Thursday, August 30, 2012

Be Ye Holy

So I was just talking with my mom about how we are to live differently from the world.  Several things along these lines have provoked my thinking recently, and I wanted to put them “on paper” here.

I live in Brooklyn, NY.  We have a large population of Orthodox Jewish people.  And no matter where I go in the City, I can tell when a person is Jewish.  It’s evident.  You can tell by their attire.  The men wear black suits with white shirts, and nice hats. I like their hats.  The ladies wear long skirts, stockings, and long sleeves.  Usually it’s just black and white, but sometimes they have a stripe or color in their blouse.  Many people would look and them and say “weird.”  Or “out of style.”  But they identify with their people, unashamed, and they leave no question about who they are.

How about Christians.  Can you spot them a mile away?  Can you instinctively tell when you are talking to another believer?  Sometimes.  But often I am blown away in surprise when someone tells me they are a Christian {or at least they claim to be a Christian}.

The problem is this.  They wear the same fashion as the world.  And I cannot help but blush in shame at the tight pants, immodest necklines, or short skirts that many professing Christian girls wear in public.  They listen to the same music as the world.  Their Facebook page boasts pictures from last night’s concert or talks about the latest movie they went to see.  They are pumping their minds with the same filth as the world, and any resemblance to the Christ they claim as their own is flooded out.  Overpowered.  Undistinguishable.

Gandhi said this: “I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  So sad…but too often so true.

Then today I read Joanna Weaver’s blog post about holiness, and it summed up everything I have been thinking and wanting to say.  {You should read the entire article} She writes:

Holiness. Not a terribly popular word in Christian circles these days.

We’d rather talk about mercy and grace; the forgiveness and tenacious patience of our Father who is “not willing that any should perish.” All wonderful topics and the bedrock of our Christian faith. And yet, if we insist on seeing only a loving God we run the risk of never experiencing the power of a life-changing God.

But to stop at the cross and never enter into His resurrection and a new way of life would be a tragedy. For the same grace that saves us is also the grace that changes us. Sanctifies and purifies us. Sets us apart and makes us holy. Makes us more like Jesus and less like us.

But we have to cooperate with that grace. And therein lies the rub.

To choose holiness means we have to be willing to embrace certain limitations on our freedom. To allow certain restrictions be placed on our lives by the Holy Spirit, though we’re surrounded by others who seem to have no restrictions at all. Bottom line, if we want to be holy, we are going to have to call sin what God calls it. Missing the mark. Disobedience which not only separates us from His heart, but discredits our claims of love.

To be honest, even as I write, I’m convicted of black-and-white areas in my life which have grown gray over the years. Scruples that I used to live by which have slowly become muddied. Certain behaviors and past times I partake of that I had a strong sense of conviction against – a conviction brought by the Holy Spirit not a set of rules and bylaws. Covenantal guidelines that determined what I would watch. What I would read. Activities I would forego simply because I knew they grieved His heart and quenched His Spirit’s work in my life. Forgive me, Lord.

I don’t want to “tolerate through sympathy” with myself “any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God.” A call to holiness may not be popular right now but that doesn’t mean it is no longer valid. Though we may have changed our mind about how we should live, God hasn’t.

In my devotions I am working through a book on the Incarnation of Christ.  He was not just a likeness of God in human flesh – He was God.  Claudia Barba says “Jesus Christ, however, is much more than an approximate facsimile of God.  He is the precise, perfect likeness of His Father, reflecting and revealing Him in every way.” 

That’s what I want to be.  Not a Christian in name only, and not just similar to the One I claim as Lord of my life.  I want to live holy, so that it is stands out in crystal clarity to a dark world around me.  I want to be as close to the precise likeness of Christ that I can attain here on earth, reflecting and revealing Him in every way.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Scrub the Grout

img_5953Last week I finally took the time to scrub the grout and tiles in my bathtub/shower area.  It’s a job I should do more often, but I dislike it so I usually put it off.  I should tell you that we live in a house built in 1905.  We have a dumbwaiter in our bathtub.  Thing are not very modern or up-to-date, including the tiling and bathtub.  There are stains and molds that I just can’t scrub away, no matter how long or hard I try, or what type of cleanser I use.  And so, even when it is really clean it still looks dirty.  For this reason, I often don’t bother to scrub it very well at all.  But I knew it had a been a while, and so I decided to tackle the job – one of the most unpleasant parts about homemaking, right up there with changing a crib sheet.

As I was scrubbing I thought about how the tiles and grout are much like my own life.  Sometimes I get so tired of falling, of getting tripped up by the same sin or temptation, that I just decide to not try anymore.  Or I relax my standards too many times thinking “it’s just this once” and then I find myself in a habit of sin.

My mornings and quiet times with God have been like this summer.  I don’t like to admit it, but I have been…not diligent.  I stayed up too late.  I slept in.  I had an appointment.  I wanted to get to the park before it was too hot.  So I skipped my quiet time.  Or I put it off.  I didn’t make it a priority.  And before I knew it, the grout of my day – that which is holding all of the tiles in place – was dirty and disgusting.  I had a bad habit.  Now I have to try to break it.

I noticed little bits of dirt and “soap scum” creeping into others areas too.  I didn’t scrub them away fast enough, and before I knew it they had built up.  Now they will be harder to scrub off.  Things like watching movies at night.  We don’t watch anything even close to “bad.”  Try black and white reruns of McHales Navy or the Andy Griffith Show.  But they leave my head spinning when it’s time for bed, and then I don’t rest well.  I fare much better when I read part of a book before bed.  Something to encourage me, challenge me, help me to understand more about Christlikeness or how to parent my children in a godly fashion.

Song of Solomon 2:15 says it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine.  Those small things that we let slide, thinking they are no big deal.  But then they turn into really big deals.  So quickly and easily.

I don’t have kids in school, but I grateful for summer and all of its activities coming to a close so that I have no excuse but to get back on track.  To reform my morning habits and refocus my quiet times.  To evaluate my habits and my leisure times and make sure they are glorifying God.

How about you?  Do you need to scrub any grout in your life?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hope Thou in God

Hope thou in God 5x7 jpg

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 42:11

  • The Lord will send HIs lovingkindness in the daytime(vs.8)
  • He will give me a song in the night (vs.8)
  • He is my rock (vs.9)
  • Even when the enemy presses hard upon me, I can have hope in God and praise Him (vs.10-11)
  • God is my strength (43:2)
  • He will send His light and truth to guide me when everything seems dark and hopeless (43:3)
  • He will give me joy and praise (43:4)
  • The victory will not be because of my own strength, but because of God’s power (44:3)
  • He gives us strength to tread down the enemy (44:5)

“Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way.” Psalm 44:18 

Hope thou in God!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What is Inside?

Zucchini Pie

I have just finished baking a beautiful pie to complement our dinner tonight.  Usually I have trouble making the crust look right, or it gets a little too brown, but this one looks just about perfect.  If I were to invite you over for dinner, and then bring my pie to the table, you would probably be licking your lips for some homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream.  Would you be disappointed when I told you it was a zucchini pie?

When I’m working in the kitchen my mind is usually going a hundred miles an hour faster than my hands.  So this was my thought as I made that pie…

It’s important that we are on the inside what we look like on the outside.  And vice versa.  Jesus talked about this when He was rebuking the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27.  He said,

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.” 

The idea is that these white-washed, exquisitely maintained “buildings” looked wonderful from the outside, but when you took a peek inside you found only rottenness and decay.  The Pharisees were the same – they kept up all the appearances, but there was no spiritual vitality within them.  They were still dead in trespasses and sins.

So…are you an apple pie or a zucchini pie?  Does your coworker shake his head when he discovers that you claim to be a Christian, because He knows how you really live?  Do you shy away from close relationships with other church members because they might find out you are bitter?  Are you a “good Christian girl” only at church on Sundays?

And let’s flip the coin over.  If you have Christ in your life then it should be showing.  But are you cultivating the inner relationship with Him, or only making it look like you have your devotions?  Are you really demonstrating Christ in your service and actions, or is it just puffed up self-righteousness to make you look good?

Now, sometime I will make you a zucchini pie.  In the case of my pie, you may be slightly disappointed if your taste buds were geared up for apple.  But chances are, you won’t tell the difference.  And even if you are a little disappointed, I’m sure you will still enjoy it.  Zucchini pie is “mock apple pie” but it’s still delicious. 

Just don’t let your Christian life be the “mock” version.
Let it be real…let it be Christ in you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In the House of the Righteous is Much Treasure

I’ve been trying to read a Proverb a day this month.  Since today is the 15th I read Proverbs 15.  Many of the verses seemed to fall into three categories: The tongue; rich vs. poor; and foolish vs. wise.  But the verses on rich vs. poor stood out to me.  Maybe because we have had some recent physical/financial needs for which God has abundantly provided.  Maybe because we are still trusting Him to provide several things.

    • Proverbs 15:6 In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.
    • Proverbs 15:16  Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.
    • Proverbs 15:17  Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
    • Proverbs 15:27  He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.

These verses clearly point out that it doesn’t matter what or how much you own, but the quality of your family life is what is important.  God will provide what we need physically when we are living in His will.  And God will do things better…abundantly…beyond our imagination.

Sometimes we have a skewed view of what it really takes to be rich.  My bank account would tell you differently, but I know that I am blessed beyond measure.  I am rich…just not with money.

A word of personal testimony…I never had the money sitting in the bank to pay for my college tuition.  I never took out a loan.  My parents helped a little when they could.  But I graduated debt free in four years.  God took care of the college bill because I was following His lead to be there in the first place.  {He may not choose to do it the same way for everyone, but certainly He will provide for us to follow His will}.

Though my kitchen cupboards are overflowing from God’s last provision, I received “gifts” from three more people this week.  One lady called us to pick up some food at the church.  There was an abundance of meat in the bags {something we have been cutting back on since finances were tight}.  A free haircut and several bags of toiletries.  Bags of groceries that were treats for my kids – juice boxes, cookies, and snacks.  Clothes for my children for the winter.

I don’t say this to boast, but to encourage.  We live in a very expensive city, in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression, and my husband makes a small wage with no benefits. 

So to the student who wants to attend Bible college, but doesn’t have the money…go.  Work hard. Let the Lord do amazing things for you.

To the mom who wants to stay home with her children, but doesn’t think they can survive on one income…do it.  If God wants you with your kids, He will provide what you need {and maybe you can cut out some of the “extras” in order to help make it possible}.

To the missionary on deputation with the looming task of raising enough support to get to the field…God will bring in your support.  If He has called you to that field, He will make the way for you to go there.

Don’t give up on doing God’s Will for your life because of the finances.  Don’t let the world tell you what you have to have to be a success.  Step out in faith, eat a dinner of herbs if you have to, and watch God do amazing things to provide for your needs.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Just a Note on “Profanity”

I’ve been bothered a little bit lately by several people referring to God or His work in “everyday” type terminology.  The Bible calls this “profane”, that is, taking what is holy and making it common or base.

God is not common, nor base.  He is holy.  He is God.  He is separate from us and the world.

One writer referred to the new church her husband was planting and said that “this is God’s gig.”  I have often heard “God is my co-pilot” or people calling Him “Dad.”  I just think those terminologies are lowering God from who He is. 

God doesn’t have a “gig.”  He has a church, and it is amazing beyond anything that we could conceive or do.  We are privileged to be a part of it.  God isn’t my co-pilot – He is to be my pilot.  My Shepherd.  My Guide.  He doesn’t help me do things, He does them through me.  And while one of God’s names is Abba Father which could be translated as “Daddy,” I think that we should refrain from always viewing Him in that common of a relationship.  Sometimes it is very comforting to realize that God is as close as a Daddy would be, but He is so much more than that.

{I also realize that while Jesus Christ was on earth, He was made like man in every aspect, so that He can say He bore our infirmities.  There is nothing that I can experience with which He cannot empathize.  He has felt and experienced it all.  So He is like us in some respects, and that can also be a comforting fact.}

As I was meditating on this, the thought occurred to me that when we profane God by lowering Him to a common level, we are trying to make Him seem just like us.  We are trying to put God into our terms.  To confine Him in our box. 

Yet as an eternal being, God is beyond us, beyond what we can describe or define or package up.  God is trying to conform us into His image.  He is trying to make us like Himself.  Let’s stop trying to make Him seem more like us, and concentrate on becoming more like Him.

Monday, August 6, 2012

You in Christ and Christ in You

I think that if I condensed my spiritual year down to one lesson, it is that I have been learning to walk in the Spirit.  I grew up in church and I have heard preaching on this subject all my life, but I don’t think I ever really understood it.  The preacher always made it seem unattainable, hard to understand, maybe even “mystical”.  Like it was just this concept out there that no one could explain.

It is evident to me that my pastor here in Brooklyn walks in the Spirit on a daily basis.  He has been preaching on this topic, and victory, and union in Christ {they are all woven together} a lot.  I feel like things are clicking – making sense.  I am still learning, but I have seen the difference in my life when I walk in the Spirit.  And I have understood what I was doing, and when I was not doing it.

Yesterday in our Bible Study Pastor gave two Old Testament illustrations of “You in Christ” and “Christ in You.”  They helped to clarify the picture for me even further.

Will You Marry Me - Engagement DayIn Exodus 15:22-26 the children of Israel come to the bitter waters of Marah, after marching in the wilderness for three days and being in desperate need of water.  This pictures for us salvation – how we come to be in Christ. The waters were not drinkable and held only the prospect of certain death.  Everyone was thirsty.  Everyone would die without water.  Sin in a universal problem – just as the lack of water affected all of the Israelites.  But then the Lord showed Moses a tree which made the water sweet.  This is  picture of salvation.

The first tree was in the Garden of Eden, and when Adam chose to eat of it it brought sin and death. The second tree was called Calvary.  It is the tree of a second choice, and it brings life as salvation places us in Christ.

2 Kings 2:19-22 illustrates the Christ in You principle.  Shortly after Elijah’s translation to heaven, Elisha was brought to a city which appeared to be pleasant.  It looked good from the outside, but poor, stagnant, polluted water prevented the land from bringing a crop to harvest.  It was barren.  This city is a picture of the carnal Christian.  Everything looks fine.  They put on a great show at church. But inwardly they are living for self & sin, not walking in the victory provided by the Spirit.  There is nothing that says to others, “Christ lives in me.”

The burden of this city became so intolerable that they confessed their barren situation to the prophet.  They were moved to action.  Elisha threw salt in at the source of the water, and it was healed so that the city could be fruitful.  This is a picture of the life of Christ in me & you. 

Every believer has spiritual water in him.  But sometimes through self & sin our water becomes polluted.  We need to go to the Source of our water to be healed, so that we are restored to life-giving water.  The life of the Risen Christ within us heals the barrenness of the saint.  If we get “salt” in our “water” then the rivers of living water will flow to all of our other relationships.  When we have problems with “horizontal” relationships it is because we have not been pouring into our “vertical” or spiritual relationship. In reality, the only thing which can heal all other relationships is Christ in us.

In the first picture, the Tree heals the bitterness of sin. 

In the second picture, the life of the Risen Christ heals the barrenness of the saint.

Will You Marry Me - Engagement DayHe that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive…”  {John 7:38-39}

How are your waters today?