Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Untainted Joy

Before you read this blog post, please read Psalm 23.

I'm praising my Lord today for the way He continually leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.  Still waters; the concept has intrigued me often.  

As a young girl my family and I had the pleasure of camping on a few occasions.  My mom and dad liked to go to "The Secret Spot" where my grandfather used to fish.  There was a dam there and the waters flowed steadily over the stoney wall creating a bubbling, gurgling hum that carried with it tales of where the waters had been.  It was a great place to dream and imagine, as I rested on the banks with the sun's kiss barely able to reach me through the thick canopy of trees. 

I always liked to go to The Secret Spot, but at night when it was time to rest, I found it difficult to sleep with the river's chatter.  I had never guessed that the sounds that had been so beautiful to me while lying on that bank, would become an annoying distraction that would hinder my rest.  

Such is the way of many things in life.  For a time, they seem beautiful, and you appreciate them for what they are worth in the moment.  But to linger too long can lead to regret later on.  Like a shepherd who knows to graze his sheep in various places, so God leads us to new green pastures where we can be refreshed.  As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, there is a time and season for everything.  Learning to trust The Shepherd and hold His blessings with an open hand, is a key lesson in the life of a person with untainted joy.

It is no wonder to me that so many people have no rest in their souls.  Their days and minds are filled up with the to-do's of life to the point where they have no capacity for the simple pleasures of meaningful godly conversation or a quiet walk on a sunny fall day.  But if we take a moment to think about the things that "restore" our souls, it is quietness that usually comes to mind first, and after that it is meaningful relationships.  I'm not talking about the kind of life sucking relationships where lying, divisive, gossiping tongues reign.  They don't foster peace at all.  No, that kind of relationship is one from which you should be thankful to distance yourself.  God has taught me this.  And with this lesson, untainted joy became my reward.  He leads us to quiet waters.

The Good Shepherd continually guides us along right paths for His name's sake.  But even still, there may be some dark valleys that He leads us through.  But in spite of this, the one who trusts in Him will have untainted joy.  Even in the presence of their enemies, those who hope in Him fear no evil, though it is sure to come, for our enemy seeks to destroy our joy.  

His poison seeps into our lives via any avenue it can, continually trying to corrupt every good thing God has given us.  It is responsible for every failed relationship, every selfish disposition, every snide remark, every prideful response, every puffed up mind and every accusing, divisive tongue.   They are all forms of Satan's poison, and the intent of their use is to steal, kill and destroy so that any joy we might have is tainted with hurt and regret.   But God comforts and restores my soul.  He can restore yours too. 

I am filled with praise for my Heavenly Father, because He continues to lead me to green pastures of peace and untainted joy, in spite of the enemy's intent.  I will sing of His goodness.  I will tell of His love.  He has given me the gift of sharing in the ministry of Truth and I am humbled to be called His own.  

More Benevolent Than God

Let me preface this with 2 Peter 3:9,

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient with you, not wishing for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance."

Now, as you continue to read, keep that verse in mind, especially this part, "but He is patient with you, not wishing for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance".

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. Especially in light of verses such as Mark 11:25, Matt. 6:14-15 and Matt. 18:35. It's a very weighty topic, don't you think? I mean, if we harbor un-forgiveness in our hearts, God will not forgive us! I don't know about you, but that gives me pause. And the topic takes on a whole new weight for me.

In light of this, through the years I've given careful consideration to what forgiveness is and what it isn't. And I think I do a pretty good job of examining my heart. But there's always this niggling question, "Am I a forgiving person?" But one thing I think is important for me to keep in mind in this whole "forgiveness" thing is the fact that I am not more benevolent than God.

Simply put, there are unrepentant people who walk the earth doing evil and loving it, and I don't forgive them.

WHAT!!!!! Did she just say that? Yes. I did. I said it because it's true.

First of all, their sin is not something I'm responsible for forgiving. I'm only responsible for forgiving those who sin against me. Second of all, God only forgives those who are in Christ. So for me to run around with a mini savior complex, offering forgiveness where God will not, is tantamount to me saying, "Hey, I know God doesn't forgive those who will not repent, but I will". Sorry, that's not my place either. Because I'm not more benevolent than God.

What I will say is this, I am not God, therefore I do not know who does and does not have their name written in the Lamb's book of Life. Because I do not know, I will continually take the Truth with me where ever I go, and I will teach and preach and sing about the gospel every chance I get, in hopes of people hearing that truth and repenting. I fear there's not a lot of time, you see, so I get right to it, because it's the most important decision a man can consider.

Imagine it like the frame of a door being hauled around on my person. Where ever I go, where ever I sit, when ever I gather with others, I have this doorway with me. As I sit, knowing I'm on the "inside", I can only share with you what that door is, and hope that you come in. I won't force you to come. And I won't belittle you if you don't. But I also won't make you feel like you're already on the inside with me, giving you false hope. I'll make sure you know that there is an inside and an outside, and the only way to be saved is to be on the inside. That "Door" is Jesus Christ.

John 10:9
"I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."

I'm not like some who think they are being like Jesus when they treat the gathering of believers as though it were a leper colony. For some the current trend is to trade iN a church pew for a bar stool. But I think what is forgotten by people who claim that Jesus prefered the company of sinners, rather than the religious, is that no matter who Jesus ate with, reclined with, walked with or laughed with, He was ALWAYS with sinners, because everyone, religious or not, who walked the earth with Jesus was a sinner. And He never condoned sin, even though He was gentle with the prostitute when she washed His feet with her tears. The point of her tears was that she was repentant. There was always the call for them to forsake the sinful life He was reaching into. Never was tacit approval given, to those who lived in sin. "Come, follow Me", was His call. It concerns me that so many have taken the words "love" and "forgiveness" and turned them into tacit approval by God to keep holding onto sinful life styles, rather than forsaking them.

Jude 1:4 says,
"For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."

This topic is very worthy of our full consideration. In the verse above it talks about people who "were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation". Now, keeping in mind the very first verse that I prefaced this post with, that God is patient, not wishing for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance, I encourage you to understand that in spite of God's patience, He is aware of the fact that there are some who simply will not repent, and their condemnation has been written about long ago. They are those who turn the grace of God into a license for immorality. They say things like, "Oh yeah, me and the Big Guy upstairs have an understanding", or "It's all about love! I don't judge anyone so they shoudn't judge me", but that message is one of bondage. Rather than leaving their lives of sin, they make the sinful life an acceptable practice and they insist no one should question or condemn it, and those who speak against it are seen as being judgemental.

That's a very sad thing to me. And when I consider the people I know who have embraced rebellion toward God, and flat out refused to surrender to Him, or when I think of those who say "yes" with their lips but refuse to yield their lives, I am broken hearted. And I find myself CLINGING to the part of the verse that says, "He is patient with you", because I desperately long for your salvation.

But one thing I can not do is forgive you for Him. That doesn't mean that I condemn you. That doesn't mean that I wish ill upon you. It simply means that it is not my place to forgive you. The sins you commit are not sins against me, they are sins against a Holy God. And when you continue to walk in your sin, I will not be there to "love" you into the kingdom when you face judgment. The one you need is Jesus, the one who can wash away your sin forever. I know from reading scripture that Jesus did not "look the other way" when someone He was with was sinning. To paint a picture of that jesus is to paint a picture of a false god.

Jesus, the Son of God was not given over to passive acceptance of sin what so ever. He said, "Be holy as I am holy" and He expected it to be done. Keep in mind that as I've posted before (READ HERE), holiness is a gift only given to those who surrender to Christ. It is found in Him, and living in accordance with holiness is an act of sanctification. Jesus prayed for this, for those who believe in Him.

But there is this push in many Christian circles to be like a Jesus I don't know. The push is for Christians to blur the line between God's children and the order to save them. The equation of "love" with acceptance of a sinful lifestyle is something I don't see in scripture. The equation of "forgiveness" with tolerance, even going so far as to affirm someone in their choices is also something I do not see. Simply put, if God has condemned sin in sinful man, who am I to undo that? That's my point. I am no one to change what God has said. I simply am not more benevolent than God.

If God's love for us took on the act of His wrath for sin being poured out upon Jesus while He hung on a cross, then I am no one to diminish or taint that picture. It's perfect just as it is.

God hates sin. God will not forgive anyone who refuses Jesus' call to repent and "come out from among them and be separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17).  And if God won't forgive you, who am I to mislead you that way?

Instead, what I will do is keep pointing you back to the truth. That God is indeed patient with you, but He will not be mocked. You don't know the day of your death, but He does. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. Call upon Him and repent. Turn away from your sinful life completely. Don't think that just because some join in with you in your choice of entertainment,  that He is not angry with your sin.  He's not ok with your life, even if they seem to be. He is restraining His judgement while He waits for you to call upon Him and repent. Do not be a fool and assume that God will look the other way as they do.  In the end, it is God you will face.


Monday, October 27, 2014

The Right To Be Holy

The tactics may vary, but there is one common agenda for the deceiver, and that is obviously to keep people from knowing what God has said. The knowledge of our origins, the fall of man, the history of The Law, the prophesies of the Redeemer and their fulfillment, the promises to the redeemed, the struggles of the early Church and the common hope we share with them and finally the judgment of God, all carry with them the keys to understanding and obedience. It is common practice for the eyes of the lost to be blinded to the truth of these things, whether in part or in whole. But with the theft of truth comes the bondage of ignorance and sin.

The theft of Truth has been occurring since the days in the Garden of Eden. Satan's first objective was to bring into question what God had said. And once he caused Eve to question His word, the rest was a down hill slide. Ever since that day, the same has been happening in every culture and every society. We can see that what king Solomon wrote was true, even for the tactics of our Enemy;

Ecclesiastes 1:9

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

Though I could list several ways that this theft affects the children of God, I want to take a few minutes to talk about just one. The right to be holy. When I say that, I can't help but think of police officers informing suspect criminals of their Miranda rights. "You have the right to be silent...". Can you see why? I'll say it this way, "You have the right to be holy. Anything you say and do can and should be sanctified. You have the right to Counsel. You can not afford The Counselor, but He willingly gives Himself for those who are in Christ...".

When Jesus spoke of leaving this earth, He said,

"But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment:" John 16:7-8

Unfortunately, many believers who long to be sanctified are held back by ignorance of one simple truth, that those who are in Christ are given holiness as a gift, and by hiding the word of God in their hearts they are able to overcome sin and rebellion. The Holy Spirit leads and guides us into all understanding. But those who do not belong to Christ have minds that are darkened and they can never be holy even if they succeed in donning a form of godliness, because any godliness apart from Christ lacks power and worth.

Let me reiterate, the children of God have the gift of holiness. It is not rooted in their own worth or strength. It is rooted in the perfection of Christ and given by the Spirit of God to those who surrender their souls to Him. And it is accomplished through the Word of God.

When Jesus was praying in John 17:17, He said, "Sanctify them by your Truth. Your word is Truth.". It's no wonder then, that the enemy seeks to corrupt our understanding of Truth. And consequently, there are many who are in bondage to the belief that they will never overcome. I was once one of these believers, and until I began believing God's word and hiding it in my heart, overcoming temptation was out of my reach.

Jesus' prayer, "Sanctify them by Your Truth, Your Word is Truth", has the power to unbind those who are in bondage to sin. Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We find our hope and our strength to overcome sin in the gift of holiness from Jesus, and the sanctifying work of His word. You have the right to holiness. It was given to you at the Cross. Exercise your right. He said, "Be holy, as I am holy". And with Him, all things are possible, even if right now it seems out of your reach.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This I Call To Mind

Lamentations 3:19-24
"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind..."

I love this chapter and these verses.   I've dwelt upon it for twenty-two years.  It first stood out to me when I was at AFLBS in Plymouth, MN back in 1992.  When I first considered going to bible school, I was afraid that I would stand out as a "heathen".  I'd been a Christian since 1978, yet I still felt so unworthy of owning the name "Christian" because I knew what God had saved me from.  Not only that, but I knew that I didn't know scriptures or doctrine like others.   So, before I went to bible school, I spent an entire year getting to know my bible, just to save face.  Wow!  What a confession!  Isn't that a poor motivation?  I look back at this and I am ashamed for my pride.  And not only that, but I know that this pride was the very thing that caused me to stumble while taking classes at AFLBS.

You see, when I finally got into my classes and around the other students, I realized that they were no different than I was.  And that was a big surprise to me.  I had believed and feared that they would be coming from strong Christian homes and would have a good knowledge base of scripture and The Faith.  And I knew that I was not coming from such a home.  I feared that I was going to be "way behind" them in their knowledge and I didn't want to appear ignorant.  But what I found was that they came from ordinary family homes just like I had, and that they weren't super spiritual people...they were just like me.  In fact, having taken the entire year to study scripture on my own had given me a head start I wasn't expecting.  And for a time that puffed me up.  My pride caused me to wander.  And I paid dearly for it.

The Psalmist said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word." Psalm 119:67
He also said, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees." Psalm 119:71

After I became puffed up and let my pride cause me to wander in places I should not have strayed, God striped me of every confidence I had and left me with only one thing to cling to...His mercy.

When I think of Lamentations 3, I am instantly back to my wandering and I am cast down with shame for it.  Yet at the same time, I am filled with hope because of The Lord's great love for me.  If you'll notice, I didn't finish the quote of the verses in Lamentations.  I did this for a reason.

You see, I've known many people through the years, the majority of them through the church.  And what I've seen many times is the way some recollect their pre-salvation days.  It isn't uncommon for people who align themselves with the church to remember their pre-salvation experiences with snickering and conspiratorial giggles, almost as if there is no shame in it.   But the thing is, none of what the wicked do is amusing in God's eyes, nor is it cute.  This doesn't usually happen when someone is "giving their testimony".  This usually happens in leisurely times away from the church building, when people feel at ease to be themselves, times when their guard is let down and they don't feel pressure to look the part of a "contrite Christian", times when they are not pretending.

When we look back upon our sin, we should be cut to the heart.  And when we consider with a sober attitude, how we've offended God with our sin, we should rejoice at His great mercy that He has shown us.  To look back endearingly to the days we spent reveling in our rebellion is to forget what an abomination all of it was to God.  Instead, we should be down cast within...and then the beauty of the hope we have because of God's unfailing love will have it's proper place in our hearts.
When first I quoted this verse, I left off midway through vs. 21,  "...and this I call to mind..."
When you are feeling comfortable to be yourself, what do you call to mind when you remember your affliction and your wandering?

Like the writer of the book of Lamentations, I would encourage you to remember your affliction and wanderings as with bitterness and gall...and be downcast within yourself.  Because the moments we spent rebelling against our God are shameful.  He said, "It is shameful even to mention what the wicked do in secret."  (Eph. 5:12)  We should also consider that they were moments for which Christ hung upon the Cross.  To smile and laugh and remember them with even a hint of glee is a shameful thing.  Instead, recall them with a sober heart and how Jesus, in His great love for you, endured the Cross and how you were not consumed because His compassions never fail.

Vs. 21-24
"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning:  Great is Your faithfulness.  I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion;  therefore I will wait for Him.'"

Praise be to God who saved us from our wicked ways and gave us an eternal hope that rests upon God's mercy.  May our pleasure and joy be rooted in His love, and may we forsake even the memories of wicked pleasure.  May the Lord be our portion and our delight.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Several years ago, my mom gave me a roaster oven for Christmas.  It was very useful to me, but last spring I collected sap and used the roaster oven to slowly cook it until it turned into syrup.  For several days I diligently babied the thickening syrup anxiously awaiting the yummy treat.  Unfortunately, when I wasn't present, some unknown "force" turned the heat up on the roaster to 400 degrees.  It wasn't long until the syrup was charred to a 4'' thick black mass in the bottom of my roaster pan.  And let me tell you, it seemed it was there to stay.   

God has created you and I to worship.  He's created us for something special and He loves our obedience as we do His will.  The things He uses us to do or create are often times awesome and amazing, inspiring others in their walk with The Lord, building them up in their faith.  We have a purpose and it is good.  But sometimes an outside "force" comes in and wreaks havoc in a person's life.  Sometimes that "force" is his own stubborn will.  No matter the reason, the results are a mess, that seem completely hopeless to overcome.  Often others give up on that person, writing him off with dismissive words that cut to the heart.

My roaster pan was charred and unusable for a long long time.  It took much effort to scrape and chip away the charred sap. And when Paul and I got to the end of the chunks, the roaster looked irreparably damaged, as if the sap took the enamel completely off the pan in some places.  So we set it aside, ready for the dump and I purposed not to chide myself too much.  Paul comforted me with the affirmation that I could replace it.  Then it rained, and the roaster pan sat with rain water in it for a good while.  After a time I looked at it again to make sure it was a lost cause.  What I saw was that more specks of sap had soaked off and I realized the enamel was good, and that there was still hope!

We've scrubbed every once in a while over the summer and today, as I was cooking apples, I decided to scrub it once again.  To my delight, the pan is nearly restored!  It's taken a while, but that's alright.

God knows our intended purposes.  And when we mess up our lives it can seem completely hopeless.  Some have even concluded that their lives aren't worth living anymore and they give up.  But God never gives up.  He can take our "charred mess" of a life and redeem it.  Even when others give up, we must always remember that the end of the matter is in God's hands.  So, even when someone seems to be a complete wreck, when someone seems to be a "hopeless cause", we MUST hold out hope that God can redeem that person.    

Maybe you are one who's life is a mess right now.  Maybe you are even thinking you are a lost cause. Maybe someone else has said as much.  I'm here to tell you that God is in the redemption business.  He is the great restorer of our souls and our lives.  Though there may seem to be insurmountable issues, and maybe you believe you've gone to far, but God is able to scrape away the charred mess and restore you to perfect use.  Sure it might be painful.  Sure it will take some time.  And no, you might not be usable while you are in your current state, but in time, and through the process of restoration, He will re-establish your faith and your footing so that you are once again the person He created you to be.  

My roaster has some "character" now.  It doesn't shine quite like it once did.  But I can sure use it as much as I ever did.  And I am ever so pleased to have it back.  

I'm certain that the Heavenly Father is even more pleased when one of His children repents and seeks restoration with Him.  Return to The Lord and wait patiently for Him to restore your life.  He will do it.

2 Peter 3:9
"The Lord is not slow about His promises, as some would understand slowness.  But He is patient with you, not wishing for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance."

Phillippians 1:6
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it." 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Gift

Ecclesiastes 9:9"Enjoy life with your wife whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun."

My husband, Paul and I have seen many years together.  We are working on our 20th year of being married but I knew him for a couple years before we tied the knot.  What an adventure it has been!  

For me, it began when I was 16 years old.  For some reason, I felt I needed to start praying for my future husband.  So I began making a list of the qualities I wanted in him and I prayed, asking God to equip him with those qualities and others as He saw fit.  I diligently prayed and as my list changed, so did my prayers. And I'm convinced that all the while, God was shaping me as much as He was shaping my husband to be.  What a refinement process that must have been.  I only know from my own perspective what my refinement was like.  But God knows from His eternal perspective what happened and will continue to happen.  I am confident that no matter what refining work God does within my heart or the heart of my husband, He has given me a beautiful gift to ease that process.

That gift is the gift of romantic love.  The gift of marriage.  I am so in love with my husband that it makes my days joyful and light and gives me something fantastic to look forward to every day.  I would never have known how grand of a gift I was asking for, had I not gotten to spend my last 20 plus years loving Paul.  Sure, we said, "I do".  But the romance didn't begin there and it certainly didn't end there.  It's honestly been the greatest gift I have ever been given.

This gift is as precious to God as it is to me...possibly even more precious, because He's realized it's potential all along, even before I knew what I was asking for.  I'd be lying if I tried to tell you that it's always been easy.  We've gone through our share of hard experiences.  But in linking arms and pushing through together, we've grown even closer than we would have, had we not gone through those times.  He has been my faithful friend, my lover, my confidant, my champion, my support, my pastor and my encourager our entire life together.  And when things have arisen to threaten that bond, he's never once wavered in his love and pursuit of me.  We purposed to faithfully love each other on our wedding day, and that has never changed for either of us.

It might sound arrogant to some, but I'll risk writing it.  What I want is for my children to see how in love Paul and I are together so that they will pattern their expectations and their intentions after us.  I want them to see us fight and make up.  I want them to see me cry and Paul comfort me.  I want them to see me comforting him too.  I want them to see us experiencing the good times together and pushing through the hard times together...because that is part of this gift of marriage.  We take the good and the bad and we praise God through it all.  If our children see our weaknesses and how we pull through it together, they will expect and purpose to be faithful like that with their own spouses.   It will be their "normal", because it is our "normal".

What Paul and I have, is becoming increasingly rare...but it is not extinct.  There are many people out there who intend to love God by faithfully loving their spouses for better or worse.  I'm banking on this, even as I pray for my future sons and daughters-in-law.  Even though I've seen the definition of "normal" change in our society and even in the church, I believe there is a different standard to strive for that is empowered by God.  It is a faithfulness that is higher and far superior to what the world would encourage.  And I believe it is both a gift and an obedience.

Knowing how many people, both in and out of the Church, have had their lives touched by divorce, I am certain that this subject carries the potential to insight hard feelings.  I'm not here to bring condemnation upon anyone.  I am, however, here to bring encouragement to those, who are right now considering throwing in the towel and giving up.

The gift of a wife is a "reward", one to delight in all your fleeting days.  I know it's hard.  But I also know it's very very good.   It's a gift worth fighting for.  It's a gift worth clinging to.  But the world would have you believe that you "don't deserve this".  It would push you to believe you will never and never have found the kind of love you deserve in your marriage.  It would convince you that you'd be happier if you walked away, that your children would be "just fine" in spite of the choice it wants you to make.  But what the world will not remind you of is that your husband or your wife is a precious gift.  Have you ever seen your spouse as a precious gift?  Do you think of him that way now?

If you can't see this, then I would encourage you to take some time before you make any life altering decisions and dwell upon that thought for a while.  He is a gift.  She is a reward.  Fight for what God has given you, and don't let yourself be so easily entangled.  Your enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.  He does not go easy on us because we are Christians.  He wants to ruin your life, your marriage and the lives of your children.  If your heart is being drawn in by the lie that divorce is your best option, consider the great God who gave the gift of marriage and then consider who it is that has your best interest in mind.  If God is for you (and your marriage) who can be against you?   Reach for the gift and the Giver.  He will show you what it means to be faithful.