Friday, October 30, 2015

Get Back Up!

 Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.” – 1 Samuel 12:20-22

 We all fail God.  We do it daily.  Sometimes it’s in the big monstrous things that we feel shame and guilt over.  But most commonly, it’s in the smaller things that we just habitually do because we’ve never really considered them to be against God’s will.  We stretch the truth, we overeat, we use bad language, we talk about people, we act on our anger – there’s a long lists!  We do these things remorse, almost as if we expect God to just accept the fact that we’re filled with faults.   Yet God has said “Be Holy, for I am Holy.” (1 Peter 1:16).  God would never ask us to do something outside our ability.  He provides the strength for us to overcome our habits and failures.  We just have to accept that strength and reject our own will to do what we know is wrong.

 Samuel gives some great advice to us after we’ve failed God repeatedly.  He was talking to the Israelite people who begged for a King and in so doing rejected the Lord as their head.  To paraphrase what he says in 1 Samuel 12:20-22, he says, “You screwed up! Repeatedly! But don’t let that be where your journey ends.  Follow God with all your heart because everything else will only leave you empty and unsatisfied.  God hasn’t forsaken you because of your sins.  Because you are His people, and He has chosen you to be His.  He’s not going to ruin His reputation by walking away from you.  So don’t walk away from Him.” 

There’s a quote that says it’s not how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up that counts.  Don’t let sin bury you.  Get back up.  Keep following God because His love for you doesn’t end at your mistakes.  You mean more to Him that what you’ve done.  His plan for you doesn’t end at your failure.  Keep on living His plan because nothing else will ever satisfy a soul that has tasted the joy of His salvation.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Be the Gate Keeper

Abstain from all appearance of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:22

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

I just don’t get it.  This time of year I see good solid Christians who are willing to participate in haunted houses, who are willing to watch horror movies, and they just don’t seem to see a problem with it.

Yet God’s word tells us to abstain from even the APPEARANCE of evil.  Even if it’s just a guy in a mask carrying a bloody chain saw to pretend, it is the appearance of evil.  It’s the appearance of murder, which we all know is sin, but somehow want to make it entertaining at this time of year.  How is that okay?  How do we reconcile God’s word to this?  You can bend it, twist it, scramble the words, but it still says ONE thing – abstain.

His will for us is that we do not live in fear.  That’s why He says 365 times – yes, once for each day of the year – in His word, “Fear Not”.  Yet some will watch horror movies and even say before hand “I’ll probably have nightmares over this!” Really?  So you invite fear into your life?

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, God wants your mind to be pure, free from thoughts that are harmful to you, that welcome evil into your heart and mind.  But you have to be the gate keeper and abstain.  Will you do that for Him?  Will you do it for yourself? Protect your mind and your heart.  Don’t let fear enter your heart.  Don’t plague your mind with evil thoughts.  And for God’s sake, protect your children as well.  Not every form of entertainment this world offers is worthy of your time.



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Detoxing from Life


Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” – Psalms 143:7-8

Yesterday afternoon I had the rare chance to just sit and think and enjoy being outside.  It’s in those quiet times when I can unload the cares of life and just sit and enjoy the life around me.  Sitting there and listening to the crickets chirp, the squirrels jump from tree to tree, and an occasional bull frog croak, something occurred to me.  While we are covered up in the events of life and all its burdens, life is still going on around us in this peaceful manner that we sometimes neglect. 
While I may be stressing over a bad work day, crickets are happy to just rub their legs together and communicate with each other.  While I’m trying to fit more into my schedule than would fit a 30 hour day, leaves are gently falling in a beautiful dance of flips and twists and floating turns.  Life is not supposed to be a hurried race of full schedules and anxiety!  It only becomes that when we step away from the real plans God has for our lives and become consumed by life itself. 

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 when He is praying for us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  He understands the work we have to do to get by here on earth and all its burdens.  But he also understands that the rest we need won’t come from a weekend off.  It comes from Him.  He gives rest, “rest for your souls”. 
We get side tracked, derailed even.  We bury ourselves in things we need to do, think we should do, or others think we should do.  Yet in 1 Peter 5:6-11 Peter tells us that we should cast all our worries on God because HE CARES for us.  And immediately after that he tells us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking to devour us!  There is a relation.  Being God- minded gives us the ability to drop our worries and turn to Him for strength, where that being world-minded only causes us to implode, to be completely overwhelmed by life. 

Nature is a great detox for the stress of life, and for good reason.  Nature reveals God’s invisible attributes (Romans 1:20) through all that He has made.  Throughout His word it is through nature and analogies of nature that He tells us He loves us.  The grass of the field is taken care of – and so will we be (Matthew 6:31). The birds of the air are taken care of – fed daily – and so we will be because we’re even more valuable to Him that they are (Matthew 6:26).  He lays us down in green pastures, beside the stillness of calm water (Psalms 23:2).  It is through nature that God reveals so much of Himself.  Even on the mountain with Moses, it was through thunder, lightning, winds, fire, and earthquakes even that His presence was known. 
King David felt the stress of life on many occasions.  Some of the most passionate prayers recorded are his to God to remove the stress and worrisome situations he endured, which are found in Psalms.  Time and time again, David sought God’s help in prayer.  Psalms 23 is one of those, but Psalms 143:7-8 reveals something slightly mentioned, but of great importance.  David says “Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to THE PIT. Let me hear in the morning of your STEADFAST LOVE, for in YOU I TRUST. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I LIFT UP MY SOUL.”  David feared “going down to the pit”, which was not hell, but based on the Hebrew word “bowr” means a dungeon, a prison, a well or an empty cistern.  David was describing a deep, dark place.  He feared depression and anxiety.  What did he request as the antidote?  He asked to hear God’s steadfast love, and to God, and God alone, he lifted up his very soul. 

We all get to pick and choose what rules our lives, to what or whom we “lift up our soul”.  Truly it is a choice.  But it’s a choice that we must consciously make - or life will make it for us.  We can choose to let God control our lives and turn over our cares to Him, or we can walk through life trying to do it ourselves and let the pit become our home. 
Friends, take time to slow down, relax and enjoy the life that goes on around you.  Come out of the comatose state of work and worries, and look up in prayer.  Get outside! Look at the great works He does every day.  Let Him lift your head.  Let Him show you the peace of life that comes from trusting Him with all your worries, and leaning into His great love.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sand on the Sidewalk

“So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

It’s easy to say you have faith in God for some things.  But when we must have faith in what seems impossible to our simple minds for God to do, our faith sometimes is blown away like sand on a sidewalk. For example, we can believe God for healing of the common cold.  It happens all the time, and we’ve all experienced that healing.  But when it comes to believing God for healing of something greater, like cancer, our faith is easily scattered.  When it comes to believing God for forgiveness of your wrongs by another, when it comes to believing God for the return of your children to the way they were raised, when it comes to believing Him for your financial security, or even when we must believe that He will restore our marriage, our faith can be blown as thin as sand on a sidewalk.

Zechariah’s vision from God was one to increase his faith and to refocus his vision.  The Israelites had been returned from their 70 years of captivity in Babylon by the mighty work of God.  But seventy years is a long time, and for Zechariah to have been told that the temple would be rebuilt, he pondered just how that would be possible. 

God anticipated his doubt even at the point Zechariah was born.  His name means “Yahweh remembers”.  Remembers what you ask?  He remembers His promises!  God had promised that out of the tribe of Judah would be born a savior, and God had not forgotten His promise.  Rebuilding the temple was only one part of a larger plan, and God was constructing the plan step by step.  To Zechariah, having human eyes and no vision of the future, seventy years was an eternity, no doubt filled with questions about God’s will.  Was it still God’s will to provide a savior?  Was it still His will to use the bloodline of the idolatrous Israelites to deliver the King?

God spoke to Zechariah in this fourth vision of one night of eight visions to address his doubts.  God said, “Not by might”, meaning not by your strength or armies of strength, “nor by power”, meaning not by any authority you have or your government or other sects have, “but by My Spirit”.  God intended to provide the strength and power Himself to not only rebuild the temple, but to provide a Savior. 

God answers to no man or power for He is ALMIGHTY.  There is none more powerful, no one in charge of any part of His universe other than Him.  Friends, as your faith may waver in times when you cannot see how God will accomplish what He has planned, understand you do not have to have the answers to the how, when and why to have faith that God will do exactly what He has promised He will do.  God keeps His promises.

So let the wind blow the sandy grains of faith you have right off your sidewalk.  God knows where it went, and He will still accomplish what He has promised.  Thank Him for His faithfulness, and rest in the fact that He does not lie, and He is trustworthy.  He will not break a promise. 

“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” – Deuteronomy 7:9