.

I Timothy 1:12-14  “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

I Timothy 2:1-2  “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness.”

I Timothy 2:8 “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.”

Quick reflections:  … first “without anger or disputing”.  The enemy’s domain is anger, dispute and disunity.  Think of examples where this is true in personal/home life and also in the larger community and society.  Note the word “unity” is a root within the word community.   The other root is “comm” as in “come together”.   There can be a society without community or communities, but such a society … if there is not community is a society that is filled with chaos and dissension and disruption which leads to destruction.  

Take note in personal life as well as in the broader society what forces and/or influences promote unity and community vs. those that cause and or create disruption and disunity.  There can be a spiritual dimension to this as in the elements of spiritual warfare.   Take note of subtle or unintended actions or influences that push toward disunity and disruption as opposed to unity and community.  We have to choose carefully our friends, associates, environments and what we feed our minds.  Ask the question if those things promote community and unity in a way that promotes Godly and Christ-centered values or if those influences work against that.  Sometimes the unintentional or unintended influences can, over time, do as much damage as the ones that are very clear and intentional.   That is why the unintentional influences fall under the heading of “deception” which is one of the enemy’s most used tricks and tools.

We must accept that we are in a constant arena where to a greater or lesser degree there is some level of spiritual warfare taking place.  The level of intensity may vary from time to time.  The enemy has limited resources….unlike our God….who has unlimited resources.   There are times the enemy will deploy a specific line of attack against us and times when it will not be as direct.  However, we are always, quite literally “on the battlefield”.   As such we must establish habits of consistency, caution and vigilance to ensure that we do not get caught “off guard” by the enemy and harmed when the serious attacks come.

This challenges us to be diligent in seeking and communing with God at all times, not just in times of crisis.  God is our friend.  God is always available.  God loves us.  God will always help us and is always a constant force for our good.  We can trust God’s constancy and presence at ALL times.  It does not depend on us.  That is the message of the Cross.  There is nothing any of us did to merit God’s favor to die for our sins.  Not a single thing at all.  He did it as a complete gift of unrequited love for fallen humanity. There is nothing any of us could do or could have done to merit God’s favor in this.  THAT SAID…God gives us free will to commune with Him or not.  WHEN we choose to stay in communion..or direct community with Him…He can give us access to His vision, His power, and His plan for our lives and that can be an amazing plan.  It is better and more fantastic than anything we can conceive of for ourselves.  BUT,  we have to seek God and intentionally find Him (He is not hard to find, but we have to put some effort into it.)  When we do this it does not mean everything in life will become immediately clear or easy or direct or painless, BUT it does mean we will have better (spiritual) vision of how to meet life’s challenges and what actions to take and what to avoid.  In doing this we can better enable God’s love to extend into the world and bring joy not only to ourselves but to others. 

When we do not intentionally do this, there is a likelihood that we may fall into traps…sometimes the same traps if we have not matured or progressed out of certain habits, shortcomings and failings (this also can be a gentle/or not so gentle message from God).    If we fall into a trap, or traps, God is still there and God still loves us BUT God may not remove the consequences of us falling into traps.  God is a loving God, BUT also God is a JUST God.  Love and Justice go hand in hand.  Without justice there can be no true love.  Without love, God’s justice loses its meaning and foremost of all “God is Love”…BUT…God is a God of order as He created an orderly universe that is governed by laws of order (some physical, some spiritual).  So with order, there comes justice.  And in a universe governed by order and justice (and love) actions (or inactions) have consequences.  As this is in nature and the natural/physical world that we observe..so it is in the spiritual world.  

So this is an admonishment to “sow good seeds” in our lives so that we may reap a God harvest overtime.

 Theme to consider in closing:

How are my current habits (good or bad) influencing my walk with God and my daily walk in life?

What steps can I or do I need to take to change or improve in areas of habits and disciplines that will create better outcomes for me?

Are there any influences in my life or my personal space that may be impacting my walk with God (for good or bad)?  Are they “intentional” influences…i.e. choices I am making consciously and what are the consequences of those choices?   Are there subtle or “unintentional” influences that are impacting my walk…are they disruptive?   If they are present, how can I address them and make changes?

Footnote on being in community with other believers and seeking God in organized settings.

God does want us to be in community with other believers.  He designed us to be in community.

He established community for His earthly ministry, primarily through the close bonds He formed with the original 12 disciples and other very important people, like Mary and Martha, and Mary Magdalene, whom He drew close to Him in his ministry.

In saying this, we must be discerning and wise, however.  Too many people are not discerning and wise on this.   The Bible warns us in the “last days” of many “false prophets” and so-called religious leaders who claim Godliness but “deny His true power”.   In today’s so-called contemporary Christian scene in America many of these “false prophets” are easy to identify.   They preach or teach people what “their itching ears” want to here.   They do not preach, or teach, a full gospel.  They only preach, or teach, a partial gospel that by omission distorts the truth of God.

People need to be uplifted by God’s Word and loved an attracted to God.  

At a certain stage, they also need to understand God’s justice and that side.

All love and no justice is an incomplete picture of the true God.

All justice without love is also a distortion…and a very unattractive one the drives people away.

Also, actions have consequences.  And people must understand that.

Part of God’s love is that God can meet anyone, anywhere, under any circumstance and bring peace and calmness.  Even in the midst of consequences of sin or things gone astray, God can still come in there and do His work.  BUT that does not mean the consequences (i.e. of sin) are necessarily changed or eliminated.   God can do redemptive work and restorative work, but God will do this work in His timing for His purposes.

Faithful ministers of the gospel need to present a balanced view of God.  One that emphasizes all aspects of who God is.   This allows people to really “get real” about God and with God and actually have true community.

Undergirding all of this is God’s undeniable and deep, deep love for all of us.  He loved us first “while we were yet sinner”, so people (all of us) need never fear drawing close to God.  Even when we have failed or done wrong.  God forgives us.  There may be consequences.  But God loves us and can bring us through those consequences  BECAUSE he loves us and wants us to be in community and unity with Him.

It can also be said that God may perform “miracles” and “transformations” which may totally alter the present reality.  And this applies to anything that has been written above.  Sometimes we yearn for “miracles” in our lives.   But God uses all miracles and transformations for His glory and to point people toward Him.  We may benefit from the miracles and they can bless us..BUT…if our yearning for miracles and transformations is a self-centered attempt to “end run” or avoid consequences of decisions we make in our daily lives then it is not likely God will perform such miracles because those would serve our selfish human desires and not God’s higher purpose.  So when, sometimes in periods of struggle or pain, we pray or wish for “miracles” to remove our struggle, we must remember that God is sovereign and looks to our good in all circumstances, but that does not mean He is going to immediately “snap us out” of whatever pain or struggle we are experiencing.

A final note on evil, pain and/or injustice we do not understand OR on what seems to be unjust suffering of innocent people.  This is a real situation and the answer is not easy.  To try to answer, in any form, may fall short.  What we can observe and know that is true is that in the natural world we inhabit we know for a fact that ALL PAIN is temporary.  All suffering in this world has an end.  It is not an eternal state.  We see birth, life and death before us in this limited natural world.  For now it is the only world we know or have experienced, so to us it “seems” permanent because we do not know anything else.

Because we observe that this world is corrupted by sin, there is suffering and injustice that impacts people undeservedly out of no fault of their own.  What we do know is that God observes all of this and in God’s eternal evaluation, all of this is accounted for.   From an eternal perspective, when all of us reach the eternal world that God tells us about and look back on this temporary world, there will be no more pain, no more suffering, no more injustice, BUT whatever God’s purpose in allowing it in this temporary world, we will be able to more completely comprehend it from the eternal perspective looking retrospectively back into this “temporary” space we now inhabit.

If we are in the midst of a challenge or suffering, or struggle, perhaps because of our actions BUT also in some cases not because of our actions…this is difficult, admittedly very difficult, to process.  If we are in great pain it can be very difficult.   So this is an acknowledgement of that difficulty and an acknowledgement that any human answers to this, no matter how intelligently worded or reasoned, are incomplete.  We are incomplete creatures and limited as humans.  God is not.  So we have to pray and try and hope as best we can and trust implicitly that God’s infiniteness has the answers that we cannot yet comprehend.   When and if we have felt God’s very real presence and love in our lives (I have), just that experience alone, even if temporary, can give us the trust and hope to accept and hold on beyond and through what we may not immediately understand.