Thursday, April 29, 2010

What's Missing?

Deuteronomy 8:11 - "Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today..."

Again we were astounded by the class we are taking on Wednesday nights called The Truth Project. It is such an eye-opening and sometimes confirming series on what truth truly is. 

The truth is that God is missing today. Our lesson last night was History: Whose Story?  It explained what history is. It explained how history can be changed by no more than a lie being spoken and an ear willing to listen and believe. History is made nano-second by nano-second. When you've had a thought, read these words, or have spoken, as soon as you're done it's history.  

"What you believe in the present is determined by our past." And what is happening today? God is being covered up, removed, being made unspeakable. We were told that our problem is we remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember. God is so very much a part of our history as our Creator because it's His-story that has been forgotten. It is His-story that is being abandoned. 

Proverbs 1 explains knowledge. It tells us that knowledge comes from fearing the LORD and that fools despise wisdom and instruction (verse 7). But, it goes on to tell us, we will begin to believe a lie and walk in the ways of evil which eventually takes one's life.  God tells us: "Surely, I will pour out my Spirit on you; I will make My words known to you...but if we refuse to listen God says "Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because you disdained my counsel....I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes."

God is in control. Period! History is all about Him. This history should be the most important. But we as a people in general have disdained this knowledge. God is mocked. A point was brought up: Is there any question that Plato lived? Is there any question that he wrote great works? No. You can pick up a book of his and know that he wrote it. What about the Bible? What about God? What about Jesus? How can anyone claim most emphatically that they do not exist? There are more historical manuscripts that show us proof of the Bible's existence than there are for Plato's books. Yet because it takes faith to believe, there are some who will not.

People have believed a lie. The first lie was in the Garden of Eden when the serpent asked Eve if God really said they could not partake of the that certain fruit-bearing tree. We've been fed lies every since. 

God asks us to remember Him so we can be part of the fulfillment of His purpose. Today, as it was said in the lesson, if we can rewrite the past we can get people to believe what these people want. So the lie is perpetuated. It's in our schools, on television, in the movies, in books, in the media. The only truth is the Word of God and that is being silenced. 

Did you know!? The words of Mayflower Compact stated that the Pilgrims came to our country "for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith." However, textbooks today are taking every reference of God out of them, as well as an attempt to remove the name of God from currency, off courthouse walls, and state mottos. These Pilgrims laid the foundation for this nation, that it was not about "me" but about God. How can people do this? Despite the harshness of this new world, they chose to stay because they believed in a Cause greater than they.

There was a time in the Old Testament when the people knew God, knew what He had done for them, knew of His works. It was remembered and passed down. Memorials were made. But there came a worldly king who did not know this God of these people and eventually He was phased out and they were under pressure to succumb to a lie. Sounds like today. And the Bible was meant for us to use as a guide for living. We are not paying enough attention.

Thankfully there is a remnant today who will not forget, no matter what. The number is few. God told us that there would come a day when there would be famine in our world. The famine would come in the form of not hearing the word of God. Hmmmm.

God is still in control. Hebrews 11 lists all the people who were "caught up in the grand story of God," by faith.  There is a larger historical story than the one we see today. The larger story of God. Let's be sure that this is the foundation of our lives. It is the sure foundation. It is the truth and our freedom lies there. Our own stories of life are meaningless unless God is the Foundation, the Cornerstone. 

John 8:31-32 - Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Psalm 46:8a,10a,11 - Come, behold the works of the still, and know that I am God...the LORD of hosts is with us...the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Shutting down the noise that consumes us from day to day. That was part of a discussion we had Sunday morning in Bible study. Tuning out the noise...all of it...and relishing in the quiet that we might hear God speak. Quieting yourself before the Lord.

The word "selah" is a Hebrew word that has been difficult to interpret. Literally it means to lift up, exalt. Other interpretations explain it to mean to "think on this," to "stop and listen," or "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." It pretty much means to weigh carefully. The Word of God in every way should be lifted up and exalted. They are His voice speaking to us. 

We are told to meditate on His Word. If we spend time in the Word each day He speaks to us. If we concentrate on His Word and let it get into our spirits, we can later remember what He has said to us. It's important to know what His Word says and allow ourselves to be reminded of it throughout the day. 

But so often we don't hear God speak because our mind is bombarded with sounds that distract. Even good music. We can be lost in the busyness of life so easily. Is the radio on in the car or can you envelop yourself in the quietness of your own thoughts? Can you silence yourself and speak to God as you're running from here to there? 

This is something that has stuck with me since then. I like silence. I can drive without the radio. I don't do it all the time. But just what am I thinking about? I know my mind is always going. Am I thinking about God? Am I praising Him for the beauty of this world? Am I thanking Him for another day or for the things that He has given me? Am I carrying a dialog with Him or am I just consumed in mundane thoughts?

I have occasionally taken little road trips throughout Wisconsin to photograph nature and beautiful farm land. I look forward to that time. I generally take CD's otherwise I'd be changing stations constantly, or some areas are so remote I can't pick up anything but static. But you know what? I tend to drive in silence. Not always, but when the music is off, I'm taking in and acknowledging the beauty of God's creation and thanking Him for the marvelous scenery...even the knowledge He has given to man to create structures, even roads, signs, the cleverness of it all.

These trips bring a wonderful time of peace. Plus there's excitement and anticipation that comes when I'm am on the top of a hill and I see a road clearly named "Something-or-Other Hollow." I know what lies ahead...lush, green vegetation, perhaps a creek or small river, moistness in the air. God's creation is endless and I know that He's glad that I'm enjoying it, because it is showing Him my love for Him. I have drawn near to Him and I feel I am in His presence. 

We can do the same anywhere. We can shut down the noise of the world, apart from the birds and rustling trees, and tune ourselves in to God. It's in those places He speaks to our spirits. I had been awakened at 2 a.m. twice this week. Each time some tidbit of information came into my spirit. That's God speaking. Two blogs were created during that time! Sometimes if we are too busy, He will get our attention at "inconvenient" times. I'm learning not to be upset over this. If God wants me to spend time with Him, I'm going to be ecstatic about it. 

You know, though, He would much rather we spend all our time with Him. If He is consuming our thoughts in the midst of what we do, I'm sure He's also very pleased. It's not easy and I don't claim perfection here! I'm amazed, however, at how one friend and I will check in with each other sometimes weekly. Not all our conversation is spiritual, but we have both noticed that somehow the conversation veers toward God and that's when our words become animated, exciting. I'd heard or read one time that when we talk about God, He stores up those words. I'd like to think He does.

I wonder what it's like for the Lord to hear all the stuff that takes place on a daily basis throughout the world? I'm sure He's able to filter in His own omnipotent way. But I wonder how much makes Him happy and how much saddens Him?

And from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (Deuteronomy 4:29, James 4:8)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tear Down Those Walls

Philippians 1:6, 2:13 - ...being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 

This is yet another great promise. When God has gotten hold of us, He will continue to work out those things in us that we need to let go of. He perfects constantly and we are changed, transformed. This is what God does! He turns us into who He sees us as not who we think we should be or who we see ourselves as.

What is it we are afraid of? What one thing have we put walls up around our hearts to protect ourselves from? What are we in need of healing of? Questions, questions. We may not even recognize what that thing is. We may think we have ourselves all together, but let me tell you, there is an issue somewhere. I'm sure we all have them.

I also believe we have come to a time in our lives where it is necessary to let these things go. It's time to let God strip us that we might allow ourselves to be healed. Let go, let go, let go. God has always desired we do this, but I think it is imperative these days (with the way the world is) to let go of our own preconceived ideas of what we should be and allow Him to take over and let the One who knows what's important, what's good for us, to let a transformation take place.

I believe mine is trust. I would have thought it was something else, but I think it is trust that is the culprit. As I thought so deeply about an incident that occurred Sunday and awoke in the wee hours of the morning twice now, I felt the answer come upon me. Trust. I'd been asking God to help me understand what happened and why. And so like Him, He did. The word trust entered my spirit and caused me to begin to think.

As I thought about trust, the word reject entered in. How often have I felt rejected by those closest to me? How often have I felt my spirit sticking out invisible arms as though to keep someone away instead of allowing them in? How often has my vain imagination conjured up tales of deception that has kept me from experiencing what I need trust. Trust takes strength sometimes, especially when rejection can occur when you get too close.

Perhaps that's why I write this blog. I can express myself in ways I dare not--yet--speak out loud to others. God knows what we are in need of. He knows what we need to let go of. He knows when we are ready to let go. I can only pray that this is the time to begin to trust.

I can say I am trusting Him more and more. It's those in this world I've been unable to trust. It's easier to trust a stranger sometimes! You don't always expect much from them. It's those friends and family who have held back or say one thing and do another. It's those who have spoken unkind words or no words at all. And where has it put me? In a place of blocking. Walls have gone up to protect my heart. And has it helped? No. It appears that my heart has been wounded just the same. 

But God...would not want us to have those walls. He would rather we look to Him to remove those insecurities, those failures. He would rather we know that we know that as His child we are in good hands. He would rather we know that He is to be the One we can count on where all others fail. He would rather remind us that we are royalty as His children and to act like it.

I'd noticed lately that I've been keeping more and more to myself, holed up like a recluse in my own spirit, my own heart, only letting a small number enter in. I feel safe there. There is no one to criticize, no one to reject, no one to lie, no one to hurt me. A fear that this was where I would stay for the rest of my life brought me to my senses. I know I don't want that.

If there is truly a transformation taking place within me, like a butterfly working it's way out of it's cocoon, I will need to battle to break through that barrier. I will need to take a step of faith. I will shout to be released from the fears and the lies I've stored up for so long. He will be there reaching out, urging me on. This is the path I must take. Philippians 3:20-21 ...the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. [He has] made known to me the path of life; [He] will fill me with joy in [His] presence, with eternal pleasures at [His] right hand. (Philippians 3:20-21, Psalm 16:11)

He has brought healing. He has blessed me. He has allowed the wall to begin to crumble. I would love to say that it is completely fallen, but there's that part of me that still holds back a bit. One last, loud shout will bring down that wall. I think it should be my Joshua and his men who shouted and the walls of Jericho caved in. 

I thank God for giving us the power to do that. I thank God for the power He has awarded me that I must learn to exercise. It is my faith that He will be there in the midst of the battle. It is in our praise that He will be. When we take that first step, the Lord will step in also. He will be there to supply our needs at that moment, that strength, that peace, that love. I think of the Footprints poem.  

And so it goes. Life in Christ. Awakenings, rejoicing, healing, rejoicing, contentment, rejoicing, transformation, rejoicing. 

Philippians 3:12-14- Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blessing and Curses

Matthew 5:44 - But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you...

OMG! There are some incredible things taking place within our church. We have been through a lot over the past several months with various degrees of loss and a sense that there truly is a change taking place within our own family of God. And God is to be praised for every thing that occurs. We may not fully understand what's happening, but God does and that's okay. That's all that matters. God truly is doing a work in our midst. He truly has brought healing in the midst of trouble and He continues to do so. He is about to pour out His blessing on us, I'm sure.

Pastor Paul Hanson, our interim lead pastor, spoke yesterday on blessing and curses, Giving the Blessing. The point of the message was "Let each of us determine that we will speak the blessing of life to each other and about each other." There were three main points regarding the words we speak: Words have substance, words transmit good or ill and words reveal what is in our hearts. 

The Word tells us that with our tongue we speak both blessing and curses. That's our sin nature at work. We can praise God in one breath in church, get into our car and immediately speak ill of another motorist or a family member. What's that all about?Hypocrites! All of us. 

I truly believe we have come to a crossroads in our life at church. At least that's the way it appears to me. And I definitely feel it applies to me too. We see the disaster in our country looming before us and we might feel hopeless to do anything about it. But God...He is there for the weary in heart, for any situation life might bring. None of us will escape some sort of disaster. But we can speak blessings upon these situations.

Rather than grouse about it, we might consider blessing our enemies...whoever they might be...could be anyone. Disaster might be looming in our own home. Disaster might be looming at work. How will we react? Will we curse the ground our boss, our mother-in-law, our brother, our mother or father, our spouse...our president...walks on? Does this curse help? Or does it only become a festering sore in our hearts?

I realize it's not always in our hearts to bless our enemy. It may be awkward to ask God to bless someone, especially when we feel we've been wronged. But it is our children of God. I've heard the more we do it, the easier it gets, and we might even lose the anguished feelings in our hearts. God will bring a transformation if we only do what is right. How I love our God! Even more, how He loves us.

I think God is speaking to His people and wanting us to bare our souls, strip ourselves of our selves and let Him do a work He needs to do. Pastor Paul drew the whole sermon together by saying that we speak curses because of some inferiority which produces: anxiety, obsession with ourselves, hostility (anger, criticism), superiority mirage or martyring (blaming). At some time in our lives we have all be dealt a blow to our own egos. Somewhere, somehow, we have been hurt by the words of others. And because of this, we continue by thinking more highly of ourselves than we should (Romans 12:3).

There is good and bad pride. Good pride is in how we can be proud to be a child of God, forgiven, saved. The bad pride, however, starts with this feeling of inferiority. We all have it. There are those who feel in the bottom of their hearts they are no good, they are not loved, they will never amount to anything...and so their thoughts perpetuate this inferiority complex. And so they have become and are.

There are others who mask inferiority with an attitude of superiority. And that's just what it is...a mask. In God's eyes we are neither inferior nor superior. We are not greater than the next person, nor are we superior to them. We all come into this world as equals. It's the words that are spoken to us that create these wrong attitudes. Try getting the world to understand this concept! Try not believing the lies!

It's all about respect. First we must respect who God is and His place within our lives. Then we need to respect ourselves as His children, then all others...we must see as God does. Jesus died for all mankind, not those who seem worthy, for none of us are. God is holy, He is worthy of our praise, He is worth of our respect, our reverence. He will bless us with His gift of salvation so we might have relationship and communion with Him. We cannot accept the gift and then live our lives as though He has done some great thing for us and live as we desire, without any thought of who He is. He is so worthy of our desire to be in relationship with Him.

Back to blessings and curses. We were told that one of the things we must do as Christians is bless our enemies. We can so think in our minds that so-and-so just doesn't deserve to be blessed. But God...says it is our obligation to bless them. What comes out of our mouths, is what our heart attitude is. OUCH. The Word says A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

If we want to be part of the family of God, we must bless those with which we are at odds, not just to those we find it easy to do to. Jesus didn't just spend His time with those who followed Him day after day. He sought out the unlovely...the woman at the well, adulterers, lepers, sinners, rich men, poor men. Don't think for a minute, either, that He didn't know that Judas would betray Him. Yet He loved him as well. So how can we think more highly of ourselves? How can we think that this person or that does not deserve our blessing? Oh, what a hard word this is. 

If we want to be part of the family of God, we must act the part because for every idle word we speak (and perhaps even think) we will be accountable for someday to God (Matthew 12:36-37). 

Lord, I pray that you would strip me of the things that keep me from being the person You desire me to be. Tear down the walls in my heart and spirit. Help me to see through Your eyes, with Your heart and Your compassion. You had compassion on all people. You became angry when Your Father was disrespected, yet You never treated anyone with disrespect. You admonished because of Your love for all. You desired that all would understand what You stood for. That relationship, that gift of salvation is what You desire for all people so that you can wean us from the inferiority, the superiority, and criticism we hold on to. I thank You that You reveal these things to us in due time that we might be set free from it.

The conclusion of the message was: We declare the curse broken and the blessings flowing. We will not accept that we are being healed, but that we are! We are going to speak as though it were in our lives and in our church body.

Proverbs 18:20-21 - A man's stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; from the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Lowest Place

Isaiah 40:4 - Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth...

I heard a wonderful song yesterday. The writer is a young woman named Laura Hackett. The name of the song is Lowest Place. It spoke volumes to me and although I'd never heard the song before the melody is etched in my mind.

The lyrics go like this:

You said there would be joy in the laying down...You said there would be joy in the letting go…You said there would be joy in the giving up my life....and now I see:  Your river, it rushes to the lowest place…. come and rush over me, let the river flow! I bow down, I get low, I open up my heart to receive Your love… I gotta get lower, lower, I gotta go deeper, deeper, I gotta get lower, lower, let the river flow! I have to dig for the wells of joy, I have to get to the wells of joy.

Think about it. Rivers start in the mountains and run down to the lowest place. Jesus' words, His love, His gift of salvation come to those who get to the lowest place. One of His many names is our Living Water; He is our Source. I've heard He does His best work in the valleys of our life, not on the mountaintop.

On the mountaintop we are at a time of joy and rejoicing. Things are going well for us. In order to have those times, we must have periods of valley experiences to balance things out. I think it's a win-win situation. We are brought low so we can enter into that place of healing. He works out those things we need to let go of and we are raised up once again. Look at Jesus...he had to die to be raised again! What makes us think we should have it any other way? Sometimes we start on the mountaintop in life and are brought low because of such things as pride and we are taken into that valley where God works things out. 

What happens in the valley? Valleys are depressions between mountains. They tend to be lush and green. They might be moist and fertile. Growth takes place in valleys. The valley mentioned above is defined as a narrow gorge and it comes from the root word meaning pride, a lifting up. What happens in a valley? Which way can we go? From valleys we climb mountains. Once we've gone through the valley, God lifts us up. The pride, I'm sure, is the sense of accomplishment, the sense of letting go of something we didn't really need.

I've mentioned before about letting go of the things that prevent us from a closer walk with God. He asks us to sacrifice those things so we can be given the things, whether we are aware of them or not, that He knows we have need of. That probably means a valley experience, a time of loss of what was familiar, and a time of healing from that loss. But once we are healed, we can rejoice and move on in victory.

Sometimes we end up in those valleys because of life's situations. While we're there He sees the chance to do some work. We may be at our lowest point, and He can heal us and allow us to grow in Him. For a time He will set us free of the valley and allow us to spend time on the mountaintop. I heard someone say that on the mountaintop we are able to see the valley--where we came from. We can look back and rejoice in where we've come, how we've come through a difficult time. 

I'm sure there are also times when God will put us in those valleys. The pride of life, perhaps. We've gotten too big for our britches. We've stuck our foot in our mouth once too many times. We are humbled... When we are in that low place are we full of life? Rather unlikely. It's there that we need our rest, our time to heal from a wound. Oh, those places of rest. How bittersweet they can be. And yet the joy of coming through.

If you so desire, however, He will be there with you. And He will never leave you or forsake you. He is our Great Physician, our Healer. Do not fear...

...God is not a Person who relishes in our suffering. He would rather we be rejoicing in all we should anyway, even in the difficult times. But He knows we will never be perfect and will always need the valleys. It's only there that He is able to mold and shape us into the person He knows we can be. Parents chasten children mostly out of love. That's what God does for us in the lowest place, in the valley.

Psalm 23:4 - Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's the Truth!

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10) - The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

I'm sure I sound like a broken record being so adamant about relationship over religion. When a person learns the truth of who Jesus is, it can't be helped. Honest!

Maybe relationship's not for you. Maybe you'll stick with what you know or what you've been told. That's your choice and I am not one to judge. What I feel inside is a constricting in my heart, a sadness. Jesus has said, 
"the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) I would prefer to know the truth, at any cost, and have that freedom. I know that no matter what happens in this world or even in this country, I have freedom in Christ, even if our freedoms are stripped away. God may be removed to pacify some in our country, but no one can take God from me as an individual.

We had another class last night at church on 
The Truth Project. As difficult and deep as the subject matter is, we all walk away with a sense of the awesomeness of God. We are realizing that as some of us grew up, apart from God, separated from Him, out of the realm of His knowledge and wisdom, we believed the lies.

Where do the lies come from? They do not come from God. In Titus 1:1-2 the Apostle Paul tells us: ...according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began... Truth is Jesus Christ, who brings freedom through the truth of knowing Him. That freedom is the knowledge of our eternal destination. We are told to acknowledge truth. We are also told to acknowledge Jesus, who is Truth.

So to get back to the question where the lies come from. God has an adversary and his name is Satan, whose name means "the accuser." He has the ability to mimic what God does. Through what he does people believe that God does not have a corner on the market for miracles. What the devil does is grip the human heart in the same way God can and but begins to speak lies to that heart and create a transformation in the opposite way God does. He's a deceiver and a liar. Once gripped by the lies, erosion takes place.

Before you cluck your tongues and roll your eyes, listen...the devil is a deceiver. In the Garden of Eden he twisted God's words about why Adam and Eve should not eat from the tree of good and evil. And he's been lying ever since. He twists the truth to make it sound palatable, and in this case palatable enough to eat the apple, cause the first husband and wife  to sin, become separated from God, and cause all mankind to be born into this same sin. He can cause us to believe just about anything if we do not have that link to the knowledge and the truth of Jesus Christ...the devil's adversary.

We wonder why our country and the world is the way it is. We might be upset but we are at a loss as to figure out how we got where we are. We try placing blame on people. But it all started with that deceptive serpent in the Garden. The lies have continued today and there are those who will believe those lies.

In the video we watched last night we were shown how illogical Darwin's Theory of Evolution is and how it is beginning to implode. I wish I could go into detail how this was explained, but I'd be too verbose! Scientists can't come up with logical answers and are even questioning Darwin's theory, but they still back Darwin. Does that make sense? It is because they just cannot begin to believe the truth that there is a Divine Creator, or intelligent design. They just can't let themselves believe the truth. How humiliating it might be for them to admit they were wrong, they'd been deceived.

In our discussion after the video someone said many people will react with "So what does it matter anyway?" "Who cares?" If we desire the truth, we should care. We were asked if anyone had believed the lie at one point in our life. I admitted I had and so did someone else. But once the truth of Jesus Christ became known, that all changed. It's not that we are believing yet another lie, as some might suggest, but through the power of God's Holy Spirit we have been shown what truth is. What once made sense now looks like foolishness. 

A relationship with Christ takes us to a whole new level of understanding. I'm not trying to infer that I am smarter than anyone else. We all know that we each are programmed to understand some things more than others; but none are better, just different. God's Word became flesh...Jesus came to set us free from the lies and deception of this world. That is why a relationship with Christ is so important if we want to understand truth. Oh, how I pray the truth of Jesus Christ would permeate this world, that the deception would be seen, eyes would be unveiled. Psalm 98:2 tells us The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. But the devil has blinded eyes to this truth of who Jesus is.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...full of grace and truth. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. [And Jesus said] "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."  John 1:14,17, John 8:31-32

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We Must Be Ready

Luke 12:37 - Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.

We are servants of God. God is our Master. Jesus showed us we are all to be servants to each other. Do we watch anxiously for His arrival? Do we look at the signs of the times from a biblical perspective or do we ignore the signs believing life just goes on?

We are told we do not know the hour in which He will come but we are to be ready just the same. How and for what? What are the signs?

How? By first knowing you have eternal security. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Do you know Him? Are you absolutely sure? Salvation is for everyone. Jesus died for all. Doesn't matter what church you go to; it's the relationship with Christ that is important.

When you are married you have a relationship with your spouse. Jesus is called our Bridegroom. For He who has become your Husband is your Maker; His name is the Lord of hosts; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. - Isaiah 54:5  So we are His bride. There must be a relationship.

You think about your spouse and talk to them daily. Honestly ask yourself this question: Do you do that with God? If you can't say you do there's no relationship. Talk to God, pray to Him. Not just repetitious prayers, but talk to Him like you would to a person. Communicate. He hears and listens to those whose hearts are open and true. He also responds.

Be ready for what? For Christ's return. We know He's coming. We don't know the day or hour but we MUST be ready to be counted among those who are blessed. Being ready starts with the "how" above.

What are the signs? The Bible tells us, so I will not reiterate. You can read for yourself: Luke 21 is a good source. Other biblical examples are the self-centeredness of our world, pride, all the things that are bad (although not all people think drugs, alcohol, corruption are bad), homosexuality, expunging of anything relating to our God.

We must be ready. We must know the signs. Today we have people telling us that in 2012 the world will end. We have doomsayers who will predict specific dates for Christ's return. Do not put your trust in them. We DO NOT know the day or hour. But we do know Jesus is coming back and He's coming back for a spotless bride, a "radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:27). Are we there yet as individuals or even a Church? No. There will be more than we are willing to believe who will not be ready. It's that narrow a road.

But there is good news. It's not too late to get on that road if you are reading this! Jesus says later in Luke 12 that He did not come to give peace but to divide. Huh? But He's called our Prince of Peace. Yet right now His admonitions, His words are hard to hear. That brings division...among churches and people...friends and family. Jesus also tells us at the end of this chapter that we are able to observe nature and know what the weather will be like...but some do not know the signs of the time for His return. That tells me our focus is not on Him. We must know; the time is now. We must be ready.

Luke 21:36 - [Jesus said] "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

God Given Right

1John 4:17 - Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.

In God's Transformations on April 15 I showed how God uses the base and foolish to show His glory, to show how He can transform people's lives.

We are considered base and foolish before entering a relationship with God. Once we are in that relationship He no longer sees us that way. We have been given a new nature; we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

We now are able to 
"discover our rights and privileges of being sons and daughters of God" as the subtitle to a book (The Supernatural Ways of Royalty by Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton) I'm reading states. This may sound like a whole new language to you but it's how our thinking can change and develop after God has gotten hold of us.

I've mentioned before that some Christians can appear to be arrogant in their thinking. Some might be. But there is a certain kind of pride we are allowed to have as children of God.

A relationship with Jesus does change us. We are dead to our past life and alive in our life in Christ. We are able to boast about our talents and gifts because we know now that it never was about me and what I did to achieve such things as I am good at. I now know that it is what God has created in me.

In the book I'm reading it mentions (as well as the Bible) in one chapter that 
"we were made in God's image and in His likeness. We didn't create ourselves. We are the work of His hands. When we tear ourselves down we aren't being humble, we are being stupid!" Genesis 1:27 confirms this: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The book goes on to explain that if we don't recognize our goodness and strengths we aren't being humble at all. We are allowed to be proud of our strengths 
because of God and our relationship with Him. "When Jesus died on the cross, He didn't just die so He could forgive our sins. He died so we could be restored to our original purpose." I would say it this way--He died so His original purpose for each of us would be restored. We are nothing apart from Him. Remember, we are base and foolish until He gets His hands on us! Ephesians 1:4 shows us: ...He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

We should already know what we're good at. We know our strengths and weaknesses. God does too since He put them there and most likely we're all doing something we enjoy, something were good at. However, are we giving the glory to God? Or are we exalting ourselves?

Further in the chapter the writer says because we are made in His image we are made to glorify God. Do we glorify Him if we are weak and seemingly humble or do we glorify Him when we are confident of ourselves and take pride in the accomplishments He has given to us through His wisdom and knowledge? 
" long as we acknowledge where our greatness comes from, we're not in danger of pride...Unfortunately, confidence always looks like arrogance to the insecure." Our new lives in Christ may appear to be arrogance to some, but it is God working through us, changing us, giving us a different perspective on everything. He doesn't want wimpy followers. He wants to be proud of the changes He's made. Do we carry that in our lives or do we still hang on to the "I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough, I'm not thin enough, I'm not rich enough" syndromes? I'm guilty sometimes! And that has got to change if I want God's approval.

First we have to understand that God does not want human pride to get in our way. We first need to humble ourselves before God--before He humbles us. Ouch. It's time for all Christians to stand up and be noticed for who God has created us to be. We are, after all, His children. Parents chasten their children that they might gain wisdom and become better...and proud...because of it. What parent doesn't want to be proud of his children?

Titus 2:14 - [Christ] who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Steadfast Faith

Luke 9:62 - But Jesus said to him [a follower], "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

Of course! A truer statement never existed. God's Word is truth! This means that once you've chosen to follow Jesus, have accepted Him and been baptized into the family of God, you cannot look back from where you'd been, choose to return and still enter the Kingdom. 

I've often thought myself fickle, jumping from one thing to another. I guess I'm always looking for something new and constant change--of things or direction. Just ask my husband! I have more cross stitch or knitting/crocheting projects going at one time. I need a bit of change occasionally...or more like always. But one of my life's events stands love of Christ. I can't imagine going back to the way I was or the way I thought. It's His love that draws me daily. Tomorrow it will be my eleventh year of Christ! I look forward to this spiritual birthday with more enthusiasm than my physical birthday.

I'm so thankful that the soil of my heart was fertile and is now being well-watered and cared for. I'm thankful the tiny seed took root and grew. Oh, there are weeds that pop up occasionally that need to be removed. I'm thankful as well that I have a heavenly Gardener who will help me with that chore.

I think of Lot's wife. As Lot and his family fled Sodom prior to it's destruction, his wife was told not to look back or she would turn into a pillar of salt...God's words of warning. Don't we sometimes look back and think about, maybe even long, for something from our past because it was a comfort at the time, a good season of life? Those days are over even if they were good times. We can think on those things, but to long for them, no. If we have received Christ and have left behind our sin and unrighteous life, we surely should not be looking back. There are so many more pleasant and great things to look forward to, even in the midst of our own little or great destructions that might come to us. I don't know what "Mrs. Lot" was longing for considering the lifestyles of the people in her city, but she couldn't resist. Perhaps she was just a bit fearful about where they were headed, their new life. Perhaps her faith wasn't as strong as her husband's. At any rate, she didn't get very far before she chose to look back...and lose her place in the Kingdom...and became that pillar of salt. 

It's all about faith. I know I've made the right choice in last...I wish it had been sooner. So now it's my faith that keeps me looking forward with eyes and heart open for the next thing God wants me to do. My past is over and although I've failed a few times, that's all over and I need only to keep my eyes focused on the Lord. Oh, I'll fail again, I'm sure. Hopefully my failure will be less.

Faith means being steadfast, holding to the words of Christ and believing that what we have let go of is well worth it. Only the future things, in and through Christ, are worthy.

Oh, the faith it takes when we cannot see our future. At least not our earthly future. Don't look back. Look forward to that heavenly reward. That's the most important. Stand firm.

For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end...Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (Hebrews 3:14, 1Corinthians 15:58)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

God's Transformations

1Corinthians 1:27-29 - But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

This is how God works! We think we are so smart, so creative, so wise...but none can compare to the omniscient God, a God who knows everything. So often He gets hold of the lowest of persons, takes hold of their hearts and transforms them into what He originally made them to be.
There's a song the lyrics from which say:
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

This is what our amazing God does. I love the fact that He takes the weak and base things of the world. And we all fit into these two categories. In our own selves we are both weak and base in His eyes. We start out as that sinner, condemned and unclean in His eyes. Before you get your undies in a bundle, listen to these words: ...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God... [and] God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8)

I was surprised the other day when a friend made mention of the fact that Milwaukee's own claim to horrific shame, Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and ate parts of his victims, became a Christian in prison. We may look at ourselves and consider this man to have been a lot baser than we are, but let me tell you, in God's eyes sin is a sin. I asked how she know this for certain. She'd heard or read about it: And so God forgave even the basest of men. 

Jesus will do that. We cannot say one person deserves eternal life while others do not. Is it  fair that this man should receive forgiveness while another who lives an exemplar life but has never received the Lord as his Savior or one who has dedicated their life to serving God but still has not given their life to Christ as it is stated in the Bible? Yes. Again, before you get all riled up, God is the ultimate judge. 1Corinthians 4:5, Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart... 

Another example is Chuck Colson. Imprisoned for his part in the Watergate scandal, he received Christ and so boldly had his life turned around. He now developed Prison Fellowship ministry where Christ is shown to the inmates. God is incredible. We sometimes have to be at our lowest to be raised up in the eyes of God. It's ours for the taking. If we say we have no need of Him, we only fool ourselves. 

Why does God do this? To show others the power of God. To bring His glory in the circumstances. To show that something as amazing as the transformation of one's life could only happen through God's love, forgiveness and power. If we don't believe God can do what He says He can do, we show our ignorance...our foolishness, in God's eyes.

Jesus took fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes and transformed them. He passed on the religious leaders because they thought they had all the answers and could not get beyond their religious attitudes and laws. Sometimes I think that's part of our problem, thinking we know better. He wanted lesser people so those around him would see the difference in their lives. God is a God of second chances. He wants to see all transformed. We should be thankful for that.

This might be offensive to some but it's the way He separates the wheat from the tares. Many of Jesus' words were hard. It's why there will be only a remnant of followers in the last days. It's why He tells us His way is narrow. There will be many not able to hear this hard message. So many who will continue in their foolishness, as the Word tells us. A hard word? YesWho can understand it? Those with faith and who believe God is who He says He is. Even Jesus' disciples had a hard time understanding all He said:

John 6:60 - "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"