God wants you to know His purpose for your life. My entire life changed when I discovered this one truth: The destiny of my life is hinged upon understanding God's eternal purpose, which He unveiled to man through His sacrificial love.
I was not aware of this powerful truth, despite the fact that I had finished my graduate studies in theology, including rewriting the 500 cardinal doctrines of the church for my thesis. Through my studies, I had learned how to investigate the great truths of the Bible and thought I knew something about almost every doctrine. I prided myself on my attempts to be an exegetical theologian, pastoring and carefully teaching the Word in Bible colleges for 17 years.
When you picture a magnificent flying bird, it is usually not a chicken that comes to mind. I've never seen a chicken portrayed in flight-many eagles, but no chickens. We quote the Scripture from Isaiah 40:31 that talks about being borne up on the wings of eagles or with wings like eagles. There is a difference, however, between being on His wings and being under His wings.
This promise in Psalm 91 is not elaborating on the flying wing but on the sheltering wing. One indicates strength and accomplishment, while the other denotes protection and familiarity. When you imagine the warmth of a nest and the security of being under the wings of the nurturing love of a mother hen with chicks, it paints a vivid picture of the sheltering wing of God's protection that the psalmist refers to in this passage.
"What in the world is that?" exclaimed my husband, Terry, making a quick path out to the front porch.
We had just moved into a summer rental house across the street from a sleepy park. But from the sounds of it, the park was not so sleepy! The gazebo was filled with band members and a rather buxom woman was at the microphone. She was belting out patriotic songs in a high soprano voice.
"Who gives this woman to be wed to this man?"Even though I was expecting this question, hearing it asked by the minister (who is my other son-in-law, Evan) caused a bit of pause. Keep in mind that other than writing a bunch of checks, this was my only real part in the ceremony. I was being asked to give my daughter to the man standing beside Evan. Not to go on a date. Not for a weeklong vacation. But forever!
This beautiful bride-to-be, standing beside me and holding my hand was my daughter.
When she was born I cut the umbilical cord. My wife and I stood beside her hospital bed a
1 year of age as she fought an unexplainable blood infection. I taught her to ride a bike. To swim. To drive a car (hence much of my gray hair). Much of the money I have made in my life somehow poured through her hands.
I was recently scared—really, really scared. I saw something that so frightened me it threw me back and stopped me cold in my tracks. What I saw was ugly, threatening and dangerous. It was large, intimidating and daunting. What was it? Spots! I saw spots.
I have seen spots that freaked me out before—age spots … well just one, but it was there and its presence was horrifying. I have seen other spots too: sore spots, weak spots and soft spots. But none of these shook me like the spots I saw recently: blind spots.
I have reached the age at which it is hard to tell the difference between a Holy Ghost rush and a hot flash. It wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't come to rely on body temperature as a spiritual thermostat to tell me when the anointing had hit. But now I just have to move out in faith, trusting that God is the initiator even when I don't feel a thing—or when what I'm feeling could be the result of a hormone imbalance rather than the prompting of His Spirit!
This season has brought other physical changes, too—a tiredness I can't seem to shake, wrinkles, sagging skin, body parts that don't want to get in shape no matter how much I do to encourage the process. Perhaps worst of all is the lack of desire to extend myself beyond the minimum requirements for sustaining life. If an activity isn't going to satisfy a crucial need, it isn't worth the effort.
Pointedly, persistently and passionately, in both Old and New Testaments, the Bible calls us to humility.
In Deuteronomy 8, Moses told the Israelites three times that God tested them in the wilderness for the express purpose of humbling them: "The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee...and he humbled thee...that he might humble thee" (Deut. 8:2-3, 16, KJV, emphasis added). By inspiration the apostle Paul added that their trials were recorded as examples to us in this Christian era: "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition" (1 Cor. 10:11). In his epistle, therefore, James exhorts Christians everywhere, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord" (James 4:10). Peter orders the same in his general epistle, "humble yourselves...under the mighty hand of God" (1 Pet. 5:6).
There probably isn't a mother alive who doesn't love McDonald's. Not for the cuisine, mind you, but for the convenience. Due to today's busy lifestyles, many moms frequently take advantage of this fast-food phenomenon.
At one time I was among the millions who do, and I have to admit, my kids loved it, too. It was amazing how my tots could spot those golden arches from their backseat vantage point! They would squeal with delight at the prospect of "driving through."
The real thrill came, however, when we actually pulled in, parked and went inside.
After Mother went home to be with the Lord, the family held an estate sale of her possessions that had been sitting in boxes for years.
As I rummaged through the boxes of elegant china, laces and linens, one box in particular caught my eye. This one smelled musty, and a piece of straw was poking through the top. I pried it open with scissors and began to sneeze.
I heard of a guy who couldn't speak English. He was terrified of trying because he did not want to fail. So he found an English teacher and asked him to teach him how to order a meal in a restaurant in perfect English. The teacher taught him how to say four words: hamburger, french fries, Coke.
Every day after that, the man went to order his hamburger, french fries and Coke. Soon he grew tired of eating the same things every day. So he asked the English teacher to teach him how to order something else to eat. The teacher taught him to say eggs, toast and juice.
The presence of Jesus is all you need. It is exciting to enjoy His presence daily in everything you do. The Bible records the story of a group of friends who broke through the rooftop of a house, so they could bypass the crowds blocking their way to Jesus, and bring their paralytic friend before Jesus to be healed.
I love that "whatever it takes" spirit to be in the presence of Jesus. But you know what? Today we don't have to climb mountains, swim vast oceans or even break through rooftops to be in His presence. Right where you are, Jesus, your Immanuel, is with you!
Empty is not fun. No one likes the thought of an empty glass, an empty gas tank and least of all, an empty bank account. When considered in those terms, empty is just plain undesirable. But what would happen if we could begin to think of empty as opportunity? What if, every time we saw barren, we could imagine bounty?
The idea of seeing what could be instead of what is, would not be, however, an earthly exercise in wishful thinking, merely an act of human intellect. Instead it would be a spiritual application of a powerful biblical principle, which simply teaches; "We [the righteous] live by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7, NKJV). In other words, we are to live in expectancy, standing on what we know and believe to be true and not living in despair, troubled by what we see with our natural eyes.
When I was a kid I had one particular "goin' to church" dress that made me cringe. I was 11 at the time and the dress—the height of fashion for the late '50s—was crinkly pink organdy, complete with a wide-swinging under-hoop. If I became too animated while wearing it, I lost my balance! Even worse, my two younger sisters, Carolyn and Diana, each had a matching crinkly-hooped dress. As you can imagine, trying to sit together on the front-row pew during a church service presented a problem.
In the spring of 1980, a series of earthquakes and small eruptions drew the attention of people living in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists and sightseers were drawn to Mount St. Helens. Steam vents, tremors and hot spots appeared almost daily.
Then on May 18, a 5.1-magitude earthquake shook the mountain. For a few seconds the north flank seemed to ripple, then broke loose and began sliding downhill as a massive avalanche. Eruption plumes shot up as quickly as 600 miles an hour. The blast traveled as a hot, churning mass of gas, rock, ash and ice. More than 50 people were killed or reported missing after the blast, and the eruption devastated 235 square miles.
As a Christian counselor I have listened to many married couples express feelings of frustration and hurt because of their inability to effectively communicate with one another. Studies prove that communication breakdown is a major source of conflict, one that can eventually lead to other problems in the marriage, such as a lack of intimacy and divorce. Statistics prove the truth of what the Bible says in Proverbs 18:21: "The tongue has the power of life and death" (NIV).
However, there is a remedy. Many of the struggles married couples face, in fact, can be avoided with the use of some simple communication tools. Learning to use these tools to express ourselves in more effective ways fosters better understanding, which results in greater emotional intimacy.
As a young believer, whenever circumstances that I viewed as roadblocks to an otherwise smoothly sailed life appeared, I took them as something to remove. They had no business causing a detour in my well-organized, over-controlled lifestyle. I had determined that anything negative must be the devil's playground, and I needed many hours of standing on the Word to void that which I perceived as his sinister activity. However, this seemed to have no effect. Situations remained.
Avoiding them or trying to pray the problems away was of no use either. Troubles sometimes arrived in a rush with no advance warning. It was confusing. Shouldn't believers be exempt from the normal living that existed for nonbelievers? Doesn't the writer of the psalms tell us that the crooked will be made straight? Doesn't Jesus calm troubled waters? But I also kept coming across words such as "suffering," "trials" and "testing" from New Testament writers. Could it be that somehow the Father allowed those dreadful situations in my life? If so, why?
I love O'Reilly, my Jack Russell Terror—I mean Terrier. Her boundless energy and spunk keep me on my toes, and her mischievous antics make me laugh—even when I'm trying to discipline her. She is full of personality, possessing the spirit of a preschool toddler. I love that about her. That is until recently when something happened to temporarily change my appreciation of her joie de vivre!
I was released from the hospital after undergoing major surgery, and it felt good to be home. I slowly hobbled into the house; every muscle in my body was hurting. I grabbed my down comforter, wrapped it tightly around me like a burrito and began to melt beneath its warmth. Just as I had started to drift off into a nice sleep, I was abruptly awakened. The front door opened and a shot of lightning flashed by me. It was O'Reilly. She soared into the living room where I was nursing my wounds and skyrocketed right for me like a heat-seeking missile.
Perhaps God spoke to you at a particular time or was present on a particular occasion. At the time, it didn’t seem as if it was God who was doing the speaking or even if God was present at all. You underestimated, if not rejected, what He did or what He said. Only years later did it become clear to you that you had failed to recognize His presence.
I remember many years ago, when Louise and I had moved away from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for only 18 months, we came back and found that Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church had been started. Before we went away, it had been a vacant lot with a big sign on it that read, "Future home of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church." That sign just stayed there month after month for a couple years. We wondered: What is happening here? When will that church start?
At one of our Charisma Women's Conferences, God spoke a powerful word to the nearly 8,000 women who attended. He said that it was time for us as women to step forward and accept the authority He has given us. He reminded us that we are empowered and authorized by His Word to do whatever He tells us to do.
The Promised Land described in the Old Testament is a picture of what God has available to us in the New Covenant (see Josh. 1). He has a promised land for each of our lives-a destiny that only we can fulfill. Your promised land is the will of God for your life and the only place you will find total fulfillment.
But to take your land, you must heed the admonition given to Joshua in verse 7: "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go" (NIV).
When the Word says "be strong," it means not in your own strength but in the power of God. According to Acts 1:8, when we receive that power through the Holy Spirit, we are equipped just as the early church was to be witnesses for Christ. And one of the qualities we will exhibit in our Spirit-filled state is courage-the ability to face difficulties without fear.
Fear is one of the first weapons the enemy launches at us. It is the atmosphere of his realm just as faith is the atmosphere of God.
During the war in Iraq that took place in March of 2003, one of the tactics the United States employed against our enemies was psychological warfare. When successful, this tactic convinces the opposing army to surrender because they believe they are already defeated.
Our enemy, the devil, is more experienced than the Coalition forces in using this tactic since he has had thousands of years to perfect it. The Bible warns us not to be ignorant of his devices or he will take advantage of us (see 2 Cor. 2:11).
The first place he stages a battle is in our minds. But we have been given the strategy in the Word to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God" and to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5), replacing the devil's thoughts with what God has promised us in His Word.
If you agree with the lies Satan whispers into your thoughts, it is easy to fall prey to discouragement. Discouragement will steal your faith, depress your spirit, take your strength and ultimately cause you to miss the plan God has for your life. That, of course, is the enemy's ultimate goal.
If you have become captive to discouragement, ask God to forgive you for listening to the lies of the enemy. Though He has promised to accomplish His plan through us, we have to do our part.
We must choose to believe His promises and trust Him to act. We must be strong and of good courage so we can fulfill all He has promised for our lives.
Many of you who are avid watchers of Christian television have no doubt seen my friend, Alvin Slaughter. He's a singer of tremendous anointing and incredible good humor.
Alvin tells a story about a time when he was in one of those first class lounges in the airport, waiting to board his next flight. Wearing his ever-present Walkman, he settled back with a favorite music tape and became overwhelmed with the presence of the Lord.