Monday, March 25, 2013

Today's Jericho Walls Can Come Down, Too

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, GOD made this PROMISE: "If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I WILL HEAL THEIR LAND."  That's absolutely awesome! 
So in light of that hopeful promise, how many Christians in America must be transformed into passionate, on-fire prayer warriors in order for GOD to heal America? Think about it. First of all, there is a cost to become an intercessor for the glory of God and the good of the world. We would have to willingly give up our agendas for God's will. A life of prayer is a lot work. It is a labor of love....for Christ, for His people, and the world. He has plans and purposes for all of creation and He loves to use willing servants of the LORD to accomplish HIS purposes. So I ask again: How many Christians will it take for us to see GOD fulfill this promise of "healing our land?"
We have our own Jericho walls today. We have personal Jericho walls of dysfunction and sinful habits and as a nation we have a dark force at work to remove all signs of Christianity from public places. Slowly the freedoms of our country are slipping through our fingers and into the hands of people who love darkness. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." (John 2:19-20)
We are called by Jesus Christ as His followers to carry on His work on earth and obey His command: "You are the light of the world....let your light so shine...and glorify your Father in heaven. " (Matthew 5:14-16)
Would you, fellow Christian, like to see a Spiritual Awakening in our lifetime? Would you like to witness the high and mighty walls of corrupt strongholds begin to crack and totally crumble in U.S.?
The weapons we fight with are not physical, but spiritual. (I am not describing highly-trained armed forces -- not actual soldiers. I'm talking about everyday people living in everyday America.) "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)  God tells us to be peacemakers, not violent, angry, bitter people. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9).
So what do we do? We pray. We pray like the Bible heroes who loved GOD and prayed feverently to GOD because they knew HIM and trusted HIS  promises to His people:
  • "The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective." (James 5:16)
  • "Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me. I cried out with my mouth; His praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld HIS love from me!" (Psalm 66:16-20)  
  • "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; know and the door witll be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)
  • "If my people who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; then I will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
What do you want Jesus to do for you? For your family? Your job? Your finances? Your neighbors? For the salvation of others? For your community? For a spiritual revival? For the restoration of relationships? For the redemption of what has been lost? What is it? When we pray, we will get the things we are asking of God but only when they are in accordance with HIS will.
HE can demolish strongholds and tear down walls of pain and reget. HE can do anything.
So when we pray, do we pray prayers of faith? "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." (Hebrews 11:2) Do we BELIEVE that HE is who HE says HE is? "By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after they marched around them for seven days." (Hebrews 11:30).
I've been inspired with the biblical concept of a book, "The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears" by Mark Batterson. Below is a website link to a Pastor Mark's powerful 20-minute video explaining the concept of "The Circle Maker" and his journey in Washington, DC -- his mission field. His story is fantastic. It reveals the power and glory of GOD happening TODAY, folks. I encourage you to check it out. Here's the link:
GOD can bring down our personal and even our national "Jericho" walls.  Jesus has said, "with GOD all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26) Do you believe it?
For HIS glory,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Cannot Keep Silent!

"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,  for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch."
(Isaiah 62:1-2)
My Father in heaven is blazing a new trail for me in my journey of  Reading-the-Whole-Bible-in-2013  program. Right now I'm in the book of Judges and I have tears in my eyes because
I have the presence of the Holy Spirit in me and my heart and mind are responding to what I have been reading. It's grievous: Total Depravity then and Total Depravity now. And folks, I cannot keep silent. Hey! Someone please consider calling 911 because I have a fire in my heart! I love my Father in heaven, I love His people the church, I have a desire for the lost to be found. And I am seeing we're blinded by our pride. Lord have mercy on us all because I  KNOW there is a cure for such wickedness.
I'm reading familiar verses in my daily  reading but I'm am seeing them in a whole new way! The LORD is opening  the eyes of my heart and I am seeing two major things consistently: 1 -- The unfathomable love and unstoppable power of a Holy God; and 2- How horribly wicked mankind is! Make no mistake, we were created to worship GOD and our deceitful hearts lust for idols instead. I'm reading this over and over and over in the Old Testament, and as I mentioned, I'm only in the book of Judges. That's enough for me to take in  right now -- but I cannot keep silent about this. I am a member of the Body of Christ which also makes me the light of the world. I am called by my Savior to carry on His work of shining His light in this dark world.
In Judges 8, the Israelites were saved from the hands of their enemies, the Midianites, and they wanted Gideon, his son and grandson to rule over them. (ESV commentary: 'He was such an outstanding judge that the people wished to make him king.') Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you." (Judges 8:23). He was right about that. (EVS commentary: 'Kingship in Israel was a mistake. Yet Judges demonstrates that it had become necessary. With no king society disintegrated').
However, Gideon -- who was not a king -- acted like a king when he asked the men to give him their golden earrings as a reward for leading them to victory over their enemies. He recieved about 43 pounds of gold in addition to ornaments, pendants and purple garments. "Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah.  And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family." (Judges 8:27) Whoa! "Whored?"  On top of that, Gideon's father was an idolater (Judges 6:25) and now Gideon fell into the same sin.
I use different versions of the Bible when I study to see what other translations say and when I read "whored" in the ESV Reformation Study Bible, it opened my eyes to how grevious idolatry is and how easily mankind falls into it. (ESV commentary says, 'Gideon, the greatest of the judges until Samuel, gave the people occasion to sin.') Then it referred to Judges 2:16-23 which says, "The Lord raised up judges who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them...Yet, they did not listen to their judges for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them...the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them."
This stuff sounds w-a-a-a-a-y too familiar. LORD, have mercy in U.S. LORD, have mercy on mankind.
What's the cure for prideful hearts -- for mankind's whoredom?  It's this: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14).
It's time for GOD's people to bow the knee to faithfully pray and then to rise up and tell our own stories...and every one of our stories ends with "Jesus Saves."
For His Glory,
Copyright 2013 Totally Devoted 3 - #23 by Polly Balint

Monday, March 11, 2013

Our Hearts: Christ-Centered or Self-Centered?

At the beginning of 2013 our Pastor Doug Mulkey strongly urged every member to faithfully read the entire Bible in one year. He even had copies available of a carefully planned year-long reading program and it was  an easy-to-follow schedule printed on both sides of one sheet of paper. In addition, for those who enjoy technology, he suggested getting a cell phone app that also offered a year-long Bible reading program. He didn't want us to have any excuse for not having a schedule to follow so he also pointed us to an online reading program as well.
I don't know about the rest of the church family but I have found this discipline very challenging to keep up with the reading program. I find that I love it. I need self-discipline. And I'm finding unexpected blessings from doing it. I'm seeing God's story in a new way. I'm being taken deeper into knowing who He is. Wow. There is no god like our God. No one.
I have not only been spiritually challenged by keeping up with the program, but God is inspiring me to write more devotions for my third book, Totally Devoted 3, from the Old Testament!  As I'm reading the first few books of the Old Testament I keep observing that the people are so easily decieved and readily fall away from God. I'm seeing in a new way how awful it is that humans have the strong tendency to worship everything that isn't God. Somehow we take all the beauty that God has created and pervert it. We --our own hearts--choose to pervert it. They did in the Old Testament and we do today, too. Ok, maybe it's just me. But I can see it. God wants me to see this.
For example: The Garden of Eden was an actual glorious paradise of trees, flowering plants, lucious fruit trees, birds, fish, livestock, and wild animals (Genesis 1: 12, 20, 24). Then God created man in His image and gave him the privilege to name and rule over the created beings (Genesis 2:19). And then He blessed Adam with Eve, his wife. (Genesis 2:15, 21, 22). All that beauty, all that freedom, all that peace -- and only one rule: God told Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for they would die. (Genesis 2:17). Well if you know this story, they ate the forbidden fruit and paradise was lost. Eve was decieved by the devil that she could become like God (Genesis 3:4) and Adam fell into sin with her. Why do we give into temptation so quickly?
Because "The heart is deceitful above all things..." (Jeremiah 17:9). Eve wanted to be like God. It's pride. It's so destructive because it's totally self-centered thinking. The Garden of Eden was a perfect place to live. It was ruined by a deceitful heart.
When the Moses led the Israelites to freedom from torture and slavery in Egypt, they fussed and whined during their passage to a land flowing with milk and honey! Imagine. God led them with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. (Exodus 13:21). On their 40-year journey the Israelites saw God create miracles through His servant Moses with all the plagues upon the Egyptians and then the crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:21); generously providing the perfect food for their journey,  and even their clothes never wore out! How is that possible that all these spectacular things happened? God. And yet they decided to create a golden calf to worship and said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." (Exodus 32:8). God is always faithful to His promises of provision and protection toward His people and yet we, yes, we even today, look to other gods to worship! Why? We were created by God to be worshippers. WE were created to be HIS worshippers,  but our hearts easily turn away and throughout Scripture He warns His people to keep His commandments and to "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
Repeatedly, throughout history, sins unashamedly rose up in people's hearts instead of the the outpouring of love and worship of God. In Genesis 6:11 Our long-suffering God had enough rebellion and planned a devastating flood that would cover the earth. "Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways."  Noah and his family had favor with God because of Noah's righteousness. He and his family were the only people who were not destroyed because God instructed Noah to build an ark that would save them. Just like those people who mocked Noah for his obedience in building a massive boat on dry ground, we choose not to believe God at times. Our hearts don't want to.
While we are still living on earth we will continue to have the battles of the heart. God wants our hearts to love and worship Him. The world calls us to worship of things of  that can be stolen, or will eventually rust or rot. Material things of this world cannot last but we seem to like to run after them. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23).
There is a way to improve this heart condition of destructive pride.  A healthy heart is a humble heart that lifts up the name of Jesus with great love and joy. A healthy heart is a Christ-centered heart instead of a self-centered heart.   A humble heart is a heart that fully trusts God and finds rest and peace in trusting Him. "A heart at peace gives life to the body." (Proverbs 14:30)
There is great freedom in having a humble heart. All the burdens are given to the Savior  when we "cast all your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall." (Psalm 55:22).
God hears and answers the prayers of His people. "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me." (Psalm 51:10-12). God is a Redeemer and a Restorer. He changes hearts. He wants our hearts to shine for His glory.
God made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6)
For HIS glory,
Copyright 2013 Totally Devoted 3 by Polly Balint