captivesofhope

Finding renewal and hope


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Do I Know You?

white house      If you are planning to knock on the door of the white house in hopes of having dinner with the president and first lady, consider a few things first. What will be your opening line? Make sure you state your name clearly and smile. Tell the secret service how you just love Obamacare and show them the flag that you proudly wear on your shirt. Also, remind them that you are a U.S. citizen and very patriotic. Show them how you represent your country to the best of your ability and ensure them that you pay taxes every year. You would never dream of cheating our great government. Tell them how you publicly acknowledge the president every time he passes a law. Explain to them how you also tell others how much of a blessing it is to be a member of this country. You even suggest that citizens of other countries may want to consider obtaining a form of citizenship or alien resident status. You are American through and through. Now, wait for the secret service agent to respond as you smile at him.  Hmm… that’s interesting. They are not opening the door wide for you? That’s strange, your exuberant citizenship should be a sure entrance into that special dinner with the president. Unfortunately, however, you are forgetting one small (or maybe not so small) detail. The president does not know who you are.

You may represent this country in your own personal life and you may express thankfulness when you enjoy its benefits, but you have yet to personally meet the man to whose house you are trying to gain entrance. You don’t know anything about his personal life and he doesn’t know anything about yours. You have never met or fellowshipped with his children. He cannot pick you out of a crowd. While he appreciates your dedication to this country, it will not gain you access to his secret chambers.

Now consider why so many people will hear the words, “I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23 KJV). Many people will make it to Heaven’s gate and then receive a horrible revelation. God will not let people into Heaven because they wear a cross on their shirts or because they have His name on their clothes. Being partakers of God’s goodness and even being thankful for it will not gain them access. Telling others that they should go to church will not gain anyone access either. Doing good works and speaking highly of God is great, but it will not get you into Heaven on that day. God is looking for specific requirements. Your name must be written in His book, meaning you have repented of your sins and changed your life over, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1 KJV).

We cannot live the life we have always lived and expect God to let us into His home on that last day. He expects us to surrender to His leadership, not just acknowledge our thankfulness or our willingness to represent Him. Being a citizen of this world is not enough, we have to go through the proper channels to receive our Heavenly citizenship, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16 KJV). We must acknowledge our sinful nature and be willing to change. On the day of Pentecost, a group of people suddenly realized that they were not in a relationship with the God of Heaven. They became painfully aware of their sin, “…they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter’s response was, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38 KJV). Even after the initial introduction to God’s kingdom; however, one must continue the journey to Heaven. We must walk with Him and talk with Him and allow Him to change us along the way. When we arrive at His door, He will recognize that His name is on our hearts and not just our clothing. Then, we can hear the words, “His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:23). Then we will not call Him, “The Lord” but instead “My Lord.”

man at gate


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Christmas Day

nativity-scene

Christmas Day has always been a special day to me. As a child, it was a time of peace beyond any I had ever known. Every Christmas morning, I would wake up alone and spend time sitting near the tree looking at the lights and thinking about the goodness of God. Ironically, I was not yet a follower of Jesus. I just knew that He was God and that He loved me. I listened to Christmas songs like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and I would weep there because of God’s presence. I did not understand what I was doing for many years. All I knew was that God often made special provisions for me to meet Him there. For some reason, my family would sleep later than me every year. He would make sure I had my time with Him.

As a youth, the winter time was especially difficult for me because of a heavy depression that would take over me during the cold months. I did not know then that I had underlying health issues that lent to the problem. I only knew that I could not stand the cold. The cold-dark combination did not help, but Christmas served as a time of reprieve for me. For a season, I had peace. Even then, it wasn’t about the gifts for me. It was about His presence. I didn’t understand it then, but I later discovered that that same peace could dwell in my heart all year around even when there was no tree, no presents, and no Christmas decorations.

The day I finally made it into a church with the intention of giving my life fully to God, a very sweet lady offered to pray for me. I agreed and went with her to the front of the church. She began to pray and a mixture of peace and love fell upon me so strongly that my knees went weak knocking me to the ground. At that moment, I knew that that was what I needed. I needed it every day. A God’s whose love could knock me off my feet was the One I wanted to serve. It’s been nearly seventeen years since that day. During my journey with Him, God delivered me from the winter depression among other things. It has been my privilege to still meet Him in a special way on Christmas morning though I serve Him each and every day with that same peace ruling in my heart.

As you celebrate this day with your family and feel His special peace, remember that you can have this feeling every day. You can have relief from the pain that plagues you. You can be free from your prison. Give your life to Jesus. It is all worth it.

Picture from http://www.improvementscatalog.com

 


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Pleasure and Pain

fruitofthespirit2
image from Gracewaymedia.com

I have gone to the doctor several times with various pains. The first thing that the doctor usually asks me is, “Did you take anything for it?” Honestly, my answer is often, “No, I didn’t.” The doctors then look at me quizzically as they order me some pain medicine. I’m not sure, but it seems like they stop listening to me at that point.  After years of this occurring, I began to change my mentality. I began to take pain medicine for my aches and pains, but what I realize is that the pain medicine only masks the problem. Pain medicine just tells my brain not to hurt. This is why I have never been one to like taking medicine. I feel like I’m being tricked. The problem that has caused me the pain is still there.

I understand that some people need medicine for chronic illnesses, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about my daily aches and pains. Just yesterday, I developed a severe pain in my foot that almost prevented me from walking. My first reaction was to take pain medication. Then I stopped myself. Sounds crazy, I know, but I thought to myself that perhaps God has allowed this pain to happen to get my attention about something. That’s why He allows us to feel pain isn’t it? When we feel pain, we know that we need to pay attention to our body because something is wrong. Society tells us to trick our bodies so that we don’t feel the pain. I didn’t take any medication yesterday. I prayed and pondered the reason for the pain. I concluded that it is probably caused by something I’m eating, the fact that I’m overweight, or a combination of both of these things. Yes, I’m being honest with myself. I don’t want to trick myself. I need to change something.

Last night, the Lord showed me two scriptures that shook me. The first one was, “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1Tim 5:6). The directness of this scripture disturbed me. It is talking specifically about widows who have nothing to do, but I knew that it can relate to others. The second scripture drove the point home, “1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2Tim 3:1-5 NKJV underline mine). In the last days, people will be full of themselves and their own needs.

So how does this relate to me and my pain pills? Society teaches that we should feel good instead of being good. That was the doctor’s job. The doctor wanted me to feel good and to mask the warning system that God put in place. This is why I have not been happy taking medicine. The world teaches people to enjoy themselves and to feel good as long as possible. Advertisements tell us to enjoy ourselves because we deserve it. This is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible tells us to be, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:12 NKJV). The Bible also tells us that, “3 we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5: 3 &4). Suffering helps us to persevere. If I’m in pain because I eat too much sugar, should I pop an Ibuprofen and keep eating as much as I want or should I try to do something about my sugar intake? Reducing sugar at this point could be preventing me from having a serious problem in the future. Reducing my sugar intake will ultimately help build character because I am allowing myself to suffer in that I am not eating what I want to eat. The Bible says that this will make me a better person. The alternative of masking my symptoms and continuing to indulge is not the reaction that God wants me to have. It will not produce the kind of character that the Bible is talking about. Christians are supposed to go against the grain of society. Sprite tells us to obey our thirsts. McDonald’s wants to make us smile. Burger King tells us that we can have it our own way. Yet these products are responsible for a lot of health problems.

Overeating 2 image from http://www.ahbras.com/

In light of this revelation, I have a lot of changes to make. If I’m honest, I can confess that I sometimes let my flesh run my life. Yes, I eat more than I need to eat. I see the results of that in my life. I also eat the wrong things too often because they taste good. Sometimes, I let pleasure serve as my guide rather than the fruit of the spirit of which one is self-control.

 

Dear Jesus,

I have to be honest with myself. I need some work in this area. I have let pleasure lead me at times when I should have let You lead me. I know that You designed our bodies to alert us when there are problems. I have learned to mask those problems so that I could function and sometimes just so I could continue doing what I was doing. I don’t want to live like that anymore. Show me how to live in godliness rather than in the pursuit of pleasure.

Amen


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Identity

IndividualI am going to say something controversial. Continue reading at your own risk. Are you still reading? Maybe you are still reading because you are curious. I might be curious too, if I were you. If you keep reading, just make a deal with me that you will read the whole thing lest you get the wrong idea about what I am trying to say. Well, here it is. Have you ever heard someone say, “I do [such and such] and I’m still saved”. This statement has a lot of different meanings to it. Usually; however, a person is suggesting that God lets them get away with something without blotting their name out of the book of life. They are saying that it is possible to do [you fill in the blank] and still be a Christian. The message to the onlooker becomes, “Christians do the same things I do, so why should I become one? If they can’t do any better than me, why should I take the trouble of getting out of bed every Sunday?” I hear some people say that they toe the line because they want to identify with people who are struggling. Then want people to know that someone just like them has a relationship with God. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t impress me when someone who has the same problems as me attempts to instruct me in how to overcome. Let’s say that someone is promoting a weight-loss product, but they haven’t lost any weight? Would you buy the product because they tell you it works? How do they know? If we tell someone that they should become a Christian, our suggestion isn’t valid if we are not presenting a Christian life to them. This generation believes in evidence. They want to see that things are the way you say.

Some people argue that they need to maintain a certain element of their past identities to be able to reach people. I can’t speak for everyone. Perhaps this is true for someone, but it isn’t true for everyone. Moses was not a slave like the children of Israel, yet he was able to lead the entire nation out of bondage. God used him because he was different, not in spite of his differences. God knows what we need to be. When we come to Christ, we give up our right to ourselves, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price…” (1Corinthians 6: 19 & 20). The identity we are supposed to have is the one God gives us. A lot of people are afraid to come to God or to let God take control because they don’t want to lose who they are. The truth is, they have already lost their identity through sin. God created us to be one person, but sin takes us and makes us someone else. When we come to God, He wants to set us on the correct path and make us what He intended us to be in the first place. Sometimes that is very different than what we have become. To hold on to our old identity for dear life is to insult God and to engage in idol worship. Our identity can be an idol. If we can’t give it up, it is an idol.

When we come to God, He takes us just the way we are. He doesn’t change us so He can love us, He changes us because He loves us. He may ask us to do some things we don’t understand, but only requires that we do them to the best of our ability and knowledge. Sure, we will fail quite a bit, but God will pick us up and put us back on the path. Later on, we will often see the purpose of doing those things though we didn’t understand initially. God does not; however, remove our individuality or creativity. Actually, we become more creative in Him than we have ever been. We become more free than we have ever been. I encourage you to let go and let God. He knows what He created you to be. It may seem scary at first, but it is really for the best and you will be happy you did. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever Amen.” (Jude 24 & 25).


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The Crutch

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Willie broke his leg, but decided that crutches are for sissies. He decided to just wait at home in bed until his leg healed. Charlotte was getting older and her knees didn’t work the way they used to, so Sharon decided to stay at home for the remainder of her life since leaning on a cane is for the weak. No doubt, a perceptive person will quickly see where I am going with this. Many people say that Jesus is a crutch, yet these same people have no problem leaning on a cane, a crutch, or even two crutches when they break a limb. It would be crazy to stay at home simply because one wanted to be independent, yet people suggest that I do this when life throws curve balls at me. I admit that Jesus has to hold me up at times. When my heart is broken, Jesus holds me up while I heal. When I had a miscarriage in March 2011, Jesus held me together while my heart and my womb healed. Then, just because He is good, He blessed me 3 months later with another baby who was born in March 2012 and is now 4 months old. She is already growing two teeth in the front.

God has been my Rock ever since I gave my life to Him because I came to the realization that I cannot survive on my own. I can’t heal my own heart. I can’t even heal my body. I need Jesus. It was even sweeter when I realized that it is wonderful to know Him. He let me lean on Him, but then He made me stronger so that I can stand when storms hit. It is better to lean on God so that He can strengthen me and make me unbreakable than to insist that I heal myself. Leaning on Jesus could make the difference between a bad day and a hospital stay in the psychiatric ward or even death. I choose the Rock (crutch- call it what you will).


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The Journey

 

When the floor slips out from underneath me, I feel His arms supporting me. He catches me before I realize I am falling. On dark days, He is the light. When I struggle with life, He is my hiding place. He is water when my soul is thirsty. He causes fountains to stir within me and they flow out into the lives of others. I am a bill board for Jesus Christ and His ability to save and to heal. I am a broken life now mended. I was lost on a path that no one understood. No one could find me and so no one could lead me out. But Jesus found me. He came to me and showed me who I was and who I would become. I gave Him the life that no one wanted; including me. He smiled and took my hand. Today, we are still walking. Together. He leads me through valleys and over mountains. He leads me through deserts and plains. Up and down. I have learned that if I keep my hand in His and continue to put one foot in front of the other, I will make it. I can’t look around too much because looks can be deceiving. I look at Him when I forget where we are going. Then I remember that we are going home. One day I will rest from my journey. I will know why. I will understand all things. I will lose the ability to hurt. I won’t need to cry anymore since the desert will have disappeared. There will be no night. No one will judge or mock me. No one will ask me why. They will know.


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Times of Refreshing

In Acts 3:19, Peter admonished them to seek salvation because of the times of refreshing from the Lord. I pondered this thought. I realized that Peter was confessing that life is hard for everyone, including and especially Christians. God, being well aware of life’s struggles, arranges for periods of deep spiritual blessing to revive those who serve Him. It is like drinking a cold glass of water after a 5 mile run. You sigh heavily from somewhere deep inside. Your muscles still ache, but you can go on. God’s presence is even better. Sometimes you don’t even feel the ache after drinking from the well of Living Water. Peter understood that everyone is in need of this refreshing. I cannot live without it. I needed refreshing as I watched my husband ride away in an ambulance the day before yesterday. I needed another dose when I visited him in the hospital. I needed refreshing yet again when my son grabbed his father’s hand to leave because he did not understand that Daddy had to stay at the hospital. God has brought me through painful places because of His ability to refresh me. When life is especially hard, God arranges for me to be refreshed more often, just as we drink more water when we are hot. Spiritual dehydration can set in quickly in the desert. It is important to drink often and to drink deeply. I can keep going if I keep drinking. Even if I cry through while I pray through, I must go on. Even if I’m crawling while I’m calling on Him. The important thing is to keep moving forward. If you refuse to stop, you will eventually come to the well. You’ll make it if you believe you can.

Dear Jesus,

I believe I can. I believe I can. I believe I can.

Amen

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