Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Playing Tug-O-War with God

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.

Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” – James 4:1-10

I believe two of the most misunderstood words in the Bible are ‘submit’ and ‘humble’.  Somehow we have found these to be difficult actions, and avoid them as if they were an incurable disease that would suck all the strength we have right out, leaving us limp and powerless! 
But submission is the easy way and leads to humbleness.  It is when the struggle ENDS.  Read the first few verses of James 4 as it describes a life of struggle with words like wars, fights, desires, lusts, murder, coveting, adultery and finally, ‘enmity with God’.  That simply means you’re the enemy of God, on the opposing side.

When I was a little girl is school we used to play tug-o-war.  When picking sides for this, I would very quickly scope out the big kids, the ones with more power than I had, because I knew that if I stuck with the puny little girls like me, I was going DOWN!  We all need to take a look at who’s fighting on the opposing side and see if we need to change teams.
Friends, God is mightier than your struggles, and He is jealous to have us on His team.  While we chase after all the dreams and goals we may have, we sink deeper into a life of lack, desire, lust, and attempts at pleasure.  Yet, He never stops pulling for you. 

Sometimes when we were playing tug-o-war, I’d give in to all my friends wanting me to be on their side.  It was going to be the losing side, but for some reason, I’d give in, knowing I would get tossed to the ground, hands raw from pulling the rope, and knees sometimes scrapped up.  Does satan not do the same thing?  He tries to pull you into his side, with all sorts of empty promises of pleasure, contentment, and peace.  Have you felt the pull?  He says things like “work more hour and you’ll have enough”, “hang with those in positions of power and they’ll appreciate your hard work”, “you deserve more – and you shouldn’t have to work for it”, “stand up for yourself and fight till you win the argument”, continuing the struggle you are in by dangly the carrot in front of you at all times.  Yet, I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis said about peace.  He said, “God can't give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.”
Have you ever just wanted the world to stop so you could get off?  You get so sick and tired of the struggles and discontentment that you just want to have an out of body experience long enough to get rest?  God understands that.  He gives you two commands to overcome the struggle.  First, submit to God.  Submit, submit, submit!  There’s that word again.  Submit is not to struggle under the hand of someone else.  Submit is to stop struggling and let someone else take over.  Do you know anyone better equipped to run your life than God?

Secondly, He says “resist the devil and he will flee”.  Now, don’t be scared.  He did not say “fight the devil with all you have!”  He just said resist.  One of my favorite ways to silence the temptations of satan is to just turn on worship music.  He and I don’t have the same taste in music! It’s a simple resistance and it doesn’t hurt me at all.  I get lifted up by it, and he gets defeated.  There’s no war on my part.
Lastly, God gives us instruction for being on His side and how not just the battle, but the war of life is won.  He says “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  Oh we don’t like this verse cause it calls us ‘sinners’!  Don’t look away just because that word hurts.  You have to know the problem to accept the cure. 

We struggle with God only when sin is on the throne of our hearts, and we all have our favorite sin, that thing that we don’t want to stop even though we know it’s wrong, that one that we know isn’t good for us, but we feel legitimately allowed to have that one sin because for some sick reason we think we deserve to have a fault.  Now, deeply look into that sin – that specific one.  Is it worth struggling with God?  Do you really think God is going to be ‘ok’ with your ignoring his command to come clean?  Was He just kidding when He called it ‘sin’?  Friends, He is “God ALMIGHTY”, and you are “You Not Mighty”. Give it up, come clean, let Him purify you, and take from your mind the double standard. 
Do you want the struggle of life to end?  Of course you do!  And friends, there is no high like when God lifts you up! James says that is what comes from humbling yourselves in the sight of God.  He says it’s turning laughter to mourning, and joy to gloom.  When you see your sin, your lack of faith, in the same way God sees it, it’s no more a laughing matter, and it won’t bring you joy.  Then, the struggle ends.

You are as close as you want to be to the end of your struggles.  Draw near to God.  You take the first step, and He will run to you.  He is jealous for you!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Thanking God for Answered Prayers

Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.  But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.” – John 12:9-11

The chief priests were acting not on God’s will but on the will of satan.  They wanted to crush the miracle Jesus had performed in raising Lazarus from the dead before more believers were made, and more glory was given to Jesus.  Can you imagine what would have happened if they had?  There would have been all sorts of rumors of how Jesus could not heal Lazarus, and how the sickness that had put him in the grave had come back.  There would have been those that believed it was a magic act, that there were two Lazarus’s and the real one was always in the grave.  There would have been doubts cast on Jesus’ power to overcome death and those doubts would have carried over to His own crucifixion.
Satan stands to lose everything when we become true believers in Jesus and the power He has over death, and the grave.  But he also loses when we understand the power of prayer.  For that purpose, he and his demons want to crush our belief in prayer when they are answered and miracles have been given.  Sadly, we often help to diminish the power of those answered prayers ourselves. 

We pray for healing, and when it comes we talk about the effectiveness of the medication the doctor gave us.  Or we talk about how wonderful the doctor was in finding the problem.   We forget that we prayed for healing, as if we never believed that the prayers were going to be heard anyway.  We pray and ask for a job and financial security, but when it comes, we are more grateful to the one that hired us than the one who heard and answered our prayers.  We pray for change in the lives of those we love, but when it comes, we praise them for the good decisions they have made, ignoring the power of God answering our prayers.
Friends, let us continually be mindful that ALL good things come from God (James 1:17).  Let us also be mindful that satan seeks out to destroy any effect answered prayers can have.  Our response is a simple one – an offering of praise.  Giving God the glory for the things He does, speaking our gratefulness to others, telling of the prayers that were answered, this is our response.  Just as Lazarus wasn’t raised from the dead solely to give him back life, the answers to our prayers are also to increase faith, create believers, and to bring God glory.  Give God the glory and honor for your answered prayers.  He is worthy of our praise, and not to be taken for granted.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

For His Name's Sake

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” – Psalms 23:3

I was named after my grandmother, Faithie Maurine Guier Pope.  She died when my mom was 14, so I never got to know her.  But what I do know of her is that she played piano at church, knew her Bible well, had great faith, and was intimate with her God.  She taught Sunday school and loved her family.  She sung on the radio on Sunday mornings in a gospel quartet.  She had many friends, several of which made her a quilt while she was sick – by hand.  And last of all, she died of cancer at a young age, and boldly left this world without fear of her future.

Though I’ve never met her, there’s something about being named after a person that affects how you see yourself, and how you respond to life.  We all live up to what we’re called, and believe it to be true.  For example, if you call a child “stupid”, eventually they will believe you.  I have understood all my life that I am somehow to be a reflection of her.  She was the definition of a “Faithie” in my understanding.  I’m not saying I’m there, because she was a powerfully good woman.  I know that some of the things I’ve done have brought dishonor to her name.  But being her name’s sake has had its effect.

In Psalms 23 we read that God restores our soul and leads us in the path of righteousness.  It’s a beautiful chapter hat pronounces God’s many blessings on us.  But that’s not all it says.  The verse gives His ulterior motive.  He does these things “for His name’s sake”.  We are called “Children of God”.  We are to be a reflection of who He is, because we are named after Him. 

A quick Bible word study of “in My Name’s Sake” will show you God’s ulterior motive in all His blessing on us is to make much of Him, to bring glory to Himself.  And as David Platt so perfectly put it in “Radical”, who else would we want Him to glorify?  If He were to choose to glorify any other man or power He would no longer be Almighty God, the authority of everything.  God does not bow to anyone. He alone is God.  How messed up would our world be if He blessed us for our own glorification and our own honor!  That would be no better than “employee of the month” or “student of the week” contests.  What He gives us, both in blessings and in trials, are all “for His name’s sake”.

In Ezekiel 20:19 God speaks of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, and how He instructed them to not follow the ways of their parents, but told them I am the Lord your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them”.  It goes on to tell that they did not follow God, and in verse 22 God says “Nevertheless I withdrew My hand and acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the Gentiles, in whose sight I had brought them out.  For God’s name sake, they were spared. Why?  God needed the Gentiles (non-Jewish) to be able to see and understand God’s love and mercy for His people.

Isaiah 48:10-11 speaks of God getting glory from us through the process of trials that lead us closer to Him by saying “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it;  For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.”  The trials we go through are not for our good, but ultimately to bring Him glory.   

While all things, good and bad, work together for our good (Romans 8:28), we are not the focus of God’s actions.  He doesn’t bless us for our benefit, or correct us for our benefit.  His being glorified through us is the focus.  It is all about HIM, and not about US.  Yes, God loves us, and He seeks to bring us closer to Him in everything He does, but it’s not for our sole benefit.  We are to make much of God because He needs to be exalted in a world that desperately needs Him.  We are given His name, being called “Children of God”.  Our lives should honor that name and fulfill our purpose for life, which is to bring God glory and honor – nothing less. 


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Alive In Him


For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:5-11

The death and resurrection of Jesus isn’t just a story of a man beaten and abused who came back to live. 
It’s the story of a gift being given that cannot be repaid.  What He gave was unavailable from any other source.  To unite us with God, His life and His alone, being Son of God and son of man, was the only way to justify us in all our sin. 

And in His resurrection, we gained an even greater gift through confession of our sins and faith in Him.  We gained ETERNAL life.  For though Christ died, we will not.  ETERNAL life is life without death.  Death has no victory. 
While my body will stop moving, my breath not come from my lungs, my heart will one day stop, and my brain waves not show on a monitor, I will live!  I don’t need this body to continue.  My spirit, living through His Spirit, will live forever more!



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Giving up His Spirit


"So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His Spirit." - John 19:30

“It is finished.”  The plan of redemption was completed at this point.  Jesus had suffered and died at the hands of those He came to save, just as God had planned it before the earth was formed.
Then Jesus gave up His Spirit - the Holy Spirit which had descended from Heaven and rested on Him from the point of His baptism by John.  John tells of the prophecy he had received about the Holy Spirit in John 1:32-33, saying: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’”

Jesus had to give up His Spirit in order to do what He had to do in those three days before the resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-10,1 Peter 4:6).  He had already promised His Spirit to those that needed Him most – believers.  By giving His Spirit, He was no longer contained in a single body in a single location.  The Holy Spirit is now our gift, given freely, to allow us to be in Him by Him being in us. 
In John 14:19-20, speaking to His disciples, Jesus says “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.  At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.  He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Jesus goes on to say in verses 26-27, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
His Spirit is the bond of peace within the Body of Christ, all believers.  It is not a peace that can be compared to the world’s view of peace.  His peace lingers, and rests in us.  His Holy Spirit continually connects us to Him.  He abides in us, and allows us to abide in Him.

Monday, April 14, 2014

All For One – Lessons from a Softball Field


Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.  “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.  Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:25-32

My daughter has played softball for several years.  A few weeks back I took a friend to the game.  While we were watching one of the opposing team’s players was injured.  My friend asked what was going on because our team all had “taken a knee”.  It’s a tradition among the High School teams that when any play is injured, of your own team or the opposing team, you ‘take a knee’, meaning you group up and get on one knee.  It’s a prayer position, and that is what it represents – a prayerful heart.  It’s touching to see, and as equally touching when they all rise and applaud when the player walks off the field with a coach by their side.
That’s what our lives should look like.  When one hurts – we all hurt.  When one celebrates – we all celebrate.  But somewhere along the way, pride, dishonesty, and selfishness has entered in to where we feel we cannot be open and honest with each other, explaining our sorrows and burdens with each other.  Does the right hand hide what has happened to his fingers from the left hand of the same body? No.  That would be a bit ridiculous, right?

Paul instructs us in Ephesians 4 to “speak truth with his neighbor”.  Friends, how often do we not share the full truth when someone asks, “How are you?”  If you are friends, truly friends, you can answer that unashamedly, and give the FULL truth, holding nothing back.  When we learn to be fully truthful with one another, within the bond of peace which is the body of Christ, then we can become like the softball team which hurts for each other and celebrates together.
Paul continues on to express what our lives should look like within the body of Christ by saying “Be angry and do not sin”.  Being angry is not a sin.  God gave us emotions and even passion in some areas.  He means for anger to be a benefit for us, to drive us to do things we should do.  But when we allow anger to fester, it only infects us with evil thoughts.  (Keep in mind that even our “I wish I’d said” conversations in our heads are often intended to hurt the opponent, and therefore, evil.)  That’s why he tells us not to go to bed angry.  Anger within the body creates infection, and sides begin to form as gossip is spread.  The body is supposed to be in the bond if peace, which is Christ himself (Ephesians 2:14).  When we have broken that bond, we “give place to the devil” just as Paul warned. 

Another thing I see among the softball players is the fulfilling of needs.  It’s as simple as borrowing a bat, a glove, or sharing sunflower seeds with each other.  Paul said “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” Each one on the team does their part.  They don’t have to steal to have their needs met because the group lovingly supports each other.  About the only thing I haven’t seen borrowed is a mouth piece (thank you Jesus!).  Paul is saying that each should do his part, not putting the burden on any certain one, but also so that he can because he earns a living help support others.  While God’s word does say that “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10), it also tells us that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).  It’s really simple.  You’re blessed to be a blessing – not to store up wealth. 
God then directs Paul to instruct us on what we say to each other.  He says “let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification”.  For your words to be corrupt, your heart must be corrupt.  Jesus said it’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of his mouth (Matthew 15:11).  Our words are to edify each other, which means ‘to build up’ – not tear down.  If you find yourself continually negative towards those around you, my friends, your have the worst kind of heart problem.

These conflicts actually decrease your effectiveness in the body by grieving the Holy Spirit of God within you.  How can you preach or teach or witness when you have an issue with a brother or sister?  Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:24 that you can’t.  He says to lay down your gift (which includes service for God) on the altar, and “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  We only hurt ourselves when we inflict pain on another member of the Body of Christ.
But at last, Paul tells us what the body SHOULD look like.  He says to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.  Not all softball players go to the plate and strike a home run.  But every one that returns to the dugout returns to people that love them, and are forgiving of any mistake that hurt the team.  God tells us to be that way with each other in the Body of Christ.  Being “tenderhearted” means you may cry with them when they cry.  “Forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you” means an ever ending cycle of forgiveness.  There are no “that’s it! I’m done!” proclamations in softball.  You play the game until the game is over.  The same is true within the Body of Christ.  You forgive, forgive again, and forgive again.  Why? Because Christ put you in the body knowing you aren’t perfect either.  Out of respect for Him, we continue to forgive each other, and ourselves.

In short, the attitude and actions of the Body of Christ should be a singleness of goals and ambitions, of heart and mind.  It’s an ‘All for One’ spirit, and that One is Jesus Christ.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Power that Works In Us

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK, according to THE POWER THAT WORKS IN US, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." - Ephesians 3:20-21

God has come to live within His people, placing His Spirit in the inner man.  And through His Spirit He can accomplish more than we can even dare imagine.  Healing? Yes.  Words of Blessings? Yes.  Unloosed chains of addiction? Yes.  Release from past abuse? Yes.  HE CAN DO IT ALL, through His Spirit. 

The obstacle is our own faith and understanding of His Holy Spirit within us.  Our disbelief and doubting of His will and word has created anemic Christianity, weak in our ability to act with His power to do.    

Friends, if we're going to wear bracelets and t-shirts saying "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)" and go around quoting that verse, then where is our excuse in not believing Him for healing, restoration, and freedom for the oppressed?  Is "all things" really "all things"?  Is God's word true or not? 
Jesus said "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.  And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." (John 14:12-14) We are to be doing "greater works than these" because Jesus has ascended and sent His Holy Spirit to be His Power within us.  Not once does He say "if it's my will", or "if Heaven is in agreement".  When you act on the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit within you, you are acting on His Will.  The Spirit is His - not yours, and the Spirit always agrees with the Father.   

There are two keys in the above verses.  The first is "he who believes in Me", and the second is "ask in My name", meaning it's for His glorification and not our own.  We have to TRULY believe that He will do what He said He will do.  We don't believe WE can do wonderful things, because we cannot.  But we MUST believe He can do them through us.  Faith is the first key. Without faith, works are dead! (James 2:20) The second key is who we seek to glorify.  By asking in Jesus name, He is given glory from the point of our request to the result.  Once we believe in Him, giving Him glory for the great things He does comes effortlessly.

In Mark 9:14-29 Jesus speaks to the father of a young boy who has been possessed by a spirit that throws him into the fire and has made him unable to speak or hear.  Jesus says to the father, "“If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”"  The father's words should be our own.  He said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Lord, help our unbelief.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Peace with God – Peace with Man

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” – Ephesians 2:14-18

Jehovah Shalom – He is our peace!  Before Christ came the people were divided into Jews, who were God’s chosen people under the promise of Abraham, and Gentiles, those that were not Jewish.  There were places that the Gentile could not go, and promises that were not made to us.
But when Jesus came, He came to create “one new man from the two”.  The blood of Jews and the blood of Gentiles became the same when Jesus shed His blood for us.  Through faith in Jesus, we are no longer Jews and Gentiles, but one race and one gender in Christ (Colossians 3:11, Galatians 3:28-29). 

There is a worship song that we sing at church that was written by Kutless called “Take Me In”.  The lyrics say, “Take me into the Holy of Holies”, which refers to the area of the temple that was veiled with a thick curtain.  This area contained the altar where sacrifices for sins were offered to God – blood sacrifices.  Blood, given by the loss of life, was always required in sacrifices for sin.  Romans 6:23 says the “wages of sin is death”, and to cleans us from our sins, death had to occur.  Before Jesus, that was the offering of lambs and other animals upon the altar in the Holy of Holies. Only a Priest who was appointed to give the sacrifices was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies.  The curtain symbolized our separation from God, a “wall” between us.  Behind the curtain, the Holy Spirit would come down and consume the sacrifice through fire.
But when Jesus died on the cross, a miraculous and beautiful thing occurred.  The thick temple curtain was torn, as by the hands of God, from top to bottom, making an entrance for all into the Holy of Holies.  There is no more separation of God from man when we believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.  Through Christ’s death, a sacrifice for all our sins was made so that all that believe on Him are no longer under the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-3). 

There is no longer a wall between God and His people.  There is no longer Jew and Gentile. Race doesn’t matter.  Through Jesus we can be at peace with God and man.  In Him, we “have access by ONE Spirit to the Father”.  The Holy Spirit living in us grants us access to God the Father.  Jehovah Shalom, “For He Himself is our peace”.  The “Holy of Holies”, the place of God’s consuming fire, the place of our worship, the place of our sins being removed, is in us, and we are His temple.  Jehovah Shalom! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

What A Friend

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.“ – Ephesians 1:20-23

What a friend we have in Jesus!  There’s an old country song that says “I’ve got friends in low places where the whiskey flows and the beer chases my blues away”.  I’d much rather have my friend Jesus who God has set at His right hand and put in authority over all earthly authorities, all angels, all demons, and anything that has might or power.  Friends, JESUS RULES!  He rules your boss, your spouse, your government, your fights with addiction, depression, anxiety – you name it!  According to the Apostle Paul, God has put Jesus in the position of authority over all things.  Yes, He is merciful, and yes things do happen that are outside His will.  But Jesus is my friend, and I know when this life is over – He will still be in charge of everything, and all will answer to Him.  Obamacare – He’s got it covered.  Children being abused – yeah, He’s taking care of it.  Homeless people across the world dying from exposure – He sees every soul.  My anxiety over things that have never happened and most likely never will – I can throw it at His feet and know that He has all power and might, and He loves me.

Along with the position of power and authority, God granted Jesus a specific title over the church.  Now, let’s talk about “church” for a minute.  In the Bible, “Church” is never the four walls in which we serve.  (I pray we serve outside those walls!)  When you read the word “Church” it is not a building.  The Church at Ephesus, The Church of Corinth, and The Church of Galatia – all were made of people and not a building.  They met in homes, not a fancy building with padded pews!  And they were all referred to as “The Church”, but delineated by where they were at, as a group.  All of them were “The Church”.  Friends, whether you are in Ethiopia, India, China, or little old Cadiz, Kentucky, if you are the redeemed of Christ then we are “The Church” together.

That said, Paul tells us that God has given Jesus to be head of all things to the church “which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all”.   Now let’s talk about “The Body of Christ”.  When we talk of “The Body of Christ”, we are not talking about Jesus’ arms, legs, head, and shoulders – his physical body.  We talk of each other – those of us that are filled with His Holy Spirit from salvation through faith.  It is His Holy Spirit “that fills all in all”.  His Spirit connects us all as one body.  To those that have not received Christ, this is a mystery.  But to those that have, this is the greatest gift of all. 

This indwelling of His Spirit allows Jesus to be present with us daily, guiding us as the good shepherd would His sheep.  He brings us all truth and understanding, the spiritual gifts of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23).  Though we may choose not exercise those gifts, He gives them fully and without measure (John 3:34).  Praying for more patience is never going to get you more patience.  You already have the tools to exercise it through His Spirit.  YOU just need to choose to be patient.

So what is our part of this great friendship?  How do we respond to such kindness, to one who has given us with the tools to survive this life?  How can we repay He who has blessed us with righteousness, and eternal life?  We cannot!  But because He is our friend, and out of love for Him, we choose to follow Him. We walk with Him, choosing to at least attempt to live as He lived, and knowing that sometimes that makes us the enemy of this world. 

We won’t fit in and won’t be accepted because He was not accepted either.  The One who went from town to town healing all diseases and conditions that had troubled people since birth was despised, mocked, and killed.  I am still astounded at how the world could not see the love in His actions, and how they instead chose to torture and kill Jesus.  But, then I remember, He was put in authority of all those principalities, powers, and dominions after He was raised from the dead – not before.  It was all part of God’s plan, and all for our benefit.  And though the world may hate the Body of Christ, and even come after us as they did Him, we can rest assured that Jesus is our friend.    

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Memorial Worship

“And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”

But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” – Matthew 26:6-13

True worship will always include sacrifice.  Sometimes it is in unseen things like the breaking of pride, the humbleness of speaking the words of worship, such as “I need you, oh, I need you… every hour I need you…”  At other times it’s a visible shedding of tears, kneeling, or laying prostrate in prayer. 

But this woman took it to a level that others didn’t understand.  She gave a gift of great financial value.  She may have saved for this flask of oil for a long time.  While the disciples saw the gift as one of great financial value, they didn’t see the full gift.  The gift was NOT the oil alone.  The gift she gave Christ was in worshipping Him with her very best.  She could have just as easily washed Jesus with water, and there would have been no controversy.  But when she was willing to give of something precious to her, the washing became more than a bath – it became worship.   

If you remember, Christ was just as impressed with the woman who gave two mites (worth less than a cent) in Mark 12:41-44, saying of her “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”  She sacrificed not from her abundance, but into her need.

Consider our own worship. 

We go to church on Sunday mornings.  Well….unless it’s raining, or we have plans.

We stand and sing.  Well…some of us do, and some of us won’t even do that! 

We give our tithes and offerings.  Well…some of us do, and some are too greedy to give God what is already His.

We volunteer to serve in church ministries and community ministries - but only if we can get some sort of recognition or praise for it.  (Take note that if you do it for the praise of man, you’ve stopped worshipping God and started worshipping man.  If you seek man’s praise, you have lost the praise of your Father in Heaven – Matthew 6:1.)

We visit the sick….or not.

We visit those in prison and those in nursing homes…but not unless they’re related to us. 

Our own worship is so lacking in gifts from our need – or even from our abundance – that it isn’t worship at all.

Jesus told the disciples that this woman who anointed him with expensive oil would be remembered and it would “be told as a memorial to her” wherever the gospel was preached in the whole world.  Her worship was important enough to Jesus that she became famous for it.

If we choose to not apply this word to our own lives, we’ve read it in vain.  So I have to ask the question, of myself and of you my friend, will our worship of God be a memorial to us when we are gone?  Or will it be the last thing people think of when they remember us?

My life will have been lived in vain if I have not successfully worshipped God with life itself.