Friday, August 12, 2011

We pay a price for sin!

I know we live in an age of grace and love. I am very much aware of that and as many of you who read my blog on a regular basis know I am a very big proponent of grace and love however if we do not understand that regardless of God’s great love for us there are ramifications to sin. These are not necessarily things that the love does as much as he lifts his blessing from us and we get a taste of what it would be like to live life on our own.

The book of Zachariah has an interesting commentary about the result of sin. Zachariah was written to the first group of Jews to return to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon. Jeremiah had prophesied because of their sin, that the Jews would spend 70 years in captivity. Zachariah further explains.

Zachariah 7:8 – 13

Then this message came to Zechariah from the LORD: 9“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.
11“Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. 12They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the LORD of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the LORD of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them.
13“Since they refused to listen when I called to them, I would not listen when they called to me, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

It cost Israel to continually ignore God. They had years of the Lord calling them to repentance but they chose to do things their own way. God may pulls his hand from us but never his presence. He was with them in their captivity. Israel had to learn humility.

There are always consequences to our sins. God is with us even in the consequences of sin. We may pay a high price like Israel for our refusal to follow the Lord but even while paying that price God is always with us, drawing us back to Himself.

God’s character never changes. He may be forced, by our sin to allow us to go through some unpleasant things but He will be with us. He will protect us and cause the circumstances to be the best to draw us back to Himself and His great love and grace. He is not a heavenly ogre waiting to punish us but a loving Father who disciplines those whom he loves.

God’s grace is sufficient for us. He continually guides, speaks truth, and corrects us. As we heed His discipline and correction we live a life of freedom and wonderful relationship with Him. If we do not then He pulls back His hand not for punishment, but to discipline us and draw us back to Himself. He loves us! He always will! Believe it! When we find ourselves being disciplined quickly repent, turn back to the Lord, ask for forgiveness and He will forgive us and remember our sins no more. You are His child; He believes in you and loves you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Trusting God with our hearts

I have mentioned in a number of my blogs lately the idea of trusting the Lord with all of our hearts.

Take a look at Proverbs 3: 5,6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.”

Does the Lord want us to trust Him with our blood pumping muscle? Our heart does not think or feel so what is He saying with wanting our hearts to be totally His as I mentioned from 2 Chronicles 16:9 and trusting Him with our whole hearts in the passage above.

The heart is symbolic of our will and our emotions and it is also representative of that part of us that makes intellectual ascent, “So a man thinks in his heart, so he is” Proverbs 23: 7.

There is a battle for our wills, desires, and our decisions. We generally look for the easy way to do things, to get from here to there but that is not always the best way. This is a challenge to us.

Simply stated the challenge is “ Will you wait for me to give you direction?” or “Will you trust me to speak to you and lead you?” God’s plan for us is perfect. There is no weakness or failure in God’s plan for us. Daily we must look to the Lord for his guidance, will, desires for our day. As we do, then we must make the decision to not worry or panic but to “trust the Lord with all of our heart”.

It sounds simplistic, and it is but it is also very scary to have faith that the Lord is guiding and directing our lives. That is one of the great things about God, as we trust Him, He does show up. As we proverbially, “step out of the boat”, we are able to walk on water. That is the first step to trusting the Lord with your whole heart.

Try it over the next few days! Watch as the opportunities come, to worry and panic, choose to stop and ask the Lord what He wants you to do. Start your day by asking Him to lead and guide all that you do. Trust Him with your whole heart!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Storms of life

For the last few days I have seen the power go off and on in my home, watched my yard become a swamp and saw some beautiful and powerful light shows. The storms have been pretty intense. On one hand, they are an annoyance; I can’t get any work done outside (or is that a blessing in disguise), power constantly flicking on and off, and everything just being wet. On the other hand they are beautiful, the smell of a fresh rain, the light show, and what it is doing for our garden are all amazing.

Storms come into our lives. They simply do and will always be there. God never promised that we would not face the storms but he did promise that we would get through them. Jesus sent his disciples into the middle of a horrendous storm (Matthew 14: 22 – 33). As people living in a fallen world among fallen people we need to realize that there will be storms. Faith is all about recognizing that even when the storms come God knows about them and in fact may have sent us directly toward them. He knows what we need. He knows our hearts cry to have a stronger relationship with Him so at times he allows the storms of life to come to cause us to grow.

God is our protector, our shield, our high tower, our very-present-help in time of trouble. He will deliver us from the storm as He did with the disciples when He calmed the storm. Their faith was increased as they saw the storm calmed. They began to believe that the Lord could do anything. Most of the disciples were fisherman or lived around the sea and knew the dangers of these storms. God wanted to show them that He was more powerful than the fears that were so familiar to them.

We will face all kinds of things. We can’t allow anything to be more powerful in our eyes that God. He is the one that is in charge and there are times that we will battle our greatest fears. God may allow them to raise their ugly heads so that He can show us He is far more powerful than any fear we may face.

When we allow the Lord to be I control, it is very easy to see the storm go from and ugly annoyance to something beautiful. When the storm comes into your life, know that God knows. Understand that while He may or may not have caused it either way He has allowed it. If we don’t panic but instead choose to trust, He will overcome our storm and show us we no longer need to fear. We can always expect great things when we trust the Lord!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Who am I?

Every now and again someone will ask me that question. At times, it is an emotional crisis that triggers it; a job loss, divorce, or death of a loved one. Other times it is simply a time of reflection and self-evaluation.

Jesus asked this question of His disciples in Matthew 16:13 – 16

“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Was Jesus having an emotional crisis? Was He having a time of reflection? In this case, Jesus was asking because He wanted the people around Him to understand the answer to that question.

The first part of the question is general, “People are seeing the miracles, hearing my words, and watching my actions and reactions, who do they think I am?”

Jesus words about the coming Kingdom and call to repentance reminded some of John the Baptist ministry. In their odd way they believed in reincarnation. They were attributing the miracles they were seeing to God through ungodly means. It is not dissimilar to Christians who play the lottery or read their horoscopes everyday thinking that those things can honor or flow with God’s principles.

The prophecies speak of Elijah being the forerunner of the messiah. Many believed the Messiah would be an earthly king who would free the nation of Israel from their oppressors. They could not imagine this humble servant being the messiah so they thought he was the forerunner Elijah. Our view of who Jesus is is often set by our expectations. The Lord is not limited to what we believe about Him, however our relationship with Him will be limited by our beliefs. We can not move in faith with the Lord in areas.

Jeremiah was the weeping prophet. Jesus was acquainted with weeping. He wept over Jerusalem, over his friend Lazarus that we know for sure. There were probably other times when His heart would break and he would weep. If they only saw him as a prophet and one that He was sad all of the time they missed major points of who Jesus really is. Many did that with the various characteristics of other prophets as well. The Lord will allow us to identify with one aspect of His character or nature as He works out some of the struggles we face, however to be all that we are called to be we must understand all of who the Lord is, as much as we can.

Then Jesus challenged those closest to Him, “who do you say that I am?” He wanted them to search through all that they had seen and heard and realize who Jesus really is. He wanted them to know it, deep inside, where it could not be shaken. What we believe about God, who He is, what He is like, and what He thinks about us, shapes who we are. If we believe that God is waiting to “drop the other shoe on us” or if we believe that He is only a wrathful judge, we miss the love of God. If we think He is simply this soft cuddly guy in heaven we miss the holiness of God.

I hate to keep repeating myself but the difference is made as we get to know Him better. We know Him better through prayer, reading His Word and fellowshipping with other people of like faith.

Who do you say that Jesus is? Don’t limit Him to what you know, get to know Him better and be amazed at who He is!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It is not about us, it is about Him.

This past Sunday I shared the story of the King of Judah, Asa. At one point in his tenure as king he was faced with a battle of impossible odds. There are many times in our lives when we face impossible odds. There are crises we face regarding our health, families, jobs, and finances that all seem impossible at times. Those are the times when we have the opportunity to look back at say, “God I remember when you did this or that for me so I know you can deliver me through this crisis!” That is the right attitude to have.

There are times when we go through tough things and the worry or fear become too much and rather than turning to God we end up trying to make things happen our way. King Asa had turned to the Lord when he was overwhelmed by an army twice the size of his own but as he became confident in his own skills he relied less and less on the Lord until he came to similar situation years later and tried to fix the situation in his own strength. The result was disaster, years of war because of a lack of trust in the Lord.

The writer of Hebrews in 11:6 has stressed to us that without faith it is impossible to please Him. Our walk with Christ is a faith walk. Everyday our focus, our hope, and our trust should be in and with Him. God has given us the gifts of our personalities, wisdom, and skill sets but they are to be all surrendered to Him. When we begin to trust in the gifts rather than the giver of the gifts we run into problems. David is an excellent example of how to keep things in perspective. In 1 Samuel chapter 30, David the warrior soon to be king is faced with a crisis, while he was away at battle, another army came into his camp and stole all of the stuff and kidnapped all of their families of his army. He is a warrior, he could easily decided, “Let’s go get these guys!” Instead, he began to think about who God is and has been to him so he pauses to ask the Lord what He would have him do. God honors his waiting to seek him and not only does David get back all that has been stolen but more that that and in the process wipes out and army that has been a hassle to Israel for years.

When we trust in the Lord, wait on Him, and seek Him first, we are always rewarded with more than we could imagine. In another example, Zechariah prophesies to Zerubbabel and Joshua. The situation is that the nation of Israel is returning from Babylonian captivity and they have great needs. They need protected; they needed to rebuild Jerusalem, and the temple. They need an army but the Lord says to them, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of host.” God saw their great needs but the Lord said to them you will not accomplish these things in your strength but in My strength.

It is a challenge to trust God. Everything inside of us wants to make it happen in our timing and our way. When we surrender our lives to Him then our lives are His and we need to trust Him. Even when we see the messes around us, we need to determine that we are going to trust Him. Remember without faith it is impossible to please God. It is scary to trust Him, but our lives are not about us, they are about Him.

So how do we make this leap? Few days ago I talked about prayer, yesterday about the word, getting to know the Lord better helps us trust Him. Start each day, talking to Him and reading His word. The better we know someone the more we are able to trust him or her. The wonderful thing about that is, it is God’s heart that we get to know Him. He says in Jeremiah 29 that when we seek Him we will find Him and find His strength.

He wants us to know Him. He wants to have relationship with us. He wants us to experience daily peace and joy even in the middle of the storms. He created you for a purpose. He has a plan. It is really about Him. Get to know Him better and begin to enjoy life more.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How do we get there from here?

Have you ever asked that question? I sure have. If I am struggling to find my way I always consult people that are familiar with the area or resources that were created to help me find my way. The problem is, whom do you ask or what resources can we trust?

If you go to Google maps and plug in my address it will either send you past my house on the main road in front or cause you to stop short on the main road to the side. If you ask the wrong person, they make act like they know what they are doing but give you incorrect information.

Someone with information may sound correct if you are uninformed but the more understanding you have the more confused an uninformed person sounds. Why am I talking about this today? Statistics show us that the over whelming majority of American’s call themselves Christian, yet feel it is OK to cheat, lie, and engage in premarital sex. The average Christian spends less than 5 minutes per week in the Bible. Relationship with the Lord is a place we are going and a place we should be in right now. The way to get there from here is to do the basics.

The basics of developing a relationship with the Lord are prayer (which I blogged about the other day), fellowship with other believers and reading the Bible. So many people get off track because they read books about God but not God’s book. People listen to people who claim to understand being a Christian but do not read or believe the Bible themselves. Jesus called them blind guides.

Psalm 119:105 says this about God’s Word, the Bible:

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.

Paul wrote to the young preacher, Timothy with this encouragement about the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16,17

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

Reading the Bible is the way to understand where we are supposed to go and what we are supposed to do. The Bible is also the measuring rod for walking in truth, love, and righteousness. It is God’s love letter to us, a way for us to understand His nature and character. It teaches us how to be who God has called us to be. It is what the Holy Spirit illumines in our hearts. It is the truth the Holy Spirit uses to guide us. If we are not in the word the Holy Spirit has little to draw on in our lives to guide us and lead us into all truth. So many, as the scripture says are destroyed, shipwrecked, or wander because they are not grounded in God’s word.

If we read the Bible at least a little everyday, our lives will change. Perhaps if you have gotten out of the habit of reading your Bible you can start with a chapter a day. Read a book in the Bible that you can relate to; if you like History read Kings, Chronicles, Genesis, Exodus, if poetry the Psalms, Job, if adventure, Judges or Acts, if daily wisdom Proverbs, or if encouraging, inspiring stories Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. There is something for everyone. It is a great thing to read the entire Bible but don’t worry about that for now. Start where you are and read your interest first. God can speak to you and guide you through every word in the Bible. You will never be lost again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Good Morning Lord!

I want to let you in on a secret, something I try to do every morning. I am successful most mornings. When the alarm goes off, I lie in bed for a few moments, not grimacing about the alarm going off, but thanking the Lord for the day, asking Him to enable me to bless Him some how, and asking for His leading throughout the day. I know it is not something that is easy to do especially if you have not gotten enough rest. For me, I believe it really makes a difference in my attitude and sets my priorities for the day.

David put it this way in Psalm 63

"O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.”

“This is not the only time that I pray in the day, it is simply the way I like to start my day. It is not something I put on, it is not some magic, it is simply my heart’s desire to show my appreciation to the Lord, first in my day.

I love talking with the Lord. I also love when He speaks to my heart as well. It is a wonderful blessing to have a relationship with the God who created all things and is still in control.

There is so much in this world to worry over. There is equally as much to fear. God sets things in motion for our blessing when we put Him first. We receive refreshing, encouragement and are able to rise above all of the muck and mire when we put Him first.

Isaiah prophesied this word in 40:31;

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

I am sharing this with you in the hope that you will try my habit. Test it to see if it makes a difference for you. I love waking up with a grateful heart and placing Him first. It starts my day in communion with the Lord and I continue our discussions throughout the day. You are always part of that discussion!