Monday, September 26, 2011

Traveling Through Mountaintops and Valleys

Here is an excerpt from one of the chapters in my book "Path of the Blessing." 

Some time later God tested Abraham and he asked him to take his only son, Isaac, to the region of Moriah and to sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains. Early the next morning Abraham got up and set out for the journey with two of his servants and his son. On the third day, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.  He realized he was almost there, to the place where he was supposed to sacrifice his son, I wonder what must have been going through his mind.

   In Genesis 22:5 he then, “said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there.  We will worship and then we will come back to you.’” Notice the "we"?  Abraham believed that both of them would come back, pushing aside everything he knew.  He was believing solely on faith, there was nothing he could use to analyze the outcome, yet he believed.

   When his son asked him where the lamb was for the sacrifice, Abraham responded by faith again, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." Abraham was so trusting of God, believing that if it was God’s will for his son to be the sacrifice, then so be it.  Abraham never doubted God, not for one second.

   As Abraham was reaching out his hand to take the knife to slay his son, an Angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven. Abraham recognized the voice of the Lord with a response of "Here I am." The Lord tells Abraham not to touch the boy and that he now knows that Abraham fears God. 

   Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram in the thicket and so he took that ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering before the Lord instead of his son. Genesis 22:14, “So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide.  And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’”  I love this statement. 

   Sometimes our paths take us through valleys and up mountains and when we are on the mountaintops, in the spiritual highs of our life, we will experience a surrendering of something to God.  This surrendering can look like the death of that thing we hold so dear, but then God gives us a way out which results in praise and worship before the Lord. 

   When we spend time on the mountain of the Lord with an attitude of surrender, we lose ourselves only to find our true selves, our true path.  For example, laying down our financial fears and surrendering our wealth to him doesn't mean we are to live in poverty, no, it is the opposite.  When we surrender our finances, God sees our trust in him, our deepest respect and fear of him.  He then provides a way, a way that we had never imagined, and he will restore what we had offered.  God is not a taker, God is a giver and he wants to give to us.

(Now skipping down a little further in the  chapter)

Sarah (Abraham's wife) then dies at 127 years old.  She died in Hebron in the land of Canaan.  The bible says that Abraham mourned for Sarah and wept over her at her side.  This is definitely a valley experience, when someone you love dies.

    At some point in all of our lives we will find that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  This can be experiencing the death of a loved one, or the death of a relationship.  Just because we are finding ourselves in a valley on our path, doesn’t necessarily mean we have gotten off of our path of blessing.  God has led us there and he will lead us through.

 Psalm 23 “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. 
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. 
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (NIV)

   If you are finding yourself in a valley right now, keep trusting and following the Lord to lead you through.  

Take a moment and think about your life, are you currently on a mountaintop or a valley?  Is there something that God is asking you to surrender or are you in the process of learning to trust Him in the darkest of experiences?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Heart Song: Infertility

Infertility.  This is a subject that has hit close to home, too close and I want to share a little of my story with you today.  Here is an excerpt from my book, “Path of the Blessing.”

   Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah. Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; she couldn't have children.

   Two things struck home with me in this paragraph above.  One, Rebekah was unable to get pregnant and two, Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife to get pregnant.

   How many married couples have you known that are desperately trying to get pregnant with no results?  I’ve known plenty, and in fact it happened to me. 

   Back in 1998 my husband and I decided that we were ready to start a family.  I honestly thought, “How hard could it be, right?”  Well, we tried for a year and nothing.  I prayed and prayed and still nothing.  With each passing month, realizing that I was still not pregnant grew a deep heartache.  My husband and I didn’t know what we were doing wrong.  “Is this normal?” was one of the questions I would ponder.  All I could think about was “Why is this happening to me?”  I began to feel depressed. 

   After a year of trying on our own with no success, I decided to make an appointment with my doctor.  In between waiting for my doctor’s appointment I had the weekend before me.  During this time in our lives, we were attending a church that was experiencing a move of God.  People were miraculously healed, souls saved, and people baptized.  It was an amazing time.  Every night was a service and so that Friday night, Troy and I had planned to go.

   I had gone to the front of the church for prayer before, but still, no pregnancy.  My husband and I prayed every night and still nothing. So this time, I decided to dive into worship, let all my worries go, and focus on pouring my heart’s worship out to God.  As I did this, I experienced a vision.

   In the vision, I was receiving something from the Lord, and I held it close to my heart.  (There were more details than this, but you get the general idea)  After the service, I told my husband every detail of the vision and then he got this funny look on his face.  I had no idea what I had received, and was waiting for him to tell me the interpretation.

   He told me that it was a baby, that we were pregnant!  Two days later, I took a pregnancy test and sure enough, it was true.  I ended up keeping my doctor’s appointment, but now, instead of an appointment for exploring fertility treatments, it was an appointment to start the journey of pregnancy.

   All I can say looking back, is that it took God and it took faith along that yearlong journey.  God came through for me, and he’ll come through for you.

   Secondly, Isaac had prayed for Rebekah.  How many husbands are praying over their wives? I am blessed to be married to a man who loves the Lord.  There was a time when we both didn’t make much of an effort to grow in our relationship with God, but God led us and we followed.  We chose to spend time in the word together and we chose to spend time in prayer together.  It was a path we had chosen to walk.  I believe that from my husband covering me in prayer for a baby, it made a difference. It made a difference for Isaac and Rebekah too, in fact so much so that they were blessed with twins!

Maybe you are still waiting on God.  Don’t give up; keep your faith strong by keeping in relationship with Jesus.  Do you have a story to tell?  I would love to read your story in the comments….

Friday, September 9, 2011

Father God, Forgive Us as We Forgive Others

As a child, I remember reciting the “Lord’s Prayer” in church service and seeing it written on a plaque hanging on the stairway wall of our home.  I loved saying it, over and over. It had a sort of rhythm to it that I could recite without a real thought to the meaning. 

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV) (The words of Jesus)

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

   “‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
   as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
   but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’

As I’ve gotten older and listened to messages preached on Sunday mornings, I can honestly say I have only heard one pastor preach on this passage and his focus was on the kingdom of heaven.  That message he preached back in 1999 got me thinking.  I started to look further at this prayer and I realized a few things, and one of those things is in regards to forgiveness.

Verse 12 “And forgive us our debts,
   as we also have forgiven our debtors”

Another way to say this is: Forgive us our sins
   as we forgive those who sin against us.

In the verse following this prayer, Jesus focuses in on one subject within this prayer, forgiveness.

Verse 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

I think a lot of Christians overlook this verse, considering most people only know the Lord’s Prayer by memory, but never taking the time to read it.  If we did, we would see that Jesus is telling us that if we don’t forgive others, then we will not be forgiven. This is not the only place in the Bible that talks about this. 

Matthew 11:25 (NIV) (The words of Jesus)
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

According to Jesus, forgiveness is a HUGE issue.  So what does it mean to forgive?  This is how the dictionary defines it:

forgive |fərˈgiv|
verb ( past -gave ; past part. -given ) [ trans. ]
stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake

I know, and you know we cannot put a stop on our feelings toward someone like switching a switch; it’s much more than that.  When we’ve been deeply wounded, it is a process of healing that only God can heal.  In my past experiences, my best strategy for aiding the healing of those wounds is to pray a prayer of blessing over the person who has wounded you.  I learned this strategy through a book I read, written by John Bevere, which helped me forgive some really hard to forgive people.  Here’s the link: 

When you pray, it doesn’t have to be in front of anyone, just start by getting the words out.  Something like, “Lord, bless (fill in the blank) with your love.”  It will feel like you are in a battle between your soul and your flesh by getting words of blessing out, but what you are really doing is freeing yourself up from a spirit of unforgiveness.  (Look at Matthew 18:21-35, it is a parable on forgiveness and what happens to us spiritually if we choose not to forgive others from our heart.)

So the next time you are reciting the Lord’s Prayer in church or in your home, I challenge you to think about the words you are saying. It’s more than a prayer; it’s a way of living.  

Do you have any stories of forgiveness you would like to share?  I would love to read your comments...

Want to explore the Lord's Prayer in a deeper way?  Check out this link:  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Disorder or Peace?

Do you ever think about wisdom?  Maybe you think that you already know everything, and don’t need any help from God on the matter, but I for one do.  I confess, I don’t know everything and I need God to help me with answers in this life.   (Although I don’t always live out this statement, -and I’m saying this with embarrassment)  So many times I have tried to solve problems on my own, trying to use my basic human wisdom, yet never being as successful as I want to be.  The times where I have had the best outcome is when I’ve prayed to God and asked for wisdom and understanding, and guess what?  I’ve gotten it every time.   –You’d think I’d learn my lesson right?  Well I’m human, and I forget to depend on the wisdom that comes from God.

There’s this guy in the Bible, his name was James, and he wrote about wisdom, and I think he says it pretty clearly…..  

James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (NIV)

The first thing I see here is a huge contrast between the two types of wisdom. So how do you know if your wisdom that you use is earthly or heavenly?

Two basic indicators of what kind of wisdom you are using in your daily life:

1.     Do you experience a life primarily of disorder?


2.     Do you experience a life primarily of peace?

If you answered “Yes” to the first question, and want to live a life of peace, you will find the answer in verses 13 and 14 in the scripture above.  Notice that it doesn’t say “Tell everyone about your good deeds?” Instead, it says to “show” your wisdom by living your life of good deeds; deeds that are not done with the mindset of displaying them, instead done with the attitude of humility.  To break it down more simply, it all comes down to your heart.  Where is your heart when you are doing something good for someone else?  Are you doing it to be recognized or are you doing it simply to help someone else out?  -That is humility!

What is the result of using this heavenly wisdom? Peace.  Peace in the decisions we make, peace in the things we do for others, and we find ourselves living out a life of a peacemaker. 

What a great reminder James gives us to seek out wisdom from heaven and what an easy way for us to know if we are utilizing that wisdom. 

So what kind of life are you experiencing on a daily basis?