Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This morning I was contemplating the birth of Jesus and His reasons for coming to earth and taking on human flesh.  Then I read Hebrews 2:14 and 15 from the NKJV:
Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Christ, perfection Himself, chose to take on human flesh so He could die.  Why? To prove to us, His creation, that there is nothing to fear in death by rising again.  Yes, Jesus came to pay the price for our sin.  The wages of sin is still death (Romans 6:23) and will always be.  That particular law was set in motion at creation (Genesis 2:17) when God gave one simple test of obedience so that man would have free will and we used that gift to disobey and become ensnared to fear - fear of physical death itself, fear of being alone - because death brings separation, fear of how death will come about, fear of what will happen after death. 
As I thought on this, it hit me that our every sin is somehow related to this fear of death.  Greed is caused by the fear that there may be nothing for us after this life, so we'd better get what we can while we can.  Laziness goes back to it by us rationalizing that work simply isn't worth doing, because the only things sure in life are "death and taxes."  Arrogance comes from believing we have to prove ourselves better than others and therefore worthy of more than this life alone.  These are simply a few of the things that slipped through my thoughts, but the "fear of death" seems to cover them all!!  The bondage every human being faces then is not individual sin (those they add to the burden, making it seem heavier and more imminent) but the overall, all encompassing fear of death.
I watched the movie "The Perfect Gift" the other day.  Though it was made in 2009, I had never seen it before.  I enjoyed it so much, I had to tell Michael about it.  He thought it sounded good, so I ordered it in the trilogy set.  It's the third in the trilogy "The Perfect Stranger." The man playing the part of Jesus did a wonderful job of portraying the One I have come to know and love so dearly.
While baking a cake with a young girl, she gets cake batter on his hand.  Rather that wiping it off and finishing the cake, he reaches out and wipes some on her nose.  You can pretty well figure what happens from there.  They end up with handfuls of batter and flour in their hands, ready to toss them at each other, when the head pastor walks in.  He was NOT happy.  I was though.  It showed Jesus as being able to have fun and willing to get messy if necessary to do so.
In another spot he was setting up the nativity.  He came to the statue of Mary and kneeled down to look at it more closely.  The love shown on his face amazed me.  He never said a word, but after a brief moment and a smile, stood and patted the shoulder of the statue as he walked inside the church building. 
The conversations between "Jess" (as he asks the people to call him) and each person was simple and straight forward.  Basically, this movie depicted Jesus as He is revealed in Scripture and in my heart, so I have a burning desire for others to see it.  Therefore, I purchased it to make that dream reality.  I also confess that I really want to see the first two of the trilogy.
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2 NIV
The joy of setting us free from the fear of death and bringing us back to that place of eternal life rather than eternal separation from God, which is the real death we fear, pushed Him forward into the arms of derision, torture and death on the cross. We think we fear physical death.  In reality, it is the fear of eternal separation from Him.  Satan has wrapped it up in the disguise of fear of physical death, but if that were truly what we feared, no one would contemplate suicide, nor would people struggle so hard to stay alive when faced with  deadly illness.  However, the fear of what happens after death is and should be VERY real, so real that it draws us to the only place of freedom from it - the loving arms of Jesus, Who died in our place so we could spend eternity with the Father.
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.  I John 3:1 (AKJV)
The greatest gift of love was handed down by Father God Himself.  He gave us His only true Son, Jesus, that we could become His adopted children.  If we are His children, then we are His heirs.Heirs if His glory!!!  I don't know why He loves us so much, we definitely don't deserve it, but I am sure glad He does!!
Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  Romans 8:17 (NIV)
Father, it brings tears to my eyes each time I think of how much love it took to be willing to allow Your own Son to become flesh, be tortured and killed, so that I might be set free from fear.  I know I do not deserve it in any way, shape or form, but I thank You for it!!  Thank You for Christmas. Thank You for Easter.  Father, as Your children wake this morning to all the physical gifts given to us, help us to take just a moment to remember that this is Your Son's birthday we are celebrating.  Help us remember the cost of that birth, giving up everything perfect to take on the imperfect and gain victory over it so it can be remade back into perfection through faith in His blood, death and resurrection.  You alone are worthy, Jesus.  Thank You for giving Yourself so that I, even in my unworthiness, might take on Yours and enter the Father's presence for all eternity through the veil of Your blood. I only have to walk through once and I am cleansed forever more.  Thank You, thank You, thank YOU!!!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Rebels Heart

The very argument that took place in Lucifer's mind before he was kicked out of heaven is being used by him today to stir up rebellion in mankind.  "We are being treated unfairly, unequally!  We have every right to do everything everyone else is doing!  We have every right to be as wealthy as everyone else!  We have every right........!"
Whites are superior, Blacks are superior, Hispanics are superior, Asians are superior and every other supposed race of mankind is superior!  To what?  The other races?  I hope not to offend, but I find this rather humorous.  Why does having a different shade of skin, hair, eyes, shape of face, etc. make you a different race?  Not because we come from different nationalities, but simply because we all desire to be unique and different at the same time.  We are all simply the human race (or kind in Biblical terminology).  We are confused by the cries of "UNFAIR!" and feel we must do something about them. So we decided that if you speak differently than I, look differently than I, see things differently than I, etc. then you are WRONG!!   Sometimes this is true, but not because people are different in their ways than I am, but because they are different in their ways than God desires them to be.  This is where we get confused.  We make it a me vs. them thing, when in reality it is God's ways vs. the ways of sinful man. 
What rights do we truly possess?  None but those with which Father God has graced us.  We deserve none of them. 
As my children grew I gave them more and more authority as they proved they could handle it.  It was nothing they deserved, but was something they would need to get through this life.  God has done the same with us.  As we grow in our faith, He bestows more authority on us to help us be all He desires us to be in life. 
There were times in my children's lives where they abused the authority given them.  One of my children was caught speeding (only 5 miles over, but it was a $65 ticket).  That child came home red-faced and told me the story.  I told said child to go immediately to Hillsboro and pay the ticket out of their own pocket or their keys would be taken away until it was done.  The ticket was paid that day and another was never received again as long as they lived with us.  God is going to react in the same manner with us.  As a child, I lied to stay out of trouble.  It would plague me until the truth was out. My parents had taught me that lying was wrong and when (no ifs) I got caught I would be in more trouble than if I had told the truth.  As an adult and trusting child of God, I know that His Word tells us that He sees our every thought and knows all we do, so now if I tell what would be considered the smallest of lies in today's world, I have to immediately apologize to God and correct things.  Once Michael asked if the paper on the table was all the mail, I immediately replied yes, realized my mistake and said, "EXCEPT the junk I put in the recycle bin.  It is still there if you'd like to see it."  Most people would have told me that was silly, but my Father God knows that if I allow slip ups, they become habit.  If I want to keep authority over lying in my life, then I cannot give in to it at all.  This is not easy.  Do I believe there are times when we have to lie in order to protect others?  Yes, and I believe God understands.  He knows what kind of world we live in, how dangerous and destructive it can be.  So if a child is home alone and someone comes to the door or calls on the phone should they tell the truth that they are alone?  No.  However, it is mankind's greed that has gotten us to this place.  But that's another story.
"As our children will one day understand things we don't try to explain now, so one day, in God's presence, we will have the reference points to understand what now remains a mystery."  (pg. 50 If God Is Good)
Being in God's presence is essential to growth.  We must spend time with Him on a consistent basis in order to understand what life is really all about, grow in wisdom and understanding and become what He truly desires us to be.  I lived with my parents almost 19 years on a daily basis.  I learned to take authority over dressing myself, cleaning myself, taking care of my possessions, etc.  I learned that their dreams for me were that I come to know the Lord Jesus as Savior and Lord so I could continue to grow and be able to live a happy and blessed life in the Lord, serving Him with my whole heart.  Just as I needed those 19 years of daily experience with my parents, I need a lifetime of eternity to spend with Jesus in order to learn, grow and understand all there is to understand, and in all eternity, I will never learn it all, so isn't it best to start now learning all we can? "Satan is not God's opposite, fighting a cosmic duel with an uncertain outcome." (pg 51 If God is Good)
To be honest, I hadn't fully thought about this before.  However, I had heard analogies such as "life is like a chess game with God and Satan as opponents."  The analogy never seemed quite right, but I didn't have anything spring up in my heart about it, so I didn't really think on it much.  I realize, however, that it may have tainted my understanding in some way, as many things, okay - most things, we hear have a tendency to do.  When I read these words, however, something new sprang up - "Evil is the opposite of good, but Satan is no where near the opposite of God.  There is only one God and He has no opposite.  There is nothing with which to compare Him."
The book goes on to explain: "Michael, the righteous archangel would be an opposite to Satan.  Satan is finite.  God is infinite.  God has no equal."  And I would go on to say, "no equal opposite or otherwise."
A game or duel implies that either side could be winner, but God has already won through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  On the same page this statement is made: "Their conflict better resembles the undefeated world heavyweight champion (God) taking on a cranky three-year-old (Satan)."  Even at that though, I have experienced many a cranky three year old and sometimes they beat you down.  God cannot be beaten down, so there you go......
Where we go wrong is assuming that because Satan has already been defeated by God, we have already defeated him as well.  We cannot.  He has power that we should never sneer at:  Jude 9" But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
We can resist him and he will flee from us, but how do we go about that?  "Submit yourselves, therefore, to God; resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7 The entire outcome of our lives depends on this.  IF we submit ourselves to God - THEN we will be able to resist the devil and he will flee from us.  Once again I go back to marriage.  When I submit myself to Michael, his desire to do what I ask becomes greater.  As I submit, my desires change and conform to become more like his, which makes his desire to fulfill my dreams greater still.  What is even lovelier still is that the more I submit to him, the more he submits to me.  We become more and more one.  Our thoughts, desires, dreams and even our sense of humor become more and more alike.
Sense of humor popped into my head because of an event of last evening.  There is supposed to be a law in Jefferson County that people must have their dogs indoors at night or trained not to bark so that they do not interfere with peoples sleeping.  Every night the dog on the street behind our house starts barking around 10 pm.  He doesn't quit for about an hour.  You have to know that there is a valley between our streets, so everything sounds extra loud.  I can stand in my back yard and talk in a normal voice to the people over an acre away and they hear me plainly.  Anyway, I was exhausted last evening and desperately wanting to sleep by 10.  My husband came to bed with me so I could sleep and we turned on the fan because we knew the dog would start barking.  Sure enough, a few minutes later, there he was loud as could be.  My goofy husband got out of bed, opened the window and started barking and howling and said, "Scoobyoobyroo."  There was a time when this would have embarrassed me greatly, but no more.  Instead, I started laughing until there were tears.  I told him, "I don't know how much good that did as far as the neighbors go, but it sure was funny.  Thanks for making me laugh."
What happened?  A couple of minutes later the dog quit barking!!  I don't know if the neighbors heard Michael and thought they maybe should do something or if God simply shut his mouth, but he quit.  Did we resist the devil in the instance?  I think so.  Instead of getting angry and huffy, we found the humor in it and I think, just maybe, God honored that. 
We must remember that to submit to God we have to trust Him enough to do so.  I can guarantee that if I did not trust Michael I would not submit to him.  I am too stubborn.  But over the past 37 1/2 years of knowing him and 36 years of marriage, I have grown to trust him more and more because I have gotten to see and know that he is trustworthy by dwelling with and spending time with him.  This is what we must do with God - dwell with Him and Him in us and spend time with Him getting to know Him more fully.  I stress this over and over as a reminder to myself to never give up.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Seeping Sun

Psalm 19:1-6
The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
 It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.
The sun is amazing.  Each morning it peeks in my window to waken me and succeeds quite thoroughly.  I stretch and yawn, open my eyes and can see everything in my bedroom quite clearly.  I open my closet and can see everything in it, though the colors are not reflecting quite as well as they will later on.  If I step into my closet and close the door, the sun's light seeps in through the cracks at the sides and bottom.  What is truly amazing is that it will also seep in the top, even though there is a strip of metal that covers the crack above.  It bends and winds its way up and over as if the metal were an easily manipulated plaything.  At night, even though the earth has spun so that the side I live on is facing away from the sun, it gives such a brilliant reflection off the moon that I can see to get up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water or use the restroom.
The sun's warmth is so penetrating that it leaves its mark even in winter when the portion I live in is furthest away.  It melts the snow and ice, heats homes and businesses through solar panels, and warms us as it streams through the windows of our houses.  Its rays are so powerful as to fade furniture to make it appear more like the sun itself - colorless. 
As I read these verses of Scripture this morning, I couldn't help but rejoice at the thought of how the sun truly does declare the glory of God.  Just as the sun wends its way into every nook and cranny, so the light of God's love wends its way into every nook and cranny of the believer's life. Oh, we try to block Him out at times, just as the metal tries to keep the sun's light from streaming into my closet, but we can never succeed fully.  We are His and He will shine even when we are at our furthest point from Him.  Yes, we will get cold; some ice will form on our heart; but His light will continue to shine on us until it melts that ice to reveal the warmth of His love and grace that was there all the time, from the moment of our rebirth.  It even fades the colors of self to make me appear more like Him as I continue to sit in the warmth of His glow, talking with Him as He warms my spirit.
Father, I rejoice in the fact that You are always there, pouring out Your love to me.  Even when I do my best to build up walls to keep it out so that I can revel in self pity, pride, greed, etc. You continue to stream in until the ice melts and breaks apart, revealing the truth and setting me free.  Keeping shining Your light in me and melting the chains that hold me fast to the past, the desires of the present and take me boldly into the future to face the unknown with the peace that You will be with me always, even to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Water Walking

Sitting in the classroom with my youngest grandson and watching the light in his eyes as he accomplishes a new task, learns a new concept or succeeds in perfecting the art of drawing a particular letter brings satisfaction.  However, the best and most encouraging part of the day comes when I tell him it is time to do Bible reading.  He has told me multiple times that this is his favorite part of our day.  When I say, "time for Bible reading!"  He grabs his blanket and runs for the child sized couch we have against the wall and waits for me patiently, always with an expectant look on his face.  When we finish I will usually ask a pertinent question.  He always answers with serious enthusiasm.  We then pray, which he is always more than happy to do.  His faith in and love for Jesus makes me ashamed; ashamed that adults such as myself proclaim faith, but walk in so little of it. 
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2
God has been dealing with me on this issue off and on for most of my life.  There are times when I just know what God is going to do and I am able to walk in faith without being double minded in the least.  But there are other times when I struggle greatly, and recently I have been struggling indeed. 
Sunday morning I taught my class the lesson about Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water with Jesus.  I told them how exciting it was until Peter took his eyes off Jesus and started looking at the storm.  What happened then?  He sank!  Admittedly Jesus was right there to pull him out when he cried out for help.  I wonder what would have happened if he had not.....Rather than chase that rabbit, what if he had kept his eyes on Jesus?  Obviously he would have made it to Jesus and they would have walked back to the boat in great joy and probably laughter.  Instead, even though he was saved, he walked back ashamed at the failure. 
Such is my life in what seems to be so many places.  while I am praying and/or studying God's word I am full of faith and trusting Him to do all that He promises in His word.  Then I walk into this nightmare of a world and have problem after problem thrown at me and I start sinking.  I cry out to God for help and He pulls me up once again. 
There is a childrens' verse that was written long ago that goes something like this:
I want to be helpful and loving
At home and at school and at play.
I wish I could be just like Jesus
In every single way.
Jesus, Jesus, I want to be just like Him.
I indeed want to be like Him, but just how badly?
The scripture above says it all: Jesus endured the cross and the shame for the joy that He was keeping His eyes on at all times - our salvation.  There was nothing He wanted more than for us to spend eternity with Himself, so He endured....more than I can ever possibly envision.  Pain, disgrace, shame, separation from His Father, loneliness, rejection by the ones He loved more than not simply His life, but everything.  He gave up His home of glory to come to this wretched earth; an earth that he had created in perfection and we had destroyed through greed and pride and still are in the process of destroying today.  It brought Him joy to think of what going to the cross would bring about.  Talk about amazing!  Are we even capable of loving like that?  Not without His Spirit living within us.  Without Him we cannot even really begin to grasp that kind of love.  We might be willing to die for someone, but loving those who hate us would be out of the question.  Even with his Spirit it is easier to shove His love within us aside and become angry, resentful, bitter, etc. toward even brothers and sisters in Christ, let alone the lost.  Misunderstandings (or miscommunications if you prefer), teasing, getting even, and so much more, bring us to the point of not simply sin, but utter rebellion against the One who gave Himself on our behalf so that we could live without such nonsense.  Yet here am I, doubting that He can repair the damage done in others lives.  I pray for someone to learn to forgive and then feel hopeless when they continue to hold a grudge or grab hold of a new one.  When I pray for someone with an angry temperament to learn joy and they begin to gripe at me about something, I start grieving inside all over again as if I had never asked God's intervention in the first place. 
Pastor Kenny is preaching a series on Habakkuk.  It is all about finding hope in this world.  The lessons God is having me teach deal with keeping our eyes on our hope - Jesus - in every situation, my neighbor brings me a study guide on the book of Hebrews about learning to endure through every situation.  I think I am supposed to learn something here.  First, quit listening to bad reports about others.  Rather I should simply pray and keep my eyes on the solution - Jesus.  Second, I need to stop dwelling on the negative and uphold the positive.  When the enemy throws negative thoughts my way I need to quote scripture such as Colossians 3:
 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Last of all I need to remember who it is that is trying to rob me of my "peace in the midst of the storm." 
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10
After all, I have Jack Dawson's painting entitled this (Peace in the Midst of the Storm) as a reminder hanging over our sofa to help me remember.
So Lord, I come to You again in remorse that I have allowed myself to be drawn off track in fear regarding different loved ones.  I ask that You would continue speaking to my heart, guiding me through friends and Your word and opening my eyes of faith to help me see that if I will simply keep my eyes and heart stayed on Thee, I will walk in peace, joy and victory rather than defeatism, negativity and loss.  You have already won the war, I simply need to be patient and fixed on You.  I need not dwell on sinking in the storm, but rejoice in the knowing that You have my hand in Yours, drawing me up and helping me walk on the water in the midst of the storm.