Monday, November 30, 2009

The Faith Component by Guest Blogger Kristy J. Downing

Our lives are so filled with activities and obligations; naturally we grow and develop in the directions that pull us the most. We may be an outstanding engineer or minister but have a desire to be a better father or spouse. I want to ask “what in life is pulling you the hardest right now?” Is it work or your career? Is it your family? Is it working out and eating healthily? Is it being sociable? As we grow and develop in the direction of the things that have the heaviest gravitational pull in our lives, let us not forsake the faith component. Ask ourselves what practical routine we can implement in our lives to increase our faith? Like studying Japanese, learning the piano, improving our culinary skills and Rome faith and a strong relationship with God is not built overnight. It comes through communicating with God (or praying), it comes through studying His word (or reading the Bible) and it is evidenced in our actions (or treating humanity in the manner in which we would like to be treated).

This month let’s pick a way in which we can periodically bolster our relationship with God. Regardless of where we are there is room for growth and aspiration towards perfection. See Paul’s teachings in Philippians 3:12-14 (“not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” NKJV). For some it will be attending a church ceremony, for others who do that routinely already it might be studying Ecclesiastes – written by the son of David, believed to be the wisest person to ever walk the face of this earth – or taking 15 minutes in the evening or mornings to read a new Bible verse, and for others it might be volunteering at a local shelter during the holidays, showing God your earnest appreciation for what you DO have instead of asking for something additional.

Many times in life we are faced with obstacles and situations that are apparently larger than us: why do we have to die Lord? What will happen with my marriage or my family? When will I get a new job? Why do I have no friends? … these situations that are by and large out of our control. Yet we dedicate our life energy to worrying about them. Christ teaches us, however, that such worrying is fruitless. Matt 6:25-34. James later teaches that we should couple our faith with works. James 2:18-24. We are advised to rely on faith and do all we can.

I admire the faith and conviction of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego who defied king Nebuchadnezzar who requested that all in his kingdom bow down and worship a golden idol. Daniel 3. They were to be burned alive if they did not oblige. Do you think they were popular at that time or unafraid of the consequences of the empowered? Obviously. They were unwilling, however, to compromise their faith and do something they knew would be unpleasing to God. (“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case [that they were to be placed in a fiery furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”) How many of us are willing to say, even if God does not save me I will stand in faith? Even if I am embarrassed, lose my marriage, my life or my job, I stand in faith? Instead at times the possibility of a disappointing circumstance serves as reason to abandon our faith or self it until more comfortable circumstances present themselves. Even though it is difficult, when opposition arises that is the time in which we should amplify our faith not diminish it.

Recollect the good things that are results of an attitude of faith. Hebrew 11.

Miracles & blessings!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Need a Promotion?

If you’ve ever felt slighted, overlooked, or boxed in, whether it’s on the job, in the church, or in your personal life, you’re not alone. I would venture to say that most of us have at some time or another. I remember having a supervisor once who seemed very unable to do her job well. She always very politely gave me all of her “dirty” work on top of my own responsibilities. This supervisor consistently caved under pressure and blamed others for her own lack of competence. She was more qualified on paper, but I was more equipped in other ways.

Frustrated beyond words, I remember praying that the Lord would strengthen me to deal with her. I also prayed fervently when other co-workers slammed her with unkind words behind her back. Admittedly, every fiber of my being wanted to indulge myself and join in the worthless chatter, but I resisted the temptation.
Instead, I obediently did what she asked without complaining and murmuring, which is monumental for me. I tried to help her in every way that I could, and when she made what I thought to be demeaning comments towards me, quite uncharacteristically, I didn’t retaliate.

God had given me the endurance to go through, but I wondered secretly if anyone recognized that I was the one doing the work. She seemed to be getting the credit for the good work I was doing. I mean, while she was sipping tea from a porcelain cup, adorned with roses and gold plated rims (literally), I was meeting with clients, working computer programs, and crunching the budget.

One day on my break, I went out to my car and cried in frustration, praying that God would give me strength. A very kind lady that I trusted and had confided in told me quite simply that promotion comes from God. That stuck with me, and at the time, I didn’t even know the scripture from Psalm 75:6, 7 which reads, “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”

I realized at that moment that I had to trust God’s sovereignty. It boiled down to my faith. I had to trust Him, even when it came to things that I thought may have been too minor for Him and even when it looked like He wasn’t showing Himself to me the way I wanted Him to.

Over the years, I’ve learned that promotion is exaltation. Exaltation for Christians only comes through service. Remember when Jesus gave the Beatitudes in Matthew 5? The poor in spirit get the kingdom of heaven, and the meek inherit the earth. People who hunger and thirst after righteousness are going to be filled. Those that are merciful will receive mercy. Another says that the pure in heart will see God and the peacemakers are called the children of God. You are elevated when you are humble and in service, which is quite opposite of the world’s definition of success!

We can never earn a promotion by manipulation, retaliation, jealousy, or backbiting. As Christians, we have to know that God is in control, and we must serve. In God’s timing, promotion may come. When it does, we have to remember that we received that promotion and/or exaltation, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

If we become anxious while we are waiting, we will get tired, frustrated, and miserable. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

We just need to make sure that God has truly called us to the position or promotion that we desire. Our will must line up to His will for us. I’ve seen many people striving for positions that God has clearly never meant for them to have. However, if God has let you know that the promotion is yours, it will happen. Trust Him an keep on serving with a good attitude.

That supervisor I mentioned ended up quitting and I was offered the job. The Lord blessed me with the promotion I had waited for, and He’ll do the same for you.

Be sure to check the Abiding in the Vine Facebook Group page out and leave a comment. (Just type Abiding in the Vine in your search tab on FB.) Let’s get the message boards hopping with discussion from you, and invite friends to join!

Trusting Him With You,

Monday, November 2, 2009

Know Your Enemy!

I don’t believe in giving a lot of unwarranted attention to Satan or the devil, but lately, I’ve noticed he’s been particularly busy. I know no better way to combat Satan’s attacks except by exposing them and using the Word of God, prayer to the Lord, and faith in God. I’ve been attempting this devotion for quite some time and numerous distractions have come to try to prevent me from sharing this with you. So, I pray that through this press to complete this that someone will be encouraged to identify Satan’s tactics and resist his attack.

First, Satan is not a myth; he is real. He was an angel of God that was cast out of heaven for being corrupt and prideful. He is God’s enemy and he is looking for people to attack to strengthen his army for the final conflict. It’s so important for us to know he’s real and to recognize his tactics so that we know how to equip ourselves and how to respond during an attack.

Satan’s tactics can be deceitful and cunning, and he appears relentless in his attacks. In fact, in Job 2:2, Satan tells the Lord that he has been “going to and fro in the earth . . . walking up and down in it.” Of course, after this, the Lord tells Satan of Job’s unwavering character and faith in the midst of his attacks. The Lord also tells Satan that he is attempting to destroy Job without a cause. Job holds fast to his faith in the face of suffering the loss of his family and property.

However, Satan, as my pastor reminded us, is an accuser of the brethren (See Rev. 12:10). Satan tells the Lord that Job is only faithful because his own body was safe. Then, the Lord allows Satan to attack Job’s physical body. Satan came before God to accuse Job, but it’s so important to remember that Satan can only do what God permits.

Satan, whose name means “Accuser” or “Adversary,” strives to destroy our faith in God. Most of us know and accept this, but whether it’s the small things that nag at us or the sickness that seems to linger, suffering can chip away at our faith if we let Satan get a foothold. Anything that shifts your focus away from your faith in God and His Word can be a real enemy, an attack that Satan launches to destroy your faith.

Job suffered losses through the death of loved ones, and he lost everything. He went from being very wealthy to having nothing but his health. Then, after the onslaught of Satan’s attacks, he even lost his health. Maybe Satan’s has launched an attack against you. Maybe the situation you’re in isn’t a consequence of sin and you don’t know what to do. Be prayerful, hold fast to your faith. Satan thought that Job would only be faithful while the Lord prospered him and didn’t think he would hold fast to his faith while suffering. Remember, in the end, Job was blessed with “twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). Be prayerful, and don’t let your faith go. Know that you will be rewarded, and you will be victorious in the end.

Maybe you’ve sinned, and the situation you find yourself in is a direct consequence of the sin. Satan wants you to wallow in the mistake and think it’s too big for God to forgive you. He wants us to feel condemned and unworthy, but the Bible says that our righteousness is as filthy rags before him (Isaiah 64:6). Every one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It’s only through Christ’s death and resurrection that we can be saved. The victory came when he bore the weight of all of our sins on the cross. By shedding His blood, He paid the penalty for our sin.

We don’t have to beat ourselves up with our past mistakes. Even as some of us have to live with the consequences of our sin on earth, we cannot allow Satan to tempt us to believe that God does not forgive us. There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1).

The Word instructs us to “[b]e sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:6). One commentary explains that lions attack those that are sick, young, or straggling behind. In other words, they look for victims who are unwell, alone, or not alert. When we are in the midst of a trial, we must be watchful of Satan. When we are suffering or alone, we can’t allow ourselves to be cut off from other believers, God’s Word, or prayer.

Finally, we must resist Satan at all costs. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” With the power of the Holy Ghost, we can resist Satan and cling to God. God has already defeated Satan, which means that we have already won the victory!

Praying With You,
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