Friday, February 26, 2010

Time to Rest

Exodus 20:8-10 - Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work...

I have to admit I remember when nothing was open on Sundays except church...but only vaguely.

How we've changed. Society has allowed the "bottom line" to become important. And we've allowed other activities to become the thing that takes precedence over God. We still owe God something and taking one day out of our week to devote to Him seems harder to do. With stores, restaurants, movie theaters, golf courses and so many other things drawing our attention away from Him, it's easy to fall into the trap. Guilty...

It's even become a joke in some churches when the pastors kid about getting out before the brunch crowd rush or better yet, the "game." Hah, I heard a pastor say on Superbowl Sunday he'd asked his congregation once to record the game because there would be an evening service.  Someone in the congregation called out (I'm sure jokingly?) "couldn't we record you?!"

God may have something especially in store for us that we might be missing out on. How can we put Him in a box and only allow Him access when we're available? How can we look at our watches and fidget because we have other plans to go? Why is it our time seems to be more valuable than His? I'm just as guilty, believe me. I struggle sometimes just keeping up my blog when the appointments creep up and I get behind schedule. Ugh. Guilty.

We used to spend time together as families. I can remember growing up and spending every Sunday for dinner at somebody's house. Grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins would all gather and talk...or maybe watch football...but we got together to do this. Maybe there are still families who do this. Maybe there are even some who enjoy it. I can't imagine doing this. It's been such a long time...and times do change. But I wonder if times hasn't changed hearts as well? It's the "me" society today. "My" pleasures. We've been warned about these times....

We are looking for a new pastor. Part of my prayer is a new spirit be evident in our church. No preconceived ideas about what church should look like. That the pastor be so totally led by the Spirit that he might forego his sermon for the sake of this Holy Spirit moment. My prayer is that the hearts of our people would change and take Him more seriously than ever before. That the family I mentioned above might move toward the family of churchgoers. When time at church is more important for those who don't have family family. You know? 

I'm convinced there are rough days ahead. There might be days when all those things we do for entertainment might be placed on the back burner for more pressing issues. I guess only time will tell. 

Yes, God needed a day of rest. He wanted His people to rest as well, so they could spend time with Him. Yes, we need rest too. Perhaps some of the activities we engage in are okay, but I think God would like them to be God-centered. How do we do that? Even some churches shuts down after the morning services; some, however, have an evening service. Perhaps the time in between is to be set aside to spend with family or loved ones.

Are we making our "day of rest" one that honors God or gives us the pleasure? Isaiah even tells us that we are not to seek our own pleasure but delight in God (Isaiah 58:13). How times have changed. I'm convicted myself. I'm believing there are some of us who have a long way to go before this type of achievement will take place. Guilty.

The big question in my mind is "What does God think of this behavior?" If He loves us so much, how disappointed is He that we don't show Him respect? How do we relearn what we have either unlearned or never have learned? How strong is our desire for God to do this? These are my own questions... I want to delight in my God and be a delight to Him but when the desire is not evident around me and society thinks one like that odd, how do you do it? And to what extent? Do we want to be blessed by God or content in our own activities? Yes, God wants us to be happy, to bless us, but I think another condition would be that it be done honoring Him. 

I'll tell you, I'm desiring more of God and desiring change in my life. But there is still a draw from this world. I'm feeling a need to surround myself with more people who are God-centered. But we are also called to be of the world, but not in it. To be the salt and light to the world. Where do I start??

Isaiah 56:1-2 - Thus says the LORD, "Preserve justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come and My righteousness to be revealed. How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Swear !

Exodus 20:7 - "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." 

So what does this mean? I've heard it said that when we do use God's name in vain we are actually pronouncing, in the spiritual realm, that to happen into the situation or person. Even the use of "oh my God" other than at a time when we truly need His help is using His name in an improper manner. How we have changed in our thinking.

You know me and definitions. 
Vain according to Webster tells us it means having no real value; in other words: idle, worthless, foolish or silly. Consider that. God who created the heavens and the earth, who formed us in our mother's wombs, who knows everything about us and has known since before we were yet formed. Is it right to use His name foolishly for all He's done for us? Is God foolish? I think not. Are we? No doubt.

He is deserving of much more respect than that. I've seen movies and television programs that use His name inappropriately. I remember seeing a movie some time ago on television that blanked out all offensive words...but when the name of God was used it was okay. That was almost more offensive to me than the other vulgarities. 

It's never appropriate to speak God's name other than in reverence or in a time of need. He says He will not hold anyone guiltless who takes His name in vain. How our society has changed. Some might say from prim and proper to "getting with it."  Times change...but does God?

If we have been created by this all-knowing, all loving, even judgmental God, wouldn't it be best to show Him the respect due Him? Listen to what these verses in the Psalms say:
Psalm 8:3-4 - When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?

Who are we? 2Timothy reminds us that as children of God we have great authority over things on this earth...and will in heaven. We will reign with Him. 
2Timothy 2:12 - If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. The second part of this verse sort of tells us He will think twice about who He would want to be part of that privilege. Our use of His name is just one point.

Perhaps we need to hear more in our churches about exactly what taking God's name in vain means. Maybe the following scripture sheds some light. The Levite Priests were called by God to teach all things to the people. Has this been taken too lightly? Has it been too harsh a word and clergy are afraid of losing congregants with hard words? I do believe God's name would fit in the context of unholy and unclean.

Ezekiel 44:23 - "And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Am the LORD Your God

Exodus 20:2-4- I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth... 

After Israel was set free and began what was supposed to be only a short trek in the wilderness to the land that God had promised them, He met with Moses on Mt. Sinai to give them a set of instructions. I mentioned yesterday that there are conditions. Just like there are conditions in everything in life: work for pay; obey the rules and stay out of jail; read the instructions before assembling...

When we receive Christ these instructions are meant for us as well. We cannot accept the Lord then figure we can live any way we desire because we did what was "necessary" for our salvation. We receive a set of instructions ourselves. In faith we adhere to these instructions and God will become our protector, provider and friend in time of need.

There are ten commandments just as applicable today as back then. They should be the foundation of our lives. They will lead us to a life that is good, better than we can do on our own. But this also takes faith. What does God require of us? What will He do for us if we keep these rules? Is it even possible to keep them all? Are any of us guilty of breaking even just one? I'm going to go over these commandments over the next few days. I can't say I haven't broken any myself. But that's the redemptive power of Christ in our lives. He is willing to forgive those who humbly come to Him and wish to receive from Him.

I'm sure we all know what the first commandment is: First and foremost should be our love of our Heavenly Father. No other gods...nothing...not family, job, activities. Does the thought of God permeate your day? Do you talk with Him or hear Him speak to you? This should be normal for those walking with Him. It's something so special. He created us for communing with Him. If we desire to be with Him He desires to bless us in the things we long as they are not taking His rightful first place.

He created us and knows us each by name and knows our every need even before we do. We know how hard it is to remember every person's name when we meet them. How hard is it to remember the one Name that matters? Imagine Him knowing all our names! I wonder how He must feel when we ignore His presence or speak His name occasionally...or speak His name frequently in the wrong way... 

He tell us He is jealous after us. The Hebrew definition of this word means "to excite to jealous anger or to cause jealousy; zealous." For us jealousy is not a flattering word. But to God it's good. His desire is for us to follow Him rather than be caught up in a life that the devil controls. God or the devil? Seems a pretty cut and dried decision. Zealous means "marked by fervent partisanship for a person, cause, or ideal." Partisanship...adhering to one cause or person. If we adhere to God He will adhere to us. Abide in Me and I will abide in you (John 15:7). If we consider Him our one, true God, He will consider us His priceless treasure, that object of His affection. Each one of us...

Webster's defines jealousy as "intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness; vigilant in guarding a possession." God guards His possession. His rivalry in our lives is with the enemy, the devil, who doesn't want us to be devoted to one person or thing. We are stricken or held  captive to sin when we follow Satan. To God, sin is sin, at any level. There's no such thing as a little sin opposed to a major one. To those who love Him, however, He is ever guarding us as His treasured possession. Are you His treasured possession?

God desires to show His mercy to those who love and are devoted to Him and who heed His commandments. He only wishes the best for us and keeping our minds focused on Him is the first step to having a God who chooses to give us His best. If only we could grasp that concept. That's what faith is. People use the phrase "keep the faith" but I wonder how many think of God when they say that?

Days are coming when faith in God may be the only thing left. I'm thankful today that I have a foothold on my faith and it is being built (yet not perfect) so that when I need it most I don't have to go through a crash course in it! I'll know Who to turn to immediately and not flounder looking for a way to have faith. There is a Way. You just need to know Him. Day to day experiences now provide the opportunities to learn faith. Our God 
is jealous after us...He wants to provide that strong foundation for our faith by being our first priority.

Exodus 20:5,6 - shall not bow down to them [idols] nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Other Shoe

2Peter 3:3-5 - Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago...

The other shoe...when will it drop? What could I possibly mean by that? We are told that in the last days before Christ returns the majority of the world will be so caught up in their own priorities that they will not be ready for the attack of the enemy and the imminent return of Christ. I know who I am in Christ. I know I have given my life to Him. Yet, I know there's so much more to offer to Him, so much more to give up, to share. I feel a stirring within me. I often wonder if I'm doing enough. Am I totally consumed with Jesus? Not a day goes by I don't think of Him. Not just through nature but in words I hear or thoughts I have. But is that enough?

Are there things I'm still holding back? Or has my day not yet arrived for all the plans He has for me? I pray for His will to be done but am I missing it when it is right before me? Questions, questions. If I have these questions how about the next? How about those who do not even know the Lord?

The other shoe...that event that happens that brings this world to it's knees. Will it be a time when God is so much more reviled and rejected? Will there ever be a time when the world hears and listens to the truth that needs to be revealed? Is the thruth slipping through the cracks of understanding that only through Jesus Christ can we be saved from all that happens around us...if we choose to hear and accept His words?

I don't think I can say it enough. This is not a church or denomination thing. No one religion can hold claim to salvation. It's strictly a personal choice we make when we hear the truth of God's Word, let it take root in the proper soil of our open hearts and let God water and fertilize it in only the way He can. Salvation is for all mankind. It's for Jews, Lutherans, Mormons, Catholics, Baptists...all denominations. Some just speak more openly about relationship over religion. 

The other shoe...terrorism, unemployment, health care, rising national debt and other things are causing us concern. How will it ever be resolved? Or will it? See what is mentioned as last-day scenarios in 2Timothy 3. Click on this link and read for yourself. I couldn't possibly be making this up! Our enemy wants to see things fail because then he believes he has won. But what's this I hear? He won't win? Why? Because Jesus Christ has him under His feet...always has, always will. That's great news...for those who believe it.

The enemy would be the devil, striking through the hearts of evil men. The enemy knows how to attack in so many ways...through his lies, illness, addiction, unbelief, confusion, fear...anything that goes against the nature and plans of God. We don't always recognize this nor do we always take it seriously. We think we are safe in our own little worlds. We might go about our lives without concern or thought about what lies ahead. Some scoff at the notion that there is a real spiritual enemy. It might come as a surprise one day.

I was driving several really bumpy roads this morning. I know it's the time of year when the ground and pavement shrinks in the cold, but the thought ran through my head...this is what the world will be like sooner than we might want to think. Not just a bump here and there but a continuous jarring of our senses. Are we ready for that? What will be the one thing that brings us to a smooth road again? Spiritually, I believe Jesus. He is our straight Path, the Way. Without following His path our road will always be filled with bumps.

I for one believe I am prepared, but to what extent? I'm thankful that God gives us the strength we need at the exact moment we need it. Isaiah 40:29-31 shows us that: He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

However, there is always a condition God requires of us to receive His peace, His presence, His protection. That condition is that with our whole heart we receive Him in faith as our Lord and Savior and to forgive us of our sins. He will reciprocate.

The other shoe...could drop today or tomorrow. A sudden accident could take your life in a heartbeat or some unforeseen thing could suddenly be confronting you. Do you know for a fact where your strength will come from if needed? Can you say for absolute certain you will be allowed to enter into heaven when you die? How do you know? I know because the Bible has shown that no good works will get us in (Ephesians 2:8-9), being a pretty good person by the world's standards won't do it (Romans 3:10). Jesus is the only Way.

Lay claim to that precious gift today. Stop dragging your feet or letting pride keep you from taking this step. I'm thankful I know the Way, the Truth and the Life. Do you have that same confidence? Do you know deep in your heart that you have committed yourself to Jesus or is He just a man who lived 2,000 years ago who has no bearing over your life today? Let Him reign sovereign today. Ask Him to show Himself to you. Let your heart be ready to learn His truth. 

He will return. We don't know for certain when, and no man or group who tries to pinpoint a date is to be believed. But He will return when the Father tells Him, "Now." The Bible is clear about those last days. So much we see in the world today is an attempt by the enemy to draw more men away from God and into a form of disbelief. Lord, help us.

2Peter 3:9-10 - The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thank You

Genesis 17:8 - Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for who You are. I thank You that You are our Creator, that You know everything about us, that You knit us together in our mothers' wombs and You care about every little part of us and every bit of our day to day lives. You even keep track of every hair on our head. Every tear we shed You hold in Your hand. You know our hearts. And it is You who leads us to the wonderful knowledge of who You are and teaches us these very things through the wisdom of Your Word.

When I think about my days before You I cared very little about You. I knew who You were, I believed in You and I knew who Jesus was. And that was good enough for me. I believed You were such a good God that You would allow everyone into heaven. I knew so little about You then and I am so thankful that You cared enough about me to woo me and call my name that I might find out what a relationship with You really is. I'm so thankful that You have opened my eyes, my heart and my mind to the wisdom in Your Word. I'm thankful that through this wisdom I am daily finding out more and more about You.

I thank You for the friends I have cultivated because of the unity we have in You. We are Your children, Your priceless treasures, heirs with Jesus on the Throne, and you have made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve You. What an honor that is. This is just too incomprehensible at times. I thank You this is for anyone who chooses to hear Your voice and answer the call to become children of the Most High God. And it's no more than that, answering the call. It's by Your grace and nothing more. Not working to win Your love or Your appreciation, but asking to become in Christ through our turning from our worldly ways and having faith in You. 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God...That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved...for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  - Ephesians 2:8, Romans 10:9, 13

You consider us part of Abraham's seed, those to whom You vowed a promised land--eternal life in heaven. This world we live in is no more than a stepping stone to what lies ahead. We are no more than strangers mentioned above on this earth. 

I'm so thankful it doesn't take more than a heart-filled acknowledgement that You are our Savior, our Redeemer, our soon-coming King. It is in You that we live and move and have our being. There is nothing we can do on our own. It's all through the mighty power You have and the urging You do in our lives to draw us closer to You so we might hear Your voice for ourselves and act accordingly.

I thank You that Your Word is Your love letter to us. Page by page You share who You are with us and show us Your wisdom, Your miracles, Your grace, Your deliverance, Your love, Your redeeming powers. I can't imagine not wanting to turn the next page to find out the next great promise You have for me.

I love how You weave an intricate web of detail into Your character. Sometimes it's so deep it's a revelation that I even understand the gist of it...and I'm sure I'm still only understanding just the surface of who You are and what You have to say. I thank You I never grow weary of thinking of You. And the thought that You care about the smallest of details...simply amazing. 

These few words probably don't even express what's truly in my heart. It's hard to put feelings into the exact words. But You know, Lord. You know. 

As I begin my day, I pray that You will touch the hearts of others who don't understand. I ask that You soften calloused hearts, fearful hearts, skeptical hearts, proud hearts, angry hearts, evil hearts. I ask that You reveal Yourself to the world in a powerful way. I'm so thankful that despite those who would try to diminish who You are, You will remain victorious. Your plan in this world will come to fruition even if You need to bring tragedy first. How else will others believe? How else will they see that it is through Your strong hand that you will deliver those who choose to submit and follow? 

We are a disobedient lot of people. We are stubborn, proud, vain and foolish, to name a few things. You can cause anyone to submit. But at the same time, You will not force anyone to follow You. I sometimes don't know how to pray for them. I may not always have the full amount of love that You do. A fault of mine, I'm sure. But nothing You can't fix! 

Lord, help me see Your hand in my life more clearly. Direct my steps, light my path, clear the way and open the doors of opportunity; interrupt my day. Remove anything that gets in Your way for my life.

This is just a small part of what is in my heart. Let these few words be my worship for You this day. In Jesus' name I pray....Amen.

Galatians 3:27-29 - For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More on Freedom From Captivity

Exodus 14:13-14 - And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today... The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."

Boy, Exodus is chock full of pictures of what God did for Israel just like Jesus does for us. Mmm, mmmm, mmm. Zechariah 4:6 says it's 
"not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit says the Lord of Hosts." Israel was saved from destruction from Pharaoh's army. He delivered them from captivity and set them free from their enemy.

I mentioned yesterday that it is by God's own hand that we are delivered. Upon thinking more on this I thought about how it is by His power that we are saved. Not anything we can do works-wise can achieve it. That's what Zechariah 4:6 above means to me. Without our even suspecting it, God first begins to show us His truth. He speaks to our conscience or our spirit, sometimes repeatedly until it takes root or we are willing to hear and listen. When He gets our attention He grabs hold and draws us in.

I remember when this happened to me. A friend from work already had been drawn into His presence and accepted His hand of salvation. I didn't have a clue. At the lunch table she began to speak about Bible studies after work or church every Sunday. I mentally shook my head and wondered what had gotten in to her! Who would want to go to church after work for study or spend every Sunday morning at church when there was the freedom to sit with a cup of coffee or two and watch a movie or better yet get out shopping!? However, the more she spoke, the more the words were being impressed upon my spirit.

One day it all came together at a family function. I'd asked my sister-in-law which church she went to, thinking it might be the same as my friend's. It opened a door for her to talk to me. She told me God spoke to her and without my realizing it I blurted out, with very unannounced tears, that I wanted that! She invited me to church the next morning. The rest is my wonderful history...I accepted Christ the very next day. Later I realized God had been preparing me for years although I still had not put two and two together regarding my friend or other things that had happened. 

That's how God works. It's His power working in our lives when we least expect it. It's a word from a friend or even just something we've read that sparks something. For some people, like me, it creeps up on you. I'm noticing a pattern in how God works in me. He knows I need to hear something over and over before I "get it." So He taps on my shoulder and whispers in my ear until I receive it. He basically sets me up! I love it.

He captures you with His power and might and love. Your heart is changed, your eyes are opened, your spirit receives the Truth and you are able to receive salvation from the Lord. It's a work that He accomplishes for us. He has been working behind the scenes to get your attention and then when you least suspect it, He sets you free. 

But more about Israel's deliverance: God became their pillars of cloud and fire during their journey through the wilderness. He protected them. We are even told they proceeded boldly (at least while the impact of their deliverance was still fresh!) I'm sure you know the rest of the story...Israel safely crossed the Red Sea--again by the hand of God--and at just the right time when their enemy was just at the right place the sea washed over Pharaoh's army. God's marvelous hand of protection for His people. That is what He does for us today. With His salvation tucked securely under our belts He will be there at the moment when we need His protection the most.

Of course when Israel spotted the army closing in fear struck and they thought they were goners and complained to Moses that it would have been better to serve in Egypt than to lose their lives now. How often do we sometimes go back to our past and wonder if things might have been better because we don't always see what God has planned for us? Oh, God's unseen plans for His people...yesterday, today and tomorrow...and the faith we must have to keep on going in the midst of friends and family who do not understand or wish to follow.

I praise our God. There's a song I like very much by Casting Crowns that says
 "I'll praise You in this storm and I will lift my hands for You are who You are no matter where I am. Every tear I've cried You hold in Your hand. You never leave my side and though my heart is torn I will praise You in this storm.

He brings us out of the fear and captivity that might be there in our storms of life. Storms will come but we are not lost as children of God. We may not always understand where we're going during the storm but trusting for God's provision, protection and allowing Him to be our pillar of fire and cloud is what we are to do if we so choose to grab hold of Him. Let Him guide you and take you out of captivity.

Exodus 15:2a, 13, 17a - The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation...You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemedYou have guided them in Your strength...You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Let My People Go

Exodus 6:6-7 - I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under [your] burdens...I will rescue you from [your] bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm...I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of [your] enemy.

What great promises to us from our God. With His help we will see freedom. I was reading about Moses, Aaron and Pharaoh and the captivity of Israel in Egypt. If you remember the old spiritual song, 
Go Down Moses (Let My People Go), there was one line that was repeated: let My people go. That was God's repeated request through Moses to Pharaoh. We can be compared to Israel. If we choose to dedicate our lives to God, He helps lead us out of our captivity like He did for Israel.

In a way God could be asking our enemy(ies) to let His people go. I've mentioned in the past that we are held captive to those things we call addiction whether they are great or small.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our addiction we would rather not try to end it. 

I ended a fast a couple weeks ago. It was about three weeks long. When I decided to have my coffee for the first time it was good but soon I felt the jolt and didn't like how it felt. I have now decided to limit myself not only to how much but to half regular, half decaf. As for the sweets I gave up, they're just that--too sweet--and I'm limiting those too. I'm determined not to allow those two things take hold of me like they once had. Coffee for me was sort of an addiction, not just a nice thing to have. In a way that's captivity...letting something be so consuming and just giving in to every desire. And we sometimes allow that to happen in our lives...allowing every desire we have to control us instead of having the control over every desire.

Moses, as you know, was chosen to lead Israel out of captivity, much like Jesus does for us today. He had been "groomed" for it over 80 years. YES, 80. He may not have felt qualified even in that length of time but between he and his brother Aaron, they were successful. Persistence and God's help paid off. 

You might recall all the plagues Egypt had to undergo which never affected the Israelites. In total anger, frustration and sorrow Pharaoh finally gave in and not only let them go, but for the most part paid them to leave (he later regretted what he'd done and sent out his armies to recapture them...another hopeless cause!) The reason God wanted to free Israel from their slave status under Pharaoh was twofold: so that they (Israel) might see, through their deliverance from the plagues, that He was delivering that they might worship Him.
Today God wants us to be set free from those things that keep us from worshiping Him. I learned through my own fast that persistence and God's grace has set me free of those things I felt I just had to have. I truly felt God wanted me to do this. When it's His idea it's easier. Through my obedience and ultimately through God's help I learned what being set free from two small captivities was all about. And I can thank Him for that. My obedience and my thankfulness are a form of worship. It will be a reminder from now on what He is able to do and no doubt when He shows me another form of captivity, it will be easier to let go again!

God would say to the devil who is the culprit in keeping us held captive to the things of this world, to 
let His people go...that we might worship Him. We listen to the world view that tells us it's not necessary to have fellowship or relationship with the One who created us. It's not necessary to attend church or be part of a body of believers. It's not necessary to sacrifice our desires for His. It's not necessary to heed the commandments set forth throughout the Bible (not just the major Ten). We choose instead to fill our lives with those things that keep us captive to our own desires and the busyness that keeps our mind off Him and fulfills the plans of the enemy.

God wants us free from anything that would prevent us from basically keeping ourselves from the good and perfect will He has for each of us. It takes a fasting-like devotion--a discipline--to see our devotion to things rather than to God. I'm hoping that this bit of sacrifice is only the beginning for myself. I want to be on the narrow path that leads to life. Thank you, Lord, for this small glimpse of freedom that I might worship you for setting me free. I look forward future freedoms, whatever they might be.

In His will it is easier. The yoke of bondage is removed. He tells us His yoke is easy so the burdens are light. He has plans for us that only come when we are set free from the burdens and captivity we have or allow in this life. It is He who redeems us. When His plans come to fruition, nothing but good comes from it. And we certainly know by whose  hand the plans came about. Who wouldn't like that?

Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More on Relationship

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Pastor Paul talked about relationships Sunday. A fitting sermon for Valentine's Day, a "holiday" based on relationships and love. Some say it's a holiday for the flower shops and card companies. But I think some sort of response is nice...

What Pastor Paul spoke about was "To be Known is to be Loved." Well, shiver me timbers, mates, isn't that what happens when we know Jesus...we receive His love, we know His love and then we also learn how to love Him even more for what He has done for us! That only happens when we allow ourselves into a relationship with Him. 

I know, I know...for some the word relationship is very frightening. That's a shame. It's what this world should be all least having the right kind of relationship. With all the technology today people are losing the meaning of relationship. It's all about cell phones, computers, email, Facebook, television. True face-to-face interaction can be nearly non-existent. 

Pastor Paul brought up several points that help show us about relationship. The first was that shame keeps people apart. Sin is relational...when we are in sin we distance ourselves from others. I again refer to the Samaritan woman...she went to the well to get water when no one else would go there--except she met a Man who was all into relationships. She met Jesus at the well and He changed her whole life. She fell into relationship with Him and probably fell in love for the very first time, not only with herself but with Jesus.

Point number two was there is a Shepherd who touches the heart. Jesus is our Shepherd. It's relationship that can't have a relationship and never touch or be touched. In relationship with Jesus, He clearly touches your heart and change occurs within you. You fall in love with Him. However, for some when a relationship begins to get too close, a pulling away takes place. The relationship suffers and fizzles because the closeness is something that can't be handled. That's what happens to some when they are exposed to the greatness of who Jesus is. They can't handle it and they turn their backs.

Point number three is there is a Water that satisfies the longing heart. Over and over I've mentioned that there is a God-sized hole in each of our hearts that only Jesus can fill. And Jesus is also called our Living Water. The Samaritan woman was going to the well to fetch water. Jesus told her the water she received from that well would never take the thirst completely away...but He could because He is the Living Water. Until we meet Jesus at our own well, that hole in our heart will never be filled. How sad.

Point number four is there is a Truth that stimulates the heart with joy. He is our Truth and He loves us and wants that relationship with us so that we can be filled with joy...that the hole in our hearts is filled with the love of Jesus. When we are in relationship with Him we feel like worshiping Him. We relate to Him and He relates to us.'s that simple and true. 

God so loved the world that He gave us His Son Jesus. He was born so that He might die for you and me. He died that we might have eternal life through Him, not through religion, not through idols, not through rituals or good works, but through HimSo whoever believes in Him can have life. Each of us wants to be loved. And some may never find a person in this life to provide that love; at least not a perfect love. But Jesus is there to fill our hearts with all the love we could ever need. It is through Jesus that every bit of love that we miss in this life is fulfilled. 

He is our portion. He is our all in all. He is all we will ever need. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is our Living Water and Fountain that provides the thirst quenching water of eternal life.

John 4:13-14 - Jesus answered and said to her [the Samaritan woman], "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." 

Monday, February 15, 2010

What Defines a Good Relationship?

  Matthew 15:8-9 - "'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."'

     I know I've written about this before. I wrote this blog last week. And oddly enough yesterday, being Valentine's Day, the message Pastor Paul gave was about relationships. But first things first....

     I was thinking about the content of this blog in my car after dropping a friend off at the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix last week, after all conversation was done and the silence settled in.
     I've said it before: A good relationship comes about from or with communication and spending time with one another. We all have family and friends (not necessarily in that order) we relate to in some way. It can be good or not so good at times. One relationship that continually needs cultivating, however, is our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It means changing who we are. Unfortunately there are several denominations which don't talk about a relationship with God.
     Jesus never really comes right out and specifically says it's not about religion but a relationship, but I know it's hidden in the things He did throughout His ministry on earth. He's all about relationship. He's all about truth. He's all about life. He's all about His saving grace. 
Mark 8:36 - For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? In other words, what is so important in this world that we would rather have IT than Jesus?
     Religion deals with keeping rules and obeying laws. Relationship is being set free from the rules and laws, not that they aren't important, but understanding that we can never perfectly keep these rules or laws, but a relationship with Jesus, sets us free from's all about what Jesus did for us so when we fail we can be forgiven. When we are in relationship with Jesus, we change...we want to spend time with Him. That's relationship.
     One story that comes to mind about relationship over religion (and laws) is the one about the Samaritan woman. There's just so much insight in this one short visitation by Jesus. Jesus knew all about her and confronted her about her sins. She was amazed at all He knew (like He knows all about us) and she went on to point out that she was a Samaritan woman and He was a Jew and Jews don't associate with Samaritans... Jesus wasn't worried about the religious rules here; He was only interested in a relationship. He wanted her to know Truth. He wanted her to be in relationship with Him so she could be forgiven of all her sins. He wanted her to drink of the Living Water (that also is Jesus) so she would never thirst again. So He met her at the well.
     And actually, Jesus does this relational thing all throughout His ministry. The religious leaders of His day rejected Jesus because He didn't adhere to their rules. His way of doing things came from listening to His Father, not man. Do we listen to what a man or a church's set of rules dictate or do we listen to what our Father in Heaven tells us through His Son? Are the church leaders teaching us about Truth? Jesus didn't care what the religious leaders thought about the timing of the miracles He performed. He only cared about the people and setting them free from disease, handicaps and sin (which included all the religious laws). He didn't care what day of the week it was; He only cared that His Father was telling Him to heal this person.... 
     Jesus doesn't tell us that our religion saves us. It's a relationship that does...a relationship with Him. It's about listening to Him and what He has to tell us we are to do ... Lose your earthly life and gain your eternal one. Who wouldn't like to have that sort of security?
     He tells us that when we are in relationship with Him we are changed. And that means for the better. One cannot believe they are saved and then live any old way. We must shrug off those things that held us captive. If we had addictions, even mildly, the change should help us overcome these things. When temptation strikes we should have more strength through the power of God to not let temptation rule.

     It is in a relationship with Him that we realize what the Way, the Truth and the Life is. It's life changing, mind altering (in a very good way). We are saved from our old selves and the sin that we have lived with. I had a friend who couldn't understand why I needed to change just because "I found God." All I could say was it just happens...when it's for real, the old person begins this change...not always so drastically or all at once, but enough. For some it's a greater change immediately than others.
     Not all things change all at once but we should be cognizant of our nature and be aware of the Holy Spirit's promptings. Genesis 35:2 tells us basically what we are to do: "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments." This means, according to a Bible commentary by John Gill, renewing the mind, cleansing the soul, and changing of heart and life. In Matthew 18:3 Jesus tells us "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." That's Jesus speaking, not me. Change is losing the old man and taking on the new. That only happens when we give our lives to Jesus and get in relationship with Him. 
     I know it's a difficult idea to get situated in our head, heart and soul. It's something you can't just let pass quickly through your mind. It's something you need to take the time to think about. It's something a relationship with the Lord begins to cause to happen. Any relationship requires change. It requires putting aside some of your own ideas and allowing new ones to enter in. It's a two way street. When there's no change, relationship fizzles.
     Yes there are rules we are to abide by...and actions and words we should consider changing for the good. This all comes about when a relationship is priority over a religion, when we desire to know personally the Man who died for us over a religion merely talks about the Man or fails to lead us to that Man. The following scriptures give us a good idea of what giving our life to Christ is all about and what happens when we do. It brings us into intimate relationship with a Man who calls us His friend.

Ephesians 3:12 - In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear).

John 15:13, 15 - Greater love has no one than this,than to lay down one's life for his friends [which Jesus did for us]. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends....