Sunday, June 29, 2014

When I'm not sure what to do....

When I'm not sure what to do, I get on my knees and ask God for guidance.

I'd really love to tell you that He answers, immediately and decisively, and I get up off my knees and obediently and immediately do what He has answered and get on with life and everything is simple and straightforward and even, easy.


That is very often NOT how that goes.

Most often, my emotions interfere with getting to the point where I get on my knees and ask God for guidance without an agenda already existing in my heart.  So I'm not on my knees asking, so much as I'm on my knees telling.  Telling God to do this or do that, or do it this way or within these boundaries....etc etc

My feelings have to be dealt with, so even if I've made it to my knees, having gotten beyond my selfish need to control the asking and outcome of why I'm there, when I get up I find I still have deal with how I feel, and push past that in order to CHOOSE obedience sometimes in spite of my feelings.

As I've said before, a great deal of prayer isn't that it changes the situations around us.
It's that it changes us!  Which causes us to treat the situations around us differently, which then changes those situations.

I'm so thankful that God considers our hearts - He concerns Himself with our DESIRE to obey, not the often inability of our flesh to obey.  He works with us, challenges us to grow, and gives us opportunity to learn and get it right.  He never gives up on us.  He never walks away from us.  He never leaves us or forsakes us.
Every time we get on our knees before Him (or sit or stand or lay down or whatever position you are in for prayer) He is there, ready to meet us at our point of need and bring us up to His standard.

So go ahead.  Get on your knees.  As often as you need to until your heart and your flesh are both lined up with Gods perfect will.  He is infinitely patient.  And He isn't keeping score on how long it takes you or how many tries.  He just wants you to keep walking with Him and growing with Him and letting Him have His way in your heart and life.

Thank you Jesus!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Grace and the Rules that Conquer all


They both have 5 letters.  They both contain the letters R and E.  You cannot get “rules” from “grace” and conversely, you cannot get “grace” from “rules”.

Yet, these two work TOGETHER, not against each other, to provide a stable, balanced walk for a believer of Jesus Christ.

We are SAVED by Grace, but the Bible says to be led by the Spirit, to walk by FAITH and not by sight.  There has been a lot of talk over the years about “grace” versus “law” and even more talk and books written about grace setting us "free" from a great many things, like our own consciousness of sin in some cases.

Let’s be clear about something.  GRACE, Gods wondrous favor is a gift we are given.  However, we are set FREE by Jesus. “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed” John 8:36 and the Son sets us free through TRUTH John 8:32 “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Grace is not a New Testament action, discovery or circumstance that came about with the death and resurrection of our Lord.
GRACE existed and was in operation in the Old Testament:

Genesis 6:8
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
Exodus 34:9
Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”
Ezra 9:8
And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage.

Make no mistake about it, as Paul so aptly pointed out in Romans, GRACE is not an excuse for sin, but a reason to walk in humble obedience!

Romans 6:1-2  What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Romans 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the SPIRIT.

The grace of God, like the LOVE of God and the mercy of God is extended to us by the Lord according to His will.  It is not an “entity” that stands on its own, nor can it support any of us on its own!

We must guard against falling into the trap of taking what God so freely gives and by the sinful flesh allowing it to be twisted into something it was never meant to be. It is NOT a “right” or a “privilege” of being born again!

The walk of a believing follower of Jesus is a walk of balance.  Though it is true that we are no longer under the law, we are do have structure.  We have the commands of the Lord Jesus which we hopefully will freely choose to obey, to LOVE one another!  God gives us the tools to succeed –
  • the measure of FAITH
  • His GRACE
  • His LOVE
  • The POWER of His Holy Spirit
All these together comprise the balanced, faithful, grace filled life of those SAVED and SANCTIFIED by Christ Jesus the Lord.   We cannot take one tool from the belt of this balanced life of a believer and build an entire religion around it. 

Think about it, meditate on this truth!  You are indeed saved by grace and not of works, it is the GIFT of God!  

Thankfully it is not the only gift our gracious Lord has given.  It is not even the most important gift He has given.  

All Gods gifts are great and powerful and all work together in the life of His obedient child.  He provides a full array of all we need to walk successfully before Him through Christ Jesus our Lord, where our strength resides, and without Whom, we can do NOTHING!

Now may the GRACE of God keep you according to His will, and may the mercy of God deliver you from all temptations, that you may walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called!  (Ephesians 4) 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Successful Journeying

Do you know why the Dead Sea is called the Dead Sea?  And do you know why it's dead?

The short answer is that although it has water flowing into it, there is no outflow - it arrives, but it never goes anywhere.  It is STANDING STILL and therefore stagnates.  Which is to go stale.  LIFE does not live in stale, stagnant water.

What about you?  Are you going somewhere?  Are you living a life that is full of adventure and learning and growth?

I was reading about the Israelites the other day, and how it was in their hearts and lives as they journeyed from Egypt.  In their hearts, there were some who never really left Egypt.  They were so fearful of every new experience they never fully embraced the journey God was taking them on.  They allowed fear to control their every action and as a result, they were paralyzed.  In essence, they became like the Dead Sea.

Stale, stagnant and without LIFE.  They were going nowhere.  Sure, their bodies were moving with the rest of the crowd, but because they were paralyzed in their hearts they had no JOY.  They weren't truly living the journey God had called them to.

There was more!  God had called them not only to begin a journey, but He had a plan and a purpose and a destination for those who would obey Him.

It is the same with us.  The Lord God has a plan, purpose and a destination for the journey of our lives.  It begins when we, like the Israelites He delivered from Egypt, choose to obey Him and CROSSOVER the Jordan River to the Promised Land.  Trusting God.  Choosing to follow where He would lead them and experience the fullness of joy and learning and growing and abundant life that He was offering.

When we confess our sin and repent and ask forgiveness, and invite Jesus to live in our hearts and be our Lord and Savior, we too CROSSOVER into a promise.  The promise of LIFE MORE ABUNDANT now (John 10:10) and the promise of ETERNAL LIFE.

But there is more than the first step of this journey.  Once the Israelites crossed over the Jordan into the promised land they were to CONQUER the land.  Simply crossing the Jordan was but one step of the journey!  The promise was for a life that was abundant with the blessing and joy of the Lord with HOPE for the future.

We too are to CONQUER temptation and through obedience to Gods commands, be transformed into the new creations in Christ He planned for us to be and LIVE abundant lives that glorify His name.

As we CONTINUE in obedience on a daily, often moment by moment basis, we discover that in Christ Jesus our victory is complete and we not only are blessed, but we are now a BLESSING to others as well.

CROSSOVER from sin bondage to freedom in Christ.  CONQUER your fear and failings through the JOY of the Lord that is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) CONTINUE in obedience to the Lord your God and receive victory of abundant life now and eternally.

The bible is full of the instruction necessary to make your journey one of success.  In our Daily Reading right now the Proverbs are highlighted.  The wisdom contained in this section of Gods Word is an excellent place to learn and gain insight,  It really doesn't matter where you are when you start.  What matters is that you are on the journey, moving forward and growing in the Lord.

Also part of the Daily Reading at this time is Deuteronomy.  It is helpful to us to see how God instructed the Israelites in the Old Testament, to gain wisdom and understanding for the spiritual aspect of our journey.  Though we are no longer under the law, we gain insight as we see how the physical obedience translates to what we experience spiritually.

The third section of Daily Reading at this time is found in Corinthians.  Here we get a first hand view of how the First Century Church struggled to walk in obedience.  I pray it will encourage you as it encourages me, to be reminded that every believer must learn to overcome the flesh, submit to God and the process of growth that is our journey for this life.

We, being born again of Gods spirit, have HOPE for now and for the future.  We are not lost, for God Himself has provided guidance.  We are not wandering aimlessly without purpose, for the Lord has provided purpose and leads us to our ETERNAL destination.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A way of foolish wickedness - a way of Eternal Life!

Proverbs 7

1 My son, keep my words,
And treasure my commands within you.
Keep my commands and live,
And my law as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
And call understanding your nearest kin,
That they may keep you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words.

For at the window of my house
I looked through my lattice,
And saw among the simple,
I perceived among the youths,
A young man devoid of understanding,
Passing along the street near her corner;
And he took the path to her house
In the twilight, in the evening,
In the black and dark night.
10 And there a woman met him,
With the attire of a harlot, and a crafty heart.
11 She was loud and rebellious,
Her feet would not stay at home.
12 At times she was outside, at times in the open square,
Lurking at every corner.
13 So she caught him and kissed him;
With an impudent face she said to him:
14 I have peace offerings with me;
Today I have paid my vows.
15 So I came out to meet you,
Diligently to seek your face,
And I have found you.
16 I have spread my bed with tapestry,
Colored coverings of Egyptian linen.
17 I have perfumed my bed
With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love until morning;
Let us delight ourselves with love.
19 For my husband is not at home;
He has gone on a long journey;
20 He has taken a bag of money with him,
And will come home on the appointed day.”
21 With her enticing speech she caused him to yield,
With her flattering lips she seduced him.
22 Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter,
Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks,
23 Till an arrow struck his liver.
As a bird hastens to the snare,
He did not know it would cost his life.
24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children;
Pay attention to the words of my mouth:
25 Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,
Do not stray into her paths;
26 For she has cast down many wounded,
And all who were slain by her were strong men.
27 Her house is the way to hell,
Descending to the chambers of death.

Take a closer look at verses 14 - 17.  How many of us are exactly as this foolish young woman? We confess our sins and seek forgiveness, but then, because our hearts are wicked and not yielded fully to God in total surrender, we turn right around and commit sin, the same sin even, all over again.

Repentance is not an outward action of the flesh, but an inward, true change of the heart, a turning AWAY from sin that leads to a new heart attitude.  That new heart attitude is what leads to new actions.  

When our heart hasn't changed, just going through the motions counts as nothing with the Lord.  He is ever ready to forgive and give us a fresh start.  For that I am extremely grateful, for I've had more than one totally fresh, clean start thanks to Gods grace.

But He knows the difference. He knows when we are simply "pretending" on the outside - and when we have truly repented in our hearts and are ready to surrender and let HIM change our hearts forever.

Godly sorrow leads to true repentance.  When you are sorry, not because you were caught or there were unwelcome consequences to your actions.  But when you are really hurt in your heart that you have dishonored the Lord, who is worthy of all honor and glory and praise.

Verses 24 - 27 tell the story of her end and the end of those who foolishly follow in her footsteps.  But that isn't the end of the whole story!  No - the whole story is that Christ Jesus came and died for us to not only be forgiven of our sin, but to redeem us from slavery to sin and set us truly free to be brand new creations with Eternal through Him!

Now that is a perfect ending to our story!