Knocking on Heaven’s Door

In 1965 Bob Dylan wrote a song called Knocking on Heavens Door. It was later recorded by a group called Guns and Roses. I can’t say I was ever a Guns and Roses fan, but a strange thing happened this morning.  When I woke up, the chorus of that song was going through my mind. What it says repeatedly is ‘knock, knock, knockin’, on Heaven’s door.’  So when I got out of bed, I looked up the lyrics and found them to be rather dark. The song is apparently about someone in law enforcement who is dying and feels he is knocking on Heaven’s door. Yet, he talks about ‘that cold dark cloud coming down’.

When I opened my Bible study for the morning, I was amazed that my lesson for the day was about the Kingdom of Heaven. What I read in Colossians 1:13 is that God has “rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the son he loves.” Did you see that? God has rescued us from darkness. There is no darkness when we knock on Heaven’s door and enter in.

In heaven there will only be light – there will be no darkness. We are told in Revelation 3:20 that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. The verse says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and have dinner with him and he with me”. Then John, who wrote the Revelation, said this: “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in Heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (Revelation 4:1)

From this we learn that Jesus knocks on the door of our heart, and we knock on the door of Heaven. When Jesus knocks, we are to answer with faith, believing in who He is and invite Him into our lives. Then, when the time comes for us to knock on Heaven’s door before passing into eternity, there will be no darkness, and the doors will be thrown wide open for us to enter in. When we knock, Jesus opens the door.

For the Christian, the message of ‘knock, knock, knockin’, on Heaven’s door’ is not a message of death, but rather of life eternal!

Once we have opened the door of our heart when Jesus knocks, not only are we assured of eternity with Him as we knock on Heaven’s door, but we are promised an open door of response from Him on earth. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks find, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

In this passage, Jesus was teaching His disciples to be persistent in prayer for daily needs, confident that their Father in Heaven would provide whatever was best for them according to His gracious will. The same is true for believers today. After we invite Jesus in as personal Savior, He throws open doors for us that have been closed. The door opens to spiritual wisdom, opportunity, power to accomplish what He asks of us and so much more. Ask, seek, knock that we may find, receive, and know all that is needed for life and godliness.

Jesus is the Light of the World. In Him, there is no darkness at all. As believers, we have a call to action. We are to let His light shine through us to the world around us. The shield of His light dispels the darkness.

“The night is far gone, the day is at hand.

So then let us cast off the works of darkness

and put on the armor of light.”

Romans 13:12 ESV

What is the IT?

For the past few years, a group of friends and I have been challenged in December to ask God to give us a word for the coming year. My word for 2017 is JOY. I began the year thinking ‘awesome, my year is going to be filled with joy!’ It has been in many ways that I am so thankful for.

The year began with the birth of a baby boy into our family and has ended with the birth of a second baby boy into our family. That is JOY! In addition, I was able to complete a year-long contract of radio hosting. God provided messages and interviews throughout the year that brought great joy. We have a new church home. That, too, is great joy. However, among these joyful events, there have been trials, disappointments and discouragement as well. But God is reminding me at the end of this year what true joy is all about.

This month the Lord has taken me time and again to James 1:2 which says in part, “…count it all joy when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

In reading this verse, I think we have a tendency to believe that God is telling us to consider the trial all joy. We ask, ‘how can I consider this cancer joy, or this death joy, or this divorce, or this loss of job’ and so forth. You get the picture.

But as I have studied this, I have asked the question, ‘What is the IT of this verse?’ Could it be that the IT is not in reference to the trial, but rather in reference to that which we are to consider – all joy? Could it be that the IT is the Good News delivered by the angels to the shepherds who were watching over their fields at night? The angels appeared to the shepherds and said, “…Behold, I bring you tidings of GOOD NEWS of great joy which will be to all people.” Luke 2:10. Could it be that the IT is the same GOOD NEWS described in Isaiah 61:1 – the good news of Jesus Christ?

If that is the case, it changes how we would think when in the midst of trials. Count it all joy is only one phrase of the sentence. The word ‘count’ in the Greek means to consider, think about, rule over, to command, to have authority over – to be a leader. What this is telling us is that we have authority over the choices we make in our thought process.

This phrase is joined to the rest of the sentence by the word ‘when’ meaning that we will have trials. This is saying, not if you have trials, but when you have trials you have the authority over your mind to choose to think about the joy that is the Good News of Jesus, or to focus on the difficulty.

Joy is a gladness of heart and calm delight, but ALL joy is everything of anything that ever was given to those who believe in and trust the Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas is the celebration of the time in history when He came to earth as a newborn baby to live among the human race to save us all from our sin.

When trials come your way, think about the joy of knowing Jesus and claim the promises of God for all joy in the midst of the difficulty. In doing so, there is peace. The birth of this baby changed everything for you and me. Fix your eyes and thoughts on Jesus this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

Journey of Faith

Conviction – what does that mean? I was too embarrassed to tell her I had no idea what she was talking about. But that is where my journey of faith began. I was 29 years old.

Sit With Me in the Rain

“Let us strive to know the Lord. His appearance is as sure as the dawn. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring showers that water the land.” HCSB

We have a promise from God that as we strive to know Him better, His presence in our lives is a sure thing. And by His presence, He will teach us in a way that we flourish and grow. We have His promise that He will stimulate growth in us as we open our hearts and minds allowing Him to make conditions right for learning.

Many years ago, I went with friends to a retreat in Colorado that was held on a ranch. The theme was “Loving Jesus”. On the last day, the speaker challenged us to take our Bible outside, find a place of solitude and listen for the Lord to speak through His word. Being a ‘girly girl’ back then, I didn’t want to get my hair messed up or my clothes dirty so I looked and looked for just the right spot. Finally I saw a slab of concrete and prepared to open my Bible. But just about the time I was settled, it began to rain. Oh my goodness, you can’t believe the grumbling and complaining coming out of my mouth and God heard every word. As I gathered my things to go back inside, the Lord spoke through a still small voice as if He were standing right there in front of me. He said, ‘Virginia, don’t you love me enough to sit with me in the rain for a moment.’ Whew! My knees gave way and I immediately sat again knowing I had heard a word from the Lord.

The funny thing is that as soon as I opened my Bible again, the rain stopped! But funnier still is that the passage I opened to was Hosea 6:3. As I look back on that occasion, I realize that God was testing my love and obedience to Him.  He wanted me to recognize that my priorities were messed up; that I was more concerned about my appearance, my hair and clothes than I was spending time in solitude with Him. God wanted to stimulate spiritual growth and maturity in me. Even though it has been at least 20 years since then, I remember it as if it were yesterday. God wants us to love Him enough to sit with Him in the rain if that’s what it takes to get our attention so we can listen, learn and grow.

God got my attention that day. In James 4:8, it tells us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. That is what He did for me that day, and that is what He will do for you. If you hear what God teaches through His word, if you come to Him and acknowledge who He is in your life; you will find His assurance. That assurance is this:

  • The more we listen, the more we grow…
  • The more we grow, the closer we become to God.
  • The closer we become to God, the more we are assured of His love and faithfulness.

Studying the Bible is about new life. It is about growth and relationship. If you want to be able to trust God more, to experience His strength, to have greater confidence; you need to read His word. You need to listen and ask ‘how does this apply to me’. Pay attention to what it says and then act upon it.

Perspective

Putting Things in Perspective

“…should I not have compassion on Nineveh?”

Jonah 4:11

This is an excerpt from “Facing Fears, Quenching Flames”, a devotional book on overcoming fear and anger. Available on amazon.com and christianbooks.com.book

 

 

Scripture Reading: Jonah 4:1-11

“Do you have good reason to be angry?” Jonah was so angry that he wanted to die. But what God recognized in him was an outburst of anger for a surface issue that covered a deeper problem. The surface issue was a plant that had died. The real issue was Jonah’s attitude toward God over circumstances that he could not control. He was still angry that God showed mercy instead of judgment for Nineveh, but the anger he expressed was related to taking away his comfort. His attitude was so resentful and despondent that he no longer wanted to live. But what purpose does it serve to be angry at God? I think we learn from Jonah’s example that it serves no purpose other than to make us miserable.

There was a pattern of behavior in the life of Jonah that God was trying to get him to acknowledge and change. His attitude led him to a place of despair and self-pity. Jonah was trying to control God and His actions, so the results would be the way he thought they should be, rather than according to God’s character of mercy and compassion. God’s point to Jonah was the value of life. He pointed out that Jonah was angry over the death of one insignificant plant, but God was concerned with the lives of 120,000 people.

This story is a picture of how anger distorts our thinking until we have unrealistic expectations of others and of God. When those expectations are not met, emotions plunge to despair. As difficult as it may be for us, God wants us to put things in perspective. Whatever it is that has caused our anger, we may never know the why or the circumstance which caused it. And so, in order to survive this frame of mind, there are several things to do that help in getting our emotions to a place of healing.

  •   Acknowledge that God is wiser and more powerful that you are – Isaiah 40:21-27
  •   Identify the root of the anger before you become bitter – Hebrews 12:15
  •   Give your emotions and circumstances to God – Psalm 55:22, Psalm 69:19
  •   Be forgiving and merciful – Ephesians 4:32
  •   Re-join the land of the living – Matthew 22:32, 37
  •   Hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:5

This book of the Bible ends in a very strange way. It just simply stops with God’s question to Jonah. Perhaps God wants us to consider this as food for thought. Perhaps He wants us to remember this question and the point that people are more important than our personal comfort and damaged pride.

And so, what we learn from this book of the Bible is that God is Sovereign, He is the God of salvation and He is compassionate. We can trust Him to do what is best even when it is not what we expected or wanted.

Today’s Prayer: Lord, Your wisdom and power are greater than anything my mind can comprehend. Please forgive my anger and take control of my emotions that I may be forgiving and merciful as You have been to me. Amen.

 

Can I Be Worry-Free? (Part 1)

Reference Text: Matthew 6:24-33

As women, we worry about our bodies. We’re too tall, too short, too big, too small, too old, too young; or our health, obsessed with our weight, diet, exercise, and so on and so on. What is at the root of all that worry? It is what we look like to others. What others think about us.

Yes, we need to be concerned about our bodies for the sake of our health. But to be obsessed with our body for our looks is to put undue anxiety and worry into our minds that distract our focus away from what the real concern is for our bodies. And that is to understand that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit of God who is in us, and are therefore to be treated as such. It is not how we look on the outside that is most important. It is what we look like on the inside that matters to God. Jesus said “do not worry about your body”. Don’t become fixated on the constant physical improvements to your body. But be concerned with healthy choices for the body that replenish and refresh the spirit.

Paul said in Romans 12:1 that we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – “this is your spiritual act of worship”. Wow! How did I not catch this before? We are to bring our bodies before the Lord, giving ourselves to Him saying something like, “Lord, I am giving my all to you.” To truly worship God is to say “I am yours” “My body is yours to do with as you will” I surrender all…

Jesus said “do not worry about what you will wear”. Let me just stop right there for a moment. Really! Who didn’t stand in the closet this morning and worry about what to wear today. Ok, maybe worry is a little strong. Who didn’t have to make a choice this morning about what to wear? That is a constructive concern. It moved you to make a decision. But sometimes, we can take that a little too far and the choice becomes a concern that grows into anxiety that causes panic that steals our joy. Jesus said “Your life is more important than food, the body and clothes.”

These things; money, food, physical body and clothing are temporal, they are not eternal; but life in Christ is eternal. Our life is most important, therefore we are to be concerned with our spiritual life in a way that prepares us for our eternal future rather than be so caught up on the things of this world that they weigh us down and steal the joy God intends us to experience while on this earth. If we are dwelling on a problem to the point that we are all stirred up with negative emotions all the time, that is worry and it is counterproductive to the life God wants us to live. Jesus said that you are not going to add one single hour to your life by worrying.

Please don’t misunderstand that what Jesus is saying is don’t exercise, diet or that clothing can’t be pretty. What He is saying is don’t worry about these things.

But if we are thinking about a situation in a way that moves us forward toward a solution, that is care and concern and it is productive. It is preparing, not panicking. The promise we have from Christ about all these things is that God has dressed the lilies of the field and fed the birds of the air but He cares much more for you than these. And furthermore, He knows you need food and clothing. He knows your needs! Just as He provided for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, He will surely provide for you. The life you have in Him is more important than any of these temporal things.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink,

or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food,

and the body more important than clothes?” Matthew 6:25 NIV

Return of the Ring

 Once there was a 12-year old girl who had a cute freckled-faced, redheaded boyfriend. He delivered newspapers and she twirled a baton. Each day as he delivered the paper to her house, she would be in the yard twirling. They would talk for a while every day.

One day, he gave her a ring. She didn’t recognize the ring for what it was. It was a high school senior ring. All she knew was the 12-year old boy liked her enough to give her a ring. She couldn’t wait to show it to her girlfriends the next day.

The problem was, she had two brothers who were in high school. One saw the ring and looked closely at it to see the initials of the owner. Not only did he know who it belonged to, but the owner played football with the other brother. So, he told her Daddy. He called the owner who came to pick up the ring. The girl was shy and embarrassed and hiding in her room, but her Daddy told her to go and give the ring back herself.

With her head hanging and her face red, she walked into the room, but what she saw on the young ring owner’s face was not anger. She saw compassion. As she handed him the ring, he reached in his back pocket, took out his wallet and handed her a $20 bill. That high school senior bought back something that already belonged to him… something that had been stolen.

That young girl was me. It wasn’t until years later that I realized God had given me a beautiful real-life picture of what redemption looks like. The innocence of humanity that was stolen in the Garden of Eden has been bought back through Jesus. He is our Redeemer and paid the price in order to buy us back for God.

How could I know then the value of what God was teaching in those moments in a 12-year old life. What a great hope we have in our Savior who knows all things and uses the situations in life to remind us of His great love, mercy and grace. In His compassion, He paid the price for our sin that we can be drawn into the presence of God as clean as Adam and Eve before sin entered in.

That’s what took place on what we now call, Good Friday. The blood of Jesus was shed on the cross to pay the price once for all to redeem us. Then, on Easter morning, He arose! Praise the Lord, Christ arose!

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 NIV

Icy Reminder

In Texas, we have a saying. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” We laugh when we say it, but it has certainly proven true this past week. The temperatures in North Texas have gone from a wonderful, sunny high 70’s to as low as 19° at our house. Added to the low temperatures has been an ice storm which shut down schools, businesses and even some churches.

As a native Texan, I just don’t like cold weather and especially not icy yards and roads. But this week I have enjoyed seeing the postings on Facebook and the news clips on television showing families playing together. There have been photos of ice skating in the street, sledding in the park, puzzles by the fire and walks to visit friends for dinner.

This ice storm has been the North Texas version of an early white Christmas. It has given us the opportunity to see from the photos and postings something we miss in our everyday lives. We have been able to see LOVE lived out as families took advantage of being iced in and played together, then shared their photos.

LOVE given is the true meaning of Christmas. It was God’s love for us that was expressed through the birth of Jesus on that long ago day in Bethlehem. It is His love that teaches us how to love in an unconditional way. God didn’t place conditions on us when He sent Jesus to be our Savior. We don’t have to be good enough or work harder to earn His love. He gives it to us exactly as we are – no strings attached.

Perhaps we needed an ice storm to be reminded to spend more time with loved ones. Or perhaps you are not one of the families who played together this week. It could be that you don’t have a family nearby or have lost a loved one this year. Many of us struggle with the daily grind in a way that doesn’t give time for play. But that does not mean you are not loved. Jesus LOVES you! He is the gift God gave for all. It is a free gift that you don’t have to work to be good enough to receive. God has given you Jesus out of His great LOVE for you.

As we spend these next few weeks in preparation for Christmas, let’s open our hearts to God’s love in remembrance of the purpose of Christmas; that is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the one who made a way for us to be with God forever. He is God With Us, Immanuel!

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.’” Luke 2:10-11 NIV

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel’ which means, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:22-23 NIV

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Beyond the Pain

It has often been said that hurting people hurt people. Perhaps not intentionally, but it happens anyway. That is why it is so important for those in any kind of leadership to be healed from their own personal pain; so we don’t keep hurting others and so we have a testimony of healing for the purpose of giving hope to those who hurt.

As we have worked with hurting people through our ministry, it seems that most negative emotions can be traced back to unresolved past painful experiences. Those experiences may be carried over as far back as childhood. It is that pain I am addressing today, pain which has been buried and hidden for a very long time. I am addressing it, not from the standpoint of a person’s public exposure, but rather to encourage personal exposure between the one wounded and God for the purpose of healing. Because unless we allow God to expose the reason for the negative emotions to us personally, we will just keep on simmering on the inside without understanding why those emotions control our lives. We will continue to ride the merry-go-round of negativity, too afraid to jump off and too wounded to keep going – stuck in the sameness of emotions we can’t seem to shake.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life on that merry-go-round. I would rather ride the playground swing higher and higher to a deeper relationship with my Lord Jesus knowing He is the great physician who can take away the pain. He can and will heal us as we take our pain to Him in prayer, confession and forgiveness toward the one who inflicted the pain.

The best Biblical example of this response is Joseph. Out of jealously, his brothers threw him in a pit and left him to die. Then, at the objection of one brother, they took him from the pit and sold him into slavery. He was a slave in Egypt for at least 20 years before he saw his brothers again. The story takes place from Genesis 37 to 50.

After all those years, when Joseph’s brothers  went to Egypt for famine relief and realized the one who saved them was Joseph, they threw themselves down before him and committed to be his slaves. But here is the best part of the story. “Joseph said to them, ‘don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:18-20 NIV)

What an amazing response! Can you imagine the pain experienced by that 17 year old boy when he was abandoned by his siblings and taken away from his parents for 20 plus years? And yet, through those years, Joseph maintained his relationship with God in a way that enabled him to forgive the very ones who had hurt him. Not only did he forgive them, but from his position of power, he saved them from starvation and promised to provide for them in the future.

Joseph was a leader who did not harbor negative emotions toward those who had caused his pain, but allowed the painful circumstances of his past to be used as a testimony of the goodness of God. What a great example of response to pain inflicted upon us by others.

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All of You

November has arrived with a chill in the air and turning back the clocks one hour. It feels like we have gone from one extreme to another related to seasons and weather. And while we are to be thankful each day of the year for the goodness of God, November is known as the month of Thanksgiving in America.

As I was reading my Bible this morning, the study notes reminded me that the Apostle Paul is credited with writing 13 letters (or books) of the 27 in the Bible’s New Testament. In every one of those books, with the exception of Galatians, Paul began his letter with thanksgiving to God.

In the first chapter of Romans, verse 8, Paul said, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” Who was Paul thanking God for – all of you!

As you begin your November, think about who is the “all of you” in your life. Who are you thankful for and why? Paul was thankful for those in Rome whose faith was so strong as to be known all over the world. Do you know anyone with a faith that strong? If so, pray for them and give thanks to God for their testimony of faith.

As I thought about this question, the names that came to my mind are Mike and Laura Fechner. Their story is truly a testimony of a faith known around the world. We have known Mike and Laura since they were 25 years old and today they have young adult children and a daughter-in-law. Mike and his sweet family are the “all of you” I am thankful for today. Please take a moment to read their amazing story in A Step of Faith and say a prayer of thanksgiving for them.

Be challenged and encouraged this week to be thankful for the “all of you” that have influenced your life and made an impact for Christ in the world.

 

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