Friday, May 30, 2008

The Good Stuff or the God Stuff

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry...” – 1 Samuel 15:23

When I was a little girl safety for children wasn’t where it is today. There were no age limit on toys, no electrical outlet covers, and cars had cigarette lighters even in the back seat where the kids sat. My parents had to become the FDA, EPA, and CPS agencies, in addition to being parents. One of the things I heard repeatedly was “Faithie, leave that lighter alone! You’ll get burned!”

But it was pretty. When you pushed it in, it would glow bright red! And it popped out when it was done! POP! I loved to hear that sound. It was like having my own forbidden toy. When they’d go in the grocery store and leave me in the car (yes, we did that back then!), I’d push in the lighter and count to see how long before POP! Out it would come! The temptation was too great.

One day while they were in the grocery I decided to pretend I was smoking. I’d seen my parents do it, and it looked cool! I pushed in the lighter, and POP! I picked it up, and pretending I had a cigarette in my mouth, touched it to the side of my face right beside my lips! I still have the scar from the burn today.

We often seek to chase after temptations when we should just be obedient to what we’re told. Saul had the same problem. In 1 Samuel 15:2-3 God spoke to Saul and told him he was going to punish Amalek for what he’d done to Israel. Through that punishment, Saul was instructed to go and attack Amalek, and to “…utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

God’s rule was simple. Kill them all. Spare nothing. But Saul found the temptation to be too great. When he saw the possessions of the Amalekites, he found things his heart desired. I can just see Saul going into the land, and saying “Wow! Look how fluffy and fat these sheep are! Oh, my! Look how large the cattle are! I could sure enjoy myself a good steak from one of those cows!” No doubt when he saw the oxen he must have thought “It would be a shame to destroy such strong animals – especially when I could use them!”

We often choose the “good stuff” over the “God stuff”. God’s rewards to Saul were cut off because Saul decided to be disobedient to the commands of God and spared the best of the livestock, and even King Agag. Instead of receiving God’s favor and blessings, Saul brought upon himself punishment. God instructed Samuel, a prophet who dearly loved Saul, to speak to him about his sin. In 1 Samuel 15:23 he is told “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”

Rebellion is a form of idolatry. Rebellion occurs when we remove God from the throne of our hearts and take His seat. We make ourselves god of our life. When we choose to disobey, we are punished just as Saul was. Saul was dethroned by God and replaced by King David for his sin. Without God’s favor, Saul’s joy was gone. He became emotionally scarred by the punishment he received. We carry the scars from such disobedience too much like I carry the scar from the cigarette lighter.

Lord, help us to remember that your ways and your thoughts are higher than ours. Help us to trust in your will rather than our own. We know that only you see the future and know what is best. Thank you Father for seeking to give us peace, joy, and prosperity. Forgive us when we get in the way of those blessings. Have mercy and patience on our sinful hearts Father! Grant us wisdom so that we may become your obedient children. Amen.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nesting Dolls

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” – John 14:20

I have a Russian friend who owns a set of nesting dolls. These dolls are wooden shells with other dolls nested inside. They are brightly painted with lots of details. On the outside is a large old woman, called the Babooshka. Within here are other dolls, male and female, that represent a family of dolls. Inside the last doll is a small baby doll that doesn’t open.

These dolls are something she cherishes. The Babooshka represents her Grandmother, a woman who cared for her and loved her so deeply. Each doll inside she has named to be another member of her family.

As I looked at the dolls I noticed some have hands, and some don’t. The ones that do have hands have them painted on and simply touching the side of their garment. They’re not holding anything, not carrying anything. In America when we think of family, we think of the father as the provider, the children doing chores, and the mother cooking dinner. But in my friend’s culture, family is love first, and duty second.

In John 14 Jesus is explaining to his disciples that He will soon leave them. He says He will not leave them “orphans” because He will send the Holy Spirit to comfort them. In verse 20 He says “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” The metaphor in this statement reminds me of those nesting dolls.

God the Father is the larger outside doll with Jesus inside of Him. In John 14:31 Jesus says that God is greater than He is, and He does the will of His father who sent him.

We are inside Jesus. John 15:6-9 says that if we abide in Jesus, we can ask whatever we desire and it will be given us. He becomes our provider too. If we abide in Jesus we abide in His love for us – a love without condition. It also says that if we do not abide in him, we will be cast out as a withered vine, and burned.

Within us lies the last of the nesting dolls – the Holy Spirit, our Comforter and Guide. This is where the analogy of the nesting dolls breaks down.

In the nesting doll family, each member is stronger than the inward member. But the Holy Spirit is our strength. He is greater, yet has been given as a gift to us by God the Father. The Holy Spirit is our power (Acts1:8), our comforter (Acts 9:31), our guide (John 14:26), the spirit of truth (John 14:17), the giver of our spiritual gifts (Hebrews 2:4), our seal (Ephesians 1:13), and our connection to the love of God (Romans 5:5).

Isn’t it good to know that we are covered in such strong layers of power as our Father God, our Lord Jesus, and even on this earth abide with the Holy Spirit?

Father, I praise you for you have created in and around me a great power. You are the lifter of my head, and the love that abides in me. How wonderful you are and how wonderful your creations! Thank you Father that you have found us worthy of such lavish affection. Thank you Lord Jesus that you did not abandon us, but sent your Holy Spirit to abide with us in a world where we are continually persecuted. Thank you that all the power we need is ours through faith. Amen.

Friday, May 16, 2008


“And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” – Genesis 2:18

I would like to have been a fly on the wall the day Adam was created. The animals must have watched in amazement and wondered “God, why didn’t you give him a female?” I can just see the female zebra whispering in her male counterpart’s ear “You know, he’s all alone!” Rumors of the single man must have traveled through Eden!

Can you imagine Adam’s realization as he named the animals and saw they all had female partners and yet, he didn’t? As each rooster and hen, bull and cow, buck and doe, stallion and mare came to him for naming. At some point he must have thought, “Wait a minute! Where’s my mate? Why am I alone?”

God sees the past, present and future all at once. That’s part of his omnipresence. He never intended not to make woman. He just waited till Adam had things under control. The garden had been planted, the animals named, a homestead created, the laws created, and Adam was walking in the garden with God every day. When the time was right, God created woman.

Genesis 2:18 tells us two things. First, it says “It is not good that man should be alone”. God saw that man needed someone. He didn’t want him to be alone. I know I’ve often heard people talk about how being single is a better than being married. Well, let me step out on a limb here and tell you, God disagrees! He says it’s not good for a man to be alone. The creation of woman also shows that man should wait on God to give him a wife – not to chase one down!

The rest of the verse tells us why it’s not good for man to be alone. It says “I will make him a helper comparable to him.” God saw that man needed a helper – someone to tend to his needs and help him with his daily life. A wife should never be the controller of the home. Now many of you know me and know that I’m an award winning, badge carrying, licensed control freak. Yet, this is Bible truth, and I’ll be the first to admit it. The husband’s position is to lead. A wife should only be the helper – the assistant if you will.

Take a look at how man was made first, and put in charge of everything. It was Adam who was told to tend the Garden of Eden. It was Adam who was told to name the animals. It was Adam who was told what to eat and not to eat. And it was Adam God called for when Eve and he had eaten of the forbidden fruit. What was woman put in charge of? Nothing!

Ladies, I know this is tough to swallow, but the truth often is. If you’re trying to lead your household, and not letting your husband have the reigns, you are out of God’s will. We weren’t created to be the head, but the helper.

Yet consider this: women were made with spare parts. Adam got along just fine without the rib God used to make woman. He didn’t need it. It was simply a spare part. But what Adam could not live without, in God’s eyes, was Eve. Although women may not be the head of the household, we are the neck! The head is very much dependant on us. Be the best neck you can be and you’ll find you like the things the head decides much better!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Can You Praise Him in This?

“You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” - Job 2:10

The story of Job is one dear to my heart. Here’s a man so worthy of God’s love and attention that God himself offers him as a test to His enemy, Satan. Job 1:8 quotes God as saying to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

First, God calls Job His servant. This indicates that Job was not only a man who was upright and obedient, but he was also busy doing God’s work.

Secondly, God found no other like him on the entire earth. He was blameless – having nothing wrong between him and God, nothing to confess and nothing to be forgiven.

Thirdly, he feared God, which means he respected God out of the love in his heart. He shunned or turned from evil because he wanted nothing more than to be the man God wanted him to be. He was focussed on God like an archer aimed at a target.

And what was God’s reward for this obedience? He allowed him to suffer. He turned him over to Satan and said only “do not lay a hand on his person” meaning he couldn’t kill Job, but he could do anything else his evil heart could dream up.

Satan got to work. In only one day, he sent an enemy army that killed all Job’s donkeys and oxen. To make it look like God was the one pulling the evil strings, he next sent fire from Heaven to burn his sheep and the servants with them. Before Job could digest what had just happened, he learned that another army of bandits had stolen all his camels and killed more servants. And as the final straw Satan would place on Job’s back, all his sons and daughters were killed in a mighty wind that blew down the house they were in.

Could you praise God in this?
Could you praise God when your job is gone?
Could you praise God when your car is stolen?
Could you praise God when your friends and coworkers are gone?
Can you praise Him when your children are killed?
Can you praise God when all the evil of Satan is unleashed on you?

Job did.

The fact that Job did praise God rings of his relationship of trust and obedience to God. Being able to praise God when you can’t see a way out of the storm is more important in your faith walk that being able to praise God when you’re on the mountaintop. It’s when you’re suffering that God is pruning you. It’s when you’re in pain that God is shaving off the rough edges. It’s when you can’t find the answers that God is telling you to trust in His understanding above your own.

Praising God is a practice that perfects your faith. It does so because as you praise Him you realize He is actively working in all things.

When you realize that God is at work all around you, and that He really does have it all under control, peace comes.

Peace comes when you realize that you need not work to make your situation better because God has it all under control.

God is at work.


“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” - Philippians 1: 6

One of the many things I’ve seen my Dad do with his hands is “whittle”. Some of you may call it carving, but here in Western Kentucky, we call it whittling. He once took a plank of wood from an old church he grew up in, and carved it into a pocketknife, complete with moving blade, and the emblem of a tree on one side. Of course, it was just a wooden knife, but it was useful. It was useful because it was what the carver had wanted it to be – a memory of his old church.

Our lives in God’s hands are like that plank of wood was in my Dad’s. Sometimes he whittles away at us, taking away the things that don’t belong. To us, they appear to belong. They are part of us.

Maybe it’s something in your past that causes you to fear or be less confident in who you are. God will take us through the trials that cause us to overcome the fear and pain of our past.

Maybe it’s a crutch you’re holding onto. Maybe you can’t seem to go to sleep at night without that last drink or that last cigarette. God will talk to you and help you to remove all crutches so you can be dependant only on Him.

Maybe it’s a relationship. Some relationships are more harmful than good and God does seek to pull those people that are hurting your walk with Him away from you. This can be very painful as we look at those that are our friends and wonder why God is taking us down a different path.

This is why Paul refers to the process as “work”. That’s a four-letter word none of us like! “Work” is not associated with joy. “Work” is not something we do because we want to but because we have to. But the “work” is God’s “work”, not our own. He is the carver. We can get into a lot of trouble when we try to do our own carving! What if the plank my Dad was carving suddenly decided to split right down the middle? His plan for it may have had to change, or he may have decided to throw it into the kindling pile.

Let God do the great work He has planned for you. He will make you a useful tool for His work. He will create in you the person He wants you to be. Knowing that all gifts from God are good, how can we fear his carving?