Wednesday, September 10, 2014

HIS Words, My Comfort

I know there will be sorrows. I know life will be hard.  I know that death has lost its sting and Satan his victory.  But my heart still breaks and tears still stream down my face for those that are suffering in the here and now. My prayers are jumbled and disjointed.  I am trying to distract myself with work but my heart keeps interrupting my thoughts and the prayers begin again.

There are no words of healing that I can give. No gestures of comfort that will make anything better. I can just be there and pray.  That is all I have to give. The peace that passes all understanding will descend where Christ is present.  There is comfort in that knowledge.  I have no idea how those that don't know Christ make it through the tragedies of this world.  He is my only lifeline and hope in the midst of the heartbreaking news that bombards us day in and day out.

His words of comfort and peace and promise are what keep me going.  Today my eyes continue to fill with tears as I pray for my friends that are saying goodbyes, for those facing giants that won't be slain this side of eternity, and for the saints that are suffering in His name around the world as I type these words. His words are what I need to read, write on my heart and fill my mind.  His words that remind me that I mourn and weep and feel out of sorts because this is not my home.  This sorrow and grief is not what we are meant to know. 

 
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me; YOUR rod and YOUR staff , they comfort me." Psalm 23: 4 (NIV84)
 
 
"YOU are my hiding place; YOU will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." Psalm 32:7 (NIV84)
 
"But I call to GOD and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress and HE hears my voice." Psalm 55:16-17 (NIV84)
 
"Because YOU are my help I sing in the shadow of YOUR wings.  My soul clings to YOU; YOUR right hand upholds me." Psalm 63:7-8 (NIV84)
 
"Though YOU have made me see troubles, many and bitter, YOU will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth YOU will again bring me up. YOU will increase my honor and comfort me once again." Psalm 71:20-21 (NIV84)
 
"Know that the LORD is GOD. It is HE who made us, and we are HIS; we are HIS people, the sheep of HIS pasture." Psalm 100:3 (NIV84)
 
"I wait for the LORD, my soul waits and in HIS word I put my hope." Psalm 130:5 (NIV84)
 
"Praise be to the GOD and FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the FATHER of compassion and GOD of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from GOD. For just as the sufferings of CHRIST flow over into our lives, so also through CHRIST our comfort overflows."
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV84)
 
"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those that fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that JESUS died and rose again and so we believe that GOD will bring with JESUS those who have fallen asleep in HIM." 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV84) 
 
"I have told you these things, so that in ME you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV84)
 
"I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of GOD is with men, and HE will live with them.  They will be HIS people, and GOD himself will be with them and be their GOD.  HE will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:3-4 (NIV84)
 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Choice Is Required

"How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God , follow him." 1 Kings 18:21
 
 
Elijah posed this question to the people of Israel prior to his showdown with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel.  The last part of this verse says it all as to where the hearts of the people of Israel were camped.
 
"But the people said nothing."
 
 
I think this is one of those times when silence says it all.  More like screams it.  No one jumped up to declare their loyalty to God Almighty.  Nope.  They were holding out for Baal to win the day. Then they could go about their lives and not have to straighten up and fly right.  And when Elijah declared that the god who answers with fire is God...well the silence erupted into a chorus of voices declaring this decision-making process "good."  A good fire show always makes choosing the right god easier. Problem is the people of Israel already knew who God was and is.  He had been declaring Himself to them for centuries.  They had chosen not to listen.  They had made their choice.
 
I wonder how we would choose today if the church had to choose a side.  Choose God's way or the world's way.  Choose the Word of God over the word of man.  Choose surrender to Christ rather than happiness in this life. 
 
Would we choose wisely?  Are we choosing correctly? Or is our silence condemning us?
 
Once again, silence speaks volumes. This is what the people of Israel heard after the priests of Baal had shouted and pleaded all day.  Nothing.  They heard absolutely nothing.
 
 
"But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention."  1 Kings 18:29
 
 
Imagine that...false gods not listening, responding or answering. Why do we, meaning those of us that allegedly know the Holy One of Israel, why do we continually expect the gods of our own creation to listen to us, care about us, or rescue us?  They do not exist anywhere but in our minds.  We can try to recreate God into a god that does our bidding, follows our rules, and bows to our demands, but we will fail every time.  God does not change.  Who He was in the Old Testament is who He is in the New Testament, and who He is today is who He will be tomorrow.  (Hebrews 13:8)
 
Isn't that what we should desire in the God we worship?  A God that is consistent and doesn't change according to popularity votes or demands of an evil and fallen world.  Why do we want a God that excuses sin and changes His mind and gives our awful behavior a rubber stamp of approval?  Where is the justice in that?  If He excuses one sin and "declares" it okay via the words of those that are "progressive" (i.e. those smarter than every Bible scholar in the history of the world, Moses, Paul and Jesus), why not excuse all that He has labeled as sin in the Bible?  What's wrong with lying, cheating, and murdering?  Where are we willing to draw our proverbial line in the sand?  
 
 
"Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.  When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "the Lord-he is God! The Lord-he is God!"  1 Kings 18: 38-39
 
 
Are we waiting on fireballs from heaven before we are willing to choose a side?  Or is His Word, His Son's life for our sins, sufficient enough for our knees to bow and our tongues to confess?  There is no middle area.  You either believe His Word or you don't.  You either except God on His terms or you create a god of your own making. 
 
You are free to choose either, but a choice will be made. If you believe the God of the Bible is the one true God then your only option is to follow Him.  Not the world. Not your desires. Him
 
Any choice other than Christ Jesus puts you on the same side as the priests of Baal, which is on the wrong side of eternity. 
 
How long will you waver between the two?  How long?   
 
Today's reading: 1 Kings 18:16-39
Further readings:  Psalm 77:13; Jeremiah 16:20; Exodus 34:14; Psalm 24: 4-5; Psalm 4:2-3; John 14:6; Joshua 24:15

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Wisest Prayer

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."  Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV)


I pray many things over my three sons.  The usual stuff.  Keep them safe on the football field. Let them do well on tests.  Give them good friends.  Preserve their life and my sanity.  You know..."mom" prayers.  Moms have a whole arsenal of prayers at the ready.  At a moments notice we can hit our knees (figuratively if driving), and bombard the throne room of heaven with our heart felt pleas.  

I have a friend that says she prays for her sons to get caught if they are doing something wrong.  And she tells them that she prays this prayer.  Not sure why they would want to test that particular prayer, but teenage boys seem to believe they are invincible.  Moms pray for healing, health, safety, intelligence, and the salvation of their sons.  We pray they will grow into fine young men that will work hard, love well, and make us proud. We pray they will be a force for good in this world and that they will serve the Lord in all they do and say.  

We pray all the promises of heaven over them.  But today I realized there is one prayer that I don't pray enough over them.  

A prayer for wisdom.

As I read through the wisdom sections of Proverbs today, I realized the one thing I should request for my children, after they have given their hearts to the Lord, is that they have wisdom.  Not worldly wisdom, though that can come in handy, but the wisdom that God grants to those that seek Him.  If they have the wisdom of the Holy One, everything else falls into place.  

Solomon says in Proverbs 2:9-1, once you have wisdom granted by God,

"Then you will understand what is right and just and fair-every good path.  For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you." (NIV)

If they have wisdom, they know what they should do, how they should behave, how they should treat others, and what their priorities should be.  If they build on a foundation of seeking after God and what He desires, they will be wise in all they say and do.  Wisdom does not guarantee an easy life or a successful one by worldly standards.  However, wisdom from the Lord does promise blessings and abundant life in Christ for those that seek Him.  Wisdom from the Lord provides them with standards to live by and a confidence that they are living a life pleasing to the God they serve.  

The third chapter of Proverbs may be one of the best parenting guides in the Bible.  We should be passing all of this wisdom on to our children.  Here are some of the jewels from this chapter:

"Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart..." verse 3

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." verses 5-6

"Fear the Lord and depart from evil." verse 7

"Honor the Lord with your possessions..." verse 9

"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so." verse 27
(NKJV)

As I read through this chapter, I was drawn to verses 21-24.  It is a plea of a parent to a child, specifically a son.  These verses will soon be plastered to the mirror in my sons' bathroom, to their bedroom doors, to the refrigerator, to the pantry, and any other eye-level spot I can conceive.  I want them to know that with the Lord's wisdom within them, there is nothing this world can throw at them that will leave them floundering or uncertain.  If they gird themselves with the knowledge of the Lord, and revere Him above all else, the wisdom they seek will be granted to them in full measure.  His desires will become their desires.  What breaks His heart will break their hearts.  What He loves, they will love.  What He despises, they will despise.  

They will live for Him.  Wisely.  

"My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.  Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.  When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet." Proverbs 3:21-24 (NIV)

All the prayers in my arsenal can be summed up in one prayer.  Give them your wisdom, Lord.  Let them seek you with all their heart.  May your wisdom and understanding be more precious to them than gold or silver.  Let them choose your ways over the ways of the world.  Make them wise, Lord, make them wise.  


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Messes aren't Beautiful



It has become an epidemic.  But short of the Internet imploding, I'm not sure there is a cure.  Brave, brave souls are baring all on their blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.  The battle cry has been sounded and one and all have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon of being "authentic."

God help us.

I'm all for honesty.  I vote for being "real."  I believe in telling it like it is.  But having access to the whole world via social media has added a whole knew spin to "sharing your story."  Boundaries no longer exist.  The more gore the better.  The more "beautiful the mess" the more shares and likes you get on Facebook.  The more screwed up your life appears to be (of course, whether it really is or isn't is left to speculation), the braver you are and the more followers you get on Twitter.

MORE. MORE. MORE.

Contrary to the cute commercial with the cute little girl, more is not always better.  Sometimes, oftentimes, okay MOST times, LESS is most definitely more.  And right now, just for the record, we need LESS "honest" sharing about the beautiful mess that is your life.  Yes, we all have messes.  Some are hidden in our coat closets and some are piled up at our feet and causing a right foul stench in our lives.  Let's clear one thing up. Messes are not good things, people.

Stop celebrating them.

I don't see anything brave about dealing with the messes in your life.  It's actually just called "being a grown up."  For thousands of years folks have done it without fanfare or awards.  No pats on the backs, but often a kick in the pants has been used to get the process started.  And the fact that you are "addicted to praise on your website"  or dealing with any number of "issues" does not elevate you to newsworthy or praiseworthy status.  It makes you human.

Get over yourself.  Write about something or someone other than yourself.  You know, just to spice things up a little.

And for those Christian bloggers out there that feel the need to entertain rather than preach the Gospel while they are being "authentic," please state this clearly in your "mission/purpose/calling-in-life" statement.  I love a great blog about parenting as much as the next person.  Trials and tribulations and all that.  Great writing about life with teenagers or a husband or hitting Walmart on Saturday night is always appreciated, enjoyed and shared.  But please, for all that is good and holy, don't confuse your ability to write catchy articles about motherhood with the ability to preach the Word of God effectively.  Just because you can turn a tale of the last day of school into a hilarious essay, don't assume that you are capable of theologically explaining God's grace and redemption to other women who need to hear the whole story, not just your version that includes a lot of rainbows and unicorns.

Life is messy, but God came into our world to change that.  He came to fix our messes.  He did not die on the cross so we could literally brag about the dysfunctional aspects of our lives.  We all screw up and we all sin. Every. Single. Day.  But that is not something to be proud of or to celebrate.  People act like we should erase the word "shame" from the dictionary.  But personally, there are things I should be ashamed of that I do.  I should not proudly share them hoping to "encourage" others, when in reality I just want to be called brave and expect fist bumps from my legions of "friends."

Lately, women wear their messes as badges of honor.  Often it's sinful behavior.  Plain and simple.  The last thing we need to be doing is parading it around like it glorifies God.  There is a big difference between sharing that you are hopeless when it comes to reading your Bible regularly and telling the worldwide web that your marriage is on the brink of dissolving because you have the hots for your pastor.  Writing about how you can't remember where your Bible is at any given time much less remember to read it everyday and asking your readers to share ways to improve in this area is a perfect blog or Facebook post.  Your marriage issues should be between you and your spouse and a trusted counselor.  Not you and your spouse and North America.

Boundaries, people.  We need boundaries.

And a huge dose of discretion mixed with a shot of common sense.

Share your messes and intimate battles with a close friend.  Ask for prayer.  Try to change and fix the messes through the power you are given through the Holy Spirit.  But quit airing your dirty laundry with every status update or Tweet.

Our messes, and no, they aren't beautiful, don't always encourage others to avoid them.  Quite the opposite.   Often, when I hear of someone that struggles with something I struggle with it makes me think it is normal and okay.  No matter how not normal or how wrong it may be.  We are creatures that like to compare ourselves to others.  So we either end up thinking we are better than you because you have so many more messes than we do, or we think our messes are okay because they are the same messes you have.  One only has to read the vapid comments after one of these articles to confirm that people are only being validated in their own messes and not convicted to actually clean up their messes.

I have read articles lately that want to paint our lives in such a way that no matter what we do or say, its all okay because God loves us.  The main problem with this is that it is NOT biblical.  God does love us.  So much so, He died for us while we were still sinners.  BUT He calls us to be holy once we have been redeemed by His Son's blood.  We are new creations and our old sinful selves are dead.  Why then do we continue to celebrate a part of us that should be dead?  All of these brave declarations I have read lately were not filled with words of repentance or even a desire to change.  Just the declaration of the writer that she was proudly in the possession of a "beautiful mess."

Christ has redeemed us at great cost.  When we come to Him with our messes and sins in tow, He takes us and cuts the ties that bind us to these hindrances.  We can then run the race He will set before us.  We are to leave the messes behind.  Not wallow in them and hang them out for the world to see.  Yes, they are part of our story, but more importantly, they are part of our history.  Yes, God can and will use our messes to bring us to Him and turn us into the women He wants us to be.  But He has made us brand new.  Why do we, for the sake of acceptance by others, insist on celebrating our past and present failures? 

Before you post about your glorious and beautiful messes, ask yourself a few questions.  First, would I spill the beans about this mess face-to-face to a roomful of people I don't know?  Or do know?  Second, would the friends/family/exes/currents that are involved in the mess be okay with me sharing it with the known world?  Third, is my motive to bring glory to God?  Lastly, will anyone be truly encouraged or edified by the sharing of this mess?  If the answer is "no" to any of these questions, then please rethink going public with you mess-no matter how beautiful you may believe it to be.





Saturday, February 22, 2014

Something to Ponder...

"So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth."  I Corinthians 3:7 (NASB)

In today's world of instant access and unlimited web resources, I have noticed an increase in the number of "celebrity" preachers/teachers.  They write books, speak at conferences and write blogs and articles at what seems like a never-ending pace.  Some are truly preaching the Word of God and seem to be all about what the Bible has to say and not just what they can add to the conversation.  These men and women of God aren't preaching words that tickle our ears.  Rather, their words convict and move us toward our Bibles in search of the healing balm of the Holy Spirit.

Then there is a whole other group.  They are popular, sought after for weekend conferences, and have thousands upon thousands of "followers" on social media sites.  They also write numerous, though not as theologically sound, books and blog articles.  What worries me about this group of Christian speakers is they are almost worshipped by those that attend their conferences or read their written works.  Comments are in the realm of "oh my gosh, I love you!" to "you're speaking the words my heart needed to hear" to "you have changed my life-your talk wrecked me."  Really?  Isn't this stuff we should be speaking to our Savior, not just the person who is allegedly speaking about HIS words?  It seems there is the danger of placing these speakers above Christ or His Word.  When you start wondering what so-n-so would do or say, as opposed to Christ, you might have a problem.  

Don't get me wrong.  I have heard many Christians speak in the last four decades and many of them have been used by God to speak to my heart.  And I have read even more books.  But they preached/wrote on the Word and they were very careful not to stray from the Scriptures.  Many of these new speakers are all about being relevant and "authentic." Making sure their words are soundly founded on the Bible is not of the greatest importance to them.  Their talks are often about loving/accepting others or ten easy ways to be who you are meant to be.  These speakers tend to forget that we first have to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths before we can really love others well.  They also shy away from pointing out that being who we are meant to be is done by being more like Christ.  By being holy like God is holy.  Working on our holiness can't happen in ten easy steps and discussing it surely doesn't sell lots of tickets.

So all this made me wonder, if Jesus came and spoke to us today, would we be moved to tears? Would we be moved to change our lives? Would we want to leave it all behind and follow Him?  Would we want to read all the books He had ever written? All 66 of them? Would we want Him to sign our Bible, our t-shirt, or our arm? Would we deluge His social media with encouraging words of how great He was and how He really spoke to us and how He completely undid us? Would we worship Him and be blessed by His ability to speak His word to us? Would we show up and pay good money to hear someone just read the words of God Almighty? No commentary, no fluff, no great insights...just His words.

Would we?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

His Heart Was Grieved: Genesis 6-8

Reading the story of Noah reminds me of one thing...nothing is new under the sun.  Whatever we experience in our lives here in the present time has been experienced before by another human being in another time. Relatively speaking, of course.  Maybe three thousand years ago.  Maybe three seconds ago.  Birth, life, love, heartache, illness, death...all have been known before by another soul.

We are not the first to laugh or to weep.  We aren't the first to sin either.  That, my friends, has been going on since Adam and Eve chose poorly.  

Adam and Eve left us quite a legacy.  One that wreaked havoc throughout God's creation.  Their firstborn murdered their second born.  And so it began.  1600 and some odd years later, God is so fed up with His creation, He is ready to wipe the slate clean.  Why?

Sin.

He detests it.  More importantly, it grieves His heart.  We humans know grief.  We know how it rips apart your soul and renders your life a shell of what it once was.  Grief hurts.  We know this yet we still choose to grieve God's heart every time we sin. 

Yes, we choose to sin.  

And even though we choose disobedience, our sins are forgiven because of God's infinite grace. Forgotten as far as the east is from the west.  Washed clean by the blood of Christ.  

But they still grieve the heart of the Father that gave up His only Son to cleanse us of the sins we find so hard to let go.  As Christians, we know the price that was paid for our sins.  We are made righteous in God's eyes, but not sinless.  We still have choices to make.  

And boy, do we make some bad ones. 

Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Christ never changes.  Ever. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.   If sin grieved His heart during the days of Noah, so much so that He decided to wipe the earth clean with a flood, then He is still deeply grieved by sin today.  And tomorrow.  

God still takes sin seriously.  

We might need to start taking it seriously too.

Consciously avoiding sin is hard and trying work.  But necessary.  How can we justify flagrantly sinning when we know that it breaks God's heart.  Yes, He forgives us, but shouldn't we try to not sin.  When my boys do something I have specifically asked them not to do, it upsets me.  Not just because they ignored me, but because I know there are often unintended consequences for our disobedience.

They found this out the hard way on Christmas Day.

We were at my parents' house and relaxing after a nap-inducing lunch.  The boys were downstairs and we had texted them and sent #3 downstairs to tell then we needed them to come upstairs.  Yes, we were laid up in front of the TV and too lazy to mosey downstairs.  Unbeknownst to our satiated selves, they had once again found the forbidden exercise ball and begun to play with it.  This particular exercise ball has been the root of untold misbehavior and had been off-limits for years. But it's siren song could not be ignored.

Unlike the warnings to leave it alone.

Enter son #2 with a toy airsoft gun belonging to #3.  The stars, moon and planets align and son #1 throws the exercise ball at #2 just as he is raising the toy gun.  Ball meets gun and gun meets upper lip.  Screaming, crying and bleeding ensue.  And cussing.  By one very aggravated and perturbed mom.  In front of her very horrified mother.  One trip to the ER later, #2 has a glued and very fat lip, and #1 is mostly sorry that he had caused all this trouble.  

On Christmas.  

But he still couldn't understand how it happened.  

Sin. It messes up our world every stinking time it rears its ugly head.

We may be forgiven for our sins, but God does not always protect us from the consequences. And sometimes, like a large flood, He orchestrates those consequences Himself.  

We don't avoid sinning to be holier than others.  Noah was righteous and did exactly what God commanded and he didn't change one neighbor's heart.  No one said, "wow, Noah is onto something here, I think I am going to be more righteous."  They went about their sinful lives perfectly content to live in opposition to God. We are to avoid sinning because we shouldn't grieve God.  Especially after the price He paid for our sorry hides.

Yes, we are to look different to the world.  But we will not change others hearts by our actions or our words.  We are to be salt and light, not to impress others, but to point them to the One that can change their hearts.  We obey, not to earn our way into God's presence, but to express our gratitude for the gift we have been given.  We are made righteous in His eyes by Christ's sacrifice, not by anything we do or say.  But why would we want to declare ourselves "new creations in Christ" but continue to act like we have never heard our Savior's name?

God's grace is what saves us from ourselves, but it does not excuse our behavior or make our poor choices any less grievous.  We cheapen the grace we have been given when we choose to disobey. When we choose to grieve the heart of God.

Be it by choosing the forbidden fruit or by playing with the forbidden ball. 


                                                                                                                                                   

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

And It Was So

God said...and it was so.  These two phrases are dotted throughout the first chapter of Genesis.  They are what caught my eye this morning as I started my trek through the Bible.  I honestly have no idea how many times I have read the first chapter of the Bible.  But once again, I am in awe of how God shows me something new every time I open up His Word.

As I read the first sentence, I was reminded that this is where it all begins.  God's love for us begins with His creation of the world.  It was perfectly created with us in mind.  And then we messed it up because we were not content with perfection.

However, what caught my attention was those four little words.  And it was so.  It reminds me of all the promises that God will make in the years to come and how every last one will be fulfilled.  He says He will make Abraham's descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.  And it was so.  He promises the Hebrews that He will deliver them from Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land.  And it was so.  When the Israelites are sent into exile, He promises He will rescue them from their captors.  And it was so.

He promises to send a Messiah that will save Israel, and the world from their sins.  And it was so.


"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."  Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

All the promises God makes through the Old Testament, in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Isaiah, Daniel and Malachi, are all fulfilled in the birth of His one and only Son.  Jesus.  God said His Son would redeem us from our sins.

And it was so.