Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In the Presence of the Father

My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!” Haggai 2:5

Yesterday morning I enjoyed some fellowship time with a new friend who had been introduced to me through a common friend. It is always so nice to talk with other believers and learn what God has done in them and through them as they seek to live out His will one day at a time. And, although the conversation was very sweet, there was one other aspect of my visit that was even sweeter – watching her 2-year old son.

It has been a while since my kids were that young and they played as hard as this little fellow did as I observed him yesterday. My 8-year old daughter did her best to keep up with this little guy, but as we left she said to me, “I think I need to go home and rest.” Yes, toddlers have a tremendous amount of energy and I have to admit that when both of my boys were that age I barely had the enough get-up-and-go to keep up with them.

In thinking about my visit yesterday and also having in the back of my mind a thought that went through my head as I was praying this morning about how it seems that the day just escapes me and I don't get as many moments to pray in between those morning fellowship times with the Lord, I came upon the following quote in one of my devotional this morning:

It is not necessary to be continually speaking to God, or always hearing from God, in order to have communication or fellowship with Him, for there is an unspeakable fellowship that is sweeter than words. A little child can sit all day long beside his mother, totally engrossed in his playing, while his mother is consumed by her work, and although both are busy and few words are spoken by either, they are in perfect fellowship. The child knows his mother is there, and she knows that he is all right.” unknown

I have to think that God answered the cry of my heart and yearning desire to be close to Him through the words penned by this unknown author and through the verse from Haggai above that I also read this morning. These sources were good reminders for me that He is with me all day long. Yes, the regular things of life need my attention and it would not be fitting for me to cling to my Father all day long and not tend to those things I am called to do by His side. I do not need to fear of becoming separated from Him or moving outside of His reach when I am in His will going about the things that each day brings because He is always within my reach, always within my sight.

Even in the busiest of days the Lord makes ready His mercy towards us because of the relationship that cannot be broken – the covenant that was sealed with the blood of Jesus that we as believers have willfully accepted as a means to become heirs to the kingdom of God. We must never forget that God will not leave us if we do not leave Him – that is His promise. He is always near to us, willing to help when we need it, willing to listen to what we have to say when we need to talk, and equipped to help us should any trouble arise or any situation become to difficult for us to figure out on our own.

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.”
Psalm 103:17-18

May your day be filled with reminders that the presence of the Lord is around you and don't forget that when you need Him, He is near enough to hear your every utterance.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Running with Patience

...let us run with patience the race that is set before us...” Hebrews 12:1c (KJV)

 Although I think most of us at times seek to live in a vacuum when we look out on the world and see all of the things we do not want to affect our own lives or the lives of our children, that type of living is not “living in the world”, instead that is “living apart from the world”. Too often I see Christians use the excuse that they do not want to be affected by the world and so they create an optimal nook on the outskirts of this world to live apart from all that is wicked and deceitful so as not allow their faith and fellowship with the Lord to be encumbered by what seems to them is a nuance in dealing with the worldly things around them.

This morning I found various scriptures, relaying the same messages: You must live in the world. You must look beyond the world while your feet are still firmly planted in it. You must keep going in this world while living with your eyes on God and what He as promised. You must not get weary, run hard and strong with great endurance and faithful patience. All of these things encompass the meaning behind Hebrews 12:1.

The word run and the word patience (from the above verse of Hebrews 12:1)when expanded to their full meanings, are defined as follows:

run = fast paced movement
patience = to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset

So when we think in terms of our faith then, we can see that the author of Hebrews is telling us that God desires for us to approach each day in this world in quick and fast paced motions that do allow us to even take the time to accept, to tolerate, to be delayed, or to allow the affects of the things we suffer from to cause us to get angry or upset. How?  Well, the truth is that these things we are experiencing are just light and momentary problems here on earth and there is a bigger and grander purpose out ahead of us that holds a greater promise and a tighter hold on those who bank all of their efforts in the race and what is to meet them at the finish line instead of the obstacles and detours the race takes them through.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

What it all boils down to is this: Where is your heart focused apart from where your feet are planted? Can you take your eyes off the road you are running on and just run while allowing the joy of the finish line to be all you need to keep your pace quickened and your feelings tempered? Living “in this world” is a requirement for running the good race. Whenever the choice is made to stop and hide away and be “apart from this world” is a choice to stop running and instead allow the obstacles or detours to control fears not faith and a constant pursuit of the Lord.

I thought the following verses of Psalm 102 were very fitting to add to this discussion.

This will be written for the generation to come,
That a people yet to be created may praise the
For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary;
From heaven the
Lord viewed the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoner,
To release those appointed to death,
To declare the name of the
Lord in Zion,
And His praise in Jerusalem,
When the peoples are gathered together,
And the kingdoms, to serve the
Lord.” Psalm 102: 18-22

To have generations that will yet praise the Lord, that will groan as prisoners, who can be released when they have been appointed to death, and who would seek to serve God and declare Him to the nations requires a people who are willing to live “in this world” and not apart from it. These people are men, women, and children who are not deterred by what the world throws at them – they are willing do what is right in the sight of the Lord no matter what the cost. Why? Because they do not consider the light and momentary affliction of this world as an excuse to slow down and hide out.

As I wrap up today, I want to leave you with a quote that one of my devotionals contained that made me think even deeper about this subject of running with patience. As you think about the natural reaction of our human condition and the tendency to run and hide out when the going gets tough, it would be best to contrast those feelings with the truth of your calling and the race you have been called to run with patience in a manner that is worthy of your calling.

Many of us us could tearlessly deal with our grief if only we were allowed to do so in private. Yet what is so difficult is that most of us are called to exercise our patience not in bed but in the open street, for all to see. WE are called upon to bury our sorrows not in restful inactivity but in active service – in our workplace, while shopping, and during social events – contributing to other people's joy. No other way of burying our sorrow is as difficult as this, for it is truly what is meant by running 'with patience'” George Matheson

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bridge Restrictions

Where there is no wood, the fire goes out;
And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”
Proverbs 26:20

 After a very quiet week between another believer and myself, we had a long time to talk and bring out some issues that had been allowed to stir within each of us and were not working their way toward any good. As I came across the above verse from the book of Proverbs, I felt what transpired during our walk was contained in these few short words.

Getting something out into the open, exposing both sides of an issue, and being able to see the full picture of what you have been struggling to see helps you at least start to understand the view point of another person and the intentions behind their actions. Sometimes you can see the other person's point of view, and in that seeing you can either come to an understanding or you can see that there is no ability to bridge an understanding because of lack of commonality between the two of you – that is where is takes even more power to be bold enough to say, “I think we must agree to disagree.”

Another place I was reading through in the bible this morning was in the book of Philemon. If you are not familiar with the book, it is a very short letter from Paul to Philemon regarding a slave (Onesimus) who had run away from his owner (Philemon) and after a conversion to Christianity of this slave and a time of discipleship under Paul, Paul had the harsh task of sending this slave back to his owner. But in the letter Paul sends back with the slave to give to his owner upon his return, Paul laid his heart out with some suggested parameter of Christian love upon which the owner would be wise to follow as he received this slave back into his home.

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you...” Philemon 1:8-9a

An appeal in love must not just be one that uses the excuse of grace to dismiss the actions of another person. There is that “fitting” part that is the balance of truth and grace which must be considered. Healthy boundaries within the law of love and truth must be established in our own lives and hearts so that we not only can live within the boundaries which God sets in His law but also so that in turn we can live with others in the same context without stepping on each others toes - this is what unfortunately started the issue between this other believer and myself.

Building bridges in relationships seems to work best when those bridges are tempered by weight restrictions and healthy crossing rules. You can think of a bridge into your life with another believer more as a lift bridge than an always open bridge. Yes, with the Lord it is healthy to maintain that always open bridge, but with others there are times when you need to put down the crossing barrier, put up the middle of your bridge, and escape for a while to a place of solitude from which you can look down upon the world for a short time before you need to come back and handle the people who come and go through your life and everything they bring to you from theirs.

As Paul ends his letter to Philemon, he does not command this slave owner to do anything in particular. But rather, Paul in his writing implies that he trusts in the obedience this man will use under the Lord's conviction. How happy and joyful we all could be if in putting down some healthy boundaries with those around us, we could clearly say that these people were respectful enough in the Lord to honor our needs and respect our wishes.

True joy is found when we no longer have to compel others to do what we find necessary – meaning we don't have to hold up the sign and keep reminding every person who desires to trod on our bridge that they need to be respectful and honoring of the parameters we need in order to keep healthy relational boundaries in our life. But, unfortunately not all people understand the need for boundaries and therefore we must also be consistent advocates for those boundaries in our lives.

Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” Philemon 1:20-21

If you find that today has you trampled down by other people in your life. Take some time put up your bridge and look down for a while and pray about how you may need to post some crossing restrictions in your life so that you can have more joy and peace with those who trample on across your bridge each day. After my conversation yesterday, and having enough time to hear this other woman's side of the story, I am convinced that she is unable to establish crossing restrictions herself as she looks upon my life and the life of my family. I do have confidence that she will be obedient to the Lord in her life, but at the same time there is a need to be very pointed, just as Paul was with Philemon, about the duty she has toward God and those around her to stay within not only the grace of the Lord in our future interactions but also within the law of the Lord so that she is not overstepping her authority.

Yes, getting everything out in the open with others is hard but in the end the willingness to be open, honest, and truthful does give you a better idea where your bridges need to be restricted so you do not get burned by the strife being brought into your life.  God does not intend for us to be burned by the inconsiderate actions and words of others.  Instead, God wants us to stand up in truth, be willing to put down healthy boundaries, and then live in the peace He has given us to stand firm in our lives and in the convictions that He alone can give us to live in obedience to His calling.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Light and Truth

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.”
Psalm 43:3

The Lord is not just light. And, the Lord is not just truth. Instead, He is a perfect mix of both light and truth. But what are light and truth really? Here are two scripture references that reference first light, and then truth:

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, You are very great:
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
Who cover Yourself with
light as with a garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.”
Psalm 104:1-2

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the
Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His
truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5

Light is a cover, while truth is a legacy. One without the other is not enough – both must be at work in the life a believer in order for that person to be robed in the righteousness of God and to then carry out a righteous calling which will move forward into all proceeding generations. You can also think of light as grace – that cover we need to be seen by the eyes of God as who we were meant to be and not who we really are in the reality of our sinful, fallen, human nature. And as for truth, that is the enduring word of the Lord which contains the perfect promises of God. Both are from God, both He is willing to send out to us, and both are necessary to draw us into the presence of God – His holy hill – His tabernacle.

In thinking back over your Sabbath, have you been able to see the ways God has worked His light and truth into your day? In standing back and taking an inventory of you day, can you say the events of the day included a trip to the holy hill and the tabernacle of the Lord? Today I stand as a witness to the holy hill on which I was able to experience a heart of grace towards another (just as God has promised me I would get to go through to better understand His giving role in that exchange). And as for the tabernacle, I also experienced the most wonderful outpouring of praise within our church as I sang as part of the worship team today. The joy filled my heart so greatly I was moved to tears as I was singing and thinking at the same time about how what was before me was only a taste what the final place of worship in the New Jerusalem would be like. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29b

About a year ago, my daughter and I had to make a trip to the butcher to schedule the pick up and slaughter of one of our steers. At the moment we opened the door I knew from the smell that an animal had been slaughtered recently (a large one) because of the distinct odor of blood which permeated the entire shop. After watching my daughter turn ghost white and almost buckle over from the strong aroma and then ask to be allowed to go back out to the car, my thoughts went to the Jewish temple and how similar the smell of this butcher shop probably was to the smell the priests and those worshiping in the temple smelled each day.

By the reaction of my daughter and the accosting affect the odor even had upon me, I would venture to guess that everyone within quite a distance of the temple had a constant reminder of their sinful state before the Lord and the gravity upon which God looked at the sins of man from His state of righteousness as the winds carried the smell of the blood of the sacrificed animals all over Jerusalem.

If you have ever read though Leviticus, you would know that this book contains a lot of scripture about the sacrificial atonement which God required the Jewish people to make for their sin. Here is just a short portion of that law:

Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them, if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering. He shall bring the bull to the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, lay his hand on the bull’s head, and kill the bull before the Lord...Now if the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally, and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which should not be done, and are guilty...When a ruler has sinned, and done something unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord his God in anything which should not be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a male without blemish...If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, then he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed...So the priest shall make atonement for his sin that he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” Leviticus 4:1-4, 13-14, 23, 27-28, 35

We may not consider the sacrifice of animals a wonderful thing, but because of the man's sin, atonement with blood is required. Look at this next verse to see that God Himself took the life of the first animal to atone for the sin which Adam and Eve committed in the garden.

Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21

To God, animals sacrifices are not morbid or outside of His will because these atoning animals make a way for His people to escape the condemnation of their sinful nature. People over animals is God's hierarchy of importance. So, instead of begrudging the fact that an animal needed to be slaughtered for the sin of one man or many, God looked at those sacrifices and took in their smells with great satisfaction because they were redeeming His people of forever needing to be separated from Him.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma.” Genesis 8:20-21a

Likewise, when Jesus was announced as the “Lamb of God”, God also didn't shy away from carrying out His plan to allow Jesus to be the final and perfect sacrifice for the sin of man. Look at the portions of Isaiah 53 below that I have underlined which point out how Jesus was our perfect sacrifice in the eye of the Lord:

“Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.
” Isaiah 53:4-12

Yes, some day there will be no more death, there will be no more sorrow, and there will be no more shedding of blood. In the New Jerusalem there will be perfect peace and life without sin – a place where the lion and the lamb will lay together in peace. But, as we long for what is to come and must live in this imperfect world, we must not forget that this day we long for has not yet come and the here and now requires us to live within our constant need to remember the redemption of Christ and the need for blood (the perfect blood of Jesus) to cover our sinfulness and bring us back to God within the parameters of His grace.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Caught Praying

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matthew 6:5-6

As youth group free time was wrapping up on Wednesday evening, and a few of us moms went looking for our teens to hustle them home, we could not find a couple of the young men from the group. Usually they are the ones who do not play basketball or run around the church wildly, but just hang out talking about this or that and sometimes wander outside to do about the same thing. But, after checking all their usual gathering places, we could not find them. Finally, we asked one of the other teens if they had seen our boys and we were told they were in the back room (a small classroom that the kids usually don't hang out in because they are so cramped).

Our first thought was they were talking about their normal guy things – video games, movies, model building, etc., and had just found a new and a bit more private place to do it. But instead we found a group of 5 young men praying. They were praying for the things they had heavy upon their hearts without anyone standing above them, telling them they needed to do so. I know in our family discussions over the past few weeks, my boys have been heavily burdened about the upcoming elections, the state of our country, the persecution of Christians around the world which we read and talk about each morning, and the dishonoring attitude of people in general towards God and towards their fellow man. During this time, I have watched their private times with the Lord grow in intensity and in conviction and their narrowed focus on the Lord has been evident.

So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” Luke 5:16

In my personal life I have made it a discipline to withdraw from the world to pray in solitude, but since I practice this discipline at such an early time in the morning, my children do not witness me doing this. But, I believe that just because my children are not witnesses to my prayer life at 5am every morning, they are not oblivious to it. Over my years of being a mother I have learned that children catch more of who you are and what you show them, then what you try to teach them through words or simple devotionals. They are the utmost authorities on their parents as they subconsciously watch us so as to figure out how they are to interact with the world around them – it is just a natural way for a child to learn.

In a talk I give called Faith Sharing, I talk about how to pass your faith onto your children, and in it I take a lot of time to emphasize to parents that teaching your children about God has more to do with how you perceive Him, how you interact with Him, how you reverence Him, how you call upon Him, how you serve Him, how you are obedient to Him, how you seek Him, how you endure hardships for Him, how you deny yourself for Him, how you worship Him...and the list goes on and on. The question you need to ask yourself in the end is this: Is your faith something that is in line with God's word and is it something you want your children to copy? And although I know I am not perfect in any sense of the word, I make certain my children know I also fail and they are witnesses to the fact that I am humble enough to admit my weaknesses and the forgiveness and grace of God extends to me just as He does to them and everyone else who lives in a fallen state.

And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.” Luke 9:10

The disciples had Jesus to copy and to study before they were sent out to preach to the world the saving power of His resurrection. The proof that they had been given a worthy example to follow was evident in their lives after their hearts were convicted by the reality of their unique callings and the gifting of the Holy Spirit had come upon them. So too, we as parents are to be those disciplining examples for our children.  In being a worthy example, we prepare our children as they get older and come under the conviction of the Lord as to their unique callings and their hearts are gripped by the Holy Spirit who will leads their hearts to come follow Him, they will be able to deny themselves and up their unique cross and follow without hesitation. In doing all we can in our faith lives to live for the Lord and be a light to our children as well as the rest of the world around us, our children become equipped by the example we show them and ready to follow the Lord wherever He calls and whatever He asks of them just as we have done a few steps ahead of them on the road of faith.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Willing to Live in the Low Lands

Your fierceness has deceived you,
The ride of your heart,
O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock,
Who hold the height of the hill!
Though you make your nest as high as the eagle,
I will bring you down from there,” says the
Lord.” Jeremiah 49:16

 Have you ever known someone who seeks so much “holiness” that they seem to put themselves above the every day tasks that this world requires of them? My daughter and I started a book this week called Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman and the main character in this story is one of those sorts. Raised by a priest after the death of her parents and taught piety and self-denial to the point of having no real world experience.  By a sudden change of events right at the beginning of the story, this girl found herself shoved into the real world, needing to live a life of discernment within the context of her piteous learning but unfortunately she found herself very ill equipped.

In reading the story, it is sad but almost comical as to how this young girl, living during the medieval times, thinks living apart from the world and in holy devotion apart from the dire needs of the people around her, makes her better and definitely more pure in the eyes of God. Unfortunately when I look at this fictional character, my thoughts go to real day examples of such people and their stories are anything but laughable.

As I was reading through Jeremiah this morning, the verse I put above really struck me in light of this story I just told you about and another real life example I have watched and prayed about in another person's life who too has been living at the “height of the hill” instead of in the world which God has called her to live. I thought the imagery in this verse was especially captivating as Jeremiah stated that “fierceness” has leads to deception of the heart – likened to a free ride of fury once the train of pride is allowed to leave the station and run loose in the heart. Satan can do a lot when that type of deception takes over and it doesn't take but a moment to get caught up in the ride that seemingly takes one into the heights of godliness over the common matters and everyday people who surround you toil through on a daily basis.

The next part of the verse I thought was the most striking of all  though. “O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, who hold the height of the hill!” Immediately I pictured a person who was hiding out in the cliffs above the low ground, wanting to seek out God in the heights while fighting tooth and nail to keep from having to live amongst the low lands, even clinging to the rocks with all their might in defiance saying, “I will not live in the common! I must be in the heights of the holy! I must stay away from the every day struggles of people who live in this world!”

To those type of people, the Lord says, “Though you make your nest as high as the eagle,
I will bring you down from there.”
And His ability to bring us down is a promise, not just a mere suggestion for us to consider and then either take or leave. God is the only one who can live in the heights and still have a heart for the plight of the common man. If we let our pride or fear keep us from coming down to live in the low lands where God has asked us to serve and to be a light amongst those who are lost, then we will suffer the discipline of God and His removal of us from where we felt was our privileged place of saintliness.

In lines with all that I have written above, the devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers had some interesting words of truth today and I thought I would end this blog with some of those words for you to ponder on this subject.

A Christian worker has to learn how to be God's noble man or women amid a crowd of ignoble things. Never make this plea – If only I were somewhere else! All God's men are ordinary men made extraordinary by the mater He has given them. Unless we have the right matter in our minds intellectually and in our hearts affectionately, we will be hustled out of usefulness to God...'I have chosen you.' Keep that note of greatness in your creed. It is not that you have got God but that He has got you...Never choose to be a worker, but when God has put His call on you, woe be to you if you turn to the right hand or the left...Let Him have His way.” Oswald Chambers

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nature Verses Nurture in Christian Child Training

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.' And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1-4

As my children have been out interacting in public because of the activities they participate in and because of the things I have been called to do which they have been asked to support, I have received some interesting insight into their social development. For each child, I believe, the foundation on which they base their interactions with the world has to do with two things: nature and nurture.

The nature, or in Christian terms, the gifts and talents given a child, is the base from which each child begins life and perceives the world within the context of their own God given boundaries. I did not realize this fact when I had just one child, but now being the parent of three very different children, I have realized how important it is to take into account the basic nature of each of your children before making any judgments or strategies towards training that child in godly character. You see, just as I understand that I have certain traits in my own personal character that both secure my footing in Christ and contrastingly cause my footing to slip up, so do my children. For one child the gift of determination is paired with a judgmental attitude, for another the gift of wit is paired with self-doubt, and for another the gift of forgiveness is paired with naivety. To not consider that the gifted areas are truly gifts and not the efforts of a particular child's excellent ability to control him or herself would be an oversight on my part. Instead I need to be thankful that God has given each of these gifts to my children as part of His unique plan for them but also that their gifting is meant to be the base from which their short-comings are to be tempered, and that is where unique training begins in the unique hearts of each of my children.

The nurtured part of a child is that part which training hopefully not only brings that particular child in line with the scriptures, but also which allows the child to be taught  to use the gifts God has given them to battle against the biggest holes in their armor. The problem with training children though is the fact that in order for children to heed your training they must honor you and your place of authority in their lives, and this goes back to the differing natural gifts within children. One thing I always tell people is: If my daughter had been born first I would have looked upon other parents as complete failures. My daughter has such an easy-going way of looking at life, of taking instruction, and in wanting to please my husband and me, and therefore she does not do many things which lead me to discipline her for wrong actions or attitudes. But thankfully my two boys were born first and I they drug me through the trenches of child training and in, what I thought at times when they were little, was much more painful for me than it was for them.

In looking at Ephesians 6: 1-4 in light of what I have felt compelled to write I can see why the wording is set as it is: First, children need to be brought into a place where their hearts truly desire to honor the instruction of their parents. Then, within the context of a willing heart, parents are able to train and admonish their children in godly instruction. Forcing a child to honor you or to do what you say by the commands you give them only last so long. It is the heart of the child that steers his/her training in the long run and which can either bring about refinement of godly character or can stir up and provoke a self-serving heart within a child.

In watching my children and knowing how far they each have come from where they started, I am encouraged as to how God will use each of them and continue to refine them over the years He has planned out ahead for each of them. Are they perfect? Certainly not. But then again neither am I. One thing though I praise the Lord about is that each of them have a heart which desires to honor my husband and me and be humble when we or another godly person in their life instructs them. My oldest is even now at a place where he desires to seek the Lord on his own to make sure that outward godly instruction is truly from the Lord and are not just mere teachings of man.

If you want to look at it in another way think of this analogy: A heart is like a piece of unrefined metal. If the metal stays on the cold ground then the work needed to shape it and refine it is extensive and it never turns out a finished work which could be fittingly called the work of a craftsman. On the other hand, if a piece of metal goes into the heat then the work needed to shape it and refine it is much easier and the process results in a beautiful work of art within the hand of a master craftsman. Accordingly, the first and most important work of a parent in training a child and creating the framework from which the nurturing of a child brings about godly character is to move a child into a place where they are willing to submit to the heat that God needs to apply to their life (first through us their parents leading them there and showing them through our own obedience, but then over time solely within their own relationship with the Lord) and be willing to be changed and crafted within it.

Take heart dear parents.  The calling of the Lord to instruct your children is within His will and He will never abandon you in this pursuit if you have a heart that is willing to follow His lead as you then lead your children closer to Him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dead to Sin - Alive to God

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:10-11

Dead to sin. Alive to God in Christ Jesus. Those are the opposing sides. There is no middle ground. There is no room on the fence to sit. But, what is sin? That seems to be the question of the century. As we watch the emotions rising as election day draws near and people are starting to take sides with their respective candidates, what it all boils down to is what each voter perceives as sin verses what they perceive as righteousness. Voters who see right and wrong within reasonable means of what a particular candidate stand for are the ones they will side with and vote for.

As Christians we are given the law of God so we can see sin and righteousness from the perspective of God. The law of the Lord is not intended to keep us held down by a bunch of rules, but rather through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the law allows us to compare our actions to the perfect law of God. Sin which leads to death of the soul is what God says is wrong in His word. Righteousness which leads to eternal life is what God says pleases Him.

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.” Galatians 6:19-20

But that is where the simplicity of the difference between sin and righteousness ends within the mean of our understanding. We cannot understand the greater scope of the truth God has revealed through God's word if we do not allow the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us discern the larger meaning God has buried within His word.

Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.” 2 Timothy 2:14-26

I have found that most of the time this type of understanding does not just pop into a person's head. We need to almost allow the Holy Spirit to wrestle out the sinful tendencies of our “old self” which we prefer to cling onto, and then put into that place the truth of righteousness He has to reveal in that space instead. Step by step as God patiently works within us, those changes are made and our “new self” is remade one little piece at a time into the likeness of Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Every Christian is a work-in-progress. It is not our job to be the mediator of what God's law means and how others should live by the law so much as the reality that we are called to be a new creations who are in the process of being reconciled to God and an example of newness ourselves to those who are watching us and our relationship with God. God Himself does not judge those who have no understanding, but rather He shows them their sin and then allows His Spirit to do the work of transformation which they can either accept or reject after they have had the truth revealed to them.

I hate to say that it has taken me a long time and many difficult and painful lessons in my past to realize how important it is to allow God to be the mediator in the lives of other instead of me. My tendency many times has been to jump in and try to do God's work myself. In fact, I know I have destroyed a few friendships in my past because of my inability to hold my tongue, pray instead for the sin I saw in another person's life, and allow God to do what He knew was best to do in wrestling against that individual's old self and reveal the sin which needed to be replaced by His righteous law and life.

If we forget that we were sinful first and that righteousness is not in us, apart from God, we have a tendency of looking at others from the perspective of one who is said and done with sin. Beware if this trap has fallen upon you and you have forgotten that your human form has no power over sin and you are always just one step away from going back down the road from which you came or an offshoot from another sinful tendency the Lord has yet to reveal to you that can take you backwards as well. Yes, God is faithful to keep us moving in the right direction, but we need to stay within God's will to keep moving towards righteousness instead of falling away in sinfulness.

I think the more and more God has revealed to me about my sinful tendencies, the more understanding and patient I have become with others when I see sin in their lives. I pray that today as you look at those around you who maybe have not been taught by the Lord all of the lessons He has taught you, by replacing your sinful nature with His righteous understanding, that you seek God first in how to handle those situations. It is always better to wait upon the Lord then to step out and then later wish you had not been so hasty in allowing God to work in His perfect timing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Psalm 27 - Hiding Away in the Lord

For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.”
Psalm 27:5

 After reading Psalm 27 this morning, and after the events of yesterday as well as knowing that tonight I will have one of the biggest spiritual battles of my life to fight as I take part in a candidate forum as part of my run for office, I have decided that today I will declare my home my hiding place in the Lord – “the secret place of His tabernacle” which I will hide my soul in for a time to rest that only the Lord can provide for me against any enemy who has set themselves to destroy me.

Maybe you have felt the weight of spiritual attack before and know where I am coming from when I talk about hiding out in the Lord as David talks about in Psalm 27. But if you don't I want to let you know that my need to hide in the shelter of the Lord has nothing to do with running away from the pressures of life or the call of the Lord in this life, but rather it is a necessary time of rest and refreshment for my soul so that it is all the more ready to enter into the fight as He calls and to do His will with greater conviction and a more focused purpose.

I am just going to let you soak in Psalm 27 today and then wrap up with how my circumstances today have let me see these scripture verses with more clarity.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!”

Psalm 27

No fear, no losing heart, no trouble will overtake those who hide themselves in the Lord. Today while the threat of the world around me tries to tear me down and tries to knock me off center I will wait in the tabernacle of the Lord as He will be my resting place, my teacher, my my strength, and my victory when the day comes to an end. I already stand confident that tonight I be able to say, “It was from God alone that all which transpired has come to pass because I chose to hide in Him and not trust in anything else besides Him.”

If you feel the world around you crushing your heart and soul remember that God is the refuge you can run to who cannot be overtaken and who will shelter you through the fiercest storms and trials of life.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Longing for Heaven on the Sabbath

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

As I end my Sabbath today, I have found that my bible readings have me longing for heaven where “mortality may be swallowed up by life”. I am at a loss for words as to why I am feeling this way, but I have to say that things in life which are manufactured by human hands and human minds and which do not come from God, make a person weary and their soul greatly burdened. When I got up this morning, I was desiring that today would be different than the past few days. I set my heart to not be distracted by anything from the moment I got up – it was a day for pure worship and joyful celebration with my family of all those things which God has put into my life. But instead of my day going as I had originally planned, I am ending my day feeling bruised and beaten for doing nothings wrong but rather for standing firm in the place God has shown me to stand – a place that is righteous in His eyes.

I see my heavenly home in the distance beyond the troubles of this day. I see my beautiful Savior up ahead showing me the way on the unique path He has set before me. I see a place where strife, judgment from others, and the pain within my heart is a distant memory. And, I see myself in the arms of my Father God who desires more than anything for me to be with Him and who makes my coming to Him each and every day possible by the price Jesus paid on the cross. And speaking of Jesus, He does not just stop being my friend when that time of transformation comes, but He becomes all the more closer of a friend because there will be no more sin to separate us.

I hope you had a wonderful Sabbath, and that it was not like mine which was filled with sorrow served on a silver platter that, although meant a gift, it turned out instead to be nothing godly nor peace invoking – rather just painfully short-sided and judgmental. Now that my anger over the whole thing has simmered down a bit, I am willing to start this evening with thinking about what the Lord may have purposed in this event today. I know I also need His patience and forgiveness once again to keep from getting bitter when bitterness could easily take hold of me and how hurt I have felt.

What about you? Do you have unforgiveness or bitterness in your heart towards someone who has not been kind to you? I suggest letting your mind dwell for a time on your eternal home and your Father who is looking forward to showing you your eternal home with Him. Keeping an eternal perspective is the thing that makes the troubles of this day and the forgiveness that must be found to deal with those troubles, a bit easier to locate. The truth is, God's love helps us to look beyond the multitude of sins we encounter each day and for that fact alone my Sabbath has brought me one step closer to the heaven because my heart can see a better day on the horizon.