The Power of God

When I stop and contemplate the power of God, I am in awe. There is nothing or any one as powerful as the Spirit of God, who represents God and His character to us on earth. It is humbling to even think it is due to God’s creative power that we live and have our being (PS 104:30).

Although we sometimes think of God’s power revealed through His Spirit as first being experienced on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), it actually appears throughout the Old Testament. In fact, the word dunamis (Greek for power in the Septuagint) is often used in the Old Testament when speaking about the Spirit of God. For example, God’s power was seen and experienced by His people, the Israelites, in the Old Testament passages as they praised God for His infinite power, Deuteronomy 3:24 declares: Sovereign Lord, …For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Thus, to understand more fully the New Testament, and how God’s power is involved in our lives today, we must consider the message concerning the Spirit of God that came before it. We must consider the Ruach Yahweh as He moved, and acted and changed lives and circumstances in the Old Testament.

One of the first important aspects I recognized in analyzing the power of God in the Old Testament is that it is qualified by His other attributes, including love. God is certainly all-powerful, and if it were not for knowing that His power is intertwined with His love, we would most likely be leery to draw close to Him. In other words, He could be real scary; and, we could have an unhealthy form of fear towards Him. But, unlike powerful men and women who have allowed power to corrupt their characters and to hurt anyone who opposes them, God’s power is qualified by His love and other attributes equally. Hence, God himself is all-powerful and God himself is love. Thus, although God clearly can do even more than He has done or will do, we can rest knowing that He will never use His power in a way that contradicts all that makes up His character. For example, as Grudem explained, “God could have destroyed Israel and raised up a great nation from Moses (Ex 32:10), but He did not do so.”

I find that God’s power being qualified by His character is an important and comforting truth concerning the infinite power of God in interaction with His creation. While knowing there is no power greater than He, we are awed, while encouraged to trust in Him, instead of finding ourselves afraid of Him. We see this exampled in the story of Rahab. Rahab had heard how God always brought success to the Israelites, His people; so, she knew what side she was going to be on. Her faith was in the God of Israel’s character and power, and His faithfulness to His people (Joshua 2:9-11).
Isaiah speaks of the spirit of the Lord God resting upon the coming Messiah as a servant; whereas, in earlier times the spirit was resting on the kings of Israel. Power is granted to the weak who trusts not in himself, but in God. My New Testament Professor, Peter Grabe said: “PS 61:1 clearly alludes to the anointing of the king in 1 Samuel 16:13. It is, however, said that the Spirit of Yahweh now no longer operates in the context of royal power, but in the context of the proclamation of good news to the humble.”

It is exciting to see the power of God at work in the Old Testament and to read of the prophets declaring the coming gift of the presence of the Spirit of God. Ezekiel 36:26 clearly states that this gift will be available to all of God’s people; first, as a remedy for Israel’s ‘heart of stone,’ but beyond that to be a remedy to the sinful hearts of Gentiles who believe in His name, and, thus, become His people. The Old Testament witness of Ruach Yahweh is relevant to us today and relates to all aspects of our lives. His power is where His presence is. As Christians, His presence now dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, weakness and power as an inseparable unity is  displayed in 2 Corinthians 12:9. This statement that ‘power is made perfect in weakness’ constitutes the Magna Charta of Christian existence. Paul sees his weakness and sufferings as marks of commendation by the Messiah as Christ Himself was crucified in weakness, yet lives by the power of God (2 Corinthians 13:4; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-24). Christ’s power rests where one has acknowledged their complete inability and accepts in faith Christ’s work and righteousness. You can invite His power into your life today simply by acknowledging your weakness.

Sure hope you are enjoying God on your journey; and, I hope you see His power at work in your life!

Sarah Goebel

Power to Rule Your Spirit

butterfly2Over and over again I am presented with people who suffer due to what goes on in their minds. In fact, one might say that the history of the human race is mostly centered on a battle for the mind. God has made it clear that what we think releases power to bring forth good in one’s life or to destroy it.  Proverbs 16:32 states: “He who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city.” Proverbs 23:7 says: “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Yet, the situation of life is this: Sometimes we think thoughts that are untrue. We believe lies that have been perpetrated from within about ourselves and about the world around us. These thoughts result in worry, fear, and anxiety, lead to division and strife, and/or stop us from moving forward with the things God has in store for us. Sometimes we think unjust thoughts about God, about ourselves and about others. And, sometimes there are un-pure sexual or other ungodly thoughts that enter into a person’s mind that separate them from experiencing the life of God. Yet, it seems that we are not in complete control of what thoughts enter into our heads. So, what can we do?

Of course, we can guard the gateways to our soul – our eyes and ears – limiting, images and sound bites that record into our computer-like brains. Still, there are thoughts that enter even when one has never seen or heard anything other than good. For instance, I can remember when my grandson had a nightmare as a very young child. Although he had never seen a scary movie of any kind or been exposed to anything we would consider ungodly, he saw images in that dream that he had never seen before that were frightening.  Where did these come from?

I have concluded from my study of life and Scripture that we are all born with a sin nature (Romans 5:12). Therefore, sinful, disturbing, and destructive thoughts are generated from within us at times. I also believe that our enemy – the enemy of our Creator – that old serpent, the devil – plants thoughts in our minds. Have you ever experienced a passing thought that you questioned, “where in the world did that come from?” I do not believe God reckons these to the Christian believer as practicing or living a sinful life when let go of. However, these thoughts need to be controlled if we are to live free from the negative results they can bring. Yes, when we have ungodly or worrisome thoughts, we can choose what to do with them. We can choose to meditate upon them (think on and roll over and over in our minds, consider) or, we can choose to put them where they belong – into the trash bin. It is the thoughts we keep and meditate upon that have the power to bring success or the unwanted problems and suffering into our lives. Psalm 1:1-3 declares the power of meditation. Particularly notice the results of meditating upon the counsel of the Lord as stated in verse 3.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.tree branchesandroots
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.”

We can replace our ungodly and unwanted thoughts. We can take them captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This means we can replace our thoughts with thoughts of Christ, thoughts of His obedience to the cross, and the results of that obedience. We do this through meditating (thinking and rolling over and over in our minds) the Scriptures, and the good and perfect things of life. Philippians 4:8 also gives us clear guidance in this area: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable; if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Isaiah said, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

What you believe is important. The thoughts you roll over and over in your mind will either bring life or destruction. Will you choose to surrender your mind to Christ and His lordship?

Healthy Desires: A Prescription for Motivation

Psalm 38:9
“Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You.”

I was thinking again today how important it is to have desires. In fact, we need strong, passionate desires! It is desire that fuels us and leads us from complacency to doing something productive and meaningful with our lives. It is only when our desires are rooted from the wrong source, our passion may lead us to destruction.

The truth is, our desires are linked to thoughts we have meditated on, chewed on, and allowed to make a home in our heads. As we play the same thoughts over and over again in our minds, considering them in every way, the release of either a good or destructive power results. What type of power is dependent on whether the thought, now a passionate desire, was a godly or ungodly one? I realized a number of years ago that it was crucial to monitor my own thinking and ask myself before holding on to any thought for any amount of time, “Where did you come from?” Answering this question is key in determining whether our thoughts are good or not-so-good for us.

So, now that we know how our thoughts originated, we need to determine their source. Are they the fruit of thoughts flowing from God or from our unsanctified self. Are they thoughts resulting from the influence of others or the world in which we live? Or, perhaps they are thoughts planted by evil spirits. Scripture tells us that the heart of man is evil and that we cannot even know our own heart. But God, on the other hand, always knows what is in our heart. What should we do then? We can pray, as we see King David did in the Old Testament, and ask God to search our hearts and see if there is anything unclean dwelling there. He will do it. He will show it to us. We can then ask Him to give us His heart and make His desires our own.

We should also judge our own thoughts by considering what it is they focus on. We ask ourselves if our thoughts are inwardly or outwardly focused. The truth is, we naturally have an inclination to want for ourselves and ourselves above all else. In other words, our natural thoughts and desires are selfish and self-glorifying. These fleshly-born desires and those born from ideas planted by evil spirits who currently possess the airways, always lead to destruction. They lead us away from God.

So, how do we cultivate godly desires that motivate us and move us forward into successful and satisfied living? We do this by taking our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). We accept that He has made us righteous through His obedience at the cross and we turn towards Him with thanksgiving and praise. We begin to think the thoughts we know He thinks. We meditate upon Scripture and allow God’s Word to take root in our minds. His heart then becomes our heart’s desires. Power results and our lives are transformed from the inside out. We become more and more like Christ and our healthy and passionate desires motivate us to do the works God has planned for us. Thus, we are at our happiest and God is glorified.

Immanuel – God is With Us As We Enter into 2014!

The tree is down, the decorations are put away. But, as I leave the Christmas celebrations behind and prepare to enter into the New Year, God is still very much in my midst. Yes, my mind continues to be stayed on our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I find it is interesting that Isaiah tells us that Jesus was given as a Son, instead of born as one. However, that is the only word that can be used to describe His coming because He has always existed. So, the Son of God was given to us. He is a gift of grace. Yet, we are also told that He was born in that He came in the flesh as one of us to dwell among us, in order to redeem us. What amazing love and grace is found in Jesus Christ, our God and our Savior!

candlesvcGod is with us because Jesus came into the world to take our judgment and give us His righteousness (right standing). Our righteousness is a gift of grace, as is redemption; and, neither is kept by our good works nor lost by our lack of them.  This is reason to celebrate, my friends! This is the reason we can have confidence that God is indeed with us every moment of our lives! This is a truth we want to carry with us into the new year and beyond so that we may grow in the reality of grace and redemption in our lives. As we accept Christ’s work in place of our own, we are able to experience the reality of God’s presence with us. We have peace and fellowship with God. As a result, good works do progressively happen through us as a fruit of grace (Jesus Christ) operating in and through our lives.

Enter into the New Year with confidence, my brothers and sisters in Christ. God loves you and He is with you! You and I can walk with great confidence and expectation to experience God’s favor. Why? Because Christ made it available for God to be with us while we are on our journey to perfection. Yes, He is with us, even though we sometimes sin.

Wishing you a Joyous and Prosperous New Year in 2014, and an ever increasing awareness of God’s presence with you!

Sarah

The Passion of the Christ by Sara Goebel

I know we all love our books, but sometimes we also like to watch a great movie. Last week, I  actually had an assignment in my NT class to watch the movie, The Passion of the Christ for the purpose of contrasting it with Scripture itself. I thought I would share my thoughts with you concerning it.

Although as the critics like to say, it is not 100% Scriptural, it is my opinion that Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ does a tremendous portrayal of the purpose of Jesus Christ’s life (John 18:37, John 10:10), as well as, revealing the high cost involved to obtain salvation for those who would believe in Him.ThePassionoftheChrist

The movie begins with a heart-wrenching scene of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Although dramatized for Hollywood’s purposes, Gibson’s effort to depict Christ’s struggle in gaining strength for the mission at hand as He prayed to the Father for the cup to pass from Him is a good portrayal of the Scripture as found in Matthew 26:37-39. Scripture tells us that Jesus was strengthened by an angel to complete His mission (Luke 22:43). One could see the strength rise in Jesus as He stood tall and stomped on the head of the serpent. Although this scene is not found in the passion narrative, it does reveal the truth of Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel,” which reveals the victory that will be accomplished through His impending suffering and death.

Satan did not know the plan of God for the salvation of the world through the death of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:8); however, the statement he makes to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane that it is too much to expect one man to die for the souls of sinners, powerfully explains what was taking place – one man dying for many.

Another scene that was embellished, yet displayed powerful truths, was the scene where Jesus is arrested.  In the movie, there was a fight that took place before taking Jesus captive, however, Scripture shows us that only Peter drew a sword and cut off Malchus’ ear.  Jesus then rebuked Peter and healed the man’s severed ear. In other words, Jesus gave Himself up freely.

There are many things found in the movie that are not in Scripture such as: (1) the disciples referring to Mary as Mother which reflects a Roman Catholic bias; (2) Jesus was dropped over a bridge, hanging just above the ground with His eyes meeting those of Judas Iscariot; (3) Jesus praying “Rise up. Defend me. Save me from the traps they lay for me;” (4) the remembrance scenes of life with Jesus such as falling as a child, building a high table, etc.; (5) kids hassling Judas after the betrayal; (6) the member of the Sanhedrin stating at the trial that Jesus taught not to pay tribute to the Roman consul; (7) the beating along the road to Calvary (although that may have well been the practice); (8) Mary saying to Jesus, “My Son let me die with you;” (9) women wiping up the blood at the place of the scourging.

On the otherhand, there were some scenes that portrayed what I think are very important aspects of the passion. They included: (1) Jesus prophecy of Peter’s three-time denial of Him and the denials were shown in the story (Matthew 26:69-75). (2)The scene portraying Matthew 26:63 -64 where the high priest asked Jesus: “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” and Jesus responds: “You have said it yourself: nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” is an important scene and flows with Scripture. Jesus unequivocally declared His identity at this moment; and, this is what got Him crucified. (3) Pilate’s hesitation to condemn Jesus as well as his wife’s warning (John 18-19; Matthew 27:19). (4) The robber on the cross mocking Jesus and the other, displaying His belief and trust in Jesus resulting in Jesus’ response to the man that he would join him in paradise that day. (5) Pilate telling Jesus that he had authority to release Him or crucify Him and Jesus responding that Pilate only has power that has been given to Him from above (John 19:10-11). (6) The empty tomb at the end

The movie displayed the message of the gospel well, although there were things in the telling that were embellished or left out. However, when moving from a literary genre to a Hollywood production, one would expect to find some embellishment, additions, and deletions of Scripture, and some error in the timing for certain oral depictions; and, all of that was found in the movie. Nonetheless, the movie displayed some key elements that witness the heart of God’s plan for the salvation of those who will believe on Christ. Therefore, I would definitely recommend it to anyone whether believer or nonbeliever. In fact, I have.

Christians Read Fall Catalogue Released

(Click below to view the Christians Read Catalogue, 2013 Fall Edition, which includes Chapter Excerpts!

The Horror of Human Oppression

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere” (Wiesel 119). This statement rings so true to my ears. Although it is a statement found in Elie Wiesel’s acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, I first read it in the book called Night where this Jewish man’s terrifying testimony of his teen years spent in a concentration camp in Auschwitz and Buchenwald is found.  .

            Night awakens us to the horrifying indifference to the existence of human oppression in our world as it existed in past history, and unfortunately, that still remains today. It is a heart-wrenching story of survival through unspeakable human anguish resulting from the evil acts of human oppressors. The story reveals acts suffered that were designed to instill fear and strip the victims of any self esteem, morality, ethics, or hope for the future. The victims suffered humiliation, degradation, torture, starvation, and death surrounded them and stared them in their faces.

            Elie Wiesel tells the account of himself, a Jewish boy who was born into and lived in a village in Romania until the Jewish deportation when he was age fifteen. He lived what we might call a “normal” life, having a mother, father, a sibling, and friends who loved him and taught him how to love. He had warm memories of his childhood, watching his father manage and work his own business in their village, his grandfather visiting to celebrate holidays with them, and he himself immersed in studying the Talmud, and pursuing to discover the essence of divinity with a man he admired called Moishe the Beadle. Elie had dreams for his future, and imagined his life would be good.

            Elie was born in freedom and a loving environment that included grace and forgiveness, and was taught to nightlive his life with trust, morals and ethics, and to treat others with human dignity. His freedom and dignity as well as his character was stripped from him little by little – beginning with the edicts in the ghettos that were first formed when the Germans came into their village, then the Hungarian police bursting into their homes, taking their valuables and putting edicts in place, and next, the horrible journey on the cattle cars to an unknown destiny, followed by the humiliation and terror of the concentration camps. It is interesting that although chaos and fear ensued when the ghettos were first formed and the Jews were first fenced in, they soon accepted this life as “normal.” Elie says that the ghettos were not ruled by the Germans or the Jews, but by delusion (Wiesel 12). The warnings and signs that came to the village at Sighet were ignored by the Jewish adults until it was too late resulting in Elie being forced against his will on a journey that led to hell on earth until the day he was finally freed. Wiesel’s testimony of life in the camps is a loud message that we must never allow this horror to happen again. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It will change your life.

            After finishing Night, I began to think about my life today and the freedom I have had the opportunity to live and grow in. I am so thankful I have never had to experience such horror. Yet, although the comparison may not be an equal one, I realized that many freedoms have been slowly disappearing from the citizens of our country. Have we become complacent, ignoring the signs of where our leaders are taking us? I pray that we as Americans will pray to stay alert to the warning signs and take the necessary actions needed to protect ourselves against unjust measures others may take and their attempts to instill fear in us so that they can control our lives. May we not become complacent; and may God help us to remain alert and give us wisdom today and in the days set before us.

The Psalms: Israel’s Prayers and Ours

The Psalms are popular and well read by most Christians, and are often used in Christian worship. However, the Psalms can easily be misinterpreted if we are not aware of the type of writing they are. Therefore, I want to share a couple of pointers this week for all those who enjoy reading the Psalms. First, we should keep in mind that the psalms are words inspired by God that are spoken to God or about God rather than from God to His people. In other words, the psalms are not to be read primarily for doctrine or moral behavior, but to help us express our inner feelings to God. Fee and Stuart in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth give us some additional points that will help us in our hermeneutical interpretations of the Psalms as Hebrew poetry:

  1. Hebrew poetry is addressed to the mind through the heart and involves some kind of parallelism. Therefore we must identify the type of parallelism being used. One common form is called synonymous. In this form, the second line reinforces the message of the first line and the two lines together express the poets meaning. If you try to interpret the two lines with separate meanings, you will miss the point. The psalms also include antithetical parallelism where the second or subsequent lines contrast the first line; and synthetic parallelism where the second or subsequent lines add further information to the first line [198-199].
  2. The psalms are musical poems. Although they contain and reflect doctrine, they are not intended to be repositories for doctrinal exposition. We must refrain from reading psalms as though they contain any system of doctrine but read them as what they are – musical poems created to stimulate emotional responses rather than propositional thinking.
  3. The vocabulary of poetry is purposefully metaphorical; therefore, we must be careful to look for the intent of the metaphor. Fee and Stuart tell us that we must learn to ‘listen’ to the metaphors and understand what they signify.
  4. We need to appreciate the symbolic language of metaphors and similes for its intended purpose, then translate it.

I hope these brief principles concerning good interpretation for the Psalms helps you appreciate and understand the beauty of these poetic writings found in center of our Bibles even more than you did before.

Jesus: The Revolutionary with His Upside-Down Ideas

Have you ever thought about the many ideas that Jesus brought into human history? I was thinking about this, and it is clear that Jesus brought ideas that are upside down from the world’s way of thinking. We could call Jesus a revolutionary!

One of the major ideas Jesus brought into human history is that the one who serves others is the greater versus the greatest is one served by others. And, how about the idea that everyone is equal in the Kingdom of God regardless of race, gender, or social standing. That was a revolutionary idea that many did not like.  In the US today we see this idea played out for the most part, but in some areas of the world you still see women, children, and slaves horrifically abused. There is no equality. We should ask ourselves, how we perceive others. Do we look at people through a lens of inequality in various situations? Do we treat everyone as true equals? Still, another idea Jesus brought to the world is that those who give away, receive more. How many people actually live by that principle? I would guess, few. I looked at my life and asked myself, am I living as though this idea is truth to me? How about you? Do you believe this idea to be true? Are you living it out in your life? Really, all of the Beatitudes are ideas that are contrary to much of the world then, and now.Just take a look at them.

For instance, Jesus said those who are gentle and lowly are blessed and that the whole earth would belong to them. In the world then, and today we see all kinds of striving between people and nations. People fight to gain more power and position. This is seen in the workplace and even in the church.  People strive for control over more people and to gain land. We see governments and men in powerful positions and groups such as the Palestinians who desire to obtain land that belongs to another. Jesus characterized the lowly with humility, self discipline, and submission; whereas, the world’s attitude is one of self-exaltation and lust for control and position. Jesus said those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled (satisfied). In the world all around us we see people thirsting for self gratification and yet they are left unsatisfied. We should ask ourselves, what are we looking to for fulfillment. Is it Jesus’ life being lived through ours or are we trying to find satisfaction in people, position, things, honor, etc.?

Jesus said the one who cares for others (charity) will be cared for. Most of the world is concerned to seek justice only for themselves, with no concern about justice for the weak and broken who cannot help themselves. Again, we can ask ourselves if we are more “me” focused or are we “other” focused. If we are not other focused, is it because we don’t believe in Jesus’ idea?

Jesus said that those who are peacemakers will receive the Father’s blessing and will be called a child of God. We see, even inside of the church, many who pursue peacekeeping instead of peacemaking. They do what they need to do in order to avoid rejection and to keep the peace. They fail to be transparent in relationships and sometimes fail to offer forgiveness although on the outside they wear a smile. This is the same idea promoted in the world – keep the peace at any cost. They pretend that there is no break in the relationship when there really is and they move on without the other person, who may even be unaware of what caused the break. This leaves that person in a hurting condition. But the one moves on unconcerned with how their actions affect them. They are just happy to look like they are keeping peace and happy that they themselves are protected from rejection. The peacemaker Jesus spoke of pursues peace at risk of rejection and is open and transparent, desiring a true unity in the spirit. They are quick to forgive others as they see themselves as ministers of reconciliation.

Jesus said that those who are persecuted for His name would receive the Kingdom of Heaven. We see believers in countries such as Iran and Afghanistan persecuted for their faith in Christ. There is a pastor who is imprisoned in Iran right now because he will not deny Christ. The world doesn’t understand why he and others like him would go through such suffering when they could be freed of it by renouncing Christ. These Christians choose to entrust themselves and their life circumstances to God knowing that as they share in Christ’s sufferings, they will also share in His glory. They are committed and faithful to God and empowered by His Spirit to stand. All of us who call ourselves Christian should ask ourselves would we follow the world if we were in this situation or would we stand. The key to standing is developing an attitude of commitment and faithfulness now in the small things concerning the Christian life. This will prepare us to stand committed should this type of persecution be in our future.

Jesus Christ was definitely a revolutionary! Please feel free to comment on the few ideas I have shared that Christ brought to us. Or, share another idea that He brought into human history that is upside down from the world’s way of thinking.

 

Chase that Lion & Grow with God!

LionheadI recently read a book called, “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson. In the book, he encourages Christians to trust God and realize that the future God wants for them is hiding in their biggest problem, worst failures and greatest fears! He emphasizes, as does the Bible, that God is glorified as His people step into the seemingly impossible opportunities that stand between them and their dreams because these are the places where God’s involvement can be the only explanation for success.  Even if the outcome is not that which was hoped for according to our definition of success, we are still ahead because we will have the opportunity to grow in our relationship with God, thus, find ourselves changed. Besides, we can trust that God doesn’t waste anything. The efforts made will certainly be used for God’s purposes to bring forth the planned outcome of God.

For instance, alionchase number of years ago, Jon (my husband) and I answered the call to plant a church in Lumberton, NC. With little financial support and little previous  experience; with statistics saying small towns that are no longer growing are not the place to plant a new church especially by an outsider, we left our jobs and we moved to Lumberton. Although there were many struggles, there were many great things that happened through the plant to include salvations, water baptisms, new commitments to the Lord, divine relationships established through the fellowship including two marriages, and our experience of God in at a whole new level that resulted from this walk of faith. All of this was God’s plan and what came out of our obedience to “go” even in the midst of defying odds.

As for the church plant, it fell apart in its sixth year and we have moved on. But you see, nothing was wasted! God was glorified in oSometimes you get the lion. But even if you don't, you still win for entering the chase!ur obedience in many ways as He worked out His plan for so many people through our obedience; and Jon and I are that much closer to our own destiny of becoming like Christ. Our relationship grew with Christ through the experience of obedience and in the experience of letting go of God’s people for Him to do as He pleased. We are not even close to being the same today as we were when we set out on that journey. You can only WIN in being obedient to God!  As Batterson says, “I wish I could tell you that every lion chase ends with a lion skin hanging on the wall, but it doesn’t…the dot.com dreamer may become successful beyond his wildest dreams, but the guy with political aspirations loses the election he dreamed of winning. However, both of them are LION CHASERS. What sets lion chasers apart ISN’T THE OUTCOME. It’s the courage to chase God-sized dreams. Lion chasers don’t let their fears or doubts keep them from doing what God has called them to do.

So, we are called to run after these opportunities as God puts the desire on our hearts. Or, as Batterson puts it, “chase lions” and lay hold of God’s best by not allowing our past experiences, present circumstances, fears, doubts, bad decisions, or habits keep us from stepping into what God has called us to do. Instead, chase these opportunities and with God’s help defy the odds, face our fears and re-frame our problems, embrace uncertainty, take risks, and seize opportunities – all at the risk of looking FOOLISH. As our trust grows in God’s sovereign timing and positioning us for His purpose in our life’s circumstances, and as we learn to recognize and lay hold of our God-ordained opportunities, we are transformed from glory to glory. And, that is God’s best no matter what the exterior circumstances look like. Next time around, the outcome may be just what one expects! So continue on chasing lions knowing God is with you. It’s all good! It’s all in God’s hands to be used for HIS eternal purposes!

                                       What dream are you allowing fear or doubt to hold you back from pursuing? Go on…chase that lion!

Cover of "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy...

Cover via Amazon

Has Christ Risen in You? – Removing Hidden Idols

Today we celebrated Christ! We celebrated that He led a perfect life, stood in our place paying the penalty for our sin. We celebrated that He gave us His righteousness so we could be reconciled to God as a holy people – holy because He has called us holy. Christ hung on the cross and cried out “It is finished.” There is nothing else for us to do. The penalty was paid. We also celebrated Christ’s  resurrection today because He was proven to be God when He rose from the dead, and, only the life of God carries enough value to save so many lives from their sins for all eternity! Christ’s resurrection was the proof that His sacrifice was accepted and we now have the blessed hope for eternal life.Emptytomb

Christ’s resurrection is a historical fact. It happened, so it is not really the event that is in question for us. What is in question is whether we (you and I) have died and been raised again with Christ to new life. Or, to say it another way, has Christ risen in us? Ephesians 4:21 says: Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy. And Galatians 2:20 says: My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. In other words, if we have truly received Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are to surrender our will to God’s and by His grace begin to live the life He has destined us for. Still, we all stumble and fall down. God helps us up and sets us back on the right path. His grace is amazing! Nonetheless, today, I want to share with you the thing I believe most often hinders us in allowing Christ to rise up in us. That thing is our propensity to worship idols. It is not news to you that we are guilty in the 21st century, as are those in the past, of forsaking God as the fountain of living waters  by turning to people and things to fulfill us instead of going to God (Jeremiah 2:13). But oftentimes we don’t stop and consider what idols might be hiding within our own hearts.

Idols are “any thiidols_calfng or any one that takes the place in our lives that belongs only to God.” We must consider who or what has first priority with our time and resources. We should ask ourselves questions such as “Who or what has our love…our attention?” “Who or what do we trust in?” “Where do we spend our money, our time?” “Who or what is influencing us?” For some Christians their spouse or children may have become an idol. Some have even allowed their pastors to take that place. You get the idea. It is difficult for us to admit, but if we have allowed any person to be our “go to,” “our source,” “our first priority,” then we have put them in a place that is God’s and God’s only.

The ministries where we serve, our church, our job, our material belongings all can become more important to us than our relationship with God. When this happens, we find ourselves led to idolatry.  Another huge idol that we often overlook is ourselves. In our narcissistic culture, many times we ourselves are the #1 idol of our hearts. This is probably the most common amongst us here in the United States, if we just get honest about it. We can ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal the hidden idols.

A fall into idolatry can be quite subtle. It begins with failing to spend time alone with God. We crowd Him out with tidolshe busyness of life thinking we will soon get back to Him. This is devastating to us as Christians because it is in this alone time that with our Father that our confidence in God is strengthened. When we fail to spend personal time with God where we talk to Him and allow Him to talk to us, we forget how much He loves us and we begin to experience emptiness. This is because God has created us in such a way that we need Him to pour Himself  into us, and we need this experience daily. We need His love, His peace, His comfort, His wisdom, His strength. Nothing else will do. Scripture says God has put eternity in our hearts and without the eternal One satisfying us, we are destined to be dissatisfied. This results in a temptation to find satisfaction from people and things in our lives. Our focus begins to move more and more from God to idols. Of course, they are unable to fill us, but we  easily get caught up on a merry-go-round of dissatisfaction as we experience the thrill and purpose these idols can bring to our lives, although fleeting.  When the fulfillment is lost, we tend to chase after them even more, becoming even more in bondage. We experience feelings of disappointment and discouragement which drain from us energy and life. True fulfillment and peace can only be found by seeking after God (Isaiah 44:20). Our attempt to satisfy ourselves with these idols is as useless as trying to quench the thirst of the desert sand (Isaiah 55:2).

The Psalmist cries out to God in Psalm 90:14: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”  Satisfaction begins and ends with receiving God’s unfailing love as a reality in our life.  Ignoring God, results in losing an awareness of His love. This then results in dissatisfaction and a restless soul which opens the heart to idolatry. May we break free from idolatry by drawing nearer to God. May Christ rise up a little higher in our lives so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

The topic of idols of the heart is thoroughly discussed in my book, “Experience Real Satisfaction” released in 2010, available at Amazon.com through this link: http://tinyurl.com/d3p9ek3 .

Remember my friends, God loves you and is with you always! His plans for you are good. You can put your trust in Him!
Humbly,
Sarah

Create a New Story Line for Your Life by Sarah Goebel

Did you know that if you are tired of the story you have been living, you have it within your power to create a new one?  It’s true. You can create a new money story, relationship story, career story, wellness story — one or all of these story lines can continue as before or they can be rewritten differently for your future. The first step in the process of change  is that you must recognize authorship of your story and take ownership of it. Without a recognition that you yourself have responsibility for your life, you will not be able to successfully assess your thoughts, behavior, and the results of your behavior in order to determine what you can change and should change. Go with me, if you will, to take a look at the role our assumptions and motivations play in creating our life stories. fountainpen

In the Bible, God tells us that we can call things that be not as though they are. What is He talking about here? He is saying if you have things in your life that are not in alignment with God’s will for you and you want to change, then begin to use your imagination and envision that change and speak it into being. Do not get me wrong here. This is not a magical formula, but a process involving godly meditation based on the Bible and speaking a godly desire aloud, that must be persevered until the desired result is being experienced in your life. The thing is, as you envision the change and speak it, you will begin to believe it. You are simply going through the process of changing your thoughts to line up with the life God has said He desires for you. As the thoughts you are now meditating on change, so does your behavior begin to change which results in bringing the new belief to pass. Scripture says that what you believe opens or closes possibilities for your life. Your beliefs and assumptions about yourself, others, life and God have a tremendous impact on your behavior, performance, and how you achieve your life or business goals. Ultimately, they construct your story lines, opening or closing the possibilities which influence your performance.

Another Scripture that comes to mind is Mark 11:24: Therefore I say unto you, What things so ever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. God is saying whatever you believe you can be, have, or do when you ask Him for it is a possibility for you to experience in your life. Your beliefs and assumptions will manifest themselves in the decisions you make, the things you say and the things you do. On the other hand, whatever you do not believe limits the possibility for that to be a storyline of your life.  In other words, there are empowering beliefs and there are limiting beliefs. Let’s take a look at what an empowering belief might look like.Transformed-by-the-Renewing-of-Your-Mind2

  1.  I will carry through the decisions that I make.
  2. I have the ability and the perseverance to achieve my goals.
  3. I am a positive person and those around me learn to respond positively to me.

A limiting belief would look like this.

  1. No one ever supports me in what I want to do.
  2. I am not good enough to earn that amount of money.
  3. I am unworthy of good things.

Let’s look at the first example above of a limiting belief. Immediately, we recognize these statements are in contradiction with what scripture says about us or command us to think. Philippians 4:8 is a good example: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. When you believe no one ever supports you, your behavior will become such that it will cause people to be unsupportive towards you. On the other hand, looking at the third example above of an empowering belief, your behavior will line up with the belief and you will have people responding to you in a positive way.

Romans 12:2 tells us that we are to be transformed by renewing our minds. Whatever beliefs you renew your mind to will become the story lines of your future life story.  Your thoughts will transform your behavior and your behavior will transform your life. When you think about it, we are able to know someone’s beliefs and values by looking at their behavior because behavior is a result of what we believe.  butterflyPicture4

So it is important to acknowledge that you have been constructing and are able to construct what you experience. You are the one responsible for your own choices and those choices have created your storyline. If you continue making the same choices you will continue creating the same story lines. If you begin making different choices, choices that are in alignment with God’s Word, you will begin to write a new life story that glorifies God.

God says in Deuteronomy “I set before you life and death.”  Then He goes on and commands us to “Choose life”. We make the choice as to what we are going to believe, feel and do. When we choose empowering beliefs we are choosing beliefs that lead to successful behavior which will result in a successful life and career.

Begin today by assessing your story lines and determine the underlying assumptions and self concepts they were created from. Learn to take your thoughts captive and analyze them as to whether they are thoughts that are empowering or limiting and then discard those that are not going to further the new story you desire to create. It is also important to examine one’s emotions to determine the assumption or thought it is attached to and whether that assumption is relevant to one’s present life.  If not, the assumption can be changed and the feeling can be converted to an intention.

Regardless of the area of your life you want to change, by the grace of God you can take control of your thoughts and feelings and create a new life experience. Ask God to help you apply these principles to your life and you will begin to write a new story line today.TREE

Examples of Scriptures which speak of our belief system – our faith:

Matthew 9:22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Matthew 21:21-22 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

2 Corinthians 4:13-14 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

Daniel 11:32b – Those who know their God shall be strong and do mighty exploits

For many after they become a Christian, they are interested in searching out answers concerning the circumstances of their lives or to find the healing they need due to wounds received along their life journey. For me, my priority was to know MORE about who this God was that loved me so much. This verse was my life verse for a long time as I wanted to know my God so that I would be able to do mighty exploits. I continue on my journey with this same desire. I want to know more about and experience more of God each and every day. Because I have this desire, He continues to reveal more of Himself to me by the Spirit and His written Word.

We also learn more about God as He walks with us through the events of our lives. For example, He has delivered me out of some really traumatic circumstances and when He did, one of the things that happened is my understanding of who God is deepened. Tonight while reading in the book of Exodus, I realized the same thing was true for the Israelites. Think about it. God delivered Israel not when Egypt was at their weakest, but when they were strong and powerful!

The story of their deliverance goes like this. Even after Aaron’s staff became a snake and ate all of the snakes produced by the Pharaoh’s sorcerers, the Pharaoh’s “heart becomes hard…just as the Lord had said” (Exodus 7:13). It is clear that Pharaoh has not yet learned God’s identity. Now God sends a series of plagues to show the Pharaoh that He the Lord must be obeyed. As we read the story about the plagues it is evident that both Israel and Egypt would “learn to know” a little more about God through each plague.

The gnats were the first plague the magicians were not able to copy. The interesting thing is that all of Egypt was afflicted by this plague of flies. They filled the land, that is, everywhere except where the Israelites lived (8:20-24). What has God revealed to Egypt, the Israelites and to us in this event?

Here we see Yahweh, as our sovereign and all powerful God who is in control of everything that happens in our lives. Here we see that the disasters that had taken place were not just quirks of nature.  Then there were the locusts that ate all that was left after the hail and the darkness that covered the land – again except where the Israelites lived.  However, Pharaoh continues to dismiss Moses and his God. After all, He was Pharaoh.

There would be one more horrible plague that would free Israel. The angel of death would take every firstborn male in Egypt while God protected the Israelites giving them the instructions that would spare their children from death.  Finally, Egypt would not just free the Israelites, but they would demand they leave. God has demonstrated His authority in this one night over Pharaoh and all of Egypt’s gods.

God is revealed in the devastations and challenges of life. Without them, how would we know God? These events are a necessary part of life’s journey in order for us to know our God and do mighty exploits as He empowers to do so. These exploits glorify His name. What is holding you captive today? You can know that God has supreme authority over it. I want to encourage you to quit trying to deliver yourself. Quit trying to do exploits in your own strength and authority. Call out to God! He can intervene in your situation today!

Loving Those Who Hurt Us by Sarah Goebel

I was just thinking about some experiences from my past. You know, as we journey through life it is inevitable that we will be hurt from time to time. When someone hurts us, whether they did so intentionally or not, our first impulse is to lash out at them. We want revenge. But Jesus says in Matthew 5:39, “Do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

Let’s face it, we all know this is not natural and in our own strength, it is impossible. But as children of our Father who is in heaven, we are enabled by His life that lives in and through us to respond to others in this supernatural way.

We find a way to do this in Matthew 5:44. Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. How do we forgive
thprayingose who hurt us? How do we love them? We simply pray for them, and as we do, Christ’s love is released through us.

Is there someone in your life today, who has hurt you? Someone who needs to experience the mercy of God through your life?
When you get on your knees for that person, you are releasing the love of God into their life, just as God released His love to you,
even when you were at enmity with Him. Go ahead and do it now. As you pray, you will not only release that person to God’s care,
you will set yourself free from the misery that results from being held captive to unforgiveness.

God is so good to us. He is love and He has poured out His love on us and in us that we can love Him and one another!

For Christ’s Glory,

Sarah Goebel

Unspoken Words

Elijah as a Puppy

Elijah as a Puppy

Do you have pets? Today, I was thinking about how much joy my dog brings to my life. I love Elijah – my large, lovable, black, soft, and fluffy standard poodle. He is smart, playful, and he makes me laugh with his whimsical mannerisms. Just by living with us, he has learned how to communicate many of his wants and needs, and he has gained a tremendous recognition of many of our commonly used words spoken not only to him, but to one another. The only problem is he doesn’t always understand our words in context. For example, I might ask my husband, “Did you go to the post office today?” Elijah, hearing the word “go,” hops up from his nap, tail wagging, and eagerly runs to Jon in anticipation that they are getting ready to go somewhere. He is confused and disappointed when he discovers they are not. But you have to admit, he is quite intelligent for an animal!

Animals do communicate, and some understand much of our communication, but as amazing as it is, they are still very limited in their ability. Actually, humans are the only creatures God made that have the ability to communicate by complex language, arranging words into sentences and sentences into expressions of abstract ideas. For most of us listening, speaking, writing, and reading are skills we use extensively as we attempt to communicate our thoughts and ideas to one another and to our God.

God was not satisfied to just communicate to us through His creation, although He does do that. He came to us in the flesh as Jesus Christ to communicate to us face to face. He has and continues to speak to us today through His written Word – the Bible which He authored but penned through the personality of several of His followers. He also uses the actions and words of our close, personal friends and faith community members. This happens a lot when we need help to interpret various things He may be trying to get across to us when we are having listening problems. Anybody, besides me, ever experience stopped up ears?  God also speaks to us through those non-personal relationships. For example, although we may not personally know the author, don’t we love to read books that display God’s redeeming love and power through the lives of fictitious characters that we can relate to? Don’t we experience God’s message through such? And, don’t we also love to attend those gatherings where our favorite Bible teacher unfolds the Word of God to us? Although God may use many different ways to communicate to us, He also speaks to us directly, up close and personal. God as Spirit communicates to our spirit impressing His thoughts within us. This level of communication is available to us because we are created in His image and made alive in Christ Jesus. What a marvelous thing it is to be in relationship with our Creator. We can enjoy His fellowship 24/7 – any time, any place.

I believe, too, that humans are the only creatures in God’s creation that have the ability to communicate on a spiritual level to God. We can communicate with Him – spirit to Spirit, without a single audible or visible word. How amazing is that! And, God always knows the intents and thoughts of our hearts. This is important, because sometimes we try to communicate and we say it all wrong. Sometimes we just don’t know how to put our thoughts – whether of extreme joy, or of anguish and desperation – into words, so we say nothing. When communicating with people or pets, this can be a problem – but not with God!  We can rest assured that God never, ever misunderstands us. We can know He always hears our unspoken words; and, He hears even that which is hidden in the deepest depths of our soul. What a great privilege and opportunity we have as children of God to be able to enjoy intimate and perfect communication with our Father.

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

INTERACTION:  Just for fun, if you have a pet and a story about communication as I shared about Elijah, please share it with us. Then, every time your pet does that thing again, let it remind you that God always understands you perfectly, even when you say it wrong or are unable to say it at all!

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