Cleaning House

Little by little the world might distract us.  Once completely dedicated to following Christ, we might find ourselves just going through the motions.  With an appearance of godliness, we deceive not only ourselves, but those around us.  The mask goes on, the Bible gets dustier and all of a sudden you wonder if it’s even worth it to crack open the Word because quite frankly, you’ve heard it all a million times.

What distracts us? Sin.  What is sin? Whatever takes the place of importance in your life over God. {Ex 20:4a You must not make for yourself and idol of any kind. (NLT)}  Is that thing bad in and of itself? Not always, but if you let it get out of balance it becomes a pair of well fitting cement swim fins. (And we all know how well those work out.)

Here’s just a smattering of what could become an idol (sin) (but don’t forget about those that actually break the law or might lead you to do so, so no killin’, stealin’, lyin’ etc – you know the rest!):

Your job, children & activities, your area of ministry at church, your spouse, those devices & the social media they feed to you, talents/skills/hobbies (I’m not giving up my yarn!), and you could probably find a few more I’m sure.

So what sparked this writing?  Reading 1 John 1:8-10. (that’ll get you every time, if you can get past not wanting to blow it off & crack it open)

v8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. v9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.v10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

Ouch!

What about personal preferences you ask?  Well, to be honest – they don’t matter.  When God inspired men to write the Word, he never included “don’t commit adultery unless you feel like it’s not a sin for you”.  He gave us some very specific instructions on what behaviors are going to get us a one way ticket to eternal separation from Him. (Gal 5:19-21)

v19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, v20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, v21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.  Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” (emphasis mine)

These days, we are living in an “anything goes” type of society.  It can be difficult for anyone to keep their eyes on the Lord, even if they’ve been a Christian for 40 years.  No one is immune from something shiny (like a brand new aluminum crochet hook and a sale on yarn at AC Moore!).  Paul writes in Romans 7:14-20 that the trouble is not the law, it is him. He’s human, he struggled (don’t we all!) with wanting to do what was right but instead he did wrong.  He didn’t understand himself.  In v16 he says “But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.”

Ah hah! There it is! Knowing right from wrong. Being mature enough to realize that there IS actually a right and wrong and that if our preferences don’t line up with God’s word, our preference is sin.

So now what? Let’s go back to Galatians 5:16 “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”

Recognize. Repent. Repeat.

We must constantly be on guard to fight against those things that we know will drag us down, recognize when we HAVE been engaging in sinful behavior & repent, and fight the good fight to stay on the narrow path you KNOW God wants you on.

Get out your spiritual mops & brooms because it’s time to come face to face with that mess you’ve been living in and CLEAN HOUSE!!

 

 

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2017: A Fresh Start

Lamentations 3:23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I know I’ve gone spells without writing, but I’ve missed writing for an entire year!  If I could encapsulate my thoughts for 2016:  It kinda stunk.

Though amongst all the hate, murder, iconic celebrity deaths, political scandal, people’s feelings/behaviors post-election, and unexpectedly losing family members & friends, there must have been a moment of good – look hard, you’ll find it.  (Enter Julie Andrews singing Something Good from Sound of Music.)

So where does Lamentations 3:23 come into play? It’s brand new year! Even the hope of a new day brings us a clean slate, new mercies, promises from God, that are held out in front of us.

This morning, reading another devotional and (post coffee) my brain cells bumping together (realizing it is in fact, Jan 1st), got me thinking of two words:  Resolution and Goal.

Resolution:  A firm decision to do or not to do something.

Goal:  The object of a person’s ambition or effort, an aim or desired result.

If we go in to this new year with the traditional “resolution” we set ourselves up to fail almost instantly, causing us to feel badly and we just give up altogether.  (I speak from experience, so I should know!)

If we go in with a goal, there’s an understanding that life happens, situations change, and the intended path toward what we aim is redirected sometimes, and I think that’s a more realistic, well…goal.

In Philippians chapter 3, Paul is encouraging his reader (in verses 12-14 – go have a look!) to understand and be realistic about things.  Number one, even he had “not arrived” after the incredible spiritual growth & ministry journey he had been through.  Number two: Press on – run your race!

I get two things from that:  Stay humble and leave the past where it is – in the past. (Remember the exchange in Lion King between Simba & Rafiki when Rafiki hits Simba on the head with the stick and he asks him “Hey! What did you do that for?” and Rafiki says “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.”)

As humans those are two very difficult things to do, I know. I think everyone wants to be lauded for their efforts (no one turns down a pat on the back) and your past shapes who you are – for good or bad and sometimes we want to play the blame game.  “If so and so didn’t do this, my life would have been different…better!”

So how do we start this new year afresh? Forgive, put others first, take responsibility for our own actions and handle your defeats & disappointments with grace.

As Christians we have a goal – to become more like Christ.  It’s NEVER going to be a straight path.  The more we strive to be like Him, the more the devil is going to stick his nasty crooked finger in our business and stir things up.

But the Word tells us in Philippians 3:13b “but I focus on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

I pray everyone has an incredible beginning to their new year! Press on!

Less God, More Me = Chaos

In case you haven’t been watching the news lately, it seems that sin in every area is on the rise – out in the open, for all to see and those stuck in or committing the sin could care less what others think.  There is no remorse for those killing people that cross them.  There is no thought given to the victim of sex trafficking.  There is no respect for laws that were meant to protect us as a nation.  The list goes on and on.

It’s selfishness.  Flat out, taking care of number one selfishness.

“How can I make myself look like I care without having to make difficult, unpopular, right, moral decisions?” (says the politician).  “That person ticked me off or wronged my people!” (says the murderer) “I want to be rich, no matter the cost.” (says the person selling people into sex slavery).

These people have no moral compass and if they claim they do, they sure aren’t showing it.

They have no God.  They have no peace, no anchor. They do things that are right in their own eyes. Just like in the Bible, back in the books 1st & 2nd Kings.  One after the other, the leadership did whatever they liked. And it made a mess.

There is a solution. God sent his son Jesus to show us who He was in character and in deed.  Jesus reflected his Father’s personality, showed others love & care, compassion and Jesus served others, the same “others” that in time cried out in a public square to put Him on the cross, have Him crucified, instead of a true criminal – a murderer.

Jesus showed miracle after miracle to show God’s power.  Deed after deed to show His love toward us. He was obedient to death, because that was His Father’s plan.  And three days later, just as He promised, the power of God rose Jesus from the grave.  FROM THE GRAVE, PEOPLE! No one – no other religious person or leader throughout history has ever shown this kind of power & grace.  Jesus died to take our punishment for sin – eternal separation from God.  Past, present, future sin, all at once, on my Savior’s shoulders. That’s heavy & that’s love.

Who do you know here on earth that will go to THAT extent for you? No friend, no brother, sometimes not even family members will do for you what Jesus did for us.

There have been commandments written in stone by Moses back in the day, and we are familiar with most if not all of them. But when Jesus came, he said this in Matthew 22:37-39

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’e 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’f 40The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

If all we can do is remember these few short scriptures, things could get better.  Put others above your own needs/wants/desires.  Stop being selfish.  Have respect for authority.  Protect innocent children.  Stand for what is right no matter the color of skin.  Because then – More God, Less Me = Peace and perhaps some unity.

Love Wins

All across this country, homosexual couples are rejoicing because they can now be legally married in all 50 states.

Folks, the Bible tells us in Ecc 1:9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.

This, however, might be a “a new one”.  Not homosexuality of course, that’s been around since the beginning of time (almost), but the issue of homosexual marriage.

As a Christian woman I cannot condone same-sex marriage.  The Bible that I believe in & do my best to live by, does not support that and without a doubt does not support the homosexual lifestyle.  Read with me 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.”

This bit of scripture covers a short list of sins, that God says if you’re engaging in them, you will not go to Heaven. (there are many more)  It just so happens that today’s most prominent issue is same-sex marriage. It’s out in the open.

Here are my thoughts.  As I said, as a Bible-believing Christian, I cannot condone the changing of the definition of marriage.  In Genesis, God created marriage.  God created one man and one woman to procreate & multiply the human race. Therefore it is not up to a court to tell us as business owners, as pastors of churches, etc that we must change the way we operate (in exercising our 1st amendment protected religious beliefs) to accommodate a same-sex couple that might ask us for our services.

Am I going to be nasty to the person who asks “Does your husband perform same-sex marriages?”  Absolutely not.  Because my God tells me to love my neighbor as myself.  Some Christians think it’s ok to treat homosexuals with disdain & hatred because they have different beliefs. It’s not okay.  It’s not okay for us as Christians to treat anyone in ANY type of sin with disrespect or take any kind of hateful act toward them. They are still our fellow human beings with feelings & souls.

My main problem with this Supreme Court Ruling is this:  it gives the homosexual couple the platform from which to launch a lawsuit if my husband respectfully declines to perform a wedding ceremony for them.  It gives them the platform from which to launch a lawsuit against any business owner who respectfully declines to bake them a wedding cake or cater food for their reception. No people group should be allowed to destroy a person’s business or livelihood because they have been declined service.  There should be a certain level of maturity that says “Ok, I’m not going to be served here, I’ll keep looking for someone who will help me.  This isn’t the last church on earth, it’s not the last bakery, the last pizza place, etc”

If I brought a lawsuit against every business over my lifetime that wouldn’t help me the way I needed help for MY situation, I’d be rich right now.

Our pastors & Christian business owners should be able to – under the 1st amendment – exercise our religious freedoms when we decline services. Folks, that’s not a hate crime, it’s being turned down for a service.  We don’t hate anyone, we’re not fearful of anyone and shouldn’t be called “homophobes” – we simply do not agree with the behavior/lifestyle.  (As professing Bible believing Christians, we should be living by the entire Bible, not just the bits & pieces that make us feel warm & fuzzy.)

I want you to know, I have homosexual family & friends at work and I would NEVER treat them as if they were less than human because of the way they live. It is my job to love them & respect them as I would any other.

All this writer wants to say is this:  I am a Christian, I’m not perfect, I have my own sin that God does not like that I struggle with every day – you just might not see it.  I am a Christian who does her best to live by the words in our Holy Bible.  And if I remember correctly, Jesus says in Matt 22:37-39:

Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

All I ask is that we have respect for each other.  Put the issues of the day aside, we can agree to disagree & be aware that we are not going see eye-to-eye on any given subject.  Let’s not raise all kinds of a stink to punish others who won’t do what we ask them to do for us. Let’s put into action the principle in the Bible which says love one another, respect each other enough to let each other live their lives in peace.

Because then, Love really does win!

Preparing To Do Life

Remember that old song “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden”?  Well, being a Christian is kind of like that. Even though the very first couple Adam & Eve enjoyed perfection in the garden and a perfect, intimate relationship with God, it wouldn’t always stay that way.

In some of the same way, we can enjoy an intimate relationship with the Father thanks to the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Amen?!  But because of on-going battle between good & evil, we have an enemy: his name is Lucifer a.k.a Satan.

Don’t get me wrong, being a follower of Jesus is not a constant uphill fight. There are times of refreshing, mountain top experiences to prepare us for the valleys, but along with following the Almighty, you have to understand who you are up against. (Pretty sure I could go ahead and write a new screen play for the next Marvel movie right here!)

Ephesians 6:12 tells us this truth  “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in heavenly places.”

Now, you don’t want to miss the bits just before and right after. In His word, God tells us to “PUT ON ALL GOD’S ARMOR SO YOU’RE ABLE TO STAND/ABLE TO RESIST THE ENEMY IN THE TIME OF EVIL” (strong emphasis mine)

If ever you thought “I wish there were a manual on how to do life” HERE IT IS!!! Listen up, reader!!

If you are a born-again, purchased by His blood, follower of Jesus, know that just like that old song “along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometime” and the best way to prepare for the rainy days is dust off that copy of the Word you own (go ahead, get it, I can wait) and turn to Ephesians with me, chapter 6 and we’ll start with verse 10, work our way through verse 18.

“A final word: be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

Okay, not just once, but TWICE in that passage, we are told to “put on the armor”.  I’m thinking now would be a great time to pay attention!  So what are we to wear in the face of any battle? Truth, Righteousness, Gospel of Peace, Faith, Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit (the Word).

Be careful with Truth, make sure you know what THE truth is, not just “your” truth. See that you are right with God, not “self-righteous”. Negotiate the issue at hand with a level head, As peacefully as possible, not chaos. Have faith in what God says, he will do. Remember that your head is protected by salvation you have found in Jesus and no one can take that from you!  And last but by no means least, know the Word of God!! The ENTIRE word of God, the easy to digest and the not so easy to chew on.  It’s wonderful to try to have positivity be your guide, but if you don’t grasp the fact “rain will fall”, instead of knowing how to handle it, you’ll find yourself standing there saying “but this wasn’t supposed to happen!” Know that trouble will come and recognize what it might look like.  Then when it does try to come round for a spot of tea and tries to sidle up to you like an old friend, you can kindly tell it, on the authority of God, where to go.

Got Strength?

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.  He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.  Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.  But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Is 40:28-31)

Have you ever thought “I am too young to feel this old!”.  Whether emotional or physical, I know I have.

A good old (long-standing that is!) friend shared Isaiah 40:31 in my high school year book.  It got me through things when I was younger and it will continue to offer encouragement through the rest of my days. But the verses just before it offer insight as to why it is encouraging.

Reader hear this:  despite what the world tells us, we are not super men/women.  We cannot do it all or have it all, no matter our age or physical shape.  We WILL get tired.

There is hope in the verses I shared above, but we have to trust Him! Not our ability to run a marathon, not our age, not our intelligence or cleverness or the books we read – will get us through difficult times like the promises of God and we’ve got a doozie right here in verse 31!

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

It doesn’t say maybe they’ll find new strength, you know, if God FEELS like handing it out that day.  No, it says they WILL find new strength.

Are you feeling like you’re not making a difference or getting out of bed on any given morning is going to be a colossal waste of time, or you’re cruising 6 inches above asphalt when you know you should be flying way above the clouds? Hold on, help is on the way!

Helen H Lemmel penned this hymn:

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Running Our Race

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

That is probably my favorite verse right now, & since New Year’s Eve of 2009.  It was that night, that my husband & I served as musicians at a local church’s service. The pastor referenced Jeremiah 29:11 and I claimed it over my son.  He was, at that time, in Afghanistan serving in the United States Army at the ripe age of 19.  I was terrified, but I knew that God would protect him.

Many years later, here I am, a week after attending a Women of Faith conference in Hartford, CT.  We were tremendously blessed to hear Christine Caine speak.  She is so very annointed in sharing the Word and encouraging women.

I have been diving into her book titled “Unstoppable” and if you haven’t read it – I highly encourage you to do so.  Just finishing chapter 4 and all of a sudden, Jeremiah 29:11 has meaning for me! Who knew!

I am not the most flexible person in the world (it’s no secret, everybody knows!).  I would venture to say that somewhere inside, I’m probably a little OCD.  That being said, Christine has a gift with how she brings the truth to you and I’ve learned something.

This is going to sound silly.  But you know how you know something, you grasp the concept & meaning for someone else, but for you, it’s just like “yeah, that’s a nice verse”.

And then you have an “ah ha!” moment.  And you might feel like a little bit of an idiot for not seeing it.

I think sometimes as Christians – and perhaps more as Christian women – we struggle with what God’s will is for our lives; our homes, our jobs, our church service, etc.  And let’s face it, we women are the more emotional ones and have a tendency to be control freaks.  How much stress do bring on ourselves trying to juggle it all and have it all figured out?

(cue the theme song to Frozen)

We don’t need to know every last detail of what God wants to do with us.  He won’t tell us anyway (the big picture for us).  He gives us talents & abilities, puts us in the place He wants for us to serve, and expects obedience – whether cleaning toilets or leading a worship team.

Just obey & He’ll do the rest.  What a load is taken off our shoulders when we realize that all we have to do is what is put in front of us.  Who cares if we’re asked to do the most obscure task on the planet. If He asks us to do it, we do it faithfully, He’ll move us on in HIS time.  I can’t even tell you how many times in the last few years I’ve completely blown it because doing something was just too difficult for me to wrap my brain around – due to my inflexibility. (Shh, don’t tell my husband that I understand now!)

I am convinced that God is on to something here!

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (NLT)

Breathing just got easier….