Out of the Mouth of Babes

Life Abundant

Spring has sprung in California, bringing evidence of new life everywhere. It officially arrived on Palm Sunday, with trees and flowers are beginning to bloom, and even a few spring showers in our drought-stricken state. A week later, on Easter, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, the most amazing example of life that exists.

The weekend following Easter, we were visiting our son’s family, enjoying the rare opportunity to spend time with our three (forgive me for gushing) adorable, cuter-than-cute, smart, talented grandchildren. Our identical three-year-old twin grand daughters love books, and reading to them is a sure guarantee of having both girls on my lap for extended periods of time. Book after book, from easy cardboard toddler books to a little more detailed storybooks, their attention never wavers as the already-read pile beside the chair grows and grows. Interspersed in the collection are some Bible stories, and these resulted in one of the most memorable blessings of my life; a memory that I’m certain will endure forever. Each time Jesus’ name was mentioned, Hope would exclaim, “Nana, He’s alive! Did you know He’s alive? He really is alive!” Such a joyful, excited, simple faith–no wonder Jesus loved the children so much, and no wonder we need to become as little children!

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!  Matthew 18:1-6

But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”

And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” Matthew 21:15-16

Power in the Heavenly Places

Version 2It is exciting to share that my newest book with Paul L Cox, Exploring Heavenly Places, Volume 4: Power in the Heavenly Places, is now available in both print and e-book editions.  It can also be ordered as part of a package with the first three books in the series.

Throughout scripture we find one account after another of God’s power, and if we stop to consider the magnitude of that power it’s mind-boggling. We often read such statements as, the voice of the Lord is powerful; He rules by His power forever; by His power He brought in the south wind; Who knows the power of Your anger; Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; All Your works shall praise You, O Lord…And talk of Your power. All of His works shall praise Him—wow!!! That’s big.

God’s handiwork is evident everywhere we look, and the Bible is full of golden nuggets of truth that we may not have recognized because our everyday focus is usually on what we see right in front of us. The manifestations of God’s power hint of the glorious eternity that awaits those who are His; and while there is still much to understand, we begin to learn to recognize and access His power throughout the dimensions in Exploring Heavenly Places, Volume 4, Power in the Heavenly Places.

Fear Not

FEAR NOT PIC

I’ve often written about fear, but it seems to be on the Lord’s mind this morning so here we go again. If a lesson can be repeated over and over in the Bible, I guess it’s not redundant if I do the same.

As anyone who has paid attention to the news lately will know, fear is rampant throughout the world. The latest international incident motivating fear was the attacks against women that occurred in Germany and throughout a number of other European countries on New Years Eve. Nationally, it’s the story of a police officer in Philadelphia whose assailant walked right up to the window of the patrol car and blasted away, critically wounding him. As I watched a news program last night, I lost count of the number of times someone said, “I’m afraid,” “Should we be afraid?” or “You/we should be afraid.” But I’m here to say, NO, we shouldn’t.

Fear is NOT God’s plan for His people, as He made clear to me once again this morning. Currently, I’m reading in Genesis, Isaiah, and Matthew, which obviously covers a pretty broad span of time, yet God’s message never changes, so just from my devotional time this morning without considering the hundreds of other biblical references to ‘fear’ or ‘afraid’ (do a word search, and you’ll be reading for hours!):

And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” Genesis 26:24

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Isaiah 8:11-13

Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced. Isaiah 54:4a

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

Jesus is the antidote for our hopelessness and fears, whether they are phony or based on very real threats, such as the terrorism that is rampant throughout our world. Fear not, for I am with you says the Lord!

A New Year’s Prayer

2016On December 31, 2015, New Year’s Eve, I awoke from a vivid dream in which I’d been surrounded by others at the sort of conference center that one might find in a nice hotel. A pianist was playing nice background music from the lobby, catching my attention as she began to play a familiar tune. As I began to sing, many others joined in:

God bless America, land that I love
Stand behind her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above
From the mountains, to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America
My home sweet home

I’d sung the words as a heartfelt prayer, with my eyes closed. When I opened them there was a nice looking man standing next to me who I believe was the Lord, and He encouraged me to keep on singing. Today, as I welcomed 2016 during my quiet time, He directed me to Psalm 100 and Psalm 101:1:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O Lord, I will make music.

May 2016 be a year in which we, His people, seek Him above all else and joyfully sing His praises, for:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

May God bless all who read this, whether you are in America or in any other nation on earth, for He is there. May 2016 be a year in which you encounter Him  and His sufficiency, His grace, and His mercy in every aspect of your life.

I AM, I SAID!

I AM

The day was moving on, and looking at the time I was a bit startled to see that it was 12:12 on 12/12. Asking myself, “If this was a dream, what would it mean?” I began to ponder, and wrote in my journal:

12 means divine government as well as fullness, so perhaps 12:12 on 12/12 is God’s way of emphasizing His plans and purposes for this time, doubling and re-doubling the 12s. Also, 4 can mean God’s creative works or seasons, and there are 4 seasons, so 4 12s could mean a fullness of seasons. Could this be about the fullness of time, as when Jesus first came?

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son. Galatians 4:7

As we look toward the fullness of time for Jesus’ return, what shall we see in terms of divine government? Scripture is clear about the difficulties of end times, the terror of the Day of the Lord, and the implementation of Jesus divine government throughout the earth; but what does that look like for us now? Much has been prophesied in recent days about the dual escalation of righteousness and evil, and we long for the tremendous outpouring of His Spirit that has been promised, but when will it appear?

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Acts 2:17

As I finished writing the questions above, I immediately heard the incredible voice of Neil Diamond crying out, “I am, I said!”  That’s all—just those words and not the rest of the song, the lyrics of which portray a sorrowful, hopeless, lonely plea for meaning or relevance. I knew immediately that God was emphasizing His truth, telling me to heed what He said:

God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:14

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty… Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades…Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star…Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 1:8,17,18; 22:12-13,16,20

Simply from a logical perspective, God’s fullness of time for Jesus’ second coming is closer than ever before; but given the signs of the times of which He warned in Matthew 24, I believe His return is imminent, probably within the lifetime of many who are alive today. The hourglass of time is quickly running out, and it is more important than ever to realize that and decide for Christ:


Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served…and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:14-15

Sing!

Sing!

I am honored to introduce “SING!” by my friend, Paul Knight, who is a music producer in London, England.  As a vocal coach for over thirty years and, as a consultant, senior lecturer and vocal coach, he knows exactly how singers should be keeping their voice in perfect condition. This is a tool I wish I’d had in days gone by when I sang with a Sweet Adelines Chorus, as we warmed up to practice or perform.  Whether one is an amateur or professional, this is a wonderful resource.  Below are some scriptures about singing to the Lord, some of Paul’s insights about singing, and a description of the product as well as links:

Psalm 33:1
Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones;

Psalm 96:1-2
Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

Psalm 9:11
Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds.

Psalm 104:33
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

Psalm 89:1
I will sing of the lovingkindness of the LORD forever; To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.

Revelation 15:3-4
And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”

Singing is an important part of our identity. Without it we are not complete. The scriptures tell us to sing to the Lord – because He loves the sound of our voices. After all – He created them!

As we sing, we change atmospheres. The singers were sent out first into battle. Singing is for everyone. Not for a few special people. It releases the ‘feel good’ chemicals. It necessitates deeper breathing which is a stress reducer. Singing gets more oxygen into the blood for better circulation. The benefits are amazing – and God knew that. It soothes you and elevates your spirit.

The elation may come from endorphins, a hormone released by singing, which is associated with feelings of pleasure. Or it might be from oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness. Singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed. Even if you walked into rehearsal exhausted and depressed, by the end of the night you’ll walk out high as a kite on endorphins and good will.

So how many of us are ashamed of our singing voice? Or have been told to be quiet, or to sit at the back and mime? All clever attacks on the voice, which diminish us from being fully who we are.

Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Ephesians 5:18-19: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…”

We are commanded to sing. When we sing – we are obeying God. We dig deeply in to the Word of God. It dwells in us richly. We build up others, and we glorify God. It couldn’t be better.

Sing! is a series of exercises which is used by singers of all abilities. The exercises build confidence, strength, and explain clearly how to connect to your voice and let it soar.

It comes complete with a download card so you can have all the exercises on your ipad, computer or phone. Each exercise is exampled by two professional West End singers, Michael Rouse and Lizzie Dean. These exercises have been compiled by Paul Knight who has over thirty years experience of releasing voices, specifically the voices of those who believe they cannot sing.

These exercises are gentle, but help place the voice where it should be, and build gradually into a complete workout for the voice and the engine room of the diaphragm.

Each exercise is clearly explained and demonstrated.
Each exercise covers all ranges.

Sing! is available online. In the UK use MusicRoom.com and Amazon.co.uk
In North America use use Boosey.com and Amazon.com

Remember it is good for you to be heard…..Sing!

 

Standing In Faith

Barbara ParkerAs we approach Christmas, many of us reach out to others a bit more than usual, perhaps re-connecting with people we haven’t been in touch with lately; perhaps finding ways to help those who are less fortunate; perhaps greeting total strangers with a, “Merry Christmas.” Also, as one year concludes and a new one approaches, we often find ourselves in a self-evaluation mode. We examine what have we accomplished as well as what should we do differently next year, and such a process is scriptural:

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5

I’d like to do a bit of both in this post that doubles as an announcement to the Standing In Faith group on LinkedIn and an invitation to join us, offering first a quick review of our group, and then sharing with old friends and new, the message of hope the Lord has given me.

The Standing In Faith discussion group began as a leap of faith on my part in March 2011. New to LinkedIn and not a big fan of social media, it was quite a surprise when the Lord impressed me to form the group, and from the very beginning He has had full ownership. This is not my group—it is His, and I’m simply His group manager. There have been several times that I’ve wanted to shut it down because it seemed as if it was going nowhere and accomplishing nothing, but His permission for that to happen was never given. Now, in retrospect, I am in awe of what He is doing, and I’m well aware that He is accomplishing His work through the group in ways that I will never be aware of this side of eternity, which is very exciting. Our growth during 2015 has been astounding, and there are new members every day from nations around the world. This is an international outreach such as I never could’ve imagined, and I welcome all of our new members and pray that the fellowship we have here will bless and encourage you in your Christian walk.

From the beginning, the Lord designed Standing In Faith around the passion He has given me for the Body of Christ to live by faith and to operate in unity, and our stated purpose is, “To encourage Christians to live by faith and not by sight, building each another up in the unity of faith that we share in Christ Jesus.”

With that purpose in mind, there are a couple of things about this group that may differ from other groups; things that don’t make us any better or worse, but just different. First is that the Lord has led me to accept everyone who requests membership without any pre-screening, just as He is willing to accept all who come to Him. Second, while we often discuss our differences of opinion, we do not enter into divisive debates or arguments, and no comments are allowed that denigrate the person or faith of another. This can pose a huge dilemma for me as the “referee”, and I must rely strictly on the Lord’s leadership regarding which discussions and comments to allow and which ones to deny, so I would appreciate your prayers for His wisdom in this regard, as well as your understanding and forgiveness if I make a mistake in judgment. I do not agree with everything that is posted here, nor will you, but instead of taking offense and arguing with every statement, please respond from a spirit of love that displays the grace and mercy of the Lord. We are not all “on the same page” doctrinally, but instead of allowing the enemy to separate us as has been done for centuries, we consciously choose to set our differences aside and focus on Jesus in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

As you may be aware, LinkedIn has recently re-designed much in regard to groups, and both the appearance and the function has been affected. Visually, it is easier to quickly scan through discussions, but it is also harder to get the full impact of a discussion without choosing the option for “more” in order to read the entire text of the comments. I would encourage everyone to dig deeper into the “more” of our discussions to get the full benefit of what each person has to say. Also, the space allotted for text has been diminished, so it is more important than ever to try to make a point succinctly.

Previously, the group was open and a request to join received automatic approval, but now every membership request comes to me first. As mentioned before, none are turned away, but any member’s contributions may still be designated for pre-approval if they are deemed to be divisive or off the topic of faith in Jesus; and any individual may be completely banned from the group at my discretion (this has only happened with 3 people whose obvious intent was disruption and destruction). Also, please be aware that with this new system, for reasons I certainly do not understand, LinkedIn is flagging as inappropriate many entries that are fully acceptable, so please be patient if your submission doesn’t appear immediately. I try to turn everything around within 24 hours or sooner, but occasionally that isn’t possible.

Please review the group rules since there have been a few changes to remain in alignment with LinkedIn’s way of doing things. Also, please remember that we do not focus on personal agendas, make political statements, or doctrinal positions; but we discuss the traditional Christian values of the majority. That said, it is difficult to completely avoid the political arena since it has such a huge impact on our lives, but our goal is to approach any such discussions with the intent of illuminating God’s truth and not man’s opinion.

Enough review, and on to our Hope! This morning, the Lord highlighted some phrases to me from Hebrews 3 that are relevant to Standing In Faith.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…[who] is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope…Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Our “today” is a day in which hearts have become hard throughout the world. Jesus warnings of end times events are occurring right before our eyes. His words (Matthew 24:4-14) resonate with what we see and hear daily:

“See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

We are not to despair! Buried in a passage where many accentuate the negative, is one of the most promising phrases in scripture. “See that you are not alarmed,” isn’t just an impossible suggestion, for Jesus would never have advised something we cannot accomplish. In Him we have hope, He is our strength and our refuge, and we need not fear:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1

At Christmas we often hear people saying that Jesus is the reason for the season, and that’s true; but I’d take it a bit farther to declare that Jesus is the reason for every season in our lives. Our very existence here on earth is designed to bring honor and glory to Him, and the fact that we are here “today” is by His design, and He has a purpose for each of our lives.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms 139:16

So what does this have to do with Standing In Faith? Go back to the Hebrews passage from which the Lord spoke to me today, for this is the re-affirmation of our purpose:

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

May our Lord be with you all, may He bless and keep you throughout this and every season, and may He make you a blessing to others as you all are to me. Merry Christmas to all, along with my prayers and best wishes that in the year to come each person will find their strength in Him and will learn to stand in faith as never before. My prayer for each of us is from Hebrews 4:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…Let us hold fast our confession…Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.