Lighten the load

Matthew 10:28-30

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

So suppose you were a farmer, and had lots of cattle one kind being oxen.

oxe

You have this big masculine animal but the problem is that He (sorry guys, it only makes sense) is very stubborn. You need some heavy loads of hay needing to be hauled from one place to another and he is your only hope. You tie one side of the rope around his neck, ensuring it is secure and the opposite side to a pallet full of hay. Everything looks good. You start walking along side the Ox, provoking him to walk by poking him with a stick. The ox walks about twenty yards and the pallet strung behind him is rigidly swaying left to right. At this point, the Ox is uncomfortable from being poked and the haystacks are about to topple over. The farmer didn’t really think this one through but then he remembered, “I have a yoke back in the barn”!

yoke

So the farmer gets the yoke and says to his ox, “this should do the trick, it will provide stability and help you carry the load with ease”. So he puts the yoke on his ox.

ox and farmer

The weight of the pallet of hay was now evenly distributed because of the yoke, it became easier to pull and within minutes the task at hand was accomplished. What was the game changer in this illustration, the yoke!

I am almost there folks, continue to follow me..

Lets make this relatable since not all of us are farmers.

#1 The farmer is us, or you, or me.

#2 The pallet of hay is the burdens we carry through life (trials, tribulations, relationships, finances).

#3 The ox is what we think is going to solve the problem (person, place or thing). It is what we see as the solution.

#4 The yoke is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true solution.

For he the Lord says, take my yoke upon you= Allow the spirit of God to come upon you

Learn from Me and you will find rest= I will give you direction and peace

For my yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matt 11:30)
Easy in Greek is chrestos and denotes; useful, pleasant, comfortable, good.
Burden in Greek is phortion and denotes weight
Dear Lord, we thank you that you are always there for us when we can’t carry the load. You desire us to cast our cares and burdens on you and in return you give us rest, we are so grateful for your love and compassion. Continue to comfort us all with your grace and mercy. Amen.

God, why are you silent?

We have all been there right? You are in a tough spot, you don’t know what to do or where to go and when to take the step. God, why are you not answering me? We cry, we beg, we doubt, and grow weary. You start reflecting, am I living a repentant life, am I reading my Bible enough, are my prayers superficial, what am I doing wrong? Let me tell you that once you hear the voice of God, it is tormenting not to hear from him. We assume he is mad at us or no longer hanging around but that simply isn’t true. What does the Bible tell us;

Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

I know we have all heard that when God is silent he is testing us, are we up for the challenge of obedience. Is our Faith steadfast regardless of his silence? While this all is very true, I have found that God’s silence is more to purge us of our negative character. I will give you an example. I am the type of woman who likes to figure things out, solve problems, and do things on my terms, some may refer to this behavior as a “control freak”. So here I am, unable to do a darn thing about my situation. I have absolutely no control, although, the Lord knows I tried. A couple of months ago I said to the Lord, “Okay I get it, you don’t need my help. Forgive me for trying to do things my way and in my own strength”.  Sometimes God wants us to fight the battles with him leading us, but in this particular case, he wanted it all to himself.

Exodus 14:14 NASB

The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.

So I backed off in the natural realm from the situation at hand, but in the supernatural realm I was still fighting for control. I would pray and ask God, “Lord show me something, tell me something, how is this going to work out”? I literally felt tormented not knowing how everything was going to end up. I needed and wanted control so bad that I was trying to manipulate God so I could know his plans. Ridiculous.

Then God awakened me! Why would God reveal his plans and timing to you if he is trying to rid you of control issues? Along with control issues, you need deliverance from fear also because that is the root cause. Oh, and also you have trust issues which is bringing you anxiety. Yup, I’m pretty jacked up! I can laugh now but I seriously was going crazy.

If I rest in the full assurance that God is fighting my battle then I don’t have to interrogate him in my prayer time. I can use that time in thanking him for my deliverance and worship him for who he is and also pray for others. I know God’s ultimate goal is to transform me from glory to glory and I am to be patient and plugged into him while he does the work. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is not a painful process because God exposes our weaknesses, flaws and above all, our heart. If he is silent, it does not mean you have done anything wrong. God wants to see how you will respond to his silence, your character may need some purging. Let him bring you out stronger, that way in the next battle you are cool, calm and collect.

2 Corinthians 3:18

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

 

 

 

 

Stand Firm

It seems like more often than before that the Church and Christians are being persecuted for their beliefs. We see the enemy rising up through people and politics to quiet our proclaiming of Christ and his Word. Take for example the City of Houston requesting that churches turn over their sermon notes that taught against homosexuality or gender identity. Why such a request you might ask? The first openly gay Mayor obviously felt convicted because her lifestyle did not align with the Word of God. I suppose she thinks that if she can remove the preaching against homosexuality and gender confusion then her conscience is cleared, however, the Bible says;

Matthew 24:35 King James Version (KJV)
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Can I get an Amen in this house?! Hallelujah to the Most High! His Words will never ever pass away no matter how hard the world tries to get rid of God, they will fail.

I am not going to speak in a condemning way in regards to the lifestyle of homosexuality or gender confusion, I would rather be tender-hearted towards them. Being hateful is not going to help anyone or lead them closer to God, but love covers a multitude of sin. (1 Peter 4:8) Plus the reality is that sin is sin, and God is no respecter of persons. The Word of God is in black and white and he hates all sin and unrighteousness.

Today I was led to read the Book of Acts, which entails the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the upper room, spreading the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit, signs and wonders, and the persecution of Christians. I will be talking about the persecution of believers and how we need to stand firm in adversity.

In Acts chapter 3, we have the story of Peter and John heading to the temple and at the gate called Beautiful they cross paths with a lame man. The lame man lays at the gate asking for alms (charity)from all those who come to worship, but on this special day he received more than that. As he fixed his eyes on Peter and John, they said “look at us”, so the lame man fixed his eyes on them, and they continued, “silver and gold I do not have but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The lame man took them by the hand and raised up and immediately, his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he leaped up, stood and walked into the temple with them. All those around them saw the miraculous had been done in Jesus’ name and were amazed. (Acts 3:1-10)

So of course the devil can’t stand that God and his son Jesus get all the glory, so he plots. The story of the lame man being healed had spread like wild fire throughout the city and the Sadducees sent his men to arrest Peter and John for preaching the gospel of Jesus. The next day Peter and John were in presence of authority being questioned as to what power and in what name do they perform these miracles, and they replied that they did these things in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom they crucified but raised from the dead. (Acts 4:7-10)

The authorities spoke among themselves and asked “what shall we do to these men? For indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it does not spread any further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” (Acts 4:16-17)

‘But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge”. “For we cannot but speak of the things which we have seen and heard”. (Acts 4:19-20)

Just as today’s society, we have slanderers of Christianity who are refusing to gain access to the Father through his Son. Just as the Sanhedrin, the high priest and others, people cannot deny the signs and wonders that are occurring in the name of Jesus. Instead of submitting to the supremacy of our Almighty God, they silence the truth. I am calling all my brothers and sisters in Christ to not give way to the enemy and hide your Faith- Stand Firm and see the salvation of the Lord!

Dear Lord, I thank you for your Holy Spirit that lives within all your believers and I pray that they are consumed with your fire to go out and share the gospel in boldness and without regret. We thank you that our reward is in heaven and that all the persecution here on earth is not in vain. I pray for the heart of every man, that it will be softened to receive your Word which is the truth and live a Holy and pleasing life, In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Those outside voices

Who doesn’t love when someone gives their opinion without being asked for it? I admit that I have been guilty of this more than a million times but am getting better! I certainly have learned who I will and will not receive counsel from when I am going through a firey trial. It is important as believers and unbelievers that we go to seek wise counsel, someone who is dependable, slow to speak and quick to listen. However, the reality is that we seek out whoever is convenient and end up more confused or hurt than before. To give a prime example of negative outside voices, we are going to look at the well known story of Job.

Job was a blameless and upright man (it says this in the Bible). He had been blessed with a wife, seven sons, three daughters, and a large household and a keeper of thousands of livestock. Some people might say blessed, others might think that’s a lot of work! As most know, back then inheritance with family and possessions was a depiction of God’s favor over ones life. It even says according to the Bible that Job was the greatest of all the people in the east. Job was clearly just an all-out great guy and he feared God. He made regular sacrifices and burnt offerings on behalf of his sin and the unbeknownst sin of his family members. He always desired to be in good standing with his God.

So one day in Job’s perfect not so little life, Satan decided to approach God and his angels to stir him up. The Lord asked Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”(Job 1:6-7) Meaning that he was on the prowl for a victim.

1 Peter 5:8 NIV
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” So Satan then answered the Lord and basically says well he doesn’t fear God in vain, you have placed a hedge of protection around him, his family and all he owns. You, his God has blessed his hands and the work of them, but if you stretch out your hand against your servant he will surely curse you. And the Lord replies to Satan, “Behold all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” (Job 1:8-12)

I can just picture it, God is looking at Satan pathetically and probably thinking about what a slime ball he is. And I’m sure Satan was laughing and rubbing his nasty little paws together, drooling at the thought of tormenting Job. Besides this little imagery, we learn that God is in control of everything and that includes Satan. It is difficult to understand God’s supremacy and sovereignty but He is God. No questions asked.

So Satan pursues Job and wreaks havoc on his life, kills his children, kills his livestock, and attacks Job’s health with painful boils. So if things couldn’t get any worse, his wife rises up against him and says “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) And Job replies “you speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.(Job 2:10)

Talking about kicking someone while their down, Job’s wife was anything but supportive. This U-turns back to my original statement of seeking people of wisdom. As if she wasn’t bad enough, Job’s three friends show up and lay the condemnation on him real thick. Here’s just one example out of many..

Job 4:7-9 NKJV

“Remember now who ever perished being innocent? Or where ever were the upright cut off? Even as I have seen, Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of His anger they are consumed”. 

So here we have Job’s friend Eliphaz, accusing him of being a sinner which is why the wrath of God has struck him. (Lets hit the pause button) Who does this guy think he is? There is a right way of doing things and this was not it. If one of your friends is living a life of sin, the number one thing we are to do is pray for them. Secondly, if God calls you to correct your friend and guide them toward repentance, do it gracefully and with tact. However, this wasn’t even the case! Job was blameless and upright, he was a Godly man, walked and talked it. Eliphaz had no idea what was going on in the spiritual realm nor did he have any wisdom to interject. Poor Job, heard all of his friends accuse him of sinning and cursing God. I mean these accusations went on for a couple of chapters and Job had to defend himself against the wolves disguised as friends.

The Lord knew Jobs heart and that is why he allowed Job to be tested, he knew that he was a faithful servant. As for Job’s friends, they were self righteous. It is an eye opener though because we have all been there and done that, maybe we’ve been the accuser or we’ve been the one tested. There are several points to this story and they are:

  1. God will allow us to be tested even if we are upright and without blame
  2. God will allow us to go through trials if we fall into sin, so we must repent.
  3. The devil loves to see people tormented and especially curse God, no matter how difficult it gets continue to serve the Lord.
  4. Don’t share everything with just anyone, seek out Godly counsel and mature wisdom-filled people
  5. Don’t be the accuser because you will do more harm than good.
  6. Pray for people who are suffering and going through trials that is the best thing you can do!

Father God, teach us by your Holy Spirit how to deal with people and situations. Let us bring glory and honor to you forever and always! Amen.

 

 

 

Real Love

The greatest verse of all time has become cliché wedding vows, you may even know it by heart…

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

What a beautiful scripture which is why it is probably the most well known out of the Bible by believers and nonbelievers. I admit that in the past I never read this verse and understood it in the depth in which I believe the Lord wanted. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people read it very superficially which is why marriage or relationships hold little value in our society. It seems like many relationships are very superficial, built on the wrong foundation. I’m going to take you through a conversation I had with the Lord the other night and I am hoping some of my readers hearts will be touched by it.

Dear Lord, open the eyes of every person’s heart as they read this and let your word be sown deep in their spirit. May they have a better understanding of your true love after reading this. It is in Jesus’ name I pray these things, Amen.

Over the years I have matured in areas of my life and some still lack, and I thank God for showing me the areas he wants me to grow. As I laid in bed and prayed over my family, my job, my dreams, my strongholds and sin, I go to close out my prayer and I fumble my words when telling the Lord I love him. Why can’t I say I love you Lord? What is wrong with me? And the Lord said, “Courtney your idea of love is still according to the worlds standards”. “You still think love is physical, you still think it is the stuff that gives you immediate satisfaction, people who make your heart flutter, and you think it is based on your performance…that is not my love.”

Can we pause for a minute? Okay, thank you. Listen up readers, I believe I love the Lord with all my heart because I desire to talk about him to everyone I encounter. I have surrendered my life to him and try to take heed to his promptings. I am a Christian and I know my place is in heaven BUT I have not fully grasped his love for me. Until I understand his love, I can’t freely love others.

Now because of the lifestyle I lived for many years it was evident that some pre-Christ conditions still remained in my heart. I sat in silence and God started revealing these wounds that were buried within and never healed.

Rejection. I never felt good enough in certain relationships or doing particular things. I have grown up being so hard on myself, and there are times where I literally can drive myself up the wall. If anyone else is like this, you know how exhausting it can be. Luckily, God does not base his goodness on a person’s performance but instead their relationship with him. The Lord told me “you are not perfect and you won’t be until I return”. Then he reminded me of this verse,

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 New International Version (NIV)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Disappointment. Things that did not turn out the way I wanted and made me question God’s love for me. Now I know God is good, I can attest to many great miracles but I still question the way he does things. I know that is horrible, how can I question the ways of our all-knowing God? I believe that in my disappointment my heart grew hardened and cold, and just maybe I was angry at God. That is very difficult for me to admit. The Lord spoke to me and said, “Courtney you have to ask that your heart be softened, and that you be delivered from the spirit of disappointment”. Then he reminded me of this verse,

Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Physical affection. Don’t we all enjoy a little physical affection? There is definitely power in touch but it does not define love. My perspective of love was physical affection like hugs, kisses and sex. Now I just want to clarify that love can be expressed in your family, friendships, with coworkers, with strangers, church-goers, etc. We know that there are different types of love but there is only one true love, the one that only God can give you. Then the Lord said,

1 John 4:16 New International Version (NIV)
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

So after the Lord exposed my wounds and released healing to me through his word, he described to me what his perfect “agape” love was like,

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

God is patient with us, he is merciful, he does not keep record of our sins and failures, he gives us good gifts, he endures with us as we go through trials, he forgives, he rejoices in truth and righteousness, he believes in us, he has plans for our lives, he protects us, he laid down his life for us, he was resurrected for us, he is our comforter, our healer, our redeemer, our strong tower, our father, and his love is everlasting.

He showed me that we are all called to love the way he loves, and to love everyone including our enemies and strangers. Whether it is a quick encounter with someone or a lifelong relationship, let the spirit of God love others through you. Agape love your spouse, your friends, your coworkers, your church congregation, strangers, and yes your enemies!!

There is purpose in seasons

Have you ever had a bad season, a dry season, or a fruitful season? Most believers know what I am referring to when it comes to seasons. We are not necessarily speaking of spring, summer, winter or fall; we are talking about our spiritual seasons. These seasons are a period of time in which all whom believe experience different emotions, struggles, victories, battles, just various things that life bring. Sometimes life just hurts but God knows every season that is to come and he always uses them for good.

In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon writes that everything has its time. This chapter best describes life and what one goes through while on this earth.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NKJV

To everything there is a season,    
A time for every purpose under heaven;

A time to be born,
And a time to die;

A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill,
And a time to heal;

A time to break down,
And a time to build up;

A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;

A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;

A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to gain,
And a time to lose;

A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;

A time to tear,
And a time to sew;

A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;

A time to love,
And a time to hate;

A time of war,
And a time of peace.

When I read this, I feel like I have a better sense of what to expect. I feel a little more grounded and when going through a season of trials it brings everything back into perspective. Life does not have to catch us by surprise or completely break us down because for every action there is a counter action. One day you sow in tears and the next day you are reaping in laughter. This is life. Life is hard and unpredictable at times but when we walk with Jesus it can be so much better. Jesus makes our seasons more    worthwhile, and even in our carnal suffering we can have spiritual joy. That’s the hope we have, that is what our salvation is all about. Living and experiencing life differently than unbelievers.

I have been in a season of trials and attacks and if I continue to focus on the negative then I will never grow spiritually, emotionally or in character. Now I must admit that for the first four months of these trials my mind and attitude got the best of me. God kept telling me to look forward and not backward, I was clinging to my circumstances instead of who God is. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I have big blessings in my near future, and that God will multiply whatever the devil stole from me but I was still stuck on the past. The true test is in the storm, am I still praising God, am I still full of joy, do I still have my peace, do I know that God is good? I believe that God is good but I didn’t act like it. I would have great faith one day and would be full of frustration the next, it really drained me emotionally. I had to make my mind up to finally listen to God and say to myself “Ok I am in a season that is full of trials but I will soon be in a season of abundant joy and blessings”. Seriously people, these seasons can either make us or break us. Since I have chosen to change my attitude, I tell God that I am thankful that he has been developing my strength and character during this time.

On the other side of the mountain, on the other side of the tragedy, and on the other side of the humility, there is God’s blessings for you and me. Endure…the fruitful season could be right around the corner.

Romans 8:28 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

 

 

 

We will serve the Lord

As I continue my reading and studying of Joshua what has become more and more apparent is that the Lord is faithful to his children. Although Israel rebelled by building altars and worshipping other gods, they complained and doubted more often than not, the one True God remained merciful and blessed them anyway. It took them 40 years to get to their promise land but the journey was well worth it because they dwelled in unimaginable abundance. God always led the Israelites in victory and delivered the enemy into their hand to obtain the inheritance he promised.

“See, I have divided to you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from the Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, as far as the Great Sea westward. And the Lord your God will expel them from before you and drive them out of your sight. So you shall possess their land, as the Lord your God promised you.”      Joshua 23:4-5

God has already written out the playbook for you and I, nothing catches him by surprise. I believe that even in our stubbornness and our idleness and complaining, he provides us with valuable lessons and refines our character to bring him Glory.

“For the Lord has driven out from before you great and strong nations; but as for you, no one has been able to stand against you to this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, as He promised”.               Joshua 23:9-10

I don’t care what or who the obstacle is, our God is BIG and POWERFUL. He will weaken the enemy and bring them to their knees and by doing this all will know HE is the GOD of all the heavens and the earth.

Please keep in mind that although our God is gracious,  forgiving and loving, that he is also a God of chastening. He expects his children to walk in obedience and a strong love for him.

“When you have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed down to them, then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land which he has given you.” Joshua 23:16

Let me clarify that other gods aren’t always carved out of wood or sculpted metals. Idol worship can be relationships, money, pride, witchcraft, horoscopes, superstition, jewelry, a job, or a position. Basically any object, place, or person you exalt above God and has priority could possibly be a god or idol in your life. To be honest with you, just recently I fasted from watching TV for three days because I was forfeiting my time with God to some of my favorite shows (Say Yes To The Dress on TLC). It is so easy for us and all our flesh to get unaligned, so we must repent and focus our attention and heart back on God.

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day, whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Do not dismiss the conviction of the Holy Spirit or the Word of God. Do not dabble in darkness, and do not give Satan any foothold to creep into your life but serve the Lord with all your heart. Your inheritance of God’s riches and glory await you my friends.

I leave with you a clever saying that I saw on a church billboard:

“Give the devil an inch and he’ll become your ruler”