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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Inquiring Minds....

It is the week of my 50th birthday. Encountering certain milestones tends to make one a little more introspective. I am coming upon this one with a certain measure of uncertainty - where do I go with the  rest of my life?

As I look back over the years, there are many moments, decisions, and choices made that I am not proud of or happy with. Without a doubt, those are times in my life where I did not "inquire of the Lord." Over the past couple of weeks studying the lives of David and King Saul, the times they did and did not inquire of the Lord stand in stark contast. The difference between having a listening spirit and a hardened heart is evident.

Certainly, I do not want to end my life like Saul. All of his work, achievements, accomplishments meant nothing because he did not have a right relationship with God. Everything he worked for was snatched away and handed to antoher because he was disobedient.

David was not perfect by a long shot. He did not always remember to seek God in every decision and he made some bad ones. Even knowing this, God chose him as Saul's successor because he was a man after His own heart. How does that work? David was a polygamist, he committed adultery and murder. He was a terrible father. Ultimately, I think it comes back to the state of his heart. His was sinful and "deceitful above all else" just as ours are and Saul's was. But David knew that God was his refuge, he was repentant when confronted or convicted of his sin. His desire was to have an intimate relationship with God above all else.

In spite of his shortcomings, David left an eternal legacy. He had an earthly dynasty that reigned in Israel for many decades. It was from his line that the Messiah would come and establish his kingdom forever. Redemption...

David is a beautiful model of redemption. With all the wrong he did in his life, he sought the Lord's forgiveness and it was given. Not only that, he was used mightily of God in establishing the earthly kingdom of Israel. It gives me hope to think that the poor decisions in my own life can be redeemed and my life will leave an eternal legacy, as well. Perhaps not like David's - but eternal none the less.

So, as I move into the next decade of my life, I plan to inquire more of the Lord and to wait on His answers and guidance. Not only an inquiring mind but an inquiring heart as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Get the Weed Eater!

Yesterday I "came clean" about my closet (wish my closet came clean) and confessed that I opted for working in my yard. My entry today has a similar message from a little different perspective.

Sometimes, I feel like my front yard flower bed is the bane of my existence. No place else in my yard can grow weeds like this particular patch of ground can. It also grows oak trees. Thousands of them. You think I am exaggerating? Please - come to my house and I will let you help me pull them up. The thing is...If we don't stay on top of them, they take over the entire area. They are relentless.

Once again, this is such an analogy to our spiritual lives. We let one little thought or action take hold without dealing with it, and the next thing you know it has multiplied, dropped seeds and put down roots until it takes over your heart and mind. It is a continual battle to stay on top of these spiritual weeds.

I believe a few gardening tips are in order:

1. Do not make your mind a weed-friendly zone.
In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), Jesus talked about the different kinds of soil that make our hearts receptive to the Word of God. The same is true in reverse. We can open our minds to things we should not see or hear, tolerate attitudes that we should not have, and cause our hearts to become fertile soil for the seeds of sin. 1 Peter 4:1-2 tells us that we are to arm ourselves with the same mind as Christ in order to avoid falling to sin.  "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God." We only develop this mind by spending time with Him and with His Word.

2. You have to weed on a regular basis.
Just like any garden we tend, we have to get rid of our spiritual weeds on a regular basis. All through scripture we see the giants of the faith spending time in prayer daily. The gospels tell us that Jesus went out to pray in the morning "as was His habit to do". 1 John 1:9 gives us the promise that if we "confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness." If we are allowing the Holy Spirit to have reign in our hearts, He will alert us at the first sign of any weeds. It is up to us to pull them (confess them) and give them to the Master Gardener.

3. You have to get at the root.
Any time you are pulling weeds, you have to pull them up root and all. If you don't, the weed grows right back. If there is a recurring problem that you just can't seem to get over, maybe you are just lopping of the top of the weed and not getting down to the root cause of why it is there. Hebrews 12:14-15 says "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled". Any sin is bitter and when we let it take root it will surely cause trouble. The scripture tells us that this does not just defile us. It defiles MANY. We can't use the excuse that we are only hurting ourselves. That is a lie of the enemy. Sometimes the root is deep and digging it out is painful, but it is the only solution to getting rid of the weeds altogether.

So, time to do some spiritual weed eating! Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal and "weeds" that you may need to get rid of. Ask Him to help you dig out the roots for those tough ones that just don't want to let go and then fill you mind with things that make it receptive to God's Word, not Satan's lies.

Bok Tower Gardens
Happy Gardening!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Closet Confessions

Every morning when I make my bed I take the pillows and store them in my closet. This morning when I opened the closet door, my heart sank a bit. I am not a fanatical housekeeper, but I do like things orderly around me. I can honestly say that most of my house is this way....except for the closet. Shoes all over the floor in spite of the beautiful cubes with individual little spaces for each pair, things tossed here and there. It was depressing really.

The thought crossed my mind that I ought to clean out that closet while I have a little extra time at home. Then I remembered that I had planned to clean the flower bed in my front yard today. The closet really needed cleaning, but no one can see that. The front yard is seen by all.

How like our spiritual lives. Of course, the David study brought to mind the scripture in 1 Samuel 16:7, "The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." How often we worry about external appearances but do not deal with what cannot be seen on the inside. The problem is when we continually put off dealing with the internal.

Once my closet was clean - then I dumped a pair of shoes in the floor without putting them away. It still didn't look too bad, but a shirt found its way onto a shelf instead of a hanger. Then another pair of shoes in the floor, etc. Eventually, as time went on, it just got worse and worse. Now it is a mess. If you walked in my house today, you would never notice, but it is a mess just the same.

What about one little sin that we ignore or let go? Like that first shoe dumped in the floor. The next thing you know it gets easier to ignore the next one and they begin to pile up. Sooner or later, you are a mess. Oh, not on the outside. On the outside, you have it all together. You look good...you act right...you say the right things and do the right things...no one is the wiser. But all the while, you are a mess inside.

Jesus had a word for people like this. He said they were like tombs that were painted on the outside, but rotten on the inside (Matt. 23:27). I do not want to be rotten on the inside. I want my inside and my outside to be consistent. I might even be in better shape if my inside looked better than my outside.

I opted today for the yard work. It was a good choice because the solitude in the yard gave me time for some introspection. I am identifying things on the inside that need to be sorted, reorganized, prioritized, and much just thrown out. There is much I need to clean up. My closet is still a mess, but my heart is beginning to show progress. With God's help, we will get it cleaned up. And God is a great helper. If you ask for His help, He is expert at showing you what needs to stay and what needs to go. Then He helps you get rid of the trash. The challenge then is keeping it clean once I get it clean.

Who knows...maybe tomorrow I'll tackle that closet.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Honorable Mention

Today was Beth Moore Bible Study Day! We are continuing in our study of David and Beth continues to give us wonderful truths from his life. I always come away from the video sessions with a morsel or two to chew on and today was no exception.

The point that particularly resonated with me today was as follows: "Significant rest comes to the soul when we accept that God alone is in charge of our honor." Psalm 62:7 states, "My salvation and my honor depend on God". Seems like it should be simple enough. When she expounded on the point she raised a question as to whether you have ever been shamed in front of someone and can't seem to regain your dignity with them. In my mind the question also seemed to include allowing someone to steal your confidence. Beth pointed out that some of our biggest conflicts come over matters of personal honor.

Recently, I have had someone in my life who seemed to do just that. In subtle ways, they constantly seemed to undermine my ability to retain my dignity in their presence. It seemed they would say one thing that appeared to build me up and then in the next breath imply that I didn't have a clue. Sounds like verse 4 of the same Psalm, "With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse." There were days I truly didn't know if I were coming or going. My situation is a relatively minor one and was easy enough to resolve. I took myself out of the situation and the presence of this person.

I know that there are many in situations out there that are not so easy to resolve. Abusive marriages, prodigal children, difficult parents, and the list could go on. There are people who live every day of their lives with someone who tears them down, undermines their confidence and destroys their dignity. You may be one. You may not be able to extract yourself so easily, but there is a truth you can know. God defends your honor. Verse 5 tells us that our souls find rest in "God alone". No one else can determine if we are honorable or not - that right is God's alone.

Unfortunately, it is not always so easy to let go of all those negative feelings. I have spent more than enough time and energy over the last few weeks rising to the occasion in my mind. I have had heated conversations with the person in question and let them know exactly what I thought and how I feel. I have reduced them to a quivering heap a million times in my mind. In reality, I have not only allowed them to destroy my dignity, but I've helped them along by replaying these scenes over and over in my head. My soul has not been at rest, it has been at war.

How to combat the negative soundtrack running in your brain? Know what God has to say about you. Know what God has done for you. Know what His word says about you. And when that track starts playing in your head, hit the stop button and change the tape (CD, MP3, you get the idea). Play God's soundtrack instead. I am not incompetent, I am powerful because I have God's power flowing through me. Get the picture?

So let me give you what I think is one of the sweetest verses in the Bible to get you started. Zephaniah 3:17: "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Picture a crying child. There is a mother who delights in that child. She shushes and sings to quiet her baby. God is singing over you. He is defending your honor. You can hold your head high no matter what circumstance you are living in. He LOVES you.

Recommended Resources:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Running the Race: Lessons Learned from a "Rugged Maniac"

My daughter in law is a bit of a fitness nut. She loves to eat right and work out and seems to think that running long races involving obstacle courses is an idea of fun. I feel really good about myself for walking around the block! 

She recently ran in a race called the "Rugged Maniac" with a number of other Army Wives from Fort Knox and as I looked through her pictures, I thought about how like this race our lives are. Sometimes its all downhill. Sometimes it is not. As we move through life we encounter many obstacles and trials. Some are conquered without much effort. Most are not. How well we are ready to run the race and meet the obstacles is critical. One thing is always sure - it is rarely EASY. Several scriptures came to mind so I am giving you a "Rugged Maniac" montage with lessons from scripture to relate.

Cris Pre-race
1. You Have to Be Prepared.
Stretching before the race

Just as you cannot run a physical race without training and preparation, in order to run the race of life well we must be prepared to meet obstacles before they happen. We can only do that by spending time in God's Word and in relationship with Him in order to face what is coming.

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”15 But sanctify the Lord God  in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 1 Peter 3:14-16

Peter was writing to Christians who were suffering and encountering trials. He encouraged them to be prepared to share their hope with a world that is not adequately prepared for the race.

2. The Race is Easier if You Run Together.

Army Wives of Fort Knox - Rugged Maniac Team

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-26

We need to support each other in the race. Hebrews tell us to encourage one another and cause others to do good works. The world around us looks like a bleak place some days, but if we run as a team, we will make it to the end and finish well.

3. We Must Run With Joy

Cristin Post Race

23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:23-24
Paul often used the analogy of the race. Here in Acts he speaks of prison and tribulations, but nothing bothers him. He only wants to run with joy. We do not get to choose the obstacles we face. We simply have to keep running. No one faced more trials and obstacles than Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-29), but his goal was to run with joy in order to glorify Jesus Christ. How often are we less than joyful over the little obstacles that come our way?

4. We Must Run With Endurance

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 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, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Aren't there days when life just wears you down? We must keep going. There are things that distract us and tempt us to quit running. There are days we think we just can't take it anymore. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we have to stay focused on our goal - Jesus. When we are focused on Him and not on the obstacle ahead, we will find the stamina to keep going.

5. We Must Run With the End in Mind

Crossing the Finish Line

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  1 Corinthians 9:23-24

What do we get for all our trouble? There is a prize. A crown that won't wilt or rust or bend. Athletes in Paul's day were given a laurel wreath to wear as a crown when they won a race or event. Because it was organic material, it eventually would wilt and rot. God is going to give us a crown that will never rot or decompose. And one day when we come into His glorious presence, we will get to take it off and place it right back at His feet! The very feet that were nailed to a cross for us. That seems like a prize worth competing for.

The other great thing about this prize is: everyone can win it! There is no gold, silver and bronze. Everyone who finishes gets one, regardless of your rank in line.

6. We Must Remember the Purpose of the Obstacles

Running Through Fire

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen[a] you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:7-9

When the race is long and we feel as through we are running through fire, we can know that we are being refined. Not refined so that we can "be a better person" or just to "build our character", but to make us presentable to our King. In order to give praise and honor and glory to Him.

7. We Must Finish Well

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.  2 Timothy 4:6-8

Paul was in prison and knew that he was nearing the end of his life. He could look back and know that, in spite of all the hardship he experienced, he had finished well.

How are you running your race today?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Passion Fruit

I recently started the Beth Moore Bible Study "David: A Heart Like His". In the first sessions, as we began the study with a look at King Saul, Beth mentioned in her material that Saul was not passionate about being king. As a matter of fact, when the leaders of the nation of Israel looked for Saul to crown him, he was hiding. Beth concluded that, in looking at Saul's life and reign as king, his position exceeded his passion.

This statement struck me like a ton of bricks. In fact, I have been mulling over it for at least two weeks now. Why? Because I recently found myself in a similar situation and it has caused me to ask myself the question, "What am I passionate about?". I have certainly realized with startling clarity in recent days what I am NOT passionate about. Unfortunately, for a period of time, that which I was not passionate about seemed to overtake my life. Interestingly enough, it tuned out not to be a fruitful endeavor for me. It also negatively affected relationships with friends, family, and most of all my Lord. Like Saul, I was qualified, had the proper knowledge and ability, and had a following of people who wanted me in my "position". What I lacked from the beginning was passion. I just wasn't passionate enough about the position to make it work. The situation has now resolved itself and I am moving on, but it continues to beg questions: What drives me? What fuels my life? What is it that gets me really excited? What AM I passionate about?

Like any mother or grandmother - we prefer "Nana" at my house - I could say my children or my grandchildren. I love them passionately. I could say I am passionate about reading. I am never without my Kindle or a book in hand. My husband might say I am "passionate" about technology. I love a new electronic toy any day and can get really excited over the tasks they perform...but is this really who I am?

In searching my heart, I find myself drawn to one of the most passionate men in scripture - the Apostle Paul. In Philippians 3, beginning in verse 7 he writes, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him....(v. 10) I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

That, my friends, is passion. Paul was a wealthy, prestigious man and he lost it all when he chose to follow Christ. He didn't care - his goal in life was to know Christ more and more until he became like Him. Jesus sums it up in Matthew 16:26: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" Big salary, nice house, fancy car - it means nothing without knowing Christ. And once you start to know Christ, the importance of all those things begins to fade because you truly start to understand that HE is all you need.

I pray that I can say with Paul "I want to know Christ" and that He is my passion. That will be a fruitful endeavor. A little passion fruit - its good for the heart....

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 11

I wrote this 10 years ago after the attacks....





Our enemy has walked among us,
Striking swift and sure.
Hope seems lost with life and peace.
How much can we endure?
Haunting pictures sear our minds,
All innocence is lost.
We've learned the frailty of our lives,
But, why at such a cost?
Empty arms that ache for loved ones
One more time to hold.
Grief stricken faces, broken hearts
Cling to fragile hope.
But from the ashes, more will rise
Than death and pain and grief.
America will stand united
Firm in its belief:
We are a nation under God,
It is in Him we trust.
For sustenance in crisis,
We will turn to Him - we must.
God bless this nation; make it strong,
A light for all to see.
Illuminating freedom
Faith and liberty!

Judie Britt
September 11, 2001
We will not forget.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Where Are You Going?

Genesis 16:7-10 "The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, 'Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?' 'I'm running away from my mistress Sarai,' she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, 'Go back to your mistress and submit to her.' The angel added, 'I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.'"

Hagar was a victim of circumstance. Ancient custom stated that if a woman was childless, she could make her maid sleep with her husband and if they produced a child, legally it would belong to the wife. That is exactly what Sarai did to Hagar. Only she couldn't take it when Hagar became pregnant and she treated her like dirt. Hagar did the only thing she thought she could do....she ran. Next thing you know, she's wandering around alone in the desert and the scripture says the angel of the Lord found her.

I personally don't think the angel had to look too hard. He was the angel of the Lord after all and since God knows all, I think He just told the angel where to go get her. Then he did something I find interesting...he asked her a question: Where did you come from and where are you going? Once again, he already knew the answer - so why ask? Perhaps, he wanted Hagar to reassess her situation. She answered him readily to tell him where she came from. "I'm running from my mistress, Sarai." Note that she never says where she is going. Probably because she didn't know. She was wandering aimlessly in the desert, trying to run from her problems and she had absolutely no plan in mind.

I can only imagine how she felt...lost, lonely, betrayed, hurt. But in her pain, the Lord came to her and spoke to her. And after he had given her his message, she gave a name to the Lord. In verse 13 she says, "You are the God who sees me, " for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me."

In her darkest hour, God saw her. He came to her and spoke to her and gave her direction. I have a feeling it was not the direction she was wanting or looking for. I doubt seriously she had any desire to return to Sarai, but that is where God sent her - to face her problems head on and make it through with His help.

Are you wandering in a desert today? Feeling lost, lonely, betrayed? Do you know what you are running from but not what you are running to? God sees you. He will come to you in your pain, and you can run to Him. He may not take you where you think you want to go, but He will take you on the road that is best for you. And on the journey, keep your eyes open - because you just may get to see Him, too.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trial by Fire

1 Peter 1:6-9  "In this you greatly rejoice, thought now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

Having just spent a week on an Army base, I am just full of all kinds of military metaphors. Considering that the base I was on was Fort Knox, the gold theme seems to fit as well...

As I read the scripture above, the thought came to my mind that life is like boot camp for eternity. I have never been through boot camp, but we have two boys who have been there and done that. I have heard the descriptions, seen documentaries on television, and even with my limited knowlege this I know: It's hard. I also know this: It's hard on purpose. The military wants the young men who stand on the front line for us to be prepared and strong. They want to weed out the ones who won't make it. They make it physically painful on purpose. They make it emotionally straining on purpose. They make it tiring on purpose. But those who make it through are stronger in the end.

This to me is just a metaphor for life and the refining process we must go through. No one wants to face difficult, stressful times, but it is necessary for our spiritual growth. We are in a spiritual battle here. On the front lines, so to speak. Fighting a spiritual warfare. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" Eph. 6:12. Who of us does not want to be prepared to fight our best?

Earlier in 1 Peter 1, Peter talks of our new birth and resurrection and of the inheritance we have that cannot perish. He is talking of our salvation and eternal life. The trials we experience in this life, purify and prepare us for the life to come. This is our 15 weeks - our enlistment is eternal. 

So consider this - Life is hard. Life is hard on purpose. God brings us to situations that, depending on how we react to them, will make us stronger in the end. I do not believe that he causes every bad thing that happens, but he certainly uses every difficult trial in our lives to grow us up. If we accept the trial and face it, asking God to show us what we can learn from it, he will use it to burn away everything within us that it is not pure and prepare us to someday meet him. He wants to make of us a thing of beauty - after all, we are his bride...

So "...Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far [surpasses] them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-19

(For more on Paul's "light and momentary trials" read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Matthew 21:21-22 "...I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." 

Larry and I enjoy going to the Smokey Mountains on vacation from time to time. We love the peacefulness and quiet of being surrounded by nature and God's creation. I look at those mountains and, even though they are small in comparison to many ranges, they look enormous to me - especially standing on the top of one looking down! To think that I might be able to speak and one of those mountains and it would move is an incomprehensible thought to me.


Overlook from Blue Ridge Parkway. Smokey's in the background.
In the scripture in Matthew, Jesus was giving us an indication of God's power - not ours. This is not the power of positive thinking at work. This is whether or not you believe God has the power to do something - or not. And just because He can, doesn't mean He will. This is not our ticket to health and wealth, either.

Still, to think that we have the power of the God of the universe at our fingertips is a pretty amazing concept. So what is the secret to getting our prayers answered?
  • Belief. We have to believe in Him and His ability to do anything. So often we say we do not doubt God, but find ourselves so amazed when He answers our prayer.
  • Motive. We cannot come with selfish motives. The motive behind our prayers must always be His glory and the expansion of His Kingdom, not our personal desires.
  • Conscience. In Mark 11:22-24 the same story is told with a little addendum...when you pray make sure you have forgiven anyone you hold a grudge against. In my entry on the 18th, I posted about forgiveness. When we harbor ill will toward someone in our hearts, it hinders our prayers.
When the desires of His heart become the desires of our hearts, mountains will move and we will see miracles. God wants to do God-sized things in our lives. He wants show Himself through us in ways that could only be attributed to Him. He wants to get the glory and the credit and if we will just step back and pray and let Him work there is no telling what He will do! He withered a fig tree...healed the sick...raised the dead...rose from the dead. Seems to me with a right attitude and the faith of a mustard seed, we might just be in for a wild ride!

My son, Jared and I with granddaughter, Jaden, at Pigeon Forge, TN.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Are You Looking For?

Luke 11: 9-10 "...Ask and it will be given to you: seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Are you looking for something? Needing some direction? Waiting for a door to open? Do you think the door is open and you aren't sure you are to walk through?

Over the years, I have done a fair amount of traveling. Some very distant and some local related to my job. One thing that is incredibly frustrating is to be in a strange place and not know where you are. Before I had a car with GPS, I would fight with paper maps, have to stop and ask for directions, have to make a phone call to find out if I was headed the right way.

I have done home health for many years, and I remember going to see a new patient one day. I should have known it was going to be a haul because she lived in a place called Ft. Lonesome. I called the caregiver ahead of time and got directions, then headed out. No cell phone then, no GPS, only my hand written directions on a piece of scrap paper. Several times I thought I had missed my turn only to come upon it several miles further down the road. My last turn was literally off-road, across a cattle gap, through a pasture full of palmettos and pine trees...and cows. Imagine my delight and relief when I saw the house and the patient's caregiver opened the door. My persistence had paid off!

In these verses, Jesus offers us a promise along with some direction. If we are persistent, we will be rewarded. The words used here for asking, seeking and knocking indicate persistent action. We are to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. A few entries ago, I talked about the blind men who came to Jesus for healing and knocked on the door to gain his attention. I believe they were persistent in their knocking - pounding on the door. And Jesus opened the door and healed them.

Do you give up too soon when you are looking for answers from God? Faith is not for the faint of heart. It takes tenacity and perserverance. We can't give up to soon. We have to keep on keeping on. In the end, our pursuit will be rewarded. Jesus will open the door and we will have the direction, answers, faith, knowlege of him, wisdom that we need. We just have to stay focused.

So pray with confidence and keep your eyes peeled...you never know when that little ray of light is going to come through the crack in the door!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Forgiveness

Matthew 18: 21-35 "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.'"

Forgiveness. All of us want to be forgiven, rarely do we find it easy or desirable to forgive. In this parable of Jesus, it seems to be the perfect picture of our dilemma. In the verses following his coversation with Peter, Jesus goes on to describe a man who owed a debt and begged for forgiveness. His master did just that and cancelled his debt. The man then went out and encountered someone who owed him a debt, but he could not return the same favor. He had his debtor thrown into prison. Unfortunately, his original benefactor learned of his behavior and not only had him imprisoned, but tortured until he could repay what he owed.

Dictionary.com defines to forgive as "to cease to hold blame, to free from debt or obligation." According to the New Testament Greek Lexicon, the word for forgiveness in this scripture has an additional interesting meaning. It is to "send away from one, to let go and not discuss, to give up a thing, to abandon." These words don't describe what the person being forgiven is doing, but what the person who is forgiving is doing.

Have you ever heard someone say, "That 'so and so', he/she sure knows how to hold on to a grudge"? That is the opposite of forgiveness. Holding on to hurt, bitter, angry feelings only ties you to the person who hurt you and continues to give them the power to hurt you. I experienced this in a very real way many years ago. Someone hurt me deeply and for many years I carried anger and unforgiveness in my heart. It occurred to me one day, that the person I was angry with - didn't care. I wasn't making them suffer by hanging on to my grudge, I was making myself suffer.

In the Model Prayer, Jesus also taught that we are to pray for God to "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors".  I think our problem is that we often think by saying we have forgiven someone, that we are condoning what they did to us, given them permission to hurt us. In fact, by forgiving them we are taking away their permission to hurt us, and releasing them from any hold they have over us. We are casting the hurt aside, sending it away, abandoning it. We let go of it and refuse to discuss it anymore. 

We hold on because we want to judge. Scripture also tells us not to judge or we may be judged in kind. Let's see...judge the way I judge others or be forgiven the way I forgive others...I'm thinking I want to err on the side of forgiveness. Are you hanging on to something heavy today? Get rid of that ball and chain! Cast it away, give it up, abandon it. Just think how much lighter you will feel!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Who Is He?

Matthew 16: 15-16 "But what about you?" [Jesus] asked. "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

And what about you? Who is Jesus to you? I think about his own disciples as I write that. In the verses just preceeding these, they didn't step out with a profound answer based on their personal knowledge of him. They simply regurgitated what the culture said he was. They stated what the world's view of Jesus was.

Is he just a good man? Someone who lived an exemplary life, but wasn't really God. Is he a prophet? One sent from God to share his word, but, again, not God himself. A great teacher? Or even as one cult that is prominent in the news right now would have us believe, he was just our brother, born no differently than we are and he has made his way to becoming a god among many gods, which is what we are all destined for (all men, anyway).

Who IS he?

Peter gave the answer. The Christ - he is the Messiah. The Son of the living God - he was born fully God and fully human and his Father is the living God of the Universe! So if He is the Son of  THE one living true God and he is the Messiah sent to save me - if I truly believe this - then what is he to me?

For some, I think he is only the ticket out of hell. We give him lip service, ask him to forgive our sins and then sit back and breathe a sigh of relief because we are safe. We go on about our life as if he isn't even there. Some come to church and even participate in Bible study now and then, but don't really live like we believe any of it once we step outside the church walls. We are good people - but there is a time and place for everything and Jesus belongs at church...

If I really sit and meditate on who he is...that he IS the Christ...that he IS the Messiah...the Son of the Most High God. If I really take that all in, and realize that when he had this conversation with Peter, he was on his way to the cross for ME. How can I go on living as if he doesn't matter? How can I take the cultural view of the day and apply it to the Jesus who died for ME? I can't. I have to give him all of me. I can't just go through the motions on Sunday and forget it the rest of the week. I have to acknowledge my faith as a total way of life, not just a means to an end. I have to give him first place.

He is the Christ...THE Christ....the CHRIST. Who is he to you?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Walkin on Water

Matthew 14:27-32 "....Jesus immediately said. 'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.' 'Lord, if it's you,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water.' 'Come,' He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him..."

Why is it the disciples were always caught in a storm on a boat? This time they are caught on the boat and Jesus is not with them. But in verse 26 they see him walking toward them on the water and they think he is a ghost! Can you even imagine? You are on a boat with huge waves pounding you and the wind going crazy, only to look over the bow and there is someone...or something...walking toward you ON TOP of the water. I can't say I blame them on this one. I might have freaked out a little, too.

Jesus calls out to reassure them and then Peter - always Peter - says, "Prove it. Tell me to come to you." So Jesus did and Peter did. For a few minutes anyway. And here is my question: If Peter wasn't sure it was Jesus, why did he get out of the boat? But always impulsive Peter jumps right out and for a few minutes he's doing great walking on water...looking at Jesus...feeling the wind...looking at the waves...starting to sink...

Are you in the middle of a storm? Got some wind and a few waves going on in your life? Are you in the boat or out? Peter was a bit impulsive, but he made a specific request of the Lord - "Tell me to come to You." Jesus gave Peter the command we all should obey - one word - Come. So Peter did. Sometimes it's easy to take that first step - sometimes, not so much. But we get out there and we are walking through our storm and we are looking at Jesus and then something distracts us. A little gust of wind blows us slightly off balance and the next thing you know we are focused on the waves instead of the Lord.

Are you just overwhelmed by your circumstances? Feel like you are drowning? I am SO there with you right now. Maybe, just maybe, we have taken our focus off Jesus. Maybe, we need to check out good ol' boy Peter one more time. What did he do when he started to sink? He cried out. He didn't make a quiet request. He didn't say when you can or if it's your will...He cried out the one request that is sure to get an answer. "Save me!" The scripture says Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught Peter. He was there in an instant. Jesus didn't reach out and change Peter's circumstances. He didn't calm the wind and the waves this time. He didn't miraculously spirit Peter over to the boat. I think He held Peter's hand the rest of the way and then they climbed in the boat together.

If you are drowning in your circumstances today, cry out to Jesus. Whatever they are, He will be there in an instant. He may not change them and He may not take you away from them, but He WILL walk with you through them. I am thinking I need Jesus to catch me today. How about you?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Eyes Are On You

2 Chronicles 20:12b    "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."

Jehosaphat was the king of Judah and he had a problem. Several other kingdoms (Moab, Ammon, and Aram) had joined forces and were dispatching a "vast army" to attack Judah. Jehosaphat was alarmed, but he did not panic or call together a panel of advisors in his war room to try and decide how to handle this situation. He inquired of the Lord. Not only that, he proclaimed a fast for all of Judah and the people came together to pray and seek the Lord's help. In verses 6-12, he stands before the people and prays a wonderful prayer praising God and acknowledging His sovereignty. But I love the last line, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."

I wonder what battle you are facing? I am facing a few. Decisions that weigh heavy on the heart and mind. Concerns for the future. Yesterday I wrote about letting Jesus carry our burdens, letting Him walk with us through the difficult times. Jehosaphat is the Old Testament example of doing just that. He hadn't a clue how to handle this impending military disaster, but he was looking to the Lord for an answer. He focused on God's power to answer and deliver them out of their situation rather than relying on his own strength and wisdom.

Further on in chapter twenty, the Lord answered him through Jahaziel. In verses 15 - 17 He said, "Do not be afraid or discouraged...for the battle is not your own, but God's...You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you...Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you." Hallelujah! We do not face our trials or our enemies alone! We just need to take up our positions, stand firm and watch what God will do!

So many times I get overwhelmed, frustrated, aggravated, irritated because I am trying to manage my burdens and battles on my own. If I could only remember to just stop and say, "Lord, I don't have a clue what to do here, but I am just looking to You for an answer." I think that is possibly the prayer we should start each day with. Then, when things are really getting out of hand, we should call a few friends and we could all seek the Lord together. Can you imagine?

"Oh, Lord, help me to always look to you for deliverance and answers. I am so clueless and You know it all. Thank You for being on my side."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Get Some Rest

Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden in light."

So tell me if this sounds like your life:
"Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there" (Isaiah 28:11)
Sounds like mine. Just keep going and doing and making everyone happy and spreading yourself too thin and pretty soon you are feeling like you can't put one foot in front of the other and the next thing you know you are weary and burdened. Yes, I know it is poor sentence structure, but don't you just get tired reading it like that! It's a "run on" sentence. Just like us it keeps going and going. One thing I am learning - I am not the Energizer Bunny.

In the scripture in Matthew, Jesus gives us the picture of a yoke. A yoke is a wooden harness that fit over the shoulders of two oxen so they could pull some sort of equipment or cart. Doesn't seem like the sort of thing someone who is tired would want to do. But Jesus asks us to come to Him. Who? The weary and burdened. And do what? Take his yoke and LEARN FROM HIM. Somewhere along the years in a Bible study, I was taught that this is a picture of a young oxen being taught to use the yoke. It is placed over his head and he walks in it, but the stronger, older oxen is actually carrying the weight of the burdern. The younger oxen is learning from him, but not really doing any of the pulling.

Jesus says He will give us rest. Oh, how wonderful that sounds! So, what do you need to rest from? Are you burdened over an illness? A loved one who is away from the Lord? Sin in your life? A schedule that has you doing and doing and accomplishing nothing for the Kingdom? Maybe you are just striving on your own to live the Christian life and the burden of your own legalism is weighing you down. Whatever it is, just reach over and lay it on Jesus shoulders. You will still have it around you, but He will carry the weight. He will teach you how to walk in it. Best of all - He will give you a rest from carrying all that burden around all by yourself. 

I love what Jesus says about Himself in these verses. He wants to help us and teach us and He is gentle and humble in heart. I picture a gentle, patient teacher helping a child through a difficult lesson - because in essence that is what he is doing.

Psalm 23:1-3 "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul...."

We need to come to Him and let Him rest our souls. Restore our souls....

Mmmmmm...I'm feeling better already.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Do You Believe?

Matthew 9:27-31 "As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him calling out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!' When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, 'Do you believe that I can do this?' ' Yes, Lord,' they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, 'According to your faith will it be done to you'; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, 'See that no one knows about this.' But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region."

What desperate need do you have in your life right now that you are bringing to the Lord for healing? Maybe it is a broken marriage, or a sick or rebellious child. Maybe you have a job situation that you just can't handle anymore. Maybe you have an illness that is affecting you personally.

In the ninth chapter of Matthew, two blind men began to approach Jesus. In this day and time, blindness was a double curse. Aside from the fact that they would have been unable to work to sustain themselves, thus reducing them to beggar status, blindness was considered to be a punishment for sin. These men would have been some of the lowest in the culture. In spite of their status, there are some things we can learn from the faith of these men:
  • They pursued Jesus. They didn't sit around and wait for Jesus to come to them or even for a friend to take them to a healing service. They got up on their own and followed him.
  • They acknowledged who Jesus was. By calling him the Son of David, they were saying that they believed him to be the Messiah. They were making him Lord and putting their hope in him.
  • They were humble. They didn't run after Jesus demanding that he heal them from their blindness. They simply started by asking for mercy. As beggars, what they were most used to asking for was money from every person who walked past them. They did not ask for support or make any financial demands on Jesus other than asking for him to have mercy on them.
  • They were persistant. It appears that Jesus didn't respond to them immediately. They followed him for a distance and then the scripture says he went indoors. They followed him home. They weren't taking no for an answer.
  • They had faith. When Jesus finally spoke to them, he asked them a question: Do you believe I can do this? There does not appear to be any hesitation in their response. Immediately they said, "Yes Lord". Jesus acknowledged their faith and told them that was what had gained their healing.
  • They became evangelists. Once Jesus healed them, even though he told them not to, they went everywhere telling what he had done for them. They scripture says they told the entire region.
Sometimes it seems we want to come to church, sing a song, listen to the sermon, say a quick prayer and expect God to come to our rescue. Are you pursuing Jesus in your life? Are you passionate about him? Do you come to him and passionately present your needs to him? I don't believe those blind men knocked on the door and stood their calmly and quietly while they politely asked his mercy. I think they ran. I think they pounded on the door. I think they shouted to get his attention. Repeatedly. They persisted. They had faith.

And then - when we have prayed over a situation and Jesus has answered our prayer, how do we respond? Do we sit back with a smile on our face and thanksgiving in our heart? Maybe. But then what do we do with it? Say a prayer of thanksgiving to God and never tell another soul? People can argue theology and doctrine with us all day long, but noone can ever argue with your testimony of a personal experience that you have had with Jesus Christ. We need to preach the gospel and we need to tell others of the message in scripture, but they will be won more quickly by our personal testimony than any other message we can give them. These men went to everyone they could find and told them what Jesus had done for them. A powerful message.

Are we pursuing him passionately and persistently? Are we humbly asking for mercy? Are we acknowledging who he is or just treating him like a vending machine where we can stick in a prayer and pull out what we want? Do we still have faith when the answers aren't immediate? Are we sharing his work in our lives with others? I believe Jesus is just as willing to show mercy and respond to our requests as he was to the blind men. We just have to get up and go after him.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Why Are You So Afraid?

Matthew 8:26 "Jesus said, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?'"

In my last post I talked about not worrying. I've been worrying. Tonight, I am asking the question, "What are you afraid of?" because I am afraid.

In the passage where Jesus asks this question of his disciples, they were in a situation. They were in a little fishing boat, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, in the middle of a storm. Wind and waves everywhere and nowhere to go but in the water. They were in a complete panic. Jesus was sleeping. Like a baby.

I would like to think that I would be a better disciple than the disciples were. They had just seen him heal several people, they had seen him cast out demons, they had seen him do miracle after miracle. You would think they would be strutting around the deck of that boat with all the confidence in the world that Jesus could handle this little 'ol storm. I have a sneaking suspicion that I would have been in a panic right along with them, though. You know why? Because I do the same thing now.

How many times in my life have I seen him step in and take care of me and my family when times were tough? How many times have I seen him open my eyes to see that the storm around me really isn't all that overwhelming when he is there with me? How many times has he given me peace? And, yet, here I am - at a crossroad and just can't imagine making the turn. I can't see what is around the bend. I don't know what the future will bring. What if....what if....what if...? Seems like I recently read somewhere that someone wrote "worry is nothing but negative meditation". Oh yeah, that was me!

I don't know what is around the bend or what the future holds, but Jesus does. I know there are a million "what if" scenarios, and Jesus knows if they will happen or not and exactly the solution to every single one. And in the middle of my storm, he is perfectly calm. Not worried about a thing. I just need to ask for his help, step out on faith, and hold his hand.

Why do I worry? Why am I afraid? Because I only have a little faith. But faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain. So I'm off, in a little fear and trepidation, to move a mountain. Coming?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Do Not Worry

Matthew 6: 25-34 "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life....And why do you worry about clothes?...So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?"...For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day  has enough trouble of its own."

Dictionary.com defines "meditation" as continued or extended thought. It gives a synonym of "mulling over". In the ancient Jewish tradition, meditation did not always take on the yoga-like characteristics of sitting in the lotus postion and "emptying" your mind. It was a much more active thought process that included chanting or repeating verses from the Torah, visualization, deep thought and reflection on specific words or phrases. They even had a form of meditation called "walking meditation" where they would meditate as they went about their day. Part of the meditative process might even involve discussion with others on a topic or a verse.

Repeatedly in the Psalms, the writers talk of meditating on God's acts and his law. In Psalm 19:14, David says, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Again in 104:34 an unknown psalmist asks that his meditation be pleasing to the Lord.

So this begs the question, Can my meditation be displeasing? If it can, what would displeasing meditation look like? Well, back to the definition and description of meditation. If you think of doing all these things in a negative light, it looks a lot like worry. Do you repeat concerns to yourself over and over? That's worry. Do you visualize bad things happening? That's worry. Do you spend a lot of time in deep thought and reflection on something negative in your life? That's worry. Are you constantly talking to others about negative topics in your life? Worry. Worry is nothing but negative meditation.

I'm not saying that we can't express our concerns and share our burdens, but there comes a time when we have to let it go and let God have it so he can deal with it. These verses in Matthew talk about the provision of God and his blessings for us. They talk about how our heavenly Father already knows what we need and when we constantly worry we are expressing doubt that he can take care of us.

In Psalm 145, we have David writing again. In verses 3 & 4, he talks of the greatness of God's acts and in verse 5 he states "They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works." Sounds a lot better than a lot of the stuff I find myself thinking about all day.

What if, we had a Bible verse for every worry that we had? What if, every time we found ourselves beginning to worry over something, we took out one of those verses and thought about that instead? What if, like David in Psalm 119, we meditated on God's Word instead of our worries? What if, we wanted our meditation to be pleasing to God? Think you don't know how to meditate? If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate.

So I am going to recommend that we all get some 3X5 cards, or create a file in your PDA, however you want to do it. Make ourselves a list of verses that specifically address our concerns. Tomorrow, we all need to think about the glorious splendor of God's majesty instead of whatever it is that has been eating at us and we need to meditate on God's wonderful works. I bet we will all be in a better mood.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Angry Over Murder?

Matthew 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement."

So I had made up my mind I was going to be the only person in the world not posting about the Casey Anthony murder trial and verdict tonight...but some days you just can't leave things alone. (sigh)

There are a lot of people angry over the "not guilty" verdict that was handed down today. Whether you believe she did it or not, any Christian should be able to relate. We have all received a "not guilty" verdict that we didn't deserve. The simple fact of the matter is that with God, there are no degrees of sins - only sin, period. And Romans is very clear about the fact that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." In John 8, when Jesus intervened with the woman caught in adultery, he never said to anyone that she wasn't guilty. He just said, "Whoever is without sin, cast the first stone." They all left - no stones cast that day.

A child is dead, a mother will never be the same whether she is guilty or not, a family has been ruined and torn apart. And there but for the grace of God go all of us. We have no right to sit in judgement on this woman just because the world might say we are a "better person". Jesus says we are all the same. 

Casey desperately needs Jesus and she desperately needs prayer. The whole family does.

For all of those posting that you are turning on your porch lights for Caylee tonight, I hope that you will also take that as an opportunity to pray for her mother and her grandparents and all of the others that are suffering directly related to this situation. Jesus said we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I think he would include all of those we think are unlovely in that statement. Jesus died for Casey Anthony just like he died for you. None of us deserve the forgiveness we received. I'm just sayin.....

Monday, July 4, 2011

True Freedom

John 8:31-32 " To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

I don't believe there is anyone more patriotic than I am. I tear up at the National Anthem and the sight of the flag. I can barely get through the Pledge of Allegiance. I appreciate the freedom that we have as Americans.

That said, I am concerned about our country and the direction it is headed. We are beginning to lose many of the freedoms we have come to enjoy. There are many who say we need to reform our government and our laws, and you will get no argument from me. However, it is difficult to get people to buy into a value system where they have no vested interest. Yes, we need reform, but before that can happen people have to want it and believe in it. They have to have a change of heart.

Jesus came to the Jews and told them that his teaching was the truth and the truth is what would set them free. These were people who had been slaves in Egypt, captured by the Assyrians and Babylonians, and were currently under Roman rule. They knew what it was to want freedom and Jesus brought it to them. Not freedom from the tyranny of government but from spiritual sin and death.

I have a note in my Bible margin and I have no idea who to credit it to but it says this, "We all desire freedom but often we misuse that which we desire most and as a result we lose it. We destroy the thing we seek by the manner in which we seek it." We want freedom  - so we live life with no rules, no values, no morals and we end up with a diseased, depraved, destructive society.

Jesus came to give us freedom - freedom from ourselves. Left to our own devices we will destroy ourselves, but in v.36 Jesus tells us that when he sets us free, we are free indeed! Even in a morally corrupt society we can be free! And once we are free, we have an obligation to take this freedom to the rest of the world.

When people's hearts are changed, laws will change and we will see true reform. Until then, reform is a bandaid on a very deep wound. What we need more than reform is revival. Can you start one today?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Not Fit to Carry His Sandals

Matthew 3:11-12 "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

John the Baptist....definitely one of the more interesting characters in scripture. First cousin to Jesus, he comes out of the desert wearing weird clothes and eating weird food and telling people they need to repent. The Jews had not had a word from God in 400 years and when it finally comes...it's John the Baptist. Kind of makes me wonder what we would do with him if he were around today?

One thing I love about John the Baptist - for him it wasn't about John. It was all about Jesus. John knew full well that he was the one coming to "prepare the way for the Lord".

Picture it in a modern day setting. He comes out of nowhere. He is preaching a message that people are coming to hear. He has a huge following. By worldly standards, he is wildly successful. One might be tempted to keep all that glory for themselves.Yet, he says to the people up front, "It's not about me - there is another one coming and HE is the one you need to listen to. I'm not even good enough to take off his shoes."

Of course, it is one thing to say it - it is a whole other thing to do it. But in verse 13, when Jesus actually comes into the scene, John does exactly what he has been called to do. He tries to defer to Jesus. John doesn't want to baptize him - he feels unworthy.

Why do we do what we do? What are the motives behind it? When we serve, teach a class, sing a song, pray a prayer, who is it about? If it is about us and the attention we can draw to ourselves, we are no better than the Pharisee praying in the temple, thanking God that he is better than other men. Every act, every thought, every word has to be about Jesus. In Rick Warren's book "40 Days of Purpose", the first line reads, "It's not about you". How true. It is about preparing the way for the one whose shoes we are not worthy to untie.

Are you preparing the way today? Are you getting yourself out of the way so you can truly serve? Are you pointing people to Jesus instead of gaining attention for yourself? That's what John did. That's what we are called to do.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Searching for Jesus

Matthew 2: 1-2, 9-12 "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.'... After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star that they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house the saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned ina deram not ot go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."

I know, I know. It isn't Christmas. But I started reading through the gospel of Matthew yesterday and here I am at Christmas in July. The lessons we can learn from the Magi, though, are timeless.
  • They were actively searching for Jesus. They didn't sit at home and wait on some divine revelation, they didn't do an online search, they didn't wait for someone else to find him and bring them to him. They got up, got on their camels, and headed out. They made the effort to go and find him. What would happen if we really searched for him? He promises us in Jeremiah that if we search for him we will find him. Later in Matthew, Jesus himself says we should seek FIRST the kingdom of God and we will receive what we need. And what we really need is him - if we search for him, we will find him.
  • When they found him, they were overjoyed. Do we really get excited when Jesus reveals himself to us or do we completely miss him like the Jews of the day did? Are your eyes open to see what he is showing you everyday about himself - through his word, the world around you, other people? And when you see it are you excited and overjoyed to know a little more of him or just a little "bah humbug"? (sticking with the Christmas theme) Paul says in Philipians that he wants to "know Christ" - that was the passion of his life. It should be ours.
  • They bowed down and worshiped him. This should always be our response to the presence of Christ. There are so many places in scripture where God revealed himself to man in such a real way that their response was to fall on their faces. Most notable to me is the revelation of Christ to John in Revelation. John knew Jesus on earth intimately, but confronted with the resurrected Christ he fell down as though dead. How often do we get on our faces before him and worship him just for who he is?
  • They brought him worthy gifts. These were not gifts on would give to a commoner, but to a king, someone of importance. What are we bringing to him? Only what's left over or are we bringing him our best? Are we serving him sacrificially or just doing what we can? Are we giving him all of us? That is the only worthy gift we have.
  • They were responsive to God's instruction. When he told them not to return to Herod, they didn't go. He didn't have to tell them twice. God wants and honors our obedience to him.
Often we think of the Magi as the guys that wear the really cool costumes in the Christmas play, but they were so much more. They were probably among the very first true seekers of Christ - and they found him and responded to him in the only way they could...joy,worship, offerings, obedience. What lessons we can learn from the Magi today!

Friday, July 1, 2011

God With Us

Matthew 1: 22-23 "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means God with us.'"

Jesus came to earth so that God could be with us. Let's just stop and meditate on that for a moment.

Why on earth - or in heaven as the case may be - would God want to be with us so badly that He would send His Son from the glory of heaven to live down here like a mere mortal human? If you really just stop and think on it for a few minutes, instead of becoming clearer, it only becomes more astounding and mind boggling. Why indeed?

Not only is He with us but He is REALLY with us. I mean, I "dwell with" my husband, but I am not always in his presence. He doesn't always know exactly what I am doing nor I him. He definitely does not always know what I am thinking.... Psalm 139 gives us an idea of just how "with us" God is:
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there  your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."  vv. 7-12
God is everywhere we are and go and He wants to be there with us. I so don't get that. Sometimes, I don't even want to be with me where I am - why would God want to be there? I think the answers lie in the verses above...so that His hand can guide us and hold us fast....so that we have a light in the darkness.

How does it make me feel that God is with me always? Maybe a little uneasy at times, but whose fault is that? That is just me wanting to hide in the darkness. Mostly, it is comforting to know that He is there in the form of His Spirit. He will give me that guiding nudge when I am about to say or do the wrong thing. He will give me that sense of peace in a situation where I should be afraid. And most of all, He will just love me wherever I am - even in the darkness.

Is God truly with you? How does that make you feel? Think you are far from His presence? You aren't. You just need to ask Him to take down the barriers - the sin in your life that is blocking the way. Do you know that you have never had Him with you? He wants to be with you! Tell Him you are sorry for your sin, ask Him to forgive you and come to be a part of your life. That is a prayer He always answers! Then He will be with you, too.