Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Father and Mother

And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 (NLT)

If I hurt someone I might notice immediately simply by the expression on their face; the look in their eyes.  This reflects back to me how I have made them feel and brings me heartache so that I can apologize and, if allowed, explain what I really meant.  If the person is determined to hide
 the hurt from me, it makes it more difficult.  I may have to be made aware that my words or actions were taken in an offensive manner, in which case I can go once again and apologize.  If I am never told how can I possibly know I have done harm...unless it was deliberate. 
I once read that saying we repent (are sorry) about our actions or words does not hold water if we refuse to recognize it as an offense against God.  This can be extremely difficult, since we cannot physically see Him.  It is much easier to recognize offenses against humans, as we can see them face to face.  What we fail to remember is that man was and is "created in God's image" (Genesis 1:27) in part for this very purpose.  When we realize we have sinned against a fellow human, we can look into their eyes and see the reflection of the hurt we have inflicted on God and be assured that He is hurting more deeply than the individual, as He recognizes that we are acting like slaves to sin while He has paid the price to set us free.  He feels not only the hurting of the individual, but grieves over our disobedience, and thus lack of love, toward Him in this area.

I remember the sad look on my daddy's face whenever I did something that caused him to have to discipline me. That look was worse than the punishment. I remember a few times when he actually cried and let me “off the hook,” unwilling to inflict pain of any kind upon me. It is those times that stick with me the most – seeing the tears and anguish on his face, the love in his eyes and hearing the words, “I just can't. Go on. Get out of here,” and then a smile with tears to let me know he forgave me. Those are the times I look back on with tears in my own eyes and wonder how in the world I could have allowed myself to hurt him so badly. My daddy wasn't perfect. There were times he lashed out in anger and fear. I remember one time when I had gotten out of his range of view and he spanked me while still outside – three swats with his bare hand. You may think that was nothing, but I would rather have been spanked with anything else. My daddy had huge and VERY strong hands that were only used to spank me that one time. Otherwise they were used to tickle, cuddle and make me feel safe and they did their job quite well. He reacted in fear that one time, grieved over it and never did it again. I think, perhaps, he saw the look of shock and confusion on my face (I didn't know what I had done wrong) and it truly upset him. He later explained his fear. (Our sin natures mean that, generally, “Be yourself” is not good advice.)
I admit it – my daddy coddled, loved on and cherished me. When I was 3 or 4 I told him I was going to marry him one day. He asked what we would do with Momma. I told him we could throw her in the trash can. (I was a bit angry at the time.  She had yelled at me, which is something I believed was very unjust at the time.) He chuckled and told me that wouldn't be a very nice thing to do to our momma. He went on to say how much she loved and did for us all. I went away feeling quite content and knowing I was loved by both my parents. It is because of my daddy that it was easier for me to accept God as a loving, caring and giving Father. He did what a father is supposed to do – showed me God's love.
A mother's love reveals God's healing touch through hugs and kisses when we fall down or get our feelings hurt, especially by a sibling.  She is our defender and intercessor when our dad is seeking truth regarding particular circumstances.  She teaches us the things we need in order to survive in a safe environment – cooking, cleaning, self-discipline, serving others, etc. Dad's teach us to be strong in whatever the circumstances. When working – always do your best and earn other people's respect. Discipline those you love so that they become the people God designed them to be, to enjoy life and and refrain from worry, as he will always be there when you need him.
Daddy is the one that should instill fear of disobedience – not because we are afraid of him, but because we fear hurting and disappointing him. Mommy is the one we run to when that fear of daddy surfaces.
God is both mother and father to us. If our parents did their jobs correctly (praise God, mine did) we will learn that, though we fear disappointing God and bringing Him to the place of having to discipline us, we can always run into His loving arms and be assured that everything will be all right, because he loves us so very much!! We will learn from our mistakes, and though we may repeat them, we will grieve over the fact.
If, when we sin, we would stop and remember the look on the face of loved ones we have hurt and remember that Father God would be grieved even more so would make it all the more difficult to commit the same sin over again.  
Father, so many times I have longed to see Your face, but when I sin, I am tempted to hide from it.  I cannot bear the look of anguish that I see reflected in the eyes of those, including myself, that I sin against and knowing that You grieve all the more makes me so very ashamed.  Knowing that You are there with arms wide open, waiting for me to run into them and bury my face in Your chest makes it bearable.  Thank You for being both Mother and Father, intercessor and defender, the One who disciplines in love and bearer of my sins.  There is no one I would rather run to, as there is no one who will grant me justice through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus, but You.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Free in Christ Indeed

The sin nature compels us to love ourselves.  In our reckless pursuit of self-gratification, we impose upon ourselves gnawing emptiness rather than the joy and contentment that comes from loving God and others.  (Randy Alcorn)
We were created to love and be loved.  Sin caused a disfigurement of understanding in this area.  Instead of simply accepting the love God has to offer, we have it in our twisted soul that since we have done nothing to earn that love, it cannot be bestowed on us.  We have to make ourselves acceptable; become prettier/more handsome, stronger, gain/lose weight, gain more knowledge, have more money/things, just BE MORE than what/who we are.  We don't stop to think that God created us as we are with nothing to our name.  We came into the world helpless, weak, ignorant, money/thing-less, and looking like every other baby.  We expect to be fed, kept warm and loved.  Babies are 100% totally trusting.  Why?  My theory is that they just came from God, so it's all they have experienced thus far.  As we grow, the world's influence gets hold of our sin nature and conforms it to its own image in order to block out God's image, in which we were created , from our view.  "Out of sight, out of mind;"  we now expect hatred and rejection unless we do something to earn the good stuff.  If no one else will love us, then we must love ourselves.  If we cannot love ourselves, then why live?  Satan's handiwork becomes so vivid - The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; John 10:10a (NIV).  First he steals from us the image we were born to bear - God - by worldly influence of having to earn love, then he kills us by thoughts that life isn't worth living and all the work we were created to do is destroyed as we are no longer around to do it, whether through our actual death or the death of our spirit through the decision that life means nothing.  I am so VERY thankful that John 10:10 goes on to say "But I (Jesus) have come that they might have life, and have it to the full!!"  I am loved whether I think I am or not, whether I deserve it or not, whether I feel it or not.  God loves ME - of all people who are most unworthy - ME!  In and of myself I am arrogant, prideful, lustful, murderous, hateful, and any other ugly word you want to throw out there - yes, it's true.  BUT it is ALSO true that because of Jesus' sacrificial payment on the cross for all those things, I am now set FREE of them!!  They still throw themselves at me and try to attach themselves to me from time to time, but Jesus' death and resurrection set me free and I refuse to be encumbered by them ever again!!  They may grab me round the throat and make me feel as if I will choke to death, but through the life giving power of prayer I will survive and they will be cast off, even if it means I need leave this earth in order for it to be accomplished.  Either way, stay or go, I am free!! 
Thank You, Lord, for Your grace and forbearance toward me. I know that I can be arrogant, prideful, snotty, boastful, greedy and so many other things, yet You continue to love me.  Each time I ponder Your great love, I become overwhelmed by its magnificence.  You, in Your perfection, looked at me, knew what I would be like and chose to create me anyway.  You have given me a life that many only dream about; a husband who loves, provides for and protects me; parents who took the time from their busy lives to introduce me to You and who lived their lives in such a manner as to reveal who You are and how You love unconditionally; three children who are wonderful, caring and a joy to my heart; grandchildren to keep me young at heart and love me even when I mess up and whom I love beyond measure.  Most of all, You gave me Jesus.  There is nothing and no one greater.  I think of the song we sang Sunday morning:
There is no one higher, no one greater, no one like our God.
There is none more able, Christ our Savior, great and glorious!
I stand, with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the One who gave it all.
I stand my soul Lord to You surrendered.  All I am is Yours!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Just Some Thoughts

Be holy because I am holy.” Leviticus 19:2 Ungodliness means the failure to conform to God's nature.
God created us in His image. His “predestination” for us is to be conformed to Him – be like Him – holy!! The only way to do this is to accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:4
When we sin, in any form, we defame God's very character and nature. It is like the verse in Proverbs
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, 22:1(NIV)
We carry His name and reputation with us wherever we go, just as we carry our physical parents names and reputations with us. If we are known liars as little children, our parents are blamed for it. If we are born again believers and remain liars, our heavenly Father is blamed. If He really exists, then why are they such liars?
Adam and Eve....They trusted a fallen creature's logic rather than their Creators goodness. many things seem logical in this world and so we follow the path of logic all the time simply to find out that it isn't always the correct answer and a LOT of the time drives us right in to a more difficult position than we were in when we began.
Not that logic is a bad thing. Logic is concerned with the principles of correct reasoning.
The above definition is one I really liked. The reason being that it uses the terminology of correct reasoning. Correct reasoning only comes from God. This is why He tells us
"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)
If we want to use logic to get through a problem, we need to go before God and reason with Him to find correct logic. Prayer is vital!!
Satan was defeated in the past as God proclaimed his head would be crushed (Genesis 3:15), through the ministry of Christ and His apostles (Luke 10:17-20), in Christ's death and resurrection (Col. 2:15), in the present through those who walk in faith believing (Phil. 4:13) and in the future (Rev. 20:7). He always has been, is and will be defeated through Jesus!! Victory has always been ours for the trusting. I almost wrote “for the asking” but it is accomplished whether we ask or not.

“To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Gen 3:16 (NIV) To say that this infers there would have been pain in childbirth anyway seems right and good to me. Pain is not evil. It is there as a warning. We need to know that a child is being born to protect both mother and child. It is the greatly increased part that is difficult. Quite possibly the original pain would have been nothing more than like menstrual cramps which, though bothersome, are quite bearable.

We have a tendency to look at work as a curse. In reality, work is a blessing. Our bodies were created to work. Working gives us the exercise we need to build muscle, build immunities, strengthen bones, and build character. When we do not work we become lazy, weak, unhealthy, and self-centered. Instead of pushing our thoughts outward towards what needs to be accomplished for everyone's good, we begin to look only inward to what “I” want and need. We dwell on why our needs are not being met, blame it on others and God, never taking time to stop and realize that we are the problem. Yes, work is good for us. The sense of accomplishment, energy, and the ability to truly rest afterward are great blessings indeed. The curse was the complications that go along with the work that try to prevent us from accomplishing our goals. Interruptions are our weeds in society today. Simply cleaning one room of a house becomes a major chore when the phone rings incessantly, children cry out your name over and over again, the doorbell rings, favors get asked, etc. These are all things we need to attend to as well, but they interfere with that simple chore of cleaning that one room. What should take a matter of mere minutes can become an all day event, especially if we clean it just to have it messed up again 15 minutes later. Every mother has experienced this. Should we take it out on the children and yell at them that they are messing us up, driving us crazy or all the other terms we use? No! This only causes us to draw inward to self-centerdness and laziness again. We should accept the fact that there are going to be weeds and it is our own fault. Take responsibility for the fact that weeds exist due to the fall and our own sin and go on with life, praising God that He is our Deliverer and will one day makes things right again. 
"If we come to see the purpose of the universe as God's long-term glory rather than our short-term happiness, then we will undergo a critical paradigm shift in tackling the problem of evil and suffering. This applies in every area of our lives." (Randy Alcorn)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Diligent to Rest

For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as did God did from His. (Genesis 2:2-3) Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience (the Israelites refusal to enter the Promised Land for fear of the giants there - Numbers 14).  Hebrews 4:10-11 (NKJV)
Recently I took a couple of online Bible classes through online universities.  While taking them I felt an unrest in my spirit.  This confused me.  I spoke with Father God about it, pointing out that I was doing this to glorify Him, so why was I so ill at ease regarding it?  I have been pondering this off and on ever since I finished off with them.  They were very easy classes as far as testing was concerned, and I didn't understand how they were actually benefiting me in knowledge.  I could easily take the tests and score 100% on anything covering scripture.  That is not to brag...I have simply read through the Bible several times and have taught children in Sunday School for 39+ years, have taught a few adult studies and so have had little choice but to learn what God's word has to say, not to mention the fact that I simply love to study. The only questions I had any difficulty with had to do with theologians, current and past.  Remembering names that don't belong to children is not my strong suit.  So I asked, "What is wrong, God?  Am I taking the wrong classes?  I have to take these in order to go on with the more in-depth stuff.  Should I continue or stop?"  I finally came to the conclusion that, at least for the time being, I should quit.  The problem is, if you wait too long to start up again, they want you to take those same classes over. 
Today I was reading about entering God's rest when God gently started speaking to my soul.  You see, in order to remain in God's rest; that place of knowing that we know we are doing what we are supposed to be doing and relaxing in knowing He will accomplish His will in us because of it, we have to not only be obedient to His voice, but ONLY be obedient to HIS voice.  Being wishy washy and thinking we have to please everyone we love and care about doesn't cut it.  We are to love Him above all others. This means we are to be obedient to Him above all others. 
There is a mindset in this world we live in that says you are nothing if you don't have an education.  By this it is meant that you need a college and, in the Christian world, a seminary degree.  It is getting to the point in many cases that you need more - a masters at least and preferably a doctorate.   Being raised in a family that holds education in high esteem (as do I), I have always had it in the back of my mind that I NEEDED a college education.  The world's view has done nothing but encourage this line of thought in me.  I have also had several others tell me I should get a degree in Biblical studies since I was called to teach.  This further enhanced the drive to do so.  It may sound as if I am looking for someone to blame for my discontent in the courses I took, but I only have myself to blame.  I listened to every voice except the One I should have sought out in the first place. 
As I studied this morning I came to understand that taking those courses was a means of raising my own self esteem.  Others would see me differently, at least in my imagination.  Taking classes in order to prove I can and succeed admirably in them would help people realize I am not simply someone who wants to teach, but someone called by God to do so!  I could not have been more wrong in my attitude.  Okay, I suppose there are worse case scenarios, but my eyes were opened to the fact that my motives were wrong.  I tried to cover them with the notion that taking the classes honored God, but in reality, it was so they could honor me.  This is not easily confessed, for I also come from an educationally prideful background.  However, my desire to be set free has finally grown larger than the desire to hide behind pride.
Since stopping the classes I have been able to read and study my Bible and hear God's voice again and feel rested.  I hope anyone who reads this can identify with that rest.  There is a peace that overcomes you and says, "All is well.  Keep doing what you are doing and I will guide you."  Not only a peace, but a sense of security and so much more. I now understand why the writer of Hebrews says, "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest..."  He says "us" because he realizes that he too has to watch and be diligent to enter that rest daily, even moment by moment, because it is all too easy to allow the cares of this world to pull us out and into the world of unrest.
Father, I thank You that You graciously allow me to enter Your rest every day, and that even when I allow myself to be pulled back into the restlessness of this world, You wait with open arms to draw me back.  Thank You for the daily hugs from Your word that wrap around me like an electric blanket and warm me to the very marrow of my bones.  Help to to not only hear Your voice, but obey.  In Jesus' name I ask it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Face to Face

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  Hebrews 2:9 (NKJV)
This morning I wondered about the crown placed on Jesus' head as He hung on the cross for me.  It was placed on His head out of hatred, jealousy and fear, but was there a reason other than that for which it was necessary? 
When I read this verse, it hit me that perhaps God allowed this as a means of shouting to the world that Jesus is indeed King, even over death. 
I remember my children growing into toddlers and realizing there was a way they could personally turn the TV on and off.  It was one of those "Look what I can do!!" moments in their little lives.  When your child does something like this, you praise first.  Then it becomes annoying, because they want to do it all the time.  Right in the middle of your favorite program, a little hand pops up and pushes that button!!  Why? They feel like it gives them power over the TV and a little over the adult in charge....gets their attention at any rate. 
I'm sure the soldiers felt a power surge as they placed that crown of thorns on Jesus head and laughed, because they didn't understand that He could have reached up and taken it off at any time, and there would be nothing they could do about it. Just as an adult can pick up a toddler and put them in a playpen to keep them from turning the TV off and on, the Lord of the universe could have taken the crown off and walked away as they watched and it would be as if they were in a giant playpen, able to see out, but able to DO nothing about it.  However, He chose to keep the crown on His head in order to taste death for everyone.
I am still that toddler, in many ways.  I am growing in my spirit, hopefully gaining in wisdom and understanding in order to live my life in a manner that pleases my Father.  Even as my physical body grows older and prepares for physical death, my spiritual person grows more mature to prepare for eternal life!!  It is my prayer that my spiritual person continues to mature while I remain on this earth, otherwise it will shrivel up as if in old age.   My spirit does not age, but it does grow stronger, wiser, better, "if" I continue to cuddle up next to my Father and seek His face.  If I don't, it shrivels and becomes weak and defeated.
Sometimes I like to envision myself sitting in God's lap and looking towards His face.  Though I cannot see it, I know it is there and that that has to be enough for now, but one day......
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:11-12 (NIV)
To see and know Father God fully - what more could I ask?  I must wait and be patient, but it is so exciting!!  No wonder Jesus was willing to die, not just so I could live eternally, but so I could meet His Dad!!  It takes my breath away to think about it!!  I know Jesus loves me extremely or He wouldn't have gone to the cross for me, but I can't help believing that His joy in us getting to know His Father was at least partially what kept Him there. 
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 12:2b (NIV)
He is sitting there next to the Father, and when I get there, I imagine Him standing and saying, "Great job!! Come see my Dad!!"  Some may think such imaginings frivolous and unnecessary.  Perhaps for some, but they help keep me personally focused on the true prize - life eternal with God in full - Father, Son and Holy Spirit!!
Father, I thank You for imagination.  Without it I would be unable to envision a future; a future with You at its core.  Without imagination we cannot dream and if we cannot dream, we give up all hope.
Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.  Proverbs 29:18  (ASV)
Without it we cannot invent, write stories, develop crafts or move forward.  You have given us a great gift in imagination, yet many times we are afraid to use it.  We are afraid of where it might take us, afraid it may consume us with desire. Oh Lord, may it consume me as my heart lifts itself to dream of You.  May it take me to places only You can reveal to me, so that fear is driven out and replaced with faith, hope and love.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)