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!

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.

 

You Decide

Choices. We make them every day. Some are thought about for a long time, while others are made on the spur of the moment. There is power in a choice. The decisions we make today will impact our future and the future of others. They reflect our personal needs, desires and our very character. Our will is determined by what we think, feel and know. It is a reflection of the heart and mind. There is power in our “will”.

According to the Merriam/Webster Dictionary, “will” is described as desire, wish, choice, consent, appetite, passion, determination. Something desired: a choice or determination of having authority or power. Mental powers manifested as wishing, choosing, desiring or intending. Act according to principles. Power of control over one’s own actions or emotions.

Even though God is Sovereign, meaning He rules and controls all things, from the very beginning He has given mankind the freedom to make choices. They are a matter of our own will; what we desire, wish, determine and choose for ourselves. But He has also given clear direction for how to make right choices. The power of the will determines how you will live your life.

God places His desires for each of us in our hearts and when the time is right, He gives us the wisdom to make right choices. If there is a desire in your heart that will not go away, ask Him to show you clarity of knowing if this is of Him or simply something that you want to do. Seek Him for the answers through prayer and scripture and He will give direction. Remember, the choices you make today will impact your future.

Questions to ask when making decisions:

  1. Lord, is this Your will or simply my own desire? Jeremiah 29:11
  2. How do I move forward from this – what are the next steps? Proverbs 3:5-6
  3. Will my choice impact others for good? Jeremiah 6:16
  4. Show me your way that I may walk in it. Isaiah 30:21
  5. How will I know You are speaking to me Lord? John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let now your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

When God gives the answer and direction, you will experience a sense of confidence and peace internally. You will feel confident in moving forward with your choice even when it seems impossible – even when you do not feel equipped to handle the outcome. God will never lead you to a choice that is not in keeping with His perfect plan for you. He will not lead you to go against His Word.

The first example of free will is written in Genesis 3 when the crafty serpent tempted Eve by questioning what God had told Adam in the garden. The decision she made to eat the forbidden fruit and then give to her husband changed the course of history for all mankind. Her choice didn’t just impact her life. It impacted life for all forever. That is how powerful free will is in our own lives. We have the power to change the world around us.

RIGHT Choices….lead to

RIGHT Actions…that can

IMPACT our World for

RIGHT Living.

When we make decisions without seeking the will of God in a situation, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and possible failure. But in seeking Him, we are equipped to make right choices leading to right actions that can impact our world for right living. I know I have made poor choices in my past and have not always sought the Lord in my life and decisions. But I am thankful for the lessons I have learned in my spiritual journey to “seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness” knowing all I need or want is provided as I follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is never too late to turn things around for good. Praise Him for His patience and faithfulness.

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

Does Wishing Make It So?

If you have ever shopped online at amazon.com or any other online shopping store, you’ve probably seen a space called the WISH List in addition to the shopping cart. The wish list is where you place the items you wish you had but for whatever reason, you are not getting today.

What is a wish? The dictionary tells us it is “a hope or desire for something”. You can wish for things present as well as in the past. I don’t know about you, but wishing for something to be so does not make it come to pass for me. And you can wish all day long, but anything you wish about the past will never be so. Wishing for something in the past is simply not realistic. We can’t change the past. But we can learn from it for today and the future.

There was a rhyme we recited as children when we saw the first star at night. It went something like this:

WishStar light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight

Obviously wishing upon a star will not make it so either. So let me ask you a question. What do you wish for? The good news is, there is a wish list you can have today.

1. WISDOM. What is wisdom? Vines Dictionary of New Testament words defines it as, “understanding, prudence, and right use of the mind.” If we think about wisdom in action as being the right use of the mind, it changes the way we think and speak. It can also change the way we ask God for wisdom. “Father, provide the thoughts for me today to use my mind in the right way for your purposes.” Make a note of this promise from God in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given.” God will give you all the wisdom you can handle and He will give it when you ask.

2. IDENTITY – We live in a modern culture where identity is often questioned and skewed. But Ephesians 2:10 is clear in telling us that we are God’s workmanship. That means we are works of art and a masterpiece to God. The next phrase says, “Created in Christ Jesus.” This is your identity. If you are a believer in Jesus, you are identified with Him as His creation. It is by faith this occurs as God pours His grace on you through Christ.

3. Security – This is a big one in your wish list I am sure. We all want to feel secure don’t we? We want to know that we are loved by our husband and family. We want to know that the bills can be paid, we want to know there is hope for the future; in fact, we want to know what the future holds for us and our family, and that the future is secure. The root of insecurity is fear. There were two verses God used to teach me not to fear but to trust Him. The first is Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” What things? The prior verses list food, drink and clothing. God gives reassurance that those things will be provided as we seek Him and live in a right relationship with Him. And then verse 34 sums it up by talking about the future. It says, don’t worry about tomorrow. Do what needs to be done today and trust God for tomorrow to give you the courage to face whatever the future holds. The second verse that made a difference in my life and helped me to overcome fear is 2 Timothy 1:7. “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind.” (self-control) If fear is not from God, what can you learn from this? Your future is secure with Him. You do not need to fear for the future, God is already there.

4. HOPE – And the last thing on our wish list that we can have today is HOPE. In proverbs 24:13-14, it tells us that wisdom is like honey to our soul. It is like something sweet and nourishing to us. Then it goes on to tell us that, “if you find it, then there will be a future and your hope will not be cut off.” That means destroyed.

Hope is the confident expectation of something good. But when we are not applying wisdom to our thinking, that hope can be destroyed. How? By believing lies about God, about ourselves, about our circumstances. These lies cause doubt and questions that weaken our faith and trust in God. And so begins a downward spiral of fear and despair. When we find ourselves in that condition, it is important to capture those negative thoughts by taking them to Christ in prayer. Lay the discouragement at His feet and trust Him to lift us up once again in hope. Ask Him to take control of our thoughts and fill us with His wisdom. Because the wisdom of God is sweetness to your soul, and you can follow it to a secure future.

Wisdom, Identity, Security, Hope – the wish list you can have today as you seek the Lord and trust Him for your future.

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