Harvest in the Midst of the Storm

I grew up with a mango tree on our property which produced great fruit during its season every year. My passion for mangos inspired me to wake up early to gather them. The Lord Jesus Christ has amazing ways of showing us His abundant grace and love through our passions and desires. So it is no surprise to me that when my faith was tested recently and I was in the midst of my darkest storms, I had a vision of a great mango harvest.

Have you ever experienced a season in your life when it seemed like the unexpected problem came without warning and was so severe that you felt paralyzed and fearful? My hope is that you will be inspired to believe and have faith in God in the midst of your storm, so you will not abandon your God-given vision.

The dream of the mango harvest gave me hope to believe in the Lord for restoration and peace. In the dream, I was at home and suddenly heard sounds of activity outside. As I walked through a door to investigate, I discovered that our home was surrounded by mango trees. To my amazement, the trees were filled with ripe mangos and they were falling down from the trees.

All of a sudden, several people appeared to help gather the harvest and we filled up huge baskets with fruit. The more we gathered and gave away, the more the mangos kept falling from the trees. In a matter of moments, there was a three-foot deep sea of ripe mangos surrounding my home. I was thrilled and happy to see the abundant harvest, but it was short-lived, as I woke up.

How could I dream of abundance during a season in my life when I was facing much despair, hopelessness, fear, and anxiety? Unexpected evil attacks had crept upon me unaware, causing me to question whether God had forsaken my family. We needed an immediate Holy Ghost intervention. My family tried desperately to remain encouraged and strong. It was a daily battle, with lots of tears and questions about how God would allow us to go through such terror.

On the Sunday following the vision of the mango harvest, we attended church and God provided me with the answers to all of my questions, in a message from our pastor. He said we were going to meet Jesus at a miraculously new and higher level! There was so much power and revelation in that sermon that we immediately grabbed the word as a personal, tangible prophecy. From the revelation in that service I was able to share with my pastors about how God had miraculously healed my soul from weeks of anguish.

If you are experiencing challenges or problems and cannot see a way out, I promise you today that there is hope! In the midst of the storm, God’s Word will bring you through.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).

No matter the situation, issue, or challenge you may be facing, just remember that in all things God is working for your good. It is God’s will that you prosper and be in good health. There are certain situations that blind you to the point that you cannot see how any good could come out of it. Yet, the Lord Jesus Christ sometimes allows things that are hidden to come out so you can win the battle and become strengthened in Him.

We cannot allow attacks to bind us into a depression whereby we settle for fear and despair. We must remember that God is faithful to heal and to fix anything that needs restoration.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 NKJV).

Through my trials and tribulations, I learned that the enemy looks for any possible way to frustrate us. He comes in suddenly like a thief to steal, kill, and destroy our God-given purpose and vision. Unfortunately, there is no careful planning or preparation that can exempt us from all evil attacks. Major issues can cause great struggle in our lives, but our full victory over them will push us to our next level of maturity, if we remain steadfast, holding to our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember: the Lord is faithful to honor every promise that He has made to us.

“For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:23-24 NKJV).

I discovered faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is critical to my survival, not something I should leave lingering around only to be used when I feel it necessary. I need it every day! I can be confident that whatever I petition will be answered in Jesus’ name; that the Lord hears my cries and will help to resolve every situation.

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated” (Isaiah 54:4a NIV).

Finally, do not be afraid to ask for help from your pastors or other mature Christians. People tend to retreat or abandon their church in the midst of trouble, instead of running to it. When you are in the valley, keep in mind that you need a hand or two to help to pull you out. God is there to protect you from any shame, disgrace or humiliation.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 KJV).

Your trials are just preparing you to stand firm in God. Do not give up on your God-given identity, purpose, and vision. Even in the midst of the storm you can see God’s hand at work and be a part of the great harvest that the Lord is calling you to partake of.

 

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FORGIVENESS IS FREEDOM  — LET THE PAST BE THE PAST AT LAST

The movie Invictus portrays one of the most remarkable examples in the twentieth century of a man who shows us how to forgive. At the time Nelson Mandela served his 27 years of political imprisonment — he held the record for the longest serving political prisoner in the world. But perhaps even more remarkable was how he emerged from his crisis.  He told his people to forgive their oppressors, focus on the future, and build a new, united nation.  He championed a nation to rebuild, in spite of the devastating trauma of apartheid. His turning point turned an entire country around. Rather than revenge, he voted for reconciliation and the world won. Instead of a bloodbath that would have buried South Africa, an extraordinarily peaceful transition took place, one that eclipsed a major ethnic and racial war. Mandela said, “I am grateful to God who enabled me to play a role in this reconciliation and forgiving process.”  From this we can clearly see, there is no future without forgiveness. If you need evidence, look no farther than our troubled world such as: Syria, Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Ireland, Sudan, Angola, Liberia, Somalia, Israel, and the Middle East, just to name a few. There is also so much forgiveness needed here at home, in our neighborhoods, families, and churches.

Talking about forgiveness; be it your offender, yourself, or even God is one thing. Following through like Nelson Mandela did, is something else altogether. But if there is no future without forgiveness, how can we afford not to talk about it?  Letting the past be the past is the genesis of the first call-in radio show in Colorado that focuses totally on forgiveness. Every day at 2 PM Mountain Time on KRKS 94.7 FM listeners call in from around the country to share their struggles, heartaches, and victories, hoping to heal and become whole through forgiveness.

The topic of forgiveness is not an easy one, because it is a matter of the heart. Are you forgiving completely, unconditionally, wholly, and entirely? That’s how Jesus forgives us. In fact, He makes it the very foundation of our prayer life, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15 NKJV). You can follow all kinds of steps: meditation, right choices, or determination, but you will be working your forgiveness out in your own ingenuity. God says in Zechariah 4:6, “…not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit…” (NKJV).  You are able to forgive those who have sinned against you, only through His beautiful love, grace, and mercy. Beyond that, He also gives you compassion toward your offender, which allows you to see their pain that was imparted to you; and actually moves you to pray for them. That, my friend, is when you make it to the “big league” spiritually. Circumcision of the heart is the only real cure for forgiveness. It is painful, and without exception, the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do; Jesus understands, He “gets it.” He was sold out and betrayed by a kiss from someone he loved and trusted. He needed Judas to move Him to the cross, so why should any of us be different?

Forgiveness is not about feeling, but much like faith, it is a choice. Forgiveness is a daily commitment made over a lifetime that sets you free! You know you have truly forgiven when you don’t talk about the offense at all, to anyone. You must let it go in order to be released. When you want to point fingers, blame, or hold on to a grudge with both fists, you relinquish control of your future. My mentor, R.T. Kendall always reminds me, “You give up new beginnings and all those possibilities for the pain of the past, when you don’t let it go!” Margaret Stunt said it best, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.” The Dalai Lama said, “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” Gandhi believes, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” An unexpected blessing emerges when you begin to forgive, some describe it as a peace they have not felt in their hearts for years!

Forgiveness doesn’t change history, but it sure makes living with it a whole lot easier. Social scientists are discovering that forgiveness may help lead to emotional and even physical healing and wholeness. Former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot, have been promoting a $10 million project entitled, “Campaign for Forgiveness Research.” This established a non-profit corporation to attract donations that will support forgiveness research proposals. In 1998, the John Templeton Foundation awarded research grants for the study of forgiveness to 29 scholars. One of the primary discoveries in these studies is that the person who gains the most from forgiveness is the person who does the forgiving. The theme of total forgiveness, more than any other teaching in the Bible, is perhaps needed more at this present time than ever before. We will see God move in proportion to our total forgiveness of one another. So the bigger the offense, the bigger the blessing!

Forgiveness is apparently not just a religious experience.  But it seems to me that if the secular world is catching on to the teachings of Jesus, even though they are not acknowledging Him, then how much more should those of us who claim to be Christians embrace forgiving those who trespass against us. If non-Christians can find peace because it is better for their health, it really leaves no excuse for anyone. A news article in the Daily Express explained how Dr. Ken Hart at Leeds University was running the first course in the world on forgiveness. It was designed to help people forgive their enemies and let go of grudges. A grant from the John Templeton Foundation paid for the seminar. The premise of the course was forgiveness is good for your health; the idea that holding a grudge can lead to illnesses, including everything from heart disease to a cold because of stored-up anger, resentment, and stress.  Here are the 10 steps to freedom from that Daily Express article.

  1. Stop excusing, pardoning, or rationalizing.
  2. Pinpoint the actions that hurt you.
  3. Spend time thinking of ways in which your life would be more satisfying if you could let go of your grievances.
  4. Try replacing angry thoughts about the “badness” of the perpetrator with thoughts about how the offender is also a human being who is vulnerable to harm.
  5. Identify with the offender’s probable state of mind. Understand the perpetrator’s history while not condoning their actions.
  6. Spend some time developing greater compassion toward the perpetrator.
  7. Become more aware that you have needed other people’s forgiveness in the past.
  8. Make a heartfelt resolution not to pass on your own pain.
  9. Spend time appreciating the sense of purpose and direction that comes after steps 1 – 8.
  10. Enjoy the sense of emotional relief that comes when the burden of a grudge begins to melt away. Enjoy also the feeling of goodwill and mercy you have shown.

Nelson Mandela said, “Bitterness only hurts oneself.” How did this shining example of forgiveness control his emotions instead of allowing them to control him? He summarized it best, “If you hate, you give them your heart and mind. Don’t give those two things away.”  Imagine a world where the lifelong lesson of each day for every person is: Forgiveness is the greatest gift each of us has ever been given, and in turn, it must be given away freely in order to enjoy the true freedom it brings.

Stephanie Riggs is a veteran, Emmy award-winning, television journalist, and author, who anchored the number one evening newscast at CBS4 News in Denver for almost 13 years, and also contributed to CBS Sunday Morning, as well as 48 Hours. (Go to stephanieriggs.com to watch some of her work.) She currently hosts her own call-in radio show M-F at 2 PM. on 94.7 FM KRKS or listen online at http://www.krks.com anywhere in the world. To learn more go to Divine Calling with Stephanie Riggs Facebook and follow Stephanie on Twitter @sriggsdenver.

Reference: Pape, Susan. “Can You Learn to Forgive?” Daily Express 5 June 2000.

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