Saturday, September 27, 2014

Spiritually Rich!

This weekend Paul and I are at the Desiring God Conference in Minneapolis, MN.  I am truly impressed with the great wealth we have in this nation.  What a gift to be able to sit with thousands of other Believers learning more about the Christian Faith and the Great God we serve, freely and without fear.  We are not meeting in secret.  We are free to listen, learn, love and worship openly.  Wow!  We are rich!

That richness doesn't just involve our ability to worship.  We also have the great wealth of comfort and ease.   We have such wealth in our nation, I can't help but to think of how rich we are in comparison to countries where getting water is a constant struggle or where medical help is next to impossible.  Having lived in  Turkey for a couple years as a child, I can appreciate their struggle some.  But what I've never experienced is a hinderance to my worship.  And that is what is standing out to me tonight.

When I say hinderance, I'm not talking about getting dirty looks for praying publicly before a meal.  I'm talking about the persecution going on in places like Iraq, Indonesia and Sudan etc.  They could only dream of doing what we did today.  Literally thousands of worshipers, singing, crying, praising and hearing the word of God being taught were all gathered together openly in a huge air-conditioned auditorium with cushy seats and a beautiful ambiance.  I am blown away.  I am simply amazed at this HUGE gift!  It brought tears to my eyes while I was there, and I am still humbled by this awesome privilege.

For those of you who do not live in the US, you may not have ever experienced this kind of liberty.  Maybe you know Jesus, but open corporate worship is not your norm.  Maybe you do live in the US, but have never seen the value of corporate worship.  Consider it a gift!

I'd like to pray for you.  I would love it if you could be here taking part in this amazing gathering.  But mostly what I pray for is that you will know God and be known by God.  If you do not, but would like to,  I can help with some things.  You may contact me if you like and my husband and I will do our best to help you know about God.

For tonight, consider taking the time to thank God for the amazing and wonderful gifts He's given you.  When we start looking around, it isn't difficult to see them.  It is very humbling.  And it is good.    You might even discover that the opportunities you have to worship with others is a gift and privilege, and it might take on a whole new appeal.  No matter what, if you belong to God, one day we will be worshipping Him together as a united body.  That day is going to be astounding.  Until then, I sure am thankful for experiences like I had today.  These moments are just a taste of what is coming.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Is The Man

Proverbs 3:13
"Happy is the man who acquires wisdom, and who acquires understanding."

Have you ever noticed that there is never a lack for distraction?  Always, when my heart is filled with praise, there is something that rises up to steal my attention.  In my opinion, this is no coincidence.  I am convinced that when God says that "The enemy comes to steal kill and destroy" it includes the theft of our happiness.  

But wisdom and understanding surpass the enemy’s reach.  The one who clings to them acquires Godly happiness.  We all have happy times in our lives, but there is something distinctly different between the earthly happiness of the common man, and the eternal happiness of the man of God.  Our joy never fades, even in the face of adversity or trials because it is rooted in hope.  The happiness of the man who has found wisdom and understanding is an eternal kind of joy that gladdens the heart for now and causes the heart to rejoice over the future.

As a Believer I've experienced this.  I've experienced a thoroughly happy heart that can not be clouded by the condemnation of scoffers or their sins against me.  It does not diminish when physical circumstances change.  And when I die, I am confident that my happiness will only blossom into the original joy that Adam and Eve were created to experience.  

If there were one thing that could rob me of that joy, the thought of people I love, rejecting God and suffering for all eternity might be it.  But with the promises of God continually being at the forefront of my mind, even that horrific thought has no power to diminish my joy, because I have confidence that God loves each and every one of us so much, that He will continually work to redeem His own.  And that brings me right back to the hope that gives me the joy I have.   

My prayer is that I will continue to represent God's love justly, so that each and every one of you who hears me sing or reads my words will come away having been built up in knowledge, rooted in Truth and firmly established in the Faith.  I pray for that, even if you are one who at present scoffs at the word of truth, doubts the Christian faith or suspects the intent of believers who share their faith.  God's love surpasses all of that, and He loves you.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hallowed Be Thy Name

I've met many people through the years, who have shared their stories with me.  And what I find is that their stories confirm what God's word says.  There is no power, no authority by which we can overcome sin except the power found in the name of God.  

Acts 4:12
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Though many people reach out for help, they are unaware of how enslaved they are.  They just know that things are not going well in their lives and they want relief.  But some, though they know what God has said, refuse to accept it.  In general, there seems to be this notion of self sufficiency that convinces people that they don't really need God.  They're intent upon figuring things out on their own, and doing things their own way.  They don't really want to hear spiritual truth or consider that they are experiencing the effects of living outside of God's will and need to repent.  

What they really want is acceptance, and maybe a little "good luck" to help them get over their slump.  They work deals with themselves, God and who ever else they can utilize, trying to maintain control by pulling their strings until they are as tight as they can be, yet there is no real deliverance from the webs of entanglement they've gotten themselves into.  And those who try to help them in any other name but the name of Jesus merely placate the problems, which often results in enabling the one ensnared to go deeper and deeper into their sin and rebellion.

I can understand how those who are not saved would not understand their lack of power.   But what I don't understand, is when those who know God try to step in to "save the day" by their own power or their own wisdom, in any other name except the name of God.  I don't even know if they realize they are doing it.  But it happens.  It can be in the name of decency, the name of kindness, the name of humanity, the name of love.  It may be done in the name of "protecting the innocent", but rather than confronting the one entangled in sin about the fact that God has condemned sin in sinful man, and rather than offering true hope for overcoming the sin that is causing distress and hardship, they try to avoid such topics and say things like, "That's none of my business".  They would rather offer less controversial help, but no other help is powerful enough to free a man from the sin responsible for wrecking lives.  

I've seen it many times.  And it always ends the same way.  Someone is in trouble.   His life is falling apart.  Someone with good intentions steps in to help "sort things through".  Support is offered and given, but the in the end, the sinner goes right back to their sin...which is the catalyst for yet more entanglement.  And in the end, the person who stepped in to help becomes embittered and angry because their efforts were ineffective.  

Yet when Faithful Christian approaches the one enslaved with the truth of God's word, he is met with scorn by the would-be helper.  I've even seen Christians go out of their way to console non-christians when another Believer has dared to suggest that repentance is needed.  I've seen them make apologies for the fact that someone dared to preach the truth to them!  Brothers and sisters, this should not be.  

Though I can't be sure, I think what happens is that these people lose sight of the power of God's name.   They forget what life was like without Jesus and how powerless they were to overcome sin without Him.  Maybe they even begin to believe they weren't so bad before they were saved, and that they somehow overcame their circumstances in their own power.  

Another reason could be that they are embarrassed by the boldness of the Truth of the Gospel.  I've witnessed many Christians make apologies for it, as if it is a scandalous thing for someone to tell a sinner about the Law of God and their need to repent and be saved.  

It's true that many bad things have been done in the name of Jesus.  Bad or misguided people have used God's name in vain, twisting His words and using them as weapons to harm others.  But the Gospel is beautiful.  The message of redemption from sin is life giving.  Those of us who have been redeemed should always remember how powerless we were and how beautiful the Gospel is!  And we shouldn't believe the lie that tells us we should, or even could, exercise some other form of tenderness that stands apart from the Gospel.  Nothing is as tender or as powerful as the name of Jesus.  No name can save but the name of God.  No attempt to loose the bonds of slavery will be met with success unless it is empowered by the name of Jesus, and predicated upon His Law.   

When Christians lose sight of these things, they can easily cause others to stumble.  People see the Spirit of God in us.  They recognize that we are not enslaved.  But some have refused them the only help there is, and instead offer them an inferior solution conjured by their own wisdom or strength, because they are too cowardly to reiterate the Truth that saved them.     

What is needed is love.  The love of God is complete in that it gives the good news along with the bad.  It doesn't avoid the subject on the pretense of propriety.  God is holy.   When we sin against God, He says we reap what we sow.  Iniquity, though an uncomfortable subject, must be addressed.  The good news that follows the subject of our iniquity is the Cross of Christ.  

Isaiah 53:5
"But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed."

Jesus paid the penalty for our sin and ransomed us from death.  He Himself bore our iniquities.  And in His name alone is the strength to overcome and the wisdom to choose the narrow path that leads to life. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tears, Kisses And A Costly Jar Of Perfume

For some time I've been grappling with what Jesus called the greatest commandment, "Love The Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength".   In searching out what it actually means to love God, I had to ask myself, "Do I love God or do I merely love being loved by God?".   

In John 14:15, Jesus equated keeping His commandments with loving Him.  In 1 John 5:3, love for God is also equated with keeping His commandments and we are told they are not burdensome.   2 John 1:6 says that love for God is to walk in obedience to His commands.   But when we consider the Pharisees, we must also conclude that keeping the Law was not always proof of someone's love for God. Sometimes legalism is merely religion.  So while obeying God is an evidence of loving God, it may also be just a religious act motivated by pride or self righteousness.  

In Luke 7, we are given a story that gives us a little clearer understanding of what it means to love God. 

Luke 7:36-50 
"Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.  

  Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself,  'If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.'

  And Jesus answered him, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' And he replied, 'Say it, Teacher.' 

 'A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?'  Simon answered and said, 'I suppose the one whom he forgave more.' And He said to him, 'You have judged correctly.' 

  Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.  For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.' 

Then He said to her, 'Your sins have been forgiven.'  Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, 'Who is this man who even forgives sins?'  And He said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'"

In this account of what happened at that dinner party, Jesus says of the sinful woman, "...she loved much...".  Her response to the presence of God was faith and humility.  With tears, kisses and a costly jar of perfume she loved Him.    

1). She loved with her tears of contrition and faith.  

2). Her kisses were pleas for mercy; The recognition of His Lordship; 
Psalm 2:12 
"Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."  

3).  The perfume she poured out upon His feet was the surrender of her life and the profit she would forsake in doing so; Her obedience would come at a great cost to her, but she considered Him more worthy than any earthly gain she might have had in living in disobedience to Him. 

1 John 4:10
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

"Loving God" and "Loving being loved by God" are inseparable. 

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to "Love The Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength."  With tears, kisses and a costly jar of perfume she loved much. Each represented her yielded heart. I too have many tears. And though my love may be poured out a bit differently, I hope to love as deeply and passionately and with as much abandon as she did.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Those Born of God Will Not Continue To Sin

1 John 3:9 "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God"

1 John 3:6 "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him."

But...but...WAIT!!!!   Are you trying to tell me that Christians don't sin anymore?  I can assure you that many Christians I know still struggle with sin.  And scripture also tells us that there is no one righteous.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins."

That part,  "...and never sins" might seem to be in contrast to 1 John 3:6.  But we need to remember that all scripture is God all of scripture is true. So here in lies the harmony:
There is no one who never sins...AND no one born of God will continue to sin.

It doesn't mean we will never means we will not CONTINUE to sin.  So what does that mean?

Lying, stealing, cheating, hating, gossiping, grumbling, intoxication, adultery, un-forgiveness, etc.  are all clear cut, non deniable obvious sins.  There is no excuse for someone to "continue" in them....unless he or she is not saved.  If that is the case, self discipline is not enough to free one who is enslaved to such sins.  A slave can not free himself.

Ecclesiastes 8:8
"...As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it."

Fortunately, God has given us civil and criminal law to help the saved and unsaved alike.  Usually for someone who is not saved what is necessary for him to break free of such sin is the fear of legal or natural consequences such as the loss of freedom, loss of loved ones, loss of health or the fear of death.

But for the one who has come to KNOW Jesus, the pursuit of holiness isn't so much motivated by fear as it is love, though fear does help the forgiven sinner resist temptation in the same way that it drives the unforgiven sinner to seek God's mercy.  The pursuit of holiness doesn't end with overcoming the obvious sins mentioned above.  Rather, every day that goes by God reveals to the Christian sinful mindsets or habits that had never before been realized.  The Holy Spirit brings conviction and the Christian repents because of genuine love and contrition.

The sin I struggle with today is different sin than I struggled with 20 even 30 years ago.  I do not excuse my sin nor down play it by telling others quip little phrases like "don't judge me because I sin differently than you".  We are to abide in Jesus and likewise, He abides in us.  Because of this, the Spirit of God within me will NOT allow me to excuse my sinful behavior!  He won't let me ignore the truth that He DETESTS sin.

 Romans 6:16-18,  "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient FROM THE HEART (emphasis added) to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."

 1 John 3:9 says, "No one born of God will continue to sin."

If you are having no victory over sin, consider that it is possible that you are not really saved.  Maybe you didn't come to God on HIS terms.  Maybe you are not really abiding in Him.

He's not here to enhance your life or complete you.  He didn't die to enable you to be successful.  He died because we were sinful and couldn't pay the punishment for it.  He died because we are all guilty and he willingly takes on the guilt of those who come to him.  But for those who refuse to come to Him on His terms they remain condemned and enslaved to sin.

So unless you came to Jesus to be forgiven because you saw with certainty that you are guilty and separated from God and needed a Savior and were grieved because of your sinfulness, it is possible you came to the wrong jesus, a false god created in your own image; a jesus who is ok with your sin, one who "understands" how hard it is to be good and that you are only a weak human; a jesus who agrees with you that your sin is actually a "condition" or "disease" for which you just need medical intervention; a jesus who doesn't really hate sin as much as those radical zealots say he does.

Trust me, the real Jesus truly does love and understand you...but he has not given you a pass on owning your guilt and your responsibility to repent of sin (stop doing it).   You must first OWN your matter how much worse someone else in your life is.  You need to come to the God who Is and repent and ask for forgiveness.  He will come and wash away your sin and give you a new heart and new nature.  From that day on your new nature will war with your old nature...and your new nature WILL win if you abide in Him.  Because Jesus overcame sin in sinful man.  You will not CONTINUE to sin.  Your  conscience will burn within you until you repent, overcoming the temptation to wander.

Romans 6:22  "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification (holiness) and it's end, eternal life."

Sanctification is not an option.  It's a mandatory gift that we receive.  The Holy Spirit in each of us who are saved ensures that we no longer comfortably sit in sin (continue in sin), but instead creates a longing within our hearts for holiness.

If you are saved, throughout the refining process, which will last your entire life, God will never leave you.  The seed of faith within you will never die.

1 Peter 1:23 "you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;"

But know this, God is not indifferent to the sin you harbor in your heart and life.  He desires you to forsake your sin.  Just as he told the woman caught in adultery, "go and sin no more" so he desires the same of you.  And if we will not obey willingly as slaves to righteousness, he disciplines us as His children so that we will no longer choose sin over righteousness.

Hebrews 12:10-14 " but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."

These drooping hands and weak knees spoken of here are indicative of the man who will not resist sin, one who half-heartedly makes little effort to strive for righteousness.  His discipline is intended to steer us toward straight paths that lead to holiness.  When we refuse to obey God we open ourselves up to His correction.  Do you know what a fearful and serious thing that is?

Hebrews 10:31 " It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

It is a good thing to fear The Lord.  It is a means by which you will avoid the sins that cause you to stumble.

Proverbs 16:6 "By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil."

Today I exhort you to turn from evil.  Repent of the sins you've been giving yourself over to and seek God.  Call upon Him and He will save you and direct your path.