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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.