Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Happy Birthday!"

I recently celebrated a birthday and after finishing my devotional and prayer time, I sat in silence waiting upon the Lord. After a few minutes I asked the Lord for a word of encouragement for the day. His response to my heart was "Happy Birthday!" Needless to say this was not what I was expecting. I began to wonder, Happy Birthday? What was this all about? As I began to meditate on this curious response, the Lord impressed upon my heart the significance of my birth and birth in general. We are all familiar with the traditional events that take place on any birthday including the parties, cake, ice cream, and presents. But what about the spiritual significance of our birthday? The Lord who is the Creator of all life places a high value upon His creation and that includes you and me. Many of the clients I have counseled often struggle with their significance and worth. I will tell them that their value begins and ends with God. They cannot obtain their worth from what they do, what they own, or what others think about them. The mere fact that they exist speaks to their value. God is never forced to create anything or any one but does so out of His desire and love. Birth to God is so significant that it is emphasized throughout the Scriptures. The very first book of the Old Testament, "Genesis" is derived from a Greek word, geneseos, which depending on its context can mean "birth." We see a number of significant births in the Old Testament such as Isaac, the son of promise who was conceived when Abraham and Sarah were well advanced in age. (Genesis 21) There was Moses whose birth came about under very dangerous circumstances but who was later called by God to lead the people of Israel out of bondage from Egypt. (Genesis 2-12)  Samuel was born after the perseverance of a praying mother, Hannah, to whom God extended His grace and blessing. (1 Samuel 1) Esther when confronted with the choice of risking her life and going to the king or allowing the Jews to be annihilated, took the risk, resting on her uncle Mordecai's words, "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14) In other words, Esther was "born" for that moment. We continue to follow the succession of births and are ultimately led into the New Testament. There we see the significance of the birth of John the Baptist who prepared the way for the Messiah (Luke 1) and the most significant birth of all, Jesus Christ. (Luke 1) When Jesus was born heaven itself celebrated, so much so that this "good news" had to be shared with humanity. (Luke 2) Unfortunately there are certain groups who forbid the celebration of birthdays and many of the children of these parents fail to realize how important their birth is to God. So, when your next birthday rolls around, praise the Lord for another year of life and the great gift He has given to you. It's the best birthday present of all!
Happy Birthday!
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Three Little Words

New Year's resolution. Those are three words that can change someone's life. Every New Year, people make a commitment to do something different or introduce some new change into their life. Sadly, the best of intentions quickly fade as it becomes obvious that the individual was not fully invested in their chosen goal. Every year I commit to reading the Bible from beginning to end. There are always new and fresh truths that God has to pour into my spirit. As I was reading once again the story of Abraham, I began meditating on three little words in Genesis chapter 15. God makes a covenant with Abram after Abram fears that his estate will end up in the hands of his servant Eliezer of Damascus since Abram and  his wife Sarai are childless. The Lord reassures Abram that this will not be the case. Then God took Abram outside and said to him, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars---if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." (15:5) I wonder what Abram was thinking at that moment. If God had made some great promise to us, how would we respond? Some of us might be the healthy skeptic, "Yeah, right Lord, that's kind of way out there." Some may have even laughed as Abram's wife did when told she would bear a child in her old age. (Genesis 18:12). Others may have been so overwhelmed that the response might have been, "Whoa Lord, slow down. I can't wrap my mind around this. It's too big!" How did Abram respond? It's the three little words that changed his life, "Abram believed God..(Genesis 15:6a). I had to pause and take in Abram's response. There was no apparent hesitation and no in depth debate or discussion with the Lord. Abram's response was true faith. He knew who his God was and committed his whole heart to the Lord. Abram fully invested himself in the Lord's promise. His response was similar to that of a child. When a parent makes a promise to a child there is an automatic trust and a joy in knowing that what was promised will come to pass. The child knows that this adult is strong enough and powerful enough to follow through on their commitment. And so it is with our God. What He promises will be accomplished. God knew that Abram was committed because even though Abram "messed up" in agreeing with Sarai to engineer the birth of an heir themselves (Genesis Chapter 16) still God kept his promise. The Lord even changed Abram's name to Abraham ("father of many") to set him apart as God's servant. Abraham made a few other mistakes along the way like trying to pass his wife off as his sister (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18) but God remained faithful to His promise. How do we know Abraham was really invested in God's promise, that he believed God? It was Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at the Lord's command. (Genesis Chapter 22). So as I meditate on those three little words, I have to ask myself am I invested in the Lord's promises? Do I simply believe God? New Year's resolutions are easy to make and easy to break if we just pay lip service to our intentions but don't really make the effort to commit ourselves to believing that our goals can be accomplished. I resolve to invest myself this New Year to believing in God's promises come what may. It was not easy for Abraham to follow God's leading but in the depths of his spirit, he knew the One in whom he had invested his whole being. What about you? What are you investing in this New Year? 
Blessings & Peace,
Pastor Sheree