Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Still Sacred

I've been reading a lot in Kings and Chronicles lately.  The stories of the disobedience of God's people and the kings that ruled them are fascinating and sad.  It's strange how they would follow God and things would go well with them.  Then a bad king would come into power and rule without integrity, leading the people into idolatry and rebellion, and God would give them over to their sin and as a result He would often let them fall to ruin.  Then afterward, a godly king would lead the survivors back to God and He would restore them.  Over and over this happens.  Sin, rebellion, destruction and death, repentance, forgiveness and restoration of the remnant few who were preserved from God's wrath because of their surrender, humility and obedience...over and over again.   

The children of Abraham all identified as God's people.  They all laid claim to being chosen, yet very few of the people of Israel or Judah actually loved God and worshipped Him.   Only the remnant few would remain faithful and pure in their faith and observance of God's ways.  When His people would live in such a way as to bring dishonor upon His name, God's anger burned and He would swiftly purge the nation of those who were rebellious.  His name, for all it's power and fame, was often subjected to mockery and ridicule among the nations because of the behavior and unfaithfulness of God's people.  And God took that very seriously.

I read these accounts and I tremble!  I wonder if people who call themselves Christians, but live their lives in drunkenness and rebellion consider that God's name is still to this day sacred.  I wonder if they consider their sin AFTER Sunday morning, when they are done singing and bowing their heads to pray with the rest of the congregation.  I wonder if they know that God is still not open to being mocked by the behavior of those who align themselves with His name.  Like the children of Abraham, many people today call themselves children of God, yet they are completely and totally given over to drunkenness, carousing, dishonesty and rebellion if the opportunity arises.  Some merely participate, others facilitate and participate.   But like the children of Abraham who lived in rebellion to God in biblical times, those who live in rebellion to God today will not be shown mercy unless they repent (stop their participation and facilitation of sin).  

"But what about Jesus?", you say.  Drunkards can bank on Jesus.  Jesus really can save a drunkard.  He can save the sexually immoral, the glutton, the adulterer, the thief, the liar the murderer....Jesus can save anyone!  But He will not save the unrepentant.  That's as simple as it gets.  The remnant few today are those who are repentant just the same as the remnant few of yesteryear were the repentant ones in those days.  

Out of one side of their mouths some people praise God on Sunday, expressing love to Him.  And out of the other side of their mouths (any other given day) they speak about hateful, lustful nasty things.  Their mouths are filled with filth and lies and half truths (which is the same as a lie).  And they readily spew condemnation for those they hate.  Even the sound of their laughter is reserved for the crude, rude, provocative and coarse things of life, or the mockery of others.  Those who sing to Jesus on Sunday and run to Satan with their lust and thirst the rest of the week are not going to be named among the righteous.  Shocking right?  Are you thinking, "How judgmental"?   Hate me if you like.  Accuse me of being judgmental if that's how you comfort yourself.  But the plain simple truth is this; God does not save those who will not repent.  So go ahead and talk about Jesus to all the people you seek to impress.  But the next time you allow yourself the worldly pleasure of getting stoned or drunk, or having sex outside of a marriage that Jesus himself would attend, you can go ahead and let reality smack you in the face.  You are not repentant.  And if you are trying to bear the name of Christ while you live like that, you better wise up and realize that the holiness of God's name STILL matters to Him.   And for those of you who DO belong to God, who continually affirm the salvation of these unrepentant ones, you had better rethink your role.  NO ONE gets to rewrite the rules God Himself has put in place.  Not even if you think your motives are rooted in "love".   


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hope For The Harassed

Matthew 9:36
"When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd."

I recently discovered that the Facebook page I deactivated was reactivated without my permission.  I'm feeling a bit harassed right now.  As it turns out, there is an "option" added to the deactivation page that will reactivate your page automatically after a certain number of days.  That option was not there when I deactivated my account long ago.  So, Facebook reactivated my page for me without my consent.  I feel completely stalked and harassed.  

You know, there are many reasons a person may feel that way.  I've felt harassed many times.  It's one thing when it comes from a persistent web site.  It's another when it comes from a living person or persons.  There are laws that make stalking and harassing less defensible now, but still, there are tenacious people out there who have given themselves over to defaming the character of others, or making their lives miserable somehow.  They usually start with gossip and it progresses.  They are so persistent in being destructive and divisive that I can't help but believe their actions and intentions are completely driven by demonic influence.  Should we wrestle with these people?  I guess it's always appropriate to defend yourself.  But It's important to remember that at the core of our harassment, "people" are not the problem.  We do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but something more sinister, though at times it seems unthinkable that there could be something more sinister than certain harassing people out there.  But it's true.  

So what is the Christian to do?  We pray and wait and praise and hope in God, who will avenge every evil deed.  Oh the comfort this knowledge brings!  We need not "wrestle" with people who contend with us.  It's really more of a spiritual battle.   Eventually, even though people may even slay us, God will have His way.  This thought really does bring peace.  At least for me it does.  That's because I recognize that any justice that is worth seeking will come from God and will come complete with the perfect balance of mercy and truth. 

Did you know that Jesus calls Himself the Great Shepherd?  Did you know that one of the jobs a shepherd has is to anoint the heads of his sheep with oil? 

"You anoint my head with oil..."

Do you know why a shepherd does that?  I'm told that it's for the purpose of protecting the sheep from the harassing pests.  Yep.  That sums it up right there.  And some people are indeed pests.  They are as persistent as gnats, who if left unchecked draw blood and cause infection.  They are people who seem to be going for blood.  We do the best we can to defend ourselves against such people, but truly, Jesus, our Great Shepherd, will indeed anoint us.   He doesn't just leave us to these harassers or the demonic ones who embolden them.  Everything that comes to us must pass through the hands of both the Father and the Son and God removes them in due time. 

Now, let's not get carried away here.  I know that Facebook is a voluntary site.  And I did open up that account.  But I also closed it.  Yet today by chance I discovered it was up again.  Do I think this is some big conspiracy?  No, not really.  I don't like it, but it's just an annoyance.  

However, when there are individual harassers who malign our names, seek to frustrate our plans or interfere with our efforts to minister to others by tearing us down verbally or otherwise, there most certainly is a need for intervention.  And yes, their harassment is part of a conspiracy, though the conspiracy began long ago when Satan set out to destroy those God loves.  Because of this, our defense must first come from God.  After that, we take actions rooted in righteousness to defend ourselves. Sometimes it comes in the form of church discipline.  Other times legal help is necessary.  But in the end, when push comes to shove, our help comes from The Lord.  We leave vengeance in His hands and wait for His justice to prevail.  And you know what?  It's always a good show, sometimes complete with least from my lips, that is.  I do not rejoice in the fall of fellow men, but I definitely rejoice in God's righteous hand of justice.  And I look forward to the day when justice and mercy are settled once and for all. 


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Quiet Places

I've deleted more articles in the last 20 days than I can count.  I start writing things that are on my mind only to feel strongly compelled to keep them close.  I guess it's good that I don't earn a living by writing.  Still, in times like this it's easy to feel like a dry well.   We are told in scripture that there is a time to be silent.  So rather than forcing out words, I wait and be silent, being careful not to speak without wisdom, being careful to listen rather than to speak.  And it always does my heart good.  

Ecclesiastes 6:11
"The more the words the less the meaning and how does that profit anyone?"

In quiet days, my heart still ponders the things of God.  And I still find myself searching scripture for answers to the myriad questions I have.  But those quiet days also give me a push to simply rest and let God's leading of my heart and understanding just be for me.  Sounds selfish, right?  I mean, to want to keep the secret things God teaches me to myself sounds completely selfish to my mind.  But I think sometimes it's ok just to enjoy the intimate moments I have with God without feeling pressure to regurgitate every little good thing I glean from my time with Him.    I liken it to my relationship with my husband or his relationship with me. 

We have our public moments that you all get to be a part of.  The bantering, the harmony, the tender stories of our courtship, love and trials...we often share them with you for the sake of building you up and allowing you to enjoy a taste of what God has given us as a family.  And we love to do that!  And we've shared laughter and tears with many of you as you in turn tell us your own stories.   We love to let God use any part of who we are to draw you closer to who He is.  We do this because we want you to feel His love for you as much as we've felt His love for us.  So we share.  But there are things that are between us that we keep.  Though you have the privilege of seeing us together on stage, hearing our stories, we do know there is a place for personal intimacy that is exclusive.  I believe my relationship with God is the same.  

As can be seen through my years of writing and performing, I have been willing to be vulnerable to the public by sharing my thoughts and testimony.  Anyone who has lived a life like mine knows this does not come without a price.  But I'm still here, trusting that if anything I could say would lead you to seek Christ then I am willing to speak, even if it means I die to myself by not allowing myself the simple pleasure of being unknown.  But there is a time for silence too.   I have quiet thoughts I share solely with Him.  And there are things He teaches me that I keep close to my own heart because I have a personal relationship with God that is mine alone.  So I seek Him in lonely places, being quiet with Him, keeping close the things He reveals, until such a time as He would have me speak freely.  

My encouragement to you today is to allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying intimacy with God, without feeling compelled to reveal everything He shows you.  Take the time to own it, understand it, love it and worship Him for it.  It's true that we are one in Christ.  It's true that unity is one of the most important things Jesus desires for us as His Church.  But it's also true that you are of personal interest to God.  Yes, you.  Group bible studies are good.  Prayer groups are good.  Sharing with your sisters or brothers is good.  But it is also good to seek out the lonely places as Jesus did, just to spend quiet time with the Father alone.  And keeping what He teaches you close to your heart until He releases you to share it is good too.