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?