Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Personal Testimony

I grew up in church with good parents who taught me right from wrong & rightly punished me for doing wrong. I went to Sunday school, sung in the choir, and did most of the things a regular, church-going girl would do. Then the church's fall revival rolled around & I started hearing a lot more preaching on hell. I knew this was a bad place & I didn't want to go there so I followed instructions, went to the alter, tearfully prayed a prayer & thought I was saved. The years that followed were filled with doubt, uncertainty & a lot of anxiety. I kept going back to the time & place I asked Christ to save me but the problem with that was I couldn't remember exactly what I said or did or if I really meant it. So I kept walking in this uncertainty through my teenage years and told myself that because I really didn't have the desire to drink or party that I was saved and living for Christ. 
Isaiah 64:6 says we have all become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 
The real reason I didn't do those things was a selfish one because I didn't want to get in trouble with my parents and make my family look bad. Then as I grew into an adult I began seeking a husband & what unmerited grace God showed me! I married my best friend on August 5, 2000 & about four years later we began coming to Grace. As I sat under the teaching & preaching of Bro. Scott Kennis, all of the things I learned about the Bible in my younger years began making sense, many questions I had were answered through the preaching of the word. I was able to forgive past offenses & began to understand & admit what a dirty sinner I was. Even though outwardly there was no apparent difference, inside my heart of stone had been broken & replaced with a new one formed by Christ. 
2 Corinthians 5:17 says therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 
He had made me into a new person who now truly desired to obey Him instead of just pretending because it was the right thing to do. I now cared more about hurting The Lord Jesus more than I cared about getting caught by others in my sin. All of this became apparent to me the other Wednesday night through the preaching of the word in Ruth. The Lord answered the prayers & questions I've had for several years now & it was certain to me that I needed to obey Him in believers baptism. I cannot say with certainty exactly when I was saved but I can say with certainty that I am saved & that the evidence lies within my heart that He changed, not in any outward appearances. 
Philippians 3:7-12 says but whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things & count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ & be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him & the power of His resurrection, & may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Excuses Fall Short

What follows is from a book I'm currently reading by Charles Spurgeon.

I hear some of you say, "Well, sir, I know nothing of this work of God the Holy Spirit in my heart. I am just as good as other people. I never make a profession of religion; it is very rarely that I go into a place of worship at all, but I am as good as the saints, any of them. Look at some of them - very fine fellows certainly." 
Stop, now. Religion is a thing between you and your Maker, and you have nothing to do with those very fine fellows you have spoken of. Suppose I make a confession that a large number of those who are called saints deserve a great deal more to be called sinners double-dyed, and then whitewashed. Suppose I make a confession of that. What has that to do with you?  Your religion must be for yourself, and it must be between you and your God. If all the world were hypocrites, that would not exonerate you before your God. When you came before the Master, if you were still at enmity with Him, could you venture to plead such an excuse as this:  "All the world was full of hypocrites?"  "Well," He would say, "what did that have to do with you?  So much the more why you should have been an honest man.  If you say the church was drifting away into quicksand, through the evil conduct and folly of the members thereof, so much the more why you should have helped to make it sound, if you thought you could have done so."
Another cries, "Well, I do not see that I need it. I am as moral a man as I can be.  I never break the Sabbath. I am one of the most conscientious of Christians.  I always go to church twice on Sunday.  I listen to a thoroughly evangelical minister, and you would not find fault with him."  Perhaps another says, "I go to a Baptist chapel.  I am always found there, and I am scrupulously correct in my conduct.  I am a good father, a good husband.  I do not know that any man can find fault with me in business."  Well, certainly, that is very good, and if you will be so good tomorrow morning as to go into Saint Paul's and wash one of those statues until you make it alive, then you will be saved by your morality; but since you, even you, are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1) without the Spirit you may wash yourself ever so clean, but you cannot wash life into you any more than those statues, by all your washing, could be made to walk or think or breathe.  You must be quickened by the Holy Spirit, for you are dead in trespasses and sins.  Yes, my lovely maiden, you who are everything excellent; you who are not to be blamed in anything; you who are affectionate, tender, kind, and dutiful.  Your very life seems to be so pure that all who see you think that you are an angel.  Even you, unless you are born again, cannot see the kingdom of God.  The golden gate of heaven must grind upon its hinges with a doleful sound and shut you out forever, unless you are the subject of a divine change, for this requirement permits no exception.
And, you, vilest of the vile, you who have wandered farthest from the paths of righteousness, "ye must be born again" (John 3:7). You must be quickened by a divine life, and it is comforting for you to remember that the very same power that can awaken the moral man, that can save the righteous and honest man, is able to work in you, is able to change you!  This power can turn the lion into a lamb, and the raven into a dove. 
Oh, my readers, ask yourselves, are you the subjects of this change?  And if you are, rejoice with joy unspeakable, for happy is that mother's child, and full of glory, who can say, "I am born of God."  Blessed is that man.  God and the holy angels call him blessed who has received the quickening of the Spirit and is born of God.  For him there may be many troubles, but there is "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17) to counterbalance all his woe; for him there may be wars and fightings, but let him tarry.  There are trumpets of victory, there are better wreaths than the laurels of conquerors, there is a crown of immortal glory, there is bliss unfading, there is acceptance in the breast of God, and perpetual fellowship with Jehovah.  But, oh, if you are not born again, I can but tremble for you and lift my heart in prayer to God, and pray for you, that He may now by His divine Spirit make you alive, show you your need of Him, adn then direct you to the cross of Jesus. 
But if you know your need of a Savior, if you are conscious of your death in sin, listen to the Gospel.  The Lord Jesus Christ died for you.  Do you know yourself to be guilty, not as the hypocrite pretends to know it, but do you know it consciously, sensitively?  Do you weep over it?  Do you lament it?  Do you feel that you cannot save yourself?  Are you sick of all fleshly ways of saving?  Can you say right now, "Unless God reaches out His hand of mercy, I know I deserve to be lost forever, and I am"?  Then, as the Lord my God lives, before whom I stand, my Master bought you with His blood, and those whom He bought with His blood, He will have; from the fangs of the lion and the jaws of the bear will He pluck them.  He will save you, for you are a part of His bloody purchase; He has taken your sins upon His head; He suffered in your place.  He has been punished for you; you will not die; "your sins, which are many, are all forgiven." (See Luke 7:47.)  I am the Master's glad herald to tell you what His Word tells you also, that you may rejoice in the fullness of faith, for "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15), and "this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation" (v. 15).  May the Lord now be pleased to add His blessing for Jesus' sake. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lord, teach us to pray!

James 5:13-20
I anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders oft he church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like our, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. 

The Lord has taught me a lot about prayer lately and is continuing to do so.  I've been brought to the hard truth that I really didn't know how to pray.  Yes, I've been a Christian for quite some time but yet, I really didn't know how to pray mainly because I'd never asked the Lord to teach me.  This is the main reason praying has been such a chore up until now.  Certainly I am not the prayer warrior I would like to be and distractions come at me from every side when I attempt to spend time with the Lord but through the power of the Holy Spirit and remembering the things He has taught me, I'm slowing but surely winning this battle.  
Are you willing to learn how to pray?  God didn't create prayer for Himself because He needs us to tell Him what we need or want.  He knows all, sees all, and is the Alpha and Omega.  He created prayer because we need Him and communication with Him is vital to our survival as Christians. in this sinful world.  Is the Lord valuable enough in our lives that we would spend time learning how to communicate with Him?  Have you ever tried to talk to someone with whom you had very little or nothing in common?  It's hard isn't it?!  Perhaps that's why we struggle so with prayer; we don't have enough in common with the Lord to know how to carry on a conversation with Him.  Romans 8:26 says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."  While Jesus walked this earth He taught the disciples how to pray.  They even sought Him out and said, "Lord, teach us to pray."  Charles Spurgeon says, "Prayer itself is an art that only the Holy Spirit can teach us.  He is the giver of all prayer.  Pray for prayer."  He also says, "There is a vulgar notion that prayer is easy."  
So, what are we to do?  Are we powerless here on earth and God's gonna do what God's gonna do regardless?  In the Christian life there is rarely nothing we can do.  Remember when we pray we have a mightier One that us praying with us.  There is another voice louder and sweeter than the first, more powerful pleading, "Father, forgive them through My precious blood."  (from Spurgeon's Prayer & Spiritual Warfare)  Praise Jesus!  Hebrews 7:25 says Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.  Charles Spurgeon explains it well, "Sometimes poor people come to us with requests that they wish to send to some company or important person.  They bring the request and ask us to have it presented for them.  It is very badly spelled, very strangely written, and we can barely make out what they mean; but still there is enough to let us know what they want.  First of all, we make out a good copy for the, and then, having stated their case, we put our own name at the bottom.  If we have any influence, of course, they get what they desire through the power of the name signed at the foot of the petition.  This is just what the Lord Jesus Christ does with our poor prayers.  He makes a good copy of them stamps them with the seal of His own atoning blood, puts His own name at the foot, and thus they go up to God's throne.  It is your prayer, but, oh, it is His prayer, too.  It is the fact of its being His prayer that makes it prevail!"  Again I say, "Praise Jesus!!"
This doesn't mean that we are without responsibility.  In face, when praying, it's easier to get the words right than it is to get the heart right (Elizabeth George) 
Psalm 19:14 says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."  Proverbs 28:13 says, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."  Luke 18:1 says, "And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not loose heart."  
While we live and desire mercy; it's not too late to seek it!  Don't let Satan tempt you with the thought that it's too late.  We must be persistent because we are so needy!  Genesis 32 records the account of Jacob wrestling with God and when He put his hip out of joint, Jacob still clung to Him and said in verse 26, "I will not let you go unless You bless me!"  Consider the ravens also, "They neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than the birds!"  Ravens don't do one thing to provide for themselves like the tiny ant who stores food for the winter but yet God provides for them anyway.  Have you ever heard anything more irritation than a bunch of crows squawking?  Many of crows have justly been blown to bits by the farmer who has worked in the heat all day planting his seeds just to turn around and see a crow pecking, digging them up and eating them.  Spurgeon says again, "I fear a raven sometimes has a great advantage; young ravens are more in earnest about their food than some are about their souls."  For the most part, ravens come into our daily lives uninvited and are a nuisance but the soul seeking God in earnest is never viewed this why by Him.  They (we) are His invited guests.  "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver You, and You shall glorify Me." - Psalm 50:15
Psalm 141:2 says, "Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!" and the explanation to this verse lies back in Exodus 29:42, "It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there."  Notice the last part of Exodus 42, "where I will meet with you, to speak to you there."  The Lord draws near to all those who seek Him and there is no greater joy in life than walking with Him! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Making Decisions

Recently, I began reading a book entitled, The Heart of A Woman Who Prays by Elizabeth George.  I wholeheartedly recommend that all Christian women read this book.  It's packed full of practical ways that we can make our desire to pray a reality.  Let's face it, none of us pray as much or like we should but this book has helped me dig deeper into scripture to see why I don't and what I can do to change that.  It's been a tremendous blessing to my life already and I'm not even finished reading it.  
So, what does this have to do with the title of my blog?  Several chapters in this book discuss how to make Godly decisions, or in other words, how to make right decisions. We all struggle with this in life and some decisions carry more weight than others but no matter what it may be, no decision is too great or small NOT to pray about first.  So, I want to share with you a brief section of the book called, Prayer in Making Decisions.  By all means, please read the entire book if you get the chance, but in the mean time, I pray this will bless and encourage all who read it.  

Any time we are faced with a decision in life (whether great or small) we should ask ourselves the following questions:

     1. Excess - Will this practice slow me down?
             Hebrews 12:1- Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of 
             witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so
         closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
     2. Expediency - Is it useful, profitable and beneficial?
         1 Corinthians 6:12 - All things are lawful for me, but not all things are 
         helpful.  All things are lawful for me but I will not be enslaved by
      3. Emulation - Is it what Jesus would do in the same situation?
        1 John 2:6  Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way
        in which He walked.
     4. Evangelism - Will it spread the gospel to unbelievers, enhance my 
         testimony, or serve as a strong basis for personal evangelism?  
         Colossians 4:5  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of
     5.  Edification - Will it build me up in Christ?
          1 Corinthians 10:31  So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
          do all to the glory of God.
     6. Example - Will this action offer my Christian brothers and sisters the 
         proper kind of example - a righteous path to follow?  Will it harm my
         weaker brothers and sisters in Christ or strengthen them?
         1 Corinthians 8:13  Therefore if food makes my brother stumble, I will 
         never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Serving Christ in the Ordinary Ways of Life

But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me....  
-Galatians 1:15 & 16

How can we serve Christ in the ordinary ways of life?  There are a million and one answers to this question but many times we think of service to Christ as only witnessing to someone or handing out Bibles or preaching / teaching.  While these things are no less important, it doesn't have to be labeled as a spiritual activity for it to be service unto our Lord.  As a dear friend pointed out to me shortly after Lydia was born, "Even if you find yourself washing bottles over and over again, remember you're serving your daughter and in that serving Christ."  What a comfort that was to me.  No wonder many women today find themselves discontent with "just being a wife and mom".  While I am one who would not be happy staying at home all of the time with children I do believe we have allowed ourselves, as women, to see this role as menial. Being a wife and mom is anything but menial.  In fact, it's truly hard work! 
I have been blessed at this point in my life with the best of both worlds, as a mom and as a business woman.  I do not view either one as more important than the other, although my husband & child certainly come before my customers.  Both of these areas of my life include service to Christ Jesus, whether it be helping someone pick out a dress or doing laundry for my family.  This is what it means to serve Christ in the ordinary ways of life.  Where does Christ have you at this point in your life?  Then start taking a look around you to notice the simple ways in which you serve each day.  Any of these acts done for the glory of God will not be in vain.  
This is also one of the best ways to witness to the lost and dying world around us.  As Galatians reads, God has set us apart, let us live our lives displaying that we are different, not by our words, but by our actions.  Yes, we will fail and make mistakes, but how do we handle those mistakes?  Are they handled in humbleness and humility or in anger and bitterness?  
There is so much joy in serving Christ that words to adequately describe it are not in existence.  Let us remember one final thought, however, to keep us in balance.  Mary and Martha; two of Jesus friends while He was here on earth.  One simply sat at Jesus feet and spent time with him while the other scurried about preparing this and that.  In this story, it's important to note that Jesus did not scold Martha for scurrying about but simply reminded her of what she was missing by not taking time to sit with Him.  I have been guilty on numerous occasions of being a Martha and valuing physical, hands on service to Jesus over simply spending time with Him in the Word and in prayer.  Our physical acts of service are all for naught if they are not balanced in a close relationship to our Lord.  If we intend to have a relationship with anyone we must communicate with them.  Jesus is no different. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Voice of God

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?  Then I said, "Here am I.  Send me!"  Isaiah 6:8

When I stop to think about what God's voice really sounds like the first thought that pops into my head is "the voice of many waters" as it is described in Revelation.  I imagine if I were to audibly hear the voice of God I would faint but just because my human ears can't hear Him is irrelevant in my Christian walk.  If I am truly His child then my spirit can hear Him, the Holy Spirit, speaking to me.  Many times I have to say it is indeed a still small voice and I so quickly dismiss it and later regret it.  
So how do we know it's the voice of God speaking to us in a certain situation?  First we must ask ourselves how familiar are we with His Word? If we aren't reading it daily trying to know more and more of it then we are in danger of confusing the voice of God with something else.  Then we must ask ourselves how much time have we spent in prayer with the Lord recently?  Prayer is perhaps the greatest struggle of my Christian walk, at least at this point, because I let myself get distracted so easily.  However, I am striving and have seen fruit this past week.  I want to teach my little girl who to rely on and I want her to see my praying to my heavenly Father and trusting in Him.  
God will never speak to us something that contradicts His word and anyone, even if it's a preacher, who tells you different is wrong.  God's word is Holy and infallible and it never contradicts itself, although there are many who would argue that point.  We as Christians should search the scriptures for ourselves and pray first of all before seeking outside council.  When we get alone with God and truly seek, then we shall find.  It's a promise!
"The call of God is the expression of God's nature, not of our nature", said Oswald Chambers.  We can only hear the voice of God clearly if the same nature is in us. For many years I totally misunderstood the verse which ends, "and God will give you the desires of your heart."  Today I've come to understand that it was never about me getting what I wanted in life, it was about God conforming me to His ways so that my desires would match up with His desires.  To an unbeliever that sounds like no fun at all but I can't adequately describe what peace that brings to my life.  I can truly understand, although not condone, why people drink to excess.  This life is tough and going through it thinking we have to do it all on our own is a stress the Lord does not want His children to bear.   It's never fun to confront our own flesh and the sin that lives within us but the Bible does teach us that it's better for us to do it in the privacy of our own prayer closets than for someone else to confront us with it. May we examine ourselves to see what is hindering us from clearly hearing the voice of God in our own lives.