Monday, May 18, 2015

You Will Blow Chunks When You Read This!

“Ensemble, if you want the anointing of the Holy Spirit to flow freely in your life, you have to blow chunks!”  - Oops!

Yep, I said it! I have been known to put my foot in my mouth a time or two, and my husband has fun with these “Sharonisms.” I’ll start with the gist of what I actually meant, and then I will show you where it veered down the wrong path.

On Sunday mornings, after the ensemble warms up and rehearses for service, I usually lead them in a time of devotion and prayer. My intention this week was to remind them of how valuable the anointing of the Holy Spirit is in our role in the music ministry. What tremendous work He can do through us if we allow Him!

Essentially, anointing refers to being set apart for service and being empowered by the Holy Spirit for that service. Scriptural examples of the anointing here explain how Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit, and when He ascended, the Holy Spirit was poured out on us.

And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:38 NLT

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; John 14:16 KJV

But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge… But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. 1 John 2:20, 27 ESV

Understand that being accepted as a child of God is a free gift when we believe in Christ and confess Him as Lord. (Romans 10:9) He paid the cost entirely! (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:3-24) However, anointing is another story. In order for His Spirit to flow freely in our lives so that we can walk in His power, strength, and leading, it takes surrender on our part. Everything we need from the Holy Spirit is readily available to us, but unless we spend time seeking Him, studying His Word, and obediently serving Him, we will miss out on all that He intended for us.

Furthermore, we can allow so many things to get in the way of the Spirit’s work in our lives as well. For example: sin, unforgiveness, a critical spirit, selfishness, pride, doubt, rebellion, habits, etc. can block the flow of God’s Spirit working through us. In addition, idols, or things that may seem good but actually take God’s place in our hearts, can majorly dam up the flow of the Spirit. Similarly, even seemingly benign things, such as busyness, entertainment, and even social media can be a hindrance if we allow these things to override our focused time with the Lord. These things cause us to settle for much less than what He has intended for us. If we want to walk in the fullness of all that God has planned for us, and to tap in to the power of the Holy Spirit that He has made abundantly available to us, we need to evaluate our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to help us shed layers of self that clog the flow.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1 ESV

This is where it began to go awry!

In order to illustrate this verse and make a memorable impact, I thought I would offer this profound idea…

Have you ever had a fruit smoothie or a milkshake that you tried to drink through a straw? It’s not easy, is it? What happens when a piece of fruit, cookie, or a nut gets stuck in the straw? Right, nothing will come through the straw! The anointing is similar to this. Imagine the Holy Spirit is like that fruit smoothie, and you are enjoying all the goodness of His Spirit flowing through your life. However, a sin here, a bad attitude there, and perhaps a little bit of disobedience, an idol, or an addiction takes control, and the flow of the Spirit becomes blocked.

All you can do at that point is to blow out all of the chunks. Then I said it: “Ensemble, if you want the anointing of the Holy Spirit to flow freely in your life, you have to blow chunks!”

Oh my! I heard myself as if I were a bystander in total disbelief of what I had just heard! We had such a good laugh, which totally shifted the mood. However, the point was received. As ugly as it sounds, it really does make sense. Just try not to think of it in the usual sense. Blowing chunks can be a powerful illustration of what we need to do as believers if we want to have more of God’s power flowing through our lives.

How about it? Do you have a calling on your life, but you are frustrated that you don’t see things moving forward? Do you see a lack of power or zeal in your walk with the Lord? Do you long for more of God but don’t know what to do? We all have things that can easily get in the way, but why do we settle?

Let us lay aside everything that weighs us down and blocks the Holy Spirit from working powerfully through our lives. Let us follow the example of the Psalmist who said,

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

While anointing comes with a price, He is the one who paid the price. Our part is simply to surrender. The more of ourselves we are willing to surrender as He leads us, the more we will be in a position to see His powerful anointing to flow through our lives.

My prayer is, “Lord, less of me and more of You!!!!!”

So, let’s go blow some chunks!

Friday, May 15, 2015

When It All Seems So Fuzzy

We all have questions at times when life doesn't make sense. We see things all around us that make us wonder what God is thinking and what in the world He is doing. Often when these questions remain unanswered, many jump to the conclusion that there just can't be a God. It doesn't make sense! 
This is me, all fuzzified!

The trouble is that we do not see the whole picture; He does. He knows what He is doing, and He is ALWAYS good! He is sovereign, and we do not have to understand everything on this side of eternity.

 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT

As I have been studying the book of Romans, I came across a very interesting set of verses in chapter 11 that has sparked some more study for me. If you are wrestling with unanswered questions, this will make you think:

33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
34 For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?
35 And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?
36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 NLT

So often, we like to compact all of our understanding of God into one neat, tidy little box, and then we are thrown off kilter when He does not line up to our finite conclusions.  We see so much around us in this world that does not make sense to us, and we are perplexed even more when events that touch us personally seem to go awry. 

We thought we understood the character of God, and now events have left us with nothing but a fuzzy view.  All the Windex in the world will not bring it all into focus! 

We ask, if God is so good, then why do we have to suffer?  Why do our family members become ill?  Why do tragic accidents happen?  Storms?  Floods?  Fire?  Why do people go hungry and homeless?  Why did we lose something that was so dear to us?  

According to these verses, we are unable to discern the Lord's ways, but all things are intended for His glory. And, if God isn't the one to blame, isn't He the one who allowed it? While situations may not seem worthy of glory at the present, ultimately, in the big scheme of things, there is a higher purpose that we simply cannot grasp. Things may seem fuzzy now, but we do have the promise that one day, it will all finally make sense to us.

I have written several articles concerning keeping our faith in a good God while enduring suffering and loss.  If this is you, I hope these encourage you.  

Where is God in All This Suffering?  This points to the goodness of God in spite of our difficulties.
When God Doesn’t Seem Fair  This one in particular answers several questions about what God could possibly be accomplishing in our lives when we experience loss.
Consider It a Gift  This one is a reflection on the good that God is doing in our lives when He allows struggles.

When I am perplexed in the midst of tragedy or loss, it helps me to remember the things that I DO know about God. Let these truths sink in deeply!
  •         He is sovereign.
  •         He is all-powerful.  He can do anything.
  •         He is all-knowing.  He sees the big picture.  His perspective is far beyond ours.
  •         He is everywhere.  We can never be ripped out of His hands, and we can never go anywhere that He is not right there with us.
  •         He is a God who protects, heals, saves, delivers, and restores.  
  •     He will right every wrong.
  •         He works everything out for our good and for His glory.
  •         He weeps when we weep.  He rejoices when we rejoice.
  •         He is ALWAYS good.

Here are a few more verses to ponder if you have questions about God right now.  It is OK to have questions, but choose to ask from a standpoint of faith and of understanding what we do know about God rather than of doubt. Do not give up on faith in God.

Our God is in heaven. He does whatever He pleases!  Psalms 115:3 NET
But he is unchangeable, and who can change him?
Whatever he has desired, he does. Job 23:13 NET

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

For deeper understanding, I recommend studying 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.  I included five different translations in this link for clarity.  God’s ways are completely hidden from the nonspiritual, but the Holy Spirit reveals the hidden mysteries of God to us who are His children. 

When we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we can know and have the “mind of Christ,” according to verse 16.  Isn’t that astounding?!

This is where we turn when we cannot seem to understand or make sense of God’s ways.  We do not have to be in the dark, nor do we have to stumble and fall in the darkness of our earthly circumstances.  We can stand tall in the light of God’s truths, and we are rock solid when we stand on the Solid Rock!

God bless!

 Shari Lewis

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Where Is God in All This Suffering?

Have you ever suffered loss or had your heart broken?
Are you acquainted with hurt and wondered where God was in all the pain?

To the mother of three young children who is facing a double mastectomy and months of chemotherapy and radiation; or the young couple whose child was killed in a tragic car accident; or the family who lost everything they own in a house fire; or the young wife whose husband drowns in the ocean on their honeymoon... What words of comfort can we offer? What can we say to the homeless, the starving, imprisoned, impoverished, or abused to bring hope in such situations?

Words can seem so empty, and God can seem so elusive at times. "How can you say that God is a merciful and loving God if He allowed this to happen to me?" you might ask. "How do I even know He is real?" “Doesn’t God see all the suffering in the world? If there is a God, He wouldn’t allow all of this craziness to continue!”

Well, this is quite a concept to tackle, but I can say without a doubt that yes, God is real, and He is a merciful and loving God. He is sovereign, and His ways are awesome beyond comprehension. He is our comforter, our peace, and our helper in times of trouble or sorrow. It is not He who has failed us when we suffer, but He is the one who comforts us and brings us through our pain. He turns the suffering into something magnificent in our lives, if we let Him.

Where the rubber meets the road is in how we perceive our suffering. The way we choose to respond to life's unfairness is what determines how we make it through. Grieving is a natural process that takes time, but we must see the bigger picture in suffering and pain in our lives to have the proper perspective. Before I tackle this topic, the important thing to remember is that "This too shall pass." It is just a temporary setback, and you will make it through. God will never leave you; His comfort is readily available; and He has a perfect plan for you, whether you can see it or not.

When sin entered the world, it’s marriage partners, death and destruction, came right along with it. John 10:10 reminds us that Satan's purpose in this world is to "steal, kill, and destroy." That is what he is all about, and he will stop at nothing to bring misery into your life. He is the root of all evil, pain, sickness, tragedy, fear, and sadness. So, point number one is that it’s all his fault!

What gets difficult to understand is that nothing happens without God allowing it. Everything we experience is filtered through a loving God. But, how can that be? Does that even make sense? Certainly He never causes grief or sorrow, so why would He allow it if He is truly a loving God?

Let us take another look into the root of suffering. When man was created, he was given a free will, and God loves us enough to not to interfere with our free will. He allows man to choose life or death, blessings or cursings. In the beginning, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit, they relinquished control to the devil. That gave him the power to wreak havoc in the world, causing all tragedy, sickness, and death. Unfortunately, innocent victims are also hurt in the process.

So, where is the hope in this? First of all, God warned us that we would have difficulties in this world, but not to lose heart because He has overcome the world. He is our champion, and He has won the ultimate victory in this world for our sake. Again, He is not the cause of suffering, but He has made a way to overcome it. John 16:33 says, "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.” Because He has overcome, we will too. What hope that brings! However, not only does God give hope for future victory, but utmost comfort in the middle all of our trials as well.

He sees and understands all that we go through. One of my favorite verses is when Hagar was in a desperate situation, and God revealed Himself to her. She had been wondering in the desert, pregnant, hurt, and afraid. Genesis 16:13 says, “Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me’.” If you feel abandoned and overwhelmed, consider the beautiful example in this story of God’s enduring love for us.

He identifies with everything we experience in our lives because Jesus came to the earth to experience it all first hand. No matter what hurt you have endured, Jesus has been there done that! He knows loss and grief personally; therefore, He knows exactly how to comfort us. He has promised to walk with us and to never leave or forsake us. He holds us in His arms and carries us through it. He lovingly caresses us when we hurt. It is only He that can heal our hearts. "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." Psalms 34:18. Now that is a loving and merciful God!

The hope and comfort He brings is not only while we are in the midst of our trouble, but the big picture includes an eternal perspective of suffering. While we are in the depth of our pain, it is sometimes difficult to see beyond it, and we can feel that we have been abandoned. However, the love and mercy of the Lord is that He not only comforts us when we hurt, but He continues to do a far greater work in us through it. While He allows us to experience sorrow, He promises that it will ultimately bring good into our lives.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT

God is more concerned with our character than our comfort, and He understands that sometimes it is necessary to endure and overcome a struggle so that He can show His love to us and bring about victory, character growth and development, and enduring glory into our lives. After all, if we had never had a problem, how would we know that God could solve it? If we never hurt, how would we know that God can comfort us?

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18.

Those words bring so much comfort to me, knowing that ultimately, everything I go through will work out for my good. I am so encouraged to know that no matter how bad it gets here on earth, He is working something so much better in us through it. In the big picture, suffering ends and a much greater glory is revealed in us.

James admonishes us in chapter 1, verses 2-4,

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

So, don't lose heart, and don't look at your problems through the mere lens of only the here and now. See your life through a Godly perspective, and allow Him to complete the work in you. He is doing something good in your life. He really is! You may not see it now, but you will one day.

Ultimately, keep in mind that one day, God has promised to right every wrong. This seemingly unfair existence is only temporary, and one day, God will reward the faithful, destroy all evil, and restore the ones who are hurting and suffering.

Remember that His purpose is eternal, and the temporary troubles we face today will one day end forever. He has promised to "wipe away all tears." Isaiah 25:8. He has promised that "Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." Psalms 30:5. The ultimate purpose in all of this is that through everything we endure, we will be "conformed to the likeness of His Son." Romans 8:29. What could be better?

So, don't doubt God when life doesn't make sense. Just look at it through a different perspective. Whatever you have gone through, or whatever horror you have witnessed on this earth, don't lose hope. God is a good God. His love and mercy endure forever. Rather than turning to Him in anger, turn to Him for comfort. He is everything you need and more. And one day, you will be able to comfort someone else with the very same comfort you received from the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 1:4.)

Take a moment to ponder these words that refer to Jesus. When He came to the earth, He had you in mind!

Isaiah 61:1-3, 7 NIV

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor…

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

God bless!

Shari Lewis