Friday, September 14, 2018

Pleasing Him

We are social creatures. We have been created to function in relationship. And we crave such interaction, such closeness.

Sometimes that desire for closeness leads us into dangerous waters. We become people pleasers. Our words, actions, and even thoughts become subject to the goal of pleasing others. "Don't rock the boat!" "Oh, I don't know what they would think of this!"

Listen instead to these words from Paul to the church at Galatia after clearly denouncing those who were saying false things about God and His salvation message. He came down hard on such deception and he knew he was in danger of losing their affection.
"Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. 
If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant." (my emphasis)
One thing was clear to Paul. He gave up the popularity contest when He began to follow Jesus. Oh, it's true that Christ is love and kindness and a bringer of peace. But He is so on His terms with His definitions. After all, He is God; He is Truth itself and Love itself. That domain belongs to Him alone.

Paul understood that Christ and His ways would not always be popular with the crowds. His daily poll rating would lag behind those with flashy smiles, smooth words, and wily promises.

He knew that if crowd pleasing is the end goal then don't choose to serve Christ.

Think about it.

Sometimes words of love must be tough words to say and to hear. And holiness will always be contrary to the latest self-indulgent trend. Let's face it: Dying to your own will and way isn't a popular message for people who are charmed by a jingle declaring that they can "Have it your way!" even at the nearest fast-food restaurant. If Burger King can serve up egotism for just a dollar, what's the matter with God?

So wake up this morning, give thanks to the God of all eternity for a new day, submit to Him your broken life in return for a power-filled life, and be a God-pleaser in thought, word, and deed.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Don't Mock God

Isaiah has stern words for us. Sobering words. If we are wise, they are words that will cause soul searching and earnest repentance routinely because we will recognize the words of love they are.

 What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, 
                   that dark is light and light is dark,
                               that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.  
What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. Isaiah 5.20,21

Isaiah was written to God's chosen people, Israel. He is warning them to be careful, to avoid deep sorrow.

Is it possible that His people today also need to hear these words and heed?

Is it possible that we are guilty of calling bitter sweet and sweet bitter, dark light and light dark? Even evil good and good evil?

Before my mind was renewed by the Word of God, my natural conclusion (fostered by self interest and rebellious independence and a 1970's disregard for tradition along with a feminist hatred of all things "men") was that marriage was a terrible institution - undoubtedly the brainchild of some patriarchal pig crackpot - and children were a bane to adult existence that ruin any opportunity for female accomplishment and fulfillment.

In short, I called bitter sweet and sweet bitter.

Even though I was a child of God, I was making wrong declarations. I was entrenched in error.

In studying the Bible as a young believer, I then discovered two important things regarding those issues:
1) He was the author and creator of marriage and 2) He considered children to be a great blessing and even called them His heritage.

Modern American culture has abandoned a Biblical world-view. We have embraced the idea of relative truth, a "man is inherently good" philosophy, non-creationist ideology, extreme feminism, and at this point innumerable and varied politically correct concepts which seem to change almost daily. These ideas surround us in advertising, media, pop culture, education. They are inescapable. Conversely, Biblical worldview perspectives are rare, mocked, and disparaged.

And here we are, growing up in this, imbibing an anti-Christian ideology.

Hence, we will find ourselves espousing wrong perspectives if we fail to subject every thought and notion to the Word of God. After my encounter with God's ideas regarding marriage and children (and boy was that a shake-up!) I determined that every time I found myself answering a question with "Well, that's just what I've always believed" I would see that as a red flag -- I would STOP right there and go to the Word to make sure that "what I've always believed" actually was in agreement with the God. I surely didn't want be calling good evil and evil good any longer! Not once I learned that great sorrow was the portion for such error!

Still today I find myself checking regularly. Am I correct in calling something evil, something bitter, something dark? Do I agree with Him regarding what is good, sweet, and light?

After all, if He has deemed something good, who am I to say otherwise? Something tells me I would be sorely remiss to do so.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

A Favorite Lesson

Once upon a time I was a young college student. (It's true! Admittedly, it was so long ago that it would be best counted in decades.) And as a young college student some wise words were shared with me that have stuck with me through the years and have been a game changer more than once.

"You don't have to be willing. You simply have to be willing to be made willing."

Yes. Read that again. Let its face value meaning sink in. It is not deep or difficult. Its simplicity is actually deceptive.

Bottom line: Come to Him honestly. Admit that you are not always excited about His commands, His will, His request, His Word even. Admit it.

Next, confess that you don't feel willing or able to embrace the truth He is showing you.

But then humble yourself and simply say, "But I will bow the knee; I will submit to You. Would you change my heart and help me? Would you make me willing to obey? I want to bless you, but I'm unable to change my own heart. You are my only hope. I am willing to be made willing. Would you do that for me?"

I have walked in that truth numerous times and in countless situations when confronted by the Word of God in ways that were unpleasant, difficult, and overwhelming.

That simple truth has changed my life, resulting in heart changes and new directions that I would never have imagined possible.

And today I read this in the Psalms. Psalm 51.12b to be precise.
"...make me willing to obey you."
Words He loves to hear. Such words embody humbleness, dependence, acknowledgement of His truth, confession of human insufficiency. This invitation to the Holy Spirit to come and do what we cannot do for ourselves releases power and transformation.

Don't fake it by saying, "Sure God, whatever you say. I'm ready!" if you're not.
Don't try to talk yourself into a heart change regarding some very distasteful truth with which you are confronted.
Don't believe the lie that says you have to fix it on your own; you are not able in every situation to do that.

Dishonesty, pride, and deception can keep you from empowerment and transformation.
Humbleness of heart, dependence upon Him, and a yielding of that heart to His hands for a reshaping is what He loves. It is the sacrifice He longs for.

A favorite lesson that has made me who I am today, allowed me to walk in His holy ways, delivered me and released His empowerment in my life.


Thursday, September 06, 2018

Our Sacrifice

Psalm 50.14,15
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.Then call on me when you are in trouble,and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.

The simplicity of His heart, His truth, His desire is beautiful. It is accessible to everyone of us.

No need for wealth. No need for fame. No need for doctorates or medals of honor or proof of great accomplishments.

No need for big extensive celebration. No painstaking building of altars. No mess, no fuss.

This is what He desires as a sacrifice from you, from me: thankfulness.

Tune your heart today to thanksgiving. Remind yourself throughout the day to thank Him, to acknowledge His provision, to remember to be like the one who returned to give thanks.

Set a kitchen timer, an alarm on your phone -- whatever it takes to prompt a moment of thanksgiving here and there throughout the day. Sometimes we need to purpose to establish new habits, and thanksgiving should be a habit. It should mark His people. It releases joy and honor and strength. And it glorifies Him.

In the hardest moment, stop and thank Him that He is there with you in the midst of that moment. When your heart leaps for joy at some good news, remember Him with praise. As you put your hand to the daily grind that is neither sorrowful or joyful but needful, thank Him for strength to be diligent.

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
Then call on me when you are in trouble,
and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.
Psalm 50.14,15 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Ecclesiastes to the Rescue

Scripture always tells it like it is. Gets right to the heart of the matter. Cuts to the chase.
It is the original reality check, if you will.

My husband and I are selling 1942, our home of 34 years for us, our children, and much celebration of life. To say there are occasional waves of nostalgia and grief might be an understatement. We are saying good-bye to an extremely special season that we have thoroughly loved.

But God is faithful. To keep us from overindulgence in nostalgia, to hold us back from wallowing if you will, He sends His word. Faithful to divide asunder soul and spirit, sharper than a two-edged sword, it does the intended work. And how thankful I am once again.

This morning I shed a tear as I viewed a video made by my daughter chronicling a bit of life here at 1942 for the past three decades. How precious to recall and to honor God for all He did in our midst. But, I was tempted to (if you'll excuse the term) wallow.

Until Ecclesiastes 7.10 came to mind:
Don't long for "the good old days." This is not wise.
 And Ecclesiastes 10.1:
As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, 
so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor. 
So there it was. It is not wise to sit around longing for the past. It is foolishness to do so.
And a little foolishness will spoil any wisdom you may have received and any honor you hope to offer.

Therefore, bear this in mind: Take time to honor, but then be done.

Move on. Look up. See His plan. It does not end here. In fact, this is just the preliminary, the preparation. The wedding is forthcoming.

Thank you, Lord. Your faithfulness to this handmaiden is astounding and precious. You care for us daily and we are orphans no longer when we come to You. Your counsel, love, and guidance never cease as You prepare us for eternity with You.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Joy For All Seasons

Paul writes to the church at Corinth and tells them, "Our hearts ache but we always have joy."

Oh, my. What incredible glory this brings to God. What a supernatural truth this is. How beyond human nature is this?

I have known the depths of grief and heartache. I have experienced the heights of exuberant joy. But to know them simultaneously is a mystery to those who do not have the Spirit of the Living God residing within. This truly bears witness of His work in our lives.

There is a time to weep and a time to rejoice, of course. And in this life there is plenty of cause for both.

But the believer has joy -- "fruit born of the Spirit" joy. And it is to be evident in our lives, pushing its way up and through the heartache suffered. It brings a buoyancy as it surfaces again and again, no matter how many waves of sorrow come our way.

Be mindful of the words you utter. Bring your thoughts quickly into obedience to Christ through confession and repentance. Lay hold of that joy that resides within and put that on display as well. Are there hard things? Incredibly. Are they deeper than His love and His promise? Never.

Oh church, His Bride, rise up and remember that He is coming for you. This is the waiting time, the preparing time. But don't forget the occasion for which we wait and prepare. One who is faithful for all of eternity is coming for us! So let us do His bidding each and every day with the joy He imparts and the joy He deserves, reflecting His greatness always and in all things.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

In Summation

I just want to serve Him.

Some days I may have no clear inspiration, no plans, no wants. But most days - nearly everyday I have wishes and desires. Plans and dreams.

Family. Hearth and home.
Career. Ministry.
Adventure. Travel.
Music. Academics.
Politics. Power.

Many things may intrigue. But what of it? They all disappear in the end. I may even have great vision for a long life, a passion to live for many many years. But what of it? How very different is 75 years from 105 years? What is thirty years more? A blink of an eye? A breath, a deep sigh at most.

Heroes from yesteryear are old now or gone. John Glen, Ronald Reagan. Paul McCartney and Meryl Streep. Even Hillary Clinton. And Tom Hanks. Old.

Younger faces now make the movies, sing the songs, give stirring speeches both good and bad. Do they know how quickly it will go? Have they seen and understood? I pray they will.

I sit here this morning with a realization that I hold my dreams and visions loosely because compared to Him, the Eternal God who has always existed, who holds all things including time and universe in His hand, the one who is Love itself and is always just and merciful -- compared to Him my deep passions and hopes pale, my larger than life dreams are small, my strength is so very insufficient.

I may make plans for a long life of vitality with great accomplishments yet to come, of children who prosper and nations that are free, of victories over darkness - but what these eyes will see is known only to Him. Who can say?

And so, in all reality it comes to this. Life here is momentary. He, the embodiment of Love itself, is forever. I just want to serve Him with every day and every breath. Here or there, now and then. If I have another minute or 100 years, may they all be His.