Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Completely Equipped

...for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...” Ephesians 4:12

When God first captured my heart I remember long hours of just pouring through the bible, studying and learning everything I could get my hands on that would help me understand this wonderful Lord who had captured my heart. For a long time I sat at His feet and learned many wonderful truths about Him and lessons about how to live a life that was pleasing to Him. But, then came the time when the honeymoon was over.

I have to say, it is easy to sit at the feet of the Lord and say within your heart that you love Him and that you believe all that He says in His word, but there comes a time when what you think in your head must be lived out in your life for it to become complete. The Lord, I have found, is so gracious to prepare us adequately for these tests of love when we have been faithful in seeking His truth and placing it in our hearts so that it is at the ready when the times come that we must pull from those reserves and face the opponent to those truths head on.

...and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.” Psalm 78:72b

We would like to think that we can be completely perfected by learning everything we can about God by attending bible studies, getting a seminary degree, or establishing a wonderful Christian library on our Kindle or on the shelves of our study. But God does not exists in our thoughts and therefore is not real to us when we just know a lot about Him. Rather, God exists in the living world because He is living and constantly moving and revealing Himself to those who put their trust in Him.

But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” 1 John 2:5

Faith and trust can not be shown when we are sitting in a chair and contemplating the greatness of God. Only when we are faced with the difficult decisions of life where we must step forward with the knowledge we have stored up about God and trust that He will be the One we have learned others have said He is in what they have written. It is through those experiences that we really come to a complete understanding of God and of how deeply we love really love Him and how deeply He loves us.

...faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6b

If you find yourself seeking God by going from one bible study to the next, one Christian book to the next, or one inspiring blog to the next you may need to set those things aside and ask God to “show” you how to live out what you have already learned about Him. I know that is a scary thought for some of you. As Christians, our bible is a bit of a security blanket that we like to hide behind, to quote truth from but in reality don't really want ALL that we have read to be tested in our lives. But, living “in” the bible is not the same thing as living “in” God.

faith without works is dead.” James 2:20c

Now, I am not prescribing that you just pick some place in the bible that talks about the things God desires for a Christian to do and just go out and start doing them by your own will. No, that would be unbiblical also. What I am suggesting though is that you place yourself before the Lord, seek His will, stop hiding from experiences that God desires to use to test your faith, and then wait with fervent anticipation to see how He will take what you have learned and make it completely real to not only you.

May God bless you as you seek Him and may He make Himself known to you through your life as you seek Him and trust in all He says He desires to be in the life of those who love Him.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Safe in the Lord

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Proverbs 29:25

This morning, as my husband was putting a letter in our mailbox, he discovered another letter that had been pushed to the back of the box. The letter was addressed to me, specifically my name in the manner as I had written it when I filed to run for school board a few short months ago. (Not that I changed my name in any way, but I had to include my legal name in parenthesis which is one I almost never use.) In the letter was some requests to make public appearances at commerce events and then to record a short interview with the local cable station. I think it is just natural to get that sinking feeling in your stomach when you know you are going to be put on the spot and what you say and do will be held up against how people view you and determine if they like or dislike you from the impression you have left in that moment. And so, as I was reading my devotional readings and processing this letter this morning, I realized the wisdom I needed to heed as I processed this letter further was contained in the proverb I have written above.

The whole thought process that starts to whirl through one's mind when they know that they will be put into a place where people are bound to bring judgment upon them can be overwhelming. I have talked with a few other candidates for office and they too have experienced this same swirling emotional state. I don't think that these types of feelings are reserved for those in politics though or even just those new or old in taking on any public stage. Rather, any time any of us are called “to the carpet” so to say, we often times will respond with what is called in sociology, the “fight or flight” mentality. In fighting the reaction a person has to an event is to put up a guard and prepare for the worst, usually by calculating and defining strategy as it best fits the scenario ahead. On the other hand, in a flight maneuver the reaction a person has to an event is to run away from it and not face the event or even let it enter into his/her thought process. But God has a third way that our made-made sociological explanation does not factor in – trust in Him.

The snare of human reasoning is that the ideals of the world around us are the tools which we are to use to appease the people around us. But in falling for that type of trap we get stuck in the sinful desires of people (those worldly ideals apart from God) and we forget that the pure and unadulterated ways of God are what people really are yearning to hear and follow. On our own we cannot come up with words that touch the hurting places people desire to have healed in their lives. The hope that we hold in us and that we show to others as we allow Jesus to work in the through us, our actions and our words, must be uniquely from God if we have the desire to not get caught in the snare of pandering our ways to the ways of man.

Trusting in God is not running away and yet it is not running straight at anything either. Rather trusting is resting in God's ability to set before you a way to walk in confidence in Him, to have the right words to say and power behind those words to make them effective for even greater things than you could imagine. Each day as I realize more and more that my calling is to be a light in this dark world, I realize also that being a light has little to do with my abilities to shine. Jesus is the One and only Light of the World and in trusting in His ability to shine through me while I rest in Him, prepare myself as He instructs, and take action when He requests is the only way to I can be that light.

Don't get caught up in trying to adjust your light so that those around you will find your presence more comforting. Rather, trust in the brightness setting the Lord Jesus has set in your life and the places He puts you to shine forth that light He has kindled inside you.  Then, just rest in how He desires to use that light to bring glory to Himself. There is no snare for those who keep their eyes and hearts set on the Lord and fear Him alone because His greatest desire is to shine through you and He will remove any and all obstacles that get in the way of that purpose.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Waiting on the Sabbath

Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

This afternoon my daughter and I had our work cut out for us as we shucked four very large boxes of sweet corn. After we finished our shucking, we had quite a few overflowing containers filled with stripped ears which needed to then be carried to where I could finish processing them. I knew after picking up the first container they were difficult to carry and so I told my daughter that she needed to sit out this part and wait for me to carry all of the containers and then we could continue the rest of the project together.

But, just as I had rounded the corner on my second trip I heard a loud crash and then a scream. In my absence, she had decided not to wait for me to finish my part of the job, and in her not wanting to wait she actually added to the length of her waiting (with added pain I had not factored into my request) and made the job of finishing the project all that more lengthened.

This morning as I had been reading the bible and keeping a keen eye and ear poised for what God wanted me to see as I continued with my series of sabbath experiments, I was drawn to the passage from Isaiah 25 above. I decided to look up the word “waited” within it, not only because it is repeated in the verse, but also because as I was thinking about sabbath rest, the word “waited” just seemed appropriate to add to my stack of evidence for my experiment. I was not disappointed.

The word waited in Isaiah 25:9 is the Hebrew word “qāwāh” in its perfect form. “Qāwāh” translated means to be bound together with something while you are putting your trust in that thing. And of course in in the framework of this verse, plus being in its perfect form, this word means to be perfected wrapped up in the trust of God (held together in fact by Him) as He is saving you, helping you, and delivering you from all of the things you deal with on a day-to-day basis. Interestingly enough this word is also used in Psalm 37:9. Hear what that verse has to say about this concept of waiting:

...those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. Psalm 37:9

And then compare that verse to the verse from Matthew 5:5

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.Matthew 5:5

The same thing is promised to those who wait as to those who are meek, “...they shall inherit the earth”. So, what really is meekness then? Meekness can be defined as “humbly patient”, and for the person this word describes, it does not so much describe what the person does, but more so what the person does not do. To be meek means to wait and to wait when you are told without trying to circumvent the instructions you were given. The opposite behavior than that of my daughter today who decided to act contrary to my request that she wait.

I shared with you the example my daughter illustrated so clearly for me today regarding these things I was mediating on, not to embarrass her, but rather to point out our human tendency to do the same thing as children of God to our heavenly Father when He asks us to wait – as in the sabbath command to rest and not work on these special days He has set apart for us. Sometimes, the waiting just gets to be too much for us and we decide in the moment of conflict over sitting still yet still thinking about all the work that lays ahead of us, that we have waited long enough and we just need to step out and help God a little bit so the waiting process can be quickened by our activity. But, that type of thinking backfires, just in the same way it did my daughter, and then we are left bruised (or worse) by our efforts and two or more steps back in the process we had wanted to quicken and move forward.

At times God calls us to wait, and to be patient in our waiting. I love what my study bible said in reference to Psalm 40:1. It says that the translation of “waited” in this verse directly translates to “waiting I waited”. Don't you love that? Waiting mean not doing something to advance ahead, but waiting while you are waiting means not even making strides to move ahead – it means resting in the waiting process.

“I waited patiently for the Lord...” Psalm 40:1

Read then, what Isaiah 30:15 says:

In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

This is what the sabbath is really all about, resting so we can be strengthened - strengthened for our battles ahead. In our six days of work we get depleted, and this seventh day is set aside to recharge us and prepare us so we are strengthened for the next 6 days ahead. Coming back to God, allowing yourself to be completely wrapped up in His ability to save you from whatever you are battling or looking off into the horizon at, and then just waiting – humbly, quietly, and confidently – that is what the sabbath teaches us one week at a time. 

It is when we choose to allow God to work His ways in these weekly practice sessions of rest that we come to trust in His provision to provide and do work for us while we wait in our waiting in our sabbath rest. These rest times wrap us up tighter and tighter in our trust of the Lord's ability to provide for us so that when those bigger tests of waiting on God come along we are prepared because we have been wrapped perfectly through those cords of experiences the Lord has given us that keep us that we can say without a doubt we are headed to victory as we allow the Lord to work and we patiently wait on His timing to call us into action and join in with Him in the activity ahead.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What Should Be My Goal?

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

What is this goal that Paul is talking about? What should be the goal of a Christian? Is it finding our purpose? Is it doing something great for the name of the Lord? Is it being the hands and feet of Jesus? Is it accomplishing our life's greatest point of usefulness? Or is it showing as much love of the Lord to a watching world as one person can within a lifetime? No, none of these things are the biblical goals of a Christian. Paul, in the breath before the verse quoted above, says this: “Not that I have already attained or am already perfected, but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (verse 12) The goal Paul had in mind was Jesus perfecting him – the process of being made whole in Christ - that was the goal God gave to Paul and it is God's goal for each of us.  The process, the pain, the perfecting of our nature is the goal. These are not things that come about in our lives to get us closer to some arbitrary goal of our utmost event or life purpose, they are the purposes that God desires each and every moment in the storms of our lives to make us more like Him. 

As a young Christian I used to get so caught up in the end result of the perfecting God was doing in my life, always on the look-out for what I was being equipped to do. What I have found over the years though is that in living that way I have looked right past the One who was desiring for me to see Him in the midst of the storms so I could cling to Him tighter and see Him working to perfect of my trust in Him as I kept my eyes on Him through the storm – making Him my ultimate purpose, not some showcase of giftedness I  was being prepared for.

Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side...Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, 'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.'” Mark 6: 45, 47-50

In the story above, as told by Mark, the disciples were obedient to get in the boat as Jesus asked and go before Him. The goal in their minds was to get to the other side and of course continue the ministry that Jesus had started with them. But Jesus did not join them for the journey, instead He stayed and prayed. Then at a particular time in the night, Jesus started to make His way across the water by walking. Unfortunately, the disciples were so set on their goal of getting to the other side that they were not even watching for Jesus while they struggled against the waves – their purpose had clouded the process which God was working through to refine them. They were so set on accomplishing a worldly purpose - that is to expand the ministry of Jesus - that they did not see that Jesus desired more to expand their understanding of Him and His power He could bring into their lives.

Hear what Oswald Chambers has to say in reference to this same story:

We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success...We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not...What we call the process, God calls the end...God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process – that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying God.” Oswald Chambers

What is stressing you out today? Is it that you are in the midst of some turmoil and afraid that you are not moving fast enough in any direction to be of use to God? Maybe the turmoil you are enduring, the storm that has you standing in one place and crying out to God, is where God is accomplishing His greatest goal for your life. Success in the kingdom of God is not measured as success on earth. We will receive no costly riches for reaching the goal, or even in gaining momentum in our strides towards the goal. Instead, we will bring glory to God each step, jump, leap, or stumble we take as we are perfected in Christ who alone is the “author and finisher of our faith”.

...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...” Hebrews 12: 1b-2a

Friday, July 27, 2012

Call It What It Is - SIN

All unrighteousness is sin...” 1 John 5:17a

After my oldest son had been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, I remember a conversation we had one day over his inability at times to control his outbursts of anger. He kept telling me that he just could not control himself and that I was being mean in having him go through our whole routine of disciplinary action every time he had an outburst. (To tell you the truth I was exhausted after going through it so many times a day, but I wasn't about to tell him that fact.)

What I ended up telling him over and over again through those difficult days was that in the bible there is no “clause” for those who are more inclined to sin in one manner or another to be free of the punishment that sin brings. Sin is sin and therefore it needed to be treated as such. There was no “sympathy clause” for those who were tempted in one area or another so that their actions would add up to less than sin before the perfect eyes of God our Father.

We worked very hard those early years on training righteousness into the heart of this child. And when he would turn to me and say, “This is not fair!”, I would have to agree. But then again there is no discussion about “fair” in the bible either. Likewise, some of us need to work out our salvation in more difficult ways than the next, but God our Father alone is the One who chooses those paths carefully and knows how much we each must struggle to be perfected by our lots in life.

Our hearts are sinful to the core. From the time of Adam and Eve and their first sin, the fact we all have sinful hearts is a reality. Hear what Romans 5 has to say about the subject:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned...Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” Romans 5: 12,14
And, it is from those sinful hearts we posses that our sinful thoughts and actions come:
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Matthew 15:19

It would be nice to be able to say, “But, I was just made that way.”, as a means to escape the struggle we each must fight against our sinful tendencies. Many have in the past, and many still do. We put labels on our sinful patterns, we look to outside sources at which we can point our fingers as the causes for our disobedient behavior, and yet we are so slow to call sin what it really it, SIN.

I believe that since we did not allow our son to take the easy road of declaring his diagnosis as crutch for his outbursts, that God allowed healing to come into his life. Thankfully, he no longer struggles with the sensory issues which were huge stumbling blocks in his pursuit of godly character and he is now a very calm and sensitive young man for years of struggles which he was made to endure.

In a way I think God does what he did for my son for each of us as we struggle with things in our lives, from over eating to addictions of all sorts. When we trust in Him to heal our lives and stop trying to make excuses for the behavior we cannot fix on our own, God, who is the Healer, comes into our lives and shows us how He can be our source to the more righteous life we had been seeking without Him. In the end we are not only more perfected in His nature, but we are also more encouraged by Him work within us, and more strengthened in character for what we have endured as we waited for His healing to come.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Battle Arrayed in Truth

Also in the third year of [Jehoshaphat's] reign he sent his leaders...to teach in the cities of Judah. And with them he sent Levites...[and] priests. So they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the Lord with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people. And the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.” 2 Chronicles 17:7-10

I think it is interesting in the history of Israel that after the time of David, there was peace in the land of Judah (and of course all of Israel when Solomon was king) when the people and their king were living according to the word of the Lord and knew what the difference was between right and wrong in the eyes of the Lord. Notice how the passage above talks about the Levites and the priests having the task of teaching the people, and the effect was that the “fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdom of the lands” around them. I thought it kind of peculiar myself that the reference given for the effect of the teaching was given regarding the surrounding kingdoms and not about the people of Judah themselves.

There is something to be said here though about this peculiarity, and that is this: When the truth of the Lord fills a person, their enemies stand back and take notice to the point they do not continue in their advances to overtake them. Why is that? Well, it has a lot to do with the spiritual battles that rage behind the scenes of our lives every day. Unfortunately we tend to forget that there are forces we cannot see which tempt us and seek to pull us out of the Lord's will for our lives. But when we know truth and see evil for what it is in light of truth we are no longer tricked by the schemes of our enemy. Without truth we are left on our own to flounder and guess about what we are fighting against and what weapons we have to pull from to engage in the fight – we are untrained and unready for battle and therefore an easy target.

Thus says the Lord...'I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go. Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.'” Isaiah 48:17-18

Are you in a battle today? Does your mind lead you to thoughts that you do not want to think? Do you find yourself caught in a destructive pattern of living? Are you becoming exhausted from continual attacks which blind-side you and knock you off balance?

Then you need to stop being on the defensive and take offensive action. Allow yourself to be taught by the Lord in truth and arm yourself for the battles that lie ahead instead of trying to do your best with what you can scrounge up at the last minute. Make your life a training ground for righteousness so that the enemy will know you are not an easy target. Take the time to learn his tactics, to understand the purpose of your armor, and how to skillfully wield the sword of the Spirit. All this preparation happens by being willing to be taught by the Law of the Lord.

Remember, pursuing the Law of the Lord will not only make you strong when the battles do rage in your life, but your diligence will also declare to the enemy that you have the upper hand and he should beware when considering his next war plan against you.  Planning and training for war are what make you strong as opposed to continual fighting which over time beat your spirit into submission.  Both fronts in battle take energy and so why not commit today to put your energy on the winning side?  The side which will train you in truth.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lest You Not Heed the Word of the Lord

...I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.” Romans 9:2

Last night, in meeting with some friends for coffee I was told by one friend that a church our family used to attend was on a downward spiral. I can't even start to tell you how much this news has troubled my soul since I heard that report. The reason I am mostly troubled is because it could have been prevented if the message the Lord had given to me for a particular elder, and which I had been obedient to deliver, had been taken seriously as a direct message from the Lord.

Exactly 3 years ago when our family moved and was forced to leave this particular church due mostly to distance, the Lord convicted my heart to confront one of the elders over a blatant disregard for the direction God had purposed for the church. (Now you must understand that I know about this matter because I had been part of the small chosen group who were responsible to pray and lead the church in this decision. But as decisions among certain members of the group started moving away from the direction God had clearly purposed and my insight was not being regarded, God was so gracious to take me out of the final meeting that eventually decided if the church would obey God or their own desires – we had a two week vacation scheduled and I went away knowing the Lord had protected me through my vacation. By the time I returned, the choice to disobey the will of God had been made and I had been protected from being part of the sinful and disobedient choice of the group but none the less it had been made.)

I had no contempt for the elder I wrote my letter to three years ago. And I did not wish at that time any of the things the Lord had to say through me to come about in the church. Instead, I had so wished and prayed that there would be repentance in the church and a turning back to the Lord from what I had revealed. But sadly there was no admittance to sin or any sign of repentance. All I was met with was a very hostile response towards what I had said and in how I had questioned his leadership – this elder was clear to let me know that in his mind I had over stepped my boundaries. I had to walk away from the situation with great sorrow knowing what the Lord had shown me and what was surely to be the future of this church. So, with the news I received last night my heart was grieving about what could have been avoided in a church that is filled with so many believers I love.

This morning as I was following along in my regular readings of the bible to complete a one year reading plan, I came upon the story of Hanani the seer and his confrontation of King Asa. Read what King Asa did when Hanani brought the word of the Lord to the king.

And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: 'Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.' Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.” 2 Chronicles 16:7-10

Unfortunately there are many recorded incidents in the bible that are similar to this one I quoted above. And still to this day, as God speaks truth to churches through people He still gifts with the ability to bring truth into disobedient situations, many churches are refusing to listen to what the Lord has to say through them. I am not saying that I or anyone else with this particular gift are always in the right when we see situations and measure them up to the word of God, but from my experience I know that when the Lord has overwhelmed me to the point to cannot stand still and hold my tongue because the conviction He has given me is so strong, one that is even willing to endure the rage of the person/people I am speaking towards, then I can no longer shut my mouth with a clear conscience.

I know today I will be lifting up this situation before the Lord in my grief. I hurt for those who have been blinded by the decisions of their church leaders and I will be praying for their eyes to be opened to the truth of this situation. But on the other hand, I am pained by the hardened hearts of those in leadership who have turned their backs on the Lord and who are being used to destroy the church from the inside out. I know that theses type of people run rampant through the church of believers disguised as saints because the bible talks about them in many places, but not so clearly as in the book of Jude.

For certain men have crept in unnoticed...who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ...These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever...These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.” Jude 4,12-14,16-19

As the end of this world approaches these types of people are only said to increase in number and therefore the church needs to be all the more watching and waiting, keeping guard of their hearts and minds. The Spirit of truth is the only One who can keep a church and all of its members on the right path before the Lord. Heeding His word, when it is spoken in confirmation or in opposition to what we have purposed in our hearts is the key to not going astray – individually or collectively. I urge you today to seek His voice and to speak out if you are being called to be His voice. Or, if another believer comes to you with a word from the Lord, please take the time to listen intently to the words of truth God has purposed for your ears as you seek the Lord alongside their words with a tender and willing heart to hear any truth they speak to you in love.  We need to stay strong and not be swayed, there is too much at stake if we do not heed the word of truth spoken into our lives.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Faith

Then they believed His words; they sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:12-15

How flighty we are as a human race. Now, I am not being judgmental towards anyone or any group in particular because I fit into this categorization too, but today I felt the need to expound upon the truths God set before me this morning and relate them in general to how our human nature drives us to act according to our circumstances and not according to the promises of God.

It cannot be denied because the evidence is all around us, when our circumstances look up we have lifted spirits and we are ready to give praise for every thing and every one around us, even those we don't so much agree with, and praise to objects that are not even the catalyst for our “good” situations. But, on the flip-side, when things in our life take a downward turn we are ready to grumble and complain about every thing and every one around us. In these pits of life we point our fingers at those who we don't agree with, even God, in an attempt to resolve the conflict in us that is in disparity about our pursuit for happiness. We see these scenarios played out every day in our own lives and in the lives of those around us as happiness and fulfillment are sought after and yet the pursuits always come up empty or only partially filled.

Where does God really fit into this type of up and down living? Well, He doesn't. Our lives may look a bit like roller coasters because of the circumstances which come into them, but God's word confirms to us time and time again through stories of old, that no matter what anyone may encounter, God is still with them - up or down. The above psalm talks about how the Israelites sang God's praise, but then the next stanza is quick to point out that they then forgot His works. If you were to read through Judges, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles you would see how stories of the like run through the history of the nation of Israel. But don't be too quick to judge Israel until you do a bit more reading on the rest of the history of man. 

If you were to study the history of past nations and kingdoms you would see a similar patterns in how they not only rose but also how they fell as a direct result of the flighty nature of their leaders and people.

Now it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom and had strengthened himself, that he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel along with him.” 2 Chronicles 12:1

The natural tendency of humankind is to always trust in what is seen, what makes sense in the mind, what preserves self, and what restores happiness the quickest. But living on the roller coaster of life within the confines of natural tendencies does not allow for real peace or fulfillment. Rather, real peace, fulfillment, and stability through the ups and downs that life brings only comes through resolute faith in God and the work done by Jesus. And, we know through Hebrews 11:1 that faith is not something that is seen but it is “...the evidence of things not seen.” The stability of faith is based on the promises of God and His unchanging stability through all of our instability.

Moses was a great example of a person who had his perspective in the right place, one who saw with eyes of faith instead of eyes that only saw the tangible situations around him. This is what the author of Hebrews wrote about Moses having that type of perspective:

...for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27b

Psalm 27 also gives us a look into the means by which David endured all of the difficult situations which were thrown at him in his lifetime. The whole psalm is a beautiful testament to the enduring faith of David through the ups and downs of his life, but verse 13 is where he concludes his declaration of God's ability to stabilize him through his own roller coaster of life.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

Belief and faith in what we cannot see, but of what we have had confirmed through our relationship with God is what keeps us from either jumping off the roller coaster of life or cowering down under our seat looking for something physical or tangible to cling onto for dear life. The circumstances of our lives are bound to bring us to heights and depths that we do not understand, but God is in all of those places and He is always extending His love towards us at every peak, valley, twist, and turn.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

The main thing that we are left to wrestle with is, “Will we trust what God says in His word and live by faith in belief that He will do all He says He will do?” Our human natures tells us not to trust Him because we cannot see and we cannot always comprehend the ways of God, but we must always remember that our human nature is sinful to the core. Only when we allow the Holy Spirit to take over our nature and to allow us to live on faith in what we cannot see, will we be able to ride the roller coaster of life in confidence and in peace knowing there is no need to jump or cower because God is in control and has everything under control and He wants us to find joy in the secure ride He has set before us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fervently Praying for Perfection

...always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Colossians 4:12

As I pray for myself and for others each day, I desire with all of my heart that my prayers to God will be within His will and not my own, so that His purposes and my prayers will not be separate from one another. I think for that reason, the verse above from Colossians caught my eye this morning as I was reading and I realized that when I pray the end product in what I am really asking God to do in all that I bring before His throne is that He perfects and completes each person and each situation I have had laid at His feet.

Yet, in a fallen world filled with sinful people, how is it that God can bring about perfection and completion? On our own we can only try our hardest to do what is right, to follow all the rules, and to flounder through the many mistakes we make hoping each mistake will teach us a lesson to make us wiser the next time around. But, God has another way for those who come to Him and who realize that seeking a perfected life will always come up empty apart from Him. Listen to what 1 Corinthians 1:30 has to say about where all righteousness, sanctification (that is the process of making us holy), and redemption come from:

...you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption...” 1 Corinthians 1:30

It is only through Jesus that we people with our sin nature can be perfected and complete. It is not in copying Jesus, it is “in” Christ Jesus that this happens and truly what we should be praying to happen within us and within those we pray for each day. Below is a quote from Oswald Chambers on how he relates sanctification to the perfected holiness of God within us:

Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy; it is drawing from Jesus the holiness that was manifested in Him, and He manifests in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation.” Oswald Chambers

If we desire to be more merciful we do not pray that God shows us ways to be more merciful. No instead we ask Him to be mercy within us so that we can then share His mercy with others. Likewise if we want to our son to be wise in his actions we do not pray that he finds ways to overcome foolishness with wise choices but rather we pray that Jesus becomes wisdom in him so all of his choices are guided by Jesus and are wise beyond human understanding.

In every way that Jesus works in us as we pray and then allow Him to be, will, and do as He pleases within our lives we discover more fully who He is and who He can be in us and through us. The focus comes off of us and goes to Him. We learn that sanctification is not about us getting better in His sight but rather it is about us becoming less and Him becoming more.

He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

I love what Psalm 18 has to say about how God works to show Himself to us as we allow Him to work in us:

With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; with the pure You will show Yourself pure...” Psalm 18:25-26

Today, as you are praying for yourself or others, I would encourage you to pray that Jesus fills every person and situation with Himself and remove anything that is not of Him. Look to Him to supply, to work, and to heal each situation from the inside out. Do not become distracted with the sin you see when you pray, but rather purpose your heart to see all that Jesus can be and wants to be through your prayers and petitions in bringing about perfection and completion to what He is working out in this fallen world.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Work or Worship?

Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?' But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. Then He answered them, saying, 'Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?' And they could not answer Him regarding these things.” Luke 14: 1-6

Another sabbath and another day to learn as usual from what God has to reveal to my heart. But on this day, my day is again set apart as another day where I am to be on alert as to what God wants me to add to the pile of evidence of what sabbath rest is really all about, from His perspective. This is another day to log into my on-going sabbath experiment.

I have to say, today was an interesting day. The planning for this day began a few weeks ago when I was asked by a fellow church member if we could host a potluck at our home for a small group we are part of. So, that event was added to the calendar. Additionally, I had the county fair to reckon with all week which came to an end today. Finally, to top all of the day's events off, I also sang on the worship team this morning and sang a solo. I would have to say that after 4 days of campaigning, 2 weeks of diligently practicing my solo, and a couple days of trying to at least keep my house presentable, I was definitely in need of a rest, but alas there were all of the commitments I had in place for the day.

The question I was left to ponder today was, “Can I find rest amidst all of the things I have pressing in on me today?” And, “Can I learn a greater lesson about sabbath rest amidst all of these activities?”, “Can I let go of being at the fair today which would be my last great opportunity to campaign before the fall?”, and “Will I have the time and energy to blog at the end of the day?” Well, as God has promised to always be faithful in helping me to write every day this year, He was faithful to lead me to a lesson for the day. Below I have written about what God has taught me today:

As you can see by the verses above, Jesus healed a man on the sabbath. Afterward though, he asked the observers around Him if they were so strict to their own sabbath law that they would not work to take something of great value (a donkey or ox) out of a pit if it had fallen in. Of course Jesus knew the answer they would have to give would be against their code of sabbath conduct, to walk away from an animals in its plight would not be giving glory to the giver of life and yet working on the sabbath would not give glory to God as they had prescribed – they were left without an answer.

The issue of the sabbath that Jesus was addressing that day had to do with the conflict that I think many of us wrestle with, “What is the dividing line between worship and work?” The conclusion I have come to after really praying and pondering through my day regarding this questions, is that the two can not just be put up as category heads with defined and proper items categorized in lists below them.

For one person, work could involve an activity that another person could consider an act of worship, or even for that same person on a different day the same could be true. I think what it really boils down to is that each person must consider his or her activities before the Lord and determine in their heart if they are doing the activity to advance their own agenda or rather the agenda of the Lord.

In thinking about today's choices, if I would have gone to the fair and not hosted the potluck, that would have been a self serving choice. Really, if I would have let go of any of the things I knew God had placed in my life today and pursued more opportunities to plug my name at the fair I would have not experienced the ability to rest even more in God's ability to provide for me in that area. Did I see His provision for me today in that area? Yes and no, but no matter what I can see with my eyes, my faith knows that what I can't see holds treasures of even greater value.

I made the choice to worship and rest in what God could do for me today as I trusted Him over the choice to work hard on my own to advance my own interests and get tangible results I could rest in apart from God. And, in looking back on my day, the lesson I have to take away is this: God works out even greater things in my life when I choose to walk away from them and instead choose to worship Him and leave the work in His hands for a sabbath day of worship filled rest.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Filled with God's Presence

...the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.” 2 Chronicles 5:13-14

This morning as I was reading in 2 Chronicles I was taken aback by the verse above. I wonder what the cloud looked like and felt like – one that was so consuming that the priests had to stop their ministering because it so filled the house of the Lord. I have to think it must have been an awesome sight that left the entire congregation gathered around in a since of utter awe of the Almighty God.

The Lord showing Himself as an all consuming cloud as not a new event since He did this many times with Moses and the Israelite people during their time of exodus, but it had been a long time since God had revealed Himself this way.

And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:35

In the Old Testament times, God filled certain places at certain times and certain people at certain times to make His ways and His decrees known to His people. But, when Jesus came He showed us a new way that God was desiring to fill the world with His presence.

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit...” Luke 4:1

And, when Jesus' time was fulfilled, His disciples then were the first to show the rest of the world what the filling of the Lord would look like as God's presence spread though every person who called upon the name of Jesus.

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language...So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'Whatever could this mean?' Others mocking said, 'They are full of new wine.' But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you...this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the L
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the L
Shall be saved.'”
Acts 2:5-6, 12-21

The Holy Spirit, who is a gift to every person who believes, is the filling presence of God in each believer's life. And, it is through each and every one who believes that God spreads His cloud of presence throughout the world – one life at a time. 

...that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

What a wonderful testimony we have as as Christians to fill empty spaces with the presence of God. It should be our prayer as believers that our presence, filled with the gift of the Spirit, would be so consuming that we would not be able to minister anymore but rather just stand back in awe of the Lord and the ways He was showing Himself through us. I would think that if each of us allowed God His way in our lives that we would see a world filled with His glory and all that the watching congregation of observers would be able to do is stand back in awe and praise the mighty name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.” Psalm 72:19