Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Sweetest Love Story

John's love for her began before he knew who she was. It was the mere idea of her that created the love that he had in his heart.  There was nothing to compare to it. He longed to share his life with the idea of her.

From the beginning, he had dreamed of a person who would know him, I mean REALLY know him. Someone who would be a witness of his life, and with whom he could share everything. He dreamed of the day that they would share such a deep knowledge of one another that they would in essence become one due to the deep intimacy they would share.

His longing for her ran deep. It would remain on his heart and in the back of his mind continuously.

Then the one day, after all his searching, he met Beth.  He knew without a doubt that he had encountered the "one".  She was all his heart had hoped for and so much more. She would be the one that would complete him and make him fulfilled and satisfied. The longing and emptiness would finally be filled.

Yes, he was certain she was it. But there was only one problem, Beth was not convinced. John now would need to win her over, show her that he was what was best for her and persuade her that he was what she had been searching for all this time. 

Unfortunately, she was not easily convinced. She had come to believe that her happiness would come from her independence, personal pursuits, gaining personal fame and glory for herself.  All Beth would give John was friendship and kindness. She relegated him to a place of consultant in her life when she needed him.  He would try to give her advice and even warn her at times of unhealthy connections only to be met with her look of scorn.

Although he longed to hold that special place in her heart, he would settle for being a part of  her life as her friend.

For years, John watched as Beth would go from one relationship to another. Always, choosing the wrong guys. The way she chose them was so bizarre to him. He would observe as she would be drawn to the bad boy, the star athlete, the emotionally aloof guy, or any guy that just needed her to rescue him and reform him by her love. 

It was so painful for him to watch, and he could see how each one of them would never be worthy of her. Eventually each guy would wound Beth and break her heart.

As he would watch season after painful season, the only thing John could count on was that each one would drive her back to him. He was the faithful friend that was there to pick up the pieces when the bad boy broke her heart because he dumped her for another (because that's what bad boys do; that's why they are called bad boys). He was there when the star athlete never had time for her. He was there when she realized the emotionally aloof guy made her feel more alone when she was with him than when she was by herself. He was there when the guy who needed to be rescued didn't want to be rescued, and she couldn't handle his unhealthy behavior any longer. He was always there for her.

John also saw that with each painful relationship a little piece of Beth was tarnished. She developed unhealthy attachments, behaviors and desires. The sweet purity and innocence of Beth was fading.

He ached in his heart as he watched her make one bad decision after another; season by season and year by year. Every year she spent chasing after these failed pursuits was one less year they would have together; one more year wasted. He knew that what she was longing for was right in front of her, and all she had to do was accept it and say yes. Oh it was so simple but yet, what was it that drove her to this mindless and empty pursuit? Why was she so determined to go after all of these options that brought her so much pain and emptiness, when love is waiting right in front of her.

John's love for Beth is available to her at any time she chooses to receive it. He is even willing to forget all of the other guys, all the wasted years and start fresh. All she has to do is turn around and agree with John in order to be happy.

What makes Beth so determined to go after all of the other guys?

We want this story to have a happy ending, but Beth gets to choose how it will turn out. It is up to her to continue down the path that not only causes her pain, but also the path that she thinks will satisfy her longing, make her happy and remove her loneliness. 

As you read this story, what do you think she will choose?

Will there come a point where she surrenders to John and finally enters into a relationship with him?

Will she instead, keep him at a distance in the friend zone; only consulting with him when life is just too painful?

Will John ever leave her, stop longing for her or finally give up on her?

This story demonstrates the heart of God toward man, but it also demonstrates man's heart toward God. We run after our own gods. We pursue all the things that we believe will fill our void and make us happy. We chase after the things of this world and relegate God to a place of bystander and consultant on an "as needed" basis just like Beth does to John. 

We see the great love that John has for Beth, but the greatest love story ever written is in the Bible. It is a story of unaltered love and sacrifice to a "Beth" that will never be fully faithful. A "Beth" that will chase after other loves.

The story from beginning to end, is a beautiful story about a loving and perfect God who longs to be with his creation even before they are born. He has such a strong desire to know them and be known by them. He longs to connect with His creation. He created mankind to be a witness of His existence, to connect in close communion with Him to produce intimate togetherness and oneness. The relationship is intended to meet all of our needs, to satisfy our desires and to make life worth living. 

This is why  we were created. Yet often, we choose to go it alone, or do it our own way. Just like John and Beth, what we are looking for is right before us, and all we have to do is accept it and say yes. 

The Bible is a story of God and man. God being perfect, man being imperfect. However, the imperfection of man is the very thing that separates him from a perfect God. 

Throughout the stories, the common theme is God and man together. God sets parameters and warns man of the dangers for man's sake, man doesn't believe God, man does what he thinks is best, and man and God separate...  Man realizes that God was right, begs for reconciliation,.. so the cycle repeats.

But through it all, the deficiency and inadequacy was always within man. The perfection and completeness was within God. 

The story of redemption throughout the history of mankind and God is that man cannot remain in relationship with God without God. God has to equip, enable, and establish him.

We are flawed and imperfect, but a perfect God wants and desires to be in a relationship with us. We are His Beth and He is our John. John was ready to do whatever it took to be with Beth, but Beth had to be willing. 

God is willing and scripture says that He wants all to come to repentance and that none would perish. It also says that if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved. We believe with the heart and it is counted as our right standing with God, and we confess with our mouth resulting in our salvation.

So the imperfectness of man is made right by God so that we can be in that perfect relationship, we can commune with God as we were created to do, and the Holy Spirit will dwell richly within us and in essence we will be one with Him.  His thoughts will be our thoughts.  Our minds will be transformed so we will be able to know the will of God. 

It is truly the sweetest love story ever told.  He loves us so much that He made a way for us to be together even with all of our imperfections and sins.  All that was falling short of His standards in us, He made up the deficit Himself.  He was willing to pay for our deficiency in order for us to be united in relationship with Him. He did it by sacrificing His only son who was a perfect spotless lamb. His blood was shed and poured out to cover our deficiency. That was the payment, and it is done; finished. The blood is enough to cover all our deficit so that we can be united with God in wholeness as it was designed to be. He knows that He is what we need and that He is best for us.

So what makes us so determined to go after the things of this world instead of God?

We all need this story to have a happy ending, but WE gets to choose how it turns out. It is up to us to continue down the path that not only causes us pain, but also the path that we think will satisfy our longings, make us happy and remove our loneliness. Oddly enough, the world never delivers on its promises. We end up more dissatisfied, unhappy and even more lonely than before. 

What will you choose?

Was there a point in your life where you surrendered to God? Or will there come a point where you will surrender to God and finally enter into a relationship with Him?

Will you instead, keep Him at a distance, chase after the things of this world and relegate Him to a place in your life where you consult with him when life is just too painful or on an "as needed" basis. 

Will God ever leave us, stop longing for us to choose Him, or finally give up on us? The answer is ... No and Yes! Eventually He will but it will be "ONLY WHEN WE ARE DEAD!"


Just like John and Beth, what we are looking for is right before us, and all we have to do is turn to Him, accept Him and say yes. 



Remember: The Greatest Love Story ever told is in the Bible. It is a story of unaltered love and sacrifice to a "Beth" that can never be fully faithful. But if she says yes, it is about a wonderful life of love, joy, peace, hope, and fulfillment.









Wednesday, September 23, 2015

God is Good, All the Time



This week has been one that has been challenging for many in my local body of believers.  We have watched in shock as a precious family in our body experienced a terrible loss. This young couple is mourning the loss of their almost two year old son.

My heart is broken for them, but I am also aware at how I cannot fathom the heartbreak they feel. Those of us who have never experienced that sort of loss cannot begin to even imagine how they will go on. We cannot grasp the sustaining power of God in that moment until we are there.  God draws near to the broken hearted not those that are looking at the broken hearted. He comforts those who mourn. But when we are trying to imagine it for another with empathy, we are not able because that is not our reality but theirs. He is sufficient in our circumstances, not in our imagination.

As these thoughts kept going through my mind, I kept rehearsing all that I know to be true about God. I woke this morning to thoughts of how the enemy is ruthless and will use this as an opportunity to attack them. We need to remember he is ruthless, and he will use this as an opportunity to challenge their faith and belief in God. This is where the body of believers need to cover them in prayer. We need to hold up our belief of God, how big He is, how faithful He is and how good He is.  Not that we go to them and say these things, but rather that we pray for them, we believe God for them and allow our faith to be a shield that covers them as they process their pain in the presence of God.

When we experience times of trial, trouble, difficulty and heartbreaking hardship or great loss, that is the time the enemy will come to us to pose questions to us like "What kind of God allows this", "If God really loved you would He...", "God is not faithful or trustworthy" and the list goes on and on.
This is when we need to remember God is trustworthy, faithful, loving...  but we do not always understand His ways. When we cannot comprehend the whys, we have to trust God.

The enemy of our soul wants to separate us from God. He wants to do this to hurt the heart of God and in separating us, we are unprotected and ripe for the enemy to steal from us, kill and destroy us.

When Satan tempts us to doubt God, let's resist him. Let's submit instead to God, let's cling to Him and rest in knowing that He is bigger than our pain. He is our healer. He is our comforter.  He is the only One that can get us through it.

Heavenly Father, 
You are good. Watch over, comfort and protect this dear family. Guard them from the fiery arrows of the evil one. Surround them with your love. Place them underneath Your wings. Draw them in to You.  Lord, give them peace that passes our understanding in the midst of this horrible storm and protect their marriage and family relationships. 


I ask these things in Jesus Name.  Amen.




Friday, September 18, 2015

Armor of God

Currently I am working through the Armor of God study with Priscilla Shirer.  I highly recommend it.  The movie War Room that is doing very well at the box office, is such a great complement to this study. Priscilla is also the leading actress in the movie. If you have the time, I suggest you check it out also.

The movie focuses on our need to do our fighting in prayer. The study talks about the armor we need as a Christian warrior.

The thing that I found most surprising in the study is the 7th piece of armor being prayer.  I had never put it together with the rest of the armor. I have read those verses in Ephesians 6 many times. And for whatever reason, I had not put it together.  But it is right there in black and white.

The first week we spent time studying about how to size up the real enemy. It reminded me that people are not the enemy. How often we war against one another. Even in our own homes, churches, towns and even within our own country. This week talked about how the war is fought in heavenly places and that we do battle in prayer. It was a reminder that we have an enemy that is trying to steal, kill and destroy us. It also talked about how he studies us for areas where he can attack us. He attacks us in our areas where we may be weak or hurting, but he also comes at us in areas of strength and places where we have the greatest influence.

The second week we looked at the belt of truth. Priscilla pointed out that the truth is simply God's opinion on any matter.  That is by far the best way for me to look at that.  As I seek the word of God
and study it, I just need to remember that I am seeking it to determine God's perspectives, standards and expectations. Once I seek it, I need to obey it, which leads me to the next week.

The third week is the breastplate of righteousness. As we study the word of God, we initially discover that we are lost, separated from God, and an enemy of God because of sin. Based on our confession  that "Jesus is Lord' and belief that God raised Him from the dead, we are saved. This belief, according to God's word, says that He counts that as our righteousness. Therefore, I am right with God because of Christ. I am not righteous because of my doing, but it is based on the one to whom I belong. Priscilla points out that Jesus' perfect righteousness is counted to me. Based on that account, I am now free to practice what I already have. She puts it this way, "Perfect makes practice." I have to exercise my righteousness. Because I am right with God, based on His grace through my faith, I am now reconciled with God which leads me to the follow week.

The fourth week talks about the shoes of peace. In this week, I was really challenged to consider that true peace is best displayed in "backdrop of chaos and commotion." Although we wish this were not the case, I think we all can admit that it is in the difficulties of life we tend to turn to God.  In the good times, we typically imply that we've got it, and we just don't have need of God... Maybe not consciously but subconsciously we sure do.  Funny thing is, we are always in need of Him, we are just not always convinced of it during the times of plenty and blessings.  It is when we are at the end of our ropes that we realize we needed Him all along.

We are to take the good news to the world that they do not have to be far away from God, but they can be brought near through Jesus Christ. This good news is watered down to the lost world when we are not walking in peace in our own lives.  We have to live with integrity and live out the gospel in order for the hearer to be convinced to even begin to listen to us. Without us living in peace, what exactly are we trying to share with the world? Hypocrisy is such a deterrent to the gospel. In this week of the study, she talks about our need to cultivate and activate peace. She says we do this by gratitude and trusting God. In our study group, one of the ladies noted that when we spend time recounting our reasons to be grateful it encourages us to trust God all the more.  That is such a great reminder to approach prayer with gratitude. As in Psalms 100:4, it tells us to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Take time to recount your blessings and focus on God, it will make you look at your list of requests in an entirely different way. And watch your peace grow.

I am currently working on week five.  It is about the shield of faith.  The main thing that is standing out to me so far is that faith is our belief in action based on our confidence. I will let you know if there is more to share on this topic as I progress.


The controversy and debate ask, "since we are right with God already, why not just live however we want to and sin?

I think we miss the point of this gift from God when this is the question we pose. If we really believe Him, we will obey His commands, we will believe He wants what is best for us. Even the restrictive rules that seem to take away our freedom, are truly for our protection. So when we surrender to the idea that He does want what is BEST for us and follow Him and His opinion of what is best, it is truly in surrender where true freedom comes into the picture.  It is like being able to breathe again. We can rest when we fully trust, lean into and surrender to God.


Our Father


After watching a post by Max Lucado regarding the most important part of prayer, I was touched and moved, even inspired.  He was talking about the start of our prayer where we say "Our Father".  He is our Father, our daddy!  Jesus said Abba when He prayed the Lord's Prayer.  Look at the reference from BibleHub/Strong's Concordance: Abbá – "Father," also used as the term of tender endearment by a beloved child – i.e. in an affectionate, dependent relationship with their father; "daddy," "papa."  Also see the following video that is such an inspiration: Whose Your Daddy by Priscilla Shirer. (Thanks Donna for the reminder)

This is what captured my attention.  I have been focusing on and praising God as creator, healer, redeemer and many other things, but today I was captured by the fact that He is my Father. I have a Father in heaven with whom I can be in an affectionate, dependent relationship.

It struck me the more I pondered this that He wants this intimate parent-child relationship with me. He created me, and He has a design and plan for me life.  With that in mind, I began thinking "why would I ever resist Him?" He desires to be in a close, dependent relationship with ME!  He knows what I need because He designed me, and He knows the plan for me. He doesn't want to harm me. He can also see in the heavenly realm that I cannot see. So His leading, His instructions and His plans are the best for me.

So if there is a war in the heavenly realm, and I participate negatively or positively based on my cooperation/obedience with God; why wouldn't I want to cooperate in my own victory. There is a spiritual realm that is effected by what we do here on earth. God, just like an earthly parent, wants to direct my path, but I have to allow it.  I have to choose to cooperate. When I surrender to His direction in my life, He can protect me from the evil plan and trap the enemy has for me. The enemy has landmines laid out in each of our lives, But our heavenly Father can help us navigate them and be victorious.

Why do we resist Him?  I believe it is because we start listening and believing the lies from the enemy instead of believing, listening and following our Abba, Father- Our heavenly Daddy!

I hope this encourages you all today.

Hope you have a blessed weekend.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Brick Building - Section Nine - Unity


The previous section of this series noted the importance of getting dressed spiritually. 

Today is our final section in this series. This is where we finally see the brick wall coming together. 


We can spend our entire lives allowing God to develop us into this beautiful stone/brick, but without other bricks and mortar to hold us all together what is our purpose. We were meant to be joined together with other believers in order to build us into the Body of Christ which is the church. The physical building may be the geographical location where we meet and even where we are protected from the elements of weather, but flesh and bones are joined together by Jesus Christ to form the actual church. Without people in the structure, it is just a brick building like all other buildings. Jesus Christ is the foundation, the cornerstone and the mortar that holds all the spiritual bricks/believers together. He is the firm base, central focus of all things, He is foundational and pivotal, He is the reason for the church! So we are brought together in UNITY by Jesus.

Ephesians 2:20-22 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Peter 2:4-8 As you come to him, the living Stone...you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood … For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone…  Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, "a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message.

As each of us do our part to grow up in our salvation, which was discussed in all of the prior sections of this series, each of us become a part of the temple that Christ is building. As each of us learn to put on all that we are told to put on, we are learning to dress ourselves spiritually. As we learn to take up our shield of faith, and as we are trained to use our offensive weapon which is the word of God; we are learning to stand by our brothers and sister in Christ, and we are learning to form a wall so strong that the gates of hell will not be able to come against it. There is a formation called the Phalanx- (travelling wall) which gives us a physical example of what this should look like in the spiritual realm.

The phalanx was a formation used in battle. It was highly organized and done in a disciplined manner. Soldiers stood shoulder-to-shoulder, the shields overlapped each other, forming a WALL with their shields and protecting each other. A phalanx could be as many as eight rows deep, when moving in formation, they were nearly unstoppable as long as their rear and flanks were protected. One movie that demonstrates this is Prince Caspian The enemy uses the formation. Reepicheep, a small warrior mouse, finds a small hole to penetrate the fortress or PHALANX. (I love this entire series of movies - definitely worth watching)

In our responsibility to the body of believers, let's get our spiritual armor on, lock arms with one another and form an impenetrable wall with our shields of faith that the enemy cannot tear down. This wall can be a place of rest and healing for those that have been out in the battle and need time to be restored without more attacks from the enemy or even from within the ranks. Let’s do our part to get dressed so that many will be able to find a safe place to rest. 

Growing in Unity as a Community

Have you ever noticed that the word unity is the last part of community? One of the definitions of community is a unified body of individuals. So even the word community implies unity. Don't we all long for community? Let’s consider the scriptures when looking at how we might grow in unity as a body of believers.

• Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you,

• John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another…  By this all men will know that you are my disciples.

• Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

• Ephesians 4:2-3 Unity in the Body of Christ … be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. …

• Ephesians 4:12-13 (Christ gave us leaders of the church to) prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature

• Ephesians 4:14-16 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

This is where I see Jesus bringing each "brick" together and joining us to one another just as mortar glues one brick to another to build a brick wall. Christ is bringing us together in unity.

Living in Unity                                                                                  

Once we are brought together, we need to remain together. Keep in mind that each of us/bricks have some sharp edges. Those edges can be smoothed out as we rub up against other bricks. But our tendency is to run from the abrasiveness of others. We need to keep in mind that God may want to use that abrasive person in our life to smooth us out. As a sculptor chips away excess clay to create a masterpiece, so is our heavenly Father chipping away everything that doesn't resemble His Son to develop our character and carve us more into the image of Christ. Also, remember that we are someone else’s abrasive person as well. Look below at some scriptures to consider how we may maintain unity:
  • Psalms 133:1 dwell /live together in unity
  • Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace
  • Ephesians 4:3 KJV Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
  • Ephesians 4:3 NLT Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 
  • Ephesians 4:13 KJV Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  • Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:13,18 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance/glory was fading away...  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJ But we all… are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory 
  • 1 Thess 5:11 so encourage each other and build each other up
  • 1 John 3 :14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
  • John 13:34-35  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Keep in mind that unity is not uniformity. We can love, accept, consider and be patient with each other and still not be the same. Unity requires love and acceptance

Some attribute the following quote to Wesley and others to Augustine, but there seems to be some confusion to where it originated. I have read it in many different writings and am quoting it here because it applies.
  • In essentials- unity (agreement)
  • Non essentials- liberty (freedom)
  • In all things –charity (love)
Beth Moore has referred to the above quote when discussing what she labels as rib issues and spine issues in regards to Christian unity.  Meaning there are things that we must agree on to be in Christian fellowship called spine issues, but there are those issues that we can still be in fellowship with one another and disagree because they are rib issues. However, no matter what we believe, we should all interact with believers and non-believers in love.

Let's consider this warning and reminder to each of us:  Personal conviction does not automatically equal scriptural conviction.

Let’s not put our personal conviction on to others. The Holy Spirit convicts each of us of things we are to do or not do. These are personal to us. We should not use that as an opportunity to place these personal convictions on every other person around us. Based on each of our bents toward sin, it may not be an issue in the lives of others. So if God has prompted you to action or abstinence of an action, do not assume it is your responsibility to go forth and preach this to others. It is fine to share your testimony of it, but leave it there. God has not hired us as junior Holy Spirits. 

We need to keep our focus on God, be in God's Word, mature as believers in the faith, get dressed daily and walk in love and unity with other believers. Many things can get us distracted and off track as individuals and as a church body. When a church body gets off in the weeds and is no longer unified, focus gets off, purpose is forgotten and we loose sight of God's call for us. 
Remember we are to love, edify, encourage, and rebuke one another, but do it in love. We need to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We teach them to observe all Jesus commanded. 

Once we lose our focus and get sidetracked with disunity, we are no longer well enough to GO and do these things. The world needs to see our love for one another, they need us to be unified so they will know that we are Jesus’ followers. We need to be in unity in order to become that mighty fortress, place of sanctuary for the weary souls, and a barrier against the enemy from hell that wants to kill, steal and destroy us all. This is why the enemy spends so much time trying to cause disunity in the church. If he can get us to turn on each other instead of loving one another, and bearing with one another; he knows it will be a stumbling block for non-believers and delay or prevent them from coming to Jesus.

So for the sake of the lost world, for the sake of yourselves and mine; let’s grow up into our salvation and grow in unity as believers. In doing so, we will see lives transformed and revival of a nation and the world. We will see “GOD's will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Amen!

In wrapping up this series of posts, see the following post: The Simplicity of the Gospel

Brick Building Section Two-Immaturity
Brick Building Section Three
Brick Building Section Four - Cooperating with the Holy Spirit
Brick Building Section Five - Prayer
Brick Building - Section Six - Believe/Faith
Brick Building - Section Seven - The Word
Brick Building - Section Eight- Learning to Dress Yourself

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

OBEY - Now There's a Word

When we hear the word obey, why does it conjure up images of restriction, constraint, drudgery and perhaps bondage? When we think of anyone telling us what we can or cannot do, we tend to feel as if they are controlling us. I have been there before.

However now after walking with the Lord for many years, the word obey looks different. I think of obeying as surrender, relaxing and letting someone else lead me and tell me the best way to go. I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders because I am no longer the highest authority in my own life. I don’t have the pressure of making the right decisions.  It makes me feel safer. I have made my share of mistakes in this life, and it is so good to know that I can be free from the consequences of my bad choices when I just stop resisting the One who knows what is best for me.

Obedience to our Creator is similar to a designer or engineer of an automobile. They know how the car was made. They know what it takes to keep it working at its optimum potential.  They know the type of oil that will be best for it.  They know what bolts and screws it needs, and how it is held together. They know it so well that they can write out a list of instructions and publish it as the owner’s manual. But what the designer and engineer will not do is come to the owner of the vehicle and tell them they must follow the orders in the manual. The owner can decide not to follow any of the manual's instructions at any time, but to the owner's disappointment the car will not last very long. So if the owner wants to take care of their investment and want it be useful to them for many years to come, they would need to heed the instructions and advice found in the owner's manual.

We are much like the automobile. We were designed by our Creator, and He knows what we need to do in this life to be able to work at our optimal level of efficiency. We can look to the scripture as our owner's manual. If we follow the advice given in the manual, we will operate more in line with the intent of the designer. When we push to do it our own way and decide not to obey, He will not come to our house and force us to comply. Unfortunately there will be consequences for our disobedience. Just as when we choose not to care for the automobile according to the instructions, it will break down on us. That is a consequence of not adhering to the designer's advice.  So too, we will encounter breakdowns of sorts. The consequences will come. The Creator has given us plenty of warnings, and He gives us advice to keep us from those breakdowns because He cares about us.  He is not trying to rob us of a good time or be a stick in the mud. He just knows the model of the human race and knows what it needs to be fulfilled, peaceful, joyful, etc., basically operate at prime optimum working order!

So I challenge you today... Try resting in the advice and instruction of the Lord. Whatever conviction you may have been resisting…  Whatever Word from the Lord you read and haven't put it into practice… Whatever little thing you are holding onto and justifying it to yourself or even trying to make excuses to God… Whatever it is you are challenged with, why not let go of it and lean into the Word of God's advice.... Trust it instead of thinking that He just doesn't want you to have a good time.  What about just trusting the designer's opinion and stop arguing with Him about it. When He speaks to you, just do what He says.  Just resting in Him. Trusting Him. Not leaning on your own thoughts, opinions, wisdom and understanding. Doesn't that sound like taking a day off?  Doesn't that sound freeing? It sure does to me.

So here is your homework…
·        is there someone you need to forgive… forgive them (no excuses)
·        is there someone you need to go to and ask for forgiveness… go ask
·        is there someone you have sensed you need to call or write to let them know you are thinking of them… call or write 
·        is there a habit you know you need to get rid of… get rid of it  
·        have you felt you need to spend more time in prayer or in God’s word… then just do it  
·        an area of service that you feel God is calling you into… then do it


Whatever it is… stop making excuses… stop waiting… Just DO IT!!!!!

In the current, ongoing series, Brick Building, in this blog, you can actually see more regarding obedience to God's word by following this link Brick Building - Section Seven - The Word. You can scroll down about half the way down to see the section on Obeying the Word. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Brick Building - Section Eight- Learning to Dress Yourself


In the last section, we discussed how being in the word helps us grow up in our relationship with Christ. Here we will consider how as we mature, we learn to get dressed just as a toddler learns to dress him/herself.

According to scripture, we are told to “put on” which implies our responsibility. The scriptures listed below demonstrates our need to take action. It tells us what we need to put on and how we are to clothe ourselves.
Romans 13:12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Ephesians 4:24 Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Colossians 3:10 Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Colossians 3:14 Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be soberputting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 
Romans 13:14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh
Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Just as we need to get dressed daily for whatever is on our daily agenda, we also need to get dressed in our spiritual clothing. We do not know what we will encounter each day in the spirit realm, but God does. We need to seek Him daily in His word and in prayer in order to be able to be prepared for whatever the day has in store for us and for others.
There may be others that need us to be ready for battle.  They may need us to stand beside them, to stand behind them, and at times to even stand over them and defend them because they aren't able to defend themselves. But whatever the case, we need to be ready at all times. We never know what is up ahead.

Be sure to get dressed and put on Christ. In doing so, we will mature and grow up in our faith.

Brick Building Section One-Maturity
Brick Building Section Two-Immaturity
Brick Building Section Three
Brick Building Section Four - Cooperating with the Holy Spirit
Brick Building Section Five - Prayer
Brick Building - Section Six - Believe/Faith
Brick Building - Section Seven - The Word

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Brick Building - Section Seven - The Word

Sorry for the delay in getting this one out.  I have been busy with getting my oldest daughter settled into college, and getting back to a normal schedule for my youngest daughter who is in high school and busy with club soccer. This has been a hectic month.
In the last blog we took a look at faith as part of our growing up in our relationship with Christ, in this section, we are going to discuss the importance of being in the Word of God. We've all heard the saying "You are what you eat." Well if that is true in the spiritual sense, we need a steady diet of God's Word in order to grow up and mature in our walk with Jesus Christ. We are going to look at the importance of our focus on the Word of God, being saturated in the Word of God and obeying the Word of God. 

Steady Diet of the Word

We need to read the Word of God regularly. This is not so we can feel good about ourselves or out of a sense of duty. We do this because it is how we get to know the Lord, His character, His will and His voice. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit we use in battle. It is a road map that directs our path. It is words of life. With regular exposure to the word, we are nourishing our spiritual self just as healthy eating keeps us healthy and strong.

Once we accept Christ as our savior, we should begin to study the word, focus our eyes upon the Lord through the scripture. All scripture is a story about Him! As we do this, we begin to be transformed by Christ. We are converted immediately and transformed over time

Focus on the Word

Focus: Whatever can get your attention can influence you, and whatever can keep your attention can master you. So we need to focus on the Lord.

Focus is a way to be successful at anything we do in life.  In our jobs, in athletic training, weight loss, our families, relationships in general…

If we will take note of where we are focused, we may find the areas in our lives where we have idols. Anything that has our focus tends to have our heart.

Let’s set our focus on Christ!  Why? ... Because he deserves it. Consider the price that He paid for each of us, the price each of us SHOULD have paid. Focus on the enormous price that was paid. Consider the cross. Focus your eyes upon it. Look into the eyes of your savior who willingly suffered and died for you. Nothing can motivate quite as much as a grateful heart. If we will stay focused we can stay grateful.

Focus: Whatever can get your attention can influence you, and whatever can keep your attention can master you. So we need to focus on the Lord.

Look at King Josiah: 2 Kings 22:1-2 1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king…. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD … not turning aside to the right or to the left.  He was focused


Immerse

According to scripture, we are to teach others all about the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe that we are to immerse them in all that the scripture says about them, or in essence, be baptized in the Word. We need to study the Word of God in order to start comprehending the character of our Lord. We need to study it in order to begin to understand how to enter into this relationship. We need to study the Word in order to be able to arm ourselves against our enemy. We need to study so we will be able to discern truth, direction and God's will. As we study, we know Him more, believe Him more and love Him more.

When addressing immersion and baptizing, I am not diminishing the need and practice of baptizing in water as we follow in obedience to Jesus. That is the outward demonstration to the world to show we accepted Jesus' sacrifice for your sin and will now follow Him. However, I am looking deeper into the scripture where baptism is mentioned to see if there may be clues to more than a onetime outward demonstration.

There was an old pickle recipe that used the words baptized and dipped. In the recipe, the first part of the process was to dip the cucumber in water referred to as bapto, and then followed by the instruction to baptize the cucumber into vinegar referred to as baptizo. Both steps in the process require the vegetable to be placed in a liquid. So why is one referred to as bapto and the other baptizo? The difference is that while the vegetable is placed in the water, it is cleaned but it is still a cucumber. However, when the cucumber is placed into the vinegar it becomes another thing all together. It is no longer a cucumber but now it is a pickle. See Bible Study Tools for this information.

Immersing ourselves in the WORD (fully saturating ourselves in the WORD)

Obey the Word

We can obey the word and generations will be blessed, or we can disobey and curse many. We need to live in obedience not just to please God, but I believe we need to do so for the sake of others. We need to grow up and consider how our actions may affect others. Take some time to read Deuteronomy 28.

Luke 6:47-49 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Gen 22:18 through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.

We need to obey the word, and as a result, we will grow up and mature. But we do it with the indwelling inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will illuminate the word and bring it to mind.

We obey the commands of the Lord as we are introduced to them in order to mature in our walk. In Philippians 3, we are told to live up to whatever truth we have attained. Let's keep that in mind as we are exposed to the Word, but also keep it in mind when walking with others. Let's not hold them accountable for truths they have not even been exposed to yet. As we study the Word, be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Being in the Word, we become familiar to the Lord’s voice and the “types” of things He would say. I believe this is crucial in discerning the Lord from your own thoughts or that of the enemy. We need to surround ourselves with godly people to encourage us, challenge us and hold us accountable to be in the Word. 


So seek the word in order to know the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit leads you, be pliable and moldable to the work the Spirit desires to do in you. Think of obeying the word as cooperating with the Holy Spirit who is working in you to complete the work that was starting in you at your salvation.

We need to obey the word and as a result we will grow up and mature.

Remember the word of God is the sword of the Spirit we use in battle. It is a road map that directs our path. It is words of life. Also remember, regular exposure to the word is like eating right physically. We grow up healthy and strong.


See also older posts: Do We Need the Word of God?Road Map to Freedom and Searching the Scripture


Brick Building Section One-Maturity
Brick Building Section Two-Immaturity
Brick Building Section Three
Brick Building Section Four - Cooperating with the Holy Spirit
Brick Building Section Five - Prayer
Brick Building - Section Six - Believe/Faith

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Brick Building - Section Six - Believe/Faith

Last week we took a look at prayer as it impacts our maturity, and today we’ll take a look at the area of faith when considering growing up in our walk with the Lord.   

We call Christians people of faith or believers, but what is really being said is that we are believers of Jesus Christ, we believe what God says about Him, and we have faith in the work of Christ. However, we all believe in something even if it is not God or Jesus. It is the object of our belief that defines our faith. It may be that we believe in science, we may believe in the existence of gravity and other laws, we may believe in self; even an atheist believes. (They simply believe that God doesn’t exist.) So the object for them is the non-existence of an object. But even in that, faith is required. So really we are all people of faith. It is actually funny how loosely the words faith, belief and trust gets used. It is a simple fact that we all believe and have faith.

We believe that the other drivers will stop at the stop sign when we are crossing an intersection (at least until a driver runs a stop sign and hits us). We believe an elevator will get us to the floor we want. We believe the educational system will prepare and educate our children. We believe the sun will come up each day. We believe in so many things, but our belief does not affect reality.

Let’s consider the law of gravity…Regardless of what you believe, this law remains the same.  If you jump off a tall building you will fall and get hurt or die.  The law exist whether we believe it or not.  Our faith of its existence has no effect on it.  It only affects our behavior. For example, if you believe the law does not exist, then you will act in opposition and jump from a building.
Our Heavenly Father’s existence is not dependent upon our belief. As with the case for gravity, you can choose not to believe in it, but it will not change the fact of His existence.
However, a believer and follower of Jesus Christ believes God exist, believes what God says about Jesus’ death and places his/her faith in the sacrifice to pay for his/her sin. In order to grow up in this faith, we have to believe what God says in the word of God, scripture.

We must believe that He will mature us when we cooperate and surrender to Him. He will do the work to transform us. We will grow up and mature not by our own doing but by the work of Christ in us thru the Holy Spirit. He will do it little by little from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).We are saved by faith, we walk by faith, and we are right with God because of our faith.

Look at the following scriptures:

·        2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.
·        Philippians 3:3-9 We put no confidence in the flesh- though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
·        Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
      1 Corinthians 1:30-31 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
      Genesis 15:6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness
      Galatians 3:6 Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

So assuming we believe He exist and assuming we want to please Him, I believe we mature in our relationship by not just believing in Him, but I believe we must believe Him. We must believe what He says, and in order to believe what He says, we need to know what He says.  The best place to determine that is to be in the word, studying it, pondering it, praying it and meditating upon it. The next two sections we'll delve deeper into this.
Remember that we act out of what we believe. If you believe other drivers will stop at a stop sign, you act in faith by going through the intersection. If on the other hand, you believe other drivers will not stop, you tend to be slightly paralyzed at the intersection. Our actions will demonstrate our beliefs. So if you find yourself acting contrary to God’s Word, I suggest you take a look at what you are believing about God or yourself that isn’t true.
As you dig into the scripture and study about God, get to know His character and plan, you will find that you are better able to trust Him. He is trustworthy.

So to mature in our walk, we need to not only believe in God but also believe what He says. We must be a follower of the object of our faith and trust He will complete the work He started in us when we first believed.

Brick Building Section One-Maturity
Brick Building Section Two-Immaturity
Brick Building Section Three
Brick Building Section Four - Cooperating with the Holy Spirit
Brick Building Section Five - Prayer