Friday, July 24, 2015

Drifting Away

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” – Hebrews 2:1

A man working on his sailboat near the shoreline and nightfall was coming.  Deciding to just stay with the boat, he threw out his anchor, and went to sleep.  During the night, the boat started drifting because he had not set his anchor deep into the sea bed.  The boat went miles into the open seas while the man slept peacefully in his boat.  In the night he awoke to find the boat had gone into the high seas and was being rocked violently by the waves.  He had lost his sense of direction.  It was dark and stormy.  

Quickly, he grabbed his compass and reset his sails toward the shoreline.  The waves continued to crash until he drew near to the shoreline, and with the sandy beach in sight he reset his anchor, this time casting it deep into the sea bed.  Until morning he continued to check his anchor to be sure it would not drift again.

If you are a Christian, you’ve been the man in the boat at least once.  We all go through phases where we grow tired and decide to sleep.  We become tired of God’s word, lost our desire to study, been overwhelmed by the worlds demands on us, and we’ve slept.  Matthew 13:15 describes it saying For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”  We become tired, and lose our focus.  We forget the anchor is there, fail to check it, and we drift. 

You don’t have to live a life of wild living to become the prodigal son.  Just sleep a while, forget who you are in Christ, and you’ll drift far away. 

When the man on the boat awoke, he did two things.  The prodigal son did those same things.

First, they confessed their mistake.  Realizing that he had drifted and no longer knew where he was, he grabbed the compass.  He had made a mistake, and he realized it.  The prodigal son realized that his Fathers servants lived a better life than the one he had found (Luke 15:17). 

Confessing to yourself that you’re not where you need to be with Christ is the first step back to the joy you once had.  But if you just stop at confession, if you get stuck in step one, you’ll live a defeated life of “I wish I had”, “I wish I could”, and “If only I had not”.  Keep going.  Find your compass and reset your sails.

The second step they took was one of repentance.  Repentance is turning away from sin and back to God.  Once the sailor realized how far he had drifted, he turned his boat for the shore.  The prodigal returned to his father and fell into his open arms, where he was met with the grace of a loving father who restored to him what he had lost.  The sailor reset his sails, returned home, and continued to test his anchor through the night. 

We all have to check our anchor from time to time.  Are we studying God’s word?  Are we praying?  Are we fellowshipping with His people?  If you are not strengthening your relationship with God, the life of this world is weakening it.  Hebrews 6:9 tells us that Christ is the “hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast”.  Set your anchor deep.  Deep into God’s word, deep into prayer, deep into conversations with His people.     

We all have a little bit of Esau in us.  Esau gave up his birthright for the pleasure of a moment, for a simple bowl of soup.  The Esau in us will turn us away from God, cause us to drift.  In that drifting we take ourselves to a foreign land, a dark place, a place of destitute living.  We slowly destroy the joy of our salvation until we finally have no peace and no hope. 

If you are there, if you are awakening to realize the storm around you and the darkness you’ve drifted into, you only have two steps to take back.  Confession and repentance.  Admit your mistake, and return.  The Fathers arms are wide open to embrace you, to steady your boat.




Friday, July 10, 2015

For God's Glory

(Jesus, praying on the mountain before His death)
As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe BECAME WHITE AND GLISTENING.  And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah,  who APPEARED IN GLORY and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” – Luke 9:29-31

We often hear the term “God’s Glory”, and it has been made to mean many things.  “God’s Glory” is His presence put on display or demonstrated.  Our magnificent Father has an ‘aura’ about Him.  His power is so great that it is visible.  When Moses asked to see it in Exodus 33:18-23, God told him that no man could see Him and live, but He showed Him His Glory instead.  He put Moses in the safety of a rock cleft, and covered him with His hand so that he could pass by Moses and display His Glory.  That’s as close as Moses could get, and God was willing to show Moses His Glory to increase his faith. 
When Moses came down from the mountain after receiving the Ten Commandments, Exodus 34:29-30 tells us that “his face shone” and when the Israelites saw it, they were afraid to come near him!  He displayed God’s Glory, something they had never seen before.  Likewise, on the day that Moses and Elijah appeared as Jesus prayed, God was there, and His Glory was seen.

Jesus’ robe became white – and glistening!  I’ve been in the presence of some powerful prayer conversations with God, but never have I seen the person’s clothing changed to white and glisten!  But when God draws near His children in prayer, His power shows up!  His presence will change your situation and your surroundings.  Imagine how the Glory of God must have surrounded Jesus to change the color and sheen of His robe!  My mind is too weak to grasp it.
While Jesus was praying God sends two men back from death to talk to Him, Moses and Elijah.  What were they talking about?  DEATH! Jesus’ own death.  Can you feel the love of God the Father for the Son?  He sent those who had suffered death and rapture to speak to Jesus about the death He would suffer.  Experienced in death and rapture, Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus about the crucifixion!  God could have sent anyone to comfort Jesus, but He sent those who had been down the same road Jesus would go. 

Isn’t that what He does today?  He sends those that have been divorced to those that are experiencing divorce.  He sends those that have been abused to those being abused.  He sends those that have experienced poverty to those that are hungry and needy.  He sends those freed from prison to those in prison.  He sends the recovered addicts to those that are in the bondage of drugs and alcohol.  He sends those that have mourned to those that are mourning.  When God asked us to love one another even as I have loved you, He didn’t leave us empty handed to do so.  He has equipped us to do the work through the experiences we have endured in our lives. 
Friends, God will allow trials to come into our lives, but not just for the sake of seeing us go through them.  These events are how He builds us into strong vessels for His Spirit.  We are tried and purified by the fire of our life events.  Those events build a portfolio of faith, a testimony of God’s great power.

Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:12-16 that we shouldn’t think it is strange when trouble comes, but to know that we are sharing in Christ’s suffering, and that “WHEN HIS GLORY is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.  It’s not “if” His glory is revealed – it’s “when”!  In verse 16 he tells us “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him GLORIFY GOD in this matter.”   
So how do we glorify God in our suffering? 

He most definitely cannot gain glory for it if we allow it to weaken and overtake us.  All things work toward our good because we are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  His purpose is very simple – to bring Him glory.  If you choose to cover your testimony with shame and disgrace, God cannot use it.  But if you choose to allow Him to strengthen you through it, if you give it to Him in ministry to others, He will be glorified.  His power will be made visible through you and your testimony. 
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, THAT WE MAY BE ABLE TO COMFORT THOSE WHO ARE IN ANY TROUBLE, WITH THE COMFORT WITH WHICH WE OURSELVES ARE COMFORTED BY GOD.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 

Not one tear, not one heartache, not one life event is wasted in the life of God’s children.  He will use it all for His glory…if you let Him.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mercy – Not Sacrifice

“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” – Matthew 9:10-12

To work for the IRS in Jesus’ day would not have been an honorable job.  In fact, it was highly frowned upon.  These were the lowest of the low, the ones who took more than they should from those that had it, and those that didn’t, and lined their pockets with it.  This made them outcasts to the general public.
To be a Pharisee in Jesus’ day was held at an esteemed level, as these were the religious elite.  Yet it was this group that sought to pass judgment on Jesus himself, asking why He chose to eat with (fellowship with, become friends with) those that they judged as not worthy of God’s word. 
Religion alone will cause you to think higher of yourself than you should, making you feel qualified to judge others.  We see this a lot today.
A relationship with Christ will humble you to the point that you realize you are no better than a tax collector or sinner.    
When Jesus said “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” He was correcting their judgmental hearts.  Granting mercy requires that we love and forgive.  Perhaps the thing being forgiven was not an act towards you, but an act or sin that you find dishonorable.  Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)!  Anyone can offer up a sacrifice to God, but what He desires is not our acts of sacrifice, but our love for one another to be increased.  The commandment above all commandments as Jesus told in Matthew 22:36-40 was to LOVE God with all our heart, mind and soul.  The second greatest was to LOVE our neighbors as ourselves. 
I sometimes think the most misunderstood verse in the Bible is Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1-2, which say “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  He speaks of a “measure”, which is an amount.  It is not that you can judge someone because you’ve never committed that sin, but judgment is counted by the quantity of your sins.  Jesus spoke to those gathered to stone the woman found in adultery in John 8:7 and said “He who is WITHOUT SIN among you, let him cast the first stone”.  What He did not say was “He who has never committed adultery, cast the first stone.”  With each judgment spoken, or hidden in the heart, we store up judgment for ourselves.
Be merciful.  Humble yourself.  Don’t judge others as if you were without sin.  This is what God desires.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Invested Time

So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalms 90:12

When I first read this verse months ago, I was perplexed.  Why would it say “heart” of wisdom, when wisdom is of the mind?  So I wrote it on the mirror that I pass every day, hoping to not only be able to remember the verse, but to better understand it.
Yesterday as I walked by it, after having three rare days off with the hubby just hanging out here at the house, I believe God revealed it to me. 

It’s not about what we can know with our mind, it’s about what we love.  While the mind is the home of thought and intellect, the heart is the home of love.  A heart of wisdom loves what is worth loving. 
I believe the intent of the verse was that we should savor this life while we are numbering our days, counting each as a precious gift, as each one brings us closer to death.  I believe in our numbered days we should enjoy the things that are worth loving and spend our time on those instead of the things that won’t last, like events, houses, cars, jobs, clothing, positions, etc…  Those things that are wise to love are our God, our soul, and our family and loved ones.  These things are eternal.  The rest will come and go, and any energy we’ve put into them, though necessary at the time, is ultimately wasted.

Just this year I’ve numbered my days for many reasons.  There have been the number of days till my daughter went on one school event or another, as those have to be numbered for us to plan.  There have been days numbered until vacation, days numbered while on vacation, days numbered till my son graduated Navy RTC, and now days numbered till he gets home and gets married.  There are days numbered till my daughter’s senior pictures, and days numbered till she starts her senior year. Then there will be days numbered till my grandchild arrives, and days numbered till my daughter graduates.  There will be days numbered while my son is deployed.  There will be days numbered until my hubby and I get another weekend off together, and days numbered till I go and return from a business trip.  Life gets so busy sometimes that we spend it numbering the days till the next thing happens, instead of stopping to smell the roses.  In the middle of all that is scheduled, I believe God desires that we should be gaining a heart of wisdom, loving the things that matter most, and letting go of those things consume us so that our time is spent wisely.
My clean house is good for one day – at most.  Things like that should not consume me. My filled refrigerator and planned meals for each week will last one week.  It’s temporary, and really should not consume my time.  Fashion is temporary and so are the seasons, and those things should not consume me.  And my job, though it brings me joy sometimes, should most definitely not consume me.  A Facebook newsfeed, seriously, should never consume me or anyone!  What I can do for God, the giver of time, and the time I can invest into others – those are of eternal value.

Time is God’s gift to us.  It is the most finite commodity we have, as we cannot do anything to have more of it than we have.  We should treat our investments of it as if it were measured in weights of gold, or some precious and rare stone.  Yet we waste our time on things that really won’t matter in days or even just short weeks ahead. 
I’m reminded of something Joyce Meyers once said.  She spoke about people like me who work far too much and get consumed in their jobs.  She said one day that someone else would drive by a big pile of rust, a heap of tossed out things, and look at all that my hard work had made.  It will decay, and all that will be eternal are the things I’ve done for God, and the investments I’ve made in the people I love.
Good financial investments aren’t made without talking to a financial advisor, someone who is skilled in weighing the investment to the possible gain.  Good time investments also require planning and discussion with God, who knows our futures and His will for our lives.  Pray that He will show you where to invest your time.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Favor with God and Man

You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah” – Psalms 77: 15

 Jacob and Joseph.  For months now I’ve been praying for God to grant favor to someone close to me as He did for Jacob and Joseph.  Today, finding this verse, my heart is full!
You see, Jacob was favored even before He was born.  In Romans 9:10-13 we are told that even before the twins, Jacob and Esau, were born, before they had opportunity to sin or do good, God said “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”  Yes, God can show partiality.  He doesn’t show it based on the flesh and earthly qualities, but on the qualities only He can see. He does it from His great wisdom and ability to see the future as history (Isaiah 46:10).  God is partial to those who love and obey Him, plain and simple.  If you don’t believe that, read Deuteronomy 28.  Even before Jacob was born, God knew that he would become the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, and that Esau would not turn to Him.

But God is more than just a rewarder of those that love Him.  He also knew the flaws in Jacob, that He would be a cheater, and cheat Esau out of his inheritance.  He knew he would be a liar, a deceiver.  Yet, he still loved him because he was able to see past the period of rebellion into the time of Jacob’s life when he would walk with God.

Joseph’s life is another filled with favor, the favor of God and man.  Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, the firstborn from his beloved wife Rachel.  Jacob didn’t even try to hide the fact that he loved Jacob more than his 11 brothers.  He made him a coat of many colors, a very special garment that was given only to him.  Because Jacob showed him favor, yes, he was hated by his brothers to the point that they secretly sold him into slavery.  He found no favor with his brothers – at least not during that time.
But God’s favor rested on Joseph, and in every turn of his life, Joseph found favor with man.  He found favor with Potiphar, an Egyptian officer.  When Potiphar’s wife lied and had Joseph thrown into jail, God was with him.  God gave Joseph the ability to interpret dreams.  When the King of Egypt needed a dream interpreted, God had already made the connections for Joseph to have him placed before the King to do the interpretation.  In reward for that act, and for the favor he found with the King, Joseph became “Vice” King in Egypt – second in charge. 

Joseph’s favor with man lived on long after he died. Hundreds of years later when Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, they took the remains of Joseph with them as he had requested. 
Why is this encouraging for us today? Because as God’s children, we can find favor with God and He can grant us favor with man.  Psalm 77 compares His redeemed, those who have confessed Jesus as their savior, with Joseph and Jacob, two who had great favor shown on their lives.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Psalms 33:12 says we are a BLESSED nation, a people he has CHOSEN as His own inheritance.  1 Peter 2:9 says we are a holy nation, His own SPECIAL people, a CHOSEN generation. 

Jesus was found being “about My Father’s business”, and He “increased in wisdom and statue, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).  So did the first church, the first believers.  In Acts 2:47 we are told that the early believers were daily “praising God and having favor with all the people”. 
Should we pray that God grant people favor with Himself and man?  There’s no harm in it, but perhaps the real prayer should be that He would grant them the strength of faith to be obedient to His will in their lives.  In following Him, favor is given. 

Walk in that divine favor.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”” – Jesus, Matthew 7:21-27