Monday, March 23, 2015

Who or What is Your Isaac? Lay It Down

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

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

God is the only perfect relationship we will ever have.

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

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

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

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

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

Many times people will convince themselves that they cannot live without another person - it might be a child, a mate or a parent/grandparent. God tested Abraham. He asked him to place Isaac on an alter and to offer him up in worship to Him. Abraham obeyed and Isaac was returned to him. Abraham loved God more, than Isaac. He knew somehow God would work everything out if he obeyed Him.

Are you able to be like Abraham? It is dangerous to put something before God. Not only does it mess up the order of your life but you are living in constant disobedience to God. You will never be happy or content, even if you have what you think you cannot live with because every person or thing besides God will never complete you, fulfill you and truly make you happy. You will put too much burden on that person or desire that you think you can't live without and when it fails you, and it will, you will be devastated. Your world will come crashing down and without God as your firm foundation, your solid rock, you will be slipping deep into painful sorrow, regret, hopelessness and remorse. You will crush others and your passions as your hold on tighter to survive.

Put God First (by mihneasim on deviantart)

God is saying, "Let go." "Come to me." "I am all you need."

But the choice is yours. Will you let your Isaac be sacrificed on the altar of life because you held to tightly, because you would not put God first and worship only Him? Will you force your Isaac to be stripped of your hands because you will not let it rest on an open palm?

If you have God, you are never alone. You will never be forsaken, empty, aimless and abandoned. Let Him have all of you. It is the only way you will be able to in turn love others with compassionate, selfless, giving love.

God will fill you, heal your hurts and restore you to be who you were created to be and thereby you will be able to follow you passions and live a life with rich relationships with others.

But your relationship with God, must be your priority, and the only thing in life you cannot live without.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pure Religion -- Are You Pleasing To God?

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

Do you help the poor?

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

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

Oh, how this can sting personally!

Sunday after Sunday my pastor teaches Scripture straight out of the Bible from one book at a time verse by verse. He teaches us from the Word that if we are not living the principles of the Bible out daily and being totally surrendered to God in our life we are not pleasing God. It is not an obligation but an act of love. It is not out of duty to get saved, it is out of thanksgiving because we are saved. He just taught us that salvation and redemption are woven together; we are redeemed by the price of the blood of Christ when we accept salvation. We are bought, purchased, owned by God. We are His, but wonderfully HE is ours, to love and know.

If we are God's, we have to be all His. God is not satisfied with a Sunday/Wednesday/Holiday church attender. He wants us to be Christlike 24/7. We can sin by what we do (sin of commission), but we can also sin by not doing what we should be doing (sin of ommission). When we hear the Gospel of Jesus, and decide to enter into a relationship with Jesus, we are making a decision to be His disciple and to live out the gospel (death, burial and resurrection) in our everyday life. All of our life is filtered through Jesus -- what we do and what we don't do.

Read Galatians 3:11 -
"Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because "the righteous will live by faith."
But we have to be careful not to be living in by our mind alone, making decisions on how we shall live and what we will do to please God instead of living by faith and a moment by moment relationship with God, allowing Him to tell us in our spirit what to do and not do. We must communicate to God, live in His presence being pray-filled.

If we are just like the Israelites, we keep trying to be justified by following a bunch of rules, instead of living by faith. Most people find it easier to check off a few religious requirements, than to live by faith with God. Faith -- believing God -- is what saves us from our sins; Likewise, faith --believing God--is what directs our living. By faith, we must live in His presence, communicating to Him.

In the coming weeks, I will be exploring more about what this "pure religion" practically looks like in a Christians life. Until then, look for opportunities to show love to those who have less than you do and be a blessing in as many people's lives as you can. Listen, allow God to speak to you throughout the day. We can all start here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ownership of Property - Out of My Window

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

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

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

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

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

So as a writer I seek the meaning of this interlude, the insight, the deeper message of life.

Instead of continuing to muse, I pray,
"God, I am thankful for the comfort of my home. For having a place to sit and view the world from the inside out on such a chilly day. I am thankful for my husband's steady employment that allows us, as a family, to not have to think about survival. I am well provided for by You. All of my needs are met. I am thankful to you for thinking about what I need before it crosses my mind and for blessing me with continued health."

On the level of the world standards, I live lofty. Most people of the world could not even conceive ownership of property, a day without labor for survival income and the peace that reigns in my soul.

The key to ownership is to never let what you possess to control you, to hold it in an open hand allowing God to move it about as He sees fit or simply let it remain in one's care. Everything in my view is temporal. I am just passing through, but while I live here I am given this little chair and window to think about God and life.

Cats understand each day is simply to be lived -- nothing more, nothing less. They enjoy the opportunities or adventures as they come but don't become occupied by the past or future. Like cats, we should live life in the moment -- for it is all we ever really have.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Prayer - Spiritual Communication

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

With Childlike faith, in spirit and truth

Through Spirit and Truth

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

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

By Faith

In faith, mentally believing the God is who He says He is and that He has done and will do what he says, we spiritually bow our being to Him. The gateway to God is praise. Prayer is worship.

Psalm 100:4 says,
Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
As we turn our hearts toward God, we approach Him with thanksgiving and praise. Jesus said our first step in prayer is "Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." In recognizing where God is and who He is, we are spiritually beginning to worship Him. It is essential that we recognize that we are not just giving a mental consent, but that by our spirit we approach Him. In coming to Him by spirit, we naturally must examine our spiritual condition before Him. He is holy and therefore we must confess any unholiness in our life is we expect to engage in communication with Him.

We can talk to God using our mind, choosing to spent time with Him and emotionally wanting to be touched by Him but still never get beyond our humanness until we focus ourself spiritually.

God is Spirit. We must pray in Truth and Spirit.

With Focus

Focusing can be our biggest hinderance, once the hurdles of faith are overcome: such as, "Is God real?", "Does prayer work?", "Can God hear me?", "Can I hear God?", etc.

Focusing requires us to find a place and time with limited distractions. We also must quiet our mind which can be bombarded with to-do's or ideas that take our thoughts off of God and carry us away. Some people find playing instrumental music can be helpful. Other people have a pencil and paper available to quickly jot down thoughts to remove them until later. Part of the reason we have so much difficulty is because of spiritual warfare. God's enemy (who is also spirit) does not want us to have a relationship with God, so we must be spiritually prepared to battle through the distractions and not so easily give up.

With childlike faith, eager to spend time with God, we must allow our spirit to freely connect intimately with Him.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Book of Micah - Prophet of Promise!

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

Reading Micah

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

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

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

Arise In Micah

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

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

The second 'arise' comes at the end of chapter 4:
"Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion; for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hooves bronze; You shall beat in pieces many peoples; I will consecrate their gain to the Lord, and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth." (Micah 4:13) 
This bizarre sounding statement can only be understood by cross-referencing a few Old Testament verses.
Isaiah 41:14-16 - "Fear not, you worm of Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you," says the LORD and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth; you shall fresh the mountains and beat them small, and make the hills like chaff. You shall winnow them, the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them; you shall rejoice in the LORD and glory in the Holy One of Israel."
 Daniel 2: 44 - And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand forever."
Isaiah 18:7 - In that time a present will be brought to the LORD of hosts from a people tall and smooth of skin, and from a people terrible from their beginning onward, A nation powerful and treading down, whose land the rivers divide--to the place of the name of the LORD of host, to Mount Zion.
Zechariah 4:14 - So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the LORD of the whole earth."  
God is speaking to the Church. This is a messianic verse that shall come in due time when Jesus returns for his second coming. We know this because many of the verses that follow; the whole Chapter 5 that follows is speaking of the Messiah. So this transitional verse ending Chapter 4 eludes to the days to come when the Church, True Believers of Jesus, will arise and by His power thresh her enemies on earth. God will give the ability by turning the horn into iron and hooves into bronze. The Church will only be able to fight because they allow Him to enable them. The enemy of God will be destroyed and all that remains after the threshing will be His church which will be consecrated unto Him as Holy.

It is so hard to remember-- in this world of so much fighting, evil acts, horrible plots of humans against others--that God is LORD and in control. That when the time has come the enemy of God will easily be destroyed by His power. We do not ever need to fear what God's enemy does. We need to continually renew our mind recalling that God is completely sovereign.

The third arise is in Chapter 6:
"Hear now what the LORD says, "Arise, plead your case before the mountains and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, O you mountains, the Lord's complaint, and you strong foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a complaint against His people, and He will contend with Israel." (Micah 6:1-2)
In this final arise God almost mockingly tells Micah to plead Israel's case to the mountains and He will plead His against Israel. History tells God's case against Israel and His Church. Over and over again the whole world has seen God rescue and redeem Israel from enemies, bondage and heartache, but they over and over again return to their former ways of rejecting Him and His teachings. And what does God ask of His followers?

Micah 6:8 tells us:
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?
God speaks to us and wants us to answer for ourselves why we chose to sin. He wants us to be accountable and to think about what causes us to sin. He will help us if we ask, but he wants us to reason and identify what in our life is causing us to not do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. He wants us to recognize our guilt, to repent and to be forgiven so that we can be with Him again. How amazing! That after all the sin we commit God still longs for a relationship with us. We would have chucked that kind of person away and never thought about him/her again. But God is unrelenting; His mercy is unending; His love has no limitations.

Unbelievably God pleas with us to draw near to Him. How humbly ashamed we should be that we have been a harlot running after the world but He still want us. We have no excuse, no case to plead. We only have a reason to beg for forgiveness and mercy.

While there is so much more that can be gleaned from Micah, this is the good news I have learned today that I am sharing with you.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Book of Amos - Judgement, Yet Promises

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

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

Amos began life as a shepherd, 

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

God makes it clear that he will judge sin:

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

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

But consider this interesting point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

He says,
I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. (Amos 5: 21-23)
God sees the motives of our heart. He looks deeper than we can. He pierces into the soul and knows the heart intent.

God Sees Deeper than the Outside. 

Look how He will separate the church:
For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among the nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword. 
Jesus tells a parable about the smallest of seeds -- a mustard seed. In Matthew 12: 31-32, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."

Mustard Seed of Faith

Jesus explains that all it takes is to have faith that He is God - Lord and Savior - the size of a mustard seed. God brings the growth; He is faithful to complete us. So when God sifts the church not even the person with the smallest grain of true faith shall fall to the ground. If we confess our sins to God, and trust Him for forgiveness, He will most definitely save us. Our sins will not bring about our eternal death. We will grow and be useful to others, just as the birds rested in the branches of the mustard seed when it had grown.

So God does not give these warnings to make His faithful followers fret. We are to warn others who are ignoring His Word, but we do not need to be uncertain of our future. Twice the Lord says in Amos, "Seek Me and live." (Amos 5: 4 and 6). Still, God is very clear when he issues His judgements to explain that punishments are coming, "'Yet you have not returned to Me,' Says the Lord." God wants us to repent: to turn to Him and change our ways.

Anyone who studies God's Word, knows that he does not end prophecy with judgement but always gives hope for the promise of restoration. After God sieves the church, His people, He promises to "repair its damages," to "raise up its ruins" and to "rebuild it." (Amos 5:11)

Gentiles Included

And then God says a most marvelous statement. In this promise of restoration of Israel (the first chosen people in days of old), God claims that they will possess the remnant, along with "all the Gentiles who are called by My name." Many people miss the places in the Old Testament that show God always intended for the Gentiles (non-Jews) who decide to be called by His Name to be included in the covenant promise and to have restoration from sins and eternal life.

And so I will end with God's own words given as an eternal promise at the end of the book of Amos:
"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seeds; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God. 

As Christians of today, 

we need to recognize our power to rebuild wasted, bankrupt cities and inhabit them. We can restore places that sin has destroyed and make them fruitful again. We need to be open and obedient to what and where God calls us to minister and to be open to being a little seed of faith that can be grown by God to be a tree that can provide shelter to others.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Submission - Who Do You Submit to?

Submission is a noun. The end.

Who do you submit to?

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

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

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

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

For example, 

in one church my husband and I attended the preacher was talking about how men should not be wearing yellow ties. Well, everyone in the church was in all agreement and know what to think when he mentioned it in passing during a sermon. But, then, I noticed my husband sitting in the row wearing a yellow tie and I was staring at his tie having no idea what sin was being committed and where in Scripture the yellow tie had fallen from grace. It was the same church that had people pogo dancing in the front during service and that preached against the trinity. Needless to say, we didn't attend again. However, still today, I have now idea what was wrong with yellow ties. Even though all the men from this church submitted to the "no yellow tie" rule, it was manmade and not something God asked each person to not do.

While this is a true example and a very odd one, any rule handed down by a church as a "given rule" for all that is not explicitly taught in the Bible is legalist and not commanded by God. Over the years, and through many denominations, my husband and I have submitted to various legalistic rules in order to be honoring to a church that we decided to become a member of but not because God specifically called us to have that rule in our life.

Submission leads to one important question. 

Does someone else know what is better for me? For me that answer is absolutely, YES! God is that one person that know what is better for me. God has a destiny of greatness for you, me and anyone willing to accept His call on our life. Matter of fact, our lack of submission limits God's ability to do great things in and through us.

So, for me, again, I will say, there is only one person in the whole wide world that I will unconditionally even try to submit to and that person is GOD. I try to surrender to His Word when I understand its clear teaching and to His voice when I hear it within my spirit.

Submission to God is good, positive, healthy and life-bearing. I have learned this from the Bible but also lived it as an experience since I became a Christian. And like everything I do, submission is a work in progress in my life. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sacrifice and Servant - Motherhood, Sisterhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a hypocrite! 

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

Ugh! So is this what it is going to be like? Is God going to once again, show me my sin? I didn't like it before and now it will be even worse, because I am suppose to be a pretty mature Christian and my sins are going to show me just how unlike Christ I really am.

"Be gentle with me God", I say to Him in my spirit. "I know what you can handle", I hear Him say back to me. "I know", I resign.

If you have been reading my blog posts, you know that this year God's theme for me is "Rise". Never in my wildest imagination did I think it could mean that like in the refining process of silver when dross rises to the top to be removed by the silversmith, that God is going to begin 2015 by rising my sin up to the top. But here I am, and the process has begun. I have been set free, but I am set free to grow to become Christlike. Alone with God is the crucible of where and how I grow so that I can joyfully serve others.

I am set free, and alone with God is how I grow, to joyfully serve others.

God, forgive me for being selfish. 

Help me to find ways to sacrifice and serve others in little ways, even if they never realize what I have done. Help me to me a silent servant--one that does not need a spotlight in order to "perform" but one that is satisfied to act with you alone as her audience--an audience of one, for you alone.

Monday, January 26, 2015

How To Not Feel Like a Failure

It is easy to fail.

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

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

Failing and feeling like a failure are to different things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

Who Is Using Who? Hypocrite or Honor?

Relationships are challenging. We cannot see into someone else's brain so we do not know the motives of another person. Though we are pretty quick to guess or assume, if people do not genuinely (truthfully) communicate, we have no real way to know them as a person or to understand their motives. In communicating to someone guarded, it is easy to hurt them by assuming we know why they did or did not do something.

For example, if someone does not call or answer to messages sent, is it because they are upset, do not want to talk or maybe they have messed up so many times in the relationship they simply do not want to mess up again. In reality, no one knows but the person himself. We can all come up with different assumptions.

Unfortunately, when a person does not share, they leave themselves open to many assumptions. It is natural for humans to fill in blanks. It is the way our mind is programmed to work. Look at this:

U_d-rstan_i_g   w_at   _s  writ__n  c_n  b_  fi_l_d   _n   b_  o_r    br__ns.

It does not always work for everyone but most people find "understanding what is written can be filled in by our brains." We do it naturally all the time without even realizing it. Our brain looks for logical connections that we have experience with to fill in the gaps.

But, is it hypocritical to assume you know what someone thinks or what their motives are when your conclusion does not give the person the benefit of the doubt to being honorable?

My husband has the amazing gift of assuming the absolute best about everybody and everything in all situations. It is a wonderful way to life and often people are blessed by his outlook, because he sees the best in people. He sees what God sees. He sees what they could be or will become if they surrender to God in their life.

So, when people call my husband because they know how he will respond, is that because they are using him or is it because they genuinely are honoring his gift. God alone is able to know a person's motives. When I think a person may be acting hypocritical or may be using my husband, is it possible that he is a person's last hope? He is a safe place. He is an answer to people who need a place to turn when everyone else has been fed up. He is full of mercy and grace.

And, is that not just like God?

Today, I was thinking the person contacting my husband was a hypocrite, because after ignoring my husband for months he called him when he needed financial help. However, I think God is showing me that the hypocrite might be me because I see that my husband is responding more often like Christ. My husband tries to see every contact as a possible opportunity to show someone Jesus and to help draw them to God.

Oh, God give me the wisdom to know when to say "yes" and when to say "no" and most importantly, when to be silent. Help me to see the best in people and to not be so prone to being critical. In the end, give me Your eyes, ears and heart for people.