Statement of faith

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

"The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, we must fill our lives with his Word.
- Warren


Monday, March 28, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

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                                                                                                          pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Week of: March 28, 2011
Sharing by: Pam Crawford                            

                                                

ACTS 5:3-4

Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself? The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us, but to God.

SELF-SATISFACTION
What does it look like? Can it be used by Satan to “bait” us into doing something we might not generally consider doing? These were questions I looked at as I recently studied the story of Ananias and Sapphira in the Book of Acts, chapter 5. If you have not yet had the opportunity to read this account, may I suggest you do so before moving on?  Their story has been helpful to me as I continue to work at recognizing when I’m being lured into compromise.

I realize that not everybody is comfortable in hearing about Satan. In fact, I get that some might be of the opinion that I’m giving Satan way too much attention by writing about him and the bait he lays out before us.  And, I am also aware that there are some who believe that they are so well protected by God, that Satan can’t touch them. With all due respect, we are all entitled to our own opinion, however I would ask that we set aside our opinions to look at the words of the Apostle Peter and John. They both give us two key warnings.

1 Peter 5:8 - “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.” (LASB)

John 10:10 - “The thief’s purpose is to steal, and kill and destroy.”

Peter and John wrote Scripture so that future generations (us) might know the will of God. And, their writings were to educate people regarding God’s enemy the devil. In his article titled Satan, John W. Ritenbaugh of the Berean helps us to get a better understanding of Ananias and Sapphira. We should take note that these were two churchgoers who failed to take Satan into consideration when they decided to listen to a lie. Consequently they ended up paying a hefty price for compromising their integrity.

SATAN
by John Ritenbaugh
“They listened to a lie and were divided, first, from God's church and then from life itself. What did Satan do? He moved them toward self-satisfaction to the point (the actual sin) that they lied to take credit for a greater sacrifice than they actually made.

The sad part of this is that no one asked them to donate the entire sale price of the piece of land. What happened was they committed themselves to it and then undoubtedly began to feel put on. "Hey, Sapphira, that's too much money." Maybe they began to think, "We didn't expect we'd get so much money from the sale of this, and it is too much to donate." They began to think, undoubtedly, of other uses that they could put the money to. "We could buy new clothes. We could improve the house. We could buy another piece of land as an investment and make even more from it."

They had apparently already told those who were in charge of the collection that they would contribute the entire amount of the sale, and when the time came to give the contribution, they gave only a part of it but let on as if it was the entire sale price. They kept the difference for themselves.

Who led them to dare to lie? Satan has a modus operandi. He will always move us in the direction of self-satisfaction at the expense of obedience to God, service to God, or service to others, so that we elevate ourselves over the others.

Is that not what Satan did originally? In his own mind, his vanity elevated him higher than the position God had given to him, and it then began to work on his mind so that he had to do something about it. This process repeats itself over and over again.”

Ananias and Sapphira are not alone. We too face the challenge on a regular basis to remain faithful to the standards of Christian living. If Satan can get us to believe that God is withholding something good from us, he has successfully laid the bait. Deception can worm its way in at any moment and that’s why we’re told to be on guard. Don’t take my word for it, just look around our world today. Our divorce rate, conflict within families, financial destruction, and the many addictions people fall prey to on a daily basis are a clear indication that we have fallen for the lies. For a believer, self-satisfaction will tempt us to pick up the bait of compromise, so let’s continue to be aware of our surroundings.

Today’s prayer:
Lord, thank you for the reminder that if we don’t have something, it’s not because You desire to keep something good from us. You knew what was best in the Garden of Eden and Father you still know what is best for us today. May we acknowledge that the big picture belongs only to You? Help us to reject the bait of self-satisfaction and compromise when it rears its ugly head. May we rest in the satisfaction and contentment that is found in You. Thank you for warning us when danger is near. May we have eyes and ears to recognize it?  In Your son’s name we pray.  Amen

Additional Scripture:  Genesis 3

Book Suggestion: The Bait of Satan by John Bevere

“Satan will use something that seems right at the moment, but his ultimate plan is to use that to our own destruction or death. When we are settled in trusting God, we are not moved from the Father’s care. We will not succumb to the temptation to care for ourselves.”
- Bevere







Monday, March 21, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

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                                                                                                         pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Week of: March 21, 2011
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

                                            James 1:23
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently in to the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” (NIV)

SHIFTING FOCUS

Last week I touched on the importance of understanding that in Christ, we have a beautiful, sound mind. When we fully understand that we have a power source when we’re connected with God’s Spirit, we no longer have to fall prey to the enemies attempts at making us feel as if we’ve lost it.  We also looked at some of Satan’s strategies to gain access into our mind in order to destroy it. And, we talked about the importance of being able to recognize the deceitful lies. If you were unable to read that devotion, I encourage you to do so before we move on to another strategy of the enemy – self focus.

Have you ever asked the question “what’s wrong with me?” I certainly have. This usually happens when we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves against someone or something else. Before you know it, you’re swimming in a pool of dissatisfaction and your focus turns to how you can get the thing you feel you don’t have. It becomes all about you. For some it’s the desire to be prettier, more popular, have a better body, or have a hot partner on the arm that keeps the focus. For others it’s the need for prestige, a bigger house, more money, a career, or a hobby that gives a sense of value that ignites the focus. The list goes on and on. I know many people including myself who have fallen into the “it’s all about me” mentality without even realizing it. With all due respect, we might very well have it all wrong. When we fall into the trap of being self-focused, we often take the bait of jealousy, envy and bitterness. 

May I ask a few questions? What if you were willing to accept that self-promotion, self-preservation and self-centeredness is not the will of God? What if you came to the place where you understood that the task at hand is to get right with God? What if you understood that being right with God leads to a greater confidence about whom He created you to be. What if you stopped comparing yourself and began celebrating what you could become as a child of The Most High. What if you stopped seeking mans approval?

God used a little book titled It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado to bring these questions alive in me.  In his book Max Lucado “turns the greatest lie we’ve believed on its head – and sets our sights on a different goal.” Let’s listen together to the words that I first read when I opened the jacket of this book. Thank You Lord that your voice can be heard through the words of others.

It’s Not About Me
What would change if we finally found our place – and lived it? For our entire lives we’ve been urged to look out for number one. To find our place in the sun and soak it for all it’s worth. To make a name for ourselves as if we are the headliners in life’s drama. But what happens when the sweet life we imagined proves to be sour? When our expensive toys break and our work is no longer needed and our bodies grow soft?

What’s next when all our efforts to take care of number one leave us feeling unsatisfied and the thrills we were promised turn up empty? What would happen if we all took our place and played our parts? If we started living like “Son” reflectors rather than individual stars and suns? If every person’s priority became a divine pursuit, not a performance?” – Lucado

Well, what would this look like in your life? For me it’s been the pursuit of learning how to apply the truth found in God’s Word. By discovering on my own what God says about me, I now have what I need to battle Satan when he attempts to feed me his lies. God has taught me who I am as His child (Psalm 139) and He has gifted me with love, forgiveness and grace (John 3:16). Now it’s my turn to figure out how I extend this outward. I’m currently working on the “Love for Enemies” passage found in Matthew 5:43-48. I’ll have to let you know how that’s all working out someday.

When we allow God to change us from the inside out, our focus will begin to change and we will be able to do things we never thought possible. Many of us are still in need of open-heart surgery.  I am personally still on the operating table; and I imagine God has more repairs scheduled for me. I do hope He continues to use the good anesthetic.

As I have been recovering and working through the sanctification process, I take time to write these devotions. I write them not only for others, but also as a means to reflect on what God has accomplished in my own life thus far. If you have read any of my writings, I do hope I have conveyed my sincere gratitude towards my Savior. If God continues to give me the inspiration for this type of kingdom work, I pray to effectively share His transforming power. By getting our focus on God, and by choosing to obey what He teaches in His Word, we can break free from the enemy’s grip. We don’t have to live according to what we have believed any longer. God is willing to renew our mind and I encourage you to allow Him to do just that.

May I end today by reminding each of you that you have value? You matter to God. He created you, and He sees you as being wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Friends, I encourage you to begin seeing yourself just as God sees you. He sent His One and Only Son to set you free (John 3:16). If you haven’t yet let Him in, please don’t wait another day. Tell God you desire to shift your focus off of yourself. Ask Him to come into your life. Repent of your sins so that you can begin enjoying the life Jesus died for you to have. God will receive you just the way you are and He’ll make you into the person that He created you to be. For those of you that have already taken this step, let’s pray together to welcome new members into the family.

Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Sanctification: To make holy, free from sin and purify.
Repentance:  A change of thought to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness.

     “When we come to the end of our self, we find the shelter of The Most High.”
                                                                     – James Robison

































Monday, March 14, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

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                                                                                      pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Week of: March 14, 2011
Sharing by: Pam Crawford

                                               2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

                                               Romans 8:6     
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

SOUND MIND – BEAUTIFUL MIND
“I think I’m losing my mind!” Have you ever thought it? Have you ever said it out loud? Many of us feel exactly that when we’re overwhelmed by life’s challenges. As someone who has battled different levels of depression; there were times when I have to tell you that I began to doubt my sanity. With all the hormonal ups and downs in my late twenties and early thirties, I often felt like I was going to come out of my skin. I had absolutely no idea what was happening to me. The health care professionals directed me to counseling, rest and medication to take the edge off. Unfortunately, we never really discussed the possibility of an intruder. Now stick with me here.

If you have read God’s Word then you understand that there is a thief that desires to set up shop in our mind, and he often strikes during the different seasons of life. It will be important however to understand that if he can get us to think negative, destructive thoughts, he’s on his way to fulfilling his purpose of destroying us (John 10:10). When we’re not feeling well, are exhausted, disappointed, offended or hurt, we become a prime target. I would encourage you to take good care of yourself and pay attention when you find yourself in this place. 

The thoughts that I allowed to take root back in my thirties almost did me in, and I do not desire to go back there. I can’t imagine what shape I would be in today if I had not discovered what I desire to share with you today. Freedom comes when we grasp that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” If you’re still with me, let’s hone in on the words “sound mind.”

Beth Moore in her series titled “A Beautiful Mind” shares the importance of:
  •  Reclaiming our right in Christ to be a free, healthy and a whole person.
  •  Replacing your spirit of fear with the Spirit of Christ.
  •  Renewing your mind by loving on the Word of God.
I wholeheartedly agree with Beth’s teaching and I highly recommend the series. The key for me in this teaching was discovering that it is the Word of God that provides constant stability. When we learn how to arm ourselves with God’s truth, we can quickly learn to recognize the deceitful lies that the enemy desires to implant in the mind. 

If I could say anything to my young readers at this point, I would echo Joyce Meyer’s words from her book Power Thoughts. She writes, “Your mind can be a junkyard or a treasure chest. You can make it one or the other by deciding whether you will think thoughts that are negative, cheap, common and low or thoughts that are positive, pure, honorable, and valuable in God’s eyes. You can think “power-enhancing thoughts or “power-draining thoughts.” Although we might not always physically feel all that great, our mind can be healthy because God gave us a sound one. Joyce goes onto to say in her book, “Satan, who is the enemy of your soul, will try to control your life by controlling your thoughts (Romans 8:23). Sadly a great deal of our thinking is instigated by the way we have been raised, the world around us, and evil forces at work in the world today, but the truth makes us free. You can learn brand-new ways to think that will change you and your life forever.”

So how can we determine to battle the enemy effectively when he comes after us? First we have to recognize the tactics of this intruder. If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ you can count on the devil’s visit, but you need not fear it. He will generally wait for you to be at a vulnerable place in your life and then he’ll attempt to worm his way in. The good news is that we don’t have to let him in. We can put up the “not welcome” sign. Before I give you some specific thoughts as to how he worms his way in, I would ask for a prayer of protection as I share this devotion. I’m confident that he does not want me to press the send button on this one. You see, not only does Satan hit us when we’re vulnerable, he also chooses to come after us when we’re exhibiting strength for God. Although I am not fearful, I understand the importance of standing guard.

The following are just a few examples of how Satan prefers to enter the mind. Sometimes it can be a very subtle entrance, but generally he prefers to bombard us with feelings of shame and condemnation. At other times, it might be that he gets us to wallow in self-pity or feelings of insecurity or inferiority. He also likes to use rejection and betrayal to get our heads spinning. Sometimes he’ll just use our stubbornness and human pride to gain entrance. It will be in these times that we would be wise to remember one Biblical truth: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, KJV). 

Believers, by the authority we have in Christ we can claim Romans 8. There we find life and a sound mind with the help of the Holy Spirit. God may choose to convict us of sin in order to get us back on the right track, or to show us the error of our way; but never does He use condemnation. That is a tactic of the enemy. God wants to instruct us, not crush us.

I don’t know about you, but I am so grateful that the God of the Bible declares us “not guilty.” I celebrate that God has offered us freedom from sin and that He gives us the power to do His will. So when Satan tries to sell us his big fat lies, we can simply remind him that we belong to Christ and that he’s messing with the wrong person! Feel free to also remind him with your beautiful, sound mind, that God has made you privy to the end of the story. As I recall it, it goes something like this; God wins, and Satan loses! (Revelation 3:20)

Additional Scripture reading:  John 3:6, Acts 1:1-4, 5:1-5.

    “A Christian is anyone who has the Spirit of God living in him or her.”
                                                                              - LASB


Monday, March 7, 2011

Quiet-Time Reflections

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                                                                                                               pmcrawford1@gmail.com
Week of: March 7, 2011
Sharing by:  Pam Crawford

                                              Isaiah 40:17
I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him.

THE MISSING PIECE
Over this past year, I have often heard it said that I was going to have to “wait upon the Lord” in a circumstance that has oftentimes taken the wind out of my sails. I imagine that there is someone else out there today that is also waiting upon God in prayer. It is quite possible that you may very well be experiencing bouts of frustration, anxiety and anger because you are not seeing resolve in your situation. Unfortunately, because we are not privy to seeing the big picture, we can fall prey to doubt and fear if we’re not careful.

So much of what has happened over this past year has exasperated me at times. Satan has made a direct hit on my heart and it’s been a very painful process of learning the importance of this word “wait.”  Some of you have also taken direct hits on your heart. It may have come in the form of health issues, financial troubles, or relational disappointments. When these things happen, it hurts and there is no other way to describe it.

If you are a Christian then you understand that nothing happens in this life without God’s knowledge. My situation was no surprise to God and either is yours. Unfortunately, the unknown can cripple us if we don’t know the One who is in control of it all. If you need a reminder of God’s sovereignty just reread the story of Job found in the Old Testament.  Although God allowed Satan access to Job, He controlled his every move. God is always at work behind the scenes, but it will be important that we understand our responsibility as part of the restoration team.   

When we are told to wait on God, we often get the impression that we are to stop doing something. God insisted this year that I look at the word “wait” in the spiritual realm of my situation. I believe what I have learned might be helpful to someone else out there who has simply stepped aside and is now feeling hopeless in their situation.  It does not have to be this way.  It is true; God does sometimes ask us to step aside so that He can get through in order to begin His work.  However, it would be foolish for us to think that we are off the hook while he does all the work. On the contrary, God expects us to be an active team participant in His plan.  He could certainly fulfill His purpose without us, but that’s not usually how the God of the Bible works. It might be that He simply assigns you the task of learning how to become an effective prayer warrior.

Have ever tacked one of those 1000 piece puzzles?  If you have, then you know it takes a lot of time, patience and a spirit of endurance to finally see your work completed. It’s not until you get that last puzzle piece to fit, that you can breathe a sigh of relief. Puzzles are challenging projects. I have on occasion experienced an overwhelming frustration when I have gotten near to the end and there is a piece missing. Anyone? You just want to scream, but what good would it do? The puzzle would still remain unfinished and what a waste of all your effort.  Instead, you have to either look for the missing piece, which is usually on the floor or under the table covering, or you contact the puzzle creator to order the missing piece.  What I want you to hear through this example is that there is a way to see beauty arise from an unfinished puzzle. You don’t have to break it all apart and give up, and the same applies to the circumstance you may be in today.

A year later, the puzzle I have set before me still appears to resemble an unfinished mess. But, when I look at the situation through God’s lenses, I see that He has been quite busy behind the scenes, which therefore gives me a renewed sense of hope. I have no idea how long it will take, but I’m going to hang in there, I have to, someone needs me too. 

God might not give us all the pieces to the puzzle at once, but we can be sure that He has them all in His capable hands. Eventually, in God’s perfect timing, He will bring forth His desired masterpiece. One thing I can tell you for sure is that prayer activates the process. So, how do you pray? This is definitely something I have had to look at in my own life. Are you praying with confidence, or are you simply muttering words? One might also ask, is there anything standing in the way of receiving the blessing of answered prayer? The answer to this is, there just might be.  Sometimes we have unconfessed sin, a hardened heart, or a spirit of unforgiveness blocking the way of a blessing.  Please listen carefully to these words from the gospel of Mark.

Mark 11:23-25: “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Life’s Application Commentary:                                                                                                            It would seem impossible to move a mountain into the sea, so Jesus used that illustration to show that God can do the impossible. God will answer your prayers but not as a result of your positive mental attitude. Other conditions must be met: (1) You must be a believer; (2) you must not hold a grudge against another person; (3) you must not pray with selfish motives; (4) your request must be for the good of God’s Kingdom. To pray effectively, you need faith in God, not faith in the object of your request. If you focus daily on your request, you will be left with nothing if your request is refused. Our prayers are often motivated by our own interests and desires. We like to hear that we can have anything. But Jesus prayer with God’s interests in mind (Mark 14:36). When we pray we can express our desires, but we should want his will above ours.

Today’s prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for hearing our prayers. Help us to learn how to wait patiently as you not only work in our situation, but you work to correct things within us. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear the things you desire to reveal from our lives that might be hindering answered prayer? Forgive us our sins Lord and lead us to a place of true understanding. In Jesus’ precious name we lift up our prayers and we trust that your will be done.  Amen.

Additional Scripture Reading:  Psalm 66:18-19, Matthew 6:6-13, Jeremiah 33:2-3, Philippians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:8, Hebrews 4:15-16, James 5:16, 1 John 5:14-15.