Is The True God Your God?

The year was 1985 and our family was visiting my parents on the southeastern coast of Georgia. This is where I had spent my “growing-up” years, and I loved it.  As my husband and I drove over the causeway to Sea Island, we were overwhelmed with the beauty – the huge Live Oaks, the windswept trees, the sand dunes, the meticulous landscaping, and the array of extraordinary vacation homes. Each home was unique, but each   was manicured to perfection – and very expensive.

I had taken this drive many times over the years and had loved it. It was refreshing and intriguing to see the variety of homes and landscapes, and awesome to think of the money required to maintain such a lifestyle. Splendor and more splendor…

But this time it seemed different. Continue reading “Is The True God Your God?”

2013 Project: Read The Bible Through

I often tell a story about my granddaughter, Lauren. When she was in second grade, as a school project, Lauren had to give an oral report on her favorite state. Since she lives in Atlanta, we were flattered that she chose Mississippi, where we live. Her accompanying prop was a white poster board with many symbols of our state. The symbols included a Magnolia blossom, items related to the zoo we visit, certain facts, and a tiny (and I do mean tiny) dot with the words “Blue Mountain,” our town. The dot and words were cut out of a map and placed right in the center of the poster.

We couldn’t help but chuckle. From the display, there was no context at all. Just a tiny dot and tiny words. There was no way of knowing where the town was located, or anything else about it – except that it was small.

I think that we are like that about the Bible sometimes. We pull verses out of the Bible and put them on the refrigerator. Without the proper context, there are times when we totally miss the meaning. The words would mean so much more if we would read them in the framework around them.

Thus my 2013 project. I want to read the Bible through with a group of people who want to discuss it. If we break it down into daily bites, it’s a doable project even for the busiest among us.

So starting January 1, we will have assignments of our daily reading. I will have a group going on Facebook and we will do it here also. I would love to have you join us. Just check in, read with us, and add your comments, if you like.

I think that 2013 is going to be a significant year for those who want to follow God. I believe that we will see many dreams come into fruition – many dreams that have seemed elusive for a long time.

Hope you can join the venture.

Many blessings, and forever upward!

Suellen

Lessons From The Nephron

So what is a nephron? A kidney cell. Strange, huh? What kind of spiritual lessons could we learn from the kidney cell? The answer: lots.

I have found – as I’m sure that you have- that God teaches us by what we already know. In other words, if we are farmers, he’ll teach us lessons using the soil, the seed, planting,etc. If we are fishermen, he’ll use that imagery to show us other important concepts. O.K., so why the nephron?

A few years ago, I was a pharmaceutical sales representative in the Atlanta area. Part of my training was a “crash course” in pharmacology presented by the Medical College of Philadelphia, and since one of our drugs was a diuretic, I had a “crash course” in the kidney and its function. I was absolutely amazed with this important organ.

Years later, after I had left the job, and my husband and I were preparing for ministry, I had a very unusual day with the Lord. He reminded me of the nephron, the kidney cell, and He began to speak to me all day relating the concepts with His church.

The kidney is made up of very specialized cells called nephrons. Each kidney has between 800,000 and 1.5 million of these cells, which are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. If you go to Wikipedia, you can learn more about these, but I want to concentrate here on the spiritual concepts.

The kidney has many functions which are life and death matters for our bodies. Every ounce of blood in our bodies, goes through the kidney every day to be cleansed and regulated. Waste products are removed, and electrolytes are balanced so that our other organs can function properly.

I had always thought of the kidney as functioning as a whole. I had thought that the organ worked like a muscle, to perform all of its functions. But no. That’s not the case. All of the functions which are done by the kidney are done on the cellular level. What do I mean? I mean that each nephron, so small that we cannot see it, removes waste, regulates, sodium, potassium, and other ions, regulates blood pressure, etc. In fact, as blood passes through the nephron, certain places on the cell perform each of the tasks. Everything is very specialized.

So what are the lessons? As a body of Christ, we think of all of our work as occurring by the whole. We think sometimes that while we are in church we are accomplishing all that God wants. But this is not the case. The true work of the church is accomplished by each cell – each person – as they are performing their function in the world. They may be so small that no one even sees them, just as the nephron, but their work is important. In fact, the very life of the body depends on the work of all of these no-name, faceless members of His body.

So often, we gather and have wonderful meetings and feel so revved up and energized for the Lord. But if we are truly the Body of Christ, we need to go out and perform our function. That’s really the only way anything gets done. God is a one-on-one God. Whether we are going to change our churches or change our communities, everything is personal. Even when we talk about “taking mountains,” the culture only gets changed by individuals turning to the Lord and changing their mindsets.

But there’s more. Even though the work of the kidney – or the ministry- is done on a cellular level, by each one doing his part, if you cut some of the cells away from the kidney, they will die. Even though they do the work themselves, they depend on the blood flow from the kidney as a whole to survive. They don’t work or even survive alone.

So is the Body of Christ. Though the work of the ministry is done by each individual doing his part, that individual needs the corporate anointing, as the church comes together, to fulfill his call. The anointing, the teaching, the sharing,and the “iron sharpening iron” that goes on as the church meets as a whole, are absolutely essential for each member to thrive in his calling.

We need each other, but each one is important. I believe that in this time in history, we are going to see individuals rising to their place like never before. We will come together; then we will go out. We will be refreshed and energized by the anointing and by the words; then we will go out into the world, carrying the torch of awakening. We know our significance – and we see the significance of those around us. We are all important.

After all, together, we make up the Body of Christ, and we have an important work to do for Him.

Let’s do it!

What Does A Christian Look Like?

How do you define a Christian? We all have our preconceived ideas. Of course they have to believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as their Lord and Savior. That goes every time. But what about the rest?

In our society we have images which pop into our heads. We might imagine a man in a suit and tie and a woman in her heels. (Or if you run in the circles I do, you imagine a man not in a suit and tie, and a woman in pants or jeans). In either case, we think of dedicated church goers, with Bibles in hand, leading in prayer, having solid families. Usually they are leaders in the community.

But is that all? Is everyone that way? What about Mark?

Mark is a man who is now in his seventies and had never been in a church until about four years ago, when he came and prayed to receive Jesus. His wife passed away much earlier, and he was very lonely. He lives in a small mobile home at the edge of the town with his grandson, whom he raised. (Now the young man is in his mid twenties, but he doesn’t work and counts on his grandfather for support).

Mark is a quiet man, but every now and then he’ll tell a story which gives us a glimpse of his life.There is a reason that he never learned to read. When he was in the second grade, his father took him out of school so that he could help with the farm chores. (They were sharecroppers). He worked hard, long hours on the farm. But that’s not all that he did.

His grandfather was a moonshiner. He had a still back in the woods, and when the old man had an order, he would have Mark travel by foot to deliver the brew. It was risky, so the young boy learned how to look out for the “law.” On occasion he might have to duck into the edge of the woods, so as not to be seen. This grandfather was a hard man. If the young lad didn’t make it back in time for dinner, he wouldn’t get his food. Food was served twice a day, and anyone not around for the meal would have to wait until the next one.

Mark later got married, had children, and raised a family. Over the years, his farming and moonshining gave way to factory work. He worked at a local plant, running machines, and doing janitorial work. His attendance record was almost perfect. One of his greatest possessions was a jacket which he earned as “Employee Of The Year.”

Mark told me that while his wife was alive they would “fuss a lot.” He feels bad about that. He says that “he didn’t always do what he should have done.”He’s glad that he can pray and that Jesus has forgiven him.

He has been retired a few years, but Mark still does odd jobs. And he walks. He walks several miles a day – sometimes to the store, to a working assignment, and sometimes to church. He loves to work and he loves to walk. It makes him feel better.

Mark doesn’t bring a Bible to church, since he can’t read it. But every Sunday, for the last few years, he has sat on the front row on the far right of the church. And every Sunday, he has listened attentively as sermons were preached or testimonies given. His heart is tender, as he kneels and prays at the altar. He wants to “keep things right with God.”

We need to broaden our perspective. We need to realize that out there – in the masses of people who throng by every day, there are other Marks. They might not look like they would be interested in Jesus. And they might not act like it. Yet within their hearts is a desire to connect with their Maker and to connect with the truth. They want to know what the Bible says, and they want to learn how to pray. They might be outside of the box we expect people to be in, but they are not outside of the box in Jesus’s eyes.

I don’t know about you, but I want to look for more of the Marks. I am asking God to open my eyes and ears to see and hear what he wants to tell me so that I can reach others who are seeking the truth. I’ll try not to judge by what my natural eyes see, but I will try to judge by my spiritual eyes.

Dear Lord, help me to do this. I know how special these little ones are to you. Help me to do this.

 

 

 

When The Righteous Are In Authority, The People Rejoice.

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” Proverbs 29:2.

Today is the day to make your voice be heard in our great democratic republic. Sometimes people may think that their voice doesn’t count.; it’s just one of many. But throughout history elections have been won by a few hundred votes. Remember the 2000 election? A virtual handful of votes in Florida decided the outcome. Just think if those few hundred had not voted, what would the outcome have been?

I have included some great historical quotes furnished by http:www.wallbuilders.com. They will inspire you to fulfill that great public trust we have been granted.

Pray and choose well. Then vote!

John Adams

We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands; we have a check upon two branches of the legislature . . . the power I mean of electing at stated periods [each] branch. . . . It becomes necessary to every [citizen] then, to be in some degree a statesman, and to examine and judge for himself of the tendency of political principles and measures. Let us examine, then, with a sober, a manly . . . and a Christian spirit; let us neglect all party [loyalty] and advert to facts; let us believe no man to be infallible or impeccable in government any more than in religion; take no man’s word against evidence, nor implicitly adopt the sentiments of others who may be deceived themselves, or may be interested in deceiving us.

[John Adams, The Papers of John Adams, Robert J. Taylor, ed. (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1977), Vol. 1, p. 81, from “‘U’ to the Boston Gazette” written on August 29, 1763.]


Samuel Adams

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.

[Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907), Vol. IV, p. 256, in the Boston Gazette on April 16, 1781.]

Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable characters. The public cannot be too curious concerning the character of public men.

[Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907), Vol. III, p. 236-237, to James Warren on November 4, 1775.]


Matthias Burnett

Consider well the important trust . . . which God . . . [has] put into your hands. . . . To God and posterity you are accountable for [your rights and your rulers]. . . . Let not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights and prostrating those institutions which your fathers delivered to you. . . . [L]ook well to the characters and qualifications of those you elect and raise to office and places of trust. . . . Think not that your interests will be safe in the hands of the weak and ignorant; or faithfully managed by the impious, the dissolute and the immoral. Think not that men who acknowledge not the providence of God nor regard His laws will be uncorrupt in office, firm in defense of the righteous cause against the oppressor, or resolutly oppose the torrent of iniquity. . . . Watch over your liberties and privileges – civil and religious – with a careful eye.

[Matthias Burnett, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Norwalk, An Election Sermon, Preached at Hartford, on the Day of the Anniversary Election, May 12, 1803 (Hartford: Printed by Hudson & Goodwin, 1803), pp. 27-28)

Forever Upward,

Suellen Estes.

 

Signs Of Our Covenant

1-eagle-nest3In the days to come, I am going to be talking about our covenant with God through Jesus. That is something that many people either push aside or don’t understand. As Christians, we are in a “spiritual agreement” with God which opens up doors for us to live above many negative circumstances which come our way.

This covenant has been compared to a will which might have been left for us. If you are a beneficiary of a will, you don’t receive the inheritance until the will is probated. If you don’t know the will is available, you might go through your life without receiving your inheritance.

Our inheritance from Jesus is much the same. If we don’t even know that we have this covenant with Him, we may go through life without ever receiving all that He paid for. So what is in our covenant? Many things, and I will be talking about these in the next posts.

To give a picture of this inheritance, I want to bring attention to a study done by a man named Richard Dugdale in 1877. His study addressed the lineage that goes with righteous heritage. There has been much discussion about the details of the study, but there are enough undisputed facts that it seems that definite conclusions can be drawn.

The first man was Jonathan Edwards, who was born October 5, 1703. At age 13, he entered Yale University and graduated with honors. Entering the ministry, Edwards was largely responsible for the Great Awakening that swept across America, uniting the colonies prior to the Revolution. His famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” was sent across the land, bringing repentance to many. Later, Edwards became President of Princeton College.

Jonathan Edwards married Sarah Pierrepont, and according to A Study in Education and Heredity by A.E. Winship (1900), their descendants were incredible. They included:

1 U.S. Vice-President
3 U.S. Senators
3 governors
3 mayors
13 college presidents
65 professors
30 judges
80 public office holders
100 lawyers
100 missionaries.

This same study examined a family known as “Jukes.” In 1877, while visiting New York’s prisons, Richard Dugdale found inmates with 42 different last names all descending from one man, called “Max Jukes.” Born around 1720 of Dutch stock, Max was a hard drinker, idle, irreverent, and uneducated. He would spend many days not working, but drinking and fighting. Dugdale considered this man an atheist.

His descendants included
310 paupers
50 prostitutes
40 “physically wrecked by indulgent living”
7 murderers
60 thieves
130 other convicts.

The “Jukes” descendants cost the state more than $1,250,000.

Now some people will look at this and conclude that education, hard work, and good morals contributed to the stark contrast in the two families. I agree that those things contributed, but I see the source of those attributes coming from God Himself. When people honor God and His word, they will be hard working, educated, moral, – and blessed.

Now am I saying that when your family has problems you are not being blessed? Absolutely not! Everyone has problems, but as we continue in our covenant with God, we will be able to overcome the problems. And we will see God’s hand on our children and grandchildren.

It’s something to think about, isn’t it?

Forever Upward

Suellen Estes

 

Tune In To Politics

Christians have often stayed away from politics. The process can be so negative, with all of the mud-slinging, each side seeming to slander the opponent with impunity. It often creates strife – even in families. When debate starts, people seem to dig in their heels on their point of view, and the divide gets stronger than ever.

When it’s so negative, some people just “stay out of it.” They want peace at all costs, so they just ignore the dialogue and pretend that nothing unusual is going on. After all, they say, “This is the world, not God’s kingdom.”

I have a different view. In fact, when I wake up every morning and count my blessings, one of the greatest is that I live in a free society. I don’t have to be concerned about the authorities stopping my Christian worship. I don’t have to dress a certain way, or limit the number of my children, or worry about my daughters and granddaughters being able to attend schools and pursue their dreams.

Because our nation has been blessed by God, their are many more perks we can list. Warm or cool houses, running water, electricity, good sanitation, ample food…the list goes on and on. We are truly a blessed people.

I’m quite sure that the reason for this is that our God has had His hand on our nation from the beginning. Even Christopher Columbus noted in his diary that He felt that Providence had miraculously allowed his small crew to make the journey to the new world. Later, when the first adventurers started coming to the new country, they were seeking a place where they could worship their Christian God freely. Then, when the first settlers signed the Mayflower Compact dedicating the new country to God, our nation was started in covenant with God Himself. What a significant foundation.

The ingenuity and creativity we have enjoyed, the entrepreneurial spirit we have demonstrated, and the standard of living we have come to expect, all have come from God’s blessing.  We have had His guidance and protection from the beginning.

So why is it so important to involve ourselves with politics? We have been entrusted with a tremendous responsibility. In our free society, we have the right and responsibility to vote for the people who will lead us, make laws, and activate other decisions which affect our lives. For us not to vote, indicates that we don’t honor our freedom to do so. And for us to vote the way God wants us to, we need to know what the candidates stand for.

Successful democracy depends on an educated populace. We can’t afford to stick our heads in the sand and just hope that “God’s will is being done.” He is counting on us to pay attention and vote for His will.

So go beyond the surface, and find out what the candidates believe. Don’t just look at what they say, look at what they do.

As you do your research, ask yourself these questions. Do they honor this great country and the constitution, which many believe was inspired by God? Do they honor religious freedom? Do they honor all life – even the defenseless, like unborn babies? (Oops, I’m giving myself away). Do they want to provide opportunities for people to pursue their dreams, or do they want to control the process?

Listen to the debates, and take a look behind the rhetoric to assess the truth.

Then, make your plans to vote for God’s candidate on November 6. We need to exercise our right to vote. We don’t want to lose the privilege God has given us to live in this free country. A country which is free to strive for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

 

 

A Greater Purpose of Faith

We often talk about faith, because “without faith it’s impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) We know that we receive all that he has for us by faith. (“Through faith and patience we inherit the promises”). (Hebrews 6:12). It pleases our Father to bless us with His presence and all that He has provided. But this is not all that there is to faith.

When we are walking with God, we will begin to feel His heartbeat and His purpose will grow within us. The purpose in His heart is not just for us to have a blessed life. His purpose includes eternity and all that implies. The first implication of eternity is who is going to be there. Are you? Of course you are. But what about your neighbors? Are they?

I want to challenge you to do something. Purchase a notebook and write down a list of people who come to mind who are not walking with God. Your family members, neighbors, co-workers (yes, even that mean one), and friends. Then pray over that list everyday. Lay your hand upon the page and pray for these people to have their eyes opened to the truth. Ask God to show you if there is anything you need to say to them. Do you need to share about your relationship with your Savior?

Every situation is different, so you need to listen closely to God’s direction. Many of those you know have been hurt by those who proclaim to be Christians. Perhaps legalism has crushed or frightened them. Perhaps the hypocrisy of leaders has disillusioned them. And of course, many lies have been perpetrated to confuse and discourage those who might be seeking the true God.

One thing is for certain – these people do not have the faith that they need to walk with God. They do not have faith that their prayers will be answered. They certainly do not know that God loves them and has a good plan for them.

So that’s where you come in. These people need your faith. They need your prayers. While you couldn’t save yourself from your sin, Jesus did that for you. Now you will extend His ministry by doing for others what they cannot do for themselves.

Ask God to open your eyes to this ministry of intercession. You will pray for those who can’t pray for themselves, asking God to show His mercy to those around you. He wants His grace to be available to all. When those around you don’t know how to pray for themselves, your prayers on their behalf are crucial to His plan.

Yet there is more. After you pray, you may need to share your faith or encourage those for whom you have prayed.Tell them of God’s love for them as individuals. Answer questions, pray with them, and be the ambassador of heaven you were called to be.

There are so many in our society today who really want to know the truth, but have never had it represented in a credible way. You can be that person they need to hear. They need your word, they need your prayers, and they need your faith. Will you be one who represents your Lord in the earth?

That’s the greatest purpose of your faith.

Forever Upward,

Suellen Estes

How Do We Get The Faith We Need?

We know that we need to have faith in God to live our lives to the fullest. But how do we get it? Where does faith come from?

One day when my daughter, Leslie, was young, she came home from school very excited. As she slammed the door and threw down her books, Leslie told me that she had prayed with a friend to receive Jesus as Savior. She went on to say that she had asked Jack if he believed in his heart that Jesus was raised from the dead. He tensed every muscle in his body, scrunched up his face, held his breath, and gasped, “yes.”

Aren’t we like that? We feel as if we need to try harder to somehow conjure up the necessary faith. We strain harder, but it just doesn’t happen.

Well, there’s a reason that we can’t conjure it up. Faith doesn’t come that way. We can’t force ourselves to have great faith by tensing our bodies or holding our breath. Faith is a natural outgrowth of meditating on the word of God.

Romans 10:17 says “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” So why two “hearings?” That word for hearing in the Greek is “rhema.” It refers to God speaking to you. In other words, when you read the Bible, God begins to speak to your heart. It’s truly a supernatural thing that happens. You read and meditate on the word of God and you begin to hear God speaking to you personally. As you hear that, you find yourself believing.

I believe that one of the greatest miracles in our world today is the Bible. God, over hundreds of years, spoke to men and gave them His wisdom. He laid down His plans and revealed His nature. Centuries before Jesus came to the earth, God spoke through Isaiah and others, telling of the sacrifice that Jesus would accomplish. At first people didn’t understand it, but later, when Jesus fulfilled the scripture, men were able to “get it.”

If you haven’t read your Bible much in awhile – or ever – I challenge you. Begin to read it on a regular basis. And don’t just read it. Find some scriptures which are especially speaking to you, and say them over to yourself throughout the day. Ponder them. Let them stay in the forefront of your mind. You will begin to believe what you are saying.

Just as the physical food you eat automatically becomes nutrition for your body, this spiritual food of God’s word will strengthen and develop your spirit and you will find yourself growing in spiritual strength. Your faith will grow by itself as you feed your spirit.

Life is truly an adventure when we nourish our spirits this way. God’s plan is such a great one, if we will just get in on it!

Forever Upward!

Suellen Estes

Are You A Real Christian?

Are you a real Christian? That may seem like a strange question. What does an “unreal” Christian look like and who could possibly be one?

In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus talks to the crowd about just such a thing. He said to beware of “practicing their righteousness before men to be seen of men.” Now of course, He wasn’t talking about being a true witness, or about “letting their Gospel light shine.” He was talking about being a phony.

He said that when you give, not to sound the trumpet and give in a haughty way. There are those who are big givers, but want everyone to know about it. They brag about the large sums and they ceremoniously display their generosity.

Then He said that when you pray, not to try to show off your scriptural understanding or your great ability to pray. It’s easy to understand what He is talking about here. You know how there are some who do know a lot of Word, but want to make sure that others know they know.

Finally He said that when you fast, not to put on a gloomy face and show off your spirituality by letting everyone know that you are fasting. (The same would apply when you are fasting your desires so that you could give to His causes).

What’s the big deal about letting others know what you are doing? Well Jesus knew that the real “you” is the one you are when you are alone- when no one is watching. When you want to give, pray, or fast – not because it makes you look good to others, but because it’s who you are. You want to be close to your Father God, and you want more of His operation in your life. You want to hear His voice and be obedient.

One of the problems about the “being seen of men” syndrome, is that you can actually even fool yourself by your displays. Think of the well-known ministers who have looked so magnificent to the church, and then have been exposed as phonies. I am sure that the very fact that they saw themselves displaying great spirituality even blinded them to their sin – or at least the seriousness of it. They thought of the good they were doing and excused the secret sins.

The real “you” is who you are when you are alone and no one is watching. Ultimately, as Christians, our accountability is to our Creator and no one else. He is looking at the real deal. His relationship is with the true person, not with a poser. And the success of our Christian walk depends on what is real in our lives, and not on what others think.

In fact, if “what others think of you” is predominant for you, a snare is sure to follow. One of the saddest passages in scripture to me is in John 12:42-43.

Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him,

 lest they should be put out of the synagogue;

for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

Isn’t that sad? Many who believed in Jesus helped to crucify Him because they wanted man’s approval more than God’s.

That’s what can happen to any of us in smaller ways, if we live our lives to be seen of men. We will ultimately compromise our true beliefs. We will ultimately rationalize our bad decisions. We could ultimately find ourselves denying our Lord.

So, forget what men think. In your heart of hearts, establish that secret true, passionate journey of life with your Maker. Let your giving, your prayers, and your fasting be between you and Jesus. He is the one you answer to – and He is the one who rewards your life.

If your secret life is real, then others will know it. They will see the fruit of humility, compassion, and faith that comes with that life. When you do pray or speak in an assembly, the anointing of a true believer will shine through. Your words of witness will be strong, and the Holy Spirit will work with you with signs following.

And you will be a real Christian.

Forever Upward!

Suellen Estes