Monday, March 30, 2015

Learning to Rest In the Lord

Many churches teach the great commission for Christian's young and old is Matthew 28: 19-20 -
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The secret to the Christian life is to first learn how to sit/rest in the Lord!

Christians are admonished to "GO" and "DO" but even the apostles had to learn to wait and rest upon the Lord before they did anything for God. They waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit to descend upon them, to empower them to be able to be a vessel to have the Lord serve through them. We no longer need to wait upon the release of the Holy Spirit because since this first outpouring He is being continually outpoured to believers, but we must learn to rest in God.

We must rest our entire weight upon God, just as if we are sitting in a chair and resting upon its support. Spiritually our whole weight is our entire life (past, present and future) must be resting upon the Lord. Until we get to this point, we can not progress in our Christian "walk". Sitting comes before walking. Our deliverance of sin is not based on what we do, but on totally relying on what Christ has done. It is because of Jesus that we can confess, repent and be forgiven to walk clean, holy and righteous before God. This is a continual process of resting in grace, undeserved but provided mercy (forgiveness).

But let us look to Ephesians to understand spiritual what takes place at our salvation:
"The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, ... raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places... (1:17-21)" "And raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: ... for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not works, that no man should boast in glory." (2:6-9)
God made Jesus to sit first, and then by faith we through Him also must be made to sit with Him. Our salvation is a gift of grace, not of works; therefore, even more so, our Christian life is also by faith and grace and not done by works. Christianity begins in sitting. This is the greatest secret of spiritual life. Allow yourself to meditate upon this, envision it until you know deep within every crevice in your soul that you are His, and He is yours. Be satisfied, wanting nothing but more of Him.

We begin our Christian newness of life when we by faith see ourselves forgiven and made righteous by what Jesus has done for us. Never forget that in the end when Jesus was on the cross he spoke the words, "It is finished!" He did it all! We must first learn to take deep pleasure in God and what He has done for us, knowing there is nothing we can attain for ourselves.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Who or What is Your Isaac? Lay It Down

God created us for a relationship with Him. We have an inmate need to be in relationship with another. We want to be loved and to love. We want to be known and to know. We want to be accepted for who we are fully, knowing we are a continually messing up and in need of grace.

Open your Hand. Lay it Down. (lullaby by Veriasse on Deviant Art)

God is the only perfect relationship we will ever have.

So many times we try to fill this need for our relationship with other people, a career or another passion. We allow ourselves to be filled as much as possible with this "other" and think it is part of us that we absolutely can not live without. It is an obsession, an idol, but we think "it" is the very reason we are alive and without "it" we are purposeless, empty, even dead.

God is a jealous God. He says so in Scripture. He tested Abraham in this area. Abraham longed for a son to fulfill God's promise of having descendants that would be the number of the stars in the night sky. But Sarah did not get pregnant. In His quest for an heir, he slept with Sarah's maid and had a son named Ishmael (Mohammed was his descendant who started the new religion of Islam in the 600's).

But God did not forget to fulfill His promise to Abraham. Sarah did get pregnant and she had a son who was named Isaac - meaning laughter. Isaac was the joy of Abraham's heart. Not only did he fulfill God's promise, but he filled Abraham's heart. He was everything to Abraham - his passion, his joy, the reason for living in his old age.

God will not share his place in our life with another - whether that be a person, a thing, or an activity. Understand it is human nature to seek out the passion of our heart and to fill it. God wants to be that passion. He created us to be filled with His love. We are to first seek Him and His ways, and out of being filled we than pursue the desires of our heart that He gives us. He is the one who creates us to be the way we are; He longs for us to be full and happy. He wants us to have an abundant life, but we must place Him as our everything. Out of our relationship with God, our fullness, everything else will flow. We are stable to handle the crisis and traumas and human failures that come into our life.

But God will not share His place in our heart with another. Stop and ask yourself. Who or What is my Isaac? What do I think I cannot live without? Whatever it is - lay it down! Place it in an open hand and allow the Lord to remove it and if he desire to give it back. In my life, I whenever I recognize an "Isaac" I lay it down. Surprisingly God often returns it when I release it, but He does not have to. He alone is more than enough.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pure Religion -- Are You Pleasing To God?

Did you know that the reason God let the Israelites be taken into captivity is because they did not keep their religion pure?

Do you help the poor?

You may have not heard it said that way before but James defined "pure religion" as:
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)
When my husband told me one morning that the Israelites were taken into captivity because they did not take care of the poor, I was surprised. Frankly, I had never heard anyone say this. I have been reading the Books of the prophets all of last year (Isaiah  and Zephaniah) and the beginning of the year (Amos and Micah). I did not remember this warning or woe given to the people. How did I overlook it?

When I asked my husband for a reference he had me read Isaiah 1, and there it is!
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16-17)
Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves; everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, nor does the widow’s plea come before them. (Isaiah 1:23)
This was right after God had rebuked them from bringing sacrifices to him and holding feasts that were meaningless to Him because although they were going through the "churchy" motions, they were not living a life pleasing to God. They attended church, celebrated the holy days and met socially but their life was not dedicated to God's ways. They were not effecting their society for good and touching lives with the blessings of God because they were basically doing whatever they wanted to do in their life while keeping up with the religious requirements.

Oh, how this can sting personally!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ownership of Property - Out of My Window

I sit in my swervable, melon-light-green, upholstered chair looking out the dingy six-paned window of my developing office/work space, with my left leg propped up on my cream, plastic sewing machine and my right leg tucked neatly underneath me. My view goes deep into the bare, leafless tall assortment of trees that cluster the woods beyond and around our property. All is still, except the ever so slight sway of the tattered fabric atop the children's old wooden fort.

And it strikes me that this is my literal view of the world from my home. We've paid the mortgage consistently and in a few short years this little piece of the earth will for my lifetime--if we choice to remain here as we have the past two decades--by deed be ours.

Knowing many have more spectacular views from their windows, I also recognize many will never come close to having the simple, peaceful one I have right now.

Deep in thought about universal philosophies I am quickly brought back to reality... Still peering out of my window, I notice something fluffy moving into my view. I suppose it is some chilled little squirrel on this single digit temperature winter day. But no, I see this beautiful, bushy grey and white cat with a tail as long as its body. Recognizing him --our playful, adventurous, indoor cat (Grayson)--has somehow found his way out of our warm cozy home to taste the life lived on the wild side.

Of course, when I get up and go to the back kitchen door and call him in he is quite happy to comply. The only person to leave our house was my son early this morning to go to work, so that little rascal has had his fill of the winter freeze considering it is 1:30 in the afternoon now. I laugh at him. Give him a big hug and then place him back down to be about "the private life of Grayson the cat." For any cat owner knows, cats don't thank their owners from rescuing them; they don't view life that way. He is too independent to think I did him a favor; he thinks he did me a favor by coming in because I called.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Prayer - Spiritual Communication

Most people struggle with prayer, myself included. Prayer takes many aspects working together at the same time: faith and focus consolidates the majority of issues.

With Childlike faith, in spirit and truth

Through Spirit and Truth

A key Bible verse for prayer is John 4:24:
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Humans are physical bodies that have their soul (mind, will and emotions) and their spirit. Faith is believing God. It is birthed and developed by hearing God's Word, which is complete everlasting Truth. If we want to know God in truth, we must read, study and learn His Word, the Bible. But many times people become unable to worship God in prayer because they only possess a head knowledge of God and try to approach Him in their mind alone. Since God is spirit, we must pray in spirit and truth. We must approach God in spiritually. My spirit must reach out to connect to His. Simple prayer is a spiritual act of the believer.

While we can pray in any physical position of our body, it helps for us to find a way to bring our entire self into unison. This is why many people kneel to pray. In bowing before God, our physical body expresses the actions of our soul and spirit. We can just as well sit and bow our head or lay out on the floor before God. Each person and situation will be able to determine the best physical position to worship God in prayer.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Book of Micah - Prophet of Promise!

Most prophets declare the coming 'doom and gloom' because of the sin of mankind. And indeed, Micah, an Old Testament Prophet around 735 BC, did have harsh words against sinning and the destruction it would bring. But, surprisingly to me, Micah spends a lot of his time sharing about the coming of Jesus and the promise of good for those who choose God and obey.

Reading Micah

I must say after reading Isaiah and Amos, I was so happy to read Micah. Matter of fact, I spent almost all of last year in Isaiah chewing over it slowly, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. I would say it is a serious book of the Bible because the largest portions of Isaiah teach about the coming punishment/judgement for sin.

I love how the books of the Bible have a personal flare; the author--though each were inspired by the one and same Holy Spirit to write--gives his unique voice, as each other should! Too many authors today try to follow a formula that has been successful in being profitable and this is pushed by the fact that publishers seek authors that follow the formula for recent success. But it is my belief, if a person has to labor too much over voice/style, they are not being genuine and therefore they have failed themselves regardless of the amount of audience or success they achieve.

Micah, like Amos, is called by God to be a prophet out of the countryside. The Bible does not tell us his previous profession before he became a prophet. We simply know that he was obedient to God, and spoke what he heard, and gave his own response, particularly when God asked for one. I do not like to go to outside sources (extra-Biblical books) to discover more about a book I am reading because I don't want to be influenced by another human until I have gleaned all that I can from the Bible itself. So I have nothing more to share with you than what is disclosed within the Book of Micah.

Arise In Micah

Three times in this book I read the word 'arise'. I am sure this stands out for me since this year God gave me the theme of 'rise' for 2015. In Micah 2:10, God says,
"Arise and depart, for this is not your rest; because it is defiled, it shall destroy you, even with utter destruction."
In this first time 'arise' is used God has just explained that the cause for His coming judgement is sin.
"Woe to those who devise iniquity and work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance." (Micah 2: 1-2)
But quickly after God issues this warning and tells His people to arise, he gives a promise of future restoration:
"I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many men. The one who breaks open will come up before them; They will break out, pass through the gate and go , out by it; their king will pass before them, with the LORD at their head." (Micah 2: 12-13)
All too often we think of the remnant as being such a little group but God says, "they shall make a loud noise because of so many men." Does that not make your heart want to shout, "Glory to God!" Jesus, the LORD, will be at their head leading them. He truly is our good shepherd.

In Micah 2:10, God is warning His people that they have sinned and are living in sin. He calls for them to arise and depart. Through sin they have lost what was given to them and generations prior to them. God gave them the land, but they are to keep it on the condition that they remain obedient and honoring to Him. Is this not a stark warning to the church of America? We cannot pretend to play church and think that God is going to be pleased. He is looking for us to minister to, teach and heal those around us. Too many get cozy in the world as though this world was our resting place, but we need to keep an view of our eternal home always in mind. God is our inheritance - nothing on this world can substitute for Him.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Book of Amos - Judgement, Yet Promises

The Book of Amos is a pretty small Book of the Old Testament in the Bible.

Will we be fruitful for God?
Not surprisingly, today we rarely, if ever, hear a sermon based on the Amos because the majority of the book is telling about the judgements of God. "Sin, Judgement, and Repentance" fall into the "doom and gloom" theology of old that no one wants to hear about anymore. Yet, simply because it is not taught about does not mean it goes away. God's Word is Eternal, and what He says shall come to pass regardless of whether we read about it or believe it.

Amos began life as a shepherd, 

until God spoke to him and asked him to Prophecy to both Judah and Israel. I am certain his job as a herdsmen was much easier. Dealing with animals can usually be more peaceful than communicating to humans. Besides a "bah" here or there, or a nudge. You can't get into too much interpersonal conflict with a herd. You also spend a lot of time alone and in nature, so you are able to communicate to God, if your heart so desires. But, Amos had a complete change in career. He went from the life of a daily shepherd to the challenge of telling people God's displeasure with how they were living. He became a shepherd of a different sort, a shepherd of rebellious people.

God makes it clear that he will judge sin:

You--only have I known (or chosen)--of all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities. (Amos 3:2)
The more you know God, when you become part of His family and sit under his teachings, you will be held to a higher standard: all of your iniquities will be punished. Since you will know more clearly what is sin and what is not, God will hold you accountable for what you know. Children and young adults raised in a church with godly parents, need to take heed of this warning.

In the Book of Amos, God proclaims judgement on many: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah and Israel.

But consider this interesting point:

You cannot have mercy without judgement. Read that again: "You cannot have mercy without judgement." Just as there is no need for forgiveness or grace without sin, there is no need for mercy without judgement. A debt must be owed, before it can be paid or cancelled. Thankfully, God's grace is sufficient. We can never out-sin God's ability to forgive us. His grace abounds, even more so, to those who need it, and especially to those who recognize their need. 
His Grace Abounds to Us

The Angels will never know what it is like to be forgiven and to be restored by God's grace. But as humans, we can know God in this intimate way. We can know Him as our Restorer. We can love Him for redeeming us and wanting a relationship with us even though we are sinners.

God looks to each new generation to make their own decisions for their family:
I will not turn away Its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray. Their lies after which their fathers walked. (Amos 2:4)
I have a strong affinity for first generation Christians. I am one, therefore, I know it is not easy to turn from the way you were raised to build a family on design that is new to you. It takes great commitment and a lot of study to know God's Word. As always I am thankful that God is merciful and will add to what we do; He will make up (provide grace) for areas that we are short and He will correct points that we get wrong. We simply need to walk by faith that He is bigger than we are, and much more capable.

If you turn to God, and lead your family in His ways, you are not held accountable for the sins of your fathers. Every individual has an opportunity, no matter how they were raised or what horrible things they have experienced in life, to make their own personal decision to follow God and to receive His promises.

But beware, God is not fooled by half-hearted lip service. 

He knows whether you are gathering at church to socialize or to dedicate your life wholly to Him. He knows if a church is all about building an organization or about ministering to each member that makes up the living organism of a vibrant relationship with God community.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Submission - Who Do You Submit to?

Submission is a noun. The end.

Who do you submit to?

Don't you wish submission could stop there? I do sometimes. Well, that is, if it is me being asked to submit. Long ago in being trained in a literally Biblical church (some would call it legalistic, I might even today), I heard a lot about "submission". Some of it was truth that can be supported by the Bible; some of it was hogwash that was even cruel and chauvinistic, although it was taught with all sincerity and with a good heart intent.

We all submit to someone. Even if that someone is ourselves. But, often we submit to people, and frankly, what they ask us to do is sometimes not right or good for us.

The very good news is that ultimately the only person in life that you and I ever have to be totally submitted to is GOD! Whew! And that is very, very good, because God is not cruel or chauvinistic. Anything He directly asks of you will be for your good and at the right time. He knows what you need and when you need it. (Now, I am not going to have time to teach mutual submission of believers and submission of a wife to her husband since he is serving her sacrificially as Jesus gave His life for the church. Those two are completely two separate articles that can be followed up on.)

This is the HUGE difference between legalism and a personal relationship. In legalism, religious leaders study the Bible and prayerfully discern what all church members should obey. Basically they outline rules that according to their best understand they believe are Biblically sound and therefore they deem these rules should be followed by everyone in the church. Overtime these rules can be added to or subtracted, but most commonly added to and even many years down the road people can even forget the original reason why the rule was instituted. Everyone simply knows if you attend that particular church it is what is acceptable or not.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sacrifice and Servant - Motherhood, Sisterhood

The truth is I do not know the first thing about sacrifice and servanthood. I like to pretend I do. I talk like I do and I can give accounts in my life when I have both sacrificed what I wanted and served others. And in fact, it is true that I have done both at times in my life. But it is not natural for me. In the moments when no one is looking but God, I often am irked that I am asked to do something that is not what I was hoping to be doing.

Being asking to do something can be a literal pain in the neck!

I want my own time and I want to do what I want to do. 

This core desire run complete perpendicular to God's desire for me and my life. So when I am interrupted, cutoff from my intended direction, asked to wait because someone else needs or wants something, who am I fighting with? What am I fighting with?

Selfishness is a core sin that compels us to do so much. In a survival sense, selfishness can be lifesaving, but only if you are alone. In life on earth being alone is a rarity. So everyone all day long gets opportunities to make a choice, am I going to sacrifice and be a servant to God and others or am I going to do what I want to do.

And I do not know about you, but I can get angry, really ticked off, by the simplest thing that I might be asked to do. Matter of fact, big things can be motivating; they can stroke our ego that we are needed or wanted to tackle a job that others are not able to do. But not emptying the cat litter, or folding a load of laundry or cleaning a toilet! Even preparing dinner night after night gets very mundane for me, especially since I have a very limited number of items that I can make that please my family.

I want to be free. I just sang songs at church this morning about being free. Jesus sets me free. And then I walk in the back door and get asked to do a menial task and my insides crash. I want to explode because I was already planning how my next few hours were going to go. And taking 15 minutes to do something for someone else was not calculated into that plan.

What a hypocrite! 

Is God using this to show me that I am not all that I think I am. Or even worse, now I remember something I prayed at church today. I asked God to show me my sin. Oh, boy, I knew how horrible that felt the last time I asked God to do that about 25 years ago. What in the world... that is just it... it was not of the world. That prayer was Holy Spirit inspired, because I would never have asked God to do that!

Monday, January 26, 2015

How To Not Feel Like a Failure

It is easy to fail.

We all have heard that in order to succeed a person must learn how to fail. We all hope we can learn to fail forward, instead of digging a hole and falling into it.

Parenting, like all challenges in life, can feel like we are on slippery ground.

Failing and feeling like a failure are to different things.

As a mother, I can reflect back to different times in my parenting life that I failed to be the mother I wanted to be. For example, I said or did something that would have been better to not have been done. None of us can rewind time. What we can do is repent, that is asking God and others for forgiveness, but also forgiving ourselves. And in repentance, we follow through with a change in our behavior, continually turning from our sinful ways toward the way God wants us to live.

Also as a mother, it is easy to look at our children and assume if they are doing well in life, we succeeded; however, if they are not, we have failed. Neither conclusion is appropriate and true.

Our success as a parent depends on our obedience to God. Did we daily--moment by moment--trust and obey HIM? And when we did not, did we repent? If you can answer yes to these questions you succeeded as a parent. But even if you know there were times that you refused to repent and ask for forgiveness, God's mercies are never ending. It is NEVER too late to ask God for His forgiveness and grace.

We can only be personally accountable to God for our own life. We cannot take on the choices of others and allow that to make us feel like a success or a failure.

Don't listen to the voice of your enemy that will speak words of condemnation. It is your fault. If you blah, blah, blah or if only you didn't blah, blah blah.... Every person has the ability to reach out to God and receive HIS grace.

Joel 2:12 says, "Even now says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart."

That is an open invitation of acceptance and redemption for everyone!

Of course, we can be heavily burdened when someone we love is making the wrong decisions, but we should never let it drive us to feel like a failure. We can't make decisions for another person; each of us are personally responsible unto God.

What we can do is to continue doing what is good in the sight of God! Prayer is an antidote that repels the thoughts of feeling like a failure. It aligns our hearts to God's and is the highest, most important work we can do.

We need to bind the enemy's works of darkness and deception, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring revelation of Jesus Christ to the hearts of people. Ask God to have mercy on the one dear to your heart, to draw them to repentance.

Repentance and forgiveness cultivates the soil of our heart for God to grow us.

And love! Love unconditionally, continually forgiving one another, keeping a pure heart before the Lord.