Thursday, April 30, 2009

From Control Freak to Jesus Freak

"The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you." Romans 8:7-9 (NIV)

I have spent years as a "control freak." Not the derogatory version that you find in the encyclopedia that describes someone who wishes to control others through a feeling of superiority, but the quiet kind who likes to control every aspect of their own life. Everything that I did, owned, or had any control over was subject to my nature. It gave me a sense of personal fulfillment to think that I had a little "control" of my life. Of course, this was all an illusion. I never did have control, I just had God's providence helping me to fulfill His will for my life. I still fight my controlling tendencies to this day-the desire to keep a constantly clean house (this one faded as soon as I got married and had a husband, 2 boys and 2 dogs to contend with), the desire to maintain a balanced checkbook, to be in charge at work, and the list goes on. It is not that God doesn't was me to have a clean house, or a balanced checkbook, He just doesn't want me to lose my sense of priorities in my life. When we forget who we are living for, we will soon find out who is really in control. God let me be "in control" for a while, but one day in a single instant He decided to teach me the lesson that I really had no control and He was in charge and it was time for me to admit it. I drove in to work gainfully employed and drove away from the office for the last time with my car filled with all the personal belongings I had accumulated there for over 9 years. My life was forever changed and it was then that I knew it was God who was in control and not me. He used that hardship to change me and the way I operated my life. We officially turned everything over to seek God's will for our lives, our livelihood, our minds and our whole hearts. Who knew that a traumatic hardship could turn into such a blessing? God did.

I am now officially a "Jesus Freak." I am totally sold out to letting God be in control. Who better to be in control that the Creator of the universe? John 1:2 says about Jesus "He was with God in the beginning" and "in him was life, and that life was the light of men." (v.4) He has truly changed my life. I don't mean the initial conversion experience when you first come to accept Jesus as your Savior, but the true relinquishing of control and the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7) that comes when you let God be God and you follow His will and not your own. It is a truly indescribable feeling to know that once you lay it down, God will pick it up and run it in for a touchdown. But you must remember that all things are for His glory and honor in our lives, for it is through Him that we are truly successful. Keep your motives and priorities in order so that they may glorify Him. Jesus said "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matt 5:8) I can't wait to see God, but while I am here I will try to do my best to live for Him and let Him be in control.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Call My Name

"I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live." Psalm 116:1-2 (NIV)

Do you ever just get the need to talk to someone? Back in my single days when I lived alone, I would sometimes have the desire to talk to someone. So I would grab the phone and start down the list. Some days the first person that I wanted to talk to would oblige but other days I would continue unsuccessfully down the list of people who were busy or not home until there was no one left to call and I had not fulfilled my need to talk. The great thing about God is that He is always at home on his throne, and He always answers our call. The hot line to the great I AM is always open with a faithful ear on the other side. Third Day sings "Call my name, say it now, I want you to never doubt the love I have for you is so alive." (Call My Name, Revelation) This always sends chills right down my spine. The Lord longs for us to call him, he is always there to lend an ear and a voice of wisdom and encouragement. And unlike our friends and family may sometimes unknowingly do, He will never give us bad advice. His will is perfect and if we ask it will be revealed to us. Just lift your hands and call out "O Lord" and you will immediately feel peace that surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Do Not Fear

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

Do you know what one of the most common commands in the Bible is? DO NOT FEAR. This command occurs over 250 times throughout the old and new testaments. Pretty amazing how we are constantly told not to fear in this life and world filled with so much sin and depravity. But we, as children of the Almighty God, are to be filled with courage. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears in not made perfect in love." (I John 4:18) Jesus is love. He is the light of the world (John 9:5). We who believe in him will have eternal life (John 3:16). We are made perfect through Him. Second Timothy says "for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline" (1:7). So we are to go forth being bold and understanding that God has empowered us to live confidently and love righteously until the day of the Lord's return. It is our charge to reveal Christ in ourselves for we are made to be courageous for Him, always understanding "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Phil 2:13) Ray Stedman writes "This is why the Spirit-led Christian can fall into a cesspool of circumstances and come up smelling like a rose. Disappointments make him better, not bitter. Heartaches become sources of joy. Hard circumstances produce in him the choicest of virtues. The weaker he feels, the more impact his life has on others. He becomes sweeter, mellower, filled with an inner beauty." (The Queen and I) So remember, we have no reason to fear, for fear is of this world. The Lord our God has provided us with boldness and courage so that we may be faithful to Him while on earth and live in the glory of His presence for eternity.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spiritual Healing

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

Spiritual healing can be such an awesome thing. One certainty is this, if you cry out to God to heal your heart and your spirit, He will do it. He may not give us everything that we ask for in this world or heal us of our bodily afflictions, but He is quick to heal our heart. "A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14). He wants us to be pure, clean, and unharmed on the inside. Matthew says "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled"(5:6). These worldly bodies will pass away, but our spirits will remain forever. The choice is ours to have a clean heart that resides with the Lord (Matt 5:8) or to have an unbelieving and foul spirit that does not trust in Him and burns in the lake of fire (Rev 21:8). The ultimate spiritual balm came when Jesus dragged himself to the cross bearing all of our sins and burdens. "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:3) Let us believe that Christ bore all our sins and cry out to God to heal our spirit and know that we will be cleansed and renewed daily in our hearts. For God may not heal your worldly infirmities, but He will certainly cleanse your spirit and prepare it a dwelling place in His house forever (Psalm 23:6).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day

"Then He said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's'." Matthew 22:21 (NIV)

I thought since today was tax day for the millions of Americans that this verse was fitting. I grew up in a household consumed with income tax "season" which usually ran from around January 15 to April 15 every year. My mom is a tax preparer and a darn fine one, if I may say. My three sisters work with her and they fill out thousands of income tax returns in just a couple of months. The ominous date of April 15 was both a blessing and a curse in our home. It was the impending doom of not having all the on hand returns completed that then needed extensions and also the relief that maybe you might be able to sleep until 7 AM and have a cup of coffee on the back porch and enjoy the outdoors for a few minutes. It was always interesting how Easter and tax day were so closely linked on the calendar. People tend to think we pay taxes on April 15 and pay our respects to God on Easter. Our congregation doubled last Sunday in our church. But that is not really what this post is about so I digress...

The Pharisees sent word to Jesus with the intention to "trap him in his words." They said "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" (Matthew 22:16-17) Well, they got the first part right! Jesus was a man of integrity and he was not swayed by men. He spoke the ultimate truth about everything since he could not lie. Their trap failed them and Jesus taught us, and them, an important lesson. Pay to Caesar (or the government) what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's. For nothing that we own or have on this earth really matters anyway, for it is fleeting and has no bearing on our eternal existence. Job says "be careful that no one entices you by riches" (36:18). It is Satan who is "the prince of this world." (John 16:11) So Jesus said pay taxes for it is the right thing to do. He also said give to "God what is God's." That, my friend, would be our heart and our soul. Jesus said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30) For today we pay to Caesar what is Caesar's, but for eternity we give to God what is God's. That is our praise and glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Remember to give to God what is God's every day, not just on that one special day of the year.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Three Days Later

"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!" Luke 24:5-6 (NIV)

Could you imagine showing up at the tomb where Jesus had been laid three short days before and the stone being rolled away? His body was not inside, but you were greeted by angels who told you that Jesus was not there but was risen from the dead. When you went to tell everyone they didn't believe you, but they traveled to the tomb themselves to see the burial clothes laying on the stone. How frightening, curious, and eventually amazing it would be for these faithful followers of Christ. He appeared to the disciples saying "why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." (Luke 24:38-39) Jesus defied death and sin and was raised from the dead that we might be saved; that we might live eternally with Him in the presence of the Lord. His resurrected body was the first of its kind, a prototype if you will. "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:20-22) We will receive the same type of new body when we are resurrected at Christ's return. Let us have the hope of eternal life through the faith that Jesus brought to us through His teachings and the fulfillment of the scriptures. For Jesus said "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29) He's talking about the rest of us! Blessed are we who believe, even though we have not seen Christ raised from the dead...yet. May your Easter morning be filled with gratitude to the Father who sent his only Son to live and die for us that we may be saved and become heirs with Christ in the kingdom of God forever and ever.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Beginning of the End

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.' Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,' he said to them." Mark 14:22-24 (NIV)

Tonight is the night. That fateful night of the first day of Passover. Jesus was sitting with his disciples having dinner. He seems so calm to me in all the scriptural accounts. I am certain that if I knew what was about to happen that I would have been a nervous wreck and unable to even sit, let alone eat. But he took the opportunity to share one final meal with his chosen few. And thank goodness that he did. For it is the meal that we commemorate with our brothers and sisters in Christ to remember the new covenant that has been established for us. Jesus became the blood and body sacrifice that we needed to fulfill eternal grace. As we think upon this ritual that we celebrate, may we remember why we do it. May we also remember the circumstances under which Jesus offered this sacrifice. He was about to give up his life so that we may have life eternal. In a few short hours he would be sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane preparing himself for the ultimate denial, trial, torture, death, and burial. But to every one's surprise, he would return again. So stay tuned with anxious anticipation as Jesus gets a brand new body and we get a brand new life through his sacrifice. It will only take three days...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fascinating Foreshadowing

"This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord-a lasting ordinance." Exodus 12:14 (NIV)

The Bible fascinates me. It is so cohesive from beginning to end and all the parts relate and support one another. Some relationships are dramatic and others are more obscure, but when God reveals them to you it is such an exciting and holy revelation! Of course, I rarely, if ever, receive a revelation that hasn't been given to some Bible scholar in the past. But it always excites me to go and study it after I recognize it and have my new knowledge confirmed by someone who has made Bible study their life's work. It helps me to realize that I am learning to listen to God and recognize His clues rather than relying on the wisdom of someone else to teach me about my God. For I want to learn from the One who WROTE IT!

I have been studying the Passover this week since we are nearing Easter which is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish festival. As I began to read and study the original Passover in Exodus, so many interesting things just jumped off the pages. The Passover was originally announced by God as a way to save the children of Israel during their exile in Egypt, right before He told Moses to lead them out and He parted the Red Sea for them to escape. The Israelites were to get a young male lamb, one year old and without defect, and slaughter it. They were to put the blood on the door posts so that God would "passover" them when He came to claim the firstborn of every household in Egypt. Every home had someone dead when the night was done, except for the homes with the blood on them. Exodus 12:6 says "all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight." This foreshadows Israels rejection of Christ and their eagerness to have Him put to death. It was the Israelites, and no one else, who would slaughter the Passover Lamb. Luke 23 says "it was now about the sixth hour, and the darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining." (44-45) God made twilight to come upon the land while His ultimate Passover Lamb, who was "without defect" was sacrificed. Exodus 12:46 reports God's command "do not break any of the bones" and Numbers 9:12 says "they must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones." This is the foreshadowing of Christ's crucifixion. John chapter 19 says "but when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs" (33) and "these thing happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "not one of his bones will be broken..." (36) And Jesus was removed from the cross before night so that He would not be hanging during the Sabbath that was the following day. I Corinthians says "For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth." (7-8) "Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry..." (John 6:35)

Let us take time this Easter to truly begin to understand God's will for humanity and how His plan has come to fulfillment throughout the ages. Knowing why we believe what we believe is the amazing fulfillment of our faith in Christ. Knowing these things makes me so excited for the final days when Christ returns because He loves me, for I know He will because the "Bible tells me so" as the sweet children's song goes.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ours is a Living God

"As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people'." 2 Corinthians 6:16b (NIV)

As we approach this Easter season we tend to focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He laid down his life for us that we may have eternal life if we believe in Him. (John 3:16) But as we focus on the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, let us not forget that He did not simply come to die. He came to LIVE for us so that we may understand His ways better. He began a short 3 year ministry at the age of 30 and taught the world more in those 3 years than all of the prophets, ministers, and believers have been able to do in thousands of years! The impact of that one life and the 3 years of knowledge He bestowed astounds me! The only way that His life could have had such lasting impact was because He truly is the Messiah, the only begotten son of God. So as we thank God for our eternal salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we should also thank Him for giving us all the information that we will ever need to live a life acceptable to Him while we are still on this earth. We are no longer bound to the stringent rules of the Old Testament saints, for we have grace. But let us not take this grace for granted. For Jesus said "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40) This is what Christ spent those years on the earth trying to tell us. Of course, He always had plans to be the ultimate sacrifice and carry the burden of the world's sins on His back up the Via Dolorosa to Golgotha. But as we celebrate his sacrifice, let us remember our God is a Living God who came to live to show us the way before He could die to save us.