Saturday, May 1, 2010

What's Your Thing?

Do you ever get to the place where God asks you “what’s your thing?” He does that to me from time to time. What I’m talking about is those times in our lives that aren’t so great. Not just a bad day, but a time in our lives where we have to “endure the suck”, as one of my friends once said. Another way to put it, and what I think he meant by that, is hunkering down and walking through that particular time in our life that doesn’t seem all that good and pleasant. I think it’s a natural part of life, opportunities for us to grow in Him a little more. Well, sometimes it’s actually a LOT more growth that we need.

That brings me back to the question – what’s your thing? What is it that has you down? Why are you so downcast? Why so disappointed? Have you set your hearts upon something you shouldn’t have? Are your plans not working out as you thought they would?

God really does give us a lot of leeway in our lives. He gave us free will, and you can’t get more leeway than that. Since we have been living with our free will from the time of our birth, we have picked up a nasty habit – doing things our way. So when we try to walk as God wants us to we find that our ways are not necessarily His ways, and discover a conflict. Often times it can be painful. Very painful. We weep and gnash our teeth and stomp our feet and become downcast in our hearts and spirits. In essence, we pout. Because we don’t get things done OUR way. But didn’t we decide to live for Him, to give ourselves totally to Him? James 4:1 – “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

We can turn from leaning on Him and doing things His way and go back to our own way, but then we wouldn’t be following God, would we? And we know how things can turn out when we take them into our own hands and do them the way we want them done, don’t we?

One other thing my friend said, and that was to "embrace the suck." Not just endure it, but embrace it. What we need to do is reconcile ourselves to God. To balance our checkbook, if you will. To embrace the suck, we have to identify what it is that is mal-aligned, and get it back in line. This will take blind faith more often than not. God wants us to trust Him in all things, and that requires faith. But when we look at our lives in God’s perspective, we grow in even our faith. If we want to do things His way, we have to lay down our expectations, desires, and needs at His feet. The times that are dark, damp, and downright nasty are the times we need to remember that before we were ever born, He knew our entire lives. He knew we would come to this place in our lives that will seem painful to us. God hasn’t left us during these times. He’s just walked a little farther into the tunnel, and what we have to do is follow him.

Take courage! Be of good cheer! God IS in control!!! There’s light at the end of the tunnel – it may be faint, but focus on it. It may seem to recede, but it only seemed brighter because we have slapped on our own understanding of where we were in relation to the end of the tunnel. Take this opportunity God has given you to grow.

Proverbs 13:12 - “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

Proverbs 16:9 - “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”

Philippians 4:11b-13 – “for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Matthew 11:29 – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Are You Still Bummed?

Still bummed, huh? Hmmm. Did you get the Bummer, Man! message? If not, let’s recap: Jesus died for our sins and is the atoning sacrifice for us. He opened the way for us to go to God and ask for forgiveness. Since God is faithful, he hears our prayers and forgives us our sins when we confess them to Him and ask for His forgiveness. Once we’ve done that, we can stand on His faithfulness to forgive us. If we are still feeling convicted, it could be one of several things: not believing that God has actually forgiven us (not trusting His word); another underlying, un-confessed sin; a repeated sin (and possibly a stronghold); or spiritual condemnation.

Prayer is our first tool to turn to, as it always should be. God is faithful, and he wants absolutely nothing to stand between us and Him, so we need to pray and ask for revelation as to why we are experiencing what we are. If we have an underlying sin He will reveal it. If we’ve fallen again in the same area, it could be we have allowed a spiritual stronghold to take hold and we need to shake it off. He will show us all the details we need to know to overcome it. If we’re under the spiritual attack of condemnation, he’ll shed light on that as well. He desires a personal relationship with us and with the heart of a Father will do all He can to facilitate that relationship.

All we need to do is humble ourselves and allow His truth to permeate our lives.

Bummer, Man!

Have you ever done something and then felt really bummed about it later? Or maybe not really bummed, but maybe a little bothered by your decision? I sure have. It may have been a decision you made that you knew in your gut wasn’t quite right but did it anyway. Most of the time (I’d say over 90%) it’s probably guilt you’re feeling because what you did offended God in some way. AKA sin. It is God’s way of communicating to you His displeasure with your thoughts or actions. You have been convicted of whatever it was that you did. The good thing is that God is a God of grace. We usually don’t immediately reap the “rewards” (consequences) of our behavior, but sometimes we do. His grace period exists so that He can teach us and build us up in His image.

So how do we get rid of our guilt? How do we wipe the slate clean? Well, we can’t really wipe the slate clean, but we can get rid of the guilt. See, God is perfect, and he expects nothing less than perfection. But you and I both know that we’ve missed the mark. And we can’t go back and undo the things we’ve done in the past. In old times, the Israelites had to periodically make sacrifices to atone for their sins. But the sacrifices were only good for a while, and as they went along in life they found that they were in need of another sacrifice because they had messed up again. Last time I checked, I haven’t done any animal sacrifices. And I don’t think anyone else has either, or we’d have heard from PETA. But thankfully God has a plan.

Enter Jesus. He lived a perfect life. The fact that hell couldn’t hold him is proof of that. He died a sinner’s death, but because He didn’t ever sin, hell had no authority to keep Him. God raised Jesus up from the grave as an example of what will happen to all who call on His name. He was the perfect sacrifice that atones for our sins – past, present, and future. If we call on His name, we will be saved. And His sacrifice on the cross opens up a way for us to go directly to God and ask for forgiveness for our sins. God tells us that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We can rest assured that God IS faithful and will not hold our sins against us. Therefore, if we rest on this truth, we can remove the feelings of conviction we experience when we sin because Jesus paid the price for that, we have called on His name, we have confessed our sin to God, and He is faithful. Doing these things adjusts our perspective to the truth of the matter and allows us to remove the guilt of the sin and the conviction associated with it.

So don’t be bummed!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On The Ball

Do you remember how they used to demolish buildings? They used a wrecking ball. Remember those things? Big, heavy, steel balls that were swung into a building by a crane. I remember watching video of them in use against some poor old brick building. The crane would swing it toward the building, slowly picking up speed and eventually smash it into a wall. Sometimes the ball would appear to bounce off with little or no perceivable effect. Other times I could see that it made a dent, causing part of the wall to buckle, but the wall still stood. Still other times the ball would strike the building with such force it would go all the way through, punching a sizeable hole in the wall. Yes! Success! Now it’s merely a matter of time before the wall succumbed to the tenacity of the wrecking ball. Eventually the whole building would be a big pile of rubble, waiting for the cleanup crew.

Our lives are often times the same way – a staunch brick building, stately in nature, unwavering in strength. Or so it seems from the outside. But if someone were to peer inside our windows, what would they see? Would our inside look as magnificent as our outside, or would they see broken and rotted wood, peeling paint, chipped tile? What would their feelings be when they saw inside? Would they be disappointed? Dismayed? Would they be afraid of what they saw? Would they see promise or a lost cause?

We have a habit of keeping our outside looking fit and trim. We’ve even gone to the extent of putting up fabulous looking window treatments to complete our fa├žade. Nobody can look inside to see what’s going on because we’ve blocked the windows. Although it’s not posted, people know to “Keep Out”. We tell them this with our actions – shallow conversations about the weather, about the economy, about anything but us, how we are doing. Because we’re fine, right? Nothing to worry about.

But how is our inside condition? Are we as fit and trim as we appear, as we lead others to believe? Or do we need some serious renovation? I know someone who knows: Jesus. You see, He is a carpenter, and he knows buildings. He has an uncanny way of looking at a building and seeing exactly what the problem is. And He knows what it takes to return our buildings, our lives, back to what He has envisioned. After all, He is the architect, the master designer of life. He knows the way things ought to be. Not just for life in general, but for your life. And mine. He knows the foundations we have built our lives upon. And no matter how well we try to build our lives, if we’ve started on a foundation that is anything but Him, our lives will always be out of kilter. One small mistake in the foundation is amplified as the building is built. Adjustments have to be constantly made to correct for errors made early on.

The outside may appear good and the inside as well, but as people come into our house they begin to notice little things that aren’t just quite right. They may never know for sure, but they know deep down that something is awry.

So what does it take to fix our house? Can we peer back into time to an event that happened to us, a choice we made, that has caused faults in our structure? Maybe we can, but most probably we can’t. We can’t because our foundation has been covered up with the rest of our house. It really takes the Home Inspector to identify our problems. And not only can He identify them, He can fix them too – because He’s a carpenter. Of course, He can’t do anything until we give Him permission. We have to contract with Him to be able to reap the benefits of His expertise. Until then, Jesus simply stands outside knocking on the door of our hearts.

You may have never had the opportunity to contract with Jesus Christ. You can today, right this minute, and say “hey Jesus, I’ve got this problem. My life isn’t so great right now, and I heard you could help me out”. It could be financial. It could be family strife. It could be addiction. It could be rejection. Maybe someone did you wrong. It could be any numbers of things that you know aren’t right, that you are suffering through. Regardless of what it is, Jesus has the answer. He is the one who is faithful and true. And He is ready and willing to go to work to rebuild those parts of your life that are out of kilter a bit. But he needs your permission. All you have to do is call him and he’ll be there.

You know, it could be that you signed a contract with Him, perhaps long ago, and well, you’ve kind of strayed from some of the details. How’s that working for you? What effects has it had on your life? You know, although the details in the contract are all His ideas, Jesus is the most gracious of partners, and only seeks to get you back in line with the contract so that the building of the rest of your life will go well. He may need to take some time to fix a couple of things here and there, but His vision for your completed project is perfection. He’s willing and able to do the extra work to fix whatever went wrong.

I encourage you today to know Jesus Christ. He is a knowable person, and he has a vested interest in your life. See, He is God incarnate. He came down from heaven in order to make a way for you to know Him. He hung on a cross as an innocent man and shed His blood so that your sins would be forgiven. See, it is our sinfulness that keeps us from knowing Him. And it takes the blood of a perfect sacrifice to atone for that sin. Nothing else will do. Jesus knew that and that is why He came – to provide an avenue for us to get to God.

Our sinfulness is like that brick wall, and it keeps Him out. We are on one side, and He is on the other. The sooner you call out to Him, the sooner He can get to work fixing your foundations. It may seem He is using a wrecking ball, but go ahead, trust Him, let Him do His work in your life. You’ll find that you are able to rest easily once He has begun His work.

I linked up with Elizabeth Esther for the "The Saturday Eve Post". To find others linking up for Mar/Apr highlights just click the here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

God (Blank) America

You fill in the blank. God (blank) America. There’s not much sitting on the fence with this phrase, is there? We can choose to turn it into something good or something bad. But can something good become bad? Certainly. Even if we insert the word “Bless” here, it can lose its meaning and become just another catchphrase. We certainly hear politicians use it a lot, don’t we? In Exodus 7, God instructs us to not use His name in vain (the NIV uses the word “misuse”). Using His name flippantly, in my opinion, is misusing it. Needless to say of course, if we use His Holy Name as an expletive, we have certainly misused it. What else does He say about it? If we use it carelessly, in vain, He will not hold us guiltless. This is an obvious example of “the wrong language”. Using this phrase in the wrong way generally hits us between the eyes like a 2X4.

But what about other words we hear in society? Sure, there are plenty of four-letter words that are profane, vulgar, or obscene. But where do we draw the line? Which ones should we use? Which ones shouldn’t we use? I ask this because I believe we are beginning to see an alarming trend in the church today. The yeast of this world is slowly creeping into and corrupting the church more and more. I hear people who confess to being Christians choosing to use words of a worldly vernacular as opposed to a Godly one.

I was shocked at my first exposure to a friend who used curse words. My shock was followed by a period of dismay as I heard more people use language that is, frankly, unbecoming of the Body of Christ. But I realized I’m a member of the Body of Christ, and I sense something isn’t right. And as a member of the Body, for the health of the Body, I feel it is my duty to bring the issue to the attention of the Body. I guess that means you, if you are a Believer.

The first thing I realized as I began to seek the Lord about this was that everyone has their own walk with God. My walk is not your walk. The path that the Lord has me on is not the exact same path he has you on. Therefore, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, ups and downs, travesties and triumphs, and we are all undergoing His restoration as He sees fit, not as you or I see fit. God is working in each one of our lives independently of everyone else. I will not stand before the Throne for you, nor will you do so for me.

So I posed the issue to the Lord, as to how to even breach the subject with the rest of the Body. In my flesh, I’d like to provide you a list of words that offend me, that I think you shouldn’t use. Of course, this list would produce a healthy dose of emotions including feelings of condemnation and anger. Not to mention the fact that since I’m not perfect, I would be a hypocrite in doing so! Thankfully that is not what the Lord laid upon me. What I received from Him were questions and scriptures, which I share with you now.

How do we determine whether our words are commensurate with the office we hold as ambassadors for Christ? Do we have any misgivings when using certain words? Do we have a check in our spirit about them? Do we have any hesitation in using them? If we do, this might very well be the Holy Spirit communicating His displeasure with us.

Do we notice any adverse reaction (spoken or otherwise) in others when we use certain words? Does the “air”, the spiritual atmosphere around us, change when we use certain words? If we notice anything, it could be the words we are using are offensive to the other person’s spirit.

Do our words comply with Ephesians 4:29 (“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (KJV))?

What vernacular do our words come from? Are they worldly, or do we choose to deliberately steer clear of words that might discredit Christ?

Do our words convey to others that we have chosen to live our lives differently, in a way that is holy and pleasing to God “14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “17 Therefore, come out from them and be separate, says the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17a (NIV))?

Do our words and actions discredit or honor God (see Romans 2:17-24)?

Are we offering the parts of our bodies to Him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13)?

I hope you have not received condemnation through these words. Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! But I hope your eyes have been opened to something going on, perhaps in your own life, which is degrading the Kingdom of God here on the earth. I hope you will ponder these questions, as I have pondered them, and will continue to do so. Our sanctification is God’s will. He desires to pour out unto all mankind His Goodness. We may be the only Jesus, the only Light others will ever know. And anything but pure light in the eyes of the unbelieving can have a detrimental effect on God’s Kingdom. Sure, He can overcome it, but I for one want to be able to present Him as pure and undefiled to the world.

I hope you’ll join with me in pondering the condition of the Body of Christ, and how our actions affect it. Don’t fret when we blow it. Simply repent, even in the eyes of the world. Let them know that the God you serve is a just and forgiving God. We should admit it when we blow it, even with others around. The weight of this witness is enough to overcome any error we might make because we acknowledge our faults and lift up His Holy standard.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Confronting the Storm

While worshipping recently, the Lord spoke to my heart and said that no matter what happens in the future, there are two things that man cannot take; my worshipful heart, and His word that is stored within me. I was reminded of Paul and Silas when they were in prison. I looked up the scripture (Acts 16:25) and realized that prayer is yet another thing man is unable to take. Paul and Silas had been stripped and beaten, then thrown into prison. Yet in the midst of their trouble they prayed and sang hymns to God. Guess what? The prisoners were listening to them. Paul and Silas were witnessing to the prisoners by their actions, in the midst of persecution.

I believe a day is coming in America that man will not put up with sound doctrine but will instead choose to persecute those who speak the Truth. Jesus said to “beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues” (Matthew 10:17, NKJV). A look at what is happening in other countries is a look into the future for America.

No matter how bad it gets, no matter what man may do to our bodies, man can never take our relationship with God away. We can always pray, praise, and meditate on His word, and through these persevere our trials. No one has the ability to keep us from them. Our success in times of trouble depends on our preparations here and now. Only with God will we be able to weather the storms of life. And when we rely on and worship God as Paul and Silas did, we can expect great things to happen!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our Seduction

First John 1:8,10

We all have a tendency to seduce ourselves. The seduction I speak of is the act of denying that our sin is actually sin, or brushing it aside as being petty, small, or insignificant. This thinking leads us away from the Truth (seducing us), allowing us to think that we aren’t as bad as we really are. The more we insulate ourselves from the truth of our sinfulness the easier it is to sin again, allowing sin to weave its way through our lives like yeast through a batch of dough. Denial can also lead to strongholds in our life due to repetitive sinfulness. It is the small things that get us into trouble and cause us to drift away from God. As we drift away, we lose the Truth.

First John 1:9

Perhaps it is pride that causes us to deny our sinfulness. Maybe it’s the guilt (spiritual pain) that we can’t face. It could be complacency or laziness. Whatever the reason, the antidote is prayer. We should all be praying, every day. Confessing our sin. Asking God to show us the sin that we don’t even realize is there, so that we can repent even of IT. I’ve been doing that recently and He has been showing me my true, ugly self. I don’t like it, but it’s what I need. And I know this unsavory medicine is exactly what is needed so He can transform me into what He desires. One thing He promises is that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In that Promise I take great comfort!

Take time to ask God to reveal to you the things that displease Him today – It will bring a refreshing to your soul and spirit, and yes, even your body, that you can hardly imagine.