Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pure Religion

I remember while I was growing up hearing my mom and others talk about people who went to church or believed in God and saying that they were "religious". ("Oh, yes, she's very religious.") In later years, the term "is religious" (at least in my church) has become sort of a "dirty" word. I think the reason for this is that so many people who were thought to be religious talked the talk of being a follower of Christ but did not walk the walk. You can be religous about anything. I am very religious about eating non-GMO food, taking pharmaceutical drugs, and brushing my teeth. The word "religious" has taken on a dogmatic feel and a sense of being under the law instead of being under grace.

So, it came as a little bit of a surprise to me this morning as I was reading my Bible to come across the terms "religious" and "religion" in the book of James. I love the book of James. It speaks to many things in my heart: 1) Being happy when you are being tested because it teaches you patience; the end being that trials and patience in them brings you to a place of perfection and completeness; 2) When you ask God for something, i.e., wisdom, make sure you are asking with complete faith that he will give it to you because if you aren't sure you really even believe that God can or will give it to you, you shouldn't even think that God would give you anything; and 3) Sin results from lusting for something (either a fleshly want or a materialistic want) and letting it take hold in your mind and take hold of you until you are going to have that thing no matter what the consequences and when you let that happen, the sinning gets easier and easier until it brings about death. And there are lots more golden nuggets like those in the book of James, and I suppose that's why I find myself in that book so often.

But, somehow I had never picked up on James 1:26, 27 which says:
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion [is] vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.

I love that phrase "seem to be religious", don't you? There's quite a difference between being religious and seeming to be religious, but if you want people to believe your testimony, you should definitely learn to control your tongue because it's going to tell on you. A person who claims to love the Lord and still feels like it's okay to go around gossiping, swearing, telling lies, bragging, being disrespectful, etc., certainly shows his true colors and loses all credibility with those people he has informed of his "religiosity" and so it become "vain" or useless.

True "religion" as defined by God's Word is to control your tongue, offer service to others and to be separate from the world.

These verses stopped me short today and made me examine myself to see if I am walking the walk and talking the talk. I love it when the Word does that because we are told in Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

How are you doing in bridaling your tongue?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Moment by Moment

I have learned in my study of the Word, that there are all kinds of sin but really only three categories of sin: 1)the lust of the flesh; 2) the lust of the eyes and 3) the pride of life.

I have pointed out on this blog in the past that pride is my BIG downfall. I tend to be a perfectionist. I am intelligent, so I tend to be a know-it-all. I am confident, so I tend to be bossy. All of these things can be good if used in the right way and place, but when you look at them through God's eyes, they are not the attitudes that He wants us to show forth in our lives as one of His followers.

Matthew 5:3-11 tells us that we are to be humble, we are to mourn, be meek, longing for His righteousness, we are to show mercy and purity of heart, we are to be peacemakers, and to suffer persecution for His sake -- not necessarily the special of the day in today's world of pursuing happiness, wealth and success at all costs.

But, I have been striving to lay down my pride; to depend on God's leading in all things. We are told in John 8:28: Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am [he], and [that] I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

We are to do nothing of ourselves but to do ALL things as God leads and tells us to do them. Even with this blog, when I write what I want to write, it just doesn't come out the same. But when I feel led of His spirit to write, the words seem to flow out of me.

The thing is, pride is one sin we have to beat down, not daily; but minute by minute, every single day. Satan was created as a perfect being, but his pride got the better of him and caused him to rebel against God Almighty. I pray that God will use whatever means to divest me of my pride. I do not, in any way, want to be like satan.

And so, last night as I prepared for bed, I realized my pride had taken hold of me again; I realized my wretchedness in thinking that there was some work or attitude I could do that would make me look good in God's eyes. I got on my knees before God and cried like a baby, knowing that it's all about Jesus and what He did for me and that alone that will ever make me right to God. Self-pity wanted to take control and anger showed up because it's just so hard to do, but my Lord reached out and touched me with His mercy and grace and said, "Kim, it's one day at a time, minute by minute. I've got you in my hands, and we'll get there together. Trust me."

Will you pray with me today? Father, forgive me when I try to do things in my own knowledge, strength and ability. You know and see everything, and I want follow you and avoid all the pitfalls of not relying on your wisdom, love and care. I know you have a plan for my life that I can't see right now, and my pride keeps trying to convince me to act before I consult you. I ask that you would take away all things that build up my pride in myself and cause me not to put all my trust in you. Thank you for your mercy and grace and for loving me so much that you gave your all for me. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen

Moment by Moment by Daniel L. Whittle

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Refrain:

Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.


Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear,
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I’m under His care.


Never a heartache, and never a groan,
Never a teardrop, and never a moan;
Never a danger but there on the throne,
Moment by moment He thinks of His own.


Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
Jesus my Savior abides with me still.

May you feel the presence of the Savior every moment today.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Using "Cross"-Examination for Self-Examination

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Hebrews: 12:12-17 Wherefore

I believe that the Bible is the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God, and the Bible tells us that Jesus is the Word of God and that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. I praise and thank God for that because I have no desire to serve a God who is like me; forever changing my mind, my look, my habits, my thoughts, my beliefs...I am so different today from who I was ten years ago, and I know that I will not be the same ten years from now as I am today. God does not change. What He said 5,000 years ago stands true today. You cannot change the Word of God to suit your mood or your lifestyle or your hairstyle or your lack of style.

When I read over the Book of Leviticus, it never fails to slay me at how many laws the Israelites were given. The priests were entrusted with so many things to consider, memorize and put into effect for the purification and remission of the peoples' sins. A lot of these were for health and cleanliness purposes, and all were for the benefit of the Israelites and even now many of these things are advocated for health and safety reasons.

Then, thank God, the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ who summed up all the law and prophets in two commands: to love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and spirit and to love your neighbor as yourself. But He also said in Matthew 5:18: For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

I am not a Bible scholar, so Reader beware, this is what I get from this. We are accepted by God by grace through faith in His gift of redemption - Christ's death on the cross, and so, we have been given the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of Christ, to walk with us every day through this life. That indwelling of the Holy Spirit tells us what to do and how live and when we don't listen to Him and we fail, we know what we've done is wrong. So, we don't have to memorize the laws and offer sacrifices; a broken heart and contrite spirit is the only sacrifice God wants from us and true determination to listen to Him and follow His counsel all the days of our lives. That being said, we know what's right and wrong in God's eyes, and so, not one tittle or jot of the law will be done away with. We will be convicted of doing wrong and required to repent and sin no more.

There also comes in to play within the design of mankind that our Creator worked into our DNA an inherent knowledge of right and wrong; good and evil. Hebrews 12:14 tells us that we are to follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord!

Just think about that for a minute: we are to be holy, as He is holy, or we will not get to see Him! And, at least for me, verse 15 tells me that I need to be looking at myself diligently to discern if I have any "root" of bitterness in me so that I don't fall short of the grace of God AND also, I am to be checking myself, making sure that I am pure, faithful to God only, and that I don't consider my birthright, in Him, to be profane!

Have you ever noticed when you plant something how the roots of it extend outward and down-ward, becoming very large and hard to remove from the ground because there are so many little shoots that cause the thing to take on a life of its own? Well, bitterness once it takes root, causes all kinds of disobedience, resentment, anger, hate, jealousy, self-pity, etc.

If I'm not careful, I could end up like Esau, who gave away his inheritance for a single bowl of meat stew. And what was His inheritance? Well, to put it simply, think of Jacob who ended up receiving the blessing and the inheritance. He became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, being in the lineage of Jesus and according to Genesis 30:43, he was very wealthy; and needless to say, he is much more famous that Esau, isn't he?

It is in this diligent self-examination that we discern if we are keeping the faith, remaining in Him and trusting Him to lead us, direct us, provide for us and love us. God did not, does not and will not approve of fornication -- whether we are fornicating in the here and now or whether we are unfaithful to Him and are playing the whore by having other gods or idols that we love more than Him.

And just like my Father in heaven, as a parent, I look at my children and think about how they treat their inheritance, and it is not just the money or things they will inherit, but my faith, my trust in God, my love for God, my love for justice and doing good; how do they treat that? Is it something that they, too, can give theirs hearts to, or is it "profane" to them?

It is, therefore, vital to the one who longs to follow Christ to be in "the Word" daily, with praise, thanksgiving and prayer, to examine oneself with the eyes of the Holy Spirit, to repent when we find that we have sinned, and to trust Him to show us the way down that straight and narrow path that so few choose to travel.

And if you find yourself in deep distress about the things of your life, it is my opinion that that is one sure-fired way to know that God is dealing with you about some unconfessed sin in your life or some area of your life that you have not given Him control of. Don't rest, search "His Word", pray, ask for Him to show you what your sin is or where you need to get rid of you and surrender to Him. Don't stop until you do all that is necessary to do away with it or surrender it, for there is no greater joy, and peace beyond understanding for those who persevere, endure and overcome. It always comes back to the cross. Jesus said that He is "the way, the truth and the life" and that no one can follow him unless they are willing to "die to themselves", "pick up their cross" and follow Him. His way is not the easy way, but it is the sure way.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hinds Feet in High Places

I picked up this book because Joseph Herrin had recommended it in one of his posts. What a delicious book! I gobbled it up in the space of one short Sunday afternoon.

This book tells the story of a young woman named Much Afraid and her walk with Christ to the Kingdom of Love. This book is so special to read. It reaches deep within, soothes your soul, and uses allegory to help the reader to understand the Via Dolorosa (the way of suffering) that one must travel in order to die to oneself and live for Christ.

It was so easy for me to relate to this story as I have been asking the Lord to cut out the things in me that do not bring Him glory. Fear seems to be a character trait that many of us have to exorcise, and Much Afraid (as her name implies) is no exception. Probably because fear is so crippling that if you are subject to it taking you over, you have little to no victory in your life and it shuts you down completely. But this book shows that when you are fearful, you are usually also beset by bitterness, subject to self pity and resentment; and very prideful.

Pride tends to be my downfall, though; no matter how I try to stay in the background. These flaws, though, can be overcome through sorrow, suffering and dependence upon the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ. It is a long and difficult journey; one where the traveller must throw all caution, pride, bitterness, self-pity and resentment to the wind and place complete trust in the Shepherd of the Soul.

If you are searching for the straight and narrow path to the Kingdom of God's Love, you will find this book to be uplifting, inspiring and a balm for your soul; and who doesn't need a large dose of all these things these days?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How Struggles Help You to Grow in the Faith

Gosh, it's been almost a month since I've posted anything on here. A couple of times I thought the Lord was going to give me something, but the flame sputtered and died.

Tonight I had no clue He would have me write something, but I feel in my heart I'm supposed to tell you how God has been working me over in recent days.

I have been crying out to God to fill me with His holy spirit. I know He's in me, some days I hear His voice all day long, other days I hardly hear a whisper, and oh, how I have been longing to have more of Him. I want to walk with assurance and know that I am doing what He wants me to be doing. But then, I know that just when that happens, my pride will well up within me and I'll think, "there you are, you are full God's spirit, you will do great things for God today", and I know that God knows that about me. So I have realized, that for me, I will have to daily call on Him, daily cry out and daily realize that it is because I am so proud when I do something, or know something or someone chooses me to do or say something, that God works in me the way He does. I have to stay humble and rely on Him. I can't just get a one-time, filler-up filling of the holy spirit without becoming proud and self-sufficient.

The Lord is showing me that there are parts of me I have not yet given Him complete control over. One of them is food. I believe the spirit is telling me that no, I am not a huge overeater, but that if I were to listen to the spirit telling me whether or not to eat and how to eat, and if less of my time were spent contemplating what to eat, when to eat, and where to eat, that I would finally take control over my eating habits, lose weight and exhibit the fruit of the spirit known as "self-control". You don't have to be obese to have an eating disorder. When anything takes up as much time in a day as eating and food does with me, I can't help but add the letters "holic" to the end of it...food-a-holic, that's me. I think about food constantly, when to eat it, if I can eat it, how to eat it, how much of it to eat...you get the picture, right? This is not glorifying to God, and I know it; and thus, I believe that this is the thing the spirit has decided to cut out of my flesh at the moment. God seems to be saying to me right now that food is wonderful, good, enjoyable and necessary to my life, but anything that distracts me that much from Him and His purpose for my life must need to be re-evaluated and re-formed in me. With our society being one that places so much emphasis on food; this is, believe me, oh, so hard to do. My mind is finally understanding and accepting that message, and I pray that soon my heart and "will" will follow.

On top of this struggle, I feel I have been the victim of spiritual warfare recently. I constantly have thoughts that I am not sealed by God with his spirit, that I am not a true follower of Christ and that "when the roll is called up yonder, I'll not be there". In my heart of hearts, I know that is not true. I have believed in my heart that Christ is the son of God, I have confessed it with my mouth many, many times; I have repented of my sins and will not, by the grace of God, repeat them, and I know that nothing I can do, ever, will give me that righteousness that I have in Christ. It is only by Him that I can stand in God's presence. Also, sometimes my thoughts want to run out of control, and I have awakened to an intense sense of a need for prayer in the middle of the night for no reason, and I sense the spirit telling me that I need to pray for a hedge of protection against spiritual warfare in my life and in the body of Christ. God then gently reminds me that I am His, and my faith that He who began this work in me WILL complete it unto the day of salvation seems to become more sure and stronger.

So, in all these things, I will give thanks to Him because I know that He is walking with me on this path to eternal life in Him. He is carrying me most of the way, and WOULD carry me the whole way if only I'd let Him.

My prayer for you tonight is that you would simply ask for Him to reveal himself to you if you don't know Him; or that you would ask for Him to reveal more of himself to you if you have already met Him. The more I know, the more I want to know, and I have faith that He will show me what I need to know exactly when I need to know it.