Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pay Attention to the Road Signs Part 2



God loves us so much that He provides every opportunity for us to live the lives that He has planned for us. Wisdom comes when we study His Word, talk with Him every day, listen attentively, and live a life obedient to His instruction. Setting up road signs and guideposts along our way will help us remember where we came from, to whom we belong (God), and where we are going.

While keeping those things in mind, let’s set some guidelines/tasks/goals for this study. I will suggest some general goals, but I recommend that you refine those and make them personal; setting specific goals regarding what you want to gain from these weeks of study will insure that you get the most out of the time you devote to this.

Suggested Goals and/or Tasks:


Confirm that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of your life. On the lines below write a brief summary of your salvation experience. You may have accepted Christ many years ago, you may be a new Christian, or you may not yet know Christ as your personal Savior. If you have any doubts, before you go one step further please make sure that you have given your heart to Jesus. The successful application of the truths in this study depends upon your personal relationship with Christ. (Scriptures to help you make or confirm this essential step may be found on page 124.)

Compare where you were spiritually five years ago with where you are spiritually now. Have you progressed in your understanding of God’s Word? Have your attitudes and behaviors changed for the better? Do you actively seek to know God’s will and be obedient to it?

Set a goal with a timeline. (A timeline helps turn a dream into a goal.) Where do you want to be in six months? Where do you want to be in a year or five years? Include not only your spiritual walk with God but also your finances, job, relationships, whatever goal(s) you already have or desire to set for yourself.

Begin prayerfully practicing those things that will help you reach your goal(s).

Examples:

a. Do you want to walk closer to God and to be more like Jesus? Study the Bible, pray, talk to the Father; listen when He speaks to you. Decide to be obedient no matter what the cost, and keep a journal (this will encourage you later when you look back, read, and recognize how God has worked in your life.)

b. Do you want to be financially free? Begin with simple things like not spending money on vending machine food or eating out. Carry a sack lunch. Cook! Develop a written financial plan. Say “NO” to something you want but do not need.

c. Do you want to be a photographer? Study the art of photography. Read instruction manuals. Practice! (Watch your pennies. It’s addictive!)

d. Do you want to own your own bakery? Begin developing your own recipes. Try them out on friends. Research the requirements from the health department and tax regulations.

You get the picture. Don’t just dream. Set goals. Set yourself some way marks––road signs to mark your path and guide you along your way, deadline dates to attain certain steps along the path to your goal. Watch for God’s hand in your life. If you are His child, I guarantee that He will give direction, correction, and personal guidance. In other words, watch for the road signs and follow them!

In Acts 26, the Apostle Paul stood before Herod Agrippa and gave a defense for his behavior. This chapter is a beautiful testimony of the ministry of Paul and how his life was changed by his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. In verse sixteen we read the words Christ spoke to Paul as Paul himself repeated them to Herod Agrippa.

“I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness…”

Because of his encounter with Christ, Paul devoted himself to Christ as a servant, not for what he could attain but in gratitude for what he had already been given! He found a personal relationship with the Messiah. He had received a personal directive which became his life’s purpose from that day forward.

Paul had his guidepost—a personal encounter with Christ! He would put up many road signs for others along the way as he went from town to town, ministering and preaching the gospel of Christ. He would have many opportunities to turn back, relent, or give up. Instead, he held fast to his personal guidepost, his encounter with the Living Lord, and pressed ever forward.

In I Corinthians 2:2, Paul reiterated his life’s goal.

“For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

What was Paul’s directive from Christ? Be a minister and a witness. What did Paul do? He resolved to know nothing (not to be distracted by anything else going on among them) except what Christ had called him to do, which was to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, Who was crucified as a sacrifice for sin in order to bring salvation and life eternal.

Like Paul, we need to determine to be what God has called us to be and to do what God has called us to do. The Greek word used in this verse for “determined” is krino. It means to decide, consider, as preferring one thing over another or defining the correctness of a matter; by extension: to judge, pass judgment on, condemn in a legal sense. (Goodrick, E. W., & Kohlberger, J. R., III. (2004). Mount. In The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance (pp1566). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.)

Paul knew that the Corinthians needed to hear the truth of Jesus Christ. He determined to carry the message that, in a legal sense, they were condemned to a life of eternal darkness, but that Jesus Christ, the advocate between God and man, came to bring eternal life for all who would believe. As soon as we accept the free gift of eternal salvation through belief in Christ, we have a legal advocate in the person of Jesus Christ to plead for leniency with God, who is always willing to hear the pleadings of His Son on our behalf. Paul eloquently stated his goal in Philippians 3:14.

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” KJV

Do you know your goal? Do you have a goal? Are you drifting through life letting whatever happen to you instead of truly living?

Let us delve deep with God. Let us set up road signs and guideposts not only for ourselves but for the generations who follow. Let us leave road signs that will allow those who come behind to follow us to the Savior and life everlasting. Let us set up guideposts to encourage, direct and leave wisdom for life on planet earth. Let us remember that the world is ever changing but never forget that we serve the one true never-changing God.

As we take life’s journey, let us set up road signs, put up guideposts, and take note of the road that leads directly to the throne room of God.


© Joyce Powell

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pay Attention to the Road Signs Part 1

                                                                                           




Set up road signs: put up
guideposts. Take note of
the highway, the road that
you take.
Jeremiah 31:21a NIV

Set thee up waymarks,
Make thee high heaps;
Set thine heart toward
The highway, even the
Way which thou wentest.
Jeremiah 31:21a  KJV


 I’m told that all versions of the Bible except the KJV require permission from the copyright holder to quote from it in publication. Very short sections, such as single verses, may not be an issue, but that “rule-of-thumb” may not apply to nonfiction.

Have you, like me, noticed that things which used to move slowly now speed past like a bullet train?  Have you wondered how to handle these changes? Perhaps you’ve even asked yourself where God is in the journey? Does He care when we battle with depression? If we are in the midst of financial instability? Struggling with marital problems? Does He know that my heart is pointed toward Him but that sometimes my feet just can’t seem to follow?

The answer is always yes. He is there. Yes, He knows exactly what you are going through, and yes, He absolutely cares. We see the answer to these questions throughout the Word of God. From Genesis to Revelation, we can recognize God’s hand in history on a personal, as well as a global, level.

· He watches over his people. Genesis 6:8 - “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (KJV)

· He guides. Genesis 12:1 - “Now the LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”’ (NIV)

· He protects. II Thessalonians 3:3 - “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (NIV)

· He intervenes in history. Genesis 11:5-9—“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’ So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”’ (NIV

· He intervenes personally.* Luke 1:26-27 - “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. (NIV)

* God’s intervention in a personal situation can also be used to change history. We have already seen this in the Scriptures relating to Noah and Abram.

· He cares. I Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV

· Most wonderful of all, He loves. John 3:16-17 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (KJV)

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Road Signs for Living



Over the next few weeks, I will be posting excerpts from my Bible study-Road Signs for Living. I pray you will read it, think about it, study it, and allow God to apply the principles to your life. Be blessed today as you study the Word of God.


Introduction

As a commuter, I found that traveling the same road day after day, week after week, month after month, lulled me into a mechanical routine. As with all routines, I quickly learned to perform by rote the motions necessary to get me to my destination. Although I was aware and my eyes were open and functioning, I was not really paying attention. Isn’t that what happens with most of our lives? We go through a thousand routines by habit, ritual, or tradition—not really living, simply existing.


One spring morning as I drove from the beautiful and peaceful Texas Hill Country toward my job in the hustle and bustle of San Antonio, for some reason I began to be more fully aware of road signs. “Slow Curve.” “Guardrail Damage Ahead.” “Highway Intersection 1000 Feet.” When I passed a sign that read “Observe Warning Signs – State Law,” I heard the voice of my Father God whisper to my spirit, “Pay attention to the road signs.”

Instantly, I began to notice the triangular, octagonal, rectangular and circular signs of red, white, blue, yellow and green. There were informational signs such as “City Limits” and “Interstate Highway 2 Miles.” Some instructional signs included: “Speed Limit 55 MPH” and “One Way.” Warning signs read, “Caution,” and “Do Not Enter.” Each sign had a common purpose; to provide knowledge and thereby ensure the safety of those traveling on that particular stretch of road.

As I drove, I was momentarily startled to see the flashing blue lights of a police car in my rear view mirror. The car sped past me, apparently on the way to “remind” another driver of the consequences of not obeying the road signs. Even though I had broken no laws, knowing that someone else was facing reprimand made me more cautious during the rest of my commute.

Along the way that morning, God showed me that He provides road signs for living, and that obedience to those signs gives us purpose, direction and protection. As with signs along the streets and highways, God provides informational, instructional, and warning signs to guide us on the journey through life.

I began to question: What specific purposes do God’s signs serve? Why does He place them along our way? Are God’s signs simply suggestions? Are they commands? Do we face consequences when we do not heed them?

Those questions led me on a search for God’s road signs; a search that resulted in this study. Like the highway system, our world is ever changing, but God is never changing. My hope is that you will see and heed His “Road Signs for Living” through this study of His Word.


© Joyce Powell

Monday, February 13, 2017

Is It Possible To Be A Percentage Christian?

Jesus answered, “I am the Way, the Truth
and the Life. No one comes to the Father
except through me…”
John 14:6 NIV

I belong to a Facebook page for writers, and recently had an interesting encounter which led me to the question posed to you today. Is it possible to be a percentage Christian?

One of the writers on the Facebook page lost a friend in death. He opened his comments with, “I’m not really 100% Christian, but this struck me due to my friend’s passing the other day.” He posted a story which ended with these words:

“I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one
thing…I know my Master is there and that is enough.”

What followed was an interesting conversation between what appeared to be mostly non-Christians. The next person asked what I believe may be the most profound question I have heard in a while “Is it possible to be a percentage Christian?”

Wow! I watched the conversation for a minute and decided I had been given an opportunity to tell them about Jesus so I added the following:

“To answer your question, No, you cannot be a percentage Christian. You either are or you aren’t and the thing that defines that you are is believing that Jesus Christ is the One and Only virgin born son of the One and Only true God, that He lived a sinless life, was crucified for the sin of the world, buried and rose again on the third day and is now seated next to His Father God in Heaven.” “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by me!” John 14:6

After posting the gospel in a nutshell, I sat back and watched the heated argument begin. I was asked to “Purleeze, leave the Gristian propaganda out of this group! It is offensive to many non-gristians, and many atheists.”

I made one more comment stating that I was simply answering the question posted earlier and asking why my Christian viewpoint was so offensive while other comments from those who were non-Christian or atheist were readily accepted. My heart ached as I read the replies. Some defended my right to say what I wanted, others desired to remain offended. And eventually, the site administrator stepped in telling all that it was time to take a step back from the religious debate.

But in all of the conversation, I knew one thing to be true. God had given me an opportunity to share the gospel with a group of non-believers. I did not judge them. That is not my job. I simply stated the truth of the Word of God and prayed that God would plant that seed in someone’s heart.

It is important to remember that Christians are like light bulbs. The only responsibility of a light bulb is to shed light when someone flips on the switch. In much the same way, a Christian has a responsibility to shed the light of the gospel at every given opportunity. A light bulb has no responsibility to see that someone takes advantage of the light—only to shine. As Christians, we cannot make people accept the gospel, but we must shine the light of the truth of God.

To answer the question presented on Facebook, you cannot be a percentage Christian. You are in or out. You are a Christian or not. You believe God or you do not.

I pray that God will give you the opportunity today to shed the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ on someone within your realm of influence and that you will be reminded that we cannot be a percentage Christian.

© Joyce Powell
Repost

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sacrificial Hope



But, I with a song of thanksgiving,
 will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed
 I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD.

Jonah 2:9 


Most of us are familiar with the story of “Jonah and the Whale.” As children, many of us learned that Jonah disobeyed God, jumped on a boat going in the opposite direction from the city where God commanded Jonah to preach, and was thrown overboard to save the ship from a violent storm.  Then a great fish swallowed him and, after his fervent prayer to God for relief, it vomited Jonah onto dry ground.

The prophet, unwilling to fulfill the seemingly offensive mission from God, chose to run rather than obey. Ultimately, however, Jonah realized that God’s way was the only way and, although he remained reluctant, he obeyed God. The people of Nineveh believed and were saved, but Jonah pouted and sulked in anger; complaining to God. He became so angry that he wanted to die.  (Jonah 4:9) Jonah hated the powerful and wicked Assyrians of Nineveh.

But God, in His great mercy, saved both the Ninevites and Jonah from their own destructive choices. Initially, Jonah was unwilling to sacrifice his desires to fulfill the calling of God on his life. But, he was willing to sacrifice his life to save the sailors on the ship he chose to board while fleeing from God. His behavior seems to be a conundrum, mind-boggling, a puzzle.

As I thought about the complexity of Jonah’s actions, I realized that you and I face similar dilemmas. For example, your heart’s desire, your hope in life, may be to minister to the hurting in your community or nearby city. However, what if God’s answer is yes to allowing you to minister to the hurting, but His call on your life is to the inner city of Mumbai, India where the population is over twelve million. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? What if your ministry desire lies across the nation but instead, God calls you across town? What if you desire to do “great things” for God by the world’s standards, yet He calls you to a ministry of obscurity where few ever know your name? Are you willing to make that sacrifice as you hope in Him?

The twists and turns of life often lead you to unexpected places, often put you in unexpected situations, and often leave you with unexpected decisions to make. But as my favorite Psalm teaches, there is no place you can run, hide, or rest that God cannot find you. (Psalm 139) The question becomes are you, am I, willing to live with sacrificial hope; hope that seeks obedience to God rather than hope that seeks the fulfillment of a personal desire.

Sacrificial hope draws you and me to look expectantly for God’s direction. Sacrificial hope presents a grateful heart to God for the ability to present the Truth of God’s Word to the hungry broken heart of a desperate lost soul. Sacrificial hope allows earthly eyes to see beyond the natural realm. Sacrificial hope is not confined to the mighty in word and deed, but rather becomes a powerful tool for God’s Kingdom in the hearts of struggling single moms, those bed-ridden by illness, dads working two or three jobs, young college graduates looking for work, grandparents raising their grandchildren, soldiers on the battlefield, surgeons in the operating room, and a myriad of other life situations.

Sacrificial hope means believing and obeying God. I am glad God included Jonah’s story in His Word to you and me. It is in God’s Word that we are allowed to see the imperfections, rocky beginnings, and sometimes shaky endings of those who first believed God; human beings like you and like me. God’s Word teaches us to repent, obey, and believe Him. From the darkness inside the belly of a great fish, Jonah cried out to God with his words of sacrificial hope, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”


Pray with me: Father, I pray that like the Ninevites who were saved because Jonah preached and they repented, many will come to know You because of my sacrificial hope in You.

© Joyce Powell
from "Words of Hope"

Friday, January 27, 2017

Hope To Cross Your Red Sea




Moses answered, the people,
 “Do not be afraid.
Stand firm and you will see the deliverance
 the LORD will bring you today…
 The LORD will fight for you;
 you need only to be still.

Exodus 14:13a, 14



Imagine with me the dilemma faced by the Israelites when, with one final plague over Egypt, God changed the world as they knew it—forever. For four hundred thirty years, to the day, (Exodus 12:40) they lived, worked, and eventually became enslaved in Egypt. Genesis 46:27 tells us that seventy direct descendants of Jacob (Israel) went into Egypt, and after four hundred thirty years, 603,550 men age twenty and older plus women, children, and the Tribe of Levi fled Egypt. In approximately twenty-four days, according to some studies I read, well over one million people camped by the Red Sea.

Exodus 14:10 tells us, “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.” Husbands fearful for their wives and children. Mothers fearful for their nursing babies. Children fearful of the thunderous roar of chariots and hoof beats. Then fear turned to anger as accusations against Moses and I told you so language could be heard throughout the desert.

When it looked like they were trapped, Moses called upon God and encouraged the people with these words, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14) Hope to cross the Red Sea.

What happened next has been immortalized in print and film over generations. God made a dry-land path across the Red Sea. The Israelites crossed, and when Pharaoh’s army followed, the sea swallowed every last Egyptian. The Israelites never saw the Egyptian army again! God always keeps His Word!

Rather than an imposing body of water before you and an army of chariots behind you, a busy schedule may pursue you from the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning until the last piece of laundry is folded, the last child stops asking for a drink of water, and the last item on your to-do list is moved to tomorrow.

Your Red Sea may be an aging parent, a wayward child, or empty-nest syndrome. Your Red Sea may be waiting for the doctor’s report, the job interview results, or reconciliation with a loved one. Your Red Sea may be an empty checkbook, an empty pantry, and an empty gas tank. Your Red Sea may be a secret you have never shared while the thunder of shame and rejection beats in your ears.

Your Red Sea may be the fault of others or a creation of your own decisions. But here is the good news! God sees you. He can make a way in the desert and streams in your wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19b) God either placed you where you are or allowed circumstances to bring you to this place.

Hebrews 13:6 reminds us that during times of great stress or insecurity we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Do you feel trapped between a rushing army and a raging sea? Perhaps God is testing your faith. Perhaps He is weaving you into a beautiful masterpiece, and for now you are only allowed to see the jagged threads on the underside of the cloth. Perhaps He is preparing to open the sea and allow you to walk across on dry land. 


“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you… The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” He is Hope to cross your Red Sea.

© Joyce Powell
2016

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hope In the Face of Loneliness


Turn to me
 and be
 gracious to me,
 for I am
 lonely and afflicted.

 Psalm 25:16


Earlier, as I sat down to write, I heard a terrible squawking coming from our back deck. I immediately recognized the sound—a baby bird caught by a kitty. I rushed to the door. One yellow and white kitten and one baby male cardinal, just testing his wings, wrestled as several kittens looked on. I rescued the bird hoping he would survive. After several attempts to save him from certain death, the trauma became too much for him. I did not see any physical wounds. I think his little heart just gave out from the struggle.

Although I understand that it is critters doing what comes naturally, it always reminds me that too often people are treated like that poor cardinal. Picked on. Harassed. Afflicted. Left alone to survive the traumas foisted upon them by life’s circumstances; allowing loneliness to creep in and fill the cracks and crevices of a desolate, broken heart.

King David knew something about loneliness. Chased, hunted, slandered, and distressed on many occasions—some of his wounds were self-inflicted while others grew from the jealousy and rage of those who wanted him dead. Chosen by God and anointed king as a young boy, as a man, he ran for his life and hid in caves.[G1]  He lived a messy life. In Psalm 25:16 we read his cry to God, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”

The thing I love about King David is that no matter the cause of the mess, his own creation or an assault from another, he always knew where to run for help. Psalm 25 begins with these words, “In you, LORD my God, I put my trust.” He says it again in Psalm 86:4 and 143:8. When under attack and overwhelmed by loneliness, he knew that his hope lay in trusting God.

Loneliness arises from a myriad of situations. Friendlessness. Isolation. Estrangement. Seclusion. Companionlessness. Desertion. Abandonment. Death. These are only a few of the many causes of loneliness. You and I can be alone without being lonely—or in a crowded room and yet feel completely isolated from others.

Loneliness can happen when you feel deserted, disconnected, devoid of physical or emotional support from those you love. Emotional hurt or betrayal might cause you to withdraw from your network of family and friends, to build an imaginary wall around your heart, to determine you will never again be hurt; the beginning of an emotional downward spiral that can leave you, and those who love you, drowning in a pool of loss and fear.   

If you find yourself in a season of loneliness, what can you do?

1.      Remember that God is with you
2.      Pray –  ask God for help
3.      Read God’s Word – filled with encouragement, strength, hope
4.      Reach out to others. This will allow you to begin taking the focus off yourself

In Psalm 25:16 we find King David asking God not only for emotional compassion but for action. He wanted God to do something; turn to me, look at me, give attention to me and be gracious—have mercy, take pity, be kind to me.

Loneliness is a pain like no other pain. My sister and I sat holding our mother’s hands as she dropped her earthly rags and put on her royal robes in heaven. At that moment, we looked at each other and simultaneously spoke, “We are orphans!” Although we were together, each of us had an immediate sense of loneliness. But in those moments, God reminded us that He cares, Jesus understands, and He is our hope in the face of loneliness.

If you are struggling with loneliness, it is my prayer that you will begin to look outside yourself. Reach up to God. Reach in to begin your healing. Reach out to others. Allow yourself to find hope in the face of loneliness.


© Joyce Powell
2016