Friday, January 29, 2016

The Problem with Independence

“Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:  “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” – Luke 6:20

Imagine the disciples of Jesus and how they lived each day.  He told them not to take money, food, extra clothing, or anything with them by which they might could sustain themselves.  He told them that they would be taken care of because they would be worthy of their wages.  But He never said where those wages would come from.  He simply provided for them.  And they walked away as disciples, taking nothing.  They gave up everything – all possessions, life goals, dreams, even family, to do His will.

Now imagine yourself, today, going into God’s work and doing the same.  You don’t pack a lunch, you don’t take a coat, and you don’t take your checkbook or credit cards - not even a hair brush.  What if you had nothing of yourself and had to totally rely on what God gave you throughout this day?  What if you could say, “God I don’t know where my lunch will come from, but I trust that you will feed me.  And if it rains, I’m going to get wet because I’m not taking an umbrella – I’m relying on you.  And God, I have no cash to handle unexpected expenses, so just watch over those.”  I know it’s radical.  But do you believe He would provide for you?  Would you be closer to Him at the end of the day? 

I think God’s plan for us was not to accumulate so that we would be dependent on ourselves, but to live for each day dependent on Him.  Independence in this world can often be a block in relying on God.  I myself find it very hard to ask anyone for help – no matter what it is.  But when we become so independent that we cannot rely on each other and on God, we’re living outside His will. 

To some extent, the need for independence comes from a lack of trust in God to provide.  If we TRULY believed Philippians 4:19, that God would supply ALL our needs “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”, would we lack anything?

Beyond a lack of trust in God, I believe our independence comes from a desire to please each other that requires more than our needs.  It requires our excess.  And that excess can become a burden to obtain, and a burden to collect.  That’s why we have credit card debt, mortgage payments, car payments, etc.  It’s not that we cannot drive an old car.  We just don’t want to because it’s not “acceptable”.  It’s not that we can’t live in a small house with few furnishings.  It’s that it’s not “expected” of us.  Yet, without the struggle to obtain things we don’t truly need, consider how much more content we would be.

To be a true disciple is to be fully reliant on God.  We are to rely on Him for even the words that we speak (Matthew 10:19).  How much easier would life be if you didn’t rely on yourself, and took God at His word, and just followed His will? 

All we are, and all we truly have is in Christ.  The possessions of this life are just an illusion.  One day, we will give them up.





Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Stored Up Treasure

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21

I guess I should start with a confession.  I used to have a pair of shoes in every color imaginable.  I had orange, bright blue, pink, turquoise, and even purple – and I hate purple.  I still have a lot.  I also used to buy new clothes so often you would think I was opening my own boutique!  I shopped every weekend in fact!  My walk-in closet was so cramped for space I started storing off-season stuff in tubs instead of on hangers.  But I “needed” these things, because they were a way to please people.  People respond to you differently if you wear the latest fashion, look good, smell good (yes, there was a perfume rack), and wear your hair in an up-to-date style.  But…God did not put me on this earth to please people.

What our heart clings to can make us or break us.  That closet of clothing was as much a burden as it was a desire to own.  The continual cleaning out and rebuilding of the wardrobe was expensive, and time consuming.  It occupied way too much of my time.  Time that was wasted in God’s eyes.

In retrospect, the obsession was not with clothing, but with people.  The clothes and shoes were not the problem.  My heart was the problem.  I wanted to accepted, loved, and favored by people.  Maybe you’re reading this and you understand that?  Maybe you don’t.  But what I was missing out on was knowing that with God I was already accepted as I was, loved, and significantly favored!  While I spent excessive amounts of time shopping, organizing and planning my daily wardrobe, I wasn’t spending time in God’s word learning of His love for me.  My heart was created to be a throne room for my God, but I’d made it into a throne room for the next person I wanted to impress.  I had made people my idol.

I still love fashion, and yes, I still have more shoes than I need. I mean, I really only need one pair – one for each foot, right?  But the reason I have them has changed.  It’s because I like them now.  I don’t go shopping looking for something that the person in my head that I’m trying to impress will like.  So…I have a lot of yoga pants, t-shirts and sneakers. J  Ah, it’s a good life!  I’ve found the freedom God gives in just what might be the most comfortable way!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Goods are given to be used, but not stored away. Just as Israel in the desert received manna daily from God and did not have to worry about food and drink, and just as the manna which was stored from one day for another rotted, so should Jesus’ disciples receive their share daily from God. But if they store it up as lasting treasure, they will spoil both the gift and themselves. The heart clings to collected treasure. Stored–up possessions get between me and God. Where my treasure is, there is my trust, my security, my comfort, my God. Treasure means idolatry.” 

I’m glad that I do not know the thousands of dollars that I wasted buying and storing clothing that the next season would be out of style.  That’s one of God’s tender mercies in that He hides that number from me.  But what He has revealed is that none of the people I tried to please had the lasting impact on my life that He has had. 

Father, thank you that you have transformed that part of me that sought the acceptance of people.  Thank you that you are my security, my comfort, and that I am learning more and more each day to trust the opinions of others to you.  You are my King.  You are welcome in my throne room.




Sunday, January 24, 2016

Freely Given

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” – Romans 8:32
There are so many gifts that God has given “FREELY” in the Bible.  It started in the Garden of Eden where there were several trees that we could “FREELY” eat from.  Only days into our creation, God was giving us free gifts. 
When Jesus came, he fulfilled the words written in Hoses 14:4, giving us the greatest free gift.  God said “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them “FREELY”, for My anger has turned away from him.”  God’s love is freely given, not earned. If we had to earn it, who would be worthy of it?
Then Jesus instructs his disciples to heal the sick and leapers, raise the dead, and cast out demons because, as He told them, “FREELY you have received, FREELY give” he said in Matthew 10:8.  In the very next verse he tells them not to take anything with them to support themselves – not even extra clothing!  Why? Because God would see that they were taken care of. 
Of course, God gave the greatest gift when we were “FREELY” justified by His grace through the sacrifice of Christ (Romans 3:24).  That’s a gift we could get from no one else.  In the highest court of all, there’s only one judge and jury, and that is God.  His justification was the only way we could be made right in His eyes.
And just in case you’re thinking “yeah, but it’s not all free”….well, no, actually it is!  Romans 8:31-32 says “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also “FREELY” give us ALL things?” Friend…that word ‘all’ means ALL.  There are no exclusions.
But we don’t want what we CAN have.  Instead, we want what we CANNOT have.  The first temptation was in Eve to have what she was denied - the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  She had plenty to eat and it was given freely!  But she wanted what she could not have or she would never have been tempted to taste it.  One of the reasons we don’t accept God’s gifts because we don’t want what we can have.  Instead we want to earn it, or win it.  Some would even rather steal it! 
I wonder, would God’s gifts be more enticing if we had to enter a sweepstakes application to get them? 
Maybe if there was a “Win God as Father” lottery and we had to buy tickets to win? 
Would they be more desirable if we had to perform some horrendous physical feat and be awarded His gifts?
The desire to have things that we cannot have is in all of us, and is the very seed of evil. James 1:14 says that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed”.  We believe we must have what we should not have.  God tells us what is good for us and what is not, and offers us good and perfect gifts, and yet we run after evil as if it were an ice cream truck in the middle of July! 
The second reason we don’t accept His free gifts is a lack of trust in God.  We doubt His integrity.  We doubt that His gifts are truly free, fulfilling all our desires, or even really given.  We doubt His ability to heal, feed, care for, and clothe us.  Somehow we believe that there is a sacrifice that outweighs the gifts.  If only we could believe as the disciples did, and leave it all behind to follow! 
Just stop and imagine for a moment all the things you are struggling to obtain now being given to you freely.  Imagine finding contentment.  Imagine having peace in your relationships, food on your table, health, a heart full of joy, and blessings you never knew to ask for all given freely as you need them.  While we may enjoy some free gifts, the truth is we won’t trust Him for all of them.  So we struggle.
There’s an old saying that “nothing good is ever free”.  But I attest to you, that is a partial truth.  In all reality, few things given on this earth for free are truly worthwhile, but all things given from God’s hands - for free - are most excellent gifts, and should be desired above all else.  James 1:17 says that “EVERY good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights”.  Those perfect gifts are free.
Freely accept His love and His gifts today.  Stop the struggle to do it yourself.  The gifts you want don’t come from you – but from Him.   
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life FREELY.” – Revelation 22:17
Father God, I thank you for your gifts.  You are so good to me.  You are my love.  You are my breath, my life and my eternal life.  You are my healing, and my contentment is within you.  You are the source of my joy.  I thank you that you give freely good gifts to your children because I could never be worthy of them.  You lead me into paths of righteousness, but even when I go to the ditch line, you draw me back.  You are my everlasting love, and in you alone is my hope.  I praise you God because you have revealed your love to me.  Amen.



Thursday, January 14, 2016

People and Pigs


He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” – Psalms 91:1

If humans were to be related to any animal, I think it would be pigs.  Now hear me out!  Let me make my case!

When I was growing up my dad had pigs – at least for a short while.  We would feed them all our scraps, and they would eat anything we gave them.  They weren’t picky eaters at all!  If it was in front of them – they devoured it.
They were also afraid of anything they hadn’t seen before.  Whether it was one of my granddad’s horses, or a dog or even a squirrel, they’d start squealing as if they were being massacred!

They were also lazy.  Yes, lazy!  Most of the day they just laid and slept.  They weren’t picky about their surroundings either!  They’d just as soon lay in mud as a nice bed of hay.
During the time they were there, my dad often had to chase pigs.  Every time they could, they would dig out of the pen.  How such an ugly snout can be used to dig is beyond me!  I’d think they’d get dirt in their noses and never be able to breathe through it.  But through sheer determination to roam, they would dig out and be gone!  Finally my dad put rings in their noses.  I remember that day! Talk about squealing!  He had this device that would pierce their noses and put this metal ring in.  With the ring in their noses, they couldn’t dig out without experiencing pain.  But oddly enough, some would still do it.

Do you see the likeness of humans?  I do.
Many are content to eat from the pew, or the Facebook page, or the YouTube channel, or any other source without even considering what they’re taking in.  Without studying God’s word for yourself, you don’t know if you’re hearing the truth or someone’s interpretation of the truth.  But nom, nom, nom! Gobble it up!  It may end up being the unhealthiest thing for you if it was a lie, but it sure tasted good to believe this lie.  I’ll just call it out.  Prosperity preaching, feel good preaching, man-made freedom preaching (sin without consequences), and worship that’s more about the music than our Maker, and I’ll just stop there due to lack of pen and paper to make a full list!  The fact is you are to be a DISCERNER of the truth.  And without God’s word, you cannot do that.

Fear is the driving force in what we will and will not do.  We don’t speak of our relationship with God, or lack of relationship with God because we fear public opinion.  It may not be acceptable conversation in all circles, unless you consider God present, and He is – always.  Yet we fear what other think more than we fear what God thinks.
We fear the future.  We fear our health issues. We fear the failure of our finances.  We fear the failure of our marriages.  We fear the future of our children.  We fear EVERYTHING that we do not trust God to handle.  Our ability to trust God stems from how well we know Him.  If you don’t take time to get to know Him, you will not be able to trust him with your worries any more than you can trust a stranger. 

And yes, we are LAZY!  “I don’t have time to read my Bible”, or “I don’t have time to go to church” (inflicting self-pain), “I don’t have time to visit them” are popular in our vocabulary, along with the excuses that we push.  But we make time to binge watch TV, time to scroll Facebook for hours, time to repost garbage that isn’t true (sorry - not sorry), time to do anything you really want to do.  The fact is – we’re lazy! We find time to do the things we want to do, but are just too lazy to give God any of that time.  We all get 24 hours in a day, but we all spend WAY more of that than we should on ourselves and our own desires.  Take note.  God gives you ever minute of the day, and HE expects you to be grateful enough to spend some with Him, and rewards you when you do with His presence. 
And then we wander.  We get full of the words of false teaching, we get fearful of everything in our lives, and we become self-fulfilled and too lazy to get to know our God.  We become like pigs, digging under the fenced in life God has offered us when we abide in Him, and chasing after everything.  We fill our lives with this and that hobby, this person and that relationship, this job and that income dream, and we chase and chase after everything that’s shiny thinking it’s going to bring us happiness.

One thing I know about those pigs.  They were safer inside the pen than outside.  Outside the pen were coyotes, dogs, and all sorts of things to hurt them.  My dad finally got tired of chasing after those pigs and they ended up on the dinner table. 
Continually through God’s word we read of the blessings of abiding in Him.  Abiding is staying, being connected, continual relationship building.  Abiding is living daily with Him.  Perhaps the most beautiful of all these blessings, at least to this gal, is found in Psalms 91.  The chapter is thought to be a conversation with King David, his son Solomon, and God.  It goes like this:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler,
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

God’s blessings to those that ABIDE in Him are endless.  They are far greater than anything we can give ourselves or the temporary happiness that can be found in anything else.  It’s much like being a puzzle piece, and finally finding where you fit.  Once you abide there, the other “shiny things” just don’t appeal to you.  Abiding in Him is contentment, deliverance, companionship with God, favor, and joy. 

Solomon was the wisest man to ever live.  Take advice from Solomon, who said “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Conviction and Condemnation

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” – John 3:18-21

There’s a fine line between being convicted of your sins and being condemned from your sins.  To put it in terms of this world, you can be convicted of murder, and found guilty.  At that point you can be condemned and punished for your sins, or you can be found justified and freed from your sins.  Spiritually, whether you are condemned or justified is based on how you respond to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

For those that have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ, the conviction comes from the Holy Spirit.  We’re told in John 16:13 that when the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of Truth” comes, he will guide us into all truth.  But what is that truth?  In verse 8-14 we are told that “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:  of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit is three fold, telling the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment.

For those that do not believe in Jesus, the first truth He delivers is that we are faulty, we are sinners in need of a savior.  He speaks to the heart regarding the sin of unbelief.  He convinces and draws the unbeliever to God.  John 6:44 says that no one can come to God unless God draws him.  Once the conviction of being a sinner has been resolved, and the unbeliever believes in Christ for salvation, the remaining sins can be resolved. 

The second truth the Holy Spirit delivers is the truth of Jesus’ righteousness.  We are held to His standard, not to each other’s righteous standard.  It is a standard that we cannot achieve without the Holy Spirit’s guidance and intercession.  Romans 8:26-27 says “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  In our weakness we sin, but in His Holiness, He intercedes for us, and provides us with the truth that it is sin.  This is the teaching that is spoken of in John 6:45 says “and they shall be taught by God”.  It is also the teaching that we’re told to not grieve the Holy Spirit through disobedience (Isaiah 63:10, Ephesians 4:30).

Lastly, the Holy Spirit tells of the judgement to come.  That judgement will lead to unbeliever to condemnation.  But there is no condemnation to come for those that are in Christ Jesus, those who have put their faith in Him (Romans 8:1) and live by the guidance of the Spirit. But for those who have believed, the Holy Spirit is the seal of our redemption (Ephesians 4:30).  Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us that “having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession”.  Upon that judgment day, the Holy Spirit in us is the proof of our purchased justification through Jesus Christ. He bears witness that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16, 1 John 5:6).