John 6:20

John 6:20 but he called out to them "Don't be afraid. I am here!"

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lukewarm Special with a Side of Indifference

Dinner has always meant a lot to my family.  It is the one moment in the day where everyone comes together, sits at the table, giving thanks to the Lord and for at least thirty minutes we are all together as a family. With my family never knowing that at least five meals a week is a strategic, well thought out plan that took a better part of the day just so I could have those thirty minutes.  Because anyone that has prepared a meal knows that timing is everything.  You have to know when to start cooking what so that it is all done at the same time and if you are like me, you are timing everything to be ready to be pulled out of the oven as your spouse is pulling into the driveway.  I do this because I want everyone to have a hot plate of food so, they can enjoy that thirty minutes as much as I do.  I’m sure there are many families that are just like mine that put just as much effort into their family dinners.  But, as I look at the current state of this country and sadly enough, the church body, I can’t help but wonder why is it we put so much work into having a hot meal but the faith and obedience with which we serve Christ is lukewarm at best?
This country was founded on Biblical principles.  The Word of God was the guideline our founding fathers used for how our nation was to be governed.  Over the generations, however, we have picked over the Bible and as a country only keeping what we like.  Even non-believers are guilty of this.  Christmas and Easter are Christian holidays last time I checked but, how many celebrate those holidays?  Why in an era that the separation of Church and State is at an all-time high are those two days still considered national holidays?  The answer is simple; they are Biblical observances that are mutually non-offensive.  People can get things they want, the government gets the economic boost of people spending above their means and Christians get to celebrate the birth and resurrection of their Savior.  So we keep those Biblical institutions and everyone is okay with the mixing of Church and State for the moment.  But, what happens when a Biblical principle is found to be offensive?  The people rally against it, scream for separation from the Church and call it a civil rights issue.
Just as Christmas and Easter are Biblical observances, the sanctity of marriage is Biblical as well.  God’s law on marriage is clear. In Ephesians 5:21-33 He lays it out clear and simple.  Today, that Biblical institution is under attack.  It has been found to be unfair and offensive and there is a movement of millions fighting for marriage equality.  Now, I am by no means a Biblical scholar nor have I ever been to seminary school but from all my reading in the Word, I have yet to find a passage where God requires our approval for any commandment He has laid before us; He only requires obedience.  The truth of the matter is there maybe commandments that to some are unfair but that never negates the requirement to obey it.  If I was a talented public speaker (which I am not) and I wanted to pastor a church 1 Timothy 2:12 says that female pastors would go against God’s will and 1 Corinthians 11:3 just confirms God’s order in the Church.  So, if I wanted to be the head of a church I may find those verses unfair.  God is not asking me to agree with His plan but commanding that I obey it.  As parents we shouldn’t offer suggestions to our children on how to behave nor should they be given an option to disobey because they think we are unfair.  But instead, we should give them specific sets of rules with clear consequences when the rules are broken.  Our Heavenly Father has done the same.  Marriage is not a civil rights issue but a Biblical privilege and it should remain a union between a man and a woman brought together and blessed by God.

Now, having made my beliefs clear; I am not advocating Christians to practice condemnation either.  Jesus says in John 8:7 only those without sin can is qualified to throw the first stone and He made it clear again in Luke 6:37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.  Even though we shouldn’t be throwing stones, we also shouldn’t be neutral in those issues that go against the Will of God.  We need to stand firm in our faith, without shame.  It is a very thin line between loving the sinner and supporting the sin.  When we let our foothold waiver and we become neutral, we in turn begin to support the sin.  In the eyes of the Lord, there is no gray area; only black and white, only hot or cold. Lukewarm is not acceptable.  Revelation 3:15-16 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”
So, my prayer for all of us as a nation and as a church body is to receive a fire from the Holy Spirit to stand firm in our faith, active in the Word, obedient in our service to Him and to do all things in love for our fellow man.  In Jesus name.

 May all we do in service to Christ be just as hot as the meal we place on the table.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kickin' It Old School

For as long as I can remember, Little House on the Prairie has always been one of my favorite T.V. shows.  Which, if you knew me, you would know how odd that is considering what a science fiction nerd I am.  It’s true I can’t tell you the name of one single cast member of Glee but I can, however, list off Starfleet captains and the names of the ships they commanded.  One of my dreams is to learn to speak Klingon (hey, don’t judge you never know when that may come in handy).  And yet, when I flip through the channels I’m drawn to the 1880’s to spend an hour with the Ingalls’s family.  I never knew why I liked the show until recently it hit me that it’s because of the strong family values; something this generation severely lacks.

In this one hour show I could see men who knew how to be men.  They worked until their hands bled to support their family.  Sun up to sun down, six days a week doing whatever was necessary to put food on the table.  And no matter how tired they were, you could still see them taking their family to church early Sunday morning.  They also knew how to treat and love their wives, how to treat them like the lady God created them to be.  The women knew how to be women.  They worked just as hard in their responsibilities.  They knew how to be supportive to their husbands, to love and respect them.  They were willing to do whatever they could to take some burden off of their spouse.  Children were raised to have respect for their elders and for each other.  And when the family came on hard times, the children’s first thought wasn’t about themselves; it was about how they could help.  The family knew that when conflict reared his ugly head, they didn’t search for the nearest divorce attorney for a solution; they turned to the Word of God for answers.  Neighbors loved one another, they helped each other; they might have been a small town but they were a big family.  The one thing that always amazed me was no matter how little or how much they had, they knew how to be grateful and how to give thanks to God.

Now, I know that the show was fictionalized non-fiction and the real Ingalls family couldn’t have been perfect but I do believe it has been one of the closest representations of applying God’s plan for the family and the harmony that comes from letting Him run your house as well as your heart.  God’s plan is not “old fashioned” or outdated.  It was never meant to change with the times.  We are the ones meant to change. His Word is constant yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The breakdown in the family dynamic today is because we have removed Christ and replaced Him with chaos.  Everyone is trying to do the other’s God given role instead of fulfilling their own role.  

Truth is, it is not that hard to find husbands more concerned with their own desires than with the needs of the family.  The Bible was clear on the role of the husband.  In Ephesians 5:25-33 we can read that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church.  Even in verse 23 God’s plan shows he is to be the head of his house.  Men are to be the spiritual leaders in the home; making sure God’s will is being fulfilled.  Families everywhere are crying for their men to lead!  We also can find wives so consumed with asserting control over their husbands that they neglect the very roles they were designed for.  In verse 22 of Ephesians, we know God wants wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord.  It seems to me that women get hung up on the word submit.  I am a woman and a wife and submission is not to be enslaved by or to be a doormat to your husband it simply means to willingly follow your husband’s leadership in Christ.  I’ve pointed out Matthew 26:39 before where Jesus, regardless of His own desires, knew the importance of submitting to the Father’s will.  He knew His role, His place in God’s plan.  I’ve said this before and will proudly say again that if Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, my Lord and Savior, can submit and know His place than I can know mine as well. 

We can look deeper and find that even our children don’t know their place in the family.  We see our kids trying all the time to assert authority in and out of the home; being outrageously disrespectful and parents, being so wrapped up in their own will, doing nothing about it.  We know that in Exodus 20:12 it says to honor your father and mother and in Ephesians 6:1 it says children, obey your parents but how are they to know that? The Bible has an answer for that too.  We teach them.  In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 it says we are to keep God’s word in our heart and repeat them again and again to our children.  In Proverbs 22:6 God promises that if we direct our children on the right path, they won’t stray from it as adults. 

So, if husbands lead, wives submit and children obey like the Bible says than the family should be a very cohesive unit, right? Well, in Little House’s time of the 1880’s, where God’s word was the foundation of most American families, the divorce rate was less than 5%.  Today, it is more like 45-50%, so you tell me.

God’s plan is not a set of random ideas that He put forth just because He had nothing better.  They are specific commands because He is our Heavenly Father.  He created us and He knows our needs before we even have them.  And if we follow His plan our needs will be fulfilled.  We shouldn’t just accept our roles, we should rejoice in them!  Know that whatever role He blessed you with is because that is where you can serve Him best.  If His plan seems too “old fashioned” or too outdated for our fast advancing society than I say, we need to stop looking ahead to the stars and head back to the prairie.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Not all that is beautiful, is pretty

I remember when I first felt the call to serve Jesus; I tried to ignore it at first.  You know, the way most of us have tried to ignore the bill collectors when they call (Caller I.D. was such a beautiful invention).  And, just like with the bill collectors, I knew what Jesus wanted when He called.  He wanted me, not just some of me and not just on Sundays.  He wanted all of me, all the time.  I knew this, so I tried to ignore the call.  I knew that like the bill collectors, He wanted more than I wanted to give.  But lucky for me, He can’t be easily ignored like they can.  I couldn’t just turn off the phone or change my number and I eventually answered that call.  I remember my body trembling, the tears falling and even being afraid of what I was feeling because I had never felt anything like that before.  I had so many emotions that my mind could not sort them out and I had no other choice but to surrender them to Christ.  The experience of turning my life over to Jesus was beautiful.  Thank You, Jesus for being more persistent for my soul than bill collectors were for my money!

Now, being born again will always be the most beautiful experience that could ever happen here on earth but, Jesus never promises that it will always be pretty.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  In 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul writes, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”  He said everyone will; not some and not maybe.  I’m thinking Timothy gave an Amen when he read that.  I’m thinking all Christians can give Paul an Amen to that.  Sometimes, it seems that we have a “no money down and no payment until...” mindset on our salvation but, it seems the “until” part never comes.  When we first become born again the down payment is easy: confess and repent your sins and believe Christ is the Son of God and He is you Savior.  Confess, repent, believe; I can afford that.  Then we sport our transformation around like a brand new car, showing it off to anyone that wants to see.  We’re armed with all the specs and perks His grace has to offer.  Then, we turn into salesmen to let everyone know they can afford all this too.  But, then, the payments start becoming due and that shiny new car starts to look a little dull.

The question is not whether or not we can still afford His salvation but whether or not we want to pay for it.  Sometimes, it’s not pretty.  Even though, we could never pay what His gift is worth; we should strive daily to pay with our obedience, even if that means to sacrifice. Not only is not always going to be pretty but sometimes it is going to downright hurt.  It could cost us relationships or financial stability, the freedom to go out and party or even the bitter taste of some humble pie because you have to forgive someone you don’t want to.  In my case, I had to learn to love everyone, not just those who loved me or that I felt deserved my love.  When Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross; trust me, it hurt.  Just like when He was here on earth, He never asks anything of us that He isn’t willing to do Himself.  Even if He didn’t want to, even if it caused Him pain; He obeyed and paid the price that was ours to pay. Matthew 26:39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."

Like I said before, He doesn’t want part of us, part of the time.  He wants all of us, all of the time.  When the call is answered and we give Him all we are and could ever hope to be; the reward will be great because we will stand before Him when He calls again to bring us home.  Even if the journey to get there comes with sacrifice or pain or isn’t pretty; it will be absolutely beautiful.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Not So Comfortable Comfort Zone

I mentioned before that I was going through some spiritual maintenance.  I’m starting to feel some changes taking place.  By no means am I out of the shop but, it is becoming clearer what improvements need to be made (this time around, anyway).  I’ve been realizing that since I’ve dedicated my life to Christ I have been very selective on what I’m willing to give Him access too.  It wasn’t intentional or anything, I have always resisted change.  Even as a child, I was never impulsive and I never let others impulsiveness intrude on my routine.  I’ve always needed control, needed a schedule and preferred solitude over interacting with others.  I guess I wasn’t a very fun child to play with, huh?  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that my comfort zone has always been very small and I’ve always tried to stay in its boundaries.

I turned to Christ and it was no different.  I’ve been willing to give Him everything; everything inside that small circle of a comfort zone, that is.  I struggle with prayer, especially for other people, especially out loud.  I know we’re not supposed to pray for show (Matthew 6:5) but we are supposed to pray with our brothers and sisters in need (James 5:16).  I struggle with letting my emotion show, including and most of all, joy.  I’ve never been one to wear my heart on my sleeve, so to speak.  How was anyone going to see the love of Christ in me?  I struggle with the need to stick to a strict schedule. Sometimes, I ignore what He is tugging on my heart to do because I didn’t put that in as a part of my day.  Someone forgot to tell me that God doesn’t make appointments.  I suppose my real struggle is just giving up that control.  I gave Jesus my heart but didn’t want to hand over the key.

I suppose that wasn’t enough for Jesus so, in the shop I went.  Since He knows my heart, He knew my commitment was sincere; that I wanted to give Him all of me but I was battling with my old self.  I would have lost that fight too if it hadn’t been for Him intervening.  The work is not done yet and it never will be.  I will always be a work in progress but I am starting to feel the improvements.  The smile that has been in my heart is starting to show on my face.  Praying out loud is still intimidating but He knows that sometimes the quickest way around an obstacle is to go through it.  So, He is throwing prayer opportunities in my direction.  I’m starting to see that not everything can fit in a specific time allotment and its okay.  As long as His will takes priority then everything is right on time and according to plan.

I see now that no one can grow as long as they stay in their comfort zone because His work is bigger than what we can do.  He wants us in that uncomfortable zone; that is where it is all about Him and He shines the brightest because our controlling Self is out of the way.  I know it is a process that won’t be complete until He calls me home but I’m willing to do whatever He has set before me so that He will be glorified.

If it doesn’t cost you anything, it's not a sacrifice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Needing Input

Here lately I feel that God has placed on my heart that we, as Christians, need to come together as the body of Christ; regardless of how our denominations divide us.  So, I began having a Bible study with a pastor other than my own.  I believe that different perspectives can lead to better understanding of God's Word but I am learning that it can also lead to greater confusion. I know that is the enemy at work; keeping me from growing in my faith.  I could really use some clarification right about now.

I was always taught that being saved meant (1)Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior (2)Believe that he died for your sins and God resurrected Him from the dead (3)Asking Him to come into your heart (4)Repent for your sins (5)Give Him control over your life and allow His will to show through you.  Then, if you asked for all that with a sincere heart, your sins will be forgiven and your heart forever changed.  Your walk with Christ can begin.  And, one of your first steps should be to show the world your commitment and obedience to Christ by being baptized.

Now, through this Bible study I am being taught that forgiveness of your sins cannot take place until you are baptized.  What if there is a time gap between being saved and being baptized? Are you not really saved in that time?  Then what happens when you sin after being baptized? Is baptism needed again?  Can anyone help with this or have scripture that can show me the truth?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Just in the shop

Psalm 55:22 Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

It’s been a few weeks since I have felt compelled to write anything and even today I’m in a very awkward place in my mind.  But, at least, I’m compelled to share something.  I’m not sure what it is, though.  So, I leave it to God to guide my fingers and use His words.  I always pray for that before I start writing but, I need His guidance especially now.  Not just to share it with those who read it but, for me who writes it.  

We all have our ups and downs in our walk with Christ.  There are times where we feel like our cup is overflowing with blessing and times where we feel parched because it seems the cup is empty.  Now, we know (or at least we should) that the cup is not really empty.  God doesn’t put a cap on how many blessings He gives.  Some might say that if the blessings seem to run dry; we have strayed and become undeserving of any.  I, disagree, for the simple fact, we have always been undeserving even when our cup was overflowing.  Instead, I view this dry time as God performing “spiritual maintenance” in our lives.  Just like our vehicles, if we want them to continue to run like the day we bought it we have to do maintenance on them.  Fluids need changed, tires need air and sometimes certain parts have exceeded their usefulness and just need replaced with a new one.  Of course, while our car is in the shop we can’t drive it and so; it sits there while it is being worked on.  Our walk is always going to be full of peaks and valleys and I think that it is in those valleys that we are just in the shop so to speak.

I’ve been in what seems to be a valley for the past few months now.  There hasn’t been anything really specific to complain about; like I said before just been in an awkward place in my mind.  It has felt like I’ve been just going through the motions.  The fire I had when I first got saved was dwindling down to a flicker.  It felt like it had been months since a sermon had reached my soul.  But, God is always faithful.  He has been sure to keep spiritually strong influences around me to keep me company while my spirit is undergoing some maintenance.  He knew I was in need of some reassurance and so a couple weeks ago when I was just going through the motions and going to Bible study He put it on my pastor’s heart to talk about the peaks and valleys that we go through and how the valleys are just as important (if not more so) than the peaks.  He also pointed out that to get to the next peak we need to go through another valley.  When I heard those words, I was reminded of an old saying that my previous pastor said for times like this: “Smooth seas never make good sailors.”  So, what my pastor was saying started to really resonate in me.  I’m sure I am not the only that has been listening to a sermon and thought, “This seems to be meant for me.”  Guess what?  Sometimes it is for you.  God is just using the speaker to tell you the message He has for you.  Praise God my pastor is interested in God’s will and not his own.

It is only when you combine knowledge with experience do you get wisdom.  And, with wisdom comes strength.  If this is true, then when I climb out of this valley, I will have the wisdom and the strength to get out of the next one. So, instead of giving me a blessing that is temporary, it is permanent.  My cup of blessings isn’t dry; God is giving me one that not only has unlimited refills but has the ability to be upgraded to a bigger cup.  I don’t know how long I will be in these rough seas but now I know God is not letting me drown; He is teaching me to swim.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Don't blame me

When I first began my walk with Christ and really started getting into the Word, my eyes started to see the world the way it was supposed to be instead of the way it is.  I already knew that we were self-destructive, I just didn’t realize to what extent.  I knew before I started reading the Bible that killing, stealing and cheating was wrong and since I didn’t take part in things of that nature, I didn’t have to take any blame for the problems of this world.  I have always had a strong since of responsibility, I don’t do drugs or break the law, I believe in working hard and paying your own way.  I took comfort in thinking I was one of the good guys. Then, I opened up my Bible and learned there was plenty of blame for me to take.  God started showing me that just because I am not a drain on society, doesn’t mean I’m not a drain on His kingdom.

As I began to study His word, I learned that lies are color blind.  There is no such thing as a “little white lie.”  All lies are the work of the enemy and go against God’s will.  Psalm 101:7 I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence.  So many people don’t realize that the smallest lie can destroy the strongest foundation.  I also learned that gossip is just as destructive.  Even when you think what you’re saying is true, if it’s negative, what is the purpose of saying it?  Are we trying to help?  Are we trying to build someone up?  If we spreading gossip, the answer is always NO.  No one has the right to assume they know what it’s like to be someone else.  I, then, realized that since I was this hard working, law abiding, all around good citizen that I had also became a little self- righteous and judgmental.  For some reason, I thought I had the authority to pass judgment on everything that didn’t measure up to my standard. The Bible taught me that I have no authority to pass judgment.  He showed me that just because I don’t kill or steal doesn’t mean that I don’t have plenty of improving to do.

The problem, however, is that once we learn how sinful these things really are, we can’t seem to take accountability for them.  We search for justification of the sin or we want to place the blame on someone else.  That is not God’s will.  He never said thou shall not kill unless you think you have to.  We have to humble ourselves and admit our own sin to the Lord.  How can He forgive us if we refuse responsibility?  We can’t just stop passing judgment onto others; we have to take accountability for our own actions.  Everything wrong isn’t always someone else’s fault.  Just because we are all God’s children doesn’t mean we should act like children.

Truth is, when we find fault and blame others; we are doing the enemy’s work but when we hold ourselves accountable for our own sins, seek forgiveness and turn away from it; we can allow God’s work to take place within us.  And, not speaking for any other Christian, but that is what I pray for every day.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged.  We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.