I’m Not Like That!

Sometimes, it takes a couple of things coinciding to get my attention, to wake me up to sin in my thoughts or attitudes.  Some of the things I seem to write about a lot, like judging others, are so deeply embedded in my human nature, that, even though I am a Christian, I need to continually walk in the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.  I need to ensure that strongholds, places where the enemy has had undue influence in my life, are pulled down and stay down by taking my thoughts captive to Jesus!

We went to a baseball recently and as we were sitting in our designated seats, we watched as a family of three arrived after the game had started.  It appeared that they were having difficulty trying to figure out where they were supposed to sit and moved around several times before they settled on some seats several rows ahead of us.  I had a running dialogue in my head wondering about how difficult is it really to figure out your row number and seat number, assessing their appearance and making assumptions.  Finding boxes and putting them in while totally submersed in my judgments and thought processes.

Later, I found out from my daughter that some other people were sitting in their seats and refused to move.  That caught me up short and exposed to my consciousness the sin in my heart.

I know these texts on judging:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite…!” (Matthew 7:1-5a)

The problem is that we can’t see our own logs because they are blocking our view!

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things…do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:1, 4).

The problem exists in our denial, “I’m not like that!” …whether it is the sin we perceive in another’s life or our attitudes and the judgments we are passing.

It is so easy to condemn others, forgetting that, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17).

Unconsciously, many Christians suppose that people need to quit sinning, quit their sinful lifestyles (especially really “bad” ones), and then God will forgive and save them.  Forgetting that Jesus told the accusers of the woman caught in adultery, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7); forgetting that all [every single one of us!] have sinned and fall short [still doing it!] of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3:23-24).  And he told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (v. 11).  The command to “sin no more” came after forgiveness was granted.

Yet here I was doing it!  Judging.  Condemning.  Falling short.  Forgetting that, “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly … – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6, 8).

●●●●

I just finished reading a book about the Holocaust—a novel based on the lives of women both employed and incarcerated at the Ravensbrück Nazi concentration camp.  Such unthinkable atrocities!

It shakes me to the core that unbridled prejudice and hatred can go so far; how human life can lose significance, how violence and murder is justified in the minds of some people.  But it cannot be justified!  Not in God’s eyes—and this kind of hatred is becoming increasingly prevalent!  It is not a huge step between threatening words and actions.  Yet, and this is so scary to me, this kind of hatred toward “outsiders” is often lurking in the hearts of Christians, though not recognized. 

God forgive us!  Cleanse our hearts from impurity.  Refresh us daily in your Holy Spirit and teach us to live Spirit-filled lives.

Remind us of your words: “…everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever say, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:22).  Convict us when we are inclined to excuse our attitudes and behaviors, O God!  Help us to acknowledge that enmity, strife, fits of anger, dissensions, and divisions are works of the flesh (Galatians 5:20).

The Holocaust happened because someone decided that society would be better off without certain groups of people, and many agreed.  That same spirit exists in the hearts of all who harbor resentment and hatred towards people groups who, in the thoughts of some, do not have the right to exist.  As believers in the Messiah, we must acknowledge that everyone deserves the opportunity to know God and receive His amazing gift of salvation.

I know some would object to my suggestion that we, as Christians, would intentionally harbor thoughts of anger, hatred, and murder.  Yet some of the words professing Christians speak belie attitudes incongruent to the life and mission of Jesus.  We must also consider that there is one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, who influences thoughts, and without discernment, and the constraint and the power of the Holy Spirit filling our lives, there is little control where those thoughts may lead.

We have this counsel from the apostle Paul: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raise against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ….” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

In a world, in a nation where “united” was once a description, it is no longer a reality.  As Christians, we must neither be swayed by the hatred, the vitriol characterizing the spirits of this world; nor through compromise, discard the belt of truth encircling our lives through the knowledge of God and His Word.

●●●●

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,

But only such as is good for building up,

As fits the occasion,

That it may give grace to those who hear.”

 Ephesians 4:29

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to the Front!

Recently, there’s been a stunning story with an accompanying picture in the news—that of a brave aid worker carrying a small child away from the bodies of her family, from under the hijab of her dead mother, and through the deadly gunfire of ISIS fighters. 

Sometimes images strike such a deep chord within me that they just won’t let go, especially the pictures of this little girl and the deep wells of sadness looking blankly into the camera.

My thoughts are all over the place as I consider the images of this rescue—the first thing that popped into my mind was that, while many people and the media are busy condemning Christians, particularly the “fundamentalist” type, there are Christians engaged in physically ministering to and rescuing people, everywhere, not just in Iraq. Meeting very real physical needs.  Doing what Jesus told us to do, no matter what people say or think about them or what they are doing.  Not intimidated by the “bullets” of a hostile culture—Christians ministering in love, generous with time and resources.

But society doesn’t want to see the good Christians do; rather, they would prefer to focus on the fact that we defend the Bible, respect God’s definition of marriage, and seek to preserve human life from its inception.

It is our responsibility, though, to pray for those who oppose us, to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us—that is what Jesus told us to do.

More concerning, in my mind, are the ones who profess to be Christians yet condemn or criticize various ministries on the frontlines of reaching out to those who need a touch of grace.  (Also alarming are those churches that seek to discount or provide personal interpretation of scripture to justify sinful behavior.)

Jesus taught us, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:37-38).  The context here makes me think that we will get back the judgment and condemnation that we extend towards others… 

I know that it is easy to look “with a critical eye” at those who are more engaged than we are in serving Jesus.  I also know that when we recognize our sin, confess and repent, that God is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse unrighteousness from us (1 John 1:9).

A couple of concerns people have expressed over publicized, high-risk ministry is that the ones in those ministries are exalting themselves.  Another perspective, though, is that they are putting their lives at risk by revealing their activities.  However, I wouldn’t have known the severity of suffering in the Middle East and other parts of the world if brave warriors for the gospel didn’t make it known.  And as disturbing as some of the pictures are, I want to get shaken out of my complacent, lukewarm-Christian way of thinking and “doing life”.

The other concern I have is the argument that those going to distant lands to minister and save children should stay home and focus on their own communities and nation.  Not sure I should even say more than what Jesus commanded … “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation’” (Mark 16:15).  There are no borders in God’s kingdom, and those who raise this concern might look within their own communities to see that there are many ministries where they personally can become involved by committing their time and resources.  Also, there is no ministry we can’t be a part of if we are willing to intercede with God for them.

My plan for where I was going with this post is that we are all called, in one way or another, to spread the love of Jesus in this dying world.  People will criticize Bible-believing Christians, let the criticizers and condemners criticize and condemn—meanwhile, let us, you and I, do what Jesus said—be light and salt (Matthew 5:13-16), and take care of the “least”, the smallest of significance in this worlds eyes (Matthew 25:35-45).  Rather than sitting back and observing what others are doing, may we push forward, praying for the lost and broken, and serving God in the places He has called us.

tryagain

Recently I was typing up a prayer I wrote after reading Genesis 21, where we find the story of Hagar and Ishmael, rejected by Sarah and sent out from Abraham’s household: “When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes.  Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, ‘Let me not look on the death of the child.’  And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.  And God heard the voice of the boy and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar?  Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.  Up!  Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’…And God was with the boy….” (Genesis 21:15-18, 20).

This is my prayer…  Father, I am touched by the compassion you showed towards Hagar and Ishmael—you heard the boy’s voice as he cried out.  There are many children nowadays who are crying out in desperation—children who are hungry, who are thirsty, children who are abused, enslaved, and who are suffering in ways I cannot imagine.  Hear their cries, O Lord!  Reach out your hands and your heart to them through your people.  Open our eyes to ways we can nourish and refresh others.  Bless and protect those who are risking their lives to save and minister to children and families, I pray!

            Convince your people to live with honesty and integrity.  When faced with conflict, grant us wisdom and generous hearts, trusting you to take care of us.  Help your children to live at peace with others whenever it is possible to do so.

            You are our God—the everlasting God—and I commit my ways to you.  You are my Savior, my Lord, and my friend, and I trust you.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

rescue

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Trust Jesus!”

Sage advice, in any case… that is, to “just trust Jesus!”  I’ve given that advice many times, I am sure, and yet have felt a bit of hollowness after speaking it—I gave my daughter that advice with a slight variation recently and didn’t feel the same “excusing myself from your problem” as I have at other times.

My message was, “Praying that you will be at peace and trust God for your job!”  I’m a little bit embarrassed to be sharing this and I can imagine she is less than thrilled to have me write about it; however, the Holy Spirit has been speaking to my heart about how I/we can effectively support others when they are experiencing “stormy seas” in their jobs, their relationships, and the many obstacles that the enemy throws in our paths to derail us from intimacy with God.

With internet viruses, phone scams, and a myriad of ways for people to defraud others popping up every day, our trust is something we are wise to guard.  We need to have a history with and an intimate knowledge of a person before we open our lives up to them.  That speaks of time—time to experience life together and get to know one another—and it speaks of a commitment to the relationship.

Perhaps better advice for a friend, an acquaintance—or ourselves—and anyone who is experiencing difficult or trying circumstances is to know Jesus.  I have experienced the faithfulness and goodness of God through the trials in my life—there have been some deep wounds from my childhood and as an adult.  I know the faithfulness of God to heal the broken-hearted (Isaiah 61:1) because of the joy in my heart and the “garment of praise” (Isaiah 61:3) covering my life.  I also think that our healing will become complete only when we see Jesus and He wipes “away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, [and] the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

We have this amazing resource, the Bible, which God has preserved through the ages, that reveals who He is and His character; and yet sometimes it feels like drudgery to read or to meditate on the Word.  I’m guessing that has a lot do with what we may unconsciously think about the Scriptures.  Some parts of it are easy to read, while others are a challenge.  No part of it is without significance, though.  In fact, the Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, identifies the Word of God as the “Sword of the Spirit”, an offensive weapon in the war “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:17, 12).

I write about spiritual warfare quite a bit, but I am also amazed at how quickly I forget that there are invisible factors at work all around us; and the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  Of course, the enemy would not want us to grow in our knowledge of and intimacy with Jesus!  Naturally, by their very nature, demons would want to disable our use of the weapon given us to cause them harm!

One strategy of the enemy is to treat the Bible like a smorgasbord, picking and choosing the parts we like, agree with, or feel comfortable with, and disregarding or discounting the rest—in particular, writing-off portions of scripture that pertain to marriage, the beginning of life, and the justice and judgment of God in response to pride, idolatry, and rebellion – sin!

And the assaults, verbal, physical, and financial, against “fundamentalist” or “evangelical” Christians, those who believe the Bible and commit to sharing the Good News, are growing—knowing Jesus comes at a cost; however, a very insignificant one in the light of eternity and experiencing “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Another phrase we can be careless in using with someone experiencing pain or thorny circumstances is, “I’ll pray for you.”  My hope is that the Holy Spirit will ignite in me the commitment to pray every time I say that I will!  I do not want to be lazy in prayer because prayer is powerful.  Yet often, because our expectations and timing are not met and we do not perceive what God is doing in the unseen realm, we are too quick in abandoning the powerful resource we have in prayer. 

All too often, we lose the heart; however, Jesus recognized our weakness when it comes to prayer: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.”  For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”’  And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” (Luke 18:1-8).

We have an adversary, the devil (1 Peter 5:8), who does not want justice for God’s people.  We also have Someone who represents us before the Father, one who “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). 

Completing the “suiting up” of our armor is the admonition, “…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

tryagain

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For,

‘Whoever desires to love life

And see good days,

Let him keep his tongue from evil

And his lips from speaking deceit;

Let him turn away from evil and do good;

Let him seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

And his ears are open to their prayer.

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’”

 1 Peter 3:8-12

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who God Says We Are!

My daughter and I experienced encounters with others recently that presented challenges to both our identity and joy.  Often, I unconsciously interpret the unkindness of others as a reflection of my worth, forgetting that my value as a human being is determined by a God who loves me and was willing to give up His life for me—not by someone who sees with earth-bound eyes and perceives with human judgment.

Some “religious” or legalistic interpretations of Christianity also communicate messages about a person’s worth based on his or her adherence to rules and interpretations of “laws”—good when you follow their formula for salvation (yet ignoring the place where sin resides within each person), bad when one doesn’t follow the stipulated rituals (traditions, practices, or rites).

Besides man-made religion or humanity’s perception of what a Christian is or should be, society is a demanding, tyrannical factor in conveying what is acceptable (or unacceptable) for approval and valuation of personal worth.  The car you drive, where you live or work, the clothes you wear have become more simplistic standards for judgment (though many still look with a critical eye at those who have less).  Christians who seek to honor God, who are devoted to knowing Him and studying His Word are nowadays deemed uncaring and intolerant.  Sadly, many bow to the pressure of criticisms and judgments of this world’s culture, while disregarding or disbelieving the Scriptures and the judgments of God. 

Compromise.  It makes life on earth more tolerable, more acceptable in a society where the tide of opinion, instead of the Word of God, determines what is right and wrong, what is justice or what is injustice.  And when we say that abortion is murder and God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman, we put targets on our backs for arrows of hatred generated, first and foremost, by Satan.

But we often forget! —we forget that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 6:12).  And we also forget Jesus’ command, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28)—sometimes it is difficult to hear, or remember, those words, particularly when the lies and manipulations of the enemy, the twisting of truth and rejection of scripture, dominate the news and even some of our relationships.

There is an interesting story in the Old Testament when the leaders of Israel came to Samuel the prophet and they didn’t like how their nation was being run and they had some legitimate concerns about the leadership.  They told Samuel, “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.”  This was God’s response to the prophet’s prayer, “And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:5, 7).

The Israelites, God’s chosen people, thought the answer for their problems was in being like other people, like other nations; seeking God and trusting Him did not appear to be a consideration for solving the issues involving the leadership of their nation—they wanted to blend in, to be acceptable within the culture of their day.

The Holy Spirit instructed the Corinthian church, through the apostle Paul: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with unrighteousness?  Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God… ‘Therefore, go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord…and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty’” (1 Corinthians 6:14-16).

For the sake of “getting along” or maintaining peace within the culture, many are sacrificing peace with God—either out of ignorance or the rejection of the His Word!

Yet God, our Father, identifies us as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once [we] were not a people, but now [we] are God’s people; once [we] had not received mercy, but now [we] have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are sons and daughters of God, we are His people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; yet it is not at all difficult to become intimidated or threatened by a culture that does not know nor understand the righteousness, the love, or the justice of God.  Fueling our insecurities and the questions that lurk deep within us about our identities in God is an enemy who seeks to undermine our rightful position in Jesus and threaten our commitment to serve Him with our whole hearts.

I admit that frequently I want to defend myself and God’s church against the verbal and written attacks claiming that Christians are intolerant and hateful.  I also recognize that the “accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10) is fueling the tide of opinion against Christians, and that those who reject God will reject us—and they will not be able to hear truth.  It is important for us to live and speak with integrity, to live as His children, with distinction as God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, within a twisted culture. 

James, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” counsels, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 1:1, 4:7-8).

As Christians, we are who God says we are, not who the world thinks we are or how society seeks to define us.  We will become increasing secure in our God-given identity as we draw closer to Him!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisdom Prayers – Proverbs 20

I ate too much one night last week—WAY TOO MUCH!  And it came back to bite me, to burn, and act like a volcano within me.  Well, it was Taco Tuesday, and I love tacos, and hot sauce (though the feeling does not appear to be mutual!).

I really struggle with the “I feels…” …like eating more tacos than I should …or thinking the best way to relax is to sit in front of the television …or wandering around on social media (my latest addiction:  Pinterest) – and I am so adept at finding ways to justify my “addictions”!

The apostle Paul wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. … You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:5-6, 9).

In the preceding chapter (Romans 7), Paul delineates the struggle we all (whether we admit it or not) have against the sin that resides within us, our human nature or “flesh”.  Past religious teaching, my upbringing in a rather dubious and somewhat cultic denomination, implied that we could, somehow, overcome our sinful nature by adhering to laws, or “the law”, if you will—the problem is that legalism can only change behavior, it doesn’t touch the nature of sin that is ours through the original sin.  However, we can confess our sin, and rejoice with the apostle Paul in declaring, “Wretched man [woman] that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25).

Which brings me back to our mindset, where we choose to focus our attention, …or, “[our] attitude, disposition, or mood” … “The ideas and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation, esp. when these are seen as being difficult to alter” … “A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations” … and, “An inclination or a habit” (from Dictionary.com).

There are many ways to approach life and the circumstances that surround us every day; and learning to walk in the Spirit is a growing process.  It is easy to revert to the “flesh”, my natural inclinations, attitudes, and habits in response to the things that seem to overwhelm me (even restlessness and boredom seem overwhelming sometimes!).

But we are cautioned, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Romans 3:2-3

Soooo, all of that to get to the prayer I read from one of my journals the other day that, among other things, includes a paragraph about responding to life with one of the many substitutes available (alcohol) for living life the way we are called—walking in the Spirit…

tryagain

Father, thank you for your Word; thank you for your Spirit and truth.  Teach me, Lord; establish your wisdom deep within my soul.  Help me to comprehend the spiritual realities of the scriptures that extend them beyond being wise sayings written down centuries ago to expressions of your wisdom, relevant to my life today.

Lord, it is easy to be led astray by alcohol—your Word doesn’t forbid an occasional glass of wine, though the Holy Spirit admonishes through the apostle Paul, “do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).  There are times of stress or fatigue when it is easy to say, “I need a drink”, when in reality, what we need is to seek you, to be filled with your Spirit.  Convict your people when the promises of wine or string drink lure us away from intimacy with you; instead, help us to recognize our need to seek you for peace and restoration.  Grant us discernment to recognize that wine is a mocker, and quicken our hearts to pursue you to meet the needs of our souls.

Jesus, you are my King, the ultimate authority in my life.  Help me to live with integrity on earth, praying for the leaders of this country, respecting their authority and acknowledging your sovereignty.

Guide the hearts of your people away from strife; help us to avoid quarreling.  Train your children to work with diligence to accomplish your purposes for us in every season of our lives.

Grant me discernment, O God; protect me from evil people and shelter my life from the enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.

No one can make their own heart pure; nothing can cleanse our lives from sin except for the redeeming blood of Jesus.  Thank you, Lord God my Savior, for your incredible, amazing gift.  Continue to wash me with your Spirit and your Word—purify the motives and attitudes of my heart, I pray.  Open my ears to hear your voice and my eyes to recognize your ways.

I ask, Father, for a family heritage of integrity, that my children and grandchildren would choose to live as your children, with pure and upright conduct.  Keep them in your love, your grace, and the power of your Holy Spirit.

Help us to be careful in all our personal interactions.  Keep us from dishonesty or attempting to take advantage of others.  If someone manipulates or takes advantage of us, help us to be quick to forgive, recognizing that you take care of your children and provide all that we need.

Encourage me to be careful about my words, Lord; to seek knowledge and to speak with wisdom.  Teach me to recognize slander before I utter it—let your Spirit convict me when I am inclined to slip into simple babbling.

Remove every inclination towards revenge or retribution from our hearts.  Remind your people of the injustices you suffered for our sakes and help us to forgive as you forgive all those who receive you.  Encourage us to trust you in every one of life’s circumstances, recognizing that you order our steps—and you are aware of the difficult people and situations we encounter.  Help us, Holy Spirit, to live with integrity in all our ways.

Endow your people with wisdom to manage the resources you have entrusted to us, and opportunities to use the gifts with which you have enriched our lives.  Search our hearts and bring light to the hidden attitudes and motives that do not honor you—may we respond with humility and cooperation to your conviction and discipline, O Lord.

You alone, O God, are righteous—steadfast love and faithfulness come only from your throne; I owe all my worship and allegiance to you.  Your majesty and dominion are everlasting, and I belong to you!  Hallelujah!  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Passion Week

I took my granddaughter to a park last week to play and enjoy the fresh, springtime air.  On our way there, I stopped at a small fruit and vegetable stand near where we live and I was able to purchase some freshly picked strawberries.  For me, being able to enjoy fresh fruit and veggies is something akin to finding an amazing treasure – I felt rich and very blessed to have these sweet gems to enjoy!

As I was sitting on the park bench watching Eugenie play, I noticed someone walking towards me—a homeless man who made his bedroom in a gazebo nearby.  He offered me a candy bar to share with my granddaughter, saying that he had just purchased it.  I felt uncomfortable taking it because I didn’t want to take something from him that may have cost him much, yet I didn’t want to insult him by refusing it, either.  So, I took it.

As we were leaving the park a little later I considered giving him a basket of strawberries.  I had an internal conversation with myself about not wanting to insult him—debating the pros and cons of giving him the berries and ending up driving away with all my berries still in the back of the car.

I do that a lot—disrupt the passion of kindness with my own logic.  Yet before the wise man wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes…” (Proverbs 3:5-7a), he wrote, “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” (v. 3).

Most often, I forget the extravagant kindness, steadfast love, and faithfulness of God towards me, which makes it difficult to express His amazing grace to others.

Passion (a powerful or compelling emotion; an extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire) Week is all about God’s love towards us, His fallen, broken creation.  “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).  And in the next verse, Paul goes on to counsel Titus, “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.  These things are excellent and profitable for people” (v. 8).

Paul wrote this to the church at Ephesus:  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

Besides Jesus’ betrayal, torture, and crucifixion that week, [Could He have done anything else with such far-reaching, eternal consequences?] His cleansing of the temple demonstrates His intense passion in opposing the perversion of religion by mankind.

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you make it a den of robbers.’  And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant…” (Matthew 21:12-15).

Jesus evokes passion in those who love Him…and in those who hate Him!

And nothing can waylay our passion for Jesus like human-defined religion or the concerns and attractions of this world!

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:6-10).

And… “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

I go to church and worship Jesus with intensity.  And then I leave and the passion of Sunday morning slips away into the responsibilities and routine of life.  I’m not sure I can replicate the fervency of church worship time, yet I know each day I have the choice to fix my attention on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  …understanding that passion without emotion is the commitment to keep Jesus at the center of my life, serving Him with abandon and with thanksgiving, rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful—and even in those times when my eyes slip away, His Spirit draws me back into intimacy with my Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for that City…

 

We moved recently.  “PCS” or “Permanent Change of Station” is a way of life for military families, yet it is not very permanent.

There is a “white-picket fence” part of me that longs for a home to settle in, get established in a church, and know, that apart from unforeseen events, I am home and will be here the rest of my days on earth.

(A little non-sequitur here:  Amid the busy-ness of the move, getting settled, and needing to refinish some bedroom furniture, my computer died! …which, in part, explains why you haven’t seen any posts from me for a while.  I am grateful for my son who advised me on how to salvage the hard drive!)

The thing about it is, there are no Permanent Stations here on earth, life will always be changing, we will always be, by the grace of God, adapting.  Abraham understood that, even though God promised to give him a new home, a land, and a family, his future lay elsewhere.  “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing’” (Genesis 12:1).

“…God said to him, ‘Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations and kings shall come from you.  And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:3-8).

Abraham lived in tents, no white picket fences, in a land that God promised to give him and the generations of his family afterward – an everlasting covenant that we are still waiting to see fulfilled!

The thing is, not being completely settled on this earth, not having all our desires fulfilled, is ok!  This is not our Permanent Change of Station – it is yet to come!  Our home, our jobs, the things we enjoy such as our cars, our houses, our electronics, our wardrobes, and all the possessions that we treasure are temporary, better things are coming!  Like Abraham, we are looking for that city whose designer and builder is God: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. …These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on earth” (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-14).

What matters most right now is loving “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” …and loving “your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31)

And the best way to do that is to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

It is way too easy, allowing circumstances and things of this world become so important to us that our emotions plunge us deeply into disappointment or frustration, those times when what we want evades us, things don’t work out as we had planned, or people fail to meet our expectations.  Often, we don’t realize just how attached we are to temporary things until our reactions betray us!

Here’s the counsel the Holy Spirit gave through Paul to the Colossian church, applicable to us today: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

My flesh, the earthly part of me, often distracts me and my focus strays from my eternal destiny, but God promises that the good work He has begun in me, He will bring to completion (Philippians 1:6), and there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  –It is my intention is to continually grow in the grace and knowledge of God, to bring my focus back to things above, and to walk faithfully with my Savior.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment