Saturday, May 19, 2012

Keeping Up with the Jones'

“Keeping up with the Jones.”  I know that generally this phrase means trying to maintain a certain material lifestyle based on the lifestyle of those around us.  Usually when people do this they accrue massive debt and live way beyond their means, thereby making their end worse than their beginning.  My question is does this phrase also apply, and have the same connotations, when used about our spiritual life?  What if we tried to out “holy” our brothers and sisters?  What if we tried to out pray them?  Out worship them? Out give them?  Does the reason that we are doing right matter?  Does “fake it until you make it” really apply?  So if your brother fasts once a week and you decide, “hey I am going to fast twice a week” - will that fast be honored?  If your sister wears ¾ length sleeves and you decide that you will wear long sleeves – will it count in the end? 

The Bible says it is not wise to compare ourselves amongst ourselves (II Corinthians 10:12-13) but to measure ourselves against the measure of God.  Though we all have the same plan of salvation and there are certain tenets that we all must abide by, the word of God say that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  “Working out your own salvation” does not give us permission to be lenient or lax in our holiness, prayer life, or assembling of ourselves together.  It is merely finding the path that God wants you to walk.  That could be anything from obeying his voice about what you talk about to obeying him about moving to another state/country?  Does he want you to fast once a week or, because of your physical condition, fast a meal or some activity?  The path we walk with our Lord is a very personal path.  He made us each unique and we are at different places on our journey.  I feel that I have just started my journey.  There are many people that are much further along than I am but I cannot compare myself to them because perhaps I don’t “get” things as quickly as they do or my spiritual sensitivity isn’t as fine-tuned.  We just have to obey God’s word and do what we know to be right.

So my questions to myself are: Do I worship for the right reason?  Do I pray for the right reason?  Do I live a certain way for the right reason?  Do I pray and worship privately as fervently as when others can see me?  Or is my reasoning to be seen of man or to “keep up with the Jones?”  I think it is important that I take inventory of my heart and intentions and do the right things for the right reasons.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Stomping Fear

I have no desire to live in fear but in the power of God.  When I remember that God is taking care of all my tomorrows, I realize that I have no cause to fear.  It truly doesn’t matter what happens today, God will use it for my good tomorrow.  It kind of reminds me of the story about the animal that is in a deep pit and they can’t get it out so they decide to just bury it.  So shovel load of dirt after shovel load of dirt goes in on top of the animal but unbeknownst to the person shoveling – the animal is shaking off the dirt and stomping it down.  Before long the hole is filled and the animal can step out of the former pit.  Sometimes I feel like I am the animal in the pit – it’s dark and damp, I can’t see anything but despair and failure around me.  Then wouldn’t you know it, they try to bury me alive.  If I am not careful and don’t keep moving, I will be entombed in my despair and failure.  BUT if I keep trusting God and stomping down the fear, failures and anxiety I will be able to step out of that pit stronger than ever before.

I Chronicles 28:20 – …Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee…

Luke 8:50 – When Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, “Fear not: believe only…”

II Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Joshua 1:9 – Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Psalms 31:24 – Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.

With each new experience of letting God be in control, we gain courage and reinforcement for daring to do it again and again. ~Gloria Gaither

There comes a time when we simply have to face the challenges in our lives and stop backing down. ~John Eldredge

When once we are assured that God is good, then there can be nothing left to fear. ~Hannah Whitall Smith

If a person fears God, he or she has no reason to fear anything else. On the other hand, if a person does not fear God, then fear becomes a way of life. ~Beth Moore

Courage is contagious. ~Billy Graham

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blissful Ignorance

Ignorance is Bliss!!  How true that is.  I told an acquaintance yesterday that I wished that I was stupid (or an idiot – can’t remember the adjective that I used).  It seems like an odd thing to wish for but think about all the things that you wouldn’t miss or even be aware of if you didn’t have knowledge or experience.  When I worked in sewing factories down south, I met a lot of women that had never been out of North Carolina, some had not ventured out of a 2 or 3 county area, and they were blissfully happy. They were not aware nor did they miss seeing three foot of snow, or the tulips in Holland, MI or the straits of Mackinaw.  They had never experienced a sunrise at Notre Dame Bay in Newfoundland so they didn’t miss the beauty.  They never experienced the amazing tranquility of Schwerin, Germany or the history of the Porte Negra in Trier, Germany or the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower – so they don’t miss them or long to see/experience them again.  Spiritually speaking – if you have always just played on the beach of the Holy Ghost or dabbled in the shallows – living on your parents/grandparents experience – then you do not miss or long for the depth in order to swim and be free in His spirit.  If you have never experienced the unspeakable Joy of the Holy Ghost then being mildly happy is enough to satisfy you.  If you have not known Divine Peace – then merely being contented is enough for you.  A while back I told someone that I would gladly give up the Joy of the Holy Ghost if it would mean they could experience it – knowing that God would replenish my supply.  Sadly, we can’t force the Joy on anyone.  We can’t force someone to take the divine Peace of God.  We can’t push someone into the deep waters of the Holy Ghost.  They have to want it themselves.  Tragically, many people are content living on the beach of the Holy Ghost – making sand castles and playing around – never venturing past the shallow water into the deep.  Sure, they see other people immersed in the depth of the Holy Ghost and they say they want it too but they don’t want to take the risk of looking foolish or having people talk about them.  They don’t want to risk changing their life choices.  They don’t want to venture out of their comfort zone where they can do what pleases them.  There is a risk in the deep water, the tides are stronger and sometimes you feel like you will drown but the pay-off of venturing out past the buoys is strong faith, divine peace and unspeakable joy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NOW Faith

Hebrews 11:1

1.       Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

 Sometimes when we are reading we read over words or certain words are just filler words in our mind.  I have known that scripture a long time but the word “Now” did not strike me until Bro. M read it one night at Bible study.  It is NOW faith, not past faith or future faith but NOW faith.  NOW faith is not a healing faith, it is a miracle faith.  It isn’t about having faith that God will give the doctor the skill to remove a tumor (not that there is anything wrong with that faith) – but NOW faith is about faith that God will remove the tumor instantly.  NOW faith is believing that God will take away diabetes, not believing that God will help the doctors figure out the right medication to control it.  NOW faith is believing for the opening of blinded eyes, unstopping of deaf ears and the lame walking.  I must say, I have experienced the results of NOW faith and it is something that you will never forget.  As a teenager, I was spending the summer with my grandma and I got the flu.  My grandma lived practically right across the street from the pastor and I just knew if I could get him to pray for me, I would be better.  He was gone all day so I had almost resigned myself to being sick for the duration.  After my sister got off of work, she picked me up and we stopped by the store to get some Popsicles and while there we saw an elder’s wife.  She told us to come over and Bro. Chuck would pray for me.  We got there and he prayed and instantly my fever, chills, nausea left and I was completely well.  That happened over 20 years ago but I have never forgotten the feeling of being horribly sick and then instantly well.  That is the result of NOW faith.  NOW faith is also about the Holy Ghost.  “And SUDDENLY there came a sound from heaven… and they were filled with the Holy Ghost”  It wasn’t a gradual thing – they didn’t have the Holy Ghost and SUDDENLY they did – that is NOW faith.  We need the PAST faith and the FUTURE faith but it is the NOW faith that will move mountains. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Actions Speak Louder than Words

“Actions speak louder than words.  I can tell God that I love him until I am blue in the face but am I showing it.”  A minister said that a few years ago and it really struck me.  Actions speak louder than words.  I have used that phrase many times, usually trying to point out a fault in someone else.  But what really struck me is that I keep saying I want to change, I want to be a new creature in Christ but are they just words that I am saying?  Because my actions are not matching up to my professed desire.  For example, one day God gave me songs, phrases, scriptures and words of encouragement literally all day.  From the moment I woke up God blessed me with his word saying, “trust me.”  I felt so cared for and loved by God and told Him, "I trust you."  It took 3 seconds of overhearing a conversation to forget everything God told me all day.  My immediate response to that conversation was disgust, anger, fear and humiliation but my trust in God was nowhere to be found.  My actions did not match up to my words of, “Lord, I trust you.  I know that you have all my tomorrows in the palm of your hand.”  Of course, this whole thing got me thinking about God’s will and how I profess that my desire is to walk the path that God wants me to walk.  Is it really my desire if I keep questioning God about his will when he wants me to walk a path that I don’t like?  When I become overwrought and plead with God to choose another path because this path is hard and painful, is my desire really to do his will or are they just words I say?  God knows our hearts and our actions.  He knows when what we say with our mouth does not match up to our deeds.  God gave humans the power of choice so therefore when we choose to follow him he doesn’t all of a sudden start controlling our thoughts and actions.  He gives us the desire to purify ourselves and to live a holy life but he does not force us.  It is up to us to make our actions match up to our professed desire of being a new creature in Christ. 

I say I want to be kind, then I should just be kind.  I say that I want to trust God, then I should just trust God.  I say that I want to overcome my habits, then I should just overcome my habits.  God is not going to force me to be kind, to trust him.  He didn’t make me unkind, so why do I think it is his responsibility to make me kind?  God has always been trust worthy so he should have to work to regain my trust.  Living for God isn’t some euphoric spiritual plane where God forces us to live a certain way and our thoughts and actions do not get bogged down by the world but it is a daily choice to have our words and actions be such that they are pleasing to God.  Sometimes we just have to DO IT, God isn’t going to do it for us. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Exceeding all Expectations

God has a way of providing in an exceeding and abundant way. My mom and I were talking about our Bible reading and she mentioned something that struck her as she was reading the book of Numbers.
Numbers 11:31,32

31. And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.

32. And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.

God had just told Moses to do a census of the people and there were in excess of 603,550 males of 20 years old or older – obviously this number did not include boys under 20 or females of any age. When you add in the females and the children, I am sure there were in excess of 1,000,000 people that Moses was leading on this journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. The people started whining and complaining to Moses that they wanted meat to eat so Moses went to God. God told Moses that he would provide the meat that people wanted. So it is then that the wind brought in the quail. Now let’s envision the quantity of quail that the Lord provided. A day’s journey in Bible days is generally equated to approximately 20 – 25 miles and a cubit is 18 inches. So the wind brought in enough quail to cover a 40 mile stretch of land 3 foot high. There was not one person who gathered less that 10 homers which equals 50 bushels. With my basic conservative math, even if only one person in each family unit of 4 (2 parents & 2 children), and conservatively assuming 1,000,000 people, that equates to God dumping in excess of 12,500,000 bushels of quail around about the camp – in ONE NIGHT! 12 ½ MILLION bushels!!! God didn’t just provide enough, he exceeded all expectations. Why do we always expect God to merely supply our need when he wants us to live abundantly.

Ephesians 3:20

19. And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.

20. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fickle Convictions

Something has been bothering me lately.  Perhaps this blog isn't the place to vent my concern. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to shut my mouth, keep my fingers still and just pray. It bothers me that people do not seem to have any personal convictions.  Whatever the standard is set by the church they presently attend is the standard by which they live... sometimes.  Then one day they change churches, perhaps they change churches for a legitimate reason or perhaps it is because they are seeking a church that is more perfect in their eyes.  Whatever the reason that they change, they seem to start changing the standard by which they have lived for many, many years.  Perhaps it isn't a sin issue but it bothers me that people seem to change their standards by whatever suits them at that particular moment or by what they feel they can get by with and still be utilized in their local assembly.  The problem that I have with this is a bit two-fold. First, is their convictions or standard by which they live based on their relationship with their pastor or is it based on their relationship with God?  Did they choose to live, dress and act a certain way merely because they were told to by a preacher or is it because they have grown in their relationship with God and he has guided them into leading a life that is above reproach?  I believe that our relationship with God is what dictates what kind of life we live, it should not change just because we change churches or because we get a new pastor.  The second concern I have with this wavering of our outward standard is the effect that this plays on our witness to our harvest fieldfu.  Will our harvest field believe that we do have a relationship with God when we waver in our actions, dress and outward manifestations of holiness whenever we change churches or get a new pastor?  Even the most heathen of our harvest field understands that it is God that changes people and not churches.  Even the most sinful of those that watch us can discern whether we are truly serving God or serving our church.  Having recently witnessed this type of behavior I am concerned that we as apostolic pentecostals have gotten into having an "apostolic lifestyle" and not really having an intimate, powerful relationship with our God and Savior. 

Romans 12:1-2
1. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Persistently Seeking

The whole idea of persistence started when a couple weeks ago when I was reminded once again of the widow and the unjust judge in Luke 18. 
Luke 18:1-8
1.       And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.
2.       Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
3.       And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
4.       And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
5.       Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
6.       And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
7.       And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
8.       I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Here is a woman that goes to a judge that she might have a protection order against those that sought her hurt.  This judge was not a compassionate person and made no effort to make life easier for those in his jurisdiction that were hurting or troubled.  He was a selfish and arrogant man and sought his own pleasure.  Now here comes a widow woman that has no one to be her advocate, no one to help her in her crisis.  She is completely at his mercy as her husband was dead and there appears to be no other family for her to turn.  This singular widow woman who was weak and without any other advocate, in the judge’s eyes she was meaningless and could do nothing to benefit him so he could write her off for sure.  He didn’t have time to get involved in the affairs of one so unimportant so he determined that he would just ignore her pleas.  But this widow was persistent.  Every day he went to the gate to dispense judgment, she was there pleading her cause.  No matter how much he ignored her, she refused to be unheard.  Finally, after her continued coming pleading judgment, he made the statement “Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” Due to this weak, unimportant widow’s persistence, she was avenged by an unjust judge. 
I know that I have petitioned God more times than I can count for things that only he can do.  Salvation, revival, family restoration, healing, etc… I have prayed these prayers so many times and there are times when I have wondered whether God has heard me at all.  I have reminded God of the promises that he made to me, promises of transformation, promises of a ministry, promises of comfort and care, yet these continue to seemingly go unfulfilled.  I don’t do well with being ignored, especially when it feels like God is the one doing the ignoring, so my frustration has grown to unmanageable proportions because of the apparent delay in fulfilling those promises.  I am not saying that God hasn’t answered any prayers that I have prayed but those promises and burdens that He placed in my heart are still outstanding.  Though it seems that my prayers have gone unheard and unfulfilled, I KNOW, based on the word of Jesus “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily…” (Luke 18:7-8), that He will, in his faithfulness, fulfill that which he promised and also avenge me of my adversary. 
So as long as I persistently and faithfully seek him, he WILL answer me.  “The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and wrath is against all them that forsake him.” (Ezra 8:22).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nonbelieving Belief

Have you ever been given good news and it seemed too good to be true.  In our society of criminals, con-men and tricksters, the adage of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is (too good to be true).”  I think many times we allow this same thought process to get involved in our relationship with God.  He gives us, or tries to give us, blessings and/or promises but we have trouble believing that it could possibly be true.  Perhaps it is because we feel that we are too insignificant for God to bother with blessing us in such a way or maybe it is because we do not have an absolute belief in his absolute power.  Tuesday morning, I felt that God gave me a special word of blessings and promises but all day I have struggled with believing it to be true.  The first time I read the scriptures that he gave me, a deep sense of peace and anticipation came over me and with each subsequent reading it has only increased.  But once each reading is done and I start thinking about the connotations of the scriptures, a sense of disbelief comes over me.  There are things with which I have struggled my whole adult life and if the scriptures are to be believed then it seems the most difficult of those struggles will (soon hopefully) be over. Maybe the whole crux of it is that I just can’t imagine a life without struggle.  I am not indicating that God has promised me a euphoric existence; he just gave me a word regarding some of my hardest personal battles.  I do believe that God spoke to me through these scriptures so why can I not wrap my mind around the idea of it being fulfilled.  I know God to be a God of mercy and love; so why is it so hard to believe that he cares enough about ME to teach my children and stand up for my defense?  God is a God of grace, and I know that to be true, so is a promise from Him to show me kindness and peace so preposterous?  Sometimes I think we must just believe, even when it seems unbelievable.  I know that God spoke to me and gave me promises and hope.  Even though my humanity questions the logic and my insecurities question my worthiness, I will just believe that He did indeed speak to me and trust Him to fulfill that which He promised.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Persistence from the Dirt

Today as I thought about the state of persistence, I thought of the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5 and Luke 8. Allow me a little creative license as I tell her story.

She had spent all the money that she had. She was without any additional resources and due to her bloody issue, she was, more than likely, ostracized from her family and those that she held dear. She was down to utter desperation. She heard that Jesus was in town and that he had done wonderful miracles. He had opened blinded eyes, caused the lame to walk, healed leprosy and she knew that if she could get to him that he could heal her also. Her blood loss had put quite a toll on her body and she was so exhausted and barely able to function but she knew she would have to persevere if she wanted even the opportunity for Jesus to heal her. With great difficulty she cleaned herself up, got dressed and went out into the city. Much to her dismay, there was a very crowd gathered around him. As she stood there in consternation, tears welled up in her eyes and she felt like sobbing and giving up because she knew that, due to the throng, it would be very difficult to touch him, let alone speak to him. But the thought came to her, “this is your only option. If not this then it is a sure death.” So she took a deep breath, straightened her backbone and started over towards the crowd that surrounded her hope, Jesus. As she reached the outer edges of the throng of people, she realized that there is no way that she is going to be able to speak to him but if she could just touch him, surely that would be enough. As she tried to politely push through, the strength of the crowd overwhelmed her. As she weakly but doggedly made her way through the crowd, she got shoved and she fell to the ground. She tried to stand but no one was paying attention to her to give her a hand up and she was much too weak to rise on her own. “If I am going to make it to Jesus,” she thought, “I will have to do it from down here.” She moved through the crowd on her hands and knees  Dirt and dust from everyone's sandles were getting in her eyes and mouth.  It seemed that the closer she got to Jesus the weaker and dirtier she became but finally she saw a break in the crowd just ahead. It wasn’t a large break as people were thronging Him but it was enough that she could see the edge of his robe.  Finally she was able to stretch her arm out and touch the very edge of his garment. The healing virtue that flowed through her was wonderful. She felt the warmth of a healing touch staunch the bloody issue. But wait, he is now asking to know who touched him. “Surely he isn’t talking about me as there were a bunch of people touching him.” She thought, “See even his disciples said so; but he is saying that virtue left his body.” Struggling to get in the standing position, she told him it was she who touched him. Then he said the words that she had been longing for years to hear, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” Turning away from him she made her way back through the crowd, only this time with a strength that she hadn’t felt in twelve years. Once she returned to her home, she marveled how life was completely transformed in such a short time due to touching Jesus.

There are times when life has us worn down to desperation. We do not feel strong enough to stand, let alone to do anything else, but we know that we cannot endure another day like this. Oh, we know about Jesus but He seems so far away and we do not feel strong enough to even call out to Him. Our sins and poor choices have weakened us to the point of hopelessness and we find ourselves spiritually, emotionally on the ground being stepped on and ignored by the crowd. It seems that no one cares about us. We have heard of Jesus and how they say He cares for us but despair has clouded our thoughts and causes us to be paralyzed in that state of hopelessness and fear. If you can somehow get just a tiny bit of strength to call on Jesus, he WILL transform your life. If you can just persist in reading His Word, He will speak to you and lead you in the right path. If you can just hold on to that miniscule hope within your heart and believe on Jesus, the Savior of the world, He will pull you through. Once you have persisted until you have touched Jesus, you will be in awe of your transformation. With a single touch of Jesus, your life can and will be changed. With a single Word from Him, your life will be filled with purpose, direction and meaning. Just be persistent until you have touched him.