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

Friday, September 26, 2014

To Know Christ

I want to know Christ…
Philippians 3:10 NIV
Twenty years ago I was standing on a platform accepting an award for Song of the Year from the Southern Gospel Music Association of Texas.  As I stepped down from the small platform, I was greeted by the open arms of Lou Hildreth. I did not know Lou accept to know that she also was a nominee for Song of the Year. She was warm, gracious, and whispered an encouraging word in my ear as we walked away from the stage area.
In that moment, God melted our hearts together and we became real friends. As months passed our relationship grew into love and respect and she became my publisher. I discovered much about her over the next few years, and as I watched her interaction with others, it appeared that all who knew Lou loved her unashamedly and many of those who did not know her vied for her attention and her friendship.

Friendship with Lou also meant friendship with Howard, her sweet husband. Together they have blessed thousands upon thousands of lives. Although several years ago our lives became separated by miles and time, we remain friends and when I want to see her smiling face I simply pop a Gaither video into my CD player and wait for the camera to pan in her direction. Then I smile!
Over the years, I have learned to desire that same kind of relationship with Christ. At the age of eleven, I prayed for repentance of my sin and invited Jesus to live in my heart. But it was many years before I understood the full meaning of that Sunday morning walk down the right-side aisle of my church. Not until my mid thirties did I truly begin to search for my belief in God rather than the belief of my parents and grandparents. As it turns out, it is the same belief—with a few very minor twists.
But, in all my searching, seeking, praying, and studying of God’s Word, I figured out one thing; to know Christ is personal. I cannot absorb the knowledge from others, I cannot depend on my parent’s or grandparent’s relationship with Christ, and I cannot simply take the words of others for truth. To know Christ, to form a true friendship with Him, to have a relationship with the One and Only who gave His life for mine requires participation on my part.
I do not want Christ as an acquaintance but rather as a friend who is closer than a brother. Just like friendship with Lou has a bonus of friendship with Howard, friendship with my Savior, with Jesus, with Christ gives me access to the God of all creation, Jehovah, I AM. Father! For when I go to the throne room of God, I pass through the blood of Jesus. My sin is covered by His love for me.
So my goal is to know Christ, be like Christ and to be who Christ calls me to be—only made possible because He loved me first and drew me to himself. You too may already recognize that He loves you. He is calling you. He wants to spend time with you. If you do not, I can think of no greater goal in life than to know Christ.
© Joyce Powell

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In My Father's House

Let not your heart be troubled;
ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many
mansions; if it were not so I would
have told you. I go to prepare a place for
you. And if I go and prepare a place for
you, I will come again and receive you
unto myself; that where I am, there
 ye may be also.
                John 14:1-3 KJV 

     These verses jumped off the page and directly into my heart as I bowed before my Lord this morning. You see, my husband and I are expecting company. Our brother-in-love, my sister’s husband, is coming to visit, and we await his arrival with great joy and anticipation. However, one corner of my heart aches as I realize my sister will not be with him. She is waiting for us in heaven.

     While I thought about making preparations for one instead of two, my Heavenly Father drew me to John Fourteen. He called to mind that I am not the only one making preparations.
     The first words of Jesus in this chapter instructed me to let go of my troubled heart as I believe that Christ has gone to prepare a place for me. Perhaps my sister is helping decorate my mansion, reminding Jesus that red is my favorite color and I would really like a place to sit and read. Maybe they are preparing the big screen where I can watch Biblical history march through time from Genesis forward.
     Whatever the preparations being made, Jesus said it is for me and when it is ready, He will come for me and I will go to be with Him.
     Although the details of eternity are not known, we look forward to eternal life because we believe what Christ told us. Just as Terry can trust us to provide him with everything he needs to enjoy his visit, we can trust Christ that heaven is real for all who believe and put their trust in Him.
     For now we dwell in an earthly house made by human hands, but I am looking forward to the day when we will dwell together in my Father’s house. 

© Joyce Powell