Monthly Archives: March 2013

Heavy Burdens and False Hopes

Somalian victim of drought

Somalian victim of drought

“You have discouraged the righteous with your lies, but I didn’t want them to be sad. And you have encouraged the wicked by promising them life, even though they continue in their sins.”  Ezekiel 13:22

This is scary.  God will not be happy if I am disheartening people who are righteous.  I can put heavy burdens on the shoulders of others, as Jesus said the Pharisees did in Matthew 23.  I can stress all the things they are supposed to being doing to the point that I go beyond the commands of Jesus.  I could make them feel bad if they aren’t getting up first thing in the morning and having a great devotional time, or if they don’t share their faith with each person they meet.  These are great Godly things, but I can’t bind them on people.

But just as scary is the possibility that I would gloss over someone’s sin in an effort to not seem too condemning, so they think what they are doing is okay.

“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”  (Luke 6:

This is a passage of the Bible I would like to gloss over, and yet it is the heart of Jesus’ message.  I don’t want to look to closely at it because  I am rich, full, happy, and people speak well of me.  It is much easier to read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and think, “Yes, I am poor in spirit, I know I need God.”  It’s more difficult to think that my riches are keeping me from heaven, or that my people pleasing is making me a false prophet.

I can study out sin in the Bible with someone.  I can talk to them about lust, immorality, drunkenness, laziness, selfishness, fits of rage, etc.  But do I talk about materialism as sin?  Do I tell them, and myself, that God will judge us for how we care about the least of these, for sitting in our comfortable homes while others are dying from hunger?

World poverty seems like a black hole of needs that could consume us  How much should we get engaged in meeting these needs?  Ken and I increased our giving to HOPE Worldwide this year, giving 4X as much, but even that seems very small.  At the least, I would like to increase my awareness of the situation, and research it more, finding out what is going on in different areas of the world.  May I do what is pleasing to God, above all else, and may my life be a clear message to others on how God expects us to live our lives.

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Adoption

It is so important to remember that God pursued me, that it wasn’t me doing Him a favor of deciding to seek Him and worship Him.  He brought me to a church to play my flute when I was 16, and that one visit changed my life.  I started wanting to seek God.  He put Ken in my life, someone who would ultimately know how to honor Him with his whole life.  He put Ken and I in a church where people were practicing discipleship.  He brought us to Montgomery and once again helped us be associated with the right people.  He allowed our sin to blossom over many years, and for us to be disciplined by our pride and bad decisions.  And I could go on and on.

God pursued me.  I didn’t plan for this post to turn into REBEL, Part II, I wanted it to just be this feel good piece on adoption, but it turns out being a rebel is a part of the story.  The motivation for writing yesterday’s REBEL post came from my communion with God.  I didn’t even know that I would open David Platt’s book “Follow Me” today and read. “Our problem is that we are — at our very core — rebels against God.”

Platt goes on to say that we were completely dead in our sins.  A dead person can’t initiate an adoption procedure.  It is all God.  “At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people….Christ died for us while we were still sinners.”  (Romans 5:6,8)

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said.  “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”  “…he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him,”  (Acts 17:27)  It is amazing that God would pursue us, but it is even more amazing that God would pursue rebels, enemies, deliberate sinners.  This is the heart of God.

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Being a Rebel

“Only do not rebel against the Lord”  Nu 14:9

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way”  Isa 53:6

“On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?”  Is 36:5

I realize the sins I’ve committed in my life  I could go down the Galatians 5 list or the II Tim 3 list and enumerate them.  But how much do I add rebellion to that list?  When I see a child being rebellious, it is obvious they are wrong.  But when I have pursued my own way instead of God’s way, do I see that as rebellion against the living God, or just natural self expression?

The more important realization is that God saw me as a rebel.  He didn’t just see me in the context of my other sins, he saw me as someone who was defiant in committing these sins.

How was Israel rebelling against the Lord when they were fearful of entering the Promise Land?  He had a plan for them and they didn’t believe they could carry out that plan.  They wanted to go back to Egypt instead.  Their doubts and fears were their gods.  This was rebellion against the only living God.

In “Follow Me” by David Platt I read today about idolatry and repentance.  He said, “We can’t fathom a Christian on the other side of the world believing that a wooden god can save them, but we have no problem believing that religion. money, possessions, food, fame, sex, sorts, status and success can satisfy us.”  He said we have to die to “our self-centeredness, self-consumption, self-righteousness, self-indulgence, self-effort and self-exaltation.”

Like the blind we grope along the wall,

feeling our way like people without eyes.

At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;

among the strong, we are like the dead.

We all growl like bears;

we moan mournfully like doves.

We look for justice, but find none;

for deliverance, but it is far away.

I like to picture that I embodied this part of Isaiah 59 — miserable in the pit of sin, groaning and powerless.  I I don’t like to think that the next part of Isaiah 59 could apply to me as well.  I don’t like to think of myself as a defiant rebel, stubborn and hard-hearted against God.   Yet those who sin are described this way.

For our offenses are many in your sight,

and our sins testify against us.

Our offenses are ever with us,

and we acknowledge our iniquities:

rebellion and treachery against the Lord,

turning our backs on our God,

inciting revolt and oppression,

uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

At heart, I was and I can be a rebel.  Left to myself, I am an enemy of God, incurring His wrath.  No matter that I think I love him and have had good intentions, let me not merely see myself as a person who does bad things, but as a person who does bad things in God’s face.

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  Eph 2:3

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior..  Col 1:21

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Mercy– Our Life Preserver

Life preserver

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  (Lam 3:22-23)

Every day, the only thing that keeps me going is the mercy of God.  As I realized this, I realized that I know that I am only saved by grace, that I was a worthless sinner.  But somehow along the line I started thinking that because I am doing good things, I now deserve to continue being saved.  Instead, I am only here, each day, because of His grace

“Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.'”  Luke 5:18-20

Jesus knew that mercy was what the paralyzed man really needed, not just physical healing. And he was more than willing to give it.  I am studying the Bible with someone who is not sure if she believes, but does know that she is desperate for mercy and forgiveness.  People who need forgiveness are starving for it, they seek it fervently, and want the peace it will bring more than anything else.

But I get caught up in my “good” life and forget my desperate need for mercy.  It is true that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”  It is true that the blood of Christ continually cleanses us from sin.   But Jesus told to us to pray each day for our daily bread.  To me, the daily bread is the mercy of God.  His grace is sufficient His outpouring on me and his loving workings in my life will get me through the day, but it is the only thing that will get me through the day.  And what is given today will not hold over until tomorrow.  Tomorrow I will need more grace.

“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:30-31

Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”  Luke 6

Jesus’ nature is to dispense mercy.  If I had been confronted with Levi and his friends, my main concern would have been the need to tell them to repent. I wouldn’t have thought of sitting down and eating and being chummy with them.  It was great that Levi wanted to follow Jesus and then throw a party with his friends, but his friends needed to change what they were doing wrong!  So I am more like a Pharisee than I would like to admit.

But Jesus gave them what they needed.  I would think repentance is what they needed.  And it was.  But they also needed someone who truly cared about them, someone who truly liked them.

But I will spare a few of them from the sword, famine and plague, so that in the nations where they go they may acknowledge all their detestable practices. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”  Ex 12:16

It seems like there wasn’t much mercy when God destroyed almost all of the Israelites.  But the continuation of them as a race  was utterly dependent on His mercy.  They had all done evil, but in his mercy he saved a few.  And ultimately all of us who believe are here today because the Jewish race survived so there could be the fertile ground for Christ to spring from.

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”  Luke 12:24

I have read this passage on why we should not worry so many times.  But now it strikes me as a great lesson on what I can learn about God’s mercy.  The ravens were completely dependent on God’s mercy.  They foraged for food daily, but it was up to God to provide that food daily.    In the same way, I do good things, but I am dependent on God that these deeds will bear fruit.  I am even dependent on him to give me the strength and motivation to do the good things.

Maybe that is why I have been struggling with moodiness lately, so I can see what it is like without strength and motivation.

God, thank you for your compassions that are new every morning.  Your mercy is like the dew of refreshment.  It is like a warm blanket spreading everywhere. I am dependent on it for everything that needs to get done.  It is my life preserver.

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The Horror of Spiritual Dullness

“Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.  Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.”  (Heb 6:12)

Last night we did a Bible talk on walking by the Spirit and not by the sinful nature.  As we discussed what this meant, I thought about how hard it is to really, honestly walk by the Spirit.  I do it in some ways, but not in others.  Am I honest about what I need to do differently?  Or do I allow myself to procrastinate, be spiritually dull?

What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?  What does it mean to truly follow Christ?  I read a passage from “Follow Me” by David Platt this morning.  He said that the true abundant all surpassing experience of being a Christian is only possible when you die to self.  “In Jesus, these men found someone worth losing everything for.  In Christ they encountered a love that surpassed comprehension…and a purpose that transcended every other possible pursuit in this world.”

Platt shared about a girl who thought she was a “Christian” from the time she was five, but then described her true conversion.  “For the first time.” she said, “I understood that the point of the cross was to justify the wrath of God that should have been directed toward me.  I fell on my knees in fear and trembling and adoration and tears and confessed my need for Jesus more than I needed anything else in the world.”

Platt also shared an awesome selection by Oswald Chambers that said  if we follow Christ, we must have an unrestrained adventurous spirit in us.  “If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark.  In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense,and leap by faith into what He says.  Once you obey, you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.”

“They say to the people, ‘Is it not a good time to build houses? This city is like an iron pot. We are safe inside it like meat in a pot.’  Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:… I will soon drag you from this pot. I will bring on you the sword of war you so greatly fear.”  Ez 11:3, 7,8

In this passage in Ezekiel I see how people always want to think they are good with God, when in fact they are not.  The consequences of  spiritual dullness are real, and dire.

Horror

Horror movies remind me of the consequences of spiritual dullness.  We go along thinking we are okay, but doom and destruction are lurking, waiting to take us down.  It’s like watching the scene with the actress who has her back to the camera as the villian creeps up with a knife behind her.  “Turn around!  Look out,” we want to say.  But she is happily going on about her life, unaware of the peril.

“And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart.”  Ez 11:19

God wants us to have a tender responsive heart.   What are the consequences of being spiritually dull?  It leads to a hard heart.  I know I should do something differently, but I don’t do it.  The longer I don’t do it, the harder my heart becomes.  But God provided a way for us to have a new heart that is tender and responsive, and that way is through Christ.

“No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”  (Luke 5:36-39)

This passage also stresses that we need a new heart to truly follow God.  If we continue to follow Him but don’t completely give up our sinful nature and old life, we will still be walking by this nature, and just like the example of the girl who wasn’t truly converted, we will find that our faith doesn’t work.  She had to be transformed in her heart by understanding the cross and completely changing her life because of this understanding.  We also have to be completely transformed, and follow Jesus completely.

And our transformation has to start at the foot of the cross.  Do I want to completely walk by the Spirit?  Then I need to remember the cross.  I need to be broken every day, softened in heart, or I will not follow completely every day.  Instead I will be spiritual mush, dull and halfhearted.

What are the symptoms of my spiritual dullness?  What actions can I take that will reflect a more tender responsive heart?  How can I walk by the Spirit more, follow Christ more?

I can share more every day.  I can reach out to my neighbors more.  I can have more uncomfortable but beneficial talks with people. I can make sure that I am fully engaged in each personal interaction.   Not procrastinating on these things is my biggest daily battle.  The only way I know to combat it is to seek to be broken every day.

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Civilian Affairs

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”  (II Tim 2:4)

What a crazy day this has been already!  I had two phone calls at 7:00, one having to do with a job opportunity, and one having to do with ministry events that are coming up.  Ken and I were talking as we ran this morning about the need for all of us to not get entangled in civilian affairs, to really put our ministry first.  Then I get a call that could lead to me working full time and being more occupied and distracted!

On top of that I just received two texts from people I spent time with yesterday who told me about positive things happening as a result of our time together. (With God working, of course.)  It is good for me to have more time for people.  How do I have wisdom about entering the work force again?

Today I read Francis Chan’s introduction to “Follow Me” by David Platt.  He also discussed civilian affairs. He said, “We busy ourselves with ‘civilian pursuits’ and occasionally jump into the battle when we fell compelled…. Jesus wanted followers from every nation on earth…He expects us to structure our lives so that our actions revolve around completing this mission…. We need to figure out how to make each day count for his purposes.”  Chan talked about the spiritual crisis he had in his life as he began to admit to himself that his lifestyle did not resemble the life of Jesus or the church he read about in Acts.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8)

Chan said, “While every Christian wants to experience the power of the Holy Spirit, we often forget that the Spirit’s power is given for the purpose of being his witnesses.  Experiencing God, which is the longing of every true believer, happens when we are being his witnesses and making disciples.”

Finally, Chan quoted II Timothy 4:6-8, “The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me.”   “Could there be anything better than approaching his throne, knowing that you finished what he asked of you?”  Chan asked.

Ken and I have been doing some serious talking and planning for retirement, for the last years of our life.  Yet we want to be able to not just prepare financially for these last days, but to feel like we have prepared every day for our spiritual retirement in heaven.  I could spend every day working so we would have enough money later in life, but would I accomplish what is most important?

But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” (Luke 5:35)

It is a good thing to have a relationship with Jesus.  But there are many who don’t, and for them, even through they do not realize it, these are dark days of fasting and mourning.  They are desperately in need, and they don’t know where to find help.  “We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.”  (Isa 59:11)

“The end has come. It has finally arrived.  Your final doom is waiting!”  (Ezekiel 7:6)

The Spirit said to me, “Son of man, these are the men who are planning evil and giving wicked counsel in this city.….Therefore, prophesy against them loudly and clearly.”  (Eze 11:2)

The end is coming for all of us, and there is so much work to be done, so many people who need to know the truth, so many who need maturing, love and encouragement.  It is good, fulfilling work.  It is work I will never look back and regret.

Civilian affairs beckon to me.  I am tempted to slow down a bit, enjoy life a bit, be practical, not be as radical.  I don’t have the wisdom for this, but I want to keep my love for God as strong as fire, and my passion for the calling the most fervent thing in my life.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Heb. 6:10)

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The Endless Waterfall of Giving

“If you have any encouragement by being united with Christ.”  Phil 2:1

Unity Sand

This weekend I went to a wedding where part of the ceremony was to pour two separate vials of sand into one container, while the officiator explained that this symbolized that their lives were no longer their own in any way, their lives were one.

In the same way, I read about Jesus and how he poured everything of his life into our own:

I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  John 15:9

I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. John 17:13

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me  John 17:22-23

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you….we will come to them and make our home with them….my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  John 15

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me Gal 2:20

Just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Eph 5:2

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age  Matt 28:20

Jesus gave his life for me.  I am united with Him and now everything that Jesus is has been made available for me — his Spirit, his wisdom, his joy, his peace.  I didn’t mention these verses, but he also intercedes for us and makes sure we have anything we ask in his name.

This encourages me so much because I feel so much more capable of doing what I want and need to do.

Jesus gave all.  Jesus still gives in complete and utter abundance.  This is how God gives.  To finish this entry, I want to share what I read in “Grace” by Max Lucado yesterday.  It describes so well the way God lavishes His love on us.

“He (God) doesn’t just dole out wisdom, he ‘gives generously to all without finding fault.’  (James 1:5)  He is rich in ‘kindness, tolerance and patience.’ (Rom 2:4)  His grace is ‘exceedingly abundant’ (I Tim 1:14) and ‘indescribable’ (II Cor 9:14-15).

“He overflowed the table of the prodigal with a banquet, the vats at the wedding with wine, and the boat of Peter with fish, twice.  He healed all who sought health, taught all who wanted instruction, and saved all who accepted the gift of salvation.

“He assured Peter, as well as all disciples, that we ‘shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life’ (Matt 19:29).

He dispenses his goodness not with an eyedropper, but with a fire hydrant.  Your heart is a Dixie cup and his grace is the Mediterranean Sea. “

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