Friday, December 7, 2012

Seeking Him for Him

Truth is, many of us approach the Word of God legalistically.

The thought going through your head is, “I know I don’t.”

Hang with me. You probably do more than you think. I know I did.

There are two reasons people obey the commands of God. 1) Because they love Him. 2) Because they feel as though they will get something from Him. If we are completely honest with ourselves, we have to admit that yes, sometimes we obey just because we feel like we will get something from Him.

Mr. Nuernburg always makes an awesome point. If you go to college and diligently seek and education, what do you think you’ll get? An education. If you diligently pursue marriage, what will you get? Marriage! That’s logical. But, sometimes people get in their minds that diligently seeking God will get them. . .a successful business? Comfort? Easy life? Or maybe just peace and quiet? But is that logical? If you diligently seek God, what will you find? God!

Hebrews 11 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

That being said, I have to throw out any wrong motive in myself to seek the Lord. If I seek Him with all my heart, I will find Him. He is the great reward. For me, I know that I’ve had motives like, “If I seek the Lord, my relationships with people will always be healthy. If I seek the Lord, my life will be manageable. If I seek the Lord, I can handle problems.”

These statements may be half-way true, but if they are my motives for serving the Lord, I am just like a hypocrite. I am obeying God for a blessing. Mr. Nuernburg often draws like a little flow chart thingy that always goes from love, to obedience, to blessing, to light.
1    1)      Love the Lord.
2    2)      Love causes obedience.
3    3)      Obedience brings blessing (which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit).
4    4)      Blessing causes us to be a light to others around us.

If we skip the love, we won’t have whole-hearted obedience. And if there is no whole-hearted obedience, God cannot really abide in our lives (which is the blessing, by the way. Not riches, or ease). And if He is not abiding in our lives, then we can’t be a blessing to others that need the Gospel.
So, this provokes me to examine my life. If the outflow of my life is not light to other people, then where am I going astray? Most likely on the first step. The greatest commandment we have is to 
 “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37)”. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You're Not Doing Your Job

Let me put it plainly.

I do not care what talents you have or don’t have. I do not care how financially stable or unstable you are. I do not care if you are a gifted speaker or not. I do not care if you feel “called” or not. I do not care if you’ve been a Christian for 20 days or 20 years. I do not care if you have a degree in Ministry or not. I do not care if you go to church or not.

And you know what? God doesn’t care either.

The fact is that we, as the redeemed, have a divine goal. This is to bring glory to God by spreading His name among the nations. We are called to have a heart for the Gospel and the Father’s will – just like Jesus did. We are called to go and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We must teach them to observe all things that God has commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20).

I have been under incredible teaching at the Evangelical Institute since September. What a challenging few months it has been. I’ve been learning so much. We talk about the life of faith in God all the time. We talk about following God out of a heart of love. We are exploring the definition of evangelism in Ministry 1. To sum, my way of thinking about my life has been turned inside out and upside down. On top of this teaching, I’ve been reading Radical by David Platt. Yikes. If that book doesn’t make you examine your shallow, selfish Christianity, I don’t know what will.

So, adding up all these lessons has brought me to this:

“My purpose, as a ransomed daughter of the Lord, is to magnify His name by sharing in His heart and in His purpose for the world to be reconciled to Him – for His ultimate glory and adoration. His purpose must renovate my way of life, my desires and my goals. His pleasure must be my aim and His glory my passion. I will use anything that God has placed into my stewardship for His purposes, not my own – surrendering all I have to Him (since it was never mine in the first place). I will take His Word literally, taking upon my own back the privilege of making disciples of all nations and expanding the Kingdom of God. This is not my calling – because all believers are called. This is the minimal cost of love for my Adonai.”

What I am coming to learn is that I am not authorized to leave the evangelism and discipleship to the few who have degrees, or are professionals, or who know how. I have the means to equip myself to be a soldier for the Lord. I have the Word of God, my textbook and the Spirit, my teacher. Of course, it is wise for me to have counselors in my life who can lead me. But honestly, I have what I need to live out the great commission. And so do you.

Why are you leaving the Great Commission to the “called?” You, you the one reading this, have been called. Does it mean that you have to live overseas? No. Does it mean that you have to live in a hut? No. But it does mean that you, as a child of God, are commanded to apply the command of the Word to your life. Not theirs. Not his or hers. But yours. Anything less is unbiblical Christianity. 1 John says that we will know we are Christians if His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:2-3).

God doesn’t care what you have or don’t have, because if you have been redeemed your calling is the exact same as mine. Yes, He does give us specific gifts and blessings so that we can work in different areas – and He will lead us into those – but overall His plan and purpose for Christians are the same. 

“Go therefore and teach and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Live your divine purpose with me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Refreshing Jesus

I’ve made a practice of drinking half my body weight in ounces of water daily. So that leaves me around 68 to 70 ounces a day. I noticed the reaction of my body when it is the recipient of such an amount. I have less headaches (I’m headache prone sadly), have more energy, my sinuses and allergies feel manageable, and my stomach is flatter – weight loss. When I give my body the water it needs, I’m a healthier person.
On the flip side, when I neglect water, I have regular headaches, my sinuses are clogged, my stomach bloats and I am tired. Really tired. It makes since though. I’m forcing my body to do all the same things but with not enough (or the right type of) fuel.
At E.I. we run a mile on Mondays. When it’s hot outside, the only thing I want to do is have a nice long drink afterwards. I get to the dining room for lunch and head straight to the water dispenser. Last Monday, I distinctly remember spilling some on my shirt in my enthusiasm. The water instantly relieved the dry, sand-paper feel of my lips and tongue, revitalizing me and boosting my energy level. When I have water moments such as these, I’m reminded how I should not go long without water, because my body desperately needs it – especially when I am exercising a lot.
I am like this with most of my physical needs. If I really need water, I’ll run to the nearest water source and slurp it up, sometime with such haste that I spill it. If my stomach is whining, I’ll make sure that I get some food in it as soon as possible. Sometimes I’m so hungry that I will satisfy that need with no manners at all, like make a mess in the process or forget to chew with my mouth closed. Or with sleep. I’ll flop down on my bed after a long day, forget about everything else and just sleep. I will satisfy these needs with little dignity. Just anything to make sure that I get what I need.
Truthfully, you probably won’t see anyone who is really hungry or really thirsty or really tired take care of those things with poise. Normally, the seriously hungry will scarf down food and have multiple portions, or those that are thirsty will gulp down their liquid with extra noise, or the really tired may fall asleep in unusual places.
What this makes me ask, is why do I try to be dignified when I approach the Lord? If we are talking about needs, the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ is my greatest need. Why don’t I approach Him like I do other things? Why do I act like everything has to be “just so” before I approach Him – like He’s gonna be offended if I don’t have my Bible or have tons of time. I need to learn how to run to my room, drop my bags and fall to the floor, ready to be refreshed by my King. David wrote in the Psalms: “My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land where there is water.” Okay, if David was in a dry and thirsty land, then saw an oasis, do you think he would a get a glass, ice cubes and gently sip some water in a dignified, Kingly way? NO! He would run to the pool, jump in, gulping as he splashed around in joy. At that point, who would care about poise and image? Just satisfy yourself! Same thing with the Lord. Why do I pray with dignity? It’s my pride – telling me that I have to have myself together and know what I’m going to say before I come to the Lord, which is a lie. He wants me to draw near, in my filth, in my disorganization, in my distraction, in my weariness, in my inability, and in my unfaithfulness so that He may fellowship with me and refresh my heart, satisfying my deepest desires – that no salad, cold water or sleep can.   
Just like I would be okay if I got an apple instead of a full meal, I’m refreshed even a little when I stop for a short moment to remember who I serve and let Him minister to me. And when I regularly do this, just like drinking water often, I feel myself get spiritually fit. Spiritual fitness comes from just quality time with Him. And consistency. I’ve been learning about consistency. If I were to eat once a week, I would be one scary looking creature. Same goes for my spiritual life. If I feed on the “Daily Bread” (aka God) once a week, I’m going to be a visibly mal-nourished Christian. I may be able to hide my emaciated body for a short time by wearing baggy clothes and keeping my distance from people. But the moment someone touches me or uncovers me, my true form will be revealed. I can hide my lack of spiritual health for only a while. When the rubber meets the road, my unloving, selfish flesh will be released like a pack of wild dogs. I will not have Jesus by my side to hold them back because I neglected to seek His presence.         
Saul’s daughter, Michal, got upset with King David because he was dancing before the Lord in the presence of other people. He was celebrating. He did not care who was watching, he just celebrated the Lord. Am I willing to strip myself of all my fleshly pride and just celebrate in the person of Jesus Christ, letting the knowledge or His sacrifice revitalize me?
I want to be the type of woman who lives full speed. She gives, pours out, serves, loves, worships, protects and works. She wears herself out on physical tasks and relationships. But, her driving force and escape is her time with the Lord. After a long day, she runs to her room, slams the door, and sinks to the floor –exhausted. Pouring her heart out to God, she processes her day and the lessons she received. Then, she can dance before the Lord. Celebrating what He has done for her. She rejoices in the fact that she has a River of Life that she can draw from any time she needs. She is invited to that River constantly – no prerequisites, dress code, or standard. There is no place she would rather be.
How should you change the way you approach the Giver of Life? Are there any ways you feel that you need to be prepared before coming to Him? Do you feel like being refreshed by Him is the wrong idea? That when you come to the Lord, it only has to be for learning and prayer for needs?
Maybe you need to go to Him for the first time in a long time.
I did. Guess what? I found refreshment. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm Obsessed With My Mansion

(It's been months. I've been away at camp and all. While I was there, I felt like I almost lost my knack for writing. This post took forever because it felt really...well, forced. Hopefully I'll get into the swing of it again. I miss this place.)

I know I've read this Bible verse many times, but upon reading it yesterday, it took on a real meaning for me.
Luke 12:23 "Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing."
It's sad to say this, but sometimes I feel like that is what people have reduced their lives to. Of course not JUST food and clothing, but overall, everything is about physical/material pleasure. Everything. If it's not about food plans or the latest clothing style, it's someone making arrangements to see the premier of the movie, it's someone going into debt to buy a car they don't really need, it's someone changing their hair every other week because they are discontent with what God's given them, it's someone playing video games incessantly, it's that unmarried couple that can't keep their hands off each other, or it's someone who sleeps all the time because it feels good.

Is it just me or is this "physical and material things are what we live for" problem a running trend? I notice it everywhere in the world, but honestly, I'm seeing it in the Christian community as well. In fact, Christians are often just as bad.

Watch this video real quick. Yes, yes, yes. It's a little extreme, but it does have a point. I've never even seen Wally. Just this clip...

Like I said, extreme, right? The part I love is when the woman's computer thingy is broken and for the first time she looks around and is wondering where the heck she has been the whole time. I think we can learn so much from that. While we are involved and dwelling on the physical, we forget other things. In fact, it can blind us to what really matters. For example, that woman had no idea what was going on around her, then she came to her senses finally. Same thing. If we are caught up in the material, we can be completely blind to the spiritual needs of other people or even the state of our economy.

So, am I claiming to never become distracted by "stuff?" Absolutely not. I need a car pretty badly and I've been letting that one stress me out pretty bad. But, while I'm stressing, I'm missing opportunities to pray and be glad in the Lord.

29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 32 So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.
Wow. It gives our Father happiness to give us what we need. Earlier in the passage, it says that ravens neither sow nor reap and yet God feeds and clothes them! If He cares for ravens He will care even more for us!

Is this a reason to get OCD about possessions? No! It's a reason for us to never worry about them. Because God is pleased when HE provides us with what we need, but he is never glorified when we over indulge and take more than is healthy. 
Proverbs 23:20-21 "Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags."
When can we say we are gluttons? Well, I always refer to this verse...
 1 Corinthians 6:12b "....I will not be mastered by anything."
That leads me to the question: What is mastering me? What do I worship? You know, the Bible says that our mouth will tell people what is in our hearts. If everything you talk about and spend your time on has to do with physical, earthly things, then examine your heart.

Are you worshiping the gifts, or the Giver?
James 1:17 "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, in whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."
If you're worshiping the gifts, you need to remember where they come from and what their purpose is. John 10:10 says that Jesus came to earth so that we can have ABUNDANT life. But what gives that abundant life? Is it all the food, clothing and houses God has blessed us with? No.


If Christians go around trying to spread the Good News, but then are so dependent on their "stuff," then what kind of Gospel are we preaching? People want to be freed! We have been! We can live abundant life without any of the earth's treasures. Let's show the world how to be happy solely with Jesus Christ. Not be self-centered people who need their iphones to make it through the day. Our God is SO much bigger than that. 
Isn't He?

Now prove it! Fast from something you've been worshiping, encourage your brothers and sisters, surrender certain item obsessions, start spending more time in the Word than on FaceBook. Find abundant life in Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

He Would'a Had His Face Beat Into the Dirt

I'm sitting here listening to the song "Motions" by Matthew West.

"I don't wanna go through the motions.
I don't wanna live one more day
Without your all-consuming passion inside of me.
I don't wanna live my whole life asking,
'What if I had given everything?
Instead of going through the motions.'"

You know what dude in the Bible probably didn't feel like he went through the motions? David. Man, his life was interesting. And I think it's because he lived by faith. Real faith. Faith that put men more than twice his age to shame. Okay, we've all heard the story of David and Goliath a million times, but it was only the other day that I really payed attention to the way he answered Goliath. He straight-up pwned dude. Like, I bet that big-o' philistine was speechless. I mean, how could you come back to that. I would get a little nervous after hearing this:

"You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands."

Okay, as I was reading this, I was like leaning forward and cheering! WHOO! You tell that Goliath. I was instantly convicted. I don't have a physical giant to fight with, just proverbial "giants" in my life. But, how often do I scream at those giants, "I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts. The LORD will deliver you into my hands!" That's my problem! That's why I have trouble tackling issues in life. Because I don't say, "In the name of Jesus, you are NOTHING!"

I had a major duh moment.

This dude was not scared. He saw everyone doing absolutely ZERO about this massive man in the field cursing his God. He wouldn't have it. He went to the King, grabbed some stones and killed that cocky warrior. How? With faith. With faith.

I BET that if David had the attitude, "Maaaan, I'm gonna show these cowards what I'm made of." Then he probably would've been squished like a grape. That Goliath would'a beat his face into the dirt. But, he said, "The Lord will deliver me."

What courage. So, let's learn from his tactic. Tackle problems with the Word of God, faith, prayer and courage. In the name of Jesus, toss the stones!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Letting Go of King Agag

King Saul made some mistakes during his reign, but he made a final blunder that ended his career as King of Israel. I focus on this because King Saul did something we can all relate to and have all done to some extent in our individual lives.

I'll summarize the story. (You can read it all in 1 Samuel 15.)

The prophet, Samuel, gave a message from the Lord to King Saul. He said, "The Lord says, '...Go and attack Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, sheep and ox, infant and nursing child, camel and donkey."

So, Saul went into the Amalekites' land and began destroying them, but he decided to spare their king, King Agag. They destoryed everything except the good things, like the best of the lambs, ox and sheep.

Well, needless to say, King Saul's actions didn't make God or Samuel very happy. After hearing a word from the Lord, the prophet met with Saul. Saul said, "I have performed the commandment of the Lord!" I can see Saul now, getting all excited talking to Samuel, thinking that he should be praised for wiping out the Amalekites. But, Samuel did not praise Saul.

He said, "Well, what is this bleating of sheep and lowing of oxen that I'm hearing in my ears?"

Saul tried to explain, "Well, we thought we would keep the best lambs and animals to offer as offerings to God. But the rest we destroyed!"

"Be quiet!" Samuel said. "The Lord sent you on a mission to destroy and not spare the Amalekites. Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?"

"But I HAVE obeyed the voice of the Lord!" Saul insisted.

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”

Saul added to the commandment of the Lord. He put in his own words and opinions. The Lord said, "WIPE IT OUT!" Saul said, "We'll wipe it out, but..." Because of this, Saul was rejected as the King of Israel.

This story brings me back to how important obedience to the Lord is. Compromising is failure to the Lord. Anytime we insert a little of our word into God's? We've failed. Let's relate this Old Testament story to a New Testament scripture.

Matthew 7 says, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" 

This passage is talking about final judgement. There are people who are going to say, "Oh, I was saved! I did all these good things and even said a prayer for salvation! I went to church! I gave money to the poor!" But God is going to reject them because they exchanged the truth of God's Word for a lie. They believed that what they did would make them more acceptable to God. Well, folks, nothing you do is going to make you more acceptable to Jesus Christ. If you're trying to impress him with your bucket list, you're gonna fail. He wants us to believe in him, have a heart change, and spread the gospel.

The people in Matthew 7 believed that they would go to heaven for casting out demons because they started infusing their own pride and opinions with what God said. Don't we do that every day? Instead of just obeying the Lord, we try to manipulate or bend the instructions so our selfish selves get what we want. God tells me, "Ashley, let go of him. He's not what I have for you." But, I bend the instructions a little. "Well, God just said that he doesn't want me to hang out with him so much. If I'm still his friend, I can witness to him!" That's disobedience! When God gives me instructions, I must obey. When He says, "Ashley, go to Bible school!" I can't reply with, "I will....after college." Mistakes and plain disobedience can cost us our careers, health, emotional stablitiy and who knows what else? When we hear the call, we need to abandon all. All hopes, desires, dreams, opinions, reputations and everything else. We have to just kill King Agag whether we wanted to save him or not. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Once Thought Faith Was Just for Super Goody-Goody Christians

It's been over a month since I've posted. How sad. I love this blog. And I love writing. I can't believe I've let it slip into the lost-blog-realm. I shall return.

So, though I haven't been posting, I have been learning. Contrary to some of my other non-writing seasons, I am still learning. Actually, God has really been working on my heart when it comes to faith. I've never really thought lots and lots about faith. Well, I mean, I have but not like seriously dwelled on it until this year. And now, it just seems like God is saying, "Faith, Ashley! FAITH! Hey, don't forget about faith!" I'm left saying, "Okay, it! Why is this so important?" I'm a little ashamed. These almost feel like baby questions to ask. I shoulda been thinking about this one a long time ago. But, honestly, I'm glad it's happening now. The situations and circumstances in my life right now are being handled better because I'm learning daily about faith.

Before, I thought that faith was this like awesome gift that only certain, really daring, super awesome and conservative (sorry about the stereotype) Christians had. For some reason, I had this pre-conceived idea that faith was typical of "radical" Christians who knew their family history, had flowing beards, and spoke in tongues all the time. But God has been showing me that that idea is completely, one hundred percent incorrect. Hey, I guess I don't know everything?!

Okay, web search of faith's definition....Aha! "complete trust or confidence in something."
Well, according to that definition, I have to have faith everyday in little and large things. I have faith that the tires on my car won't randomly fly off when I'm driving. I have faith that I won't get shot by raving fans at Chick-fil-A. I have faith that I'm not going to die from post-surgery infection. I know we've all heard the chair example, but it's worth repeating. The chair that I'm sitting in right now. It looked pretty sturdy and I have faith that it will hold me up. But, if I were to look at the chair and say, "I have faith that chair would hold me." But then, I refuse to sit in it because I don't trust it....could we call the latter example faith?

See, this is where I think Christians just don't get it. This is where Christians miss the mark. They say, "We serve a big God and He can do whatever He wants, anytime He wants; He holds the whole wolrd in His hands. Nothing is too big for Him." Well, that's all fine and good. Say that all day long! But, until you actually ACT like you think God holds the world in His hands, how can we assume you actually have faith? How can you claim to trust, but not act on it? I trust my mother to care for me. I have faith that she won't harm me. If I didn't, I might sleep with my door locked. If I didn't trust her to keep my secrets, I wouldn't tell them to her.

See, we say we believe, that we have faith but we aren't ACTING like it. People of faith expect God to do big things. People of faith don't wait until "conditions improve" to do what God has called them to do. People of faith don't shrink away from opportunity. People of faith don't set up a church and wait for lost souls to find them. People of faith SEEK lost souls. They pray constantly. They get excited about miracles. They see God's hand even when they don't see a light at the end of the tunnel. (See the book "In a Pit With a Lion On a Snowy Day" by Mark Batternson for some more in-depth explanation of these ideas. Really, the book inspired this post.)

See where this is going? PEOPLE OF FAITH ACT ON GOD'S PROMISES. They understand what God has said and lives their lives accordingly. Friends, if you read and listen to the Word of God, it will change your life. If you listen, you will be charged with faith. For knowing more about God, more about His will, and His heart will sufficiently prepare you to do great things in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The bigger our understand about God, the smaller and more insignificant our understanding of the world.

Hebrews 11. The faith chapter. We've all heard it. I was tempted to use the first verse, but everyone has heard it a thousand times. Sometimes, we forget to look at the whole chapter in its entirety, so the last verses get forgotten. Please read this...don't skip like I do sometimes. Read it! Paul just got done listing all these Bible people who accomplished great things through faith. He continues...

Hebrews 11:32-40
"And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us."
 GUYS! Did you catch that list of stuff they did in the first paragraph? Stopping lions, quenching fire, escapes, battles, strength, dead to life...

My dream. Right here. If Paul were to be writing this book 10 years from now, what would he write about our Christianity? Would it be, "By faith...Ashley...?"

Would he write: 
"And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Susan and Kevin and Jennifer and Corey, also of Zach and Patricia and the church: who through faith furthered the Kingdom, were persecuted for Christ's name, switched careers, changed the course of history, prayed with fervency, brought the Word to tribes, constructed churches, were father to the fatherless, gave to the poor, fought for souls, loved the unlovable, denied themselves, took chances, and did the unexpected?"

What would he write about us? What type of reputation are we making for ourselves? Is it one of faith? Or are we waiting on forever? Why are we living life not expecting the Lord to do much with our lives? We serve a God where "much" doesn't exist. He is so infinite that all is equal to Him (Batterson, 31).

And yes, if we live our lives in faith, we might be torn to pieces, stoned, crucified up-side-down, and sawn in half. But to a person with faith, what is fear? 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sins of the Father, Sins of the Son

I'm going to post a pretty lengthy passage of scripture. I really hope you guys take the time to read it, because it illustrates the amazing character of God - His mercy and just judgement. It's Ezekiel 18. Guys, this is why it's also important to read the Old Testament. Get to know God for who He was and still is to this day.

So, this passage was really encouraging for me. I have a lot of fears that I will reap and have to handle the sins of my earthly father. I've battled fear that I will be forced to be like him and live life the way he has chosen to. This verse has been a scary one for me. "The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations." (Numbers 14:18)

Yikes. That's a little freaky. But wow! I was totally encouraged by this passage in Ezekiel. We really do serve and absolutely mind-boggling, flippin- amazing God. For real!

(Ezekiel 18:4-9) "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.
 5 “But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness, 6 and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period— 7 if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, 8 if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, 9 if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully—he is righteous and will surely live,” declares the Lord GOD."

To rephrase, the righteous man will live.

(10-13) “Then he may have a violent son who sheds blood and who does any of these things to a brother 11 (though he himself did not do any of these things), that is, he even eats at the mountain shrines, and defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore a pledge, but lifts up his eyes to the idols and commits abomination, 13 he lends money on interest and takes increase; will he live? He will not live! He has committed all these abominations, he will surely be put to death; his blood will be on his own head."

The unrighteous will die.

(14, 17b and18-20)“Now behold, he has a son who has observed all his father’s sins which he committed, and observing does not do likewise....he will surely live. As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was not good among his people, behold, he will die for his iniquity.19 Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity?’ When the son has practiced justice and righteousness and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live. 20 The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself."

And here is where we see the just judgement of the Lord. Those who sin will die (second death) and those who are righteous will live. I find a lot of freedom in this verse. Certain people who have had sinful fathers or mothers, tough family situations or have been in abusive relationships can find JOY and FREEDOM in knowing that there is one person, only one, that they are responsible for before the face of God. His or herself. Just because your father did it wrong, doesn't mean that you are destined to live that life as well. Just because your mother died in unrighteousness, doesn't mean you will too. And it means that you don't have to carry that. Yes, the generations to come will see the results of her/his unfruitful life, but you won't have to live in bondage to that! How awesome! How just is our God!

(21-23)But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. 23 Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? 

What mercy. God is saying, "If you are an unrighteous man, but turn to my ways, NOTHING will be remembered against you." Folks, this is waaaaaay before Jesus died on the cross, but the Old Testament is still dripping with the Gospel! This is all about faith and trusting in Jesus and how life can be attained through turning to God, through His grace capturing our lives.

(29-32) But the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right? 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”

Repent and live. And prepare to be judged according to your own conduct. This should bring freedom to anyone who is oppressed. Hear the Word of the Lord. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Looking at a Little Star from the Warmth of My Home

Sometimes, things just randomly hit you. Looking out the window tonight, I saw the beautiful crescent moon and a star directly next to it. I was totally overcome at that little star. For a two reasons that are totally unrelated.

First, that star is so noticeable because it's right next to the moon. Isn't that how our lives are? We are something because God has us in His hands and in the shelter of His wings. We shine brightly because for some incomprehensible reason, God bestowed favor on us.

Second, it dawned on me that I was viewing that star from inside a home. Simple conclusion, but that fact is one that I don't take the time to dwell on. Then, it sent me to thinking about all the things I'm not.
I'm not homeless. On the contrary, I live in a nice, warm, big home.
I'm not hungry. I just got done eating soup.
I'm not alone. I have my mother always.
I'm not friendless. I have many, old and new.
I'm not uneducated. I have had great schooling.
I'm not unhealthy. My body serves me well - even though it doesn't run fast at practice.
I'm not lost. Jesus has found me.
I'm not persecuted. I freely exercise my faith in Christ.

Wow. Just that short little list is so awesome. I seriously complain so much of the freaking time about all the stuff going on in my life. But, when I look at people who have it worse than me, I realize how foolish and pointless my gripping is. Cause I'm so blessed. Really.

When I was at Shabbot last night, I learned something really cool. Jordan spoke and he said that his shadow will never know what it feels like to be the body. The shadow will never feel temperature, pain, or anything. I guess I tend to ask stupid questions, like "Why me, Father?" because of little things that are inconvenient for me. But, for God, everything that happens to me all plays out and fits the purpose and plan for the world and for me. I have to stop acting like I'm mistreated because I don't understand "why" something happens. I gotta just realize that I'm never going to be the body. I'm never going to be able to understand the depths and purpose for things, because my mind is entirely too finite. I can't wrap my mind around God and His purposes because God is just too big. I'm too small.

To conclude, I realized that I gotta stop acting ridiculous and put out about little things in my life because a) I'm blessed and b) I won't understand my Daddy's reasons.

^Scatterbrained post.