Sunday, October 31, 2010
"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
"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!)
Friday, October 29, 2010
"The serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:4,5
In the case study of Eve, we start with a different beginning point. Eve was not created with a sin nature. She didn't come out of the womb already tainted, affected and consumed by sin. She wasn't spiritually dead from day one. She was alive, whole, pure, holy and completely unencumbered.
She was perfect.
But let's get one thing straight. Even in her perfection, she was dependent on God. That was how she was created. She needed His guidance, His wisdom, His love and His counsel.
So what was the serpent's message to her? We are not given a lot of details of their meeting, just the basics. And basically, he called God a liar.
"God said you would die? Are you kidding me? You won't die. You see, He knows that as soon as you eat from the tree you'll be just like Him. You won't need Him anymore because you'll know everything you need to know! That's all that tree does - gives you understanding of good and evil."
One of my favorite women's books is Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and it's main point is that from day one, women have believed the lies Satan has whispered in our ears. It's a powerful book that hits us right between the eyes - gals, check it out.
But that's exactly what Eve did. She believed a lie.
So, what was her perception of God? She knew His instruction and she knew the consequence of disobedience. And yet there seemed to be another side to the story. Was God worried that she would become like Him and not need Him anymore? Was she doing Him a favor by eating it - then He wouldn't have to spend so much time instructing her? Why doesn't He want me to know good and evil? Why withhold something as wonderful as this fruit?
We don't know what she was thinking but we do know her choice. She chose to disregard God's instruction and follow another's. She believed Satan's lie, which means that she believed God had lied to her about the true affect of this fruit.
God. A liar.
Can you even imagine?
And that was in a perfect state.
Now put our lives into perspective. We are tainted by sin. We cannot process information without sin affecting it. That's how powerful sin is. And yet, we clearly have God's instructions and we clearly have a choice before us. Do we believe that what God says is true? Or is He a liar? When He tells us that He's given us the Holy Spirit to live within us and help us with our decisions, do we believe it? Or is He lying?
Of course God is not a liar, but unfortunately we act like He is when we don't believe that His ways are best for us. I'm going to let you mull that over for a while. I think each of us can apply this to our own lives in a myriad of ways, so I'll leave the personal application to you.
But keep in mind - Eve's actions revealed her perception of God. She knew Him, was in complete communion with Him, but still chose to believe that He was not being truthful with her. It had devastating consequences in her life as well as ours.
How do your perceptions of God affect your own life, positively or negatively?
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Do you remember the controversy about this 18 year old, South African runner in 2009? Her gender was in question after she won the 800 meter world title. Apparently, she was so impressive, yet not overly feminine, that they subjected her to testing to make sure she was a female and not a hermaphrodite. (Another long story...)
Now, this is not going to be a post about Caster Semenya but about perceptions. There are people that looked at this runner, judged her appearance and her performance, and built a perception of her that ended up being false. But this perception caused them to act in a certain way towards her.
We see this all the time and truth be told, we act on our perceptions as much as the next guy. Sometimes our perceptions end up being accurate, but sometimes they are not. And boy, are perceptions hard to change! I have this perception about the texture of fish in my mouth and I've got to tell you, if I don't start to gag at the thought of eating fish...well, it's my perception and I'm sticking with it!
Our perceptions of God affect our relationship with Him and unfortunately, often times our perceptions are wrong. But once we have a perception, they are really hard to change. Is God an angry judge? Or is He a gray-haired, tired old man, bored on a throne in heaven? Is He a loving Father or is He a legalistic, demanding Lord who delights in pouring out His wrath? Is He patient or is He uninvolved? Is He a buddy riding along in the passenger seat of life, or is He the Almighty Creator of the universe?
If man's perception of God affects his relationship with Him, so does his perception of the Word. I had a friend tell me recently that his adult son can't reconcile the angry, judgmental God of the Old Testament with the loving Jesus of the New. What would you say to this man? What is his perception of God? How can God be both?
It all comes down to this: we must enlarge our view of God and we must shrink our view of ourselves. As John the Baptist put it, He must increase, I must decrease. Too often we want to look at God through the lens of our personal experience rather than look at our lives through the lens of God's Word. Two totally different perception building perspectives.
Study the Word to know Him, not to find yourself. Seek His face. Learn His ways. In doing this, you might find out that your perception of God is not accurate. I'll wager that your perception of yourself is out of whack, as well.
One day we will see Him face to face and perception will become reality. But until then, I will not settle for a simple perception based on my own weaknesses - I will build my perceptions of God from His Word through a life long journey of knowing Him.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
There is a storm on its way to western Michigan today.
They say it's a big one and it feels like it's coming, but until it arrives, we don't really know how bad it will be. I am looking forward to watching this storm come across the lake, however, in light of the potential damage, I am cautious to say that I am looking forward to a storm of this magnitude.
Jesus knew exactly what is going to happen before He returns, and He soberly and carefully laid out what to look for in His teaching on the Mount of Olives. Unlike the wind storm that is coming our way today, Jesus' words from Matthew 24 tell us exactly how bad it is going to be:
"Many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another..."
"Most people's love will grow cold..."
"But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved..."
"When you see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place..."
"For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now..."
"Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved..."
"False Christs will arise and show great wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, the elect..."
"Behold, I have told you in advance..."
Jesus' warning is not like the meteorologist's warning. He knew for sure what would happen and He warned us "in advance."
Last night, as Dave and I watched the weather report, we both felt uneasy and Dave got out of bed, took all the deck furniture off our deck and put it into the garage. Now, nothing may happen today, but there was a recommendation to remove anything that could become a projectile from your lawn. The warning was enough to get my husband out of bed, even though the outcome is unsure.
The outcome of the last days is not unsure. We are barreling headfirst into a time of great persecution and tribulation, and Jesus Himself warned us about it.
So, what are we going to do in response? Should we sit on this warning and not tell anyone? Should we keep it to ourselves? Or is this warning somehow connected to the great hope of the church?
There is a great storm on the horizon and after it passes through, life here on earth will never be the same.
Are you ready for the storm?
Sunday, October 24, 2010
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, or correction, for instruction in righteousness..." II Timothy 3:16
"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." I Timothy 4:16
"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." II Timothy 4:3
Question of the Day: Is doctrine divisive?
No, sin is divisive. That's why we have so many denominations with so many different beliefs - because man in his sinfulness divides.
Dave was teaching on the doctrine of the church recently and he was talking about the local church versus the universal church. He said that in the universal church, there are no doctrinal divides. This made me think - actually it made me daydream about what heaven will be like, when sin is no more and we can see clearly and understand truth without sinful, fleshly distortion. What a day that will be!
Unfortunately, I feel that the study of doctrine is becoming less and less important in the church today because of the divisiveness it causes. Instead of promoting unity in truth, the church has decided it is better not to discuss and "argue," so unity in ignorance is more loving than strong doctrinal stands.
Is doctrine really not that important? Should we sacrifice doctrine for the sake of love?
Well, obviously it is important because doctrine is equal to truth. But rather than expound on it, I am going to post a link that does a better job than I could...
Friday, October 22, 2010
Psalm 1 begins..."How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night."
What exactly is the counsel of the ungodly? Any counsel that is void of truth. Any counsel that is developed independently of God. Worldly wisdom.
And friends, there's a lot of it out there.
From modern psychology to parenting to health to finances, worldly wisdom flows into our homes from many sources - television, radio, magazines, books, neighbors, family and friends.
But notice that the Psalmist says that the man who does NOT walk in the counsel of the ungodly is blessed. That is because his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he continually meditates.
I love how the word "delight" is used here. It's not his obligation or his requirement, but his delight. The blessed man finds joy in meditating on the Word. It's not a chore and it's not on his check list. It's something that he longs for, that he can't find enough time to do, that brings him deep satisfaction. He loves it so much, that he immerses himself in it day and night.
This is the blessed man.
So, (you know there's always a question), where do you walk? In the laws of the Lord or in the counsel of the ungodly?
Ugh. This is a hard question, because walking in the laws of the Lord takes effort, where receiving the counsel of the ungodly only needs a remote control.
Well, this is where my mind has been dwelling for the past day. I love this psalm - if you have time today, take a look at the whole passage. It is a beautiful, simple truth about the difference between a life immersed with God and one empty of His presence.
If you want another exercise, take a look at Psalm 119 - yeah, I know it's long, but the whole passage is devoted to the blessings of having the Word in your life...well worth the time to read it.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
"Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light..." Ephesians 5:7,8
These verses were in our "bearing fruit" reading this morning. (For those of you who do not come to study, we are meditating on John 15 this fall in correspondence to our Luke study. We are spending some time this week in complimentary passages on fruit bearing.)
And they got me to thinking...
Okay, stop reading and go grab a flashlight.
Got it? Now, go somewhere where there are no windows (bathrooom, basement, closet), turn the lights off and close the door. It going to be pretty dark, but that's the point. Just stand in the darkness for about a minute until your eyes adjust.
This is you before Christ. You were darkness.
Now, turn on your flashlight. What can you see? Don't move it around but simply point it in one direction and make a mental list of everything you see. Is there still darkness in the room?
Okay, turn the flashlight off and stand another minute.
Now, turn the light switch on. Now what can you see? Everything, right?
Here's my point. There are a lot of lessons we can learn about light and dark from the Bible. There are verses that say "walk in the Light" and "we were in darkness." But these Ephesians verses say that we "were darkness" and now we "are light." There is a subtle difference, but an important one.
What kind of light are you? Are you a narrow beam that illuminates a small area, or do you fill a whole room when you enter it?
I want to be a light switch. I want people to be able to see when I walk in a room because I am a light source - someone who reveals truth because of my relationship with Jesus. But when I "hide it under a bushel", I limit my effect on the world.
That's got to stop. Jesus was definitely a light switch, as a matter of fact, He not only filled a room, but He's the Light of the world. Time to trade in the flashlight for better wiring, I guess.
Any ideas on how to be a brighter light?
Have a great day!
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Are you a jeans Christian or a purse Christian?
If you are a jeans Christian, then you read John 15:4 like this: "Abide in Me and I in you."
But if you are a purse Christian, you read it like this: "Abide in Me and I on you."
Here's the difference: If you are a jeans Christian, you understand that your life it hidden in Christ and that no matter where you go, what you do or say, Jesus is with you. He is an irremovable part of your life (yes, the word is "irremovable" and if I made it up, I think you get the picture).
If you are a purse Christian, you put Jesus on and off in your life. Oh, He is with you always, but you don't live a life that wants Him around all the time. Like at sporting events - a lot of us leave Him home for those. Or during ugly conversations with our spouse or when gossiping about a neighbor - then His presence is no where to be found. And sometimes we forget to put him on. We get busy and suddenly realize that we haven't spent time in His Word or talked to Him for days.
Why jeans or purse? you ask. Well, let's picture it this way. See the woman in the picture above? Let's say she is heading to a restaurant to have lunch with a friend. That morning, she put on her lovely black skinny jeans, her casual tee shirt and topped it off with a stylish blazer. As she ran out the door, she grabbed her purse. She made a few stops on her way to lunch, filling her car with gas, picking up the dry cleaning, and stopping by the post office for a roll of stamps. But by the time she gets to lunch, what are the odds she's lost her skinny jeans?
How ridiculous, you say. Her jeans are exactly where they should be! She is in them, therefore they go wherever she goes.
But the purse...now that's something she could lose. She could set it down anywhere - at the cleaners, at the post office, on top of her car - she could even leave it in the car during lunch.
If you are a jeans Christian, not only are you abiding in Christ, but He is in you as well. There is no separating the two of you. But if you are a purse Christian, then you may think that you abide in Him, but in actuality He just sits on your shoulder, and the risk of forgetting Him somewhere is great. You can set Him down and walk away without blinking an eye. You may purposefully put Him on Sunday mornings and then leave Him in the closet the rest of the week. Or you may just forget Him.
Abide in Me and I in you - permanent, consistent, purposeful, relational, irremovable.
(It's my word and I'm sticking with it.)
Thursday, October 14, 2010
"If you're going to live in my house, you're going to abide by my rules."
Oh, come on. Admit it. If you've raised teenagers, you've said this very phrase. In this volatile time of life (the teen years), boundaries are still necessary as understood by the adults, though not necessarily by the teenager. So the parental "putting down of the foot" relates to living by within their guidelines in regards to school work, house rules and respect.
Abiding in the Christian walk is a lot different. If abiding meant living by God's rules alone, then it would be more like behaviorism and legalism than true family dwelling. Let me explain.
This morning after I did my normal routine at the bathroom mirror, I set down my tooth brush and looked at the floss. Now, flossing wouldn't have even crossed my mind except for the fact that I recently went to the dentist and despite the fact that my teeth were fine (no cavities!), I still was gently reprimanded for not flossing. So here's how this typically works in my life:
I feel bad that I don't floss.
I go home.
I forget about flossing, except for the distant gnawing on my conscience which wears off after about three weeks.
I remember about a month before the next dentist cleaning that if I don't start flossing I will have the same awkward reprimand in my future.
I put off flossing for another two weeks.
I look for floss but don't find any.
I go to my appointment and get gently reprimanded again by the same hygienist and dentist.
Then the cycle starts again.
So, this morning as I looked at the floss, a greater question was formed in my mind. Am I flossing out of fear of the dentist, or could there be a greater reason than pleasing him that I should do this?
Same with the Christian walk. Abiding with Christ is dwelling with Him - living with Him, learning from Him, conforming your life into His image. Sharing meals, watching television together, long discussions by the fireplace, awkward confrontations when you are out of line, laughing with Him, crying on His shoulder, growing in Him. Abide - the fullest definition of dwelling.
If you look at God and think that abiding in Him is simply living by His rules so as not to tick Him off, then you may have a very teenaged view of God. And if you think that abiding in Him is mindlessly doing something He's asked you to do and you do it out of fear, then you possibly have a very limited understanding of the purposes behind God's will and instruction.
Abiding means relationship. Everything the Lord asks of us flows from His very character. There is reason and purpose behind each and every instruction. There is a depth in abiding that co-existing or office visits simply can't attain.
So, my question for you today is this: Are you trying to get through life without breaking the house rules, following the house rules out of fear of a reprimand or are you walking daily with the Father, gleaning from His teaching and His gentle Hand in your life, abiding in His mercy and grace, conforming into the image of His Son?
John 15 - our meditation passage for ladies study - if you have a chance, read it today...
Monday, October 11, 2010
"For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few that find it." Matthew 7:14
This is the verse that kept ringing in my ears on Sunday as I sat in the airport in Denver, waiting for my connecting flight to Grand Rapids. Hundreds upon hundreds of people around me - waiting to board, getting off planes, standing in lines for coffee, pushing strollers, standing where the seats were no longer available.
I imagined myself stepping into the walkway between the gates and raising my hands and saying in a loud voice, "Excuse me, excuse me...does anyone in here love Jesus?" The reason I imagined it is that many times when I do impulsive things, I picture it in my mind first before I decide to do it. I really thought about it, but then the image of people panicking while I was trying to quiet the room, as if I would have been something to be afraid of, and then the image of me being tackled by security and air marshals kept me from enacting my public poll.
But, I do know what the Word says. It says that few find the road to life.
In an airport that packed and busy, there would be few believers present.
How about here in Western Michigan? Are we the virtual Promised Land? Are there more than few who know the Lord?
Well, we act like everyone knows Him - that's why we're not more evangelistic. And most certainly, everyone goes to church, so they must be on the narrow way, right?
As we prepare to launch the church in Spring Lake (29 days and counting!), this verse gives me motivation. People need the Lord. Our message is not going out in vain to a well-church, already saved community. I am not going to be fooled by the number church-goers, nor will I be discouraged by those who don't think Western Michigan needs another church. I know that the fields are vast and the mission is needed.
I'm excited to walk this narrow road and squeeze through this tiny gate with those whom God has ordained would walk with me. But after my reminder of how large the world really is this past weekend, I am also sobered to the calling.
So, I have a question for my readers. Why is the way so narrow and the gate so small? What do you think that means?
Thanks for your input...
Thursday, October 7, 2010
"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12:7-10
I don't often use my blog for prayer requests. Bottom line, I am not comfortable making this about me at all. I honestly desire that my musings be directed at the One who took my place. But I'm breaking one of my rules this afternoon, because His Word has been ringing in my ears and I want to share this with you.
I love how Paul points to his thorn in the flesh and declares - twice - that it's there to keep him from exalting himself.
Speaking at a women's conference can be a prideful thing. I have spoken locally and around the world and I have to admit, I really have nothing to share, if not for the goodness of God. There is nothing in me that would draw a crowd, save His love and the heart to encourage sisters in their walk.
That being said, the Lord actively desires that I walk in humility. When I attempt to teach in my own strength, it will always turn disastrous. But when I recognize my weaknesses, it is then that He is strong.
Well, friends...I'm pretty weak right now. I rarely get sick but when I do, it's usually when I can't afford it. Now, I've got this sinus/throat/headache thing that most of you have had and I'm really not feeling sorry for myself because I know this will pass.
The problem is that tomorrow morning I need to get on a flight to Montana to speak at a women's conference on Saturday. I feel sorry for those gals because at the moment they are not getting a very pretty package from Western Michigan. But all day I have heard the words, "I am well content with weaknesses...for when I am weak, then I am strong." So, truth be known, I'm actually excited for this weekend, because in my weakness, God will show up in a big way. He will make it so much more about Him, because His message will come from one who is weak.
So, here are my prayer requests for the weekend - please pray for the women who are coming to the conference. Pray that they would hear from the Lord and be able to see past His mouthpiece. Pray that their hearts would be moved to change as they draw closer to the Lord and enlarge their understanding of Him. Thank Him for continually reminding me that His power is perfected in my weakness and for His humbling grace that will allow me, in a lesser state, to impart truth from His Word, all for His glory. And pray for Carolyn, who is traveling with me to lead worship for the conference - an added blessing in a travel companion!
Dave has told me that he wants us to plan less and pray more. So I'm asking you to help me with this, and I fully expect to have a wonderful story of God's grace and sense of humor when I return home.
Monday, October 4, 2010
"Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." Luke 1:28
And there you have it.
A lifetime guarantee.
When Mary heard these words, she couldn't figure out what kind of greeting that was - she was favored? The Lord was with her? Shortly thereafter, her questions were answered and she moved forward in God's plan for her life.
By the way, this greeting is not unique to Mary. As a child of God, it is your greeting as well.
Let me break it down for you. Mary was chosen by God and His continued presence would give her what she needed to be the woman God had called her to be, because when God calls, He also empowers. A lifetime guarantee. Same with you - God's Word is clear that He chooses and empowers, all the while indwelling. A lifetime guarantee.
Oh, but Kristen, are you comparing my call with the call for Mary to be the mother of Jesus?
Granted, to hold the Son of God in your arms and care for Him as a baby and a child is a huge privilege and a very high calling, but don't forget, you are a child of the King, as well. And you have a high calling - to bear fruit, to glorify your Father, to preach the gospel to those around you, to serve the body of Christ with your giftedness, to love your husband and raise your children in a godly home.
Mary didn't have it easy. She was pregnant before she was married, she had a difficult birth situation (come to class tomorrow to find out more info on that!), she had guests show up hours after delivering, she was given heart-breaking prophecies, she was given gifts from wisemen, she watched her Son be embraced and rejected, she listened to His teaching and watched His miracles, she saw her Son wear Himself to a frazzle, she watched her Son die a horrific, painful death of a criminal, she saw Him resurrect, and she fervently spread the news of His resurrection power with the apostles as they planted churches with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How did she do all this?
She must have been an incredible woman.
Well, in actuality, there is only one reason she was able to have the life she lived:
Because the Lord was with her.
Remember, with God, nothing is impossible. He empowers us to the task that He calls us to. He never gives us anything we cannot handle and He has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age.
Have you ever felt that what God was asking you to do was just simply too much for you? It might be to forgive someone, or to share with someone, or maybe it's as simple as to submit to someone. Remember, the Lord is with you - you can do this. He never asks anything of you that doesn't flow from the very character of who He is, all the while promising to be with you and to enable you to accomplish His will.
Technically, our guarantee carries into eternity, but I couldn't find an "Eternity Guarantee" picture on Google Images, so this will have to do. So, let's not take the presence of God in our lives for granted. Let's focus on it, be thankful for it and take advantage of it - stop making excuses and start living the life He's called us to live.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
I am reading through a book with a few friends written by Paul David Tripp called "Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands." Actually, I've read it before, but I needed another round and I'm bringing friends with me. The book is a great tool to remove the fear of coming alongside others and helping them in their time of need. Too often believers shy away from a counseling role in others' lives because they feel unqualified. This book explains how the call to come alongside is one for the body of Christ, not just trained professionals.
In chapter two, Tripp battles against the concept that the Word is a book of to-do lists that fix everything. When we study the Word in this way, we are trying to use the Word to serve the one we really love above all: ourselves. Rather, the Word as a whole points to a God-centered world, where our lives have been designed to bring Him glory, because it's His story. So instead of studying scripture to relieve the stress of my sin-encrusted world, I should seek the scriptures to find my identity in God's story. God is not sanctifying me so that I can have a better life and be in the center of the stage, but He is forming me into His image to bring glory to Himself.
Granted, God's principles work and do make life better. But having an earthly perspective is not the grand scale that God works on. He has an eternal perspective and gives us glimpses of glory when we set our eyes on Him and our future with Him in eternity. As Tripp says, "We were made for His glory, and we are called to display His glory in everything that we do."
He goes on to explain that sin has "made us glory robbers." The truth of this statement made me pause. Am I really a theif? Am I stealing from God? I know that sin steals from God, but me? Really?
Of course, you know the answer. Sin is bad, but I can't blame "sin" for my choices and my actions, as if it were an outside force. I am not simply affected by sin. I am a sinner. It's who I am.
And because I'm a sinner, I'm a glory thief. I want to be the center of my world. That's why when someone hurts me, I become indignant and angry. When things don't go my way, I battle until something changes. When people need help, I step in, valiantly, waiting for the pats on the back and the cheering crowds to recognize how great I am. I've stolen the glory from God and applied it pathetically on myself.
Then Tripp wrote something that provided hope and relief. He said, "The Redeemer has come so that glory thieves would joyfully live for the glory of Another. There is no deeper personal joy and satisfaction than to live committed to His glory. It is what we truly need."
Amen, and amen! Without the Redeemer, I would continue to battle for that center stage glory, and never be satisfied with my accomplishments, because sin is never satisfied. But since the Redeemer has come, He has given me power over sin, to be able to see life with an eternal perspective and give me something worth living for - God's glory! Something truly satisfying - something I was created to do.
So, I have written on a 3x5 card and taped to my computer a statement: Don't be a glory thief. It is a good motivation checker. Is it my story or is it His? An honest answer to that question will be the start of a whole new life.