Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Dance of Hope and Faith

In his great mercy he has given us...a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ...In this you greatly rejoice, though for a little while you may have had to suffer grief...these [trials] have come so that your faith...may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:3-4, 6-7.

If we are walking this earth we are alive and breathing.  The other certainty that accompanies our journey is that we will suffer trials of various kinds while on earth.  This morning the word ‘living’ jumped off of the page when I considered the hope that God has given us through the resurrection of Christ.  Our hope cannot be some dead attitude but a hope that is alive and breathing.  It is a hope that can expand beyond limits...a hope that as long as it is breathing will be maturing and actively progressing towards our inheritance.

What does an inheritance look like on earth through our hope staying alive and anchored in Christ?  It looks like the hope of a new job to a man out of work.  It looks like healing for a heart who has sustained the death of a loved one.  It looks like fresh life being pumped into a stale marriage.  An inheritance is hope that God will change the heart of a wayward child.    

God has already been merciful in His gift of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Our hope and future inheritance will be grounded in the refinement of our faith.  Through our emerging faith hope cannot stand still.  Hope dances to the same tune of faith and cannot forsake itself.  As our faith might be stunted by unbelief so will our dance.  God has reached out His hand and invited us to come to the dance and be His partner.  As we spin around the dance floor God will be revealed and through our living hope we will have a future inheritance...a future song in our hearts of God’s faithfulness.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Words Are Everything

“…but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” James 3:8-9, 11.
I love my morning coffee and Bruce loves his morning tea. We cannot begin our day unless we have prepared, settled in and sipped on our energizing beverages. But what if we were to prepare our morning drinks with salt water? The outcome would not be quite so enjoyable. The taste would change and the experience would be less than desirable.
The same is with our tongues when preparing our speech. James wrote 12 verses exhorting and cautioning us to tame the tongue. Acts 2 uses the metaphor of the tongues of fire coming from heaven as the Holy Spirit was sent from God to rest on His chosen. James compares the tongue in its most evil form as deadly poison, ‘corrupting the whole person’ and ‘sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.’ James 3:6. It seems to me that the difference in our words is the motivation from where they originated…the compassionate and merciful heaven or the judgmental and condemning gates of hell.
We use the tongue more than any other part of our body. James also states, ‘Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak…’ James 1:19. Proverbs 10:19a lends us its wisdom as it is written, ‘When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.’
The most effective way to use our tongues when speaking at all is to believe God in Exodus 4:12 when Moses didn’t know what to say. God comforted him with the truth of how man should prepare his speech… ‘I will teach you what to say.’ If we become a ‘quick to hear, slow to speak’ people and allow God to speak through us with His teachings our spring will run fresh and clear with His living waters.
May our tongues become restless to share the things of God with everyone we meet instead of becoming full of deadly poison. Our words either build up or tear down and we are the drivers of our mouths. May our words be full of God's grace and a vessel for His comfort to others.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Strolling Through Cemeteries

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” 2 Cor. 5:17

I don’t know about you but this is great news for which I am both humbled and grateful!  I only have to consider the old things to be thankful they have been replaced some new things.  I certainly have much more work to do in ridding myself of the flesh but thankfully I have the awareness to strive for new things.  Once we are in Christ, we cannot afford to stroll through the spiritual cemeteries where we have laid certain behaviors to rest.

In my cemetery, gossip and judgment have their headstone.  In my cemetery, frivolous spending and dishonesty marks a spot.  There is a shrine in my cemetery that reads ‘Look at the great things I have done’.  We all have markers that reveal who we were before we allowed Christ to reign in us and through us.  It is only human to revisit old markers, but the success is when we do not linger.  To linger around old behaviors is to open ourselves up to losing our conquered land.  If our old things are judgment and gossip we must stay clear of others who still struggle with those attitudes.  If our old things are unforgiveness and bitterness, we must make intentional time for the Holy Spirit to settle our emotions.  If our old things are taking credit for the good we must humble ourselves before the Lord.

Our new things will always resemble freedom!  Freedom in Christ...freedom from whatever has held us captive in the old life...freedom from the natural flesh.  The less of ourselves that people see mean they will see more of Christ’s character.

What old things in your life have been replaced with the new in Christ?  What behaviors are you still praying to pass away?  Whatever flesh challenge that is still a struggle for you can be choked out of your life through prayer and submission to God.  It all begins with the mind and the things on which we are to focus.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God’ Col. 3:1-3.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Dissatisfied and Disgruntled

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” Isaiah 55:2.

Ten years ago this month is when God called me to go more deeply with Him.  Every morning for the past 29 days I have wished God a happy anniversary for us.  Before February of 2006 I had spent the biggest part of my adult life chasing after things that lacked satisfaction.  I can so relate to King Solomon who had everything he could ever want but penned how empty his life really had been.  ‘I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind’ Eccl. 1:14.  My chase was relentless as I was consumed with being accepted by the ‘A team’ in my community (which never happened).  My pursuit of parental perfection was shattered as I went through a very public prodigal experience.  My race to retail as therapy only satisfied my soul until the guilt of secrecy and deception set in.  2006 changed everything when my appetite for the world was gradually replaced with my appetite for God’s offerings.

When we are walking with the Spirit and experiencing His satisfaction it will be evident to those around us.  Satisfaction in the Spirit is looking beyond our own families and serving those who have nothing to give us in return.  Delighting in the richest of fare is setting aside our own agendas to pick up the will of God.  Contentment in Him means understanding that we were not put in this life to judge others but to allow God to bring justice in our situation.  Lasting satisfaction will never come through our jobs, our spouses, our children or our bank accounts.  True satisfaction will only come when we delve deeply into fellowship with God and feast daily on His word.  ‘The most obvious symptom of a soul in need of God’s satisfaction is a sense of inner emptiness.  The awareness of a hollow place somewhere deep inside – the inability to be satisfied – ought to be a flashing caution light to every believer...The more we’ve been satisfied by God’s love, His Word, and His presence, the more we will yearn for it.’ Living Free, p. 78-79.

Dissatisfaction left unchecked leads to crumbling marriages, ineffective vocations and unrealized destinies.  The only true and lasting satisfaction comes from the Lord.

You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing...He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them” Psalm 145:16, 19.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Glowing for Two

We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” 2 Cor. 3:18.

There is definitely truth that pregnant women have a certain radiance and glow the further along they get in their pregnancy.  I read that as a woman’s body changes and the baby develops, there is an increased volume of blood being distributed that leads to a soft pinkish skin color.

I couldn’t help but to compare this to our increasing faith as we go more deeply with the Lord.  We are born into sinful flesh before we even know what sin looks like.  Not only are we infants in body, but we are spiritual infants.  As we grow into our physical maturity there is a call on our lives to grow into our spiritual maturity.  It is who we were created to be...unified and established in God’s love.  When we commit our lives to pursuing the love of Christ we ask Him to take up residence in our hearts.  It is that decision that allows the blood He shed to cleanse our sins.  As Christ increases in us we reflect His goodness, His love and kindness.  This ever-increasing transformation will not be an unintentional process, but one targeted by our desire to change from the inside out.  This transformation will happen when we give Him full room to expand within us.  ‘A life that glorifies God is not something we suddenly attain.  As we spend time in God’s presence, His glory both transforms us and radiates from us.Living Free, p. 65.

How can we ensure that His glory is increasing within us?  When we recognize God’s activity in our lives and allow Him to work things in His own timing and manner.  Also, when others recognize God through us and our lives reflect His character in us.  When we are walking actively with Spirit we take on His reflection and glow with the fruit of the Spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23.

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Name is Pride

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
When I look back over the course of my adult life I am sickened by the times when I sought glory for myself. Past days of showcasing Brenda instead of God makes my heart sink as I blocked the way for God’s glory to reveal itself in my life. Those times were times when I allowed pride to rule my heart instead of humility.
Pride is a horrible bedfellow and he wreaks havoc in our relationships, our finances and our ministries. Pride is the reason we cannot easily forgive our spouse...the reason why our children never hear an ‘I’m sorry’ when appropriate. It can be the reason we don’t use our resources to help others; after all we work hard for our money and deserve to enjoy it. Pride is the reason we suffer challenges and can’t even see that God is doing something new. Pride is the reason we feel jealous of others and bitter for their accomplishments. Pride is a partner who protects his territory relentlessly and never misses a chance to remind us of how we were wronged. He tells us we deserve to buy that item even if we must secretly obtain it. He encourages us to take control at work at all costs, and fight for whatever we must. Pride keeps score like none other and constantly shows the subtraction in our lives...what it is we might be losing. Pride is a poser holding up mirrors to reflect our own desires and entitlements. It is the evil that got Satan expelled from Heaven, and Adam and Eve banished from Eden. ‘The most effective means the enemy has to keep believers from being full of the Spirit is to keep us full of ourselves.’ Living Free, p. 58.
God replaces pride with humility and we all know the price. Many times humility comes about through ugly and very public seasons, but it is essential in connecting with God’s heart. God desires to work through us to reveal His glory and share His character. ‘To fulfill our God-given destinies...we must overcome the temptation to seek our own glory by desiring His instead.’ Living Free, p 60.
This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” Isaiah 66:2.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Stumbling Blocks

Peter...said ‘This shall never happen to you!’...Jesus turned and said to Peter... ‘You are a stumbling I block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’” Matthew 16:22-23.

When I was a teenager I would get so frustrated that my mother would not give me permission to participate in certain things with my friends.  They always went to the river on weekends and I learned very early that the answer would be no.  The frustration was more about me thinking she didn’t trust me but in reality it was that she knew temptation can sometimes be too much to yield.  I love my friends from my childhood and to this day we would do anything for each other.  None of them had any intent on leading me into unsafe or unhealthy things.  We were just a group of committed friends who wanted to be together.  I look back as an adult and understand that my mother had in her mind to protect me... mold me...direct me into being my best self.

Our Father is no different.  He has a plan and purpose in His mind for every one of us.  We can do all of the planning we want, seek the mind of everyone around us and weigh the pros and cons.  But, the One who has the most wisdom for our circumstances and decisions are God.  We cannot base our decisions on what people say, even our family and friends.  We can listen to those around us and if it supports what the Lord is telling us through His word and prayer then it becomes confirmation.  Just like Peter was trying to protect and guide His friend Jesus, we can easily become a stumbling block for our family and friends through our advice. 

When those we care about come to us for advice we must point them to prayer to determine what God has on His mind for their decisions.  I use to be the first to spout off advice in every situation but now I’m led to do more listening so I’ll know how to pray.  We must seek the mind of Christ in everything we do to determine His will, His ways and His thoughts.  By walking out His ‘no’ we walk under a protective covering from God.  By walking out His ‘yes’ we walk in confidence of His will.

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37.