Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Have Faith

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished
and said to those following him, “I tell you
the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel
with such great faith.”
                        Matthew 8:10 NIV
     Matthew Eight recounts the story of a centurion with faith to believe that Jesus could perform a long-distance healing of his paralyzed suffering servant. He believed all Jesus had to do was speak the word and his servant would be healed. As a result of the centurion’s faith, his servant was healed and the centurion commended by Jesus for his great faith.
      “Indeed, there is nothing God will not do for those who will dare to step out in faith onto what appears to be only a mist. As they take their first step, they will find a rock beneath their feet.” F. B. Meyer
     We often hear the quote, “He is the wind beneath my wings.” True! But, I like this statement by F.B. Meyer. It reminds me that Christ is the rock on whom I stand.
There have been times in my life when I did not need wind to soar as I could not even get off the ground. Loneliness, inadequacy, the feeling of being forsaken, emptiness of spirit and prayers that seemed to hit the ceiling and bounce back in my face left me with one thing—faith! No matter what my circumstances, I have always known that although I may not feel the presence of God, He remains steadfast and strong and near. I cling to that faith when all else fails.
     One of the advantages of having decades of life behind me is the list of opportunities I have had to see God work. Faith builders! I have seen Him work miracles in the sanctuary as a young woman healed of cerebral palsy rose from her wheelchair and walked to her mother for the first time in years. I have been present when a pastor, after reminding his congregation that they may never have another opportunity to say yes to Christ, walked to the back of the sanctuary and dropped dead.  The church dropped to its knees and after many long minutes of waiting and praying God restored his life. Faith builder! (His wife told him never to use that illustration again!)
     While traveling on our bus during the years of our singing ministry, I heard Him speak to my heart with one word “Pray.” Although I did not know what it meant, I urged my friend to join me in prayer for our traveling safety only to avoid an accident before we could complete our prayers. Faith builder!
    I recognize the love, mercy, grace and hand of God in my life over the years. You do too. These examples are unique to me. I know you have your own. Remember them. Allow them to build your faith. Acknowledge that no matter the circumstances, when you step out in faith believing, Jesus is the Rock beneath your feet. He is the Cornerstone of our faith. He is the Rock of our salvation. Jesus never fails!
     The next time you feel defeat headed your way, do not slump down with your head bowed in that defeat. Stand straight and tall and remind yourself that you have faith in God through Christ, and that faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
 ©Joyce Powell

When You Pray

But when you pray, go into your room,
close the door and pray to your Father,
who is unseen. Then your Father, who
who sees what is done in secret, will
reward you.
                         Matthew 6:6 NIV
     When you pray! When you pray! When you pray! For some reason, prayer—the most powerful tool in the Christian arsenal, is often our weapon of last resort. Be honest!
     When you realize that the month is longer than your money—do you first wring your hands…or pray? When you hear a doctor’s dire prognosis for a loved one—do you first panic in fear…or pray? When you have choices to make that could change the course of your life—do you try to logically decide the answer…or pray?
The suddenly moments in life, those moments that surprise, overtake and overwhelm us are often the moments when we least feel like praying. Yet, those moments, like all the common, mundane and everyday moments of life are important “pray first” opportunities.
Prayer is a matter of the heart. Perhaps that is why Jesus taught the disciples to go into a room and close the door—get alone with God. Prayer is about the privilege of emptying yourself before God and allowing Him to speak, uninterrupted by ringing phones and televisions. Prayer is a time set aside to “Be still and know that I Am God!” (Psalm 46:10)  
I wish I could say that I get it right every time. I do not! I wish I could say that prayer is always my first thought. I cannot! I wish I could say that in every dire circumstance of life, I have rushed directly to the throne room of my Heavenly Father. I have not!
     Like you, there are times that I wring my hands, walk the floor and shed my tears before I run to my Father. But, through the years, those times have become fewer and fewer. The longer I have walked with God, the more I have found Him faithful and constant and so close that when I turn to run to Him, He is already there—waiting.
     Prayer is about an intimate relationship with our loving Heavenly Father. He should be our first thought when we are in need. Rather than running for the phone to call a friend, we should run to our prayer closet to call on Our Father Who Art In Heaven. We will never get a busy signal. His number will never be disconnected, and we will never be put on hold while he answers another line.
     Have you prayed today—just to say, “Good morning, Lord. I love you. I don’t need anything—just wanted to say hello.” I wonder if that might be the prayer He enjoys the most.
     Whatever your day holds, don’t forget that God is ready and waiting to hear you when you pray.

© Joyce Powell

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Am I Changing the World

You are the salt of the earth…
You are the light of the world…
         Matthew 5:13-14 NIV  

     One time won’t hurt! Don’t rock the boat! Just do it! It will be okay; no one will know! It won’t hurt anyone! Life presents many opportunities to succumb to peer pressure. But each time we go along with the crowd because we do not want to stand out in the crowd we allow the world to change us.

     In chapter five of Matthew, Jesus explains the consequences of refusing to be salt and light to our world. In verse fourteen, He reminds us that by our refusal to flavor our world with Christ-like behavior, we become like salt that has lost its ability to flavor.

     That is a difficult concept for us as we see a box of Morton’s sitting in the cupboard month after month and year after year knowing that whenever we pull it out to sprinkle our food, it remains useable salt. However, at the time Jesus walked on the earth, when salt was exposed to too much moisture the good portion of the salt would evaporate leaving only tiny rocks. It became flavorless and useless for preserving foods. Therefore, like that old-world salt, Christians who refuse to affect the world around them are of little value in making God known in the world.

     Jesus continued in verse fifteen by explaining that we are the light of the world. We should glow for Jesus. But, by refusing to speak out for Christ, by remaining silent in the face of sin, by choosing to ignore the needs of others or by going along with the crowd we activate the dimmer switch on our light and are no longer valuable in drawing others to Jesus.

     Our world is filled with desperate hurting people who are seeking the Savior. Striving to fill life with possessions and relationships, many come to the end of their days still trying to understand what they missed and how they missed it—never knowing the fulfillment of life that is found in Christ alone.

     So each day we face the decision of whether we want to be salt and light to a world in need. Each day we must choose how to answer two questions. Is the world changing me, or am I changing the world?

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

God's Grace - The Source of Our Hope

For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us, so that through
endurance and the encouragement of the
Scriptures we might have HOPE.
                           Romans 15:4  NIV 

     Our hope is in Christ, and I remain amazed that often the same Scriptures that urge us to continue on when life is interrupted with hardship and pain are the same Scriptures that give us hope for our future.
     In chapter three of Philippians, the apostle Paul talks about pressing on toward the goal—the high calling, straining toward what is ahead. Our hope is in Christ, and even though life is a journey filled with rocky places and difficult mountains, we have hope that “God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus”
     In 1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul reminded us to “stand firm, let nothing move you, always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord”. Why? “Because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
     In II Corinthians 4:18, we are reminded to “Fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. And when a ruler of the synagogue was told that his daughter was dead, Jesus responded by telling him “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (Mark 5:35-36)
     Hope is a natural outcome when we see life through God’s perspective. It is joyful expectation in Jesus. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Hope! “In him (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Hope!
     Because we know how the story ends, we have hope. “Behold, I (Christ) am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:12-14)

     Therefore, in the midst of turmoil, heartache, pain, and loss we can still hope—not because of any artificially produced verbiage, but because our hope is in Christ alone. So when we question the horrors of this world, we need never be hopeless because:
1.   Our hope is in Christ
2.   Our hope is not in vain
3.   Our hope remains in the midst of crisis and chaos
4.   Our hope is strengthened when we see it from God’s perspective
5.   Our hope is firm because we know how it will end
     Since true hope is found only in Christ, we must share it with the world as we too follow the instructions from the angel to the women at the tomb of our risen Lord—“Come and see…go and tell.”
     We have reason to rejoice in this life, in the midst of heartache, in the midst of chaos, in the midst of trials and in the midst of our nation’s moral decay. We have reason to hope in times of defeat in the battles of life because victory is ultimately ours in Christ Jesus. We have reason to hope in times of financial famine because provision is ours through Christ Jesus. We have reason to hope in times of great sorrow for our Savior came to wipe away all tears.
     We have reason to hope because God’s grace is sufficient for every need and every day. His grace is abundant—never just enough but always overflowing. His grace is sufficient—not just for today’s needs but tomorrow’s and the next day. His grace is a fountain of refreshing cool clear water that brings hope in time of heartache, joy in times of sadness and peace in the midst of turmoil.
     So if today you find yourself in a situation where you are struggling to hold onto hope, remember—God’s grace is the source of our hope!

© Joyce Powell

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pray in Faith Believing

The prayer of a righteous man is
powerful and effective.
                          James 5:16:b

     A.W. Tozer wrote “When Tennyson wrote More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of he probably uttered a truth of vaster significance than even he understood.”
     In Romans 8 we read that when we pray, the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. Hebrews 11:1 explains that faith “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
    When we combine our faith—our belief, assurance, conviction of God’s omnipotent power and boundless love for His children—with our prayers, we are stepping into the throne room of the Almighty! For it is only by faith that we understand “that the universe was created by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)
     It is only by faith that we believe God saved Noah and his family from a flood that destroyed every living thing that remained upon the earth. It is only by faith that we believe Moses led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt and across the Red Sea on dry ground. And it is only by faith that we believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died to redeem us from our sins and rose that we might live with Him eternally.
     And it is only because of our faith in a loving, merciful, wise, just, eternal Creator and our belief in His Son that we dare believe our prayers are heard and answered according to God’s will. If we have no faith, we have no reason to pray.
     So the next time you kneel, take a moment to think about this God to whom you pray. See God seated on His throne appearing like jasper with an emerald rainbow encircling His throne.  See the flashes of lightening and hear the rumblings of thunder and see the seven torches of fire and the sea so clear it appears like crystal. See the four living creatures that never cease to say; “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8) And see the twenty-four elders as they cast their crowns before the throne of God and praise Him:
     “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Rev 4:11)
     This is our God to whom we pray-in whom we believe! Are you hurting? Pray! Are you ill? Pray! Are you lonely? Pray! Do you lack faith? Pray for faith to believe. Prayer is the key that opens the doors of heaven. If we belong to Christ, we cannot lose the key, we can only refuse to pick up and use the key! The choice is ours. 

©Joyce Powell

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why Wallow in Worry

“Therefore do not be anxious about
tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious
for itself. Sufficient for the day is its
own trouble.”        Matthew 6:34 ESV 

…casting all your anxieties on him,
because he cares for you.
                             1 Peter 5:7 ESV 

     “The German word for worry means “to strangle.” The Greek word means “to divide the mind.” Both are accurate. Worry is a noose on the neck and a distraction of the mind, neither of which is befitting for joy.” (Max Lucado-Grace for the Moment Vol 1)

     As my feet hit the floor this morning, worry crept into the cracks of my heart. Knowing that it is going to be a very bad day for someone I desperately love had prepared me for a day’s worth of worry. I could feel the heaviness on my chest like an elephant seated squeezing the air out and allowing no intake of oxygen. My upside down smile betrayed my thoughts as anxiousness filled the entire room. I was ready to wallow in worry!

     But God had a different plan for my day. I opened my Grace For The Moment devotional for today and found the title “Give God Your Worries.” I opened my Streams in the Desert devotional and found the first line reminding me that “Nothing that is not part of God’s will is allowed to come into the life of someone who trusts and obeys Him.” I opened my Bible to Matthew six where words in red reminded me, for nine verses, that I should not be anxious.

     A picture of a buffalo wallowing in the mud to keep the flies away popped into my mind. Then the throne room of the Almighty in all of His splendor and glory overshadowed that buffalo. The golden light of God’s glory shooed the flies away and the buffalo’s fur glimmered in the rays of heaven’s glorious light. God whispered in my ear—Stop wallowing. I AM!

     After getting up off the floor, and assuring my lab Duchess that I was fine, I opened my Bible and read aloud the beautiful gift of Psalm 103. “Bless the LORD, O my soul!”

     I laughed as I thought about God’s usage of a muddy buffalo to get my attention. I relaxed as the words of Psalm 103 penetrated my spirit, and I turned my frown upside down as I thought about how much my Heavenly Father loves me and you and all those about whom we might worry.

     So, if today you have decided to wallow in worry, take my advice. Don’t! God may send you a muddy buffalo.

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Receive the Gift

For the law brings wrath, but where there
is no law there is no transgression. That is
why it depends on faith, in order that the
promise may rest on grace and be
guaranteed to all his offspring—not only
to the adherent of the law but also to the
one who shares the faith of Abraham…
                            Romans 4:15-16 

     John Stott says, “Faith’s only function is to receive what grace offers.” C.S. Lewis wrote, “A man whose hands are full of parcels can’t receive a gift.” Romans 4:16 tells us that God’s promise is a pure gift. Anyone who has faith to believe may receive the gift of God’s grace.
     Many might ask, “Is it possible to receive God’s gift of grace without strict adherence to God’s law?” Others believe that if one commandment of God is broken, redemption may not be possible. Some believe that there is evil beyond God’s grace to forgive.

     There are those that I might like to exclude from God’s gift of grace. The abominable leader that commits atrocities against his own citizenry, the one who takes from a child their innocence and purity or those who stand defiantly cursing God—any of them might find their names on my list of unworthy of God’s grace.

     But God peered through the ages, saw every sin, and He extended His gift of grace to all. Revelation 22:17 is a beautiful portrait of God’s outstretched hand of grace, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”

     “Come, everyone who thirsts…” (Isaiah 55:1) It is a matter of life and death—a universal invitation to receive the gift of life offered by Almighty God. It is impossible for any man or woman to walk a lifetime without breaking God’s law. But without God’s law we would have no knowledge of our transgressions. The law was given by God to make us aware of our need for His grace. Christ came to be a visible extension of God’s grace to mankind.

     Creation, the Cross of Christ, the empty tomb all cry out to fallen man—He is alive, He is real, He is calling your name. Please, open your heart and receive the gift.

© Joyce Powell