Chosen to Lead

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“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

-Romans 13:1

Lately, I’ve been reading the book of Daniel and I am amazed at not only Daniel’s faith but his respect for King Nebuchadnezzar, a vile ruler who hardly deserved such treatment. Especially after conquering Judah and taking its people captive. He was a man who loved power and was all too ready to destroy anyone who challenged his authority.

Over and over we see King Neb challenge Daniel’s faith and threaten his people’s lives over decrees, dreams, and even a manmade god of gold. And the outcome? Daniel and his friends always overcome, proving that our God is supreme. Even King Neb cannot ignore God’s power and he rewards Daniel for his prophetic abilities and his unshakable faith. Daniel, throughout all of this, remains respectful to the authorities in his life, both God and King Neb, with God as the supreme authority.

King Neb was an evil man, he believed in pagan gods and yet our Lord sought to remind him that his title as ruler was ordained by God and could be taken away by God. I thought He only ordained the good rulers of the world? Apparently, this isn’t so, and we must be careful that we do not judge our rulers or disrespect their authority over us because in doing so we go against God’s divine rule.

“Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”¬†Romans 13:2-4

First, I want to clarify that no ruler has been perfect, just as no man is perfect. Just look at King David? He made some rather impeachable mistakes and yet God used him despite this and through David’s reign, the Ark of the Covenant was returned, King Soloman the Wise was born, by which the land prospered, and construction of the new Temple was completed.¬†I also want to clarify that no matter what, God is our supreme ruler. Daniel obeyed his king only when the king’s decrees didn’t go against God’s, and even still he didn’t slander the king.

God only uses broken vessels to lead, why? because that is all He has to work with, we are all broken, sinful, and not cut out to lead on our own. A divine plan is at work around us, and even though our prayers and our votes hold power in this matter, God’s ultimate plan, events as prophesied by Daniel, will come to pass. Our job is to save souls, to pray for our chosen leaders, and to repent on behalf of our country/leaders sins. We are to plead with God just as the prophets of old did for the forgiveness and grace of their people.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”¬† –1 Timothy 2:1-4

The reason I share this is that there are a great many Christians who withhold their prayers and refuse to submit to the present authorities in America. To submit, I do not mean we must “agree” with every decision made by our leaders, however, their ruling gives them the power to make decisions we cannot, and our job as Christians is to pray, offer divine counsel when it is asked of us, and to respect the ultimate authority of God who ordains every king.

We are not Christians simply living in America, we are American Christians, that means we identify with the people of America, we are patriotic in that we stand for the values and morals America was built upon, and we seek repentance, we pray for our country because we believe in it’s potential and are willing to fight for it.

When we pray we shouldn’t say, “God forgive¬†them…”,¬†but, “God…forgive¬†us.”¬†That may seem like a bold statement, and to be honest, it is hard for me to grasp. How can we repent of sins like abortion, when we have never committed them ourselves? We cannot call ourselves Americans, taking up the title of a country that has committed those crimes, without taking such sins upon ourselves. When we say the pledge of allegiance, we make a vow to stand for our country, regardless of it’s spiritual and political state.

Not born in America? Even if you are an immigrant or refugee, the moment you submit yourself to a specific country and it’s government, you are, even if temporarily, considered a part of its people. Through honor and hard work, Daniel won favor and experienced divine provision and success under King Neb’s rule. Jeremiah 29:7, though speaking about exile, shares an interesting perspective.

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the¬†Lord¬†on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

God doesn’t pick sides, He doesn’t love one country more than another, He responds to those who pursue Him, those who cry out to Him. No matter where you are, you are surrounded by God’s children, unique in their own ways, and yet, all created by the same hand that formed everything else. Don’t forget that! The reason America has prospered is because of the great men and women of God who established her. I believe that if we continue to erase the fundamental values that America was built upon, we will see less of God’s favor upon our country. Why has it taken so long for us to start to lose favor?

“Know therefore that the¬†Lord¬†your God is God,¬†the faithful God¬†who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…”¬†-Deuteronomy 7:9

Are we still living in the promised blessings of the faithful Christians who started America? Maybe, it could be a possibility, and yet that does not mean God is blind to the societal changes, the murder of innocent babies, the destruction of morality and family. All of these sins can only be made right through true and utter repentance.

So I challenge you, instead of judging America, instead of posting our political opinions on the social web and spreading slander about President Trump, let’s try a different approach, I mean let’s face it. Has doing any of the above made any difference? If anything it has just stirred the pot of hatred and derision instead of love and hope. The new approach is this, and it’s the most important commandment in fact, as one man answered Jesus in Luke 10:27-28:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”¬†

We should be above offense, above arguing and having the desire to be right in the sight of man. What does it matter if we are right? if that fact doesn’t save lives than it only boosts our self-esteem. Where is the love behind our words, our actions, and our thoughts? How can we change a world if we are also one with its tactics? Christians should stand out, not in voice and angry judgment, but in love.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.‚Ä̬†-John 13:35

Love has always been the answer, mirror Jesus in this and many lives will be transformed, truly. Pray for your country, it’s leaders and your fellow people, be a voice of love in a place that is devoid of it, and it will shine brighter than anything else, drawing hungry souls, thirsty hearts, in ways only the love of God can. This is how we transform the world, this is how we bring heaven to earth.

 

 

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Reckless Love

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“There’s no shadow you won’t light up

Mountain you won’t climb up,¬†

Coming after me

There’s no wall you won’t kick down

Lie you won’t tear down

Coming after me.”

-“Reckless Love” -Cory Asbury (Bethel Music)

Do you remember the feeling of falling in love? As a teen, it can “feel” pretty overwhelming. You actively pursue your love interest, memorizing their features, what they like and dislike. Every moment with them makes your heart skip and your face cramps from smiling so much. It feels like your love has no limits, you would do anything for him/her to show them you love them. And beneath all the emotions and hormones, you believe that you will love that person forever…..until you discover that they don’t want your forever. Pain like nothing else, as if your heart burst into a million pieces, leaves you feeling like the world is at its end. The future you had envisioned disappears along with the one you couldn’t stop thinking about.

In time, you accept the loss, you let go of your pain and realize that the world isn’t ending. You think of that person less and less until it’s as if they came from a different time, a different life. You fall out of love, the one thing you believed was impossible.

If only we knew we¬†were loved by one who never stops loving. Pursued by one who never stops¬†pursuing. Many of us don’t realize that we are in the greatest love story ever told, in fact, we are the bride in this great story. An infinite all-powerful God, romancing a fallen world….what reckless love.

He adores us even as His heart is breaking, His love has no boundaries, no conditions. We simply can’t escape it. And yet no one knows rejection like He does…the world has proven time and again that it’s not a faithful bride. God came to the earth through His Son Jesus, to be with us, and we killed Him. And what did He give us in return? Did He abandon us and fall out of love with us? No, He surrendered His son on the cross and in doing so, He paid the ransom we couldn’t pay and gave us so many blessings that we’re still discovering!

I’m reminded of the story of Hosea and Gomer. God told Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman to symbolize the unfaithfulness of Israel towards God. So Hosea marries Gomer and she¬†soon returns to the life of an adulterer, sleeping with other men besides her husband. This life leads to Gomer being taken as a slave.

I can imagine this being Gomer’s all-time low. What man would love her after what she has done? Standing on a step with a price on her head, no longer a woman but something to be used. And then she spots him, Hosea, the only man who called her wife, pushing his way through the crowd toward her, ready to buy her back.

God told Hosea, just as I love my people Israel, you must love your wife again…

What reckless love.

No matter what you have done, God is always there ready to take you back. And He doesn’t come to buy you with coins but with His only Son Jesus, who is willing to take your place, to pay the ultimate price for you. I promise you, no human can make you whole, no husband or wife can fulfil your every need and desire for love. Only God can satisfy your soul, and He does so not because He has to, but because He wants to. We are wanted, desired, sought after by God…. that, is reckless love.

“Then Jesus told this parable: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep!”

Luke 15:3-6

Through It All

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“Through it all, my eyes are on you, and it is well with me…”

-“It is Well” by Bethel Music

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God. I’ve had my doubts about His Goodness, but not about His existence. I simply can’t imagine not believing, nor waking up to His presence. He has been as fixed as the sun, a constant reality regardless of those who have tried to say otherwise. Once you have experienced and felt His presence, you can’t go back to a world without Him. A world devoid of any lasting meaning apart from Him. He was my friend when I felt insecure and misunderstood, and it was through Him I set my dreams.

I wish I could tell you that the Christian life is easy, but the truth is it’s the harder paths that are worth travelling. They are the paths that promise reward, adventure, and personal growth which only happens through the facing and overcoming of challenges. It’s this path that the Bible describes as “narrow” that few walk down, but their¬†destiny is Heaven and they¬†never walk it alone.

Loneliness, fear, anger, depression…can seem like impossible giants in this life. From a distance, they can appear more manageable than in those moments when they are wrapped around you weighing you down like so many bricks. Sometimes it starts out as a small burden, a single stone placed in your heart that begins to multiply with each day or experience. I find myself doing this…I turn from God and get swept up in life and satan attacks. He is like a wolf, always circling, patient and calculated. He waits for that moment of weakness and makes his move.¬† That is why he is the lowliest of creatures, he fights in the shadows because he fears the light. In the light, his tricks are revealed and his cover blown. We face an enemy who can only try and deceive us, our biggest battle is this- “Do we listen?”

What I am about to share with you is a piece of my story. Maybe you are the one who is broken, feeling like no one will ever truly know you. How can God fill me? Make me whole again? you ask. The answer; one day at a time.

I grew up in an upper-middle-class school, though far from town and located amidst farmer fields, the students there were hardly the country type. Sports and popularity were everything, as well as how “rich” you were. I was a shy girl who liked hanging with boys and picking up bugs. I started off having trouble finding good friends. As the years passed I¬†had lost many “friends” and had been bullied off by students and teachers alike. I began doubting myself, my abilities to communicate, and this grew with each passing grade. I never got to sing a solo in choir, and one time when I won a pie-selling¬†contest my mom had to put up with angry parents saying that I didn’t deserve to win because I was open enrolled. Once middle school came, life was unbearable. Teachers belittled and called me names and the students pretended as though I wasn’t there. I had to sit at the boy table at lunch and couldn’t wait to go home. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was deeply affected by those experiences. Satan was on a mission to destroy my identity.

Thankfully, life turned around and just in time. I was put in a different school and found the best friends I could ever ask for. I learned to speak and laugh and couldn’t wait to go to school. Math was still difficult but I wasn’t treated differently because of it. Teachers loved me and I was hard pressed to find any student who treated me bad.

Notice how my life changed. We are often moulded and influenced by our surroundings and circumstances, often it’s unavoidable. Was it the end of my heartache? No, life always seems to have a way of building you up and tearing you down. We must learn to focus on something constant or we will be pulled along the tides of life, and become swallowed by our emotions. God has been my constant help, my comforter, and my friend. He makes the storms of life bearable and even beautiful. Everything He touches suddenly has meaning and purpose. And he restores all that was lost tenfold.

So no matter what you are going through, no matter what has happened in your past. You don’t have to carry that burden anymore. It’s not the end of your story. God was with you in every moment. I prayed to Him often in those lonely days..I felt loved and accepted by Him even when outwardly I was alone. He is the closest friend you’ll ever have, he knows your heart and who you truly are. He speaks life-giving words over you, drowning out the hurtful things that life has tried to brand you with. He’s beside you always. Through it all, you’re never alone.

That is why I can say, “it is well with my soul.”

 

 

Stoke the Flame

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“His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself.”¬†

-Revelation 19:12

I’ve always loved bonfires. My friends and I would keep busy feeding it with leaves and sticks until the yard was spotless. After that we would find other things to put in the flames, watching the ever-changing intensity and colors dance across the items and reflect on our warm faces. The fire isn’t concerned with the temperature of the world around it, burning just as bright whether it’s 90 degrees or 20. However, a windy night could be too dangerous to light a flame, and a rainy one would put it out before it ever began. But with the right conditions and constant fuel, a fire could stay burning forever.

Is it a literal fire that John the Apostle saw in Jesus’ eyes? Or could it have been the only words he had to describe the look in his eyes? Perhaps it was both, symbolic and real. The book of Revelation is filled with such descriptions that could be taken either way. It was a vision, after all, revealing things that we may not fully understand in this reality. The image this paints for us though can be very real and applicable today. I have read in books many times the line, “..with fire in his eyes…” It’s meaning generally signifying a call to action, a fury, or an unquenchable passion.¬† Those words call out something in us too, an inner boldness that has been in us since creation.

In Biblical times, that boldness had to be brought out of every able-bodied man on the fields of battle. A fiery passion and fearlessness are what drove the Israelites as they conquered armies larger than their own. It was a fiery zealousness that rose in Jesus as he upturned the money tables and chased away the profiteers. The very reason he had come was to reconcile mankind to God, and it angered him to see men aiding in this separation and making a profit of it.

We all have a fire, a light that dispels darkness. As children of God, we are called to be a light, a burning flame, a lamp in a dark world. Our light is not for our sake alone, that we may see what lies ahead. It is a transforming light that should spread and conquer wherever we go. That flame within us is the Holy Spirit partnered with the desires of our soul. The closer we draw to God, the more we mirror His heart and passions.

How strong is your flame? Is it barely flickering or just glowing embers? What do you need to do to¬†bring it back to life? Everyone has to stoke the flame every now and then. It is hard work, but not as hard as re-lighting it again. The only way we stoke our flame is by being in the presence of God and encountering the passions He has placed on our lives as Christians, and as children with unique destinies and callings. I feel a fire in my eyes when people are abused and when satan deceives¬†people into feeling worthless and victimized. A zealousness for God rises in me when I come across people who feel forever separated from His love, as if our sins are somehow more powerful than His love for us. The religious spirit deadens the flame till it can be controlled and tamed. The flame becomes a candle, “this little light of mine” when it was never made to be contained or controlled.

The religious spirit is zealous about control and order. He’s the one who circles the fire in our souls like a hawk, pouring water on any flame that reaches for more. Our passions should be burning and growing. Our love should mirror Christ’s love, and our fire should be free. Free to burn for Him. This is why fires burn and spread so easily in places where people are hungry for more, their wood is dry and it quickly catches when they hear about Jesus. In places that are under the strict control of the religious spirit, or heavily deceived by satan, fires are harder to spread, everyone’s wood has been so watered down that it takes transforming miracles to see a revival.

Before we set out to change the world, let Him change you. Stoke the fires in your heart so that people will long for what you carry. Shine bright and brighter still so that the people who guard their candle lights would see that there is so much more. They have known Jesus as the lamb, now they must know him as the lion. As the one whose eyes are like flames of fire…Stoke the flame. Burn for him.

My heart is ablaze
with the flame of triumph
my soul alight
with this fire of success
an eternal inferno
rages within me
and when you peer into my eyes
then you will see
the fire burning within.

…The fire burning within my eyes.¬†

-Allen Steble