Saturday, July 30, 2016

Give Me Patience

The Bible uses many terms for patience: waiting on, longsuffering, steadfastness, endurance. These words all have slight connotative differences, but they all speak of patience in some form. The Greek word usually translated as patient means to abide under difficult circumstances that you have no control over, while the Greek word for long suffering relates to an emotional quietness in the face of unfavorable circumstances. They both pertain to times when things are difficult for you. These are times when we want a resolution to some problem but God tells us to wait. Most of us want patience, but we want it right now. One woman advises us to be ready when we pray for patience because our child might call shortly and ask us to keep the preschool grandchildren for a week while she attends a conference.  The
Psalmist indicated that we should be patient when we pray. “I waited patiently for God to help me; then he listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the quicksand, and set my feet on a hard, firm path, and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God. Now many will hear of the glorious things he did for me, and stand in awe before the Lord, and put their trust in himPsalm 40:1-3 TLB   When we wait patiently on God, our Lord lifts us out of the sinking sand of the world's approved ways and He gives us a new song of praise.  
Satan traps us by making sin seem innocent and normal just because the whole world celebrates the human right to act independently. Jesus pulled us out of the quicksand of sin and placed us on a rock solid path clothed in His righteousness. When we pray for our kids and grandkids we can take a lesson from the Psalmist. While we pray, we need to wait patiently on God.  People tend to be impatient when praying for the salvation of those they love. One woman prayed for her husband David’s salvation faithfully for many years. David died suddenly of a heart attack.  His wife mourned that her prayers had never been answered. She became angry at God and her faith became weak. A year later, her phone rang and the person on the other end asked to speak to David.  She told him that David had died a year ago that day. He asked her if he could take her to lunch and tell her a story about her husband. She agreed. The man said he gave David a ride to the airport after a convention they attended together the week before he died. On the way, he told the man about Jesus. He prayed in the car and gave his heart to God. The woman’s prayers were answered, even though she was unaware of the answer. We are told to pray with thanksgiving and to trust that God hear our prayers and that He is in control. One of my favorite verses about patience is “Don’t be impatient. Wait for the Lord, and he will come and save you! Be brave, stouthearted, and courageous. Yes, wait and he will help you.” Psalm 27:14
TLB.  When we wait upon God, He  will strengthen our heart and give us courage. Women tend to be emotional beings, and in the Bible, the heart is the seat of the emotions. So God will calm our emotions as he gives us the strength we need.  Once when I was a young mother and going through a difficult week with three preschool boys, one of the verses we studied in church training was this verse from Psalms. It spoke to me then and I committed it to memory. God has brought it to mind many times since then when I was faced with difficult circumstances that were beyond my control. Our next verse tells us why it is important to wait on God. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 TLB   Our Lord God knows the bigger picture of our life.  His plan is to give us a future and a hope that is everlasting.  Have you ever looked at a large wall hanging up close and wondered what the design was, only to stand back and be amazed at the picture that emerges when you can see the whole thing?  According to this verse the result of patience is
HOPE.   The day after we found out that our 16 year-old son was gay, I was wondering around in a fog, not knowing what I should or could do. I walked by a computer. The screen saver on the computer was this verse. Immediately I understood that I couldn’t do anything but wait on God. He had a plan for my son that I didn’t know anything about. I printed the verse and gave it to Caleb. Then I started a prayer vigil that has lasted for 22 years now. He lives in Guadalajara. God has brought us back into his immediate sphere of influence. He and his partner have been to hear Wayne preach at the English Fellowship of Guadalajara three times. Over the years, my patience has waxed and waned. Whenever I tire of waiting and my patience is at a low, God sends someone or something to encourage me. During a woman’s bible study in Chapala, I sat next to a woman named Barbara who told us about how she prayed for her son Jason’s salvation for over 25 years. Just six months before Jason died,  he moved out of a dark place and returned to his church and got baptized. That is just the latest example of God reminding me to be patient.  “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31
TLB .  This verse is translated either as those who hope in the Lord or as those who wait on the Lord, depending on the translation. As we wait upon the Lord and His timing, our strength will be renewed.  Instead of stumbling along on weak legs, as though we have no faith in God, we will soar above our circumstances like Eagles and we will not become weary.  I wrote my first Biblical fiction book, Dinah in the early 1990’s when we were missionaries in Canada. I believed God was leading me to write it. I let several of my friends read it. Then life intervened. I kept my printed copy of the book. Over the years, I let women read it from time to time. I even sent it to a couple of
publishers. I have the rejection letters to prove it. In 1997, we left Canada and moved back to Louisiana. After a couple of years, I went to work for a Newspaper. My editor was lamenting one day that newspapers no longer serialized books as they had in the early days of the nation. I took him a copy of my book and offered to let him serialize it in our small local daily. He and his wife read Dinah. They decided that serializing it would be a good idea. So Dinah was published in a secular newspaper in the Sunday edition. There was a demand for the book in the community, so I self-published it. I put a copy in the local state prison library because one of the readers who wrote to me about the serialized version was incarcerated. When I eventually went to work at that prison, I met the man who had been reading Dinah. Today Dinah is available on Wattpad, a free site on the Internet.   I am praying that God will use my books to reach those He draws near. God had me write the book about 15 years ago and it has not taken any of the traditional avenues that books usually travel. God has the story of Dinah in a second venue where it is possible to reach the backslidden or the unsaved. I’ve definitely been running the race without tiring in my belief that God had me write the book and that he is going to use it. I may not know who was touched by that book or the others that I’ve written until I get to
Heaven.    The scriptures point out numerous situations in which Christians should be patient. We don’t have time to explore them fully, but some of the situations mentioned include in our speech (James 1:19), in our interaction with others (Ephesians 4:2), when we are psychologically wounded and need to offer forgiveness (Colossians 3:13), and when we are tested (James 1:3).  Let me conclude the section on patience with James 5:11: “We consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Job is the example given here of a patient man, one who persevered through truly overwhelming circumstances. Even when he doubted and questioned God, God demonstrated patience, compassion and mercy. As you can probably tell by my examples, this is one fruit that God has been trying for a long time to build into my life. -- This teaching on Patience was written by Andi Cook. Andi is a pastors daughter, a wife of a pastor, and a loving mother of three sons.  Andi also graduated from seminary and has published several books. The next Fruit: Kindness. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Inexplicable Peace

In the Old Testament, the priestly blessing included peace. “May the Lord bless you and keep you, May he make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6: 24- 26   In this context, peace is the absence of anxiety.  Peace seems almost to be a companion to joy.   “May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13  In this verse God tells us how to obtain peace. As we surrender our will and ways, we trust the Holy
Spirit within to fill us with joy and peace.  “You keep him in perfect peace  whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you..” Isaiah 26:3 ESV  By keeping your purpose to honor God firm, and by placing your trust in God and His superior plan for your life, our Lord gives perfect peace and our mind is washed of angst.  “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6 ESV.  We are warned to not set our minds on the flesh lest we stray from His way to our selfish, anxious ways.  Speaking the Word of God out loud, allows God to govern our mind and usher in His peace.  Anxiety seems to be a prevailing malady in our world. Psychiatrists prescribe medication to those overcome with anxiety. Counselors talk with anxious people about the source of their anxiety. Some Christian counselors specialize in dealing with anxiety. When anxiety is the result of a chemical imbalance, pills can help and no one should feel bad about seeking help.   As
humans it helps to have someone with skin on to talk to when you’re feeling anxious. God wants to take away our anxiety. “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7 ESV.  When we feel anxious we are told to pray with thanksgiving to God and His peace will guard our hearts and minds.  Keep a journal of when you prayed with thanksgiving about your concerns.  Keep a running list of answered prayers that you may be reminded of how God responds to your personal anxious thoughts with His peace that surpasses
all human understanding.  “You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am….  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts’ Psalm 139:3-23 TLB When you lack peace, pray this verse to God. When you do, be prepared for God to bring things to mind that you need to surrender to Him. “You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around. “So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important
than what to eat and wear.  Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Will all your worries add a single moment to your life? ...... And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?  “So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one
day at a time.” Matthew 6:24-34 TLB. "Whoever follows Jesus will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life."   John 8:12 --- To have is to possess, and as believing followers of Jesus, we have the Light of life, the Holy Spirit to keep us, guide us and lead us in His ways. --- We as mothers often feel like it is our job to worry about the daily routine of our lives and how things will get accomplished. If it looks like our funds may not meet the needs of our family, we tend to become anxious. THEREFORE God tells us that we cannot serve God and money. He is telling us not to let material needs overpower our trust in God. “I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 TLB.  As we believe in Jesus and trust Him with our future, we can we have inexplicable peace even while the world appears to be going to hell in a hand basket. A teaching by Andi Cook on the Fruit of the Spirit. Andi is a pastors daughter, a wife of a pastor, and a loving mother of three sons.  Andi also graduated from seminary and she has published several books on WATTPAD. Andi is gifted by God to write and you will be blessed by reading her books. COMING SOON is the Fruit of Patience. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Unlimited Joy

What comes to mind when you hear the word joy? The dictionary defines joy as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation. The Greek word translated joy is defined as a state of mind and an orientation of the heart that is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope. This differs from what most people think about when he/she hears the word joy. To have biblical JOY means that you have such a confidence and hope as a result of your relationship with Jesus that you experience contentment no matter what your circumstance. Thus Paul was able to maintain his joy in prison.  He wrote in
Philippians 4:11-12 “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.”  Most of the Psalms were written by King David long before Jesus walked on this earth, yet he claims joy. What on earth could be the source of King David’s joy as he was targeted to be killed? David believed in God and he marveled at all of creation. Today, just like King David, Christians face many hardships, however,  because we know that this life is temporary, we rely on the HOPE that God has given us!  The anchor of confident HOPE for our soul is that our future is with Him eternally in heaven.  Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. Yet even this reluctant man experienced great joy. What gave Jeremiah joy was the word of God. When we struggle to
embrace our reality, God has given us His Word so that we can tap into the ever present joy ‘in’ the Lord.  Your words were found, and I ate them; and Your words were to me a joy and the rejoicing of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16 -- The Source of our joy as a Christian comes from the love of Jesus Christ.  By His grace we are enabled to keep our thoughts and actions in alignment with His Word and His joy is made complete in us!  WOW!  –“  I have loved you, just as the Father has loved Me; abide in My love, continue in His love with Me.  If you keep My commandments; if you continue to obey My instructions,
you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and live on in His love.  I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing.” John 15:9-11 AMP --- Is it easy to lose our joy when we fill our ears with world news? What happens to our level of joy when we fail to take time for a relationship with God?  Does a Christian’s ability to praise God in every situation become weak if they choose to disobey God?   A joyful heart helps healing,   but a broken spirit dries up the bones. “ Proverbs 17:22 CEB --  King Solomon wrote most of the Proverbs. Humbly Solomon asked God for wisdom and God granted him extraordinary knowledge that we get to read, memorize and lodge in our hearts.  Abiding in His word, we find this remarkable wisdom!  That a joyful heart is good for us physically, emotionally and spiritually!  How can a person be joyous in the midst of a trial like Cancer, or losing a loved one? “Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith, through experience, produces
endurance which leads to spiritual maturity, and inner peace.  And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed in your faith, lacking in nothing…” James 1:2-4 AMP – Many mothers sow with tears as they pray for their children.  As a mother, when I talk about the current spiritual state of my children, I shed tears because I am an emotional being. Those tears don’t mean I’ve given up on God redeeming my boys. It means that when I talk to God or other Christians about them, I am sowing tears of hope. “They who sow in tears shall reap with joyful singing.
Psalm 126:5 --- When we grieve, it is entirely possible to experience joy in the process. “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” John 16:20 AMP -- Unbelievers grieve differently because they do not have the HOPE we cling to.   How does Christian grief differ from worldly grief? Barbara Hoyle chronicles her journey with God and whatever spiritual insights God impressed upon her on a post entitled "Good Grief" within this blog.  Her son suddenly died in April of 2016 and Barb  wrote a very insightful article on how she found joy in the midst of her grief over the loss of Jason. “Now we do not want you to be uninformed, believers, about those who are asleep in death, so that you will not grieve for them as the others do who have no hope beyond this present life.” 1 Thessalonians
4:13 -- What should you do when you find joy is missing from your life? Don’t let Satan lie to you like I did when I first found out my sons were straying from their Christian upbringing. He told me that if I couldn’t get my sons to love God, I had no business teaching the Bible or leading in worship through singing. --A teaching by Andi Cook on the Fruit of the Spirit. Andi is a pastors daughter, a wife of a pastor, and a loving mother of three sons.  Andi also graduated from seminary and she has published several books on WATTPAD. Andi is gifted by God to write and you will be blessed by reading her books. COMING SOON is the Fruit of Peace. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The First Fruit of Love

A teaching by Andi Cook, a pastors daughter, a wife of a pastor, and a loving mother of three sons.  Andi also graduated from seminary. Galatians 5: 22-23.  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law." The fruit of the Spirit are listed after God tells us to “walk by the Spirit” as opposed to walking in the flesh. Some of the acts of the flesh listed in verses 19-21 are sexual immorality, selfish ambitions, envy, drunkenness, and outbursts of anger.  "As I told you before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Then God proceeds to tell us what fruit He will build into our lives.  As we mature as Christians, we eagerly welcome His Spirit to have
more sway in our lives. Note that God says "fruit" not fruits.  I believe that they are called fruit because they are inter-dependent and they all grow on one tree. I think of them like a cluster, more like grapes than apples. In this study we will look at the nine fruit of the Spirit. If you read the list and think that you have a long way to go, that’s okay. The only human who ever exhibited all nine fruit to their fullest was Jesus. As we strive to be more like Him, we will begin to recognize this fruit growing in our spiritual lives. As English speakers, we are limited when we talk about love. We have one word for love. We sometimes use love with a qualifier, but most of the time we simply say love. People say “I love pizza. I love my child. I love my teacher.  I love my friends. I love Jesus”  We expect the listener to be able to
figure out exactly what we mean by love in each situation. We do have other words we can use such as like or to be enamored with, but we lump all of those into the general category of love. The ancient Greeks were much more sophisticated when it came to discussing love.  (I may have a seminary degree, but I never took Greek and am not a Greek scholar. However, I will talk about the meanings of Greek words because I can look them up on the Internet or ask my husband, who did take Greek, although it was many moons ago.) The Greeks had at least seven words for love, Eros – sexual love, Phileo – deep friendship, Storge – family love such as that between siblings, Ludus – playful love like that of children or young lovers in the flirting stage of a relationship,  Pragma – a longstanding relationship as in marriage,
 Philautia – love of self, and Agape – a selfless love that is extended to all people. Agape is the love attributed to God and is the word used in the list of fruit. Agape is an unconditional love and it means that we wish the best for everyone. Agape is also the only fruit that is also listed as a spiritual gift. Romans 5:5-8 "This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Knowing that we do not always exhibit unconditional love whereby we always wish the best for everyone, we can ask God and expect the Holy Spirit to develop our sour grapes into a juicy grape of Agape love. 1 John 4:7-12 "Dear friends let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love, does not know God, because God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His
One and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we must love one another.  No one has ever seen God.  If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us." So if you are not loving others unconditionally, do not despair, His love is perfected in us, over time! As we submit and live through Him, His Agape love will be perfected in us by the time Jesus returns.  "Philippians 1:6 "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work 'in' you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  What happens when we choose not to forgive and hold tightly to a grudge against someone that has been unkind, unfaithful, who has broken our trust or hurt us? 
Hebrews 12:15 tells us that without forgiveness, which is a by-product of love, a bitter root can grow up in us and cause us trouble. 1 Corinthians 13:1 "If I speak human or angelic languages but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal." Without Agape Love, when we speak, we just make noise that nobody wants to hear. MEMORIZE this scripture, write it on the tablet of your heart. Romans 5:5-8 "This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."  ---- 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 "love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it is not boastful or conceited, love does not act improperly, it is not selfish, it is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs." It sounds like a prescription for perfection, but all these attributes are possible as we submit to the Holy Spirit.  I believe that love is first on the list because just as Paul listed love as the greatest of all of the gifts of the spirit, it is the fruit of the Spirit that empowers all of the other fruits. This study to be continued as a series on the Fruit of the Spirit.  Coming soon is JOY!