Friday, December 31, 2010

People Everywhere



I just got back from Chicago - a quick, two-day trip with my husband and the kids. We did a little shopping (who could resist the after Christmas sales?), ate at a beautiful restaurant, took the kids to see "Wicked", went to the Aquarium, had Chicago pizza and came back home. Oh, and we fit in a few games of cards, as well. It was fast, but very fun.

In the midst of our hurrying from one thing to the next, I found that the only obstacle to overcome in Chicago was all the people. There were people everywhere. People in the elevators, people in the parking garage, people on every corner, people packed in the stores, people in the restaurants, people jammed in the Aquarium. (Well, not in the Aquarium per se, but in the building.) I know it is the holidays, so there were more people than usual, but I was really taken back by all the people.

People. People. People.

There are a lot of people in this world. A lot. Sometimes I get busy in my own little world and I forget how big the world really is. But then I lift my head and look around, and reality strikes.

A lot of people.

Which equates to a lot of sin, doesn't it? A lot of hurt, a lot of pain, a lot of sickness, a lot of questions, a lot of choices, a lot of paths.

So then I wonder, how many of these people know Jesus? How many of them have given their lives to Him, have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, have been reconciled to the Father through the blood of the Son, know the joy of forgiveness and restoration?

Matthew 7:14 says that the gate to life is narrow and few find it. Few.

Well, it is the eve of a new year. My friends, we have a lot of work to do. I understand that "few" will find the way to life, but that should not limit our mission. When God says "few", He's not giving us license to pick and choose who we want to be a light to - salvation is His choice. It's His business. Being a light in a dark world is ours. We have the remedy to what ails the world. We need to get out there and share it.

In addition to our calling to spread the gospel, we also need to respond in gratitude for God's leading us through the gate to life. If few find it, and you're through it already, then you've been blessed beyond all measure.

All measure.

I want to wish you all a mission-filled new year, a year where you and I both take our calling seriously and live with hearts of gratitude for what our great God has done for us. I don't have enough space and you don't have enough patience to allow me to share all the Lord has done in my life in the past twelve months, but I will say, if last year is any indicator of what this year will be like, then I can't wait to see what lies ahead!

Happy New Year, and may God's blessing and the fruit of His Spirit richly permeate your life.

Kristen

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Open Mic



Okay, friends...I've done this before and I'm sure I'll do it again. This is your chance to share, so I'll keep this brief.

A little over a week ago I gave you a Christmas challenge - to pick a gift to give Jesus, write it down, wrap it up and put it under the tree. So, here are my questions to which I want you to respond:


1. What did you give?

2. What was the reaction of your family?

3. If you didn't, then you have the opportunity right now to publicly give a gift to Jesus for His birthday.

I'll start - I gave the gift of memory this Christmas. As I thought through my options, every single one of them benefited me! It was like giving a gift to myself. However, I do know that there is great value to hiding God's word in your heart and though I do it periodically, I am not consistent. So I told Jesus I would memorize a verse a week. It doesn't sound like much, but I think as I go it will compound.

That's my gift. My family's reaction? I thought they'd roll their eyes, but they handled it fine. I was worried they would think I was preaching at them, but I think they realized that I was sincere. Hopefully next year there will be an additional gift for Jesus under the tree, alongside mine. It's a great way to have accountability in your spiritual walk. I am sure they will encourage me as I work on this all year.

All right, here goes...and by the way, silence will mean that you didn't do it...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wisdom = Pain




"In much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain." Ecclesiastes 1:18

This statement is sad but true.

Think about it.

Look at a simple park playground. The children playing on the equipment are relatively naive and innocent. They do not understand or even consider the dangers of their adventure. Hanging upside down on the bars, they can't imagine losing their grip and the consequences of gravity to their tiny bodies. They climb the ladder to the slides without a care in the world. Oh, and you've seen those kids that swing as high as they can and then flip backwards out of their seat at the highest moment, only to land in a heap on the ground. Who in their right mind would do such a thing?

Because adults understand the big picture a bit better, because we have learned by experience and academics what gravity can do to a body, because our knowledge is greater than when we were children, we avoid playgrounds. You don't see parents hanging upside down or flipping off a swing. We also understand that there are dangers drawn to a park that we never want our children to experience, so instead of playing with abandon, we watch with careful, discerning eyes.

Because we know the evils of life...because we know...life is a bit less...how should I say this...enjoyable.

It's part of being an adult.

Some would testify to the same truth about marriage. You've all seen the starry-eyed bride lose her sparkle, as the increased knowledge of the choices she and her husband have made reveal the devastation they have created. Poor communication, too much spending, too much time on the internet, not enough foundation laying, no respect, no security...marriage in shambles.

"I thought marriage would be easier than what it turned out to be."

"He's not the man I thought he was."

"We grew apart."

Increased knowledge and wisdom brings sorrow. In other words, the more we understand the effects of sin, the more we realize that sin stinks. It messes up everything it touches.

But there is good news. Within the sorrows of life, God has chosen to reveal Himself to man, thereby giving us a way to have joy within the sorrow. Read it again: Joy WITHIN the sorrow.

Until we shed this flesh, sin will remain. Just because we know Christ, doesn't mean that our children are safe from predators. And just because we know Christ, doesn't mean that marriage is suddenly a breeze.

But it does mean that we can produce the fruits of the Spirit despite the sorrows of sin.

I think that if we can grasp this concept, then we won't expect something of God that He doesn't promise.

The author of Ecclesiastes concludes with this: "...fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person..." The only worth in life comes from a true relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

So, go ahead and increase in wisdom and knowledge, as well as obedience to the Lord. Then and only then will you be able to endure the sorrows and pain of life.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our Response







"But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4,5

"It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am the foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." I Timothy 1:15-17

"But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves..." James 1:22

Merry Christmas, Friends...

Kristen

Luke 2:15-20




When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.




When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.



But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.


Luke 2:8-14



In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.







But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."





And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."







Luke 2:1-7

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.



Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.





While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son' and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Challenge



It's Monday, December 20th.

I'll bet if I polled my readers, we'd be all over the place on our Christmas shopping list. Some of us are done, wrapped and already sipping hot cider by a warm fire, waiting for Christmas day. Others of us are just beginning our shopping, claiming outwardly that the best deals are the week of Christmas, all the while knowing we just haven't had the time or motivation to get going on the list.

If you're like me, the shopping is mostly done - just the finishing touches left to pick up and the occasional "Uh, oh...I'd better run and get them something" gift. I'm finished a little later than I like, but all in all, I'm ready for Christmas.

Well, I'm going to throw a wrench in your Christmas preparations today.

Why? Because it's what I like to do and I'm kind of a stinker.

And here's the wrench: I have another name for your list.

It's not going to be an easy gift to get because it's going to take some thought and effort.

I want to challenge each of you to give a gift to Jesus this year.

"Oh, come on, Kristen. I've already given my life to Him. I give Him 10% of all the money I make - gross pay, not just net! I go to church and I even pray every night before I go to bed, as well before every meal. What more does He want?"

Really? What you just listed was the proverbial obligatory underwear, socks and tie gift that dad gets every year. How about we make it a bit more personal?

Put some thought into this and decide what the very best gift you could give to Jesus would be and then give it. What does He want this year? What does He want specifically from you?

Maybe He wants you to stop doing something: Stop nagging, stop surfing the web, stop watching a certain t.v. show that is offensive to Him, stop worrying about finances, stop gossiping, stop assuming the worst in people, stop talking so much, stop the sarcasm, stop spending too much money or time or effort on fleshly pursuits.

Or maybe He wants you to start doing something: Start serving, start giving, start spending time with Him every day, start forgiving, start listening, start singing, start praying, start submitting, start loving, start making your family a priority, start slowing down, start reaching out to those around you.

I don't know what it is, but that's the great thing about a gift. You get to pick it out, wrap it up and give it. It's personal and it's from you.

So do it. Figure out what you want to give Jesus this Christmas, then write it down, put it in a box, wrap it, and put it under the tree with His name on it. Then when your family is opening gifts, let someone open it for Him and read your gift out loud.

You see, when you do this, you make your gift known publicly, and then the accountability starts to flow. This will insure that you follow through on your gift. None of this, "I gave it to Him in my heart and He knows" - nope, I want accountability!

See where I'm going? Are you willing to do this? Are you up to the challenge? Aren't I a stinker?

After all, it is His birthday...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

He went to...




...Jared!

We've all seen the commercials. Excited young woman flashes her ring finger at her best friend, who in turn, jumps up and down, squealing and hugging her newly engaged friend.

Have you shared excitement with a friend before? Perhaps it was an engagement or the announcement of a pregnancy. Or maybe you celebrated a new job or a new car. Sharing the joy of something exciting is great, but not quite as great as being the recipient of the good news. Imagine if it were your engagement or your pregnancy - the level of joy would be much greater. It would fill your thoughts and conversations - it would become a focal point of your life.

This morning at church, Dave made an interesting point about the joy of the angels as they announced the good news to the shepherds. Their joy and excitement was overwhelming as they praised and glorified God.

And they weren't even the recipients of the good news.

He said that not one angel was offered salvation from sin. Not one angel found their redemption in the blood of Jesus Christ nor did even one angel benefit from Jesus becoming a man.

And yet they rejoiced with a passion and fervor that brought the shepherds to their knees.

So what should our response to Jesus be? Are we the friend who rejoices in the good news and then goes on with their life, or are we the actual recipients of the good news?

Where is our joy as believers? Why do we let life overwhelm us? Have we so quickly forgotten the good news?

We are the recipients of the gospel. That tiny baby was given to us. The angels rejoicing should be a fraction of our rejoicing, since we are the receivers of the good news and not just bystanders.

And just like a newly engaged couple or a newly expectant couple, let's make this good news the focal point of our lives - let's talk about it, let's dream about it and let's long for its realization. Let's not wait for faith to become sight so that we can say, "Oh, now I get it."

May our praise be lifted high by living lives of gratitude and passion for the One who came two thousand years ago and gave us the gift of life. And may we not be outdone by the angels, but rather respond to this gift in a manner that brings glory to our heavenly Father.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One of the Perks of being a Pastor's Wife




Okay, so the smooching was there before he formally became a pastor...I just thought it was an eye-catching picture.

The past couple of days Dave and I were down in Chicago for some meetings and last minute Christmas shopping and as I engaged the various sales clerks in the stores I found it remarkably easy to talk about Jesus.

Not because of Christmas, but because of being a pastor's wife.

The conversations would go like this:

Clerk: Are you from Chicago?

Me: No, we're visiting from Michigan.

Clerk: How are you enjoying Chicago?

Me: Oh, we love it. We were both from the Chicago area originally. My husband did some real estate deals here in the city, and knows it well.

Clerk: Really? So how long are you around for? The weekend?

Me: Not quite a weekend, since my husband is a pastor - we need to get back home for church.

Clerk: Oh, a pastor? I thought he was a business man.

Me: Yes, he was, but when God calls you into full time ministry, He makes it very clear.

Clerk: (Quizzacle face)

That face was my cue to talk about Jesus. Oh, so easy! Every conversation ended with a "Merry Christmas," not a "Happy Holidays." Most people were smiling and pleasant, which made it easy as well.

Friends, we are called to be seed throwers. We just studied in our ladies study the parable of the seed and the sower. I don't know if any of the seed thrown this weekend fell on good soil or not, but I don't have to worry about the soil's condition. I just need to be responsible to throw the seed.

So, what's your lead? I'm going to use this new found conversation starter, but I am curious what you use to open the door to toss some seed on the ground. If you have one, comment on it. If you don't, find one.

Because the Word of God can be planted during any time of the year, but with the added fertilizer of Christmastime, we all really have a great window of opportunity.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Wow Moment




"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." Psalm 23:5

The Spirit brought this verse to mind this morning while I was teaching Bible study. Literally - He popped it into my mind. It wasn't part of my notes, but it very quickly became a part of our lesson.

Today we were looking at the story in Luke 7 where Jesus had a meal at a Pharisee's home named Simon. A woman, who was a known sinner, washed Jesus' feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair and bathed his feet with costly perfume.

In preparing the women for this scene, I explained how a guest of honor would have been treated in that day - their feet would have been washed or at the very least, a basin of water would have been provided for cleansing, they would have been greeted with a kiss and their head would have been anointed with oil - perhaps a touch on the forehead which would denote the guest's honored state.

When this "sinner" displayed such worship of Jesus, the Pharisee scorned Jesus in his heart and Jesus called him out. After teaching a short parable about the one who is forgiven much versus the one who is forgiven little, Jesus went on to explain that though his feet were not washed when he entered the Pharisee's home, the sinner washed his feet with her tears. And though he was not greeted with a kiss, she had not stopped kissing his feet. And finally, though he had not anointed Jesus head with oil, she anointed His feet with perfume.

The imagery was clear. Jesus was not treated with honor by the Pharisee, but was held in high esteem by the sinner - the one who understood forgiveness.

It was then that the Spirit put the words to Psalm 23 in my mind: You prepare a table before me...You anoint my head with oil...my cup overflows. Within the context of this scene from the life of Christ, I was able to explain to the women that God treats us with honor at His table - He prepares it, He anoints us as honored guests and He never lets our cup empty.

Wow.

Yes, it was one of those wow moments for me.

Wow because He loves us so much.

Wow because He treats us in ways that He was not treated Himself.

Wow because He has invited me to His table, when so often I act like it is the other way around.

And wow because when you hide God's Word in your heart, He brings it to mind at just the right time.

What a wonderful Wow kind of God we serve...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bethlehem Star



As David and I were heading to the airport on Tuesday to catch a flight to Florida, we passed a certain community building that never fails to tick me off...not the building but the sign on the outside. They have a little portable marquis that prides itself in offending believers...not the marquis but the "spiritual leader" who puts the sayings on the marquis.

Have you figured out who I am talking about yet?

This time the marquis read: The story is a myth. The message is real.

Now, being Christmastime, I don't think it's a stretch to assume that they are referring to the Christmas story.

(Wait a minute...I need to let my blood pressure settle down...)

Twenty-four hours later, I found myself sitting in a room full of women, listening to my mother teach on the wisemen, and she touched on one of the supposed myths - the star of Bethlehem. Here's what she said:

"The heavens were declaring something specific to these men. Perhaps it was a comet, a light appearing in the midst of a conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Pisces (occuring every 805 years), a supernatural light that the Chinese astronomical tables record with no explanation, an interpretation of the constellations (lost to us today), or the Shekinah Glory that departed years before from the Temple...travelling to the east. This light came back from the east to the west. It might have been an angel (often referred to in Scripture as stars) because it was pretty specific when it stood over the place where Christ was."

Though the whole study was fascinating, this particular picture of an angel standing over the place where Jesus was has stuck with me. By the time the wisemen show up on the scene, Jesus is most likely a few years old. Mary and Joseph are living in a house. Can you imagine the wisemen and their entourage entering tiny Bethlehem and a spectacular, somber angel suspended above their home, with a stately outstretched finger pointing the way, as if to say, "Hey, guys, He's right here!"?

Matthew 2 tells us that the star stood over the place where Jesus was - sounds like a being, doesn't it?

It really doesn't matter to me what the star was. The fact that the star was really there and that the story is not a myth but true is what matters to me. There is a movement within Christianity that is trying to move away from the literal interpretation of the scriptures and join that certain man from Spring Lake in saying that even though the Bible is full of myths, it contains a great message.

I'm just not falling for it.

I choose to walk by faith, whether I can fully understand things or not, if God said it, then I believe it.

Truth be known, I have no idea which part of the "story" he thinks is a myth. I might be way off in my assumptions and if that is the case, I apologize for misinterpreting his sign. But if not, friends, study and know the Word so that you can be ready, in season and out, to defend it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spiritual Candy - 3




Okay...how 'bout this one:

"So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11

There are some sentences in scripture that are so rich and full of doctrine that my mind can barely contain their fullness. This is one of them. Now, I need to share with you the three verses beforehand so that you can have a running start into its truths: (You may actually be surprised at which verses come before this one...)

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways," declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:8-11

So here's what I glean for starters:

*God's Word produces exactly what God intends for it to produce

*God's thoughts and ways are different than my thoughts and ways

*When He sends the rain, it is to water the earth so that the earth will produce

*Just like the rain does its job, so do the Words of God

*When God speaks, He speaks for a purpose and His desires are always accomplished

So, who's in control? God.

Who accomplishes anything good? God.

Who makes the Word effective? God.

Who gets credit for changing lives through His Word? God.

Who doesn't have to bear the burden of not being eloquent enough or clear enough or patient enough or wise enough when sharing the gospel, so as to possibly turn people away from the Lord to everlasting punishment? Me.

Why? Because God always accomplishes what He desires, I just need to be obedient.

Yum - I like this one!

As for the boomerang, when I was a child I tried to throw a boomerang. It never came back.

Just another visual example of how His ways are not my ways - this verse tells us that His boomerangs always return...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Spiritual Candy - 2




Here's another little treat for you today:

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." I Corinthians 15:58

Every get weary?

It's that time of year when lists abound - grocery lists, address lists, shopping lists, christmas decorating to-do lists...just when you check an item off of one list, four more seem to appear. When you've had a particularly productive day, the exhaustion is good - but on frenzied days, the exhaustion only adds to the wear and tear.

And then you find yourself asking yourself questions, like: why am I doing this? Why do I bother to send cards to people who I never see or talk to - do they even like me? Why am I buying her a gift? Why won't half the tree light up? Why do ornaments explode when they hit the tile floor? And soon the focus is off the celebration of our Savior and is wandering aimlessly down some half-decked halls whose boughs of holly look more like sticks of plastic greenery.

Okay - take a deep breath - move away from Christmas for a moment.

Sometimes in our daily lives we become a bit frazzled towards our call as believers. There are nursery schedules and conferences to organize, (did I fill out my membership application?), I am expected to turn every day simple discipline moments into spiritual lessons for my children, it's much easier to simply make the decision and deal with the fall out later than wait for HIM to make it, (have we given to the church this month?), I'm expected to be in a small group with people I don't even like, (why can't I find fifteen minutes a day to read my bible and what would I read anyway?), and I can't even remember the last time I didn't fall asleep while praying in bed - is any of this really worth it?

It's so easy to get caught up with lists of expectations and rules to live by, that we lose sight of our calling - we were made to bring glory to God and we are called to make disciples. Let's keep it that simple. I love this verse in I Corinthians because Paul has basically knocked the church in Corinth over the head with a baseball bat for fifteen chapters and then throws in this simple little sentence. Let's look at it a bit closer:

"Therefore (in other words, in light of what I have just written to you, now do this), my beloved brethren (loved by God and family in Christ), be steadfast (a settled conviction of an objective truth), immovable (fixed, unchangeable, not yielding to pressure), always (100% word) abounding (exist in large numbers or amounts) in the work of the Lord (committed service to the commands of Christ - remember in John 15 Jesus says that you are His friends if you keep His commandments), knowing that your toil (oh, so it's not easy work, huh?) is not in vain (producing no result) in the Lord (the three most important motivational words ever!)."

Bottom line - don't get discouraged or overwhelmed with life. Yes, there are lists, but there is something much greater behind everything - God. He loves you and wants you to stay focussed and immersed in His work. We do not labor in vain - faithfully pointing our children towards the Savior, submitting to the leadership of our husbands, service in the local church, giving, meditating on His word, prayer - all of these , when done in the Lord, have value. Eternal value.

So be steadfast, my friends - have that settled conviction of an objective truth - stand on the Word and continue the battle, knowing that God loves you, knows what is best for you and is in complete control.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spiritual Candy



"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." Galatians 2:20

Which one would you take? These are old school candies - Bazooka gum, Lemonheads, Fireballs, Tootsie Rolls...I can remember that my mom used to buy these individually wrapped hard candies that were a creamy, coffee flavor. It was a real treat to get one of those from the bottom of her purse!

The great thing about gum or hard candy is that it takes a while to eat it - even tootsie rolls are tough to chew and then it seems like you are picking taffy out of your teeth for an hour afterwards.

It stays with you.

Well, I thought I'd give you a piece of candy to swish around for a while today. Galatians 2:20 was a verse I learned in AWANA years ago and I even know a song that goes with it. Right now, that song is in my head and it probably will be throughout the rest of the day.

This is a great little verse to mull over - the truth and the consequences are worth spending some time digesting:

*What does it mean in your life to be crucified with Christ?

*We claim to serve a risen Savior, but do we recognize that He is living within us?

*Flesh needs faith to live

*The flesh and the spiritual are inseparable

*Love drove Christ to sacrifice - what does my love drive me to do?

*He gave Himself for me and now He lives in me - fantastic!

We have been discussing in our Luke study that we are ambassadors for Christ here on this earth. We represent Him. This verse goes one step further and claims that we not only live for Him but He lives within us. We know that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, so that takes this to an even greater level.

For the person who is lonely, this verse must be a comfort. For the person who feels they are without direction, this verse must give them renewed sense of purpose. For the person who feels unloved, this verse should fix that.

It's a great treat that should stick with you for a while...hope you enjoyed it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Loved by the World




"If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." John 15:19

What do you think it means to be loved by the world? Does it mean to be tolerated? To be accepted or embraced? To peacefully coexist?

Recently, I have heard several stories of conflict arising within the body of Christ that makes me think that the church is far more into being loved by the world than being hated by the world. I mean, you can catch more flies with honey, right? Why would we purposefully make ourselves distasteful to the world? Wouldn't that defeat our call to go and make disciples?

Here's the thing - John 15 makes it painfully clear that if we are the chosen children of God we will be hated. Can we make the conclusion, then, that if we are not hated, we are not the children of God? That seems to be an extreme conclusion, but I think it warrants some thought.

Standing on doctrinal absolutes today seems to cause more trouble within the church than it does within the world. It seems to me that what would make us distasteful to the world would be the truth that we stand on - and that very truth has become distasteful within the walls of the church. Tolerance has become the accepted standard, and within this word we see extremes. Tolerance of all religion is on one end of the pendulum, and tolerance of all doctrinal beliefs is on the other end.

(Don't take a stand on literal creation - it doesn't really matter, does it? Don't argue 5 points of anything - they only divide and expose your intolerance. Don't make a big deal out of purity - people are going to do what they are going to do - welcome to the 21st century. Divorce is a valid option in all difficult marriages. Baptize whomever and however you please - just so the people feel good when it's done. Don't teach people to give, continue to blame sin on the past, you can't love others until you learn to love yourself and the Bible is not necessarily sufficient for all of life's problems - modern psychology and medicines help as well.)

And I was just getting warmed up.

The problem is that truth is intolerant of other "views" - there is only one truth and that means that truth finds no home within the tolerance spectrum. Can't you see that when we don't stand on truth, then we blend into the world and suddenly we are more popular than ever - embraced by not only our fellow church attenders but also the world? And when we don't stand on truth, we become spiritual Velveeta - we look and taste like Christ, but there is nothing real about us.

So, as I see it, we have a choice - love like the world wants us to love, with tolerance as our theme song. Then not only will we have a lot of friends in the world, but we will also have a lot of friends in the church. Or love like Christ exampled for us to love and warned of the consequences of being His children.

Remember, His love led Him to the cross, not because He won a popularity contest, but because He spoke truth.

Okay, that's my rant for today...I don't feel like I scratched the surface...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Just for a smile...

(Sorry about the YouTube name - I think it's a play on words from the "Where in the world is Matt Lauer?" segment on the Today show...)

This is an old video - you can see by how many hits it has...but it's one of my favorites. If you've seen it, smile again. If you haven't, you're in for a treat. I especially like the scene at 2:33...

Hope you're having a great weekend!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankfulness from Luke



"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.

I was the poor.
I was a slave to sin,
with no family ties, with no inheritance and no future.

He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,

I was the captive.
I was in chains to my sin.
There was no release in sight since I could not repay my debt.

And recovery of sight to the blind,

I was the blind.
Blind to my desperate need.
Completely blind to my lostness.
I thought I could figure out a way to heal myself.
I was wrong.

To set free those who are oppressed,

I was oppressed.
I was weighed down with my sin.
I carried it with me wherever I went.
It was mine to bear and I had no way to get out from under it.

To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."

Luke 9:18,19

I was the Pharisee, lost in his own legalistic works.

I was the leper, diseased, outcast and hopeless.

I was the tax collector, a thief and beyond despair.

I was the cripple, disfigured by my own sin.

But that was then, and this is now.

I am no longer poor, captive, blind and oppressed.

I am no longer a Pharisee, a leper, a tax collector and a cripple.

Thanks be to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
I am free.

Free from sin, free from the chains that bound me.

I am an heir to the Kingdom of God as His adopted child.

I am no longer lost, but found in His love.

I am washed clean in His blood.

I am His forever and forever He is mine.

We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, don't we? On the eve of Thanksgiving, I want to wish my friends and family a blessed Thanksgiving Day and to encourage you all to start your thankfulness with the One who has given us all good things.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Wanted to share this with you...

HBCSL Baptisms! October 24, 2010 from Harvest Spring Lake on Vimeo.

We Will Not Keep Silent


"No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you." Joshua 1:5

The task before Joshua was daunting - enter a land that had been inhabited for hundreds of years by idol-worshipping pagans and empty it - either drive them out or kill them, but get rid of them all. At first glance, this call seems unreasonable. Why couldn't they just slip in over the border, set up a few cities and cohabit for a while, until they meld back into their land?

But the call deserves a second glance. Here's the truth of the matter:
  • This land was theirs - God had given it to Abraham and since God is the Creator of all things, it was His to give - it was their inheritance and their future
  • They had left their land as a large family and were returning as a nation - they needed more space than a few cities could manage
  • For the past forty years, this people had watched their elders and parents die off, they had watched God provide, they had lived as slaves and then nomads, and the anticipation of receiving their land and establishing their homes again was at the verge of becoming reality
  • To allow pagans to stay in the land would be to allow the enemies of God to dwell among them - a cancer that would spread, a leprosy that would kill if not completely separated and destroyed
So Joshua stood at the edge of the land and God spoke those words. Could God have possibly said anything more comforting? What more would Joshua ever need?

I understand that today we are aliens in this land and that our home is with the Lord. But I think that we misuse this concept and rather live by the idiom, "When in Rome, do as the Romans."

Here's my issue: we are aliens because we have been chosen out of the world to be the people of God. Men love darkness rather than light, so because they hated Jesus, they are going to hate us as well. We live like strangers in this world because we are not of the world. But ultimately, this world will return into the hands of the Righteous One, and He shall reign forever and ever.

So, instead of deciding to step over the border and set up cities within this world, I believe we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Not that we are to drive out or kill in the literal sense, but we are to conquer - we are not called to meld into our society and cohabit - we are to be imitators of Christ, knowing that the same promises given to Joshua are ours to claim.

"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." Matthew 28:19

Sounds to me like we have the same call, from the same God, with the same promise attached.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Passionate or Just Plain Crazy?



Yesterday I saw this van parked on the street, and I snapped a picture. Then I came home and googled the May 21, 2011 date. Apparently there is a dating system for Christ's return based on the seven day warning that God gave Noah. The month and day of the start of the flood is given, and taking the verse in 2 Peter 3:8 about a day is like a thousand years, this group applies that verse, adds seven thousand years to the date and gets the day of judgment, which apparently is May 21, 2011.

Wow.

The misuse of scripture and the numbers games people play never cease to entertain me.

The driver of this van honestly believes he is doing the community a favor by publicizing his warning. He is wearing his passion on his sleeve. Unfortunately, when he drives by, people don't recognize his passion but attribute his warning as the rantings of a crazy man.

Now, take the top line off his warning label and his message is no longer that crazy. For those of you who know me, you know my passion for the return of Christ, and there have been times that I have worn the "crazy" label with pride.

Though I firmly hold to the literal interpretation of the scriptures, which include that no one knows the day or the hour of Christ's return, I also believe that there are signs to look for - clear events that will happen prior to His return. Even though they indicate great difficulty is coming, they also produce great hope, knowing that the day is drawing near.

As I disagree with this van owner's specific message, I agree with his general message. So, where's my passion? If I honestly believed that the day was drawing near for the return of Christ, wouldn't I live differently?

It's obviously closer than it was a thousand years ago, and it's closer than it was yesterday. Could He return in my lifetime? Absolutely. Do I live like it could happen in my lifetime? I don't know.

There are two reasons that I believe we need to step it up in our communication about the return of Jesus Christ. First, His return is the great hope of the church (Titus 2:13) - it's something we long for and look for, because when it happens, we will be completely united and restored to our original created purpose. Sin will no longer plague us - we will be with our Savior for eternity. Like the anticipation of a great vacation or a wedding date, the fact that this day is coming should occupy our minds, our plans and our conversations.

Secondly, His return ushers in judgment. When He comes, He brings the wrath of His Father with Him. When the seventh seal is broken (Revelation 8:1), there is silence in heaven for half an hour. Silence! The angels stop saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy" before the throne. Why? Because the wrath of God is ready to be poured out on the earth - a sobering, awesome event that demands attention. If we truly believed that this day is coming, where is our passion to warn our community?

I'll leave you with these thoughts: Whether labeled as passionate or crazy, do you believe in the great hope of the church enough to warn the lost that the day of reckoning is approaching?

And what happens to this man on May 12th?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

So far, so bad...


Just an update on the whole "unsubscribe" venture that began nearly a week ago...

Bad news...it doesn't work. I think that for every email I "unsubscribed" to, I've received 10 from them plus 20 from their closest friends! Ugh! Why offer something if you don't really mean it?

I'm sure there is great spiritual application to this, but I'm too ticked to try to figure it out right now...

Sorry if I talked any of you into following in my footsteps on this one...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Which Character are You?

Today in ladies Bible study we walked through three stories, enlarging our view of Jesus Christ as we soaked up the narrative. They were all revealing stories, but this afternoon, the one that has stuck with me was the five short verses about Jesus healing the leper.

Picture the scene: Jesus had made quite a name for Himself in a rather short period of time. Not only were His miracles drawing the crowds, but His authoritative teaching was nothing like what they were used to. Luke 5:15 says that "...large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed..." Both were equally amazing.

So Jesus enters a town, and He never does it quietly. The crowds not only gathered when He showed up, but many arrived with Him. In verse 12 we read that Jesus was in one of the cities and a man with leprosy approached Him. Based on Jewish law, he would have been required to cover his mouth and cry out, "Unclean! Unclean!" wherever he went. Thus, as he approached Jesus, he made his presence known.

After scattering the crowd, he reached Jesus, fell at His feet and cried, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." This leper understood his leprosy was a death sentence. Even more interesting - he didn't ask for healing, but for cleansing - he wanted to be clean before Lord.

Then Jesus did something that no one else would ever do - yes, He healed him, but that's not what I am talking about. He reached down...and touched the leper. This was unheard of - to touch a leper would be to take his disease upon yourself. But Jesus didn't hesitate or pause - He responded to the need out of compassion for this walking dead man. He touched him, then healed him.

Imagine the response of the crowd who had been repelled the leper, the gasps as they saw their renowned teacher touch the contagious man, and their faces as they watched life flow back into this man's body - his fingers reappeared, his feet broke through the bandages, his skin softened and refreshed, as his hair covered his head. In an instant he went from dead to alive.

Too often we join the crowd and watch in amazement as Jesus performs miracles on the walking dead. Today, we stepped into the shoes of the leper and found ourselves within the healing grip of Jesus. We looked at scripture that told us "...He made Him sin who knew no sin on our behalf, so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him..." (2 Cor. 5:21) When Jesus touched me, my sin became His and His righteousness became mine. We pictured the leper transferring his disease onto Jesus and walking away "clean."

We are starting to recognize a repeated response when people discover Jesus - falling face down, repenting and declaring He is Lord. Until we step into the bandages of the leper and fully understand our death sentence, we will not fully comprehend the life given to us by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Then, an only then, will our response will match what we are seeing in Luke.


Monday, November 15, 2010

World's Worst Christmas Gifts...


Five and a half weeks to go until Christmas Day. (What? Thanksgiving is only how many days away?)

Hold on...I'm catching my breath because when I see it in writing, my heart races.

My blog readers have become a valuable source of not only encouragement to me, but also a source of information and help. So here's the deal - as I get serious about Christmas shopping, instead of asking for suggestions or what is on your list this season, I am asking for the worst gift you've received in the past.

You know, the ones I should avoid (like nose hair clippers - very practical, not very romantic).

I did see the Obama Chia Pet and was thinking that my ladies study might get a kick out of that...but then again, maybe not. (After slicing my thumb open on the Pampered Chef apple slicer, I don't think I'm giving those away either - it was like playing with a razor...)

So, help me out here. What's the worst gift you've received or even given? (A weighted doctor's scale sends a specific message, don't you think?) What gifts initially look like a great idea but turn out pretty bad? (I never could get the Leap Frog reader hooked up to the computer for my children...)

Thanks, in advance...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Are You Excited to Go to Church?


Psalm 100


"Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing.

Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him and bless His name.

For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations."


I love this Psalm. It is my heart checker as I get ready for church on Sunday mornings. Let me explain. As a little exercise, how do you answer these questions about going to church:

  • Do I serve with gladness? What am I glad about?
  • Do I come before Him with joyful song? Or am I more worried about whether the style of music suits me?
  • Am I thankful for who God has made me, or do I still take credit myself?
  • Do I consider myself a sheep? Who's pasture have I been hanging around in all week?
  • When I walk in the front door, am I praising or complaining? Is what I say out loud consistent with what is being said in my head?
  • How can I bless the name of the Lord today?

Now, I don't always mark a perfect score. Sometimes the weight of the world hinders my joy, and I'm not proud to admit that. But that's really no excuse, unless church is all about me. If it's all about Him, then with eyes set on Him, the gathering of the body of Christ can truly be a time of praise and worship.

Best of all, despite whether or not I am in the right frame of mind, the last verse remains true: The Lord IS good, His lovingkindness IS everlasting as well as His faithfulness. That truth in and of itself is powerful enough to wipe out any cares, worries or grumpiness. That truth brings hope, joy and peace that the world cannot offer.

And that truth is exactly why I can't wait to go to church on Sunday!

"I was so glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!"

If you weren't planning on going to church, change your plans. If you are planning on going, do the self-check before you get there. And if you don't have a place to go, come on over to Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake. We'd love to worship with you!

Have a great day!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Random Act of Culture



Not sure how many of you have seen this, but it makes me cry every time I watch it...picture the throne room of heaven (if that's possible) and enjoy!

(Sorry, I can't seem to get it to fit my blog, but you'll get the idea...)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Unsubscribe



You know that verse in James that says you should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger? Apparently I've added to that verse "slow to learn." I'm not sure at what point in my life I added that phrase, but I've lived by it for a long time. Now that I realize that phrase is not really in the verse, it's taking me a while to change my ways.

Case in point - I am so slow to learn anything that is computer oriented! The latest epiphany that I had, which I am finding that everyone and their brother has known about for years but I'm just that far behind the learning curve, is the whole concept of "unsubscribe."

Did you know that at the bottom of almost every junk email there is a little word called "unsubscribe," and that if you click on it, it will take you to a place where you can unsubscribe from that particular company's email list, thus ending the intrusion of junk email from that company in your mailbox? It's as simple as a click.

Now, some of the "unsubscribe" buttons are simply evil trickery, because when you click on them, a new page pops up and says that the page I was looking for no longer exists, but for the most part, I have actually, supposedly gotten rid of a majority of my junk mail. The reason I say supposedly is because it takes 24 to 48 hours for this to take effect. By my calculations, by Saturday morning, I will only have about 5 emails a day to deal with, rather than 547! Wow! What will I do with all my free time?

Spiritual Application:

Aren't you glad God doesn't have an "unsubscribe" button?

Think about it.

Do I really need to expound?

I love you, Lord. Thanks for wading through all my junk and not unsubscribing me...


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We want it backwards


The people of Nazareth were initially excited to have their hometown hero return to their humble city. After all, there was quite a stir in the region from the miracles that were flowing from His fingertips, let alone His teaching. But in a heartbeat, their expectations were crushed, and their excitement turned to rage. Before anyone could logically think through the ramifications of their actions, the mob was forcing Jesus to the edge of a cliff to cast Him over. What a swing from popularity to repudiation!

You see, Jesus had called them out. He had told them that blessing followed obedience and not the other way around. That's why He used the examples of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman (Luke4:23-27), to show them that actions bred consequences.

There is nothing new under the sun, is there? We are the same faithless people today as they were in His day. We want the blessing before the obedience. "Lord, if you would only do _______, then I would start living for you." Of course, we aren't that blatant, but it is at the heart of our request.

We're also into instant gratification. "Well, I've been submitting to my husband for four days now and there's still no change in him. How much longer do I have to do this?" Rather than set our eyes on our Savior and walk in obedience to please Him, we try to find a quick fix in the scriptures and we think the blessing comes in the form of earthly rewards, rather than the growth of our faith in the person of Jesus Christ. We put our hope in changing circumstances rather than the unchanging character of God.

It's time to stop trying to put the horse before the cart and living by faith.

Seeing is not believing.

Believing is seeing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Full of His Glory


"...Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory..." Isaiah 6:3

The land of Canaan was full of fortified cities, well organized and strong armies, and last but not least, giants. The nation of Israel were uneducated, escaped slaves, who had travelled the desert on foot with everything they owned, and stood at the edge of the land, wondering what to do next.

In His grace and wisdom, God instructed them to send in twelve spies, to check out the land "...that I am going to give to the sons of Israel..." (Numbers 13:2) It was a sneak preview of the goodness of God, and guess what? It backfired.

Ten spies came back, having seen the walls and the giants, shaking in their sandals, completely confident that they could never retake their land.

But two returned, proclaiming the goodness of God.

On Sunday, Dave introduced Joshua to us, and explained why Joshua had a different perspective on the land of Canaan. He was a man who saw God through his service to Moses, he lingered with God, he trusted the Word of God and he understood the cost of rebellion. In his message, Dave pointed to the fact that seeing the glory of God was a life changing event for Joshua and then he read several passages, including the one above from Isaiah, that tells us that the whole earth is filled with the glory of God.

It made me stop and think about how I take creation for granted. This summer I was in Italy and after visiting the Vatican Museum, I promptly returned home, ordered a book on the life of Michelangelo, read it in about two sittings and was fascinated by this incredible artist.

And yet, truth be known, what Michelangelo sculpted and painted is simply a copy of God's creation. Why do I praise the copier rather than the Creator? If my future granddaughters color me a picture and I walk over to my copier and make a copy, do I praise the HP Office Jet for making me a copy, or do I praise my little granddaughters for their artwork? Does this even make sense?

Today, my friend Jackie was at the house and she spotted two, full-sized adult eagles perching in a tree. The sky was bright blue and clear, and their white heads were such a contrast to the blue sky. We both grabbed our cameras, but she took a better picture than I (way to go, Jackie!). When we were done comparing photos, she looked at me and said, "Tell Dave we saw the glory of God today!"

I am committed to paying attention to my surroundings. If life is all about me, then I don't have to look out the window at anything. But if life is all about His glory - if everything He created was for His glory - then I need to start paying attention and PRAISING the One who made all things.

I must stop looking at the copiers and set my eyes on the Creator.

Because when I see the glory of God, it is a life changing event, isn't it?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Learned Obedience


"Although He was Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered..." Hebrews 5:8

This week we studied the temptations of Christ found in Luke 4. I have been carrying this passage around with me all week, trying to imagine the scene - a weakened, hungry Jesus finding the strength in His relationship with His Father to battle Satan head on.

Then I've been trying to use the tools that Jesus used in facing the temptations in my own life - what does that look like? Do I know enough scripture to battle temptation? At the moment of trial, am I aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life? Do I rely on the love of the Father? Does my love for the Father drive obedience, or do I struggle getting off the throne of my life?

We also discussed this week that no matter how difficult our trials and temptations have been, none of us had ever come face to face with Satan before. That's kind of important to remember - it's a perspective thing. We looked at I Corinthians 10:13 which tells us that our temptations are not unique to us, and that because of God's faithfulness, we can endure, knowing that He always provides a way of escape.

But the eye opening verses for me were Hebrews 2:16-18, where it tells us that though God does not give help to the angels, He does help man. That's why Jesus had to be made like us in all things - His humanity made Him the merciful and faithful high priest for us. And then there's verse 18 - "For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."

Jesus suffered through the temptations. If they weren't real to Him, there wouldn't have been suffering. But because He was made like us in all things, the temptations were real to Him. He suffered through them and then (per the verse at the top) we learn that through His suffering He learned obedience.

Wow.

Read that again.

In battling temptation, we have the love of the Father, the leading of the Holy Spirit, the arsenal of scripture at our disposal, the ability to talk to the Father whenever we want, as well as a sympathetic High Priest who intercedes for us.

But let's go one step further, using Jesus still as our example. Are we learning obedience through suffering? Is is possible that temptation and trials are in our life to learn obedience? When we disobey when we suffer, what are we learning? Can we look back at past temptations and see a progression in our education, or are we still making first grade mistakes though we should be in high school?

Does this make sense?

The verse above (Hebrews 5:8) is a powerful statement that has HUGE ramifications on how we view Christ. The fact that Jesus LEARNED anything is mind blowing, let alone the fact that it was through His sufferings that He was being educated.

So, I guess I only have one question left: what have you learned lately?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Launch Sunday


Just a quick note to make sure you all know that you are invited to the launch of Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake this Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Trillium Banquet and Conference Center. It's going to be quite the party! We have a family from Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin coming to lead us in worship through music, Dave is beginning a series on the life of Joshua and our children's ministries are up and running as well.

Why a party? Because we are celebrating the beginning of a new congregation in Spring Lake. We want our friends and family to join us in praising the Lord for what He has done in our lives and what He plans to do through this new body of believers. We want to celebrate the cross and pray for the future. We want to lift His name high and worship the Lord through the study of His Word. And we want you to celebrate with us!

Check out more details on our website: www.harvestspringlake.org

Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Perception - CS - Hannah

"She made a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, the I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life..." I Samuel 1:11

In just this one short prayer, you can identify several of Hannah's perceptions about God and about herself. Let me quickly point them out:

*if - she knows that God has a choice. She is not demanding or pleading, as much as requesting or giving Him an option - almost a covenantal promise - if you do this, then I'll do this...

*maidservant times three - she knows her place. She is a slave, He is the master. What right does she have to ask anything of Him, but for the fact that He allows it or might possibly have an ear for it...

*Your - she not only knows her place but knows who her master is...

*vow - this is the biggie. When Hannah makes a vow, she keeps it. Later in the story we find that God answers her request, gives her a son (Samuel) and she keeps her vow to the Lord - she gives him to Eli to serve in the Tabernacle. What does this reveal about her perception of God? If you make a vow to God, you'd better remember it and you'd better keep it because God remembers. She believed that God actually gave her Samuel and he was the Lord's to keep.

How often do we bargain with the Lord, only to forget what our end of the bargain was? You know what I am talking about - "Please Lord, give me this or take away that and I promise to _________ (fill in the blank)." What does that reveal about our perception of God? Well, either that He won't remember what we promised, He really doesn't care what we promised, He really didn't expect us to follow through with our promise or He won't do anything if we don't keep our promise.

How sad is that?

Hannah kept her vow because she feared the Lord. She was His maidservant and she gave Him what was already His. And the Lord honored this by giving her more children that she could keep (I Samuel 2:21). What a beautiful picture of a woman who had the proper perception of God and lived by it!

Again, let me ask - how does your perceptions of God affect your actions?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Perception - CS - Ananias and Sapphira


"Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." Acts 5:4,5

Is there such a thing as a white lie? One that is harmless? If there is such a thing, it would have been Ananias' and Sapphira's lie. I mean, who were they hurting? They sold some property, kept a bit of the sales price for themselves, but when they gave the money to the apostles for the ministry of the early church, they said they gave the total amount. No one had asked them to do this, but they weren't completely honest. But did it really hurt anyone to keep back a bit and act as if you gave it all?

Next thing they knew, they were standing before the Lord Himself. From earth's perspective, they were dead. So apparently, there is no such thing as a harmless lie.

Peter was the one who reprimanded them before they died, and he told them that their lie was against God. David understood this with his own sin with Bathsheba, when he said, "Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight..." (Psalm 51:4)

So what was Ananias and Sapphira's perception of God?

I have met plenty of Christians who understand that their sins have been forgiven by God and live on the perception that there is no penatly for sin. Jesus paid for it and God knows I'm a sinner, so if He's already forgiven me, why should I worry about it?

It sounds pretty silly when I write it out, but that doesn't change the fact that most of us live as if there are no consequences to sin. We live forgiven but not grateful. That was Ananias and Sapphira's problem - they didn't think God really cared about truthfulness or else they would have been truthful. They didn't think a little white lie had any consequences, but they were wrong.

So what does God think about truthfulness? Do lies bother Him? Are there earthly consequences for tiny, little sins or can we get away with them? Well, what does this story tell us?

Yes, our penalty has been paid when it comes to sin, but there are always consequences. And these consequences come in all shapes and sizes. Our motivation to be truthful needs to flow from a proper perception of God and His view of sin, not a misperception that salvation is a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Next, I promise a good example...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Perception - CS - Jonah

"And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish for three days and three nights..." Jonah 1:17

So this one is pretty easy. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and cry against it. Jonah runs to Joppa to catch the first boat to Tarshish. God sends a storm, God sends a fish and Jonah ends up in Nineveh.

Of course I skipped a lot of details. But we're looking at a perception here and it's fairly obvious to find. Not only did Jonah chose to disobey, but he ran away.

That's the perception I want to look at today. His action of running away reveals his heart - plus the fact that the scriptures tells us what he was thinking...twice:

"But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord." Jonah 1:3

Jonah believed he could run away from the presence of the Lord. So that makes God...ummm...what? Not omnipresent, wouldn't you say?

David, on the other hand, had the proper perception of God's presence when he wrote: "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there, if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me." Psalm 139:7-10

Even though it's written a few hundred years before Jonah, it kind of sounds like David was writing about him, doesn't it?

David understood that you cannot flee from the presence of God. He is everywhere. Jonah, on the other hand, had to learn this lesson the hard way. But it made me stop and think, do I honestly believe that God is everywhere - that He is with me all the time and knows everything I am doing, saying, thinking? Do I act like I believe this?

How different would our lives be if we truly lived with this reality! Our conversations, our entertainment, our free time - would these things be different? Or do we have this perception of God that we can actually flee from the presence of the Lord? That He can tell us to do something and we choose not to do it, and then run away from His presence?

In both Eve and Jonah's stories, our main characters disobeyed God's command. Their perceptions caused actions. So do ours and the way we act communicate what our perceptions of God are.

So, do we think God is a liar? (Eve) Do we think we can hide from God? (Jonah)

Hmmm...where will she go next?

(By the way, I like this picture because it doesn't look like a whale but truly like a big fish!)