Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What's Really Important

I have committed to leading a group of junior high school girls at my church for the duration of this school year.  The Lord has me awake tonight; thinking, praying and meditating about many things.  One of which is what I would like this group of girls to learn from me.

The world is teaching them that what is important is being popular, looking a certain way physically, acting a certain way, wearing certain kinds of clothing, having the right boyfriend, taking part in the right activities and/or the wrong activities.

However, what I would like for them to learn from being a part of my group is that what is most important in life is coming to a full realization of who God is, what it means to commit your life to Him, and that there are adults who care about them just for no reason other than that they are who they are.

John 1:18 tells us:  "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]."  Further, Jesus said in John 12:45:  "And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me."   So it is only when we become intimately acquainted with who Jesus Christ is that we can know who God is.  

Fortunately (or unfortunately; depending on how you look at it) most junior high school girls have not experienced enough of life to know really how hard life is.  They are very shallow at this age for the most part.  Life is all about "me".  Their hormones are a mess and they really don't take the time to sit down and think things through.  If you will study people, you will see that those who suffer hardship in life are, generally, the ones who have a closer walk with God.  Why?  Because they depend upon Him to get them through life's situations.  Those who are born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth learn early that Dad, Mom and their money can get them a lot of what they want in life so who needs God?  He's such a party pooper anyway.  Let a hardship - a real hardship like the loss of everything many people experienced in the West Liberty, Kentucky tornadoes this past spring - happen to them, and without God in their life, it is so much harder to bounce back...to be hopeful, recover and go forward in life. 

I hope I can convey to these young women that external things are just that:  external, and with the passing of years become those things become very unreliable.  It is the things that happen to us internally through the workings of God's holy spirit that make a solid foundation upon which to build our lives.  What do I mean by this?  Well hair styles and clothing styles and nail polish and the like change like the weather.  Beauty itself is very fleeting.   Being a cheerleader or a school athlete or Homecoming or Prom Queen passes quickly and when it's over, who even remembers much about it?  I discovered this personally this past summer when my graduating class held its 37th reunion (only our second since graduation).   But when God gets hold of a person, really takes hold, His holy spirit effects changes in a person that can change the world.  When a person is filled with love and joy, peace and patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, my what they can accomplish!  And not just for their benefit, but for the benefit of many. 

How does one go about teaching this to these young people?   I believe that the first step is having it firmly ensconced in my own mind who Jesus is, what it was that He came to accomplish and what He wants from us as his followers.

Jesus Christ is God in the flesh (incarnate).  God, even though He is GOD, didn't think He was too good to divest himself of his God-hood and take on the form of a simple, humble human being.  Philippians 2:5-9

He was tempted in all respects as we are but lived without sinning.  Hebrews 4:14-16 

He was sent to preach the gospel to the poor, to set the captives and oppressed free, restore sight to the blind and to proclaim the year of God's favor.  Luke 4:18-19

He was sent to die for us.  The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death.  If I sin (you know, like: lying, stealing, loving anyone or anything more than God, coveting someone else's possessions, dishonoring our parents, murder, etc. - and we all have!), my penalty is death.  Because Jesus (God) was a sinless and perfect man, he was a worthy sacrifice to be offered on behalf of mankind.  He paid our debt and offers the gift of abundant life on earth and eternal life upon our death if we ONLY believe in our heart that He is who He said He is, that God raised Him from the dead and confess it with our mouth, we will be saved.   Romans 10:9

He wants our love - all of it!  We are to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.  Mark 12:30

He requires us to live justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him all the days of our lives.  Micah 6:8

He wants our obedience.    John 14: 21 tells us:  He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 

Look at this list that the Lord God wants for us:  deep love for Him, freedom from sin, forgiveness of sin, abundant life, justice, mercy and humbleness and obedience.  Quite different from what the world teaches:  no God; evolution; if it feels good, do it; self-esteem; condemnation; the rich win; where's your pride?  

When we focus on being all that God wants us to be, love Him with all that we are, strive for justice among our fellow men and women, love giving and receiving mercy;  walk humbly and simply through life depending on God for everything and finally, give our lives to Christ by submitting to him in obedience, how can one not live life more abundantly and freely and joyfully (and with a whole lot less problems)?  Give me peace with God and contentment in life any day over a nice manicure or trendy clothing! 

Pray for me, will you?  Pray that I invest myself in these girls wholeheartedly.  Pray that I can be a safe haven for them in times of need.  Pray that I can show them the love, mercy and justice of God, and pray that I can show them a humble heart and a genuine desire to help them know Jesus better.

Father,

Your Word says that you are my loving ally.  Thank you for being on my side, Lord, and for loving me even though much of the time (in my eyes) I am pretty unlovable.  Help me to love others like that, Father.  Lead me in being merciful and show me how to walk humbly because I have this nasty tendency to walk proudly.   I am nothing without you, Lord Jesus.  I am like grass that has been mowed and is blown about by the wind...here today; gone tomorrow.  But you, Lord, are eternal and the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Thank you that I can rely on you always.  Work through me with these young people, Father.  Show them what you want them to see, teach them what you want them to learn and help me to grow in love, faith and obedience through this ministry.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Word for the Day - Deliverance

The Word of God tells us that death is the result of mankind sinning.  Romans 6:23 and James 1:15.

The Word also tells us that Jesus Christ, the son of God, (God incarnate) came to pay the price for our sin.  John 15:13.

This is the part of the gospel that we hear about the most often; and, it is INDEED good news!

We don't hear enough about this, though:

Jesus came not just to provide forgiveness of our sins and therefore eternal life with and through him; but Jesus also came to provide deliverance from our sins:

1 Peter 4:1

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

Romans 6:22

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Romans 6:18

Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
So, my friend REJOICE in the Lord!  Again I say, "REJOICE in the Lord"!!  Give your life to Christ.  Give your sin to Christ.  Give your addiction to Christ.  Give your bad habits to Christ.  Give it ALL to  Jesus Christ, the Messiah,  and be DELIVERED from bondage and set free to live life more abundantly, more freely, more joyfully, more confidently (not cockiness; but assurednesss) because you are no longer in control but you are controled by HIS holy spirit!

Psalm 34:1

 I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise [shall] continually [be] in my mouth.

Father,

Bless those who read this with a supernatural assuredness of your reality, your presence, and the truth of these words from Your Word.  If the reader already belongs to you, please give them a greater joy a greater peace and a greater appreciation for who you are, what you have done and how great their freedom from sin truly is.  Bless the reader, Father, with a fresh outpouring of your spirit.

If, Father, the reader has not submitted his or her life to you; then, Father, I pray that you will remove the blinders, open the ears, soften the heart and remove any and all stumbling blocks from their path to you.  Father I ask that your Word will not return void but will accomplish the purpose for which it goes forth.  May the reader come face to face with the Savior and be faced with the love that is beyond man's ability to understand, ability to accept and ability to return.  Make them yours, Lord, for I know that that is your good and perfect will; that all would come to the saving knowledge of your son, and it is in His name that I ask these things.  Amen

  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Worship Without Sacrifice

The Seven Blunders of the World: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principle... Gandhi

It goes without saying that people who are wealthy without ever having done a day's honest work, tend to be somewhat "worldly"...think Paris Hilton.  I don't want to judge this woman, but her wealth without work has provided her ample opportunity to indulge in pleasure without conscience (I might add), and she doesn't seem to mind letting the whole world know about it because she tends to be in the hollywood limelight a lot.
Wealth without work lends itself to decadence, lack of appreciation and a mindset of elitism.

Pleasure without conscience is defined as sin, licensiousness, and overindulgence.
I think of Monsanto when I think of commerce without morality.

Commerce without morality looks like greed.
...again Monsanto and other companies who are striving to line their pockets without any thought to what effects their "products" might have on human beings.
Science without humanity brings about humanism, transhumanism, genetic manipulation, and playing God.
Is there any country out there with principles in their politics?
Polictics without principles looks exactly like what is playing out on the world's stage right now.

It is the Worship without sacrifice that I would like to look at at little closer. What does it mean to worship without sacrifice? What happens when we do that?

 Jeremiah 33:11

The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD [is] good; for his mercy [endureth] for ever: [and] of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.
Hebrews 13:15

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of [our] lips giving thanks to his name.

To the best of my knowledge, Gandhi was not a follower of Christ; however, Gandhi claimed to like Christ but did not like Christ's Christians because they were so little like their Christ.

We are all called to pick up our cross, and endure persecution and sorrow for the Lord just as He suffered for us. It's part of the package. 2 Tim. 3:13 says: "Yea, and ALL that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

John 16:20 goes further in this vein by saying "Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy."

Something that I have noticed about myself is that sometimes (even when it is appropriately due) praise dries up in my mouth and evaporates. I'm not just talking about praise for God; I'm talking about praise for anyone or anything. I always wonder about that and why I would be so unwilling to lift up someone for something for which they deserve praise, and it always shames me because I know that is sin - most likely caused by envy or covetousness. Thankfully, though, that is something that does not occur often, and I have even been told that I have the gift of encouragement which I believe stems from naturally praising others for their gifts and talents.

It stands to reason, then, that it's not always going to be easy to praise God. For example, in the book of James, we are instructed to count it all joy when we are visited by times of trial and trouble (James 1:2).

The strength, the wisdom, the patience, the ability to endure hardship; these are all great reasons why we should praise God during times of testing. One of my friends has a saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".  Kelly Clarkson recently even made a record by that title.

A lot of times, then, praise really is a sacrifice;  something we make ourselves do even when we don't want to or don't feel like it, simply because we know that, in truth, God is teaching us a life lesson that will in the end be very good for us.

Psalms 116:17: "I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD."


This time last summer I was dealing with my son's illness, that progressed into a state of destruction, disobedience and anger that led to our enrolling him in wilderness camp.

Just today, my daughter informed me that she believes we (the people of the world) all believe in the same God; that God in Christianity is the same god in hinduism, islam, sikhism, buddahism, etc.!   My heart hit the floor.  Instead of immediately replying; I kept silent.  I wanted to think about my answer before just blurting out an instanteous reply.   A little later I addressed her remark by calmly saying to her that I wanted her to think about what she said.  I then told her my belief in a short statement of "We do not all worship the same God.  The God I worship is not the God of islam or hinduism or any other religion.  I understand why you want to believe that (she has friends who are from those religions and the areas that partake in them as well as Jewish friends), but that does not make it so."

 
And so it has been in this season of trial with my son's illness and subsequent problems with anger, destruction and disobedience and now with my daughter in her belief of satan's lies.   It has been a time of making myself walk the walk of truly putting my faith and trust in the goodness of God and praising Him even in the bad things we go through; even when we don't feel like it; simply because He is worthy of our praise. 

Lord, there are so many things in my life that are not the way they "should" be.  By that, I mean that they aren't lining up with your Word and You.   They are out of my hands, and I have no control over them because they have to do with the actions and thoughts of those I love.  Today I put them in to your more than able Hands.  I give them to you.  One minute of worry on my part will not change them.  Only you can change them, and that is my prayer today, Father.   You know my heart.  I want for all my loved ones to give their lives to you.   I trust you  with their lives, Father because you are good, and you are able, and You are God.  You are in charge.  Turn their hearts toward you.  Open their eyes and ears and heart to all that you say, to all that you do and to all that you are.  I pray on their behalf this morning for your forgivness and mercy to be poured out on them.  I praise you for who you are and for Your Great Name's Sake.   I thank you that you drew me near and I came.  Bless the Lord,oh my soul, oh, my soul, worship His holy name!  In Jesus matchless name, Amen.



Thursday, August 2, 2012

So Many Today are Saying "Love One Another" But What Exactly is God's Kind of Love?


God loves you. God loves me. God loves us. There's no failure to get that message out there. Yes, God does love us. There are three types of love: eros (romantic or erotic love), philos (friendship between two people) and agape (unconditional love). God's love would obviously be of the type of agape love, and the Biblical definition of love can be found in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love




The thing about God's unconditional love for us, though, is that His love is not indulgent.  If you consider the average American family, I am sure you would agree with me that parents today are very indulgent with their children.   As a fifth grader, my son was constantly badgering my husband and me to get him a cell phone, an Ipod, a certain type of shoes, or style of clothing, even down to pencils, binders and other  school-required supplies -- all because ALL THE OTHER KIDS HAVE THEM.  Do they ALL, in fact, have them?  I couldn't say postively, but I have been out and about enough to know that a great majority of kids are indulged in this way.

Because we are indulgent with our children, we expect God to be indulgent with us.  That, however, is a false expectation.  God is God!  He expects our love, respect and obedience just because of who He is.  He is all knowing -- he knows the beginning from the end and everything in between.  He is omni-present - everywhere at all times, and He is always good.  Consider Psalm 139:

    O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 7Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," 12even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. 19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain!21Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
God (being all knowing and always present) always does what is best for us in the long run (Romans 8:28), but it is not easy for us to understand God's love.  It is fairly easy for us to believe that God loves us.   He took the form of a human being and came to dwell among us in the person of Jesus Christ and gave His life on behalf of every human being who would ever grace the face of the earth from that time on.  All each one of us is required to do is (1) believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, that he came to pay the penalty for our sins by living a sinless life and dying on the cross and (2) confess it with our mouths.   "But that's too easy" you may say, and you are exactly right, it is too easy, and some people who profess really have not experienced the saving knowledge of Christ at all.  Yet when a person really sees him or her-self as they really are and really see God in all his holiness, glory and "God"ness,and understand what He's offering, they can't help but be transformed.   When one considers their immense lack and inability to attain the perfection required by God without His help, and then believes and confesses, God sends His holy spirit to live within them and He begins to work in them changing them into His likeness; sometimes with small baby step changes, sometimes with huge 180 degree life changes, but it's never just a one time thing.  It's a daily task of looking at Him and looking at oneself and asking Him what He wants to do in us today. 

Step three in this process is the hardest, obviously, not just because we are so unlike Him, but because deep down, we like our sin and we have an aversion to change.  But as we are faithful to spend time in His presence and reading His love letter to us (The Bible), and as He sees that we are willing to change, He does, in fact, cause us to change to become more and more like Him.

I believe one of the big struggles in the life of a follower of Christ is that sometimes God "feels" far away.  For myself, I think it's because He has brought me to a place where He wants more change than I am willing to accept, and until I see the light of why it is best for me, I feel kind of lost and out of sorts.   BUT once, I accept the change that God wants, my relationship with God gets back on track and I can go forward.  It's the word "feel" that gets us in trouble because the relationship God wants with His people is not based on feelings - it is based on faith...faith in what God tells us and faith in what God expects us to believe. 

You see, just like in the Old Testament when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt to take them into the promised land, He is leading us out of our own personal Egypt into the promised land.   Just as then, God is delivering us from a life of bondage and slavery to sin and giving us a land flowing with milk and honey known as the Kingdom of God, Heaven and eternal life.  It is a hard journey and one where we will have to make sacrifices and lean totally on God for directions and strength to get there, and if we don't have the ability to believe that this is the way to salvation and life more abundant and free, we'll never get there.  The whole original host of Israelites, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua (yes, not even Moses), never got to enter in because of their lack of faith and trust in God and His Word - only the children of those who had actually been slaves got to go in. 

That leads me to where I'm head with this today.  Sometimes I get really down on myself for my failures (past and present), but as I read the story of the Israelites, it hit me, that God said  they didn't get to enter in because they did not believe in  His word as salvation and that that goes for me, too.  God loves me, and I have to press on in faith that what He has said in His Word is true.  He says if I mess up, I just need to know it, confess it, don't do it anymore and go on.   Again, isn't that too easy?  For someone who's a part of the crazy, mixed up world today when there are so many ifs, ands and buts to everything, yes, it is, but God is different. His ways are different than ours and His thoughts are different than ours; but of course, that's one of the main reasons I love Him.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love.  Thank you, also for your Word which gives us reassurance of who you are and that what you say, you will do.   Thank you for making our salvation something that we have to invest ourselves in by showing you our faith.  It is hard, Lord, to simply believe and trust in what your Word says, but it is so much more rewarding when that lights goes off in our minds and we "get it".   I pray for all people everywhere today, Father, that they will come to know you and love you.  I pray for your people all over the world working to get the Word out today.  May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven today.  In Jesus' name.