The Land of Bliss!

It might’ve been a dream, 

but to me, 

it was a reality to be visited only in dreams

I looked to the distance and gazed

My curious heart desired a trip to the land of bliss

 

I asked the Sailor,

“What is it like to dance and sing under the rays of ocean-light”

He looked at me with a smirk on his sunburned face,

seeing the insanity in my notion

 

His perplexed look gave way to curiosity

He replied,

“I don’t know, never done it myself

Let’s find out as one”

 

I prepared for the show

In my truest dream — the show was orchestrated under the heavenly realm

 

The wind took us out to an unknown distance

Then the Sailor Man disappeared as a mist

I found myself as a lonely pilgrim,

traveling to a place where my heart eagerly waited

to sing the song of songs, 

and dance with the rhythm of the ocean

 

Arriving where the stars kissed the ocean,

I looked up and said,

“You have turned my mourning into dancing and singing, O my forever audience”

 

I sang and danced with the rhythm of the ocean in the land of bliss day and night

 

The twinkling of stars

and the moonlight at night,

the warmth of the sunlight at day, and the roar of the ocean were the signs of encore to my blissful heart

— Parveen Michalow 

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Dark and Murky Valley!

Have you ever met anyone who can say that they haven’t been through an uncertain valley in their life’s walk? At some point in life everyone will go through trials that manifest themselves as dark valleys, These valleys could be one long journey or one might go through many valleys before seeing rays of light.

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We may ask, “Why must we face these gloomy paths in our lives? Did we do something to cause them? Could they be a result of sin, or brought on by some unfortunate circumstance?”  Or maybe we are an uninformed traveler, crossing a dark valley, while looking back and wondering what led us to such a place. Some of these valleys may look endurable, while others can be so dark that you can’t see the light at the end of the path. You’re wishing you never stepped into it….

How do you know if you’re about to enter one of these valleys and can you avoid entering it? More importantly, how do you get through your darkest valley? Whether God places you on a particular journey, or you willfully choose the path, those dingy, gloomy, and obscure valleys in our lives are actually there to teach us how to live humbly according to God’s will and to build our character. They teach us to not rely on our strength and understanding but to rely on God. He is our guide, shelter, and our protector. Every step we take on the treacherous, unknown and unclear path of life can be a trail for his glory, if we will be “still” and “wait patiently” for Him. If we are walking with Him on a daily basis, he will take us to a better place  — a place where we will eventually appreciate the view from the mountaintop.

In Psalm 23, David cried out to God as he was going through his dark valley. He didn’t talk about God, rather he talked to God.  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”(Psalm 23: 4). This verse points us to God’s promises.

If you find yourself journeying alone through a dark and scary valley along an unknown path, be still and seek comfort in God’s presence by whispering his name and listening in your deepest silence, knowing that you can always find peace and safety in your relationship with him. Even if the valley that you’re traveling on becomes gloomier and your sight is diminished, remember these verses below. They will give you hope that God’s love is sufficient for you. Whether you’re on the top of a hillside or down in a dingy and murky valley, He is closer than you think.

(Psalm 46:1) “God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”

(2 Thessalonians 3: 3) “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

(Psalm 37:5) “Commit your way to the Lord. (Romans 8:18) “The pain that you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”

(Deuteronomy 31: 6) “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” AMEN!

Do You Need a Breakthrough Prayer?

Sometimes we find ourselves praying for something earnestly and devotedly, asking God repeatedly to heal an illness or bless our finances, relationships, home, job, etc. But we don’t see any changes. Why not? It seems like our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.

At times we wonder if God even hears our prayers. Then our prayers may begin to change, becoming less about asking and more about complaining and grumbling.  Anger, frustration and bitterness begin to build, leading us to turn our backs on God. At this point, a state of absolute hopelessness sets in and we’re desperately in need of a breakthrough prayer.

How and what does it take to have a breakthrough?  The key is to change how to pray.  My pastor and other leaders, bible studies and personal experience all point me to verse (Mark 11: 24) where Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, BELIEVE  that you have RECEIVED it, and it will be yours.”

According to the verse above, we must believe and lay claim to our prayer requests, as if we have already received our answer. That is called #FAITH.  Ultimately, anything we ask of God in complete faith through his son Jesus will be given to us according to HIS WILL.

You may say, ”Why didn’t God answer my prayer?” The answer may be simply because it didn’t fit into God’s plan for your life. We may never know why God doesn’t answer or He may reveal His plan later on……

Remember, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane right before his death (he would soon be crucified to pay for the sins of every person). His human flash didn’t want to go through that horrific death. But he humbly asked,

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) 

He asked for God’s will to be done. God’s purpose for His son’s death on the cross had enormous impact on the lives of all humanity.

Based on God’s WILL, no matter whatever we go through, He will still be with us. If our small or large requests do not fit into His perfect plan for our life, He will graciously change our hearts and will gently lead us to His plan.

Rick Warren said in one of his sermons, “Thanking God before He gives you something – that’s called FAITH.  Thanking God after He gives you something – that’s called GRATITUDE.”

The most important key to having a breakthrough prayer (besides thanking God before and after He answers our prayer), is to pray as Jesus did in verse (Matthew 26:39) — let your WILL be done, O Lord, not my will. Amen!

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To Whom Do You Cling?

When you run out of resources and find yourself in desperate circumstances, to whom do you cling? 

Some of us have a tendency not to ask for help. Either pride holds us back (we think we can do it all), or we don’t know where to turn….

I remember times in my life when I thought I could handle a situation by myself. I tried to solve the problem but ended up frustrated and disappointed. This mindset “I can do it alone” strategy was a sign of my spiritual immaturity. 

When we don’t grasp the hands of God in times of difficulty, it’s easy to forget who is the source of our blessings. Inevitably, we find ourselves completely lost. 

The temptation to forget God is always present — even when we are having the time of our lives.  When life is comfortable and pleasant, do we stop and thank or even think of that one person who has us on his/her mind at all times?

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”

Whether in times of bliss or depression, God invites us to cling to the Lord Jesus and daily place ourselves at the foot the Cross, experiencing the death and life of Jesus. As Peter Scazzero says in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, “The invitation is to go to the cross daily alone, while we’re suffering with our losses (job, marriage, home, health or loss of a loved one).” 

The invitation also stands in times of gladness, to thank Jesus for providing the forgiveness of sin for all those who believe in him. He paid the penalty for the sins that we committed in our ignorance, and even the ones which were deliberate. When we willingly receive what was done for us on the cross, the cross becomes our resting place and that is when we are born again. Our new life becomes the answer to Jesus’ prayer on the Cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)

As we immerse ourselves in God’s love and cling to his promises, the result will be not loss, but rather gain — a fulfilled life, the life that God intended for us.

While “holding fast” to the cross, we will be able to experience God’s power resting upon us. Our part is to go forth and tell the story of the lamb who takes away the sin of the world. 

 (Psalm 63:8) “My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”

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Her Mysterious Heart!

There are many great women who have changed and influenced the world around them with their hard work. But when it comes to understanding a particular woman’s heart, her immeasurable love and strength is unfathomable. God has designed her heart mysteriously.

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Everyone has a different definition of a woman’s heart – Hallmark cards, books, and movies come close to describing the nature of her heart but somehow miss the mark. This woman is called Mother. What is a Mother’s heart? Who can understand her tender heart? Not even the father of her children can understand her. Another mother might come close to understanding but she has not found anyone who cares enough to see her true self – where love resides, and shows itself through her actions or her smile. The only one who can really understand her at the deepest level is the designer of her heart, God himself. God has given her the joy of smiles and laughter as well as tears to shed whenever she needs to cry. He is the one who counts every teardrop. She prays without ceasing and relies on His promises, because He is the source of all her blessings. Never underestimate the power of her prayers.

Any woman who keeps her covenant with the Holy God will grow in righteousness, and God will develop within her a pure heart. We all know the story of Mother Mary in the Bible – the mother of Jesus, who was characterized by God as “Highly favored” (Luke 1:28) The angel appeared to Mary and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Indeed Mary was a righteous woman and blessed by God as the one chosen to be the mother of Jesus. But Mary was still an ordinary human used by God in an extraordinary way. She recognized that she needed Jesus Christ as her Savior, just like everyone else. People praised her because she was given the blessing of giving birth to the Messiah. But how different is Mary’s heart from ours as a mother? There is no difference. She was in tremendous distress when Roman soldiers tortured her son by nailing Him to a cross. She was standing there as it happened. I cannot imagine the agony she went through watching Him, who had no sin, lay down his life for the sin of the world. What grieved her heart the most was to see the suffering of her innocent son. He was found guilty of loving us. As He was hanging on the cross, He asked His disciples to comfort her.

Mary sets the example for us. Some believe that Mary can hear our prayers and she prays on our behalf. But Jesus is our only advocate in Heaven. Mary directed her worship, praise and adoration to God through Christ Jesus alone. Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is His name (Luke 1:46-49).
Since we are celebrating the Heart of a mother this week, let us pray for all mothers – whether you are a mother or not, and whether your mother is with you or not, ”May the Lord our God bless you [her] with the love of your [her] children, patience, wisdom, faith, and may He be gracious to you this Mother’s Day and everyday of your life and use you for His purposes in an extraordinary way. In Jesus precious name, Amen!”

Friend of a Lion!

CAC3EAB6-84BA-403A-B08F-88AA69925BBB.jpegIt has been said, “In life, have a friend that is like a mirror and shadow; A mirror doesn’t lie and shadow never leaves.”
So true! Who do you call your best friend? Who is that one person who is your shadow? The one who knows you intimately — your sadness, happiness, silence, pains, disappointments, and hurts. Who is that individual who believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself? In Proverbs 17:17 Solomon says, “A true friend loves at all times.”

Everyone wants to be a light in someone else’s life, but who is your little candle that throws its beam of light and truth into your darkest hours? Friendship is an essential part of a fulfilled life. We are created to be social creatures and life without friends would be lonely and dull. Connection with the right people makes life more exciting and fulfilling.
On the other hand, let’s not sugarcoat this – sometimes those who call themselves our friends may cause us grief and hardship, constantly disappointing us. So what exactly is a friend? A friend is someone with whom you can be yourself without fear of judgement, someone you can confide in with complete trust, someone you respect and who respects you, not based upon worthiness but on a likeness of mind.

Yes, that’s completely true! But what does the Bible have to say about friends? Who is the very definition of a friend? The Bible takes it further — a true friend is someone who takes all your blame, shame, and punishment upon himself.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest definition of a true friend. He is the one who lay down his life for the sin of his friends (the world). In (John 15:13) Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

So here’s the question: If someone takes your punishment and is even willing to die in your place, wouldn’t you call him/her your truest friend, and your everything? Jesus did that very thing for you, me, and everyone….. Jesus’ death was a substitution, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Peter 3: 18)
I call him my true friend! The “Lion of Judah” became my best friend (The lion symbolizes royalty, power, dominion, strength. That’s the theme of the revelation of Jesus Christ). As my Lord and my true friend, he is the first one that I must go to and consult concerning my life. After all, he has the permanent mark of a true friend eternally etched on his hands (the wounds from the nails which pierced him).

Moreover, he knows all there is to know about us and wants the best for us. The king of Lions humbled himself and became a lamb and suffered for the sake of his friends. Wouldn’t you like to call him your friend?

God’s Perfect Design!

Our neediness and God’s holiness are a perfect fit. He carefully designed us to have longings and feelings of incompleteness. If we don’t recognize and acknowledge these feelings, we will end up filling these needs with lesser gods (possessions, self-image, addiction, power, etc.), which will leave us unsatisfied. If we instead reach out to God in our neediness with humble hearts and desire to be blessed by him, we will see the fulfillment of his rich promises. I now rejoice in my neediness as it brings me continuously closer to his holy dwelling place.

Just like everyone else, when I rise up every morning, I have plans for the specific needs of my family and myself. These plans may be small or big, made in spur of the moment or far in advance. Even with all my planning, I must remind myself to be attuned to God’s plan. We all have a propensity to do what our flesh desires to do, without considering the outcome.

When we are determined to get our own way and insist on our agenda, we actually block God out of our consciousness. Rather than single-mindedly following some selfish goal, we must take a quick turn to God and ask Him to shine His light on our mission, so that we can see it clearly from His perspective. All it takes is a quick prayer, a simple conversation with our Creator. Of course, it must be done with an open mind and heart if we are to be receptive to His plan. I confess that sometimes I forget to pray before I move forward with my game plan. Other times I do pray about my idea, but without waiting to hear what God tells me to do. I hurriedly continue on with my original plan, then eventually face an unpleasant result. But the good news is that I’m beginning to recognize this! I’m practicing the act of “asking, waiting and obeying”. As painful as it is to wait (I’m not a very patient person), I’m learning to wait on God’s plan. The result is always beautiful, peaceful, drama-free, and satisfying. If our mission fits into His pattern for us, He will help us to achieve it. He will never let us down. And if our mission doesn’t fit into His plan, He will eventually change our desires to align with His own.

(Matthew 6:33)
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

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God wants us to live from our deepest and truest center in him. He longs for us to have a raw and authentic relationship with him and humbly bring our needs to him. He doesn’t want his children to hide and wrap their true self with good deeds and flowery talk. Let us allow his love to penetrate deep within us, so that we will live a pure and blameless life.

I don’t know what road you are on, but I can tell you this; the road that I’m on highlights all my needs. And no one can fulfill them but God. My weaknesses are evidence of my need for a savior. Are you in need of a savior?

The Miracle of The Cross!

Why do we presume only certain things from God? And why do we not stop for a moment and think of the verse where Jesus said, “God can do things that are not possible for people.” ( Luke 18:27)

We can’t put God in a box and set Him on the top shelf, expecting Him to do whatever our little minds devise.  God can do anything He desires!  Nothing is impossible for Him. We experience His miracles all around us on a daily basis.  Miracles are one of the ways God gives evidence of His power and His Holiness.  Miracles are meant to glorify God and remind us that nothing is too hard for Him.  God displays His sovereignty by healing people miraculously and His mightiness is on display hundreds of thousands of times each day through the miracle of newborn children. If God can create life, don’t you think He could raise a dead person to life?
Who are we to say, “Oh no, God won’t do this or that.” Why not? After all, He is God and we are not. It is beyond our ability to understand God’s mysterious ways. Thankfully, we don’t need to have the answer to all of our questions in order for us to believe in Him. All He wants us to do is to live by faith — a faith that recognizes the miracles happening around us but does not require them constantly occuring in order for us to believe. We can trust Him with our whole heart because He has a purpose for all He has done and will do.

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Based on His unconditional love for us and by His authority, He has done something that no human could do or even hope to understand (except through faith). The world witnessed God’s mighty power in the most important truth in the history – the death of Jesus and His resurrection. Surely it was God’s perfect plan, just as He planned Jesus’ miraculous birth (another event that’s beyond human understanding).  His resurrection has enormous relevance and impact to the lives of all of humanity.
This event was not only predicted by Jesus himself (that He would die and rise again after three days – the description is in Mark chapter 8), but also foretold in ancient times by the Old Testament prophets. Why would God hand His perfect and sinless Son over to religious but blindly misguided people who would harm and kill him?
God’s love and mercy are great, even to the point of His willingness to send His own Son to die on the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty of sinful mankind. He did this so that He, in complete justice, could forgive those who are willing to turn away from self-dependence and sin and turn to reliance upon Christ and His finished work.
As it is clearly stated (in Romans 6), with the death of Christ, our sins become powerless to rule over us. Without the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as the lamb of God (who was perfect, without any blemishes), we would still be in our sins, unforgiven, unsaved, and unloved. The cross erases our old lives. So the cross is not just a symbol, it is the mark of our salvation.
The story of Christ did not end with his death.  His resurrection is equally vital to the message of the gospel. He rose from death just as He told His disciples he would (in Matthew 16:21).  If He is not risen from the dead, then we would still reside in darkness with no hope.
Because of His resurrection, his promise holds true. He said (in John 14:19), “Because I live, you also will live”. Our great enemy, death, will be defeated.  It is impossible to separate the death of Christ from His resurrection. You can’t believe in one and not believe the other, as that would be a false teaching of the gospel. We are forgiven of our old sins by His blood on the cross and receive our new lives by His resurrection. Now we as believers and followers of Christ are no longer under the power of sin. And that is why we celebrate Easter. Our Lord is risen! Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

“Have You Seen The One My Heart Loves?”

First I looked for him in my home,
he was nowhere to be found.
From there I went town to town and city to city, there was no sign of him.
Then I went across the world,
I did not find the one my heart loves.
I looked for him in the city there and did not find him,
through its streets and squares. I said;
I will search for the one my heart longs for.
So I continued looking for him, but still did not find him.
The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city.
I asked them,
“Have you seen the one my heart loves?” (Song of Solomon 3:3-4)
The answer was “No”.
I asked again, “Have you seen the one who wrote your story and mine?”
They said; “No”.
Scarcely had I passed them, and many more after….
when I heard a voice in the depth of my soul,
saying; “Call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29: 13- 14)

I shouted with joy, “ I found the one my heart loves.”
I held him and would not let him go, and brought him home, telling everyone about him….
How silly of me to look for
the One my heart loves in all the wrong places,
but not in the one place that he calls home —
the same place where his love resides —
deep within me.  My soul was drenched with his love!
I found the one my heart loves — God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

— Parveen Michalow

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Divine Jealousy vs. The Venom of Human Insecurity!

We normally think of jealousy as being a negative characteristic, a sin similar to envy. And we may think that jealousy is rooted in insecurity. Yet there is appropriate jealousy as well as improper jealousy. Righteous jealousy is a Divine (godly) trait.  When we worship false gods (possessions, money, our career, sexual immorality, self-promotion, obsessions with things, self-worship, etc.), we provoke God’s jealousy over our idolatry. You may say, “How could that be?” But God says in (Exodus 20:4-5), “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God….”

19D15932-C69B-4C4B-A196-D27C9F01764D.jpegGod is “jealous” in the sense that He expects full devotion, not a light or lukewarm commitment. Worship belongs to God and He is right to be jealous of it. God alone deserves our worship and praise (Jeremiah 10:6-7). He commanded His children to worship Him alone. He will not tolerate the worship of other gods.
God is jealous when someone takes something that rightly belongs to Him and keeps it for himself or gives it to another. Similarly we can have appropriate jealousy, when someone takes something that lawfully belongs to us.

On the other hand, there is an unrighteous jealousy that gives birth to animosity. This kind of jealousy goes hand and hand with insecurity.  Most people do not readily admit their deep feelings of envy, finding it easier to focus on the jealousy of others.  But if we are honest in our self reflection, we may find uncomfortable feelings beneath our pretentious surface.  For instance, you may say, “Why can’t I be like her/him? How come they have it all, and I don’t?” We may try “to keep up with the Joneses”. There is nothing wrong with desiring to have talents, skills or even nice things. But when our desire for more overrides the will of God, we can find ourselves dissatisfied with what God has given us. This is a dangerous place to be as it can lead to ruin and destruction.

Another problem with improper jealousy is that it can poison our relationships. The venom of jealousy can eventually bring relational separation and pain.
This brings to mind the story of Joseph. Joseph is an important figure in the first book of the bible, Genesis. His life story is at times heartbreaking, but it ends victoriously. Joseph was his father’s (Isaac’s) favorite son.  His jealous brothers planned to kill him, but settled for selling him into slavery in Egypt. How could his own flesh betray him? Sadly, jealousy can blind people to the point that they deny their own family.
As Joseph endured years of slavery and later prison (he was falsely accused of rape by the king’s wife), he continued to believe in God and remained hopeful. He glorified God even in the midst of his darkest hours and he managed to help other prisoners by giving them hope and comfort. God showed His mighty power through Joseph’s life and Joseph eventually became the second most powerful person in Egypt.

What do we learn from Joseph’s perseverance and his servant’s heart? The Bible encourages us to combat jealousy by renewing our way of thinking. We can accomplish this by reading the Bible, praying, obeying God’s commands, and fellowshipping with mature believers. We are blessed to have such great access to the throne of God through Jesus as our advocate.  God’s word can enable us to be joyful for someone else’s success, talents, and achievements.
As we start thinking less about ourselves and instead focus on God and on the needs of others, our hearts will begin to change. We can keep this in the forefront our minds, even in the thick of unpleasant circumstances, because of God’s love for us. He desires to show His power through our struggles.
The Bible clearly tells us that we are to have the perfect kind of love that God has for us. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not ENVY, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)