Monday, October 31, 2011

More Than A Game

His tail wagged furiously. He clutched the ball between his teeth. He was ready to play. If he timed it just right, he could roll his ball down the hill when the workers walked by. With any luck, they’d notice the toy and toss it back into his area. A ready-made game of fetch. Ingenious!

The workers were amused and tossed the ball to our dog, Joe. As soon as he caught it, he’d set it down on the hill and send it rolling on its way. The game was fun while it lasted, but there was work to be done. I could see Joe’s confused expression as the men got busy painting the house. He seemed to be wondering why these people were here. Hadn’t they come to play fetch with him?

The humorous incident with our dog and the workers got me thinking. How often do I respond just like Joe? I put together my agenda and think everyone, including God, should get on board. Our dog’s clever antics helped me to realize, I often act as if it’s all about me. The truth is, it’s not.

God’s Word reveals a bigger plan. The Apostle Paul spells it out clearly, “For the love of Christ constraineth us…And that he (Christ) died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again,” (2 Corinthians 5:14a, 15; KJV; parentheses mine). The plan is to live for Christ and share Him with others. Paul puts it beautifully, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation,” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

John the Baptist embraced God’s plan. John had the right attitude about himself and his purpose. He didn’t claim to be anyone special, but consistently pointed to the One who was. “He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias,” (John 1:23). He realized he was just a voice. And he used his voice to draw others to the Savior.

Johns’ ministry must have been something. No doubt his unusual clothing and diet attracted attention. But those who followed John, knew he spoke the truth. Day after day, his number of followers increased. Yet John wasn’t in this for himself. He had no qualms about pointing his disciples to the Master.

When Jesus appeared on the scene, John didn’t hesitate to introduce Him to those who were assembled, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me,” (John 1:29-30). John encouraged those who had followed him to follow Jesus instead. John didn’t desire a following. He knew his purpose was to make much of Christ. And he did. His words reveal his heart toward Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” (John 3:30).

Spending time with the Lord on a daily basis reminds me of His greatness. He is to be reverenced. And He is worthy of my praise. What a privilege to be involved in His plan – to live for Him and share Him with others!

Are you the center of your world? Or have you embraced His plan?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your plan is so much bigger than me. Thank You for giving me the example of John – a man interested in glorifying You and pointing others to You. Forgive me when I live for myself. Help me to embrace Your plan. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Good and Hot!

Sometimes I take things for granted. I tend to think of a daily shower as a given. A hot shower, a must. Conserving aside, I usually let the water run while I make the bed - ensuring that the water will be good and hot when I step in. Steam on the glass of the shower surround is my cue that the water temperature is perfect. Nothing is quite as soothing or refreshing as a hot shower.

Rewind to last week. Imagine my horror and dismay as I went through my normal routine of turning on the shower, making the bed in record time, returning to the shower, only to find that the water was lukewarm. What was wrong? Then it dawned on me, my daughter was showering in her bathroom and apparently the hot water supply had been zapped...completely used up. All that remained was an abundant supply of lukewarm water. Ugh!

Due to my schedule, I had to get ready. I couldn't put my shower off any longer. No time for the water heater to do its thing and replenish the hot water supply. I gritted my teeth and stepped into the shower. Conserving water was not foremost in my mind, but I know my quick shower would have impressed even the most eco-conscious individual.

The tepid shower incident was unpleasant to say the least. It left me thoroughly chilled, and I was determined not to repeat the experience any time soon.

I had to smile when I realized that God likes things hot, too! Not water necessarily, but lives lived for Him. In fact, it's so important to Him, that He wrote about it in the book of Revelation. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth," (Revelation 3:15-16; KJV).

Rough words. God's dislike for lukewarm Christians, far exceeds my dislike for lukewarm water. Unfortunately, there are similarities between the church of the Laodiceans in the book of Revelation, and churches today. A familiar attitude that makes me squirm. Because these Christians had everything they thought they needed, they no longer looked to God. Their things gave them security, instead of their relationship with Jesus Christ. How true is this of our churches today? We go through the motions of religion while our hearts are far from the God who desires a close relationship.

A lukewarm shower merely made me uncomfortable. Lukewarm Christianity makes God sick. When I live my life with the attitude that I don't need God or His direction, I'm guilty of making Him vomit. A bit graphic, I know, but maybe it will help me remember my utter dependence on Him. He is the One who formed me in the womb. He is my Creator and Sustainer. He is the only One worthy of all of my praise. What an opportunity to live a life that pleases Him. A life on fire for Him. Now that's hot!

Do you have a relationship with the Savior, or are you merely religious? Would God describe you as lukewarm? Allow the Lord to search your heart. Submit to His will and draw near to Him today!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the reminder that I need You. Forgive me when I get caught up in going through the motions. Help me to be thankful for everything You've given me, yet allow me to see that the real treasure is my relationship with You. Allow me to live a life that is hot in devotion toward You! In Jesus' name, Amen.

*re-posted from 1/27/2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Boxing Match

Feelings. We all have them. Strong emotions that cause us to react. This morning I have to admit that I'm a bit sleepy. It's overcast and beginning to drizzle, and I'd like nothing more than to dive back into bed and let the rhythmic dripping of the rain lull me back to sleep. But I have things to accomplish today. I have a choice to make. Give in to my feelings and sleep the day away, or push those lazy feelings aside, and choose to be productive instead. Sounds like another area of discipline to me!

Let's face it. Sometimes I just don't feel like doing anything. My list of tasks may be a mile long, but my list of reasons for ignoring the list is longer. The struggle begins. My old nature desires comfort and convenience. Feelings are paramount. They do everything within their power to convince me that I have the right to do what I want to. After all, it's my life, isn't it?

My new nature rises to the challenge, reminding me that life isn't all about my comfort or convenience. A verse from God's word packs quite a punch, "...Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34; KJV). I imagine the heavenly hosts cheering, and I respond - "Take that, you good for nothing old nature!"

The fight is on. The old nature continues to box with everything she's got. Toying with my feelings. Trying to convince me that I'm my own master. Surely I don't have to deny myself all the time. After all, I deserve to be comfortable, don't I? What makes me feel good, IS good, isn't it? Doesn't God want me to be happy?

The battle heats up. The new nature responds with an uppercut that leaves the old nature reeling. I realize I am not my own, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

While the old nature bounces off the ropes, the new nature responds with a swift left hook that puts the old nature out of commission for a time. Jesus didn't die on the cross to purchase my happiness, but to pay my sin debt. I now have the incredible opportunity to fellowship with Him. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;" (Philippians 4:10).

It IS possible for me to bring my feelings under control. As a believer, I have access to every type of 'punch' that will render my old nature powerless. The key is remembering that I'm a child of the King and submitting my will to His agenda. Self-control is a direct product of yielding to the Holy Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22-23).

We were created with feelings and emotions. They are a very real part of how our Creator designed us. But they are not to control us. Lay them out before the Lord and pray for His wisdom to train you to respond properly to them. It's a battle. And you can be victorious!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me with feelings and emotions. I pray that You would open my eyes to the ways I've been deceived by them. Help me to submit my will to You, that I might reap the fruit of self-control in my life. I choose to walk with You, today. In Jesus' name, Amen.

*a repost from 9-30-2010

Monday, October 17, 2011

Doubting Castle

Thoughts raced through my mind. I felt like I was being punished. Why had the Lord allowed me to get in an accident? At first, I was convinced that I'd be fine if the physical pain subsided. But long after my back healed from the soft tissue damage I'd experienced, I was plagued by anxiety. Irrational fears haunted my days and I was unable to sleep at night. What was happening to me? Never before had I encountered such a fierce mental struggle.

Unwittingly, I had uncovered a stronghold in my thought process. If something bad happened, it meant that God didn't love me. I had given the enemy a foothold in my life. Peter shares an excellent description of the enemy, in addition to some good advice, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8; KJV).

I was familiar with the words penned by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, "(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds); Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," (emphasis mine). According to these verses, the battle was taking place in my mind. The most effective way to influence my actions was to influence my thinking. The enemy was well aware of this and bombarded me with lies, hoping that I wouldn't be able to distinguish a lie from the truth.

Throughout my struggle, God's word assured me that I was not alone. He walked beside me each step of the way, no matter how I felt. The Lord even provided armor for me that would protect me from my enemy. I didn't have to develop a strategy or plot a sneak attack, God's word promised me that all I had to do was stand: "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13). If I would wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God and lift up the shield of faith which is "able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked," the Lord promised to help me overcome (Ephesians 6:16).

Doctors and counselors played a role in my healing process. Ultimately, it was the word of God that restored my hope and joy. Once I was able to identify my stronghold and recognize the lie I was believing, I was able to replace the lie with God's truth. I was reminded of God's love for me in the book of Romans, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (5:8). When I chose to believe that God truly loved me and began living like the person of value He created me to be, the chains that imprisoned me were loosed and I could walk away from my stronghold.

Once I was set free, I had a choice to make: would I continue to walk in the truth, or when difficulty struck, would I revert back to a lie? In Galatians 5:1 I'm encouraged to, "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." God's plan is for me to live in the liberty of Christ - secure in His love. Trusting that the things He allows to come into my life are ultimately for my good and His glory.

Are you wrestling with a stronghold? Replace any lies you've believed with the truth of God's word. Use your newly found 'key' of truth to open the gates of 'Doubting Castle.' Take a step of faith today and return to the Master's path for your life!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for your Word. I know that it is powerful. Today I'm choosing to believe the words of 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Help me walk in faith. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Enjoying Family Time

I'll be unplugged until next Tuesday, enjoying some time with family. Look forward to seeing you on Tuesday - I'll be hosting over at Living by Grace! Have a blessed weekend!

Psalm 100:1-5 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (KJV)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Actively Involved

It’s raining leaves today. There is no question as to why it’s called ‘fall.’ The crisp crunch of the leaves that carpet the path from my back door to the doghouses calls me to focus my attention on the beauty of God’s creation. The changing of the seasons gives me special reason to pause and reflect on the majesty of my Creator. Each new season points to a creative God who gives us glimpses of His glory in ways that beckon us to get to know Him better.

The very first verse of the Bible assures us that, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1; KJV). The power of the spoken word of God! In just six days, all the things that make up the universe as we know it were created by our amazing God. As I was thinking about the numerous types of plants, trees, fish, birds, insects and animals that He merely spoke into existence, I was reminded that it was different when he created man and woman.

Before God created man, we’re given a glimpse of what He thought about what He had created up to this point, “…God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:25). But man alone was created in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). Instead of merely speaking him into existence, Genesis 2:7 shows us God’s active involvement in man’s creation: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Our purpose is much different than that of any other creature God created. We were ‘formed’ in order to enjoy fellowship with our Creator, bringing Him honor and glory as we follow Him in obedience. It’s astounding to think that the God of the universe would desire a relationship with us. What a loving Father! And He is able to use His creation to continually point us back to Him.

In Psalm 19, David was quick to share how the very creation of God reveals His greatness, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (1-3). When I think of the glorious sunsets God paints with just a stroke of His brush, or the complexity and perfection of each snowflake He’s created, I wholeheartedly agree with the Psalmist.

What have you noticed recently in God’s creation that reveals His greatness? I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t allow the busyness of life to keep you from noticing the handiwork of your Heavenly Father! Praise Him for His goodness today!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Whitewashed Lives

The externals are there. The words are right. The look is appropriate. Wholesome activities are emphasized. But, as Christians, how often do we deceive ourselves, giving lip service to what's right, only to realize that we're merely going through the motions? Is the love we have for our Savior truly genuine? Or could we be lumped in with those the prophet Isaiah spoke of, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:8; KJV). How many times have I majored on the trivial things, only to miss the point God was patiently trying to teach me?

Hear the words He whispers, "It's a question of your heart, child. Who sits on the throne of your heart?"As a believer, my answer should be, "Christ." But all too often, I've glanced at the throne, only to see my reflection staring back at me. I've been calling the shots. I've been so busy managing the external image that I've missed His still, small voice beckoning me to deal with the root issues. Instead of rushing around putting out the many fires of inconsistency in my life, He longs to show me the single blaze that started all the other fires in the first place.

Pride saunters confidently onto the scene. He's a seasoned pro. He gloats over those from centuries ago, whom he has been able to seduce. Take a look at the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' time. Religious leaders with enviable pedigrees. The cream of the crop who were well-educated and highly esteemed in their day. They certainly looked like they had it 'all together.' But Jesus wasn't fooled. He was quick to see Pride's strangle-hold on their lives. "Woe unto you, scribes ad Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27).

Wait just a minute! How dare Jesus speak to these respected leaders this way! Weren't these men dedicated to keeping every jot and tittle of the Law? Jesus pointed out their error, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." (Matthew 23: 23-24). They had it all wrong, focusing on the small stuff rather than concentrating on the big issue.

While these men tried so desperately to maintain a pious exterior, Jesus was well-aware of the evil root of Pride that had taken control of their hearts. As Jesus' popularity grew and His followers increased, Pride teamed up with Jealousy to stir up these religious leaders. "Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people" (Matthew 26:3-5).

These men were determined to keep up appearances. They were the religious leaders, who did this carpenter think He was, anyway? And yet, in spite of their attempts to discredit Him, His answers left them speechless and His followers continued to increase in number! They refused to accept Him as the promised Messiah because He didn't fit their description of who they thought He should be. Pride had such a tight grip on their hearts, that their eyes had been blinded. 'Self' remained on the throne, and Pride remained the victor.

A choice must be made. Will we continue putting out our own small fires, refusing to deal with the bigger blaze that's creating them? Will we refuse to give up our position on the throne of our life and end up like the Pharisees? Or will we deal with the root of our sin, and purpose to live by the words of the Apostle Paul, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).

A beautiful promise is given to all who surrender the throne of their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 3:6b). The promise of grace. Make the right choice today!

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, Help me to submit myself to You. Help me to resist the devil, knowing that he will flee from me. Help me to draw near to You, knowing that you will draw near to me. Cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Amen.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Unjustly Accused

The accusation stung. I had witnessed the incident and knew what had happened. Someone else had seen a portion of what had transpired, too. But the person’s account was different and not even close to the truth. It’s tough being unjustly accused.

Unjust accusations are common. Moses endured his fair share. The Israelites had barely started on their journey out of Egypt, when the accusations began to fly. Pharaoh and his army were pursuing them, and they were afraid. “And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness,” (Exodus 14:11-12; KJV).

Wow! Moses was being obedient to God, but the people were turning on him. Ouch! This cycle was repeated over and over, as the Israelites journeyed to the Promised Land. No doubt Moses experienced anger and heartache as a result of the people’s accusations. Yet he was able to take comfort in his relationship with God. And perhaps it was because of the difficulties, that Moses earnestly sought the Lord. The Lord loved His servant Moses, “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend,” (Exodus 33:11a).

Although false accusations aren’t pleasant, I can allow them to serve a purpose. They can drive me to the ‘God of all comfort,’ (2 Corinthians 1:3). The One who promises to be near me, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit,” (Psalm 34:18). And I can also identify with others who have experienced something similar. My trials often become opportunities for me to share my Savior, “Who (God) comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God,” (2 Corinthians 1:4; italics mine).

Life isn’t always fair. And when I’m faced with difficulties, I have a choice to make. Let circumstances make me bitter, or turn to the Lord and allow Him to use those circumstances to make me better.

What do you do when you’re unjustly accused? Will you allow the Lord to use the situation to draw you near to Him and to help others?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You that You are the God of all comfort. You know that I hurt when I’m unjustly accused. Help me to see difficult circumstances as opportunities to draw near to You and share Your goodness with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.