Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Merry Heart

Proverbs 15:13 - A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. 
Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? There is no scripture to back this up, at least none that we can locate. But He does laugh. And who says living a Christian lifestyle can't be much fun? 

As for me and my two closest church friends, we have more than enough good times. Yes, for some it would be considered sterile because we aren't getting down and dirty with our discussions. But as was evidenced yesterday afternoon, we had plenty of things to chuckle about. Did I say chuckle? I mean gasping for air, teary-eyed, side-splitting, stomach hurting laughter. Laughter that would erupt again time and time again just because of mental images. It brings a smile and laugh to me even as I write this! Sorry, I'm not going into detail on what caused the laughter....that's our secret!

But I can share this: "You guys, I have a proposition for you. How would you like to join me for a week in Arizona? We would have a good time. There's an arboretum nearby, we could go inner tubing on the Salt River, visit Old Scottsdale, take a drive to the Painted Desert. We even have a pooted heal!" "Whaaat?" "Oh, I mean a heated pool."

Well, that sent waves of laughter through us in the restaurant. Good old Laurie slips again! "Gee, that sounds like some kind of bird, perhaps one native to Phoenix?" I will search for one when I'm down there next week. That was just the start, however. It got a lot better as the day wore on.

Consider little children and their innocent remarks and some of the things they do. I think of Art Linkletter and his program of years ago, "Kids Say the Darnedest Things." I think of some of the goofiest looking animals, like a platypus or a manatee. Wouldn't you say their quite humorous in appearance? Even the behavior, like an otter's, can be funny. God created them all. So I truly think He has a sense of humor.

Some people can get pretty uptight about natural things in this world. Being a Christian does not mean you can't laugh. I truly believe God made us with certain natural "functions" (some that get worse with age, ahem), to keep us humble. That way no one can say, although they try, that they are above such things, that they are better, that they are immune. Just wait till you hit your 60's...and later. All form of pride will be whisked away! We might even get to the point when we say to ourselves, well, I'm at that age when this is expected! Proverbs 11:2 - When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. So pride brings disgrace? Just let it go (no pun intended),  and thank the Lord for His wonderful creation! The wisdom is borne out of humility, of giving in and admitting that things happen...and God knows...and perhaps He laughs. Then I remember the scripture, "We are created in the image of God." Ooooh.....hmmm.

I've had friends who find it difficult to laugh or even be cheerful. What a prison that must be like. Laughing is the one thing so easy and can be done at no cost. It releases endorphins within our bodies that relieves tension, soothes the soul, spirit and heart. We've all heard the expression laughter is the best medicine. I'm sure that's why God created itIt should be a daily good laugh, or more, a day. When we were finished with our day, the three of us were pretty darn joyful!!

There's nothing worse than a stuffed shirt, one that can't live with the naturalness of human life. Well, let me clarify that by saying the accidents of the natural human body. There's a limit to some things if they are NOT accidents. I think God likes it best when we can laugh at ourselves, though. Maybe He even gets a chuckle out of some of the things that could embarrass us. If we can laugh at ourselves, we have accepted they way we are. You know? When we laugh, God rejoices. He knows we're having a good time. He just knows....

He knit us together in our mothers' wombs. He created our inmost being. We are fearfully and wonderfully made...even with those embarrassing moments. We are made in His image. His eyes saw my unformed body and all the days ordained for me were written in His book before one of them came to be. (I especially like this one because every embarrassing moment we have He already knew about! :-D) 

So, don't think you can't have fun. Know that God looks down and nothing is hidden from Him even if you've been able to hide it from your friends...for now...just wait....and while you're waiting, laugh at yourself. Like the scripture above it's healing. Another Proverb confirms this: A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones (Proverbs 17:22). It changes your overall being. Oh how God has thought of everything...

Psalm 104:31- May the glory of the Lord endure for ever, may the Lord rejoice in His works.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

United We Stand!

Genesis 12:2-3 - "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

Pastor Rory Grooters began his Sunday sermon with a short video clip showing a soccer team at practice. Under his breath the coach was urging one of the players to pass the ball. He did not. He kept it to himself. The coach stopped the game and called the young man over to speak to him. A long story short, he told him they needed to work as a team. That the name on the back of his jersey (his own) was not as important as the one on the front (the team's).

There are two thoughts going through my head about this is the unity we are to have with fellow believers; the other is how we are to expand the number of fellow believers to enlarge the body of Christ.

As Christians we are united in Christ. Our name, on its own, is of no importance. It is the name on the front, and Pastor Rory pointed to his heart, that is the most important. We are part of "Team Jesus." As a group united in Christ we should be acting as a team, not as an individual who believes they are standing out from the team and more important than the rest. I am reminded of the scripture in John that states He must increase, but I must decrease. If we do not bond together and work together as a unit, obviously we bring disunity. 

One of the things Pastor brought up was how we, as believers and followers of Jesus Christ, have fulfilled the promise God made to Abram (Abraham) way back in Genesis. If we are believers we are part of the great nation and we are blessed as the scripture above points out. It is up to us to bring others in so they can also be blessed.

From Jesus forward in His genealogy (as those who come into relationship with Him and become part of His spiritual family) came the beginning of the Church (in general). Ephesians 1:22-23 shows us God's plan: And (God) put all things under (Jesus') feet, and gave (Jesus) to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. "Team Jesus." He is the head of the Church...For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Savior of the body (Ephesians 5:23). 
If you notice, the word body is mentioned in both scriptures. As believers in Christ, being in Christ, being part of His body spiritually, we ARE the body of Christ. The Church is the body of Christ. As believers and followers, becoming one in Christ and therefore part of the Church (of Jesus Christ) it is our responsibility to continue the fulfillment of the very first continue to bring about a great nation and to have others be blessed by being one in Christ, His body, His Church...unified in one belief. He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15).
God developed a plan through His Son that all people of all races, all religions, all denominations would have access to God the Father of all. And when we receive Him we become coheirs in Christ. United with Christ. Part of the team. Willing to go into all the world....

Maybe the reason for this blog is what Pastor Rory mentioned to us: when you believe in something you want to tell others about it. I find it much easier to write than to speak for some reason. This is my outlet for telling you what I believe!

Pastor brought up that our strength comes first in our individual unity with Christ, then being with like-minded people. Because I have believed first, have realized the forgiveness of a Savior, it is my desire to bring others into this same unity, this body of believers, becoming one in the Spirit of God with Christ. It is part of my responsibility to spread the Gospel! I have joined the cloud of witnesses who can testify of God's love, His power, His promises. If you become an heir to the Throne and the Kingdom of God, you too become united in the Body of Christ. You become a disciple and a part of Team Jesus.

Philippians 2:1-3 - If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

He Chose Us to be In Him

Ephesians 1:4 - ...just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love...

We did not choose Him. We've heard people say, "I found God." God had a special plan for that person...and sought him out...and that's the real story!

I spent several years "looking for myself." I know now I wasn't looking for myself. I began to think there had to be more for me. I was searching for something spiritual and looking in all the wrong places. God was working on choosing me.

Horoscopes, psychic fairs, Shirley McLaine--all areas I looked to for guidance. All areas that were actually taking me nowhere...thankfully. There still was a tugging sensation that would not stop and (I thought) I kept searching.

Today I know that searching was initiated by God, the Father. I have heard it said we have a God-shaped hole in our heart. It is not exactly scriptural, but how would one feel that tugging in one's heart, looking for more out of life, if it did not come from Him? The closest scripture that comes close is Ecclesiastes 3:11 - He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts... I was longing for something. My heart was not being fulfilled by all the worldly things. Although I was left to my own devices for awhile, He finally came alongside me, in His perfect timing, and appeared when I needed Him the most. 
We are told that we are not complete without God, that we are nothing apart from Him. We ask Him to come into our lives and our hearts. Then we are filled with Him, we become one with Him, and that yearning for something is God filled that void in our heart.

Yes, He chooses us. That is so incredible. To think that before creation He knew.... He chose, He predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will... (Ephesians 1:5)

He calls all, there's no doubt. But not all hear Him, not all answer the call. Sadly, I have friends I've known a long time. They know my story. They know what the Lord has done for me. But it seems their spiritual eyes and ears have not been opened to see or hear. Yes, it's frustrating, of course, but there's not much more I can do about it. I have planted the seed, there will be others who will come into their lives (hopefully) and add more to my testimony through their own, but God is the one who does the final work, who brings meaning to words I've said, who opens their understanding.

God opened my heart, my mind, my spirit. I became part of the ones to whom He has given His wisdom and made known the mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:9) be one in Christ, in Him. 

In Him appears seven times in Ephesians 1. In Him we have:

  • blessings from heavenly places (verse 4)
  • redemption through His blood (verse 7)
  • forgiveness of sins (verse 7)
  • oneness of all things in heaven and earth (verse 10)
  • obtained an inheritance (verse 11)
  • predestined according to God's promise (verse 11)
  • trust in Him because we believed (verse 13)
  • sealed with the Holy Spirit (verse 14)
  • guaranteed an inheritance (verse 14)

These things were worked in us through the power of God first worked in Jesus Christ. Upon our acceptance of Jesus we become one in Him, like Christ Jesus is one with the Father.

That means access to God through Jesus. Do you realize how fantastic that is? We don't need to try to gain access like the people did through the High Priests in the Old Testament. Because Christ had not yet come that's all these people could do to be atoned for their sins. Praise God, when Jesus came that the middle man was removed. Any business person will know how taking away the middle man can cut time and cost. The same goes for allowing Jesus to be the main Source. No longer do we need to go through our earthly priests or pastors for forgiveness of sin. We have direct access.

We have direct access to all the things I listed above...when we become one with Christ. 

We are saved by God's grace, a free gift. We become known as saints when we accept this free gift. If you feel something is missing, if you feel a tugging in your spirit, ask Jesus if that's Him. Pay attention to it, listen. You might hear Him speaking directly to you. Jesus desires a personal relationship with YOU. It's personal because the middle man is cut out. Go right to the right Source.

I pray that:

...the eyes of your understanding [would be] enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power... (Ephesians 1:18-19) 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Oh Boy, Oh Boy...

Romans 13:3-4 - For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.
My, oh, my. OMG. Yikes. These were the thoughts going through my head this morning as I read these scriptures, which I've read before. Prior to this we are told that we are to be subject to ALL authority...ALL... Why? Because God has placed them in that position. Sometimes we wonder if God knows what He's doing. Yes, He does. He is very aware of what He's doing. We just don't always understand His reasoning because His ways are greater than ours, or we don't know enough about God in the first place. 

I think I will not be liked for today's blog! It depends on who reads it. C'est la vie. I'm posting... I've struggled with these scriptures. I read them over and over, slowly, picking each word apart. And I thought about the authority of this nation. Oh, we've had many instances of poorly managed authority, from the right and the left. No man--or political party--is perfect. The only person in this authority that would be acceptable, at best, would know what's right and wrong. The absolute best would be one who knows and follows the laws of God. 

Why God puts less than desirable "rulers" in charge is another question. A commentary suggested that it was to show what evil is. Ahem. Maybe to get us back to right thinking!?

According to this scripture rulers are not to be a terror to good works, only to evil. They are to stand against evil, not be part of it. If we do good, yet have an "evil" ruler, will he recognize that we do good, or will he see it as a threat and consider it evil? Oh, the questions about these verses. 

He should be God's minister to us for good. We should fear doing evil because our authority will punish us for it because he's the one who is to bear the sword against evil...not cause it. But today it almost seems as though we fear doing good. Or is it that we have grown complacent? We shrug our shoulders and wonder what we can do. That's life; life changes; times change; let's get with the times. Let's turn a blind eye to what once was right. 

No matter who God places in our authority, however, one thing stands out, we are to submit to them. That way God will have no judgment against us. Yet He will also judge the authority and determine if what he has done is right or wrong. But we are to submit..... That doesn't mean that we don't recognize his deeds. 

But how do these fellows get into office in the first place? It is we who elect them. And if we don't know right from I getting myself into trouble here...we will put into authority, the one we elected. Like Israel wanting a king after so many years of being ruled by God's God's authority. They chose to go the wrong direction, they chose to go against God, they chose to ignore His laws. They had God as their Authority, the highest Authority. They were the apple of His eye. In His hands they were blessed. What more could they want? Yet, they chose what the rest of the world had.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...we have turned our backs as a nation on God. Just like Israel. They got what they asked for...and then some. They chose him for his appearance and charm. Saul, who was Jewish and knew the ways of God, knew right from wrong, chose to be disobedient. This has been going on in our country for years and I believe God is finally getting a little weary of our wandering further away from Him. I believe He's trying to get our attention. Will we heed the warning? We can believe God exists, say that we have faith in Him, maybe even go to church occasionally. But if He's not a constant in our everyday life, but only an occasional visitor in our thoughts on Sundays, we're missing something.

Another commentary wrote something I was not prepared for. It's something some will understand. It was written by James Burton Coffman in 1974:

[Verse 3] is a comment upon the effectiveness and success of the state as God's ordained institution that such a statement as this stands as truth. Aberrations may be catalogued and failures noted; but,in the principal part, and in the overwhelming number of examples afforded by history, Paul's language here must stand as unchallenged truth. There has hardly been a state in history where the private exercise of Christian faith has been the object of governmental hatred and punishment. The glaring exception to this is in the ruthless Marxist governments which have appeared in the present century; and, should that type of government gain ascendancy in areas populated by Christians, there could well be another age of martyrs like that which descended upon the first century, shortly after these noble words were penned. The truth of Paul's words here is not contravened [disputed], either by the persecutions of the first century or the threat of persecutions now.

Glenn Beck has been trying to steer this country to knowing what truth is, where to find it, pleading with us to search it out for ourselves. Yes, he believes without God as our Authority in this country...and people in authority who believe this, we are in trouble. The only way someone will know what is right and true is to know Jesus, to understand the Word of God and what is expected of us.  It's not about man's interpretation of what's good; it's not how good we live our lives apart from God. It's all God related...a hard word.

God may very well be trying to turn our thinking around. He's trying to turn this nation back to Him. He may have to use some drastic measures. In the Bible we are warned of these days. Maybe this country will wander in the wilderness for 40 years first. We are to be tolerant these days of other religions, but God is not tolerated here anymore. A country without God... He knows what we need; we do not. He created us; we did not create Him. He has given us the choice to know what's right from wrong; we choose whether we want to know it or not. Thankfully, He is always with those who still look to Him, no matter how the world changes.

God is not some tyrant. He only wants what's best for us. He is saddened by the state of our affairs and how we have lost touch with Him. Sometimes He just has to intervene in some way to get our attention. He has promised us a good life if we choose His direction. 

Romans 2:8-11 - those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--[will be inflicted] indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace [will be given] to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fully Alive

Galatians 5:1 - It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

I have decided to undertake a Bible study on my own this fall. I had it stashed away with the intention of doing it awhile back and feel now is the time. It's called Fully Alive by James Robison and Beth Moore. 

The gist of it is this: there are many people who claim to be Christians but they live like they aren't…they take on victim mentalities and never seem to be able to get beyond these stages in their lives. We all fall into this (pity party) category from time to time; we are never going to be perfect, but some are able to get beyond the issues of life as they come up. We can learn how to more quickly avoid the negative thoughts that consume us.

We have an example: Jesus Christ. Look at all He did without complaining, without pitying the fact that He was sent from heaven with the express purpose of dying for all mankind! It is He we are to look up to, to seek. He is the "author and finisher of our faith." 

St. Irenaeus said: The glory of God is man fully alive.

That's quite a statement. Imagine if everyone could get beyond their issues and be all who God had wanted them to be. It would definitely be to the glory of God.

This study will be geared to showing us how to get beyond the strongholds that keep us in bondage and fully understand what some of scripture tells us we are in Christ (I'm going to be personal here): I am a new creation (2Corinthians 5:17), more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13) and an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of His testimony (Revelation 12:11). These will help me remember that I have freedom in Christ. As Robison said: I am free to fight effectively but not free from the battle…[and] it's not quick fix. 

Robison explained, with much emotion, a time when he fell into despair though he was an effective minister. He later realized what he had done…he used the Bible, the Word of God, as a tool to create sermons for other people, but he did not use it as a means to draw life from it for himself. He was able to tell others what they were to do but he failed to do it himself. I wonder how many of us fall into this same category? Do I do this? 

He had determined early on to dedicate his life to Christ, to let his life mean nothing to him and only act according to God's plans without thought for himself. And he failed. He began to work believing the lies that he was doing it for Christ when he was doing it on his own and receiving accolades. Pride set in and in time he came to the realization he had failed in his original commitment. He became self-centered, not Christ-centered. Publicly he was successful but privately he was a failure in God's eyes. 

He'd lost his first love, Jesus Christ, and allowed the enemy to take hold of his life and draw him down, even to a point where he wished he could die. This is what the devil does...gets us where we are the weakest...and builds on those weaknesses. James confessed to other believers what he had been doing and found the strength, through God, to overcome. 

Becoming a servant rather than being served, giving rather than receiving, counting it all as loss….giving without any expectation to receive in return. Thinking of others first. This is what we are to do and be. Can we really get to that solitary place in our lives where we don't matter anymore? When we can grasp this idea I believe we get it! When we can be content with no more than Jesus as our best, perhaps only, Friend, our Savior, our Mentor, our Guide in life, we get it. Then we know we are fully alive and that nothing else in this world matters. 

But, oh, how we cling to the world. How it says "follow me." How it lures with pretty things. How it draws us to want more of it, like it will be the end all. I read something somewhere recently (sure don't know where!) that life should not be looked at as just a beginning and an end. If we have this mentality, of course we're going to want to live life in the moment and take all we can get because "once we're gone, it's gone." In Christ, however, life is eternal. Our eternal life is what's most important, not today. What a marvelous concept! I believe that because I have chosen to accept Christ. But have I made that full commitment to living fully alive in Christ? 

I'm not drowning in pity or dismay or outright fear of my future, but I know there is more out there. I believe I have enough reverent fear of God to keep me wanting to know Him more. As I wander through this study, I hope to share some of the highlights and hopefully some of the things I've learned and will strive (in a good way) to do. 

Beth Moore quoted 2Corinthians 10:5: Cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. This should be our goal. 

Beth and James discussed strongholds. That is something that has a strong hold on us, that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. When we pride ourselves in accomplishments that are clearly our own, we have done just that…exalted ourselves. We have become self-absorbed, self-centered, self-congratulatory. Me, me, me. When we choose to be who we want to be, we have exalted ourselves again. Our plans, our ambitions…apart from God. We have not counted our lives as loss…rather we are still clinging to worldly opinions of us…what do others think of me? We have not abandoned ourselves and our natures to God. That is NOT freedom in Christ. 

Stronghold is a strong hold…of our thoughts, our words, our actions. It grips tight. Freedom, in Christ, is that strong hold being released, freeing us of what we cling so deeply to. Beth discussed how some of us can mask our true feelings to hide those strongholds in our life that we would have control over our circumstances. That is bondage. When we are able to release that bondage we become free. When we hunker down and open up the Word of God we can be set free from the bond of slavery. Matthew 4:4 - Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" It is His Word that bring us life. He sent His Word [Jesus] and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. (Psalm 107:20). 

We are raised with these strongholds, those things we want to push aside or stuff and believe we can overcome on our own. Things like childhood abuse, in any form, physical appearances that brought on teasing, lack of parental approval or encouragement, rejection or criticism. These can bring on attitudes that we put on to mask the real issue. It won't go away, but it will fester…until we let it come to the surface and let God heal us. And without God, we are powerless to overcome these things. 

I still know there are some who find this idea of abandoning ourselves to Christ something that "ain't gonna happen" because they don't want to be under the authority of anyone but themselves. It was probably an authority figure in the first place that got us to this place. This might be a hard word, but, according to James' wife Betty, those people have unteachable spirits. In some way, we all have to admit this is us. There can be a fear of God that is distorted when there shouldn't be. God's Word is Truth and it's full of love and life. It first takes an understanding that God truly does know better what's good for us and has a greater plan for our lives than we could imagine. I've gotten to first base with the knowledge thing, and hopefully I'm heading to second on accepting this as a very good thing to do. Third base will be when I am truly able to do it. A home run will be those last steps at the end of my life into the the presence of Jesus, hopefully hearing, "Well done..." I have a long way to go...with not much time left. 

We can get beyond those things that keep us in bondage. In Christ we have the authority to cast down those strongholds (2Corinthians 10:4). And we don't have to wait until things get so difficult or so miserable. We can do it now, with the help of God, through His strength, when we make the commitment to allow Him to effect a change in us. When we look to God and are guided by Him, the enemy cannot gain access. But, Beth says, if something should strike it might be the very thing that kick starts the process and we should not look at the circumstance as horrible but as the door to freedom. Hallelujah. 

If you sense there is a stronghold in your life, take the time to consider searching your heart and asking Jesus to make a difference in your life. Receive Him, receive His Holy Spirit and let the work of healing begin. 

Psalm 138:8 - The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Count It But Loss

Philippians 3:8 - Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

I think it was Glenn Beck who first made mention this past summer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book The Cost of Discipleship. I just know that a very good friend suggested I read it. I had already considered it, so her suggestion pushed me to get out and buy it. One cost might be summed up in the phrase count it but loss. But let me tell you, if we choose to be determined to do that, we will have help.

I think of Pentecost and the disciples turned apostles. Jesus had ascended to heaven then returned to appear one last time before the disciples. He explained what all that had happened meant and told them to wait in Jerusalem until where they would be endued with the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). Then they would be ready to be loosed into the world, to preach and teach Christ Jesus through the power of God, not in their own strength.

And then I recall Paul who could not contain himself in his witness of Jesus Christ whom he had seen with his own eyes and listened and learned from Him. There are several books in the Bible called the Prison Epistles written by Paul during his times in prison to document this. He did not complain about his ordeals. Nothing was more important than his determination to share Christ...which he did. He was prepared to give his life for the sake of the Gospel and in time became a martyr.

I wonder where I stand? We've been so far removed from those days it's hard to fathom being in that type of circumstance. There could come a day when our faith is put on the line but it's hard to imagine. Yet there are some today who are missionaries in remote parts of the world and who are willing to give their lives. My brother-in-law is one and he has been in some tough circumstances. But he labors in the love of Christ. And when I picture him I picture his great big smile!

Remember, this Paul was once Saul, a Pharisee who would not listen to reports of this Messiah who did not conform to his idea what a messiah would look like. As Saul he persecuted Christians and their way of thinking. His life--and his name--however, was so changed by the power of God, he became dedicated to Christ, so much so that he was willing to count his life as loss. We are told to do this...not necessarily literally, although that can happen, but spiritually: The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:25). Our lives should be worth nothing in the worldly sense. The world has little to offer compared to what we can attain through the knowledge of God. We are nothing without Jesus.

What happens if we do count it all but loss? I like what the Word tells will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Yes, the Holy Spirit will give us utterance but I believe He will also give us the power to endure whatever might come to us in life. He will help us in that moment of counting it all but loss. We will know, only in part, what Jesus Himself endured for us. However, we first must have a relationship with God to know Him, to understand Him and love Him and understand what we are to sacrifice. Power comes to those who have that relationship. The Word says there comes a day when men's hearts will fail them because of fear (Luke 21:26). Why? Because they haven't known the things of God, were not prepared for the some of the greater troubles of the world and did not have the power of God through the Holy Spirit to help overcome those things.

Boy, this was not anywhere near to what I was going to write! 

Back briefly to the Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer's book describes the cost one might have to pay for holding to Christian views, following Christ, and is something some face today as Christianity is being opened up to those in oppressed countries where the name of Jesus is basically forbidden. Who knows that a day might come when we will be faced with circumstances unthinkable. Those in this country who stand firm in Christ in a country slowly pushing God aside for the sake of tolerance and embracing religious diversity could be faced with difficulties, certainly, as is already seen, offense.  
“I shall have no right,” Bonhoeffer wrote to Niebuhr before leaving America, “to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people."... Bonhoeffer never regretted this decision, not even in prison, where he wrote in later years: “I am sure of God’s hand and guidance... You must never doubt that I am thankful and glad to go the way which I am being led. My past life is abundantly full of God’s mercy, and, above all sin, stands the forgiving love of the Crucified.” (Emphasis is mine.)

This sounds like something Paul might have written. Bonhoeffer counted it all as loss and we are also if we have come to know Jesus. If we do not we don't know Him. That is a difficult thing to write! Bonhoeffer writes about two forms of grace. I can tell you this, one grace counts it all as loss, while the other does not. More on that some other time. These forms of grace fit right in with counting our lives as nothing, sacrificing ourselves...all for the cause of Jesus Christ and His Gospel message...or not.

Glenn Beck has chosen in his own way to count it all as loss being part of the meager crowd not afraid of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mainstream media wouldn't think to bring up this subject knowing full well they would be charged with criticism by many people. And there are many, even some religious leaders, who think Beck is way off base in his boldness. Should there be a time when Beck is stopped, I guarantee, like Paul, he will find another means to speak! He is adamant about this country turning back to God. I don't look at Beck as a Savior and I don't idolize or worship him. But he has found a need to do this considering the direction our once predominantly godly nation has gone and considering this direction could continue to wander farther away from God. Beck chooses to count it all but loss. Is there anyone out there who will do the same? 

Stay tuned...

Philippians 1:20 - I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's Morally Right?

Psalm 122:1-2 - I will lift up my eyes to the hills--from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

I struggled as I tried to write legibly in the dark while watching a Truth Project video in Sunday school! My friend next to me asked, "How can you see?" I sometimes think I have eyes like a cat... I scribbled and scribbled like I'd never heard this "chapter" of the study (which we viewed earlier this year). One can always hear something new, or it grabs hold in a new way. For me, after all, it's four months later and I'm four months smarter! Ahem...

The lesson in Sunday school yesterday could have been written this past year, not in 2007. It's about as timeless as the Word of God because it is the Word of God being taught. The question came up: can the state steal? After some discussion and examples it was said that, yes, legally the government can steal...but morally, it's wrong. 

For Israel, God was their Higher Authority for a very long time. They had their comings and goings with Him but God was always faithful to persuade them to return to Him. It was, after all, to their benefit. They struggled and wandered without His guidance, His wisdom, His knowledge. When things fell apart they finally looked up where their help came from...

In 1Samuel, though, the people of Israel wanted a king like other nations. And a king God gave them. We were also reminded that no matter who is in power in a state or a nation, whether good or bad, God has placed them there. God is always in control. If we do not agree with our leader, we still must be obedient to him. Sometimes that's just the most frustrating thing, a plain difficult thing...and it can get to a point where we must stand up against him/them if we are placed in a position where we compromise our morals. Chances are, however, we have first gotten to a place of complacency until we realized our mistake. Then we hop on bandwagons and begin to hopefully effect change.

We are in that phase of life today. We are seeing today how government is desiring complete control...not of the people, by the people or for the people who were once part of one nation, under God. Our lesson today suggested that such a "king" would tax people for the government's sake and people would become slaves to this king. In the Bible people gave ten percent of their labors to God because they knew where their trust lay, but they were not slaves to God...He was their provision. Where do our taxes go? Certainly not to God. And we put up, so far, with laws and allowances that just should not be. Does the government really provide for us? Can we truly trust them or will we become their slaves?

We are seeing this history from 1Samuel being played out now. The whole point of 1Samuel (and the entire Bible), the accounts of how the king came into being and what transpired as a result, is there for us to learn from. But it seems we have not learned. Truth today is manipulated. It is being shoved aside for the lies of man, for the pride of man, the power hungry man. Our ways are not better than God's. Isaiah 55:8 shows us that: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

Before I go on, let me say this...there are those who are going to think negatively about that, thinking God wants no more than to run our lives. It's just that He does know better which direction we should go to be successful. When we do things on our own we may appear to be succeeding but we'll never know what better things might have happened had we chosen to follow God's plan. We will have a chance some day to look back and see where we've failed. I don't look forward to that one bit!

The role of government is to punish evil and condone good. I'm not so sure I'm seeing this happen. It seems to have been switched as the years have gone by. The study pointed out that the government, or our leader, should not be looked upon as our savior. That's a form of idolatry. And there are so many in this world who look to their government for their needs. Yes, there are some who genuinely do need help. But what about others who want to abuse the system or cheat the system to get what they want. What happened to working for a living and being proud of that? Now people want handouts. Where's the pride in that? How can they, with a clear conscience, do that? What about being a useful member of society? It's all about "what I can get from someone else" rather than "what I can do and give for someone." 

There was a king, Uzziah, who was a godly king. For a good part of his life he trusted God and lived with good morals and prospered. His fame went before him...until pride stepped in and led to his downfall. With this pride he did the wrong thing in the eyes of God and that began his demise, including his being struck with leprosy. He never regained his previous godly life.

Like our own government, there is pride, power and anger toward those who contradict what is better. They don't see it that way, of course. This is what we see: if we can get rid of God, get rid of that which is contrary to our thinking, we can do as we please. Those moral issues like abortion, marriage, sexuality, lust of the eyes and flesh, the welfare state, if God is removed, can be looked upon as good, not evil. Quite the opposite of the role that government was created to do in the first place. 

Let me tell you, this type of government, this type of thinking will not go unpunished some day. God takes account of every word and deed. Only if those doing "evil" have been touched by God in some way and they are able to submit to His authority in time, will they be forgiven of all they have done. We should be in constant prayer to our leaders that the Divine wisdom of God touch their lives.

We have entered a time where Christians need to stand up for what is right. We will not be looked upon favorably, but I'll tell you, if we stand firm in our beliefs, we will be the victorious ones some day! Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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 (1 Corinthians 15:56).
There is a very long and hard fight ahead of us and I'm afraid it will not look like we are making headway. The Word tells us in the last days these things will happen. If we are truly in the last days, things will only get worse. The goodness we fight for will be fought fiercely against by our enemy who has caused many to lose sight of good and followed evil. God help these people.

But faithful to His people. His desire, even through all this, is that no man should perish but that all men should receive Him. It should be our prayer that those who are blind, lost and spiritually dead come to the knowledge of an all-knowing God (Ephesians 1:17) who loves us even when we have gone astray. Only He is able to forgive as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). There will be a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10)...not our government, no earthly man, but Christ Jesus who is alive in the heavenlies and is seated at the right hand of a loving God (Romans 8:34) whose only wish is for us to acknowledge Him.

It's time for those who believe these things, who trust in the Lord, who have been saved by Christ, to stand up for and stand firm in Him, to stand for what is morally right. I read or heard someone say "isn't it something that political conservatives are called 'the right?'" Something to ponder.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery... [So may we] walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy...(Galatians 5:1, Colossians 1:11).

Friday, September 17, 2010


Isaiah 41:13 - For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, "Fear not, I will help you."

After thinking about and writing yesterday's blog, I realized how this so applies to me. It applies to a lot of people I know, no matter where they are in their walk with the Lord. We all fall into this occasionally. It sort of shows unbelief...where's that mustard seed of faith? Oh, there are some things I do not fear and times I come across with confidence, but then I fail in other areas. Hmmmm, I don't get it.

Fear not, God tells us. I know the plans I have for you, He assures us. Obey Me, He admonishes. But mainly He tells us to fear not. There are about 172 variations of this phrase in the Bible. Maybe more...depending on which version you read! 

If we are told that many times to fear not, we ought to listen. That's a command to those who know the Lord. That's a command we should obey. And as I was writing yesterday's blog my spirit was pricked a couple times at least. It was as if Jesus was telling me personally, "You fear way too much those things you cannot control." This is sin....if we trust in God.
I got to thinking about all the little day to day things that I fuss over. It's not that I actually fear them but I fuss over them. I'm uncomfortable, I'm concerned, I'm worried. I think I need to wear a phylactery on my forehead and on my forearm that says no more than: Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).
What do I have to fear? Here's a partial list: whether I love enough, whether I am totally sold out for Jesus, whether I'm in His will, whether I'm too impatient, the spiritual condition of some family members, the spiritual condition of friends, whether people like me, whether I'm offensive, whether I will have the right words at the right time, whether I will speak those words, whether I'm a good wife, what would happen if I outlive my husband, whether I'm too self-centered, whether I'm proud or vain. I could go on... Most of these thoughts are not constant...they flit in and out of my head. I'm not obsessed with them but when the thought pops in, I think about it...instead of just thinking or saying out loud, "Lord, I will fear not." Take that thought to God and talk about it, in prayer, asking for guidance.

If we are totally immersed in God, totally sold out for Him, there is no need to fear...or be anxious. I'm really putting myself out on a limb here and admitting that which is probably my biggest weakness. Oh, I know I love the Lord. I believe with all my heart that, like Carla from yesterday's blog, I could handle a difficult situation...once it was presented to me. And maybe that's the most important thought to cling to...take situations as they happen and just work them out. Fear not. Know that the Holy Spirit will give you what you need when you need it...if you are filled with Him.

I took a little break from writing this and checked an email a friend sent to me yesterday and it seemed to be something I needed to read, absorb and share:

   Dear Lord, I thank you for this day. I thank You for my being able to see and hear this morning.. I'm blessed     because You are a forgiving God and an understanding God. You have done so much for me and You keep on blessing me. Forgive me this day for everything I have done, said or thought that was not pleasing to you. I ask now for Your forgiveness. 

   Please keep me safe from all danger and harm. Help me to start this day with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude. Let me make the best of each day to clear my mind so that I can hear from You.

   Let me not whine and whimper over things I have no control over. Let me continue to see sin through God's eyes and acknowledge it as evil. And when I sin, let me repent, and confess with my mouth my wrongdoing, and receive the forgiveness of God. 

   And when this world closes in on me, let me remember Jesus' example -- to slip away and find a quiet place to pray. It's the best response when I'm pushed beyond my limits. I know that when I can't pray, You listen to my heart. Continue to use me to do Your will. 

   Continue to bless me that I may be a blessing to others... Keep me strong that I may help the weak.. Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others. I pray for those who are lost and can't find their way. I pray for those who are misjudged and misunderstood. I pray for those who don't know You intimately. I pray for those who will delete this without sharing it with others. I pray for those who don't believe.. But I thank you that I believe. 

   I believe that God changes people and God changes things. I pray for every family member and everyone in their household. I pray for peace, love and joy in their homes that they are out of debt and all their needs are met. 

   I pray that every eye that reads this knows there is no problem, circumstance, or situation greater than God. Every battle is in Your hands for You to fight. I pray that these words be received into the hearts of every eye that sees them and every mouth that confesses them willingly..

This is my prayer.
In Jesus' Name, Amen..

This is a great prayer for those times when the things of the world get a little too busy, a little too frustrating, even a little fearful. I just needed to add it today. It's a reminder to ask for His forgiveness the moment I have those unnecessary thoughts and fears, that God Himself is greater than any problem. We are told, after all: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Well, duh!

Yes, those who know and trust daily in Jesus Christ, need not fear anything. Perhaps I just needed to think on that today...and yesterday. We need to step out of our fears, in faith in Jesus, and when we take that first step we will be walking with Him by our side. Without that faith, without taking that step, His feet will not be there for us and we walk on our own.

Although this scripture is a word from David to his son Solomon regarding Solomon's task of building a temple, it applies to us too. If we are in His will, He will be there to be sure we finish what He has asked us to set out to do. Everything we do is to be done for Him, through His perfect power.

1Chronicles 28:20 - And David said to his son Solomon, "Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God--my God--will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

She Can't Lose

Colossians 3:1 - If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 

I received some bad news this week. My mother-in-law's caregiver has a mass about the size of a grapefruit in her liver, along with ten cysts. This all happened since July. Anyone who finds him or herself in this type of situation is definitely going to be filled with frantic emotions, one would think. It has taken me a couple days to process this and yet I can't understand it to the fullest because I'm not the one experiencing this.

Carla does not appear to be frantic at all. Why not? Because she is a follower of Jesus Christ. She is a strong believer. Perhaps she is in the denial stage, but I don't think so. When I looked into her eyes the day she told us, although she did not know whether it is benign or malignant, she had a peace that was unbelievable. There were no tears and no pain on her face. 

How can this be? I will share what she told me: "At first my thoughts were, 'Lord, I will be seeing you soon.'" She couldn't wait. She was excited and she smiled and she looked so content. She said after a couple days she sort of  "came to her senses" when she started thinking about her children. That could be her biggest concern. But she is not worried about death or even what she may go through in the process. 

She shared with me how she just can't imagine how she could handle this without Jesus. That is the comment so many make when in the midst of crisis. He is the firm foundation. No matter what the outcome is for Carla, and to be blunt here, whether it is life or death, she knows where her salvation lies. She knows His plan for her is for good and not for evil (Jeremiah 29:11). She has been raised with Christ in her receiving Him at some point in her life. She has sought those things that are above and she certainly seeks them today. She is secure and in death she will be wrapped in His arms. 

So what's so good about His plan if it is death? Carla and I talked briefly about this, about how in a crisis when one relies on the Lord for their strength, peace and confidence, something rises up within us and causes us to be "in the face" of others about how Jesus is in the midst of the dilemma. One can't help but expound on how Jesus is that strength and our confidence is in matter what.

I experienced this years ago. I was out of town when I was still working and a terrible thing happened. Without going into a lot of detail a man I met (for less than an hour of our time) died. He had a tragic accident while I was with him and although I was not at total peace while I was rushing for help, afterward I know Jesus was with me and gave me that peace that passes all understanding...which people noticed...and questioned...which prompted "witnessing." God even sent a "ministering angel" to be there when I needed it the most...a female police officer, a Christian woman...and we prayed together. God was so involved in the tragedy of that day. Let me add that although there was peace, I still felt sadness for this young man who lost his life so age 30-something. To this day I wonder what "good" came out of it all. I know somehow God touched someone's life.

Without the true knowledge of Jesus Christ, without the presence of a living God, without His Holy Spirit residing in someone, fear, dreadful thoughts and worry can consume. But if one looks up, over and beyond the situation, and realizes that nothing surprises God, and remembers that He knows the beginning from the end, that He is the only One who can handle the situation, one can still have peace. 

Carla need not worry today about her children. I don't know their spiritual condition, but through her witness in this trial, they may realize where they need to be if they are not there. She has no control over them, but God does. There may also be many people she is in contact with in her family, with friends, people she takes care of and coworkers she can touch with the peace, love, strength and confidence that Jesus Christ has to offer. She agreed. There is a scripture that tells us we can plant the seed (of Jesus Christ), someone else can water it, but it is ultimately God who does the work (1Corinthians 3:7). She just needs to be She is in the midst of doing His work. 

I will pray for her daily. She is a dear, dear young woman. Yes, a positive end to this in the world's eyes would be wonderful. But I'm so thankful she is at peace with whatever outcome she is given. She is in a win-win battle. She can't lose. Of that we can be grateful.

John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Under and Over

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings...How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 17:8, Psalm 36:7)

Wings are mentioned several times in the Bible. I asked God one morning that I might be kept under His wings of protection so I might be able to soar on eagles' wings. And it got me to thinking....

As children when we were frightened we might run to the arms of our parents, as a mother chick stretches our her wings to protect her brood. Those arms and those wings were open to receive, hold, comfort and protect. Sometimes, unfortunately arms might be crossed or stretched out in a way to show distance is to be kept.

But our Lord's arms are ever outstretched to receive and protect. Distance between ourselves and Him is not something He wishes to have. He is the Father we can run to when things go wrong, when we fear and need peace in our hearts, when we hurt and need comfort. I'm so thankful we don't need to go anywhere else. We just call on Jesus. There is no mediator apart from Jesus, no idol, no patron saint, no clergyman can do what our Father in Heaven can do. Psalm 57:1 - Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.

How do we get that protection? Our protection comes by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. It gives us assurance of eternal life. Even if we are struck by tragedy or death, we are under His wings of protection. Our death does not mean the end. There is more eternally. There is life after death, a life in the Kingdom of God. What more do we need to know than that? 1John 5:11 - And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

When you accept Jesus, His truth, this truth I've mentioned about eternal life, will be known and it is the protection you need. Psalm 63:7 - Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. Psalm 91:4 - He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

Don't turn away from Him. Embrace the truth and the Truth of Jesus. There is a scripture that is God's plea to those who ignore the call of His Son. It's His heart's cry to those who reject Him, who scorn Him, who turn away from those who want you to know Him. Luke 13:34 - O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

But wait! There's more. We are told that if we have this relationship with the Lord, if we do not reject His Word, we listen to Him and obey and commit our lives to Him...and this is still I said before, if things are falling apart around us, inwardly we need not lose heart because we are being renewed day by day (2Corinthians 4:16). We are under the wings of our Heavenly Father and that can only mean eternal protection. With that knowledge there is nothing we can't conquer in this life. Our strength comes from the Lord and even in death we will be victorious. We will soar on eagles' wings.

Isaiah 40:31 - ... those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall soar on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Have a Headache!

Psalm 42:11 - ...I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.

Yes, I have a headache. Those who read my blog whether frequently or not, or those who are tuning in for the first time, you must know that I often have thoughts swirling through my head and that's what happened this morning at church. I'm writing this blog Sunday afternoon and I have a headache from all that has transpired...oh, the thoughts swirling. But it's a good "yet shall I praise Him" kind of headache. So, praise God!

If you go to "Lord, Why?" you will know where I'm coming from...again. Again and again and again the Holy Spirit of God ceases to amaze me, thrill me, comfort me and definitely let me know in no uncertain terms He hears me, He knows my sitting down and my rising up; He understands my thought afar off (Psalm 139:2). Yet in my human mind, my human nature, I forget this. And I'm not the only one who forgets, believe me!
Pastor Rory Grooters spoke today on "Where's My Life Going?" and offered five things to do and remember while stepping into tomorrow (perhaps I'll write about them tomorrow). He spoke about seasons of life and ruts we get ourselves into, even in our Christian walk. When we first received Christ there was an excitement, a giddiness, that whole new world I've written about. But with most things, the newness wears off. Ruts might enter in. I was in a rut until I knew Jesus. Then I was on top of the world. But other ruts keep happening and I sort of have felt I've been in a rut again lately. I could equate my ruts to the creases on my aging forehead! He said that without purpose, guidance and direction we have no power, especially if they don't come from God.

What's that scripture about not worrying about tomorrow....? Oh, Matthew 6:34! God knows the struggles we go through and allows them to occur occasionally to strengthen us, draw us closer to Him, learn--yet again--to trust Him. (Well, there's something else I forgot that I've known...) Do not worry.... 

I've been wondering why and when I will see God at work in my life...or when I will see myself working out God's will. Pastor Rory suggested that we take it a day at a time and let God's will come to us rather than our looking or striving for it. When we meddle, when we think this is how it should be done, we undo God's work. We are told over and over not to strive. "Be still [don't strive] and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

To add to all this bombarding, my brain was our Sunday school class which briefly talked about prostitution and whoring! Yeah, really! And how does that fit in, you might ask!? Does God really talk about that?! Yes...when we hunger for significance. When we want recognition for something God has actually done through us. When we don't give Him the credit. 

We want to do something for so others notice us. We want to be noticed, like the Pharisees...see how spiritual I am. This is not what the Lord wants. As this teaching was going on my thoughts darted to these scriptures:  

So the last will be first, and the first last - Matthew 20:16
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble - James 4:6.
I must decrease so that He might increase - John 3:30.  
Proverbs 16:9 tells us A man's heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps and Proverbs 16:3 says Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established. Do you see? When we are in right relationship with Him, God directs our steps whether we know it or not so we might as well give it to God in the first place rather than messing it up ourselves. Hmmmm. It's not about us, after all, it's about Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, and all they do in me. Not my striving, but my being guided, God's purpose and direction, not about what or how we plan on doing for God but how we allow God to use us to work out His perfect plan. Twice in Matthew 6, verses 6 and 18 it is said, your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly...and our Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Although these speak of praying and fasting in quiet manners rather than so everyone will notice, I believe it holds true for the works God planned for you. We need not brag about them for others to notice; God knows. And He will reward accordingly.

Our human nature needs to take a back seat and realize that His plans are greater than ours. Sometimes, I think, He puts us in a rut because we've tried to walk outside His will. And that rut, like I said, leads us back to Him. I will yet praise Him despite these ruts He allows me to fall into. Hopefully the next time I stumble into a rut, I will remember all this and be able to get out of it more quickly.
Huh, there was a time when I swore I would never ask "why, Lord?" But "Lord, Why?" was my question just the same. When will things happen? His answer was to wait...on Him. In His perfect timing...His directed steps when I submit to Him. Trust Him. I also believe that things happen that He doesn't always allow us to we will not get a big head about it. Just my thought there. I think another scripture says it all, yet it is so contrary to our human response regarding needing that pat on the back:

1Peter 5:6-7 - Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Don't Believe Me

John 4:42 - Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world." 

Yes, don't believe me! Believe what Jesus Himself has said. Get into the Book of John and listen to Him speak. Jesus speaks the truth because that's all He knows. He speaks what His Father has spoken to Him. It's hard to comprehend these things sometimes...that the words that were spoken so long ago are just as relevant today. The Word of God is timeless. It's for all people, not a select few. He did not send His Son Jesus for one group of people but, according to His Word, all.

Delve into John. Read it slowly and let the words of Jesus speak to you. John seems to have listened intently. He captured a very concise view of his Savior. When I need a good boost I return to this book.

The truth is told in love and in conviction. He minces no words. He tells it like it is. Listen carefully and you will hear the Savior's voice. Listen with an open mind and heart and you might hear Him calling you. Don't believe me, though. See for yourself. This relationship with the Lord, with Jesus Christ, is something you must seek yourself. When you seek, you will find...or better yet, Jesus will find you. He will reveal Himself personally to those who earnestly seek Him.

The deaf will hear, the blind will see. A new world awaits those wanting to know this Jesus more intimately than just knowing who He is. You will no longer be blind, no longer be deaf. A whole new world awaits you. You will understand things you never did will hear and you will see like never before. I have seen His power in my life and I have heard Him speak. My desire is to share that with others. But don't believe me, see/hear for yourself.

Jesus opened the eyes of a sinner such as the Samaritan woman in the above scripture. She immediately shared her knowledge with many people and they came to see and hear for themselves. When they heard, they believed. He's still in the business of doing that...but you need to act on it. Reading is an act. When you read the Word, if you are open minded it might seem like the words speak to you. They may be words of love or words of conviction. But they are His words to you.

There's a lesson here. The Samaritan woman was tired of her life, of being an outcast in her community because she had been divorced many times and now lived with a man not her husband. She had gone wrong somewhere in her life and perpetuated it, seeking happiness and never finding it, only finding backs being turned on her. Imagine the loneliness she felt. And then there was this Man who was willing to do what was not typical, talk to her, and even offer her living water that she would no longer thirst, would no longer feel lonely, whose sins were washed away simply by her acceptance of Him. She chose to believe this Man and was set free from all her guilt. Even if those in her town did not, the important Person did.

The road we take in our quest to know Jesus doesn't promise an easy life. It's what we do with our life after accepting Him and it's the final reward when our life ends. It's filled with highs and lows, rejoicing and tears, confidence and doubt, but Jesus never stops loving us...even if we falter. He's always there to pick us up when we fall. He's there with not only the sad words, "Where have you been?" or "Why do you cry?" but words to show us how we've failed. He speaks in judgment and love in a way we can understand. 

I think of God's words to frequently backslidden Israel, the apple of His eye. First comes the rebuke: Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel, for the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: "There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land" (Hosea 4:1). God seeks repentance: ...I will return to my place until they admit their guilt and look to Me for help. For as soon as trouble comes, they will search for Me (Hosea 5:15).  God's plea: Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for your sins have brought you down (Hosea 14:1).  Then comes the loving word: The LORD says, then I will heal you of your idolatry and faithlessness, and My love will know no bounds, for My anger will be gone forever! I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven (Hosea 14:4-5).

As I read these words, I thought of our country. Surely they speak to us as a nation as well as to us as individuals. He will have specific words for each of us. He loves us no less but there are times when a rebuke is in order. Listen and obey. Hear the word of the Lord. But don't believe what I say. Seek it for yourself.

1John 1:3 - That which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.