He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, August 14, 2017

Human Conditions

        A dear friend of mine has been active in one of our local churches since her youth.  She has taught adult Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, been on countless committees and chaired countless functions. There was a discussion one Sunday morning in our Sunday School class about salvation and the return of Christ.  Despite all her years of experience and knowledge she didn’t understand this concept.  She believed that “good works” and living a Christian life is enough.  Another member of the class insisted he felt he was in heaven now!  How disillusioned my friends are!

The very idea that this world with all its pain, illness and disease, hatred, vicious evil behavior and attitudes could come close to heaven completely blows my mind.  Our world is mired in self-seeking, unethical, immoral and godless behavior.  Yet, daily, people are gravitating towards all that this life, while the glitz and glitter in sins, clouds their eyes from what is real.  They are totally missing the fact that only through Jesus, is heaven attained.

            It’s so easy to get lost in our world. The “trappings” of our society can easily cloud our vision of eternity.  Some say, “This is it! When you die, it’s over.”  And with so much available in our lives with technology, new inventions and discoveries made every day through Science, many people believe they have found it all.  In our human-ness we lose sight of what is most important: our faith in Jesus who died a cruel death that we may have life after death if only we believe.

            Instead of relying on what God has taught us, we choose to make human plans and form traditions we follow week after week and year after year.   Traditions seem to help us focus on what we need to do; and I’m not faulting traditions at all!  In fact, I find them warm and comfortable.  Sometimes it is traditions that bring families together when all else fails!  Thanksgiving and Christmas “get togethers” for families is a good example of this. 

 Sometimes however, human traditions take the place of actual worship and over runs any relationship with God.  We become relaxed and laid backed in our faith; “lukewarm” and unable to be productive for the Kingdom. Our faith becomes hollow and shallow without any real commitment or passion.          
God talks about this in His word, and says to be lukewarm is not good at all.  He wants us alert, steady, and moving forward with purpose.  He wants us stepping out of our comfort zone to share His Word of love and salvation with our friends, co-workers, families and even strangers if we are led.  He wants us focused on Him!
            Will I see my friends from that Sunday School class in heaven someday?  I don’t know.  I, along with another friend, tried desperately to show them the Way.  Did they accept it?  Again, I don’t know.  Their traditions and philosophy didn’t agree with the Bible.  All I can do is pray that one day they do believe with their whole heart that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to get to heaven.

            So I challenge you to reflect on your traditions.  Do they interfere with your personal relationship with God?  Is God first in all areas of your life?

Monday, July 31, 2017

God Can Work In This Place

         A friend of mine faced a battle of low self-esteem for years.  She was convinced she could do nothing right and found herself hiding from the reality of life.  She wanted to run away and hide; walk away from all that seemed torture to her, but no one knew about.  Even with the “world” she lived in, she wanted to have a ministry in the church she attended.   Yet even here, she doubted.  She was certain God could not work within the bad place she found herself. 

            I think we all do that sometimes.  We make a bad decision and find ourselves in the middle of something we’d rather not deal with.  Sometimes it isn’t even a bad decision, but circumstances beyond our control.  Regardless, we attempt to figure out our worth based on our situation and ways we can fix our problems.  It often just seems an impossible state of affairs, causing an already frustrated person, to feel depression and despair!  In the process of all this discouragement, we miss the most dynamic answer to our problem: ----including God in the equation.

            That seems to be the human way.  Even the disciples wrestled with these feelings when Christ asked them to feed the large crowd of people who had gathered to hear Jesus speak.  They knew they couldn’t provide food for the crowd, and only thought of their incapability and weakness at that moment.  They weren’t considering that God could work in that place.

            If Believers can feel like this, an even greater likelihood of this self-doubt burdens the non-Christian, who is sure they’ve led such an awful life, God can’t possibly forgive them! 

            What keeps us from considering God’s power as the primary means to accomplish anything?  What makes us believe God’s “arm is too short,” or that the location is just too tough a setting for The Lord to work in, through or from!?

            Sadly, when this happens we are demonstrating faithlessness.  In a world that seems to have turned on itself with a seemingly deliberate act of violence, hate, injustice or understanding, it’s easy for Christians to stand aside quietly without rebuking the evil and go along with the crowd, even when their heart is breaking and conscience quaking, because they barely recognize their vulnerability.  Over time our senses are dulled, as we inadvertently conform to the world, rather than standing strong in the Lord.

            It’s not a deliberate act of disobedience, but our “store of faith” is depleted as we attempt to fit in our individual circles.  In addition to this element, add our work and career demands, along with family responsibilities, and it seems to leave very little time to reach for security in Christ through His Word or through prayer.

            Our priorities are skewed and it affects every area of our lives…..even the testimony of our faith life.  I encourage you to look beyond “the place you find yourself.”  Know, without a doubt God can work in this place---no matter what the 'place'!  Open your heart and mind to Him and watch your world take on new meaning.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Where Do We Find Our Energy?

I watched a movie recently where the faith and trust of a woman was tested. Her marriage was suffering, even as her and her husband’s career were flourishing and moving ahead.  Bad choices were made by the husband, which cost him his job.  The woman learned that prayer was her life line. It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn, however. Offering forgiveness and grace come hard, when there is so much anger and frustration.

This movie resonated with me. There have been times when I’ve been right where the main character was.  I was sad and wanted to “fix” my problems and I couldn’t.  I was not in control and it took much prayer and submission to recognize that!

I have been described as moving like the “Energizer Bunny.”  It seems I almost never stop!  From the time my feet hit the floor until I crawl back in bed at night, I am usually doing something – and the more productive, the better.  Still life has a way of causing knees to buckle, creating a need to slow down, re-evaluate and sometimes even change direction.

When our knees buckle in prayer, as our hearts meet with God, we can find renewed energy, even in places we hadn’t expected!  What is even better is when our “renewed energy” is a direct gift from God, who leads because we’ve opened our minds to His voice.

The Bible talks about being renewed every day.  But to be renewed every day requires a commitment to meet with God because we want to, not because it’s in our schedule.  I admit, those little devotionals that have a scripture and application message are easy to use and wonderful.  I’ve both used them and contributed!

Yet, there is a drawback. Because we sit down for three minutes, open to the right page (given they are usually dated), read the message and prayer, close the booklet and go on our way.  Done deal!  But is it?  What have we done?  We’ve done nothing more than allow another person to do our “work” for us.  We’ve likely not even opened our personal Bibles.  We’ve spent three minutes with the Lord without ever “giving of ourselves.”  There is hardly even a time sacrifice. 

Can you imagine having that kind of relationship with your spouse?  What if in the morning you simply picked up an index card, read whatever the message said to your loved one and then walked away without another word or thought all day?  How long would your relationship last?  It wouldn’t!  Yet, as Christians, very often that’s exactly how we treat God. 

How can we expect God to energize, grow, or even direct us when we don’t take the time to spend time with Him?  The Bible says he “walked” with Adam and Eve in the Garden.  He spent time with them and they with Him.  They had a ‘perfect relationship’ before the fall.

Are we walking with God?  Are we moving in God’s energy?  If not, where do we draw our ability to sustain our thoughts, actions, behaviors or attitude?  Likely it’s from the world, because that is the only alternative.