Tag Archives: faith

Where Do You Live?

I’ve lived in the same old farm house for the last thirty-one years.  It’s nothing fancy, but it’s my home.  When I’m at home, I know that I’m sheltered from the many storms that have blown through over the years.  This old house has endured blizzards, hurricanes and tropical storms, yet it has stood firm, despite being more than seventy-five years old.  That could be because the floor joists beneath this old house are whole logs (with the bark still on them), and there are actual 4″x4″ posts, (as opposed to today’s 4″x4″ posts, which are really only 3.5″x3.5″) in the walls, and the 2″x4″ boards truly  are 2″x4″ as well, (not today’s 1.5″x3.5″).

At any rate, when I’m in my home, I feel safe and secure.  If I’ve been out in the world, and someone hurts me, I long for the security of my home.  Whenever I leave my home for a long period of time, I always feel great joy, when I return to the house I live in, because home is where my heart is.

house_PNG50
House (Image Not Mine)

The same thing can be said spiritually and emotionally.  Where we abide is where we live.  Where do you live?

4 *Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it *abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you *abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who *abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not *abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you *abide in Me, and My words *abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

(John 15:4-8  NASB)

Strong’s Lexicon Definition for Abide

ménō, men’-o; a primary verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):—abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), × thine own.

For many years, I lived (abided) in Jesus, and I was quite happy there.  I’ve preached and shared the gospel with many people, and I’ve been blessed to rejoice in the salvation of others, who came to know and love Jesus.  Yet, because we live in a fallen world, bad things happen, even when we’re in our homes, where we feel safe and secure.

Six years ago, my back started hurting, causing weakness and shooting pains in my legs.  I’ve dealt with back pain my entire life, off and on, and when it started, I figured it was just another flare up, and soon I would be back to normal, but that’s not what happened.  Before long, my back and legs were hurting constantly, and within a year, I had to stop doing prison ministry, and shortly thereafter, I had to leave my job, because I was no longer able to work.  The constant pain began to consume me.

During the next six to eight months, my mother passed away, and my children and grandchildren moved far away, to other states.  I fell into a deep depression.  I was totally overwhelmed by the darkness of pain and depression, and my faith began to waver and wane.  I was no longer abiding in Christ; I was now abiding in pain, depression, guilt and anxiety.

Because of the constant, chronic pain, I was unable to spend as much time as I wanted to spend with my mother before she died.  And although I had shared the gospel with her many times over the years, I was unable to do so, while she lay dying, and I was consumed with guilt because of that.  I questioned  my own salvation.  “How could God continue to love me, when I couldn’t even minister to my own mother?”  I thought.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; *abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will *abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and *abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.

(John 15:9-11 NASB)

Over the next several years, I continued to abide in pain and depression.  I no longer prayed, because I was so disappointed in myself, and I was sure God was too.  I no longer felt His presence.  I simply lived in my pain and depression.  This was now my new abode, and to be frank with you, I’ve been miserable.

Then, just this week, while reading, I was reminded of the scriptures above, and I heard the Lord whisper to my heart, “Abide in Me.  Abide in My love.”  He was telling me to live, dwell, endure, tarry, stand in His love; in Him!  I still have the same physical pain, but I don’t have to live in and wallow in it.  Instead, I choose to immerse myself in His love for me.  His love didn’t stop because I didn’t share the  gospel with my mother one last time before she died.  My pain isn’t a punishment from God.  It’s just a part of life in this fallen world.

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

(John 16:33 NLT)

Losing my mother, my chronic pain, and having my children and grandchildren so far away from me are just a few of the many sorrows and trials I will endure, but I don’t have to try to go it alone.  Jesus tells me to take heart, because He has overcome the world.  I’m not alone and unloved, for His love is unending, just as He is, for God is love (1 John 4:8b).

I am so very thankful to serve the God of all grace, who remains faithful to us, even in our frailties.  Yes, I continue to have chronic, sometimes debilitating pain, but I don’t have to live in pain.  Instead, while living with pain, I will live in Christ.  Where will you live?


* Emphasis added

© 2017
Cheryl A. Showers

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Daddy Make Me Just Like You!

Just recently, I’ve been worshiping to this song by Jason Upton, over and over.  It has become the cry of my heart.  As the daughter of the Most High God, the more I learn of Him through experience and through His Word, I find myself more and more wanting to be like my Abba, my Daddy

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

1 John 4:7-9  NLT

God is Love.  Real love is that God loved us and sent His Son, Jesus to be a sacrifice for our sins.  I’m not there yet.  God has given me a greater love for mankind than I could ever have imagined, yet, I cannot truthfully say that I would be willing to sacrifice either of my children for anyone’s sake…  Daddy make me just like You!

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Romans 5:8-11  NLT

I have such a hard time loving my enemies.  It’s hard to love someone who hates me or those I love.  Yet my Daddy loved me when I was His enemy.  In fact, before He adopted me, when I was still a child of His enemy, the devil, He loved me and you!  Daddy make me just like You!

But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:4-10  NLT

God, my Daddy, is rich in love and mercy.  And He has made me, and you, if you are His child, an example of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us.  Do you wonder how far that grace extends?  His mercy, love, grace and kindness to us is so great that when He raised Christ from the dead, He raised us up right along with Jesus, and seated us in the heavenly realms.  What kind of love is this?  Daddy make me just like You!

How amazing is the love of Father God for His adopted sons and daughters.  How could we not long to be like Him?  Once He has captured our hearts, there is nothing more we can desire than to truly be like Him, and praise God!  He knows that we, in our humanity, could never achieve our hearts desire to be like Him on our own, and so we, the sons and daughters of the Most High God have this assurance…

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6  NLT

My prayer for each and every child of God is that He will continue His work within each and every one of us, so that each one of us will be like our Daddy…  Daddy make each one of my brothers and sisters in Christ just like You!

© 2017
Cheryl A. Showers

America’s Immigration Problem from a Biblical Perspective

In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.

They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah 1:1-3  NLT

Wailing Wall of Jerusalem

In my last post, I promised to address the United States’ Illegal Immigration problem from a biblical perspective, and one of the first things that I want to note is that Jerusalem, God’s holy city is and has been surrounded by a great wall, for many centuries.  In fact, when the Jewish refugees returned to their ancient home, after being captives of first Babylon, then Persia for seventy years, they returned to find their city in tatters.  Walls were torn down and burned.  Why was this wall so important to Jerusalem, and can we draw any parallels between their wall and the United States’ determination to build a wall today?

When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 1:4  NLT

As you well know, there has been a lot of outcry in the U.S. regarding the building of a wall along our borders.  On the one hand, we have people crying, “Build that wall!” while on the other hand, we have people equally outraged crying out against it.  As I was preparing to write this post about illegal immigration from a bibilcal perspective, the Lord placed Nehemiah on my heart.  Therefore, as I share his story with you, we will compare Jerusalem’s need for their wall to be restored, and our own nation’s cry for a wall.

Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”

Then I was terrified, but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”

With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.

Nehemiah 2:1-6  NLT

After much mourning, praying and fasting about the sad state of his homeland and its broken wall, the king of Persia, whom Nehemiah served as a cup-bearer, inquired about his obvious heartache.  Nehemiah then told the king about his concern for Jerusalem, and his brothers and sisters, and the king immediately asked, “Well, how can I help you?”  Obviously Nehemiah had favor with both God and King Artaxerxes.  

The walls of Jerusalem were originally built to protect its inhabitants, including the Judean king, and the holy Temple of God, from the attacks of their enemies.  The walls were built and rebuilt to keep Jerusalem’s enemies out…

After praying to the Lord, Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes to send him to Jerusalem, so that he could rebuild that once great city on a hill, the land of his fathers, and the king agreed to do so, giving Nehemiah a letter to Asaph, the manager of his forest, instructing him to give Nehemiah the lumber he needed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, its gates, the Temple gates, and a house for Nehemiah.  King Artaxerxes also sent letters to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to allow Nehemiah to pass safely through their land so he could rebuild the city of Jerusalem.  The king also sent horsemen and army officers along to protect Nehemiah.  (see Nehemiah 2:7-9).

11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, 12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. 13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. 14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. 15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.

16 The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. 17 But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” 18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.

They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.

Nehemiah 2:11-18  NLT

walls
Rebuilding Jerusalem’s Walls

As I read the response of Jerusalem’s city officials, priests, nobles and members of the administration, I immediately drew a parallel to the response of many of our nation’s citizens cry for Donald Trump to, “Build that wall!”  Like those Jewish refugees from so long ago, our nation’s citizens are weary of the terrorism and hatred that is taking place within and without our nation’s borders.

Please bear with me as I attempt to speak for those United States’ citizens who love our great nation, and who, contrary to the accusations of many more liberal people within the nation, are neither bigoted, racist, hate-filled xenophobes, homophobes, or any of the other epithets aimed at them.  The men and women of this nation, who are crying out for our immigration laws to be obeyed, are simply men and women who care about this nation’s citizens and its children.  Those who want that wall built, do not want it built to keep good, law-abiding immigrants out, but to keep those out, who have no respect for the law.  We have not cried out for new immigration laws, but for those laws that have already been written, to be enforced.  There are some who accuse the people who believe this way of being inhumane.  Some even accuse Christians of not being “good Christians” because they hold these beliefs.  I disagree.

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

Romans 13:1-5  NLT

According to scripture,  a “good Christian” obeys the law of the land, providing that law does not cause us to disobey God.  Enforcing our nation’s immigration laws does not cause people to disobey God.  Furthermore, I would submit that many, who are promoting sanctuary cities, and encouraging people to disobey federal immigration laws, are not being humane, but anarchists.  Indeed, when we look at the actions of those who accused President Trump of being a demagogue, who stirred up violence in his campaign, we soon discover that it is many of these people, who are in fact, demagogues.  They have attempted to preempt free speech, by leading violent riots against anyone who does not support their views, on many college campuses across the country.  It is many of these people, rather than the ones supporting adherence to the nation’s immigration laws, who are engaging in anarchy.

anarchy

 [an-er-kee]
noun
1.  a state of society without government or law.
2.  political and social disorder due to the absence of governmental control:

The death of the king was followed by a year of anarchy.
3.  anarchism (def 1).
4.  lack of obedience to an authority; insubordination:

the anarchy of his rebellious teenage years.
5.  confusion and disorder:
               Intellectual and moral anarchy followed his loss of faith.

It was impossible to find the book I was looking for in the anarchy of his bookshelves.

Legal immigrants and refugees have been, and always will be welcome to settle into our country.  However, those enter into our country illegally, already demonstrate a lack of respect for the laws of our land.  It is utterly wrong to reward those who illegally enter this country, demonstrating their contempt for our laws, while other immigrants, who choose to come to this country legally, must wait for years sometimes.  Further, how is it logical or reasonable to expect the taxpayers of this nation to support illegal immigrants with free healthcare, no taxes, food benefits, and other aid, while many legal citizens are often unable to obtain the help they need???

Is it reasonable to welcome people that we know nothing about, people who may be terrorists and criminals, into this nation?  Absolutely not!  Those who claim that welcoming everyone into our land is humane are wrong.  It is not humane to our own citizens, who may become prey to terrorists and criminals, simply because some people wanted to feel good about themselves by letting anyone and everyone enter our country.

Laws are put into place for the good of the citizens of that land.  Immigration laws protect a nation’s citizens.  Look at how quickly  and horribly radical Islamic terrorism has invaded Europe, since those countries within the European Union have no borders.

A border wall between the United States and Mexico, another nation, is not the same as the Berlin wall, which separated brothers and sisters from the same country (indeed the same city!).  Just as Jerusalem’s walls were necessary and approved of by God, to protect Judea’s sovereignty, so too, is it necessary to protect the sovereignty of the U.S.A., and if that means building a wall, I feel certain the Lord would approve.


Footnotes:

© 2017
Cheryl A. Showers

What Would You Give for the Pearl of Great Value? Part 1

44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!”

Matthew 13:44-46  NLT

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure, like a pearl of great value…  Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, Son of Man, King of kings and Lord of Lords, is the Treasure; He is that Pearl of great value!  Now, when the merchant and the man discovered this great Treasure, (Jesus), what did they do?  They sold everything they owned, so they could get that treasure.  There was nothing more important to them than getting that Treasure, the Pearl of great value.  Likewise, nothing should be more important to us than Jesus, our Pearl of great value…

23 Then He said to the crowd, If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow Me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in His glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. 27 I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:23-27  NLT

These words of Jesus are offensive to most people, including we, who call ourselves Christians.  Instead of trying to follow Jesus on our own terms, we must do as He says…

23 Jesus replied, All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make Our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love Me will not obey Me. And remember, My words are not My own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent Me.

John 14:23-24  NLT

Do you love Jesus?  If you do, you will obey Him.  If you don’t obey Him, then you don’t love Him.  Do my words sound harsh?  They’re not my words.  Jesus said they’re not even His own words, but those of His Father. 

Before you take offense at what I’ve written, I should let you know that it’s taken me almost a week to write about this Pearl of great value, because I’ve had to deal with the fact that I haven’t been treating Jesus like the Treasure He is, for far too long…

Father, please forgive me for giving up on You.  Forgive me for doubting, Lord, help my unbelief!  Please forgive me for ignoring You, Lord, my Pearl of great value.  Forgive me, Lord, for trying to live on my own terms, and for refusing to carry my cross daily, following You.  Forgive me, my Lord, for trying to hang on to my life as I wanted it to be, instead of giving it up for Your will, instead.  Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love.  According to the greatness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions, and cleanse me from my sins.  Against You, and You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are just when You speak, and blameless when You judge…

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit away from me.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.  Then, I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You!

As we study this parable about the treasure and the pearl of great value, the story of the rich young man immediately came to my mind.  Do you remember how the young man questioned Jesus about how to obtain eternal life?

17 As Jesus was starting out on His way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to Him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Mark 10:17-22  NLT

This man seemed to do everything right.  He obeyed all of God’s commands, but when he stood before (Jesus) the Pearl of great value, he failed to recognize His worth.  Although he was willing to obey God’s law, he was unwilling to give up his earthly treasures, unlike the merchant and the man, who discovered the buried Treasure and the Pearl of great value.  Jesus, who felt genuine love for this man, even tried to make everything clear to him, saying that if he sold everything, he would have Treasure in heaven, but the man failed to recognize the Treasure (Jesus) speaking to him… and so, with a sad look on his face, the man walked away from the greatest Treasure he could ever hope for, because he already had so many possessions that he couldn’t bear to part from…

23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

Mark 10:23-27  NLT

Hear me now…  People throughout the world are seeing Jesus’ miracles, signs and wonders, even in this day and age, while here in the United States, we see few, if any.  Do you wonder why this is?  It is because we already have so many treasures of our own, that we don’t hunger or thirst for that Pearl of great value.  Even the poor of this nation, (and I am counted among the poor) are not truly poor in comparison to the rest of the world…

You see, though I have very little money to live on each month, it is still more than others around the world have…  I still have plenty of food to eat…  I have a car (it’s old, but it’s paid for, and it runs)…  I have a computer…  I have medical care when needed…  Do you see?  In this nation that I love, I lack for nothing that I need, and I praise God for that.

Yet, this fact remains.  My poverty is not poverty as the world knows it.  Because all of my needs were met when I was able to work, and now they are met by the government, to whom do I run, first, when another need arises?  Who am I depending on?  When my back pain became unbearable, did I turn to Jesus first?  Or did I turn to the doctor?  When the doctors could offer me no help for the pain, and offered instead, a very risky surgery that could do more harm than good, was I angry with the doctors?  Or did I get angry with Jesus, that Pearl of great value, who still hasn’t healed me in the last four or five years? 

Until right now, I haven’t even admitted this to myself.  I stopped asking Jesus to heal me, because I didn’t want to be disappointed if He didn’t.  So, I became more and more depressed, for the last four years, and my faith began to shrink.  I just gave up on the great Treasure.  Now, instead of praying regularly, I seldom bothered to talk to Him.  Instead of enjoying His presence, I wallowed in my pain.  Unlike Job, when I lost my health, I also lost much of my faith… much of it, but not all of it. 

For the God who saved me many years ago, remained faithful to me, in spite of my unfaithfulness.  Though I had lost hope in Him, in His great mercy, He restored my hope.  Then, as I began this study, about the great Treasure, I was convicted, because I have neglected this Pearl of great value.  How could I write about this great Treasure, when I have failed to fully appreciate His value?

For almost a week, I watched TV, played video games, and did what I could, to ignore this study.  I didn’t want to think about it.  I didn’t want to deal with the fact that I had not treated Jesus as the great and wonderful Treasure that He is.  Then, yesterday, as I tried to nap, I heard a still small voice whispering to my spirit, and reminding me of other times when He’s healed me.  In 2004, I had a hyperactive thyroid that was so bad, the doctor was talking about doing a procedure to burn out my thyroid gland.  I was taking blood pressure medicine, and still my blood pressure was through the roof.  I shook with tremors constantly.  My heart rate was super high, and I suffered many other symptoms because of it, but I remember praying for God to heal me one night at church, and He did!  To this day, my thyroid is normal, and so is my blood pressure, heart rate, etc.  

As I thought of how the Lord has healed me in the past, I felt His presence strongly, and felt as though He was saying, “Trust Me. Ask Me to help you, and believe that I can and I will do it for you.”  I had stopped asking Him to heal my back several years ago, after living with the pain for more than a year, because I couldn’t bear the thought of asking Him for this, and being disappointed.  Instead, I chose to live with no hope, and without hope, there is only disappointment…  

Then I began to wonder,  “What if I’m the one who keeps derailing me?  What if God is ready to heal me, but I keep giving up on Him, before He can act?  What if He chooses not to heal my back?  Does this in any way devalue Him?  Is He not still, the great Treasure?  Isn’t He still the Pearl of great value?”

There is much more to this study, but for today, I leave you with this thought…  Is Jesus your great Treasure?  Is He your Pearl of great value?  Or do you, like I have done, treat Him as something of much lesser value?

© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers

Sowing Seeds Begins With Prayer

Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. A large crowd soon gathered around Him, so He got into a boat. Then He sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

Matthew 13:1-9  NLT

When Jesus walked the earth, fulfilling the Law and the prophets, He was here to seek and save those who were lost.  Yet, He knew that He would soon be leaving the earth, and He needed to prepare His disciples to continue His ministry, when He was gone.  Of course, He knew that we would have His Holy Spirit living within us, but there were still many things He needed to teach us about ministry.  Therefore, He shared this parable with the people.

Later, after He explained why He spoke in parables to His disciples, (see Why Parables) He explained the meaning  of this parable…

Birds ate seeds

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.

Matthew 13:18-19  NLT

Have you ever tried to share the love of Christ with someone, and he/she just doesn’t get it?  Even though the reality of Him is so real and so clear, this person simply can’t grasp what you’re saying.  This has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence.  I’ve known people who have read the bible from cover to cover, without ever hearing it speak to them.  It often seems like the most logical people believe in the most illogical things.  They’re more willing to believe in “coincidence”, rather than God’s answer to someone’s specific prayer.  Or, they might believe in some unproved theory, such as evolution or a cosmic disaster from which life evolved, rather than seeing the evidence of God’s creative design.

The reason for the disbelief of many of these people is found in Matthew 13:18-19  NLT.  Though they have heard the word of God, before it reached their hearts, the evil one came and snatched it away.  It doesn’t matter how much knowledge a person has, if the word of God never reaches his/her heart.  Therefore, don’t be discouraged when you meet someone like this, because you now know how to pray for him/her.  Pray that God’s word would reach this person’s heart, and that its roots would grow deep…

rocky gound

20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.

Matthew 13:20-21  NLT

When I ministered in prison, I can still remember how mightily the Lord would work on the hearts of the women.  I remember one woman, in particular, who was so on fire for the Lord, and when she was released, she asked me to come to her home and pray for her, her new home, and her children, which I gladly did.  I took her to church with me, and she wept through the whole service.  She was so thankful to God for setting her free, and so was I, but, within a month, she was using crack again, and prostituting herself.  She ended up going to another prison.  It broke my heart.  I continued to pray for her for several years after this (I still pray for her, whenever I think of her, like now), and I visited her at the other prison, and again, after she was released from that prison.  The last I heard, she was living with a man that she wasn’t married to, but she was no longer using drugs.  Still, sadly, she also wasn’t walking with the Lord.  Oh, she knew the Christian lingo, but the fruit she bore, told another story.

I was really discouraged by this, and yet, it’s clear to me now, that she represented the rocky soil spoken of in Matthew 13:20-21  NLTFather, I pray, in Jesus’ name that You would break the rocky soil of my friend’s heart, until it is no longer hardened against Your word.  And I pray, Lord, that You would once again sow the seed of Your word into her heart, so that those seeds would take root, and those roots would grow deep into her heart.  Let faith grow strong within her, and rekindle the love and the joy she once felt for You, in Jesus’ name.

thorns

22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.

Matthew 13:22  NLT

Have you ever met someone who worries about everything, all the time?  As I read Matthew 13:22  NLT, my heart goes out to someone that I love dearly, and I’m moved to pray for this beloved person, for whom I haven’t known how to pray.  In all honesty, I simply get so frustrated with this loved one, that I don’t even bother to pray.  Father, forgive me for my impatience, and please touch the heart of this loved one, and remove the thorns of worry and anxiety that plague him/her constantly.  Lord, just as You sent Your word and healed many others, I ask You to send Your word to my loved one, after the thorns are removed, and heal him/her, in Jesus’ name.

fertile soil

23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Matthew 13:23  NLT

Of course, everyone wants to minister to someone who will truly hear and understand God’s word, but having lived with farmers for the last thirty-five years, I’ve learned a few things about soil.  Did you know that not all soil is good for planting?  Most times, soil has to be worked, fertilized and prepared for planting.  Then, once it’s been planted, it needs to be weeded and tended.  Knowing this, isn’t it just possible, that Jesus told this parable to the disciples (and to us too!), so they wouldn’t just give up on people? 

Perhaps, we need to begin praying for God to work the soil of the hearts of those we love and minister to, so they will be prepared to receive the word of God, when it is planted…

© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers

Why Parables???

I love the parables of Jesus.  They give me something to ponder and pray about.  My prayer is that my ears would not simply hear the words, but that I will listen to His words, heed them, and understand them.  Father, open my ears, that I may hear.  Open my eyes, that I may see, and open my heart and mind, so that I may understand Your words and live in obedience to them.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Jesus often spoke to people in parables, and His disciples asked Him why He did this…

10 His disciples came and asked Him, “Why do You use parables when You talk to the people?”

11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables,

For they look, but they don’t really see.
    They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.

14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,

‘When you hear what I say,
    you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
    you will not comprehend.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
    so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to Me
    and let Me heal them.’

16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

Matthew 13:10-17  NLT

These words sound harsh to many, but they give me hope.  Have you ever tried to share the truth of the gospel to someone, and no matter how clear it is to you, they just don’t get it?  Indeed, they don’t even want to hear about this Jesus, who has captured your heart.  Have you ever walked away from a situation like this, feeling like a failure?  I have…

Yet, perhaps the failure wasn’t mine.  Perhaps, in His great wisdom, this was part of the lesson that Jesus gave His disciples (that includes all of His followers), so that they would continue in the work that He gave them, even when they felt as though they had failed.  I have shared the gospel with friends, family, people I love, and with enemies, sometimes, with great success.  Other times, I’ve faced abysmal failure, which left me feeling ill-equipped and unworthy of sharing this Good News.

Yet, as I read these words of Jesus, my heart wonders, “Is it possible that they heard, but they didn’t listen?  Could they have seen, and yet not seen?”  Again, I am reminded of something else Jesus spoke to His disciples…

44 For no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them to Me, and at the last day I will raise them up.

John 6:44  NLT

When I think of the prophets of long ago, crying out for the people of God to repent, they weren’t welcomed with open arms and open hearts.  No, they were mocked, scorned and ridiculed, at best.  Many were even assaulted, and murdered for sharing God’s Good News.  Many were killed by the religious leaders of their day. 

So, why is it, that I expect things to be easier for me?  Why is it, that I expect the church to embrace me in love, when I don’t have any words that will tickle their ears?  Though I speak the truth in love, most still don’t want to hear it. 

15 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
    so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to Me
    and let Me heal them.’

Matthew 13:15  NLT

Still, we must continue to speak the truth in love, and proclaim the good news whenever we are given the opportunity…

1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when He comes to set up His Kingdom: Preach (proclaim) the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

2 Timothy 4:1-5  NLT

Beloved, Jesus commanded all of us to go and make disciples of all nations.  Every man, woman and child, who comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ has been given the honor and the privilege of sharing the Gospel with those we come into contact with.  Therefore, let us not be discouraged when it seems that no one is listening, or that no one really cares.  It is our joy and honor to speak the truth in love, and trust the Father to draw whomever He will to Jesus.  It is also our privilege to call upon the Lord to open the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of those with whom we share the Gospel, and let Him reap the results.

I ministered in prison for ten years, and during that time, I saw many of the same women leave and return to prison again and again.  Sometimes, I was certain they had finally seen the light, only to watch in sorrow, as they returned to prison again and again.  Yet, I don’t believe my time there was wasted, because I only know what the Lord led me to speak and do.  I don’t know who really listened and understood in their heart, but God does.  My time wasn’t wasted, because I obeyed Him, and I drew closer to Him, as He filled my heart with love for the women I ministered to.  We may never see all of the results of our labor, before our time in this life is finished, but let us be like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of the prophets who have gone before us…

1All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:13-16  NLT

Father, I pray that You would continue to give us, Your children, eyes to see and ears to hear You.  Give us hearts that are willing to obey You and walk humbly with You, O Lord.  Show us Your ways, and let us not look to the right or to the left, but help us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on You. 

Please help us not to be discouraged by what seems like failure to us.  Instead, give us a willing spirit to speak Your word in and out of season, no matter whether it is received by others or not.  And when our work here is finished, Father, let us be able to join Paul in saying…

Finished the Race - 1

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing.

2  Timothy 4:7-8  NLT

© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers

Heart of Worship

Heart of Worship

The following post showed up on my daughter’s Facebook news feed the other day, and led to great discussion, and deep pondering:

“What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for His people to come together?”
—David Platt

“Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name.”
—Tozer

What if there was no stage?  Why does there have to be a stage in ministry?  Aren’t we supposed to be one in Christ?

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26-29  NKJV

Jesus didn’t need to stand on a stage.  He ministered wherever He went, and people listened, because they were hungry for the truth.  He didn’t need an opening band to warm the crowd up.  He warmed them with His love.  Jesus ministered, not only on the temple steps, but in the streets, at funerals, wherever He went.

He didn’t preach nice ear-tickling sermons.  He wasn’t politically correct.  Indeed, society’s leaders hated Him, because He cried out against sin and injustice, and He spoke words that were contrary to their belief system.  He offered them nothing of this world,  and yet, people were drawn to Him anyway…

43 But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. 44 For no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them to Me, and at the last day I will raise them up…”
— John 6:43-44  NLT
— Read John 6:20-70

Jesus didn’t depend on a contemporary worship service, or a charismatic speaker to draw the people to Him.  He knew that only One could draw mankind to Him, and that was His Father.  What makes us think, that with our many “programs” today, we can draw people to Jesus?  Only God can do that, and while we may draw many people to our mega-churches or our mini-churches, we aren’t called to make church members of all nations, tribes and tongues.

We are called to make disciples (followers of Christ) of all nations, but how can we do this, if we are so focused on our various programs that we’ve lost sight of the only One who can draw people to Him?  How can we make disciples of all nations, when we are busy building bigger and better churches?  Didn’t Jesus command us to GO and make disciples of all nations?  We can’t do that within the four walls of the church.  We must go into the world, speaking the truth in love, as we follow God’s Holy Spirit, and allow our Father to draw men to Christ.

Yes, we must join one another in prayer, and disciple others, so that they, too, can go into the world, allowing God to minister through them, and draw still more to Christ.  Entertainment is not necessary.  Yes, it’s great to sing praises to the Lord.  Scriptures command us to do so, but it is for His glory, not our own.  It is to bless Him, not ourselves.  We are called to worship Him, not to entertain ourselves.

Is it any wonder that more people are not drawn to churches?  Much of what they receive in church, they can receive in the world.  Our churches have become so comfortable with their traditions, and programs, that they no longer have room for the gospel of truth.

What if we went to church one Sunday, and there was no music or band playing?  What if we went to church one Sunday, and there was no one on a stage?  What if we went to church one Sunday, and the only words spoken were the words of God?  What if we went to church and everyone humbled themselves and prayed, and repented of their sins, and sought God’s face?  What if this became the norm?  What if, after humbling themselves, praying and seeking God’s face, men and women left the building, going into the world, and making disciples of all nations…  of this nation???

What if you, and I started this today, within our own home?  Brothers and sisters, the people of this world want something genuine and real.  I want something genuine and real, don’t you?  I want to hear God’s voice, not another man’s voice.  I want to walk in obedience to God’s will, not man’s whim, don’t you?  What if God’s people, those of us, who call ourselves children of the Most High, would humble ourselves and pray and repent, and seek God’s face?  What if we turned from our wicked ways?  Is He not still the same God, who promised to hear from heaven and come down, and heal our land?  If ever a nation needs healing, ours does!

Father, hear our cries, as we stop “doing church as usual.”  Hear us, Lord, as we (I) humble ourselves before you.  Lord, I seek Your holy face, and I turn from all my wicked ways.  Forgive us of our sins, and heal our land.  Lord, draw us closer to Jesus, and draw those who are lost, beginning with the leaders of this country, Father, to Jesus!  Draw our families and our loved ones to Jesus, Lord.  And also draw our enemies to Jesus, Father.  Unite us with one mind, one body, and one Spirit, in Jesus’ name, amen.

© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers