Monday, July 30, 2012

If We Believe Not

“If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.”
2 Timothy 2:13

I am reading through the epistles, and right now I am in 2 Timothy.  Verse 13 stood out to me in my devotions this morning.  Paul lists several if-then statements in this passage:

:: If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him
:: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him
:: If we deny him, he also will deny us
:: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful

Last week was a rough one for me.  I was not in God’s Word like I needed to be.  And I was struggling with several circumstances.  I felt like giving up.  I felt like not believing God.  I felt like His Words were not coming true.  {I know…we cannot live based on our feelings.  And we feel this way, we need to speak the truth of God’s Word into our minds and hearts, and let the feelings follow}.

But verse 13 tells me that even if I choose not to believe God’s Word, then He is still faithful. 

His Words and their truth don’t change with my believing or unbelieving. 

He will remain true…faithful…unchanging no matter what. 

Even when I don’t believe it, God is working in my life. 

Even when I cannot see His hand, it is there. 

Even when I cannot see His purpose, He is bringing it to pass.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thoughts on Prayer

This week was a little discouraging for me.  I found myself in a pity party and feeling ungrateful for God’s provision for us.  I didn’t really want to go to prayer meeting.  But afterward I was so glad I did.  The Lord really used the speaker, a visiting evangelist, to boost my spirits and get my perspective back on track.  The sermon was on prayer.  Everything he said was stuff I already know.  But I really needed to be reminded.

“God is not concerned with our happiness, but with our holiness.  We will have a millenia to be happy.”  My pity party had been focused on my happiness.  I needed to re-align my focus to that which is holy.

“The power source {for the Christian life} has often been short-circuited.  Because of fear of wildfire {or being labeled as charasmatic} we have ended up with no fire.”  I know I have brushed aside many a sermon on the Holy Spirit, but I am finally realizing in my daily walk just what it means to walk in the Spirit.  And I desperately need His power!

“The world continues to be more & more desperate, but the church isn’t.”

“Revival starts in God’s house.  Not the White House, the school house, or the court house.”

We normally break up into groups of two or three to pray together before going our separate ways for the night.  But our Pastor was moved to open the floor to those who would pray – as the Holy Spirit led them.  It was a very moving time.  Many eyes were wet with tears.  Many hearts were touched, I’m sure, as was mine.

I was so blessed that the very first person to stand and offer her prayer was a teenager.  So many teens and so many youth groups today are focused on the fun, and not becoming more holy.

I rejoiced with my brothers and sisters in Christ as we confessed sin, prayed for strength, gave God the glory, and sought the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.  I don’t think I can quite describe how I felt – how I was moved – by hearing my church family pray.  Their words were even more precious when I considered the current or recent circumstances in their lives.  I have seen them grow, be transformed, and claim the victory that is provided for us in Christ.  Hearing them put words to their inner struggles and victories was very touching, and humbling, and I felt so blessed to be able to call them my friends.

Some people don’t make time to attend their church’s mid-week prayer meeting.  Some churches don’t even have a prayer meeting.  But as the speaker said on Wednesday, you can tell the health of a church, not by how many attend on Sunday morning, but by how many show up for the prayer meeting.  We all need the fellowship of our Christian brothers and sisters, and the prayer meeting provides a boost in the middle of our week - the encouragement to keep going, to not be weary in well doing, and to know that others are praying for us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Withdraw Thyself

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 
4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 
5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
1 Timothy 6:3-5

Sometimes we have to remove ourselves from a situation, a relationship, an influence, in order to maintain godliness in our lives.  These choices are not usually easy, but they are necessary and I have found the result to bring peace and relief.

I love to blog.  I love to read other blogs.  I have a few old standbys which I frequent often, and I am always on the lookout for a new blog to add to my favorite list.  But recently I have had to remove several blogs from my reader.  I found that the organizing blogger was actually feeding discontent as I compared my rented home to her beautifully renovated and redecorated space.  I found that the mommy blogger who claimed to be a Christian was writing about parenting without filtering it through God’s Word.  Her ideas on child rearing and discipline were in complete opposition to God’s Word.  To continue to read the blog will only cause me internal confusion and perhaps even lead to doubting or questioning God’s Word.

I have several friends who have left social media sites.  They were tired of professing Christians posting pictures, activities, and links to movies which clearly do not honor God.  To continue to read these status updates each day fills the mind with wrong thoughts….things we should never be meditating upon in the first place.

I love a good book…especially a novel.  But I found that too many romance novels {especially in high school and college…before I was married} were giving me a false idea of “Mr. Right.”  Because contrary to all of those “great books” – he is not perfect!  To continue to flood my mind with perfect love stories was giving me false expectations for my own love story – which I wanted God to be writing.

In these verse in 1 Timothy Paul tells Timothy that sometimes you have to withdraw thyself.  Get away.  Break the relationship.  Stop the influx of ungodly material.  Step apart so that God can continue to work in your life. 

Sometimes it may be a temporary withdraw, though I don’t think that is the tone Paul is using here.  I have at times felt the need to “unplug” myself for a while so I get priorities back on track.  Take a TV “fast” or a Facebook vacation.  Stop the constant stream of the world’s view and listen to what God has been trying to speak all along.

Sometimes the withdraw may need to be more permanent.  When I found friends to be consistent in living contrary to the God they claimed to love, I had to choose to “unfriend” them on Facebook so as not to see their constant stream of ungodly activity.  God wants us to love others and to encourage them to godliness, but if they are going to consistently choose to live in opposition to God’s principles, then perhaps a break in that relationship is necessary {or at least a break from constant influence}.

These hard choices are right in line with God’s Word – when someone is teaching anti-Biblical things, or even just ignoring God’s doctrine {teaching} – withdraw thyself (vs.3).

If someone is proud and causing constant strife – withdraw thyself (vs.4).

If it is the influence of an unbeliever – someone destitute of God’s truth, greedy, worldly, or corrupt – withdraw thyself (vs.5).

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…”  2 Corinthians 6:17

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lessons from a Little Girl

Last week was busy.  We had Vacation Bible School at our church.  We were gone…late…every night.  We were busy and up early each day.  My kids were tired, and so was I.  We had some grumpy, selfish moments and quite a few discipline issues that had to be dealt with.  And in the middle of it all, my little girl taught me a lesson.

We are teaching Elaine this definition of sin: “Sin anything I think, say, or do that makes Jesus sad.”  One morning she had been particularly resistant to obeying me.  Long after the discipline was done and the hugs were given, she burst out with a question.

Nolan's 1st Birthday Party“Him sad, Mommy?”
“Is who sad?”
“Why is Jesus sad?”
“Because I a bery bad girl.”
“Yes.  It makes Jesus sad when we disobey, doesn’t it?”

She was still considering what her actions had done to Jesus.  They made Him sad.  Disappointed.  And then I realized that sometimes when I am resisting the Lord’s work in my own life, I don’t consider what my delay or my disobedience is doing to Him.  I am only thinking about myself.  But, Lord, I can’t handle this.  Or, Lord, I don’t want to do that.  The good news is this – once I get it right, and ask for His forgiveness, He has promised to forgive me (1 John 1:9).  He even goes so far as to remove my sin – as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  He doesn’t bring it up again, or throw it back in my face the next time I sin.  He wipes the slate clean and gives me a new start.

The very next day we again had obedience issues.  This time it was both of my kids.  I didn’t respond properly, and I lost my cool with them.  Though I had confessed my wrong to my kids, Elaine wanted to be sure I had “made up” with Jesus too.  We were praying together, and she was telling Jesus that she was sorry for her sin.  When we said “amen” she looked up at me and said, “We need pray and tell Jesus you a bad girl too, Mommy.”

I was again pricked in my heart.  She was tender.  She wanted the slate clean – for all of us.  She sinned.  I sinned.  Now let’s make it right and move on.  But so many times when I sin against the Lord I don’t want to humble myself and make things right.  I don’t want to admit that I was wrong.  So I continue in my sin and stubbornness.  I want to be tender to the Lord – so that at the first hint of sin, I make confession and restore the relationship.  So that there is never a break in our fellowship.

Kids don’t miss much, do they?  They see my hypocrisies and imperfections.  They see the real me – as I am – everyday…at home.  But they are tender too.  A prayer, an apology, a hug and everything is restored.  They accept me back again and go on as if nothing happened.

I’m thankful for my little girl’s tenderness, her bluntness, and her forgiveness.  But even more I’m thankful that God is infinitely tender as He constantly draws us closer to Himself.  I’m so amazed that He continuously picks me up when I fall, He forgives, He restores.  And I want to have that sensitivity too, so that I am always right with Him.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Whose Story Are You Telling?

I wrote this as part of the Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Friday meme.  I shared it on my personal blog, but I thought it would be appropriate here too.

The prompt is:

Story…Camping in Pittsfield for Nolan's 1st Birthday

Every day our lives are telling a story.  The story of self, or the story of Christ. 

Just when I think I have this “Christian life” thing down pat, I find myself going back to the basics.  Learning again to depend on Christ.  Learning again to soak up His Words and make them my guide for living.  Learning again His Will for me.

Some days I really depend on Him.  I can hear Him speaking His words through me.  I can see His patience with my children.  I can feel His strength when mine is all gone.  Those days I am telling the story of Christ.  The story of becoming like Christ.  The story of sanctification.

Other days my self rears its ugly head and my day is filled with strife, wrong thinking, and selfish mothering.  I get annoyed with my children and frustrated when my plans go awry.  Those days tell the story of self, as if I were unredeemed.

I am often amazed at the things my kids pick up.  Soak in.  Learn.  I see them do something and I wonder, “Who taught you to do that?”  They learn so much, so quickly, so easily.  And they learn much from watching me.  From living with me.

And so each day I want to tell them the story of Christ.  I want them to see Him in me.  To hear Him in the words I speak, and the tone I use.  To sense His patience and grace in discipline for wrong-doing. 

Because in the end, if my words tell them the Gospel, but my life doesn’t live it, I have been telling them the wrong story.  And they will sense the hypocrisy.

I really enjoyed the book Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney.  In it she describes how our femininity and roles as a wife and mother can adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Careful Interpretation

Bible Pictures

Recently there have been several instances that underscored to me the importance of careful interpretation of God’s Word.  We really need do need to be careful.  It is dangerous to say, “This verse means _________ to me”, or “I think God meant ___________.”  In the end it’s not about what we think.  It’s about what God meantGod’s standard is absolute.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He is not going to be lenient on us in judgment just because we operated on what we thought He meant in His Word.

:: In our Revival meetings at church the evangelist taught on 2 Corinthians 12, and Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  He looked carefully at the verbs and the words, and made the case for the fact that Paul’s “thorn” could very well have been a person, rather than a circumstance {like physical infirmities}.  Why?  Because the word used for messenger is never used of an inanimate object in other scriptures or uses.

:: A friend posted about child discipline, and using a verse from Proverbs she said, “To me the rod is gentle discipline.”  Well – that’s nice, but what did God mean the rod to be?  What word did He use?  Is it open to interpretation or able to be applied in many ways?  Or is it a specific word, with a specific meaning and application?

This is where James 1:22-25  comes in:

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

The word “looketh” means this in the original Greek: to stoop to a thing in order to look at it 2) to look at with head bowed forward 3) to look into with the body bent 4) to stoop and look into.  It brings the idea of careful inspection – digging, detecting, searching – of God’s Word.  I always think of Sherlock Holmes – searching for the little clue to solve the mystery.  Attention to detail.  Context is very important in this search – we cannot just lift a verse out of it’s context and make it to mean what we want it to mean.

God’s Word is recorded for us in Hebrew for the Old Testament, and Greek for the New Testament.  These were specific languages with very great word pictures and meanings.  Some of that is lost in translation.  While each of us may not be Hebrew or Greek scholars, we definitely have a wide array of study helps and tools from those who know the ancient languages intricately.

Certainly some passages have multiple applications.  Certainly we can apply principles from stories or others’ lives {in the Bible} to ourselves.  Some Scriptures were written specifically to the Jewish people.  But we can draw an application for our own lives {in some cases}.  But let us be careful in our Bible study – not just reading, marking off a list, or scanning a summary.  Let us dig deep and understand what God meant in the passage.

John closes his Book of the Revelation with a strong warning to any who would add to or take away from the words that he had penned {specifically, the book of Revelation} under inspiration:

Revelation 22:18-19  For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:  19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

I think it illustrates that God takes His Word seriously.  Let us be careful to interpret God’s Word correctly!