Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Publish, Preview or Save Now?

While writing my last post, I realized that my blog page gives me a choice to publish my post, preview it, or save now.  I actually chuckled to myself.  I mean in some ways it reminded me of my spiritual walk and I kind of felt like the Lord was asking me those questions. 

For example, if I do something that looks pretty good and I know others will think the same, then I might click on my "spiritual publish post button".  After all, why shouldn't I publish my good works?  Shouldn't everyone know the good thing I did?

But maybe I think I just did "okay" and I'm feeling a bit unsure.  I might prefer to select my "spiritual preview button" before I publish it for others to see.  After all, I am a pretty good judge of my own heart, right?  ("The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?")  Jer 17:9

And then there's the condition that I should hope to find myself in at all times.  The condition of being aware.  Aware that all my righteousness is as filthy rags. (Isa 64:6)  Aware that his strength is made perfect when I am weak. (2 Cor 12:9)  Aware that he is not just the author, he is the finisher of my faith. (Heb 12:2)  Aware that he which hath begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1:6)  Aware that all my hope, all my faith, all my trust, all my life, must be found in Jesus Christ.  He is the one that is able to keep me from falling and present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.  (Jude 1:24)  When I am fully aware of these truths, and the fact that I am nothing without him, then I will never again click on the "publish now" or the "preview buttons."  When I have the full understanding of who I am and who he is, I will most certainly click on the "save now button!" 

Jesus Christ.  "There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved."  (Acts 4:12)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Saved By His Life

I spent my afternoon with a great friend and sister in the Lord.  We laughed together, fellowshipped; talked about the Lord and his plan and will for our lives.  It was a wonderful time.  I had been lifted up.  Upon dropping her at her house and driving away, tears flooded my eyes as I began to thank God for her.  Then suddenly and without warning, my thanks changed to "thank you Lord for YOUR life in her!"  That is what had lifted me up! 

We are saved by his life.  (Romans 5:10)  It is true, we know as christians that our souls are eternally saved because of the life of Christ in us.  But his salvation applies to all areas of our beings.  Do we stop to consider that we are "saved" in many ways throughout everyday by his life shown to us in our midst?

Perhaps he speaks a word to us through prayer.  It gives life to our bones.  Maybe he reveals a truth to us from his written word.  Again, his life lifts me up. 

However the Lord chooses to fill us, whether through the brethren, our direct and individual praise and thanks to him, through prayer or written word, when he reveals himself, life is always the result. 

The letter of the law killeth, but the Spirit gives life.  (2 Corinthians 3:6b)

"Arise O Lord and save me."  (Psalm 3:7a)

"To know him, to know him
Is the cry of my heart,
Holy Spirit reveal him in me.
To hear what he's saying
Brings life to my bones.
To know him, to know him alone."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

His Strength Is Made Perfect In Our Weakness

"And he said unto me,
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 
2 Corinthians 12:9

Have you ever picked up a rock from the ground and found bugs underneath it?  The bugs go scurrying, trying to escape the light and their perceived danger of being exposed.  Doesn't it seem bizarre to actually live (make your home, abide) under a rock?  Yet in all actuality, that is exactly what we often times do.   

The closer I come to Jesus Christ the more apparent my own flaws become.  The more I abide in Him, the more I see that I am like the bug under the rock.  Jesus is the Light, and when that Light shines on me and exposes how imperfect I really am, it often times leaves me feeling like I want to crawl under a rock and hide. 

The bible refers to us as "earthen vessels."  In other words, we are likened unto clay pots.  If you know anything about a clay pot, you know that it is very breakable and rarely ever perfect.  It can have lumps and bumps, and chips and cracks.  Yet, each clay pot ever made has a definite purpose. 

I was reading the story of Gideon in Judges 6 and 7.  The Lord instructed Gideon to go and fight against the Midianites.  But he told Gideon, "You have too many men to defeat the Midianites. I don't want the Israelites to brag that they saved themselves." 

That is quite a profound statement.  "Too many men in your army to defeat the enemy?"  But God wanted the circumstances to be such that it would be impossible for their army to get a victory by themselves.  So he reduced Gideons' army to only 300 men and gave them the strength and ability to fight the enemy (who numbered in the thousands) and WIN!  Then everyone around knew without a doubt that God was the one who fought and won the battle! 

"And he (Gideon) divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, (clay pots) and lamps (the Light) within the pitchers."  (Judges 7:16)

"So Gideon and the 100 men with him came to the edge of the enemy camp. They came just after the enemy had changed guards. It was during the middle watch of the night. Then Gideon and his men blew their trumpets and smashed their jars.  All three groups of Gideon's men blew their trumpets and smashed their jars. They held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands. Then they shouted, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!"  Each of Gideon's men stayed in his place around the camp. But inside the camp, the men of Midian began shouting and running away.  When Gideon's 300 men blew their trumpets, the Lord caused all the men of Midian to fight each other with their swords!"  (Judges 7:19-22a)

Once the men smashed their jars (earthen vessels, clay pots) the torch (Light) inside (which we know to represent Jesus, the Light of the world) shone forth.  When that Light shined the enemy became confused; afraid, and went scurrying, looking for a place to hide.  If Gideon's army had not smashed the clay pots (representative of allowing our own selves, earthen vessels, to be broken) the light would have never been able to shine out and the end result would have been very different. 

"God once said, "Let the light shine out of the darkness!" And this is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts. He gave us light by letting us know the glory of God that is in the face of Christ.  We have this treasure from God. But we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure. This shows that this great power is from God, not from us."  2 Corinthians 4:6-7

After reading the story of Gideon the Lord brought to my remembrance a poem that I have and had not read in years.  It is entitled: The Cracked Pot

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole 
which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.  For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But, the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.  "I am ashamed of myself and I want to apologize to you." “Why” asked the bearer, “What are you ashamed of?” "I have been able for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.  The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot and in his compassion, he said. "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But, at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its’ load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.  The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table.  Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."  Each of us has our own unique flaws. We are all cracked pots. But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace us. In God's great economy, nothing goes to waste.  So as we seek ways to minister together and as God calls you to the tasks appointed for you, don't be afraid of your flaws.  Acknowledge them and allow God to take advantage of them, and you too, can be the cause of beauty in God's pathway.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Don't Be Afraid Of Failure

by David Wilkerson
When Adam sinned, he tried to hide from God. When Peter denied Christ, he was afraid to face him. When Jonah refused to preach to Nineveh, his fear drove him into the ocean, to flee the presence of the Lord.

Something much worse than failure is the fear that goes with it. Adam, Jonah, and Peter ran away from God, not because they lost their love for him, but because they were afraid he was too angry with them to understand.

The accuser of the brethren waits, like a vulture, for you to fail in some way. Then he uses every lie in hell to make you give up, to convince you that God is too holy or you are too sinful to come back. Or he makes you afraid you are not perfect enough or that you will never rise above your failure.

It took forty years to get the fear out of Moses and to make him usable in God’s program. If Moses or Jacob or David had resigned himself to failure, we might never again have heard of these men. Yet Moses rose up again to become one of God’s greatest heroes. Jacob faced his sins, was reunited with the brother he had cheated, and reached new heights of victory. David ran into the house of God, found forgiveness and peace, and returned to his finest hour. Jonah retraced his steps, did what he had refused to do at first and brought a whole city to repentance. Peter rose out of the ashes of denial to lead a church to Pentecost.

In 1958, I sat in my little car weeping; I was a terrible failure, I thought. I had been unceremoniously dumped from a courtroom after I thought I was led by God to witness to seven teenage murderers. My attempt to obey God and to help those young hoodlums looked as though it were ending in horrible failure.

I shudder to think of how much blessing I would have missed if I had given up in that dark hour. How glad I am today that God taught me to face my failure and go on to his next step for me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who, What, and Where

"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God..."  Romans 1:1

As I read the above scripture I suddenly realized that Paul knew who he was.  He knew what his calling was.  And he knew where he was supposed to be.  He said he was a servant of Christ.  He didn't mention that he was a very learned man with lots of education or anything about himself other than the fact that he was Christs' servant.  (In other places he mentions things about himself and says, "I count it all as dung.")  Paul's focus was on Jesus and he knew who he was.  He was Christs'!

He also knew what he was called to.  He said he was called to be an apostle.  It's as simple as that.  Many christians struggle with not knowing what their calling is.  Focusing on themselves, they question whether they might be a pastor, a youth leader, a Sunday school teacher, an intercessor, etc, etc.  Paul put it simply.  We are called to be used by God in whatever manner he chooses.  If we are interested in God getting the glory, and not ourselves, it doesn't matter what area he has us ministering in.  As long as we are doing what he tells us to be doing. 

And lastly, Paul knew where he was supposed to be.  Again, very clear and simple.  He was supposed to be separated unto the gospel of God.  Many of God's children get frustrated because they don't know where they are supposed to be.  Should I live in Vermont or move to California?  Maybe I should become a missionary and move to a third world country?  Paul said, "I am content in whatsoever state I am in."  Phil 4:11  (No pun intended)  If we are where we are supposed to be, separated unto God, then his joy will fill us and like Paul, we will be content. 

We so often make the matters of the Lord so difficult and confusing and God never intended for us to do that.  After all, it is called the simple Gospel. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Walking the Walk or Talking the Talk?

My husband has a saying concerning marriage.  "Anyone can say I do, but not everyone stays committed." 

Why is it that so many people give their hearts to the Lord,  then turn away from him later?  Statistics show that an extremely large percentage of those who have a born again experience eventually go back to their original lifestyle and stop walking with God all together.  Certainly there are various reasons, but my observation has been this.  That many of those who became "born again", did so out of an emotional experience. 

We've all heard jokes about the Southern Baptist preacher who preaches the "turn or burn" message.  Many have walked the aisles of churches like that because of an emotional reaction.  Fear. 

Then there's the youth rallies.  Vast numbers of young people gather together to hear the christian rock band and there's an altar call at the end.  Many flock to the altar to be "saved."  Some because it's just the "cool thing to do" and others because their emotions are pumped up from the music and the events of the evening.  Most of them return to their regular lives the next day or soon after, and the "born again" experience becomes just that: an experience. 

I have attended women's weekend retreats that from start to finish pulled on peoples' heart strings.  Many of these retreats are designed that way!  Thus, you have women "giving their lives to the Lord" who do so out of an emotional experience.  Few go on to walk the rest of their lives with him. 

I have read accounts of christian men's groups that gather for weekend retreats, get "lifted up in the Spirit", and when the weekend was over, were seen coming out of adult book stores. 

When a person has a true born again experience with Jesus Christ, they not only go away from that place changed, they continue to walk in that change.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "If anyone belongs to Christ, then he is made new. The old things have gone; everything is made new!"

Any one of us can say that we want to be married to Jesus Christ; to be a part of his bride.  The bible says that "a child is known by his behavior."  (Prov 20:11a)  How many of us will stay committed to that marriage covenant?  How many of us will endure to the end?  Our behavior demonstrates where our allegiance lies, therefore revealing what is in our own hearts. 

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."  Prov 4:23

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  Matt 6:21

Are we walking the walk, or just talking the talk?