Monday, November 27, 2017

GOD'S COMPASS or Man's Conscience!

We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines
our steps (Prov. 16:9 NLT)
Not many folks would think twice about coming out on a cold rainy Saturday morning to view a movie, even a good one. Especially if it happens to fall on the weekend before Thanksgiving!

With so much preparation to be done and the anticipation of family and friends converging for the holiday; the idea of kicking back and enjoying a  feel good flick seemed ridiculous! But a few of us did it anyway and I must say it was time well spent!

Sisters4Sisters, one of the women's ministries of my church hosted their last fellowship of the year sending out an invitation to anyone needing a break from the embarking hectic holidays! Matinee with the Master was the theme and all the usual snacks were provided: popcorn, candy, nachos and drinks!  All you had to do was bring your favorite chair or blanket and join the fun!

The movie was one that you probably won't see nominated for an Academy Award but is equally worthy.  It's entitled God's Compass.  Produced by Dove Christian movies and starring War Room headliners, Karen Abercrombie (Miss Clara) and T.C. Stallings (Tony Jordan); it's all about faith, family, and gaining a biblical focus during times of crisis. Great to watch over the holidays so head over to your nearest Christian bookstore or check to see if YouTube is still showing it for free! 

We make life-altering decisions everyday but rarely stop to consult with the Master.  Yet, in a split second our world can be turned upside down.  How do you navigate through those turbulent times?  You've heard the phrase, let your conscience be your guide, haven't you? Not always a good strategy for success let me tell you!  Instead, as this movie shows if you would only let God direct your life and allow Him full control, you'll find just the right answers even if it comes in unusual ways!

I readily admit that I'm directionally challenged! If not for GPS and familiar landmarks I couldn't find my way around this city!  And I've been living here for over forty years!  So I really respect any navigational tool available to me.  It's the same way in my spiritual life.  If not for God's Compass (The Holy Spirit) moving me in the right direction; placing me in the right place at just the right time I would be lost!  Lost to His best in my life! Lost to His will for my life! Lost to the opportunities He orchestrates to be a blessing to someone else!

The use of our conscience without the infusion of the Holy Spirit is nothing more than a crap shoot!  Our consciences can be influenced by emotions, sinful motives, manipulated to be hardened or deadened to the ways of God.  Paul says in I Timothy 4:2  we can become like hypocrites and liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron.  We no longer can hear God speaking! Doesn't sound  like a reliable source of guidance to me!

Our conscience can be a grave deceiver allowing us to make decisions and plan courses of actions without having guilty feelings.  The downside of this is that there is no guarantee that things will turn out the way we want!  It is the Lord who determine the outcome (Proverbs 16:9).

In the movie we follow the lives of three characters: A highly respected retiree seeking purpose for her life.  A successful doctor seeking contentment in his life, and a homeless juvenile seeking love and security for himself and little sister.  God's Compass skillfully guides them to a crossroads where they must learn to trust not only God but the kindness He places in others!   If you let Him, He can do the same for you!


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Monday, November 6, 2017

Giants in the Valley

"You come against me with sword and spear... I come
against you in the name of the Lord, God Almighty..."
(I Samuel 17:45)
Giants have been favorite characters of mine for most of my life!  From the fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk read as a child; to the true account of David and Goliath heard often in sermons, Sunday school and Bible study.

Never once however, did I think that I would encounter giants in my own life. Or find them lurking in the shadows of my bedroom! Especially at this late date!

 Recently, as I prepared to retire for the night, out of nowhere they appeared.  A flash from my young adult past! A past that has taken me years to recover from.  I was caught completely off guard, which was exactly the Enemy's intent.  For a few hours I revisited that dark, miserable place.  Surprised at the tremendous power it still held over me!

Decades ago before I learned to walk confidently in the righteousness of Christ, my life was filled with foolishness and regrettable decisions. By the grace of God I learned from them and was able to survive it all so it was natural for me to ask my giants: Why now after all these years are you showing up?   You see it was the Giant of Guilt and its twin Shame trying to haunt me and steal my joy!  Why?  Because the Evil One never gives up, even on an older Saint.  He has to try to win a few more battles even if he can't win the war! 

As a Christian, I know this will not be my last encounter with Spiritual Giants. They will show up again, and again and usually when I'm most vulnerable.  During those times when in self-pity, I saunter into the valley of depression, discontentment, or despondency.  Praise the Lord, I now know a God Who does His best work in the Valley!

All I need to do is remind myself of the life of David. In the Valley of Elah where he slew Goliath, a human giant, I Samuel 17:1-4  and went on to defeat the Giant of Fear, Psalm 23:4 ; the Giants of Guilt and Shame, my old foes, Psalm 51:1-3, and the Giant of Apathy concerning his family woes, 2 Samuel 13.

The Prophet Ezekiel knew about giants as well.  In Ezekiel 37, God gave him a vision of  Dry Bones in a valley.  These bones symbolized God's people at a spiritual low.  Dead and lifeless, desperate for a purpose; scattered from their homeland.  Everything they knew and loved had been taken from them.  They faced the Giant of Hopelessness.  There seemed to be no solution for their current situation. 

BUT GOD never left them.  Just as He will never leave us in our valleys!  We will stay there as long as He deems necessary for us to feel His presence but we do not have to linger there. Although our Enemy comes with powerful weapons, David in the Valley of ELAH said, we come in the name of the Lord, God Almighty (I Samuel 17:45).  Perhaps these strategies may prove helpful when your Giant shows up!

1.  Refuse to Engage! Even though taunted, teased, and tempted by those who continue to bring up your past, don't defend yourself. Don't try to justify or explain your actions.  It is Satan's pleasure to accuse Christians (Rev. 12:10).  It is God's pleasure to forgive! (I John 1:9)

2.   If Forced into Battle Confront Giants with God's Word! Jesus used this strategy in the gospels and it is a sure fire way to turn the Devil on his heels. (Matthew 4:1-11).  If you've never done so start memorizing scriptures that you can recall and draw from at a moment's notice. (Ps. 119:11)

3.  Refuse to Dwell in the Past! For every painful thought replace with God's promise (Isaiah 43:18; 2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 4:8).

4.  Embrace Your New Identity! You are no longer that person in your past. You have a new ID with a new name and a passport bound for heaven! While here on earth you have Spiritual Immunity against sins committed in your past and they cannot be held against you.  (Romans 8:1, 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:13)

5. Choose Not to Remember Your Past! This is different than simply forgetting. (Although perhaps psychologically one can forget past trauma at some level.) This is taking a cue from our omniscient Father when He chooses to forget our sins (Psalm 103:12). In His dealings with us our past never enters the picture. We must learn to do the same thing - See ourselves as God sees us!  

When Your Giants Show Up Lead them to the Shores
of Forgetfulness and then Wait for God to Show up!
 (Micah 7:19)


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