Archive for February, 2012

-Are you Prepared?

Are you Prepared?

In a 2006 USA Today article, Mimi Hall stated that most Americans have not taken adequate steps to prepare for a natural disaster. Indeed, only one-third of persons have even made a plan for communicating with others during a crisis, she wrote. I believe that now (5 years later) we are still in about the same situation – not only in the natural world, but also spiritually.

When we discuss being spiritually prepared, a few questions come to the minds of many Christians. First, do we really need to be prepared when the Lord is going to come and rapture the Church before the tribulation starts? Second, when we prepare for disasters are we operating out of a lack of faith by not relying on God to take care of us? Finally, what is our responsibility to prepare? As I discuss further below, the answers are: (1) yes, we need to prepare; (2) no, we are not lacking in faith; and (3) our responsibility to prepare is huge.

Regardless of whether you believe in the rapture occurring before, in the middle, or at the end of the tribulation (so-called pre, mid, and post-trib beliefs), we are called to prepare for whatever might come. Let’s face it – we’re already facing natural disasters that require us to be prepared both spiritually and in the world. In the aftermath of something like Katrina, for example, I would hope that someone with a tent would do better with someone without.  Likewise, someone with a firm grounding in God’s word would undoubtedly face whatever disaster with the advantage of the kind of peace that only faith and knowledge of God’s purpose can bring.  So, for those of you who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture – hey, you might be wrong!  Better prepare!  And you mid-trib folks better prepare too!  I mean, if you go early, you can always leave your worldly preparations to someone who didn’t make the trip.  And even if you miss the last half of the tribulation, the first half is a pretty nasty situation that requires a bit of thought to get through.  The fundamental point is that spiritual preparedness requires us to know God’s word, and God’s word consistently tells us to be prepared in the world.

There are several instances in the Bible where God called His people to prepare, and in these notes we will look at three of them.

The first is located in Genesis 6-9 – yeah, you guessed it – the story of Noah. You may recall that Noah was called to build an ark to save his family and himself from an impending flood. He was mocked and ridiculed by his neighbors, but in the end Noah was victorious and pleased God! The story of Noah’s faith and his obedience to prepare is referred to several times in the New Testament as impact of the importance of his actions. Hebrews 11:7 states,

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

Also, see Matthew 24:37, 38; Luke 17:26-27; I Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 2:5. The first two of these scriptures liken Noah to the second coming of Jesus, warning that many people will be caught unprepared.  Remember, God speaks through his prophets first, and the prophets that I am hearing today are telling us to get ready.

Our second example comes from the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. You may recall that Joseph persevered in his trials as a slave and was ultimately asked to interpret a dream of Pharaoh. In that dream Pharaoh saw seven fat cows and seven skinny cows. The Lord revealed to Joseph that the fat cows indicated seven years of abundance and the skinny cows meant seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so pleased with Joseph’s interpretation that he placed him in charge of all of Egypt. During that time, Joseph used the wisdom from God given by the dreams to save all of the surplus grain during the seven abundant years so that there would be food during the seven years of famine. The story of Joseph begins at Genesis 30:24 through chapter 45. Genesis 41:48-49 states,

Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

This is a clear example of God guiding his people – through prophetic revelation – to prepare for a disaster.

The final example is the parable of the ten virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13, which states,

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

This example speaks specifically to the coming of Christ, but the message is clear that God means for us to be prepare for the future.

As I said earlier, as Christians, that means both spiritual and natural world preparation.

The first step is to be prepared spiritually. We must have a solid spiritual grounding, with strong and deep spiritual roots. To accomplish this, it’s important that there be no doubt about our salvation. As a believer in Christ, you will attain the best preparation possible – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that will comfort you in times of trouble, who will guide you in detecting right or wrong action, and who will give you prophetic insight. Moreover, as a believer in Christ, you will have assured yourself of an eternity with God – something that I look forward to more and more each day.

If you have ANY doubts about where you will go when you leave this earth, please pray the following prayer from your heart.

Lord, I know that I am a sinner, and I come to you to ask for forgiveness. I believe that you sent your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross as a final sacrifice for my sins. I believe that by this act I am forgiven. I believe in a life after death with you in eternity. Come into my heart and cleanse my soul so that I may forever turn my back on sin and follow Jesus Christ.

It’s okay to re-commit your life to Christ if you aren’t sure of your salvation. God gives us new mercies everyday because He understands the faults and limitations of our flesh.

As part of being prepared spiritually, we must also guard our spirit and keep it fed and strong. We can do this through focused time in prayer (including prayer on our knees), fellowship with other Christians, and time in the Word. It’s critical that we keep growing our roots strong and deep. We’ll need this when the difficult times come so that we will not fall away, and thus we will preserve our status as part of the prophesized church remnant during the last days. The parable of the sower in Luke 8 talks of seeds spread on a rock – illustrating that some people will receive the Word with joy but fall away in the time of testing.  Don’t let that happen to you!

The second step of preparedness is physical preparedness in the natural world. This encompasses two categories: (1) physical health preparation; and (2) the act of preparing goods and supplies for any impending disaster. I will send out a separate set of notes with all of my emergency supply preparedness information. But suffice it to say that no matter how much “stuff” you have to get you through a disaster, it’s important to be healthy, in good physical fitness condition, and have positive mental fitness. If you haven’t started to think about getting fit, NOW is a great time to get out and walk and build up your stamina, cardio and endurance. In the last days, when so many will be panicked and confused by the events unfolding in the world, it will be the followers of Jesus who offer an explanation and a solution to those in need simply by saying, “I am prepared because all that is happening has been foretold in the Bible. Come with me, and find strength in my faith. Follow God and do not fear.”

I close with one of my favorite scriptures that addresses our need to be prepared, Matthew 24:36-44,

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

We act in faith when we know what the Word says about a situation, we listen to what the Lord says, and we obey. Saints, be obedient! The Lord is speaking to us to be prepared. Look at the signs: the economy, the world unrest, the earthquakes and disasters, the persecution of our brethren around the globe, and the unsustainable depletion and pollution of our natural resources. We are just like Joseph.  We have had a time of abundance, and now we must plan for the famine. We must have faith that God will take care of us, but he also wants us to partner with Him and do the work we can here on Earth.

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Thought for the week :)

Love everyone deeply because life is short!

How to Head Off Unforgiveness

How to Head Off Unforgiveness

This past week it was reveled to me that the Bible gives us tools to help with healing after being hurt. In Ephesians 4:25-27, the Bible states:

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to [your] neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

To me, this verse instructs us to humbly and lovingly ask for an explanation for any action that we perceive to be hurtful. I think that one of the most common mistakes we can make in a hurtful situation is to leap to the conclusion that the person who hurt us did so intentionally. If so, then why bother to ask for an explanation, right? Well, the truth is that most people feel that they’re doing the right thing, and don’t really mean to hurt anybody. But if we don’t confirm that, the hurt just festers and burns in our brains. Most times, if you politely ask for an explanation, you’ll find out that the other person was not trying to hurt you. You might discover that the person was actually trying to help you!

Many of us have surrounded ourselves with a Plexiglas box that we think protects us from being hurt. We don’t want others to see the “true” persons in us because they might find a weakness and break our hearts or hurt us.  But I once heard someone say that to really love and be loved we must risk getting a broken heart.  In the end it’s worth it because if we experience love, we’ll get a glimpse of God’s perfect love! We must remember that as long as we imperfect humans are involved in relationships, we’ll make mistakes and people will sometimes get hurt. It’s inevitable and very unfortunate, but when it happens we can at least act quickly to reduce the pain and heal rapidly (kind of like Wolverine from X-Men, but without all the bullet wounds and what-not).

I’ve always heard this particular scripture from Ephesians preached to married couples, but I think it’s for the benefit of ALL people.  So . . . when you are hurt by someone else’s words or actions, humbly (and quickly) seek an explanation.  Do so with a contrite, honest heart.  Don’t go on the defensive, and be prepared to let the other person do a little venting. It’s far better to let them blow off steam about you to you, than to everyone else in your office or family!  I also HIGHLY recommend that you only speak to the person when you (and hopefully they) are calm.  Finally, even though you may be looking for an explanation, if you go with your heart in your hands and say “I’m sorry” first, that one statement can typically smooth things over so that you can get to the core of the hurtful matter.  In the end, if you’re wrongly accused and the other person doesn’t soften, you can at least walk away knowing that your Lord is smiling because you did the right thing!

 

 

Forgiveness and Interacting with Family (and Friends)

Forgiveness and Interacting with Family (and Friends)

Summary

To have peace and forgiveness with family members, follow these tips:

1. Pray for protection over the family member and the event.

2. Fortify your spiritual armor –read your bible, especially

Matthew 18:2-35.

3. Choose to forgive them and to move forward spiritually. They don’t know, or they may have forgotten, that you are a chosen one of the most-high God.

4. Relax and remember that Jesus is Lord and he has given you this family for a purpose, including for you to encourage and love.

5. Limit your time with your family members who divert your attention from pleasing God. It’s better to have a small amount of quality time with them rather than a large amount of time where there is plenty of time to be tempted to act unlovely!

Read below for the entire post.

Our family and friends can often be the most challenging piece in our walk of faith and forgiveness. Some of this stems from the tendency for family members to be brutally honest with each other. I’m not quite sure where this comes from — apparently it’s like some unwritten rule that family is obliged to point out every flaw and lack of ability in their relatives. That sets everyone up for unforgiveness that can last a lifetime. If you’re not careful, time with family members can become a chore, an obligation that only adds stress to your life and takes away from your focus on God.

Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. I believe that our family should be the MOST loving, supportive, and encouraging corner of our lives. You know that saying, “blood is thicker than water,” which essentially means that when times are bad your family will be with you no matter what? Your relationship with your family can be like this, but you may have to do a bit of work in both the natural and supernatural to make it so.

Have you ever wondered how you got placed in your family? Given some of our experiences, many of us may feel that we got switched at birth! Our family members may actually be incredibly different from us physically, emotionally and spiritually, leading us to ask, “How in the world did I get here?” “Who are these people?” I have a milkman joke I could use here, but there aren’t too many milkmen left so it probably wouldn’t make sense. In any event, what should you do when you feel taxed and out of place?

Well, you should start by assuring yourself that everything — including your family placement — is for God’s divine purpose. As different as you may feel from the rest of your family, it’s your family that makes you special and thus uniquely qualified to serve God in your own individual way. Do you have a sister who drives you crazy? She probably provided you with life experiences that you can use in your own ministry. Do your parents seem like they came from Mars? Growing up among these Martians gave you the knowledge to act as God’s servant with other different people. So thank God for the blessing of your particular family, no matter how much of an outsider you think you are.

Even if they are a blessing to you, your family members still may occasionally push certain buttons in you, setting you on the path of acting unlovely. Remember that you have a choice to act or react, so choose to act! Here are a few helpful tips to help you keep your peace and to work through forgiveness with them.

1. Pray for peace over your entire family and supernatural covering over where they live. Ask God to protect you from the enemy’s fiery darts that may be launched against you through your own family members. Pray for extra protection of the Lord on any particular family members that like to pick on you or provoke you, and demand that Satan and his demons not talk to you or even come near you at any gathering where you might be with family.

2. Fortify your spiritual armor. Ask the Lord to strengthen you and give you His peace. Ask for Godly wisdom in your family interactions. Ask for God’s truth and light to be shown in your interactions so that you can operate with His love. Spend a little extra time with God before you go to any outing where you will be with family.

3. Forgive their un-loveliness for they do not know what they are doing or who they are messing with! You are children of the most high God, and their bad behavior likely comes from Satan, but you can’t expect them to know that because they may not be where you are spiritually. Make sure that you spend some time in the word reflecting on a few key passages, such as Matthew 18:21-35 about forgiveness and the wicked servant. Ask the Lord to help you forgive them. You can do all things through Christ. And remember not to give up! Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Having unforgiveness from some prior event will likely cloud your ability to deal with family in the present, so work on forgiving them for prior wrongs. Try to look at things from a different aspect – even from the aspect that you are moving ahead spiritually and have a duty to mirror God in your actions toward difficult people. Take a second and try to see each member of your family the way God sees them. The same God who created and loves you also created and loves them. God forgives, so we should too.

4. Keep rested, relaxed, and prepared to go to your “happy place” when challenged! Take a deep breath, and by that I mean to breathe in the Holy Spirit’s calming peace! Have you watched the movie “Anger Management?” In that movie Jack Nicholson uses the word “goosefraba” to help his patient get out of anger mode and back to a calm demeanor. Well, I like to use “JIL” – Jesus Is Lord! Whenever I get ruffled, I take a JIL pill. Remember who’s in control – Jesus! Let Jesus help you handle the situation with a smile and a Godly countenance.

5. Give yourself permission to limit the amount of time with your family, and especially those family members who push your buttons. It’s far better for you to leave some event early (or not even attend at all) than to stick it out and leave scars from hurtful words or actions. You may have noticed that when families get together the siblings often revert to how they behaved as children. Because of this, one of my friends stopped going home at Christmas because that was always a hurtful, difficult time with her family. Her family was upset at first, but now she spends time with individual groups of the family and is re-building new, adult relationships with her siblings. She’s now able to be part of the solution in the healing in their lives rather than contributing to the problem. And guess what? She now has incredible peace, joy and FUN in her family interactions!



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