Month: June 2016

You Can’t Run from It

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In the book of Genesis, Hagar was in the wilderness on two separate occasions, but I don’t want to talk about the day she was sent away.  I want to talk about the day she ran away.

Abram and Sarai had been living in Canaan for ten years and there still wasn’t a baby.  Since Sarai wasn’t able to get pregnant, she thought it would be a good idea for her maid to carry a child for her so she gave Hagar to her husband to be his wife.   According to Genesis 16:4, Hagar looked down on Sarai once she became pregnant.  She became proud, arrogant and disrespectful.  Maybe Hagar didn’t realize that it was an honor and a privilege to be chosen to carry this child. Maybe she forgot that this child wasn’t hers – that she was carrying it for someone else.  I know some of you may feel that Sarai got what she deserved for giving her maid to her husband in the first place, but that doesn’t justify Hagar’s behavior.  Yes, she was carrying Abram’s child, but she was still the maid.  She was still a slave, someone paid the price for her and she didn’t belong to herself anymore.

Sarai complained about Hagar to Abram and he basically told her, I’m out of this.  That is your maid.  This is between you and her.  You deal with her.  And that’s exactly what Sarai did.  The bible tells us that Sarai dealt harshly with her.  Now if you’ve ever watched a movie or read a book about slavery, then you know that most slaves who didn’t submit to their owners were beaten.  Sarai beat Hagar’s body to bring it into subjection (submission), but because it didn’t feel good to her flesh, Hagar ran away.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar in the wilderness by a fountain of water and asked, Where did you come from and where are you going?  Hagar told the angel where she was running from, but she never told him where she was running to.  That’s because Hagar didn’t know where she was going.  It looked like she was going to be a single mother raising a baby all by herself.  She didn’t know what to do.  She didn’t have it all planned out yet.  She was lost and unsure, but the angel gave her directions.  He told her to go back to what she ran from.  Return to your mistress and submit yourself under her hands  (Genesis 16:9)

Do you think it was easy for Hagar to go back?  It probably wasn’t easy at first.  I don’t think she got excited and ran back home, but when the angel of the Lord told her about her future, it gave her hope.  From you will come many people – too many people to count  (Genesis 16:10). She was just about to give up, but when the angel gave her a word, not only did she believe again, but she acted on what she believed.  She did what the angel told her to do.  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves  (James 1:22).  When we resist God and reject His word and don’t do what He asks of us, we (NOT the devil) delay His words.  We delay His promises from coming to pass in our lives.

Lazy people don’t inherit the promises of God.  You receive what God has promised through faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12).  Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Sarai to try and try again, year after year, only to never conceive while Hagar conceived the very first time she slept with Abram?  It doesn’t surprise me that Sarai got upset or became jealous of her maid.  It seemed like God was doing it for Hagar and everybody else, but when was He going to do it for her?  Sarai was 65 years old when God appeared to Abram and promised him a son and Isaac finally came when she was 90 years old.

The promise won’t come easy, but it shall surely come.

I’m sure there was disappointment, tears and frustration.  Abram and Sarai trusted more in their flesh than they trusted in their God and God couldn’t do what He wanted to do until their will and their ways died.  There was a period of waiting, but it wasn’t them waiting on God. It was God waiting on them. He waited until Abram was good as dead (Hebrews 11:12).  He waited until Sarah’s womb was dead (Romans 4:19).  He waited until they totally relied on Him.  Then, He performed what He promised.  This promise was going to be born of the Spirit, not of the flesh.  I know some of you are trying to make it work or trying to fix it or trying to make things happen on your own, but what God has promised you will not be done by your might or by your power.  It will only be done by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).

Hagar didn’t spend a lot of years in the wilderness like the children of Israel.  She didn’t go around the same mountain year after year.  She humbled herself, turned, got back in her rightful place and gave Sarai the respect and honor she deserved.  Hagar may have messed up, but she didn’t give up.

You can make excuses like Moses, you can run like Jonah and you can wrestle like Jacob, but you’re not going to win.  You can run, but you can’t hide.  God sees you (Genesis 16:13). You can’t run away from the calling, your assignment, your responsibility or the word that God has spoken concerning you.  Follow the example of Hagar. Instead of running away from God (His plan, process and purpose), run to God and submit yourself under HIS hands.

Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will run from you  (James 4:7)

Not My Will

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After Jesus was finished praying, one of His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1).  He taught them what we know today as The Lord’s Prayer.  Before He asked for anything – before He said ‘Give us’ (Luke 11:3), He prayed, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t hear many believers making that request in their prayers now as I did when I was a child.  Maybe the reason why we don’t pray that part of the prayer often or at all is because we are afraid – afraid that God is going to tell us to do something that we really don’t want to do.

And some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. 

He might ask you to forgive your cheating spouse.  He might ask you to go back to someone you wronged over ten years ago and make it right.  He might even tell you to apologize first even though you don’t feel you did anything wrong or that it was your fault.  Maybe you are struggling with obeying all of His commands, but if you love Him, you will obey Him.

Another reason why we may not pray that prayer is because we really don’t trust God.  Be honest.  You don’t believe Him like you used to.  You’ve been disappointed so many times that you don’t believe that this time will be different.  Your problem is that you want God to do it your way, but your ways are not His ways and His plan is better than your plan.

Jesus told the disciples God’s plan – that He must go to Jerusalem, that He must  suffer many things and be rejected (by the elders, chief priests and scribes), betrayed, mocked, scourged, spat on and killed, but the good news is He would be raised again on the third day (Matthew 16:21, Matthew 18:22-23, Mark 8:31, Mark 10:33-34). Even though He knew all of this, Matthew tells us that Jesus prayed the same prayer three times.  O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as You will.

It doesn’t matter how many times you pray the same prayer.  In the end, you still have to make a decision and I’m so glad that Jesus chose to do what was best for us and not what was easy for Him.  At any time, He could have asked the Father to send more than 72,000 angels on His behalf, but He didn’t.  But do what You want and not what I want  (Luke 22:42, CEV).  He loved – with action.  He willingly laid down His life for us because He loved us.  We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters  (1 John 3:16).  If you see that your brother or sister has a need, but you don’t do anything, that’s not the love of God.

It didn’t feel good for Joseph to be separated from his father, to be sold into slavery by his brothers, to become a servant or to be falsely accused and put in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  That wasn’t his  will.  His feet hurt from the fetters and his neck was in an iron collar (Psalm 105:18).  What he was in wasn’t comfortable, but it humbled him.  When he was stripped of his coat of many colors, he was also stripped of pride.  But there was a bigger picture – a bigger plan and it was bigger than just his family being fed in a famine.  Something was missing in his brothers’ lives.  You couldn’t see their fetters, but they were in chains also.  And when his brethren saw that their father loved him (Joseph) more than all his brethren, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him  (Genesis 37:4).

The trials and tests Joseph endured revealed what was in his heart.  They taught him how to forgive, how to show compassion and how to love and these were the very things that his brothers needed (whether you think they deserved it or not).  Yes, it was good for them to have a sack of money to spend and food to eat, but what they really needed was love, forgiveness, and salvation.  Everything Joseph went through wasn’t for him.  It was for them.

We may not understand what God is doing or why He allows certain things to happen in our lives, but according to Romans 12:2, we do know that the will of God is good, acceptable (well-pleasing), and perfect.  His plan, His choice and His will is to prosper you and not to harm you and whatever the Lord has purposed, planned, decided or willed for you, He is going to do it.

Not my will, but Your will be done.

Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand (Proverbs 19:21, AMP). 

Look Straight Ahead

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Keep your eyes focused on what is right, and look straight ahead to what is good  (Proverbs 4:25, NCV).

Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions  (MSG).

There was a lady who had just separated from her husband.  He moved on – with another woman.  She, on the other hand, had a hard time moving on – with life.  One day, she was traveling, but to get to her destination, she had to pass by the house that she once shared with her husband.  When she saw the house, those things that were hidden in her heart – anger, rage, unforgiveness, hurt and bitterness – sprung up.  Because she was so focused on what was on her left (or right), she didn’t see the road construction workers that were straight ahead and almost injured them – and her.

On Easter Sunday, we talk about what Jesus endured from Pilate’s palace to Golgotha. We talk about how He was spat on, hit on the head, mocked and beaten, but the truth is that from the time Jesus was born, He was under attack.  The devil wanted to destroy him at a very young age.  For Herod will seek the young child to destroy him  (Matthew 2:13b).  A lot of male children in Bethlehem from the age of two and younger were killed, but God watched over his word to perform it. The devil tried, but he couldn’t kill what was written and prophesied.  The scriptures would be fulfilled.

Proverbs 4:25 tells us to look and keep looking straight ahead. We are to focus on our purpose and not get sidetracked by distractions (those things that take our attention away from what God wants us to do).  The writer of Hebrews tells us to look to Jesus as our example (12:2).  Consider what He endured and study how He endured it.  He focused on what was set before Him, not behind Him.  He knew His purpose.  I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly  (John 10:10).  For I came down from heaven, not to do my will, but the will of Him that sent me  (John 6:38). Did He ever get tired in his body?  Did He feel abandoned?  Did He think about giving up?  My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  (Matthew 27:46).  Father, if it’s Your will, take this cup of suffering away from me; yet not my will, but your will be done  (Luke 22:42).

He went through what He had to go through here  on earth and now He is there  seated at the right hand of the throne of God – and I believe one of the ways He got there was on a road called Forgiveness. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing  (Luke 23:34).  He didn’t regard iniquity in His heart.  His heart was clean.  He didn’t hold any grudges.  He wasn’t focused on who did Him wrong or who didn’t believe in Him or who hated Him.  Those are just distractions.  I don’t believe Christ would have done great works had he not forgiven. He wouldn’t have had a successful and powerful ministry had he not forgiven.

There was a time when Paul asked the church to not only forgive a brother in the Lord, but to comfort him so that he wouldn’t become bitter, discouraged and unable to recover.  Please show him now that you still do love him very much  (2 Corinthians 2:8, TLB).  Let us not be like the servant who was forgiven and released from his huge debt, but refused to forgive the small debt of his fellowservant (Matthew 18:24, 28). If God forgave us of much, we should be able to forgive others of little. When you do this, you don’t give Satan an opportunity to defeat you or to take advantage of you (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Some people face hard times, but they don’t allow what they are going through to affect their relationship with God.  They keep believing God.  They keep trusting God.  And then you have those who become weary and faint in their minds.  I think whether it be hard times, difficult times or times where it seems like nothing is happening, they all have a way of revealing what we are really after – and it’s not always God’s own heart.

Ask yourself this question, What am I after?  When the Holy Spirit begins to reveal the truth, repent of the things that shouldn’t be in your heart.  In the meantime, do not turn to the right or to the left.  Don’t turn away from the word of God.  Don’t give up.  Why quit when you haven’t even begun to do all God wants you to do yet?

You’re on the right road.  Stay there.  Look straight ahead.  Don’t lose focus, don’t deviate or veer off and don’t get discouraged that the road you’re traveling on is only found by a few (Matthew 7:14).  If you stay on the straight road long enough, whatever is crooked in you shall be made straight.

May you be strengthened daily with might by the Spirit of God in the inner man.  Be encouraged and keep looking ahead.

Rule Over Your Own Spirit

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broken wall

rule: to manage, conduct, control; exercise power and authority over

When a bird sees a trap being set, it stays away (Proverbs 1:17, TLB), but at one time or another we have played around the trap thinking that we would never fall or we have played around the net thinking that we would never get caught.

He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls  (Proverbs 25:28).  Although temperance is listed as the last fruit of the Spirit, it is just as important as the first fruit (love) mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23.  It is what helps the other fruit to mature.  Another word for temperance is self-control.  Self-control is when you stop yourself from doing things you want to do, but shouldn’t do.  Everything is permissible, allowable and lawful for me, but not all things are helpful, good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things  (1 Corinthians 6:12).  It is when you manage your feelings and emotions well.  A person who lacks self-control opens himself up for attacks and danger.  If there are no walls, there is no protection.  The enemy at anytime can take you away captive.  Anything and anyone can enter in to steal, kill and destroy.  A good example of this is Jericho.  Jericho was securely shut up to keep the Israelites out.  None went out and none came in, but when the wall fell down flat, the Israelites entered and destroyed all that was in the city.

Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not partake of anything that would defile him (1:8).  He made a decision and he was determined to obey God’s laws no matter what.  He was serious about God.  He wasn’t playing nor was he sleeping. When you’re sleeping in the natural, you are not alert or aware of your surroundings and it’s the same when you are spiritually sleeping.

In Judges 13, we see that God had a plan. His plan was to use Samson to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. The Lord blessed him (vs 24).  One time, the Spirit of the Lord came so mightily upon him that he tore apart a young lion.  He also killed one thousand men with the jawbone of an ass.  Just like the devil hates you, the Philistines hated Samson. To them, he was the enemy and the destroyer of their country (16:24).  One day, the rulers of the Philistines came up with a plan to bring this mighty man of God down and they used what he liked to fulfill that plan – a harlot. They may not have known his strength, but they knew his weakness and just in case the harlot refused their proposal, they were already prepared to give her what she liked – money.  Her assignment was to seduce him so that she could find out where his great strength lied.  Until the rulers learned of his secret, they could not bind him, afflict him and prevail against him (16:5).

Delilah didn’t succeed the first or the second time, but she was persistent.  She pressed him daily with her words and urged him  (16:16).  Samson did not rule over his own spirit well.  Instead of him guarding his heart, he told her all his heart and before you know it, he was sleeping – upon Delilah’s knees. A man later came in and shaved off the seven locks of Samson’s head and his strength left him. I know the things that the devil are tempting you with looks good and it may even feel good, but they only came to make you lose your strength.

Wake up!  Let us not sleep like the others do.  Let us watch and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:6).  Be mindful of your brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Pray for your pastors.  Don’t rejoice, gossip or laugh when they fall, but instead pray that they rise up again.  For a just man falls seven times and rises up again  (Proverbs 24:16).  Watch, but also pray that we enter not into temptation.  If you know someone who has been taken captive by the devil, pray that they recover themselves out of the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26).  Make up the hedge and stand in the gap before the Lord for them. Jonah chose to sleep rather than to obey God, but even in his disobedience, God spared him and used a shipmaster who didn’t even serve Him to wake Jonah up.  So the shipmaster came to him and said unto him, What do you mean, O sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish  (Jonah 1:6).

Get up!  If you messed up, don’t lie down in regret, shame, guilt and condemnation.  Before David’s child died, he fasted and wept, but once his child died, he got up, washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the house of the Lord and worshipped.  His servants thought he was crazy, but David knew he couldn’t bring his child back.  He couldn’t change what had happened and neither can you. The past has passed.  Learn from the mistakes you made. No longer will we be fools that keep repeating the same foolishness nor will we tempt God, but we will learn how to rule our own spirit so we can stop living a defeated life and instead live a victorious life.

God wants to make you ruler over many things, but He can’t trust those who can’t first rule over their own spirit.

Prayer:  Forgive us for obeying our flesh, its lusts, desires and affections.  Lord, teach us how to rule over our own spirit. Your Son made us free. Now help us to stay free and not to entangle ourselves again with the yoke of bondage. I pray that we make up our minds and purpose in our hearts to not defile ourselves any longer. Keep us from falling and keep our feet from slipping.  May the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead also raise up every person who is spiritually dead and spiritually sleeping, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.