Friday, December 4, 2009

FAILURE…AN EVENT, NOT A CONDITION

Have you ever faced something really tough and felt all alone? I guess most of us have. The Apostle Paul did many times. He had ministered to many, many people and yet in a lot of instances he had to face extreme difficulty all alone. We all tend to make excuses for our friends and family, sometimes they even make excuses for themselves, but bottom line…alone is alone. To me, this is one of the most glaring examples of a good reason to stay very close to the Lord on a day to day basis. Devotionally, study time, prayer and even extended prayer time, memorization…all are extremely important to “build up” our inner man in order to handle life’s most difficult times. Particularly if we have to face them alone.

My family suffers from a depressive disorder, nothing needing medication but serious enough to disrupt contentment. It is a miserable “feeling”…I have found memorization to be the best tool I can use. I look for portions of the Word that challenge my memory, but as I have grown older, the challenge has become greater and greater. However, it works…time consuming but worth it, definitely. Part of my teaching at the prison emphasizes the need for meditation and memorization. The act of concentration seems to break the negative hold the problem has on my mind, plus I gain a sense of God’s presence with me that is comforting. One thing I prize, contentment…and when it is missing, I know it!!! And, will do anything to get it back. Living alone makes it more difficult, no noise in the house.

But, back to failure…another thing I have learned over the years, most of God’s great servants have suffered from a sense of aloneness and depression both of which seem to build in us a feeling of failure.  I think we that serve the Lord fulltime think we are superpersons! Nothing should get to us, we should be able to handle anything and everything, no exceptions. That in reality, that is way too hi bar to set for ourselves! Then we can add to our own expectations of ourselves the expectations of others. THEY think we are superpersons who can handle anything!!!!! Spiritual giants whose faith can stand up under anything, anything at all!

So, the bottom line becomes what we ourselves hold to be true and realistic. We may indeed have a faith that moves mountains, knowing for sure and from experience that God will always take care of us, is always there for us, our provision is sure. we need human touch, words of encouragement, to have someone tell us we are loved by THEM, and at times, for them to just BE THERE. There are two kinds of friends…runners and standers. At the first sign of trouble, the runners will bolt and abandon you to whatever trouble you are facing. The stander however will stick with you no matter the circumstances. We also need to think about which of these WE are???? Back to the example of Paul…at the end of his life he tells us of the many who deserted him. But, he also tells us of one human who stood…Luke…which must have greatly comforted Paul.

Proverbs tells us that a friend loves at all times. We all need friends we can count on, especially when adversity and aloneness strikes. But equally important, we need to BE that kind of friend. Are you?????

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

LISTENERS…ARE YOU ONE?

Many years ago, I think about 1980, I vividly remember the Lord making it clear to me that I was a poor listener…I was a fairly new Christian, still had my business in Pitman, people in and out all the time…many of them needy and wanting someone to show some interest in what was on their mind. The store had a small “sitting “ area, two comfortable chairs, coffee table, it was a warm and inviting area. I found people coming into the store to talk…sharing problems with me, and not always looking for me to miraculously give them an answer. Sometimes I could give them “something to go on”…from Scripture. Most of the time, they only needed someone to listen. God made that abundantly clear to me, as well as making it clear I was to “learn” to listen. It took some doing, but I did it. Amazing how the Holy Spirit can signal to you in your inner man,…”shut up Lynne, just listen!” At times I just felt a “check”…and kept quiet. That learning experience served me well as I began prison ministry, mainly doing counseling. Listening to prisoners stories many times defied any kind of answer I could come up with! Then I realized, I didn’t need to have an answer, just listen and point them to the Scripture after I had made sure they had a relationship with the Lord…couldn’t have them reading someone else’s mail! Most of their stories were incredible, and they weren’t looking for answers, just some understanding and even more important, forgiveness. If I didn’t actually listen, there is no way I could really hear their cry for mercy and forgiveness. And, as God’s worker, that was right up my alley. I knew the One who could meet those needs, and could help us make sense of this man’s life. In reality, most answers are in the Scripture, but it is necessary to KNOW the book, as well as the Author.

Poor listeners range from the impatient type, (“that’s nothing, wait ‘til you hear what I’ve done), to the person who’s so absorbed in their own thoughts, they are not even aware somebody’s spoken. Learning to listen actively and constructively is as important as learning to speak, if your communication is to be effective.

Remember:

1. A gossip talks about others

2. A  bore talks about himself

3. But…a wise man talks to you, about you, then listens to what you  have to say

When you’re a good listener, not only will people seek you out, you’ll grow wiser and win friends too.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thoughts on Colossians 1

The theme of Colossians is “You are Complete In Him.”…there is always more to learn, and none of us can ever say, “we’ve arrived.” The trick is staying close to the Lord and being able to discern His will for us. Staying close is the hard part. I have dealt with inmates for more years than I want to remember, and it is very rare that one of them is able to so balance his life that staying close to the Lord is his main priority. Actually, it’s not that common in the church in general, but with deeply troubled people, it is even more difficult to get the concept across. I think there are many reasons for all of us to not keep our priorities straight. The more troubled people are, the closer they need to be to God, but it rarely happens that way.  He is the only One that can keep us thinking straight and keep us in the Word. It is much easier to make excuses for NOT staying close,…job, meetings, family members that demand attention, many things vie for our attention, even “church.” Some churches have so many events and meetings for all of us, there is little time left over to sit quietly, read, study, and pray.

We often wonder what God’s will is for us…I like this, “for those whom God foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren, “ Romans 8:29. If we accept the fact that God desires us to be just like Jesus, then of course we must learn all about Him. Where do we learn these things? From the Word itself. by studying it, applying it, profiting from it…if we do these things, we cannot help but become like Him.

Selfishness comes into play here also, we usually want what we want, and we want it now. It’s referred to as immediate gratification and runs rampant in our society today. Why is credit card debt so prevalent? Because I must have my desire right now, not next week, or on pay day or when I’ve saved enough…NOW! I wonder if we want our Christian life like that…NOW! Instant maturity…I don’t think so…maturity takes along time and lots of applying hard things to our lives. But God is patient and will wait, teaching us along the way as we allow Him to.

Have you ever thought about the amount of time God takes in teaching and training us for His service. He really desires ALL of us to serve, most of us don’t at least not on a consistent basis. He takes His time, Joseph 13 years, Moses, 80 years, the disciples 3 years being taught by the Master Himself. Even Paul needed brushing up in the Arabian desert. Romans 12:1 & 2 tells us “it is our reasonable service”…letting Him conform us to Christ’s image and likeness and presenting ourselves to Him to serve. Just think what our world would be like if professing Christians became possessing Christians, serving with a full heart. What a world we would  be living in.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

More About Truth…

I re-read a book by Dr John MacArthur entitled “The Truth War,” about exactly what you’d think…the battle going on for “true truth.” I teach a course at Southern entitled “Healing for Damaged Emotions,” from a book of the same name by Dr David Seamanns. I’ve been teaching it for 26 years. A number of years ago I met Dr Seamanns at his home in Wilmore, Kentucky. I told him I was teaching his material in a prison and asked if he would allow me to adapt his workbook to the needs and understanding of  my men. He said I could do anything with it I wanted to. He was very happy about WHERE I was teaching it. It is wonderful material, very simplistic in the approach to self-esteem and why we think and act the way we do. Needless to say, in 26 years I have added to and subtracted from the pages, refined it but never changed the basis premise…”Thy Word is Truth.’ That…cannot be improved upon.

Timothy tells us that in the latter days, wrong will be considered right, and right wrong…sound familiar? Do you sometimes wonder “how” people can think the way they do? I wrote a few days ago about truth, but the subject keeps coming up in my face, the book I just re-read, and today at church, actually in Sunday School, we discussed truth, from  John 14, a very lively discussion. As I have said in other blogs, I am a follower of politics and current events, as well as Bible prophecy. I believe If something is true today, it is true tomorrow, and the next day and so on. This truth of god is to be shared…we are to take what we know to be true and share it with others. And, if the time is short, we need to be about the Father’s business, now.

Now we may not always understand everything He tells us, not because the message is foggy but because something in our own lives is blocking our understanding and getting in the way of our hearing truth. Unforgiveness maybe? Fear, anxiety, doubt? Even prayerlessness can create spiritual “static” that clogs our ears or otherwise gets in the way  of His truth. But usually, the biggest distraction is our own minds…the tendency to want to try and figure things out on our own. That attitude can create a wall between our ears and God’s voice. It’s a wall we must tear down. WE HAVE the means to do that…the Holy Spirit that indwells us and will make the Lord’s communication clear to us. Unbelievers have only their own human (even though educated) minds to use in seeking to gain understanding of and interpreting, God’s truth…not possible! Without Christ,Who is the truth, in our lives and minds, we cannot gain understanding of truth.

Surrender anxious thoughts to Him, let Him have control of your heart and mind. We are His emissaries, and emissaries get instruction from the boss..and so do we.

Friday, October 30, 2009

REFLECTIONS ON A FUNERAL

I Went to a memorial service last evening, a friend of about 12 years. He was 57 years old, left an 18 year old son, who I am very fond of. When someone close, even a little close, goes Home, you have to give it some thought from many different angles. Glenn said more than once that he was ready…that close to death, I am compelled to believe him. And, better yet, his life showed love for and service to the Lord. I also have a brother, my natural brother, seriously ill and waiting for a liver transplant. Last year in May, one of my best friends went to Heaven and since then, two lady friends from Malaga also went home…I know I’m not young anymore, truly am ready to go whenever He says so, but I wonder how many people I run into every day could say the same thing????  Personally, I am hoping to be “caught up” in the rapture of the church! I truly believe this is the generation that will experience that event in the “alive and remain” condition, I Thess 4:15.  Soooooooo…the question becomes, am I being a living witness to those I come in contact  with and showing forth to others what a “filled with the Spirit” believer looks like? I trust so, it is becoming increasingly important to me as I grow older and more and more of my friends go Home.

In thinking this through I came up with a few thoughts, and here they are:

1. Scripture, in Psa 37 tells us not to ‘fret.” Fretting is an old word, but has great meaning. Fretting is fussing within your mind. We all do that from time to time and it is not a good thing. Worry and anxiety will be the undoing of this generation, so God tells us don’t! Another part of not fretting and aggravating yourself is to remember, if you are doing your best, that is all God requires. He accepts no less but expects no more.

2. Don’t hurry…take the time to do things right. It always takes more time to go back and undo, then redo…so take it easy, and completely.

3. In situations with other people, get all the facts before you draw a conclusion or form an opinion. There are a lot of people walking around with wounds you can’t see…and usually, their perception is twisted and they will react badly to a negative report. Best to give the benefit of the doubt initially, even if you have to back up later. Jesus told us to, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”…Lk 6:3.

4. Don’t look at a difficult task as impossible…try it first. If you are where the Lord wants you to be, doing His will for you, difficult tasks only give Him a bigger platform from which to work.

5. Keep your priorities straight…don’t go for the trivial or unimportant, keep the main thing, the main thing.

6. Don’t procrastinate…one of my greatest hangups, (sin, really). Are you known as a “doer” or do others consider you undependable????? Be honest, if you are undependable, quit it. My friend that we memorialized last night, …HE was dependable. He was always around to do for me whatever I asked him to do…and I will miss that quality as well as he himself.

In summing up my reflections on the passing of my friend, or friends if I go back a year, I think we Christians need to remember the words of James 2:18, that our faith in Christ shows itself in the things we do…how quickly, how completely, how fully and how happily we attack the task at hand. After all, Paul told us to “do all things as unto the Lord,”  whether we want to or not…just do it! Time is short, we need to be about the Father’s business instead of our own, living out our profession, as best we know how.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

MIND CLUTTER

David McCullough, a biographer of John Adams who was one of our Founding Fathers and early Presidents said this: “John Adams was both a devout Christian and an independent thinker, and I saw no conflict in that.”  How many people do you know that believe being a Christian and and a thinker are mutually exclusive? Apparently Mr. McCullough did. Kind of offends doesn’t it? That we are naive or not as bright as we should or could be…

Truth be know, the opposite is quite probably true of many of us. Many of us spend lots of time thinking, meditating, mulling and contemplating…especially on the truths of God’s Word. The book of Proverbs teaches us that wisdom is a gift of God. I’ve always considered wisdom knowledge applied…wisdom isn’t yours until you apply it and make it your own…then you are ready to share it. Lining up our thinking with the mind of Christ is quite a job, taking a lot of effort and dedication, since our nature wants us to exert our way over HIs, even in the thinking processes.

We live in a world that is upside-down, right is wrong and wrong is right, and sin is a nasty word, not a condition of the soul and spirit. Left to ourselves, we would not be able to think our way out of a paper bag. But God didn’t leave us to ourselves, He came to us.

I’ve a few thoughts on keeping the mind clear so as to best hear from the Lord, principles I’ve incorporated into my own life. Give them some thought and use them if you like…

1. Don’t think you have to say “yes” to everything. Prioritize…especially if you are older. It’s better to do a few things well and completely than too many poorly.

2. Take time to re-charge your batteries. When you do that, you can sort out your thoughts and actions and determine which are valid and which are not.

3. Take time to enjoy what you have already accomplished. You’re allowed to relish the good things you’ve done and the people you’ve befriended.

4. Stay away from debt…and not just financial. We can easily get caught up in the “shoulds, oughts, and have-to’s.” Those debts of behavior we feel constrained to do, no matter what. They are usually unnecessary and use of energy and/or resources we really can’t spare. If it should be financial debt, get out of it or it will strangle you before you know what happened.

5. When your mind runs and if it’s cluttered, you frequently talk too much. There is nothing more annoying than a senior citizen running off at the mouth about something that happened 40 years ago! Too much talking evidences itself because of basic insecurity, and/or anxiety about the future, a need to control and a desire to impress people.

6. Last but not least, the why?????  If we really think about it and are willing to be honest, we have a hard time trusting God to work things out, especially in a timely way. Our “talk” issue is really a “trust” issue…we just don’t trust God to handle “it.”

So…is your mind a clutter? Lots of us have junk stored up that we really would like to get rid of. God is willing to take it from you and relieve you of the burden, if you’ll let Him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

CONTENTMENT

Recently I read this: “What you believe determines how you behave…”  this simple statement makes a lot of sense to me, mainly because I see a lot of bad behavior that has resulted from either the lack of thinking or the inability to think/think something through. I see it every time I go to Southern to teach. I have yet to find any inmate that set out when he was young to spend some of the best years of his life in a prison, never gave it a thought. They just acted on what pleased them without thought, at the time.

How does contentment figure into this idea? First, what is the definition of contentment? it is to be self-sufficient, (as a Christian I believe it is to be God-sufficient) or satisfied, independent from external circumstances and supporting oneself with God’s provision, in and through Christ. OK, think…and expand on this thought. If we believe that the Word of God is indeed His God-breathed/inspired very thoughts and words, written for our edification and instruction, If He says He will provide ALL our needs, does He mean It? Of course, but…what He knows is in reality a need, may be different than what we perceive to be a need. In realty it may be a want…a want not in our best interest, consequently He does NOT give it…how do we react? Do we act like a brat, get angry and put God on “knock off?” For many of us the answer is yes, because we want what we want right now. God always sees the bigger picture, bigger view of our lives and the others involved in it with us. Can we learn to trust God enough to “allow” Him to really BE God in our lives and control the life and us?????  Yes we can, but we have to spend lots of time with Him in His Word, in prayer, thinking and contemplating on the truths in the Word…thinking the very thoughts of God Himself as expressed in His Book. The Word says “Godliness with contentment is great gain”…1 Timothy 6:6. Matthew 6: 25-34 tells us some amazing (and true) things…worrying about our everyday needs is futile, God knows what we need to eat, wear, use and He loves us enough to supply what we NEED.  With only one condition, seek Him and the kingdom first of all. What does that mean? It means prioritize your life so that quality time is spent with Him, following His lead, consulting Him about your life decisions, to stop coveting and charging, live within your means, save and buy when you have enough to do so and have God’s ok to proceed. These are just a few things we need to build into our lives. In Romans 12:1-2 God says, “ I beg you brothers, by God’s mercy, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…IT IS YOUR REASONABLE SERVICE…and don’t be conformed (molded) to this world, but be transformed by the RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, that you may prove what is the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God.” If you do this, you will begin to experience contentment, that settled, comfy feeling that lets you know you are where God wants you to be…contented, in a place of service He calls you to…a beautiful, satisfying place. Try it, you’ll like it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

SHEEP

How many times have you thought about being called a “sheep?” I’ve laughed to myself quite a few times about it, especially after I learned the facts about sheep and shepherds. It is no accident that God chose that word for us…sheep are the dumbest animals on the face of the earth!!! They seem to have no mind of their own, no ambition, goals, list of things to do, nothing. Just eat, wander and eat some more. They follow their shepherd, even if he were to lead them over a cliff…he wouldn’t, but if he did, they’d follow him. Not another shepherd, only their own because they know the sound of his voice. The sheep don’t have a care in the world, they just follow the shepherd.

Now the shepherd is another story. He has full responsibility for however many sheep he is in charge of. He leads them out in the morning…in Bible times, in some larger areas, many flocks stayed together in the sheepfold at night. So in the morning, the shepherd would begin calling the sheep…and they would respond to his voice, and he would head for pastureland. Sometimes he had a dog to assist him. The dog would circle around the sheep, barking to keep them moving in a flock, moving forward, following the shepherd. When they would arrive at the place he wanted them to graze that day, and after he had determined there was water nearby, he would let them begin to eat. The classic picture of David the king as a shepherd boy, shows him sitting nearby the flock, playing a harp and perhaps singing, some of the psalms/songs he himself had composed. When it was time to go home, he’d call them together, and he and the dog would begin to move them toward the sheepfold. When they got there, he would count them to make sure none was missing, he would sit down and examine each one as they came toward him, examine them for cuts, bruises, scrapes, thorns, etc…things they may have picked up during the time they were grazing. He would remove or treat with oil the damage, and encourage the sheep to go on into the enclosure for the night. If the sheepfold were small and only one flock was secured, he would lay down for the night across the opening so none could get out and get lost. Then he would be ready for sleep. Those sheep were totally dependant on the shepherd. And he took the responsibility seriously.

How does this apply to us? Christ refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for His sheep…us! And, that’ exactly what He did. But, He also cared for us along the way, as the shepherd in our example did. He CARES for us, all the time!
He heals our hurts, calls to us from His Word with words of encouragement, He knows each of us by name, and we know Him, who He is, what He expects of us, and hopefully…we follow Him. It’s a beautiful story and example of God’s loving provision for us, even when we don’t know it. Our life and future are secure with Him no matter how young or old we are…He loves us and will care for us, until our time on earth is finished, then He will secure us in HIs heavenly sheepfold for eternity with Him! PTL.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

MEMORY AND SUCH

This morning, I was reading in the Daily Bread about our electronic devices doing all our remembering for us. It reminded me of years back being at Sandy Cove for a retreat featuring Dr John MacArthur, my very favorite Bible teacher. One of the sessions was on a similar topic, the fact that video/visuals were hampering young peoples thinking processes. There is also the matter of creative thinking and peripheral thinking. His premise was that “seeing” everything hampered the natural development of these skills and the ensuing knowledge that would be gleaned. I was in total agreement with what Dr MacArthur said, and also with what was in the Daily Bread. In agreement mainly because of my own personal observation over many years. Young people do not  have the creativity and “outside the box” thinking capability the older generation has. And now, perhaps some memory retention will be interfered with because of lack of exercise. This bothers me a great deal. It seems to me, everything to do with our discovering God, retaining the Word, becoming more like Him, etc., etc. all hinge on thinking, remembering, putting together information for ourselves…all of this process could and may, be lost. And what will be left? Being spoon fed info and encouraged to swallow! Joseph Stalin said this, “Control the media, control the people.” The media either in print or TV, is where most people get their main information about most things. If we don’t or worse yet, can’t think…we are in deep trouble.Our schools are doing away with penmanship/cursive writing, memorization and oral recitation, just to name a few things. This is being reported in the New York Times, who commented that this will “produce a culture that does not enforce the development of memory skills.” This scares me, because at my age, some of my short term memory escapes me momentarily from time to time. I forget names, or in teaching, if I get off track, I have a hard time getting back to where I was. It comes back, but takes a minute or two. We call this moments, “senior moments.” If the same lack takes over the minds/memory of the young, what will they loose?????

Never before in history has the need been so great for we Christians to hid God’s Word in our hearts. The Scripture says to “be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” Eph 4:23; “let your inward man be renewed, day by day,” 2 Cor 4:16; “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,”; Phil 2:5; “but you have the mind of Christ,” I Cor 2:16. and finally, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength,” Mark 12:30. Without the ability to read and store, memorize, meditate, ponder, share…Scripture…how will we ever truly get to know our God as He would have us do. That’s why He had His mind written down, so that His people could get to know and understand Him, and grow to be like Him. This is serious…really serious. Our children and grandchildren will suffer. They are already suffering from being taught revisionist history…check out www.wallbuilders.com”…  what they will show you will astonish you regarding the text books in our public schools. God tells us this in the Psalms, “Thy Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” May it ever be.

Monday, October 12, 2009

PERSEVERANCE

Character...how does God develop character in us? Very good question, since most of us think we have character right along However, there is a difference between natural, "fleshy" character, the character we bring with us into our Christian life, and the character God wants us to exhibit to the world around us, a world that whether we realize it or not, watches us pretty intently. Someone once said, "you may be the only Bible someone reads" or worse yet, "you may be the only Christ others see." That is very condemning, isn't it! So, how does God go about building this character into us? Well of course He starts with salvation, giving us a clean slate so that we can start over...however, many of us don't take advantage of the clean slate, we bring all our baggage into our new life, never even realizing it is there and needs to be dealt with. So, God has His work cut out for Him...He has to show us our character flaws, and plant within us a desire to change. By His mercy, we CAN change, but it takes work. It begins with suffering..yes, suffering. Hurts, irritations, bad or over-reactions to stuff that happens, bad feelings, anger...all negatives that irritate the living daylights out of us. Now if we are smart, we will go to God and ask Him "what's up with this"...and bless Him, He will let us know in one way or another. He shows us the flaw and the solution! Implementing the solution takes patience, patience being the first step toward perseverance. We must persist in dealing with our flesh feelings and reactions to the sufferings of life, that is how we grow, and as we are growing, God builds into us the character qualities He knows we need to be whole, emotionally, and to serve Him to His glory. That's what it is all about, you know, God's glory. That's why we are here...not for us, but for Him. His intention with each of us is to make us over into the likeness of Christ according to Romans 8:29. If you read Galatians 5:22-23 you will read the list of Christ's character qualities and will see what you are destined for. 

What are some of the enemies of perseverance?

1. A lifestyle of giving up, usually because our self-image is so poor we don't think we can accomplish anything. It usually begins in childhood.

2. A wrong belief that life should be easy. Many people are led to Christ by someone who mistakenly tells them, "God will make it all better," a lie out of the pit of hell if there ever was one.

3. A lack of resiliency. A  lot of us have been beaten down so much, we have real difficulty getting back up and keeping on going. God can help us with this is we allow Him to. The whole book of Ephesians tell us how much we mean to God, and what HE has planned for us. If that doesn't get us going, nothing will!

4. A lack of vision. Creativity and vision come from God, who made us in His image. A God-given vision keeps us moving forward, lack of one will stop you dead in your tracks.

5. A lack of purpose. Persistence (part of perseverance) is stubbornness with a purpose.


Philippians tells us that "He who began a good work in you will complete it"...be encouraged!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

LETTING GO...

We are preparing for our Fall yard sale here at Malaga. It's a big job, for my friend Sara, who sorts, arranges, dispenses with and shows off, various items that are donated from someone's treasure house of memories. most of us have more "stuff" than we need, want,or will use, Why in the world do we hold on to the stuff we do????? I remember when my mother died, we knew she was a "saver" and always said it was because of having lived through the Great Depression all those many years ago. And save she did...string, empty jewelry size boxes, broken glasses and cups. Some of the items I remembered from my childhood when we used them on a regular basis and I realized that for Mom, memories were attached to each and every item. There is a parallel for us in the spiritual realm. We have "stuff" stored up in our subconscious mind, attached to some memory from the past. Some is good stuff...some is bad, some quite disastrous. Psychologists tell us that our perceptions of life are pretty well set by the age of four. Pre-school years for many of us, years we would have spent at home with mom. If that is true, and I have no reason to doubt it's truth, it makes clear to me that God's original plan for family is the best one around. In Jewish families of old, betrothed couples came together after they had spent a number of years preparing a home, the boy, physically building the home on a piece of his father's land, the girl, in her home making household items for use in the home he was building. When they were finally married, they were to spend the first year together in their new home, no work for him, no going to war, limited visiting with family, because they were to "bond" together before a baby came on the scene . Leave and cleave, the two become one, whatever terminology you want to use, but God knows how important family is.It's the central unit of society and the newly weds need time to get to really know each other and children need mom and dad's influence, love and security to properly develop emotionally as well as spiritually. This is where "stuff" comes in. Because we are part of a fallen human race, and by nature sinners, (unusual word for today isn't it) we frequently "perceive' wrong about what goes on around us. But the security and love of family usually allows us to sort out our feelings. But, not always, and sometimes those wrong perceptions lead us to wrong attitudes and conclusions about other people and next thing we know, we have a GRUDGE! Imagine that.! God's Word strongly teaches about forgiveness, because unforgiveness leads to bitterness and grudges, and those attitudes show up in how we think, talk, and act. Have you ever heard the saying, "he/she needs an attitude adjustment?" I'll bet you have! How many people do you know that fit that category...probably too many. Most of those attitudes can be traced back to those early years of bad perceptions, and accumulating stuff that we just don't want to let go of, even though we know they are "hanging us up" emotionally. Next time we'll talk more about letting go.

Monday, September 14, 2009

RISKS

I wonder how deeply we believe and trust down in our inner man, until we have "risked" greatly and God has worked for us...I wonder. I suspect the kind of faith we maintain and exhibit is from a comfortable place in our comfortable home, without any danger or risk...is that faith and trust true Biblical faith???? The faith I am talking about emerges when we step out of the boat, and risk. We risk looking like a fool, or being laughed at, or ignored or treated as if you don't even exist, or have no credibility with the observer. The kind of risk I am talking about says to "self" "I will risk all, no matter what"...as did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3: 8-30. Read it at your leisure.

Did you ever put "risk taking" in the context of identity with Christ? Identity with the cross? Jesus said this: "anyone who would follow me must deny himself, take up his cross (in Luke, 'daily'), and follow me"...Matt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23. What is He saying? Every expositor I have read agree...He is telling us we must be willing to give control, our right to run our own lives, over to Him. Read Romans 12:1-2 a few times, try reading it in different versions, really think about the words. We sign on to serve Christ on a voluntary basis, in total commitment. We give Him the right to live through us, for Him to manage our lives from that point on. Our life becomes His life and He begins to make the changes in our thinking processes that are necessary for us to be godly. As we risk, and change, He can begin to use us for His glory! Did you ever hear the story of what a bondslave was? In Roman times, slaves were bought on the open market, usually for a specific time period, then they were set free. At times, a slave would be so well treated and liked being a servant/slave to the master and voluntarily decide to stay with him. This made the master responsible for the slave for the slaves lifetime. As a sign to the world of this arrangement, the slave would have a hole put in his ear and a gold earring put in place. He then worked as a servant to the master because he wanted to. There was  a certain amount of risk in this arrangement for both parties.

We Christians are unaccustomed to "seeking counsel" from God, whether we want to admit it or not. We LIKE running our own lives and making our decisions as we see fit. We may think about Scripture and does it directly address the issue we are contemplating? Do we make the time to sit before the Lord, talk to Him and then LISTEN...probably not. And  should we think we might have heard from Him, do we play a mind game with ourselves because God "couldn't possibly have said THAT"...we are afraid to risk!

God is not a hard taskmaster...He never expects more than He knows we can deliver, because He knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants to "stretch" us, enlarge our faith and trust. Risk...step out, He is totally trustworthy. The experience initially may be positive or it may be negative, we might get hurt feelings, be misunderstood, verbally abused, ridiculed or put down...all experiences that wound and make scars...and make change in us. I know, I've been there.You don't work with inmates, CO's, civilian staff, family members and ex-prisoners for nearly 30 years and not go through all of the above many, many times. But that risk taking is how God grows us up...the hurts become learning experiences at the hand of a faithful God, worked out to our individual benefit and growth. It didn't always seem like it at the time but I learned to "lean into Him" when I didn't understand and eventually, when my emotions were under control, He could give me the understanding of the hurt.

Wounds and scars, inflicted for the furtherance of the Gospel, will be "counted" on Judgment Day. He won't care about trophies, awards, citations, metals. placques or applause...He holds out to us His nail-pierced hands to look at our battle wounds and scars, received because of Him. Those wounds and His bind us together.

We don't seem to understand that the only way a world can be redeemed is through self-sacrifice...HIS AND OURS! The great Oswald Chambers said this: "Like Christ, we are to be broken bread and poured out wine for a dying world. The problem is, we object to the "fingers" God uses to crush and break us." 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Do You Need a Spiritual Checkup?

We rarely have a problem remembering to get our yearly physical checkups do we? But do we ever think of a spiritual checkup? Probably not...we usually tend to think "we're ok"...here are a few questions to ask yourself from time to time, just to check...

1. If you are questioning your faith, quit it, and question your doubts instead. Keep in mind, God's promises are sure, 2 Corinthians 1:20 says "all the promises of God, in Him are yea and amen."

2. Don't be a "lone ranger" Christian. The Old Testament is made up of stories of God's people, the Epistles written to congregations, why? Because He wants us to RELATE, not isolate!

3. Guard your thought life. Isaiah 26:3 tells us "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is fixed on Thee." Stay focused on God's Word and His promises and your thoughts will be fixed as well. Learn to "manage" your mind God's way.

4. The last thing you have on your mind as you fall asleep, will be in your mind as you wake...hymns, verses, parts of your prayer list...mull them over and over in your mind as you fall asleep.

5. Get rid of ANYTHING that distracts you from the Lord or His Word. What do you read, watch on TV, hang out with, or most of all, worship. That's right, worship. Anything or anybody that gets more of our time and/or attention is an idol and is being worshipped. Computers are becoming idols today, with face book, twitter, etc., we spend an awfully lot of time in front of the computer. Give God His due!

6. Be careful of attitudes. We can disapprove of someone's actions and not be rude or arrogant to the person...our attitude toward one who is not living right can make or break the outcome. We all know the saying, "hate the sin but not the sinner."

7. Be sure of what you believe and don't be afraid to share it. Paul wasn't "ashamed of the Gospel", and we should not be either.

8. Be careful of judging others, not that you should not at times, but make a careful judgment. Remember, Jesus said "judge righteous judgment"... John 7:24, be careful not to condemn and careful what standard you are using as a "yardstick." Jesus also said as WE judge, so shall we BE judged.

9. Forgive those who wrong you or speak badly about you. Not easy at all, but important to growth. If you are going to carry a grudge, your mind will become "occupied" with the offender...to your detriment.

ONLY A PERSON WITH THE MIND OF CHRIST CAN TRULY OVERCOME THE SINS OF THE FLESH AND LIVE ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Who's #1 in Your Book?????

We were talking about our minds, and who and what we think about most. With most people now days, it's self...unfortunate but true. If you belong to the Lord, He REQUIRES you to think about and put, Him first. Romans 12:1-2 says it all..."I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, it's your reasonable service. And, be not conformed to this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good, perfect, and acceptable will of God. " He wants us to be aware of him and thinking His thoughts all the time. I read a comment recently to this effect: "Father, I want to spend the day with You!" What a wonderful mindset...that would definitely make HIM #1 in your book! It is not in our nature to deny self, even in prayer our minds wander. It doesn't need to be said that it takes discipline to keep focused on our relationship with Him. But, it's worth it because when you are fucused on Him, perception changes, we see the bigger picture as we take on the mind of Christ. Serving Him becomes a very pleasurable thought and we can look for ways to be like Him as we interact with others. It becomes easier to forgive some infraction against us or some slight. We find that things that  use to drive us up the wall and under the paper, no longer do. Why? Because we consider the other persons point of view. Have you ever carried a grudge? We all have but truth be told, we don't have to. A grudge comes about because we don't want to forgive and put the infraction "away." We want to hold it close to us, rehearsing it over and over in our minds as it gets bigger and bigger. Most of us have the idea that to forgive is to agree with the offender...but it isn't. Forgiving, between you an the Lord, relieves you of carrying the burden, puts it on God's shoulders and SHOULD clear your conscience. I say should because once again we rehearse the problem instead of leaving it with the Lord and focusing on Him and His Word. Memorizing Scripture really helps with the process of forgiving...turn it over to Him and refocus on a verse of Scripture. Next thing you know, your mindset has changed, and so have you.  Forgiveness is the key to a life of ABIDING. It is impossible to carry around a bunch of nasty emotional baggage and abide in Christ at the same time. Think about it and I think you'll see my point.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Who's #1 in Your Book?????


      • I am no longer young...I am in my 70's, and to be honest, don't care to be young. I am continually set back on my heels by the self-serving attitudes of those under 50. Unfortunately, even among Christians.
        I can't say all, but the majority to be sure. I suppose because I have spent so many years counseling and teaching inmates, learning to understand how their thought processes work, and why, I have developed a "need to know" attitude about how and why we ALL think. For over 25 years I have taught a class in emotional healing from a Christian perspective. Lining up thinking patterns with Scripture absolutely fascinates me. And when I discovered, thanks to J. Gordon Henry that our minds are NOT born again when we are, I was REALLY fascinated. Surely God made a provision for healing for our minds! Well of course He did and it's right in HIs Word..."be renewed in the attitude of your mind," Eph 4:23 and "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,"Phil 2:5, and "for who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ." I Cor 2:16 and many other verses.
      • OK, that is all well and good, but now the question becomes HOW...the best way I can describe the process is to refer you to John 15, commonly called, the Abiding chapter. A simple explanation of the term "abide" is this: settle down and make yourself at home"...make yourself comfortable with the Lord, by reading, and reading, and reading His Word, reading it and memorizing it and as you memorize, meditate on it, take it apart, think about the phrases, look up definitions of words. Another good thing to help in this renewing process is to read the same passage in a different version and compare what you read. Do you journal???? Write down you thoughts and ideas? You should...it's a wonderful exercise and you remember more of what you read when you write down what you are learning. You will find that as you abide, you perception of things begins to change...you are beginning to see things from God's point of view because you are "taking on" His understanding, (mind).


                                              More tomorow

Monday, August 31, 2009

How Do You Feel About Gossip

     Gossip is often thought of as an innocent pastime...but is it? Satan has painted tale bearing as innocuous, but if we peel away the deception, we see the ugly truth. The bible lists gossip among the most depraved sins, according to Romans 1:28-31;

  • ...since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.They have become filled with every kind of evil, wickedness,greed and depravity. Thry sre full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful.They invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents, they are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.

     
     Nothing about gossip is harmless. No matter if the intention is not to hurt, or be cruel, the target of the comments can be embarrassed or hurt. If you were to ask a few people to define gossip most will mention something about spreading rumors. That's the truth, but not the whole truth...Gossip includes any idle or malicious talk that harms someone else. Damaging speech is a universal sin and we've all been there, guilty as charged! Example, have you ever commented on how another person was dressed? Suggested to a friend someone you both know should consider changing their hair style or the way they dress...how about telling an  acquaintance about another's personal life? Another question...did you feel a check in your spirit while you were speaking? Gossip...words that do harm despite seeming innocent. Some people gossip by jesting, some by sarcasm, using personal details as examples and worst of all...as a prayer request! We definitely need to know and understand the difference between worthless chatter and wise speech. When the heart's intention is to mar a reputation or create a sense of camaraderie, lips move loosely. But a desire to make God happy by speaking only what builds up others can change that right away.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Our Reasonable Service

  • Romans 12:1-2..."I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God...this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is...His good, pleasing and perfect will."

.....Have you ever wondered about God's will for you? Most of us have from time to time, especially if you are dedicated to knowing the Lord and loving Him with "your whole heart, soul, mind and strength." Mark 12:30. But the question always comes down to this: what does that mean, exactly. This is what I have found to be true in my 35 years of walking with the Lord. A Sovereign God provided the way for man to return to a relationship with his Heavenly Father, after Adam and Eve broke the relationship in the Garden of Eden. How did they do this? By willful disobedience...thinking they knew better than God and we do the very same thing! We do our own thing, independent of what God would desire for us, usually not even consulting Him (prayer). We follow the ways of the world, conforming to the way "everyone else does it." God expects us to "serve." What does that mean?? It means to live for Him, what Jesus called"abiding" in Him, and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us the Word, it's our spiritual act of worship. Reading John 13-17 is a really good exercise in renewing the mind, and understanding what it is to abide in Christ and not conform to the world around us. Right now, in 2009 that is critical because our world and country are changing and we need to be in tune with what God wants of us and what He is doing. Here  are a few additional things to contemplate:

  • In light of all the spiritual benefits we enjoy solely as the fruit of God’s mercy, it logically follows that we owe God our highest form of service. Understood here is the idea of priestly, spiritual service such as was an integral part of Old Testament worship.
  • Conformed...refers to assuming an outward expression that does not reflect what is inside, a kind of masquerade or act. (Here Paul is telling this group to stop what they have already begun.)
  • This World = age, system of beliefs, values the spirit of the age. This sum of contemporary thinking and values forms the moral atmosphere of our world and is always dominated by Satan.
  • Transformed = metamorphosis, a change in outward appearances that reflects our inner, redeemed natures daily. Like the Transfiguration.
  • Renewing the Mind = that kind of transformation only happens as the Holy Spirit changes our thinking-being saturated and controlled by the Holy Spirit/Word of God-study and meditation of Scripture.
  • Exhortation = the gift which enables a believer to effectively call others to obey and follow God’s truth.
  • Negatively: Admonish and Correct
  • Positively: Encourage, comfort and strengthen

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mary's Lavish Love, part 2

  • John 12:1-8, "Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived in Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served , while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected, "why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages. He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you , but you will not always have Me."

John tells us she anointed His feet, and dried them with her hair. This was a very intimate thing she did...Jewish women NEVER took down their hair until bedtime, and only in front of their husbands!!!!

  • Again, Jesus words of love toward her were these: “let her alone; she has kept this for the day of my burial.”

An interesting sidelight to this is John 11:49-53,

  • "then one of them named Caiphas, who was High Priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." He did not say this on his own, but as High Priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life." .

..Caiphas, the current High Priest used unwittingly, sacrificial, substitutionary language and prophesied Christ’s death for sinners...he actually spoke blasphemy against Christ, for which he would be responsible. But God made his statement truth. God actually used Caiphas here as a prophet, a role the High Priest frequently fulfilled to reveal the will of God...see 2 Sam 15:27.

MORE THOUGHTS!!!!

All three accounts record Judas outrage that Jesus allowed this luxury when the dollars could have been used to help the poor. What a hypocrite! Jesus statement is a reminder to us as well as a word to Judas…”the poor you have with you always”...and we do and we CAN be there to assist them in whatever way we are able. But Jesus, and our worship and time with Him MUST be our priority, and then and only then can we be fit to serve. Service comes from a full heart, a clean and pure heart, one that sees/anticipates needs, and does all in ones power to meet that need. We need Martha’s...but Jesus gave the commendation to Mary...not because she was lax and allowed Martha to do all the work, but because she did what was required of her and THEN she went to sit at the Master’s feet and listen, rather than fuss about unnecessary details. God grant us the wisdom to emulate our sister Mary, and arrange or rearrange our priorities to make that time to “sit at the Master’s feet”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mary's Lavish Love

6While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. 9"This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."

10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

     John tells us the woman here is Mary of Bethany...the same Mary that sat at Jesus feet in Luke 10:38-40, read…distracted: dragging all around...implies Martha was in a tumult, “with much serving”...Martha was evidently fussing with details that were unnecessarily elaborate. Would the Lord have commended Mary as He did if she had done nothing, leaving all the preparations for at least 13 dinner guests to Martha? I hardly think so. What was this “one good thing” Jesus spoke of in Luke, pertaining to Mary? It was the priority Mary had made, of spending time with Him whenever possible. She came to Him with an attitude of worship and meditation, “listening” to Him with an open heart and mind...hanging on every word, if you will.

     It would appear Simon (referred to as “the leper)...was part of the Bethany group...perhaps Mary and Martha were “doing the dinner” for Simon...there is no mention of a Mrs Simon...The perfume spoken of was expensive, it was imported from India, the only place it was found, and in an equally expensive alabaster container. It may have been part of Mary’s dowry! What she did to Jesus, she did as an act of worship...she gave Him her most prized possession, pouring it on His head, lavishly! John tells us it was worth 12 months wages, or 300 denari, (contrast, 8 months wages would have fed the 5,000). Mark 14:3-9:

3While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? 5It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.

6"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

     Mark adds a few more details, he is the one that tells us that the perfume was imported from India, and refers to it as “pure nard”...not watered down or cut with anything else. Verse 8 gives us three words from Jesus about Mary that are precious…

  1. “she has done what she could”...what a commendation!!!
  2. “she has come beforehand to anoint my body for burial”...did she know what she was doing? Probably not, but her love and adoration for her Master and her knowledge of His words gave her boldness to do what she did.

    Will continue tomorrow...