Thursday, January 23, 2014

Settled and Secure


"There your people finally settled, and with a bountiful harvest, O God, you provided for your needy people. " Psalm 68:10

The slightest wave in our life that is going smoothly and we run frantically to the comfort of our anxious thoughts and our "what if's?" We run to try to find as many solutions as we can to the problem that has cropped up as if the solution lies in our human hands. We go into a frenzied "survival" mode of anxiousness and what we view as action to "fix" our problems, when we need to run to God.

"What else does anxiety about the future bring you but sorrow upon sorrow?" Thomas a Kempis

"It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones." Psalm 127:2 

We should all desire a settled and secure faith. One that is deeply developed and where God is leaned upon as our unwavering tower.

Surround yourself with the word of God, good reading of solid Christian men and women who are secure in the arms of God and build yourself up. Forsake other foolish pursuits and pour yourself into what is worthwhile and your soul will be filled. Spending time pursuing God, the only One who matters, will never be regretted.

"In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro.

(Everywhere I have sought peace and not found it, except in a corner with a book.)”Thomas Kempis

Many times the anxieties that circumstances with an unknown outcome produce are because of overwhelm. Yet we get overwhelmed because we are trying to fix it ourselves and relying on our own human power. We faint with fatigue because we do not rely on God's strength. His strength sustains us and guides us, it is HIS strength to lean upon. We will faint and grow weary relying on our human frailty.

Many desire a strong faith yet wonder why they always feel it is weak and faltering. What we desire to have in our faith we must put work into building up. If there is time to watch tv, surf the web, participate in possibly meaningless activities, there is time to pursue building a strong faith. The key word is time. We must put building our faith with diligence on our priority list. It can take priority over other activities, we just have to say no to them and be a wise steward with our time. If you wanted to be an Olympic athlete you would train rigorously. The same is done when we are working on a strong spiritual life.

“The more humble and obedient to God a man is, the more wise and at peace he will be in all that he does.” -Thomas a Kempis

 Don't desire to build a strong faith and then walk out of church and turn on American Idol or read a romance novel. Building your faith doesn't happen like that. Word by word, lesson by lesson, diligence upon steadfastness and your foundation is built. A deep relationship with God will not happen while we are in "zone out" mode when it comes to spiritual things, but when we are focused on pursuing God.

“All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.”  Thomas a Kempis

"Oh, how great peace and quietness would he possess who should cut off all vain anxiety and place all his confidence in God." Thomas a Kempis

We can rest and settle in His promises. We can walk through our life with a sense of peace and security in who God is. He will never change. No matter how everything may seem to crash around us and fall away, God is the same. We have to hide this truth deep down in our souls. Wear it on our being and wrap it around ourselves. 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." Psalm 139:23

In death, life, disease, poverty and prosperity, God is faithful. We need to be His people who speak of His promises with confidence and faith and rest in Him ourselves. We can walk though life peaceful, settled and secure in God's truth. We don't build on the cliff of anxiety but on the mighty power of God's unchanging truth. The One who created the universe, numbers the hairs on our head and knows every star in the sky. He is he One to be always trusted. Our circumstances may seem bigger than us, but God is bigger than any circumstance.

"But all who listen to me will live in peace,
untroubled by fear of harm.” Proverbs 1:33

Take the time to really listen to the promises of God and absorb them into your heart. Not in a fast and passing way but in a quiet, still, and lasting way that will produce growth and depth. Hide God's promises in your heart and draw from them daily. Hide them like a never ending river of living water in your being.

 "He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:29-31

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

"No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Serving Our Screen Idols (Part 1)


"How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
    so they are all put to shame. Who but a fool would make his own god—
    an idol that cannot help him one bit?" Isaiah 44:9-10



In our modern era, idol worship is thought of as something from a time long ago. We laugh at the statues and totem poles that were once worshiped and scoff at how ridiculous those people must have been. How could they have worshiped something dead and expected results? We know that God should come first and that nothing else should master us. Yet many have fooled themselves into thinking nothing else is their master. We have many prized objects that we have manufactured that are our idols today. The battle of the heart and mind to worship only God and let nothing else crowd Him out has continued from before the golden calf to now.

“Do not put your trust in idols or make metal images of gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:4

The Israelite's had seen Moses free them from captivity. They'd seen the Red Sea parted, manna delivered from heaven, water gush from a rock, and Moses stand before a burning bush. Yet so easily discouraged what did they build? A golden calf. They'd just witnessed God's miraculous power and His love for them and yet they built a dead object to adore and make sacrifices to.

Instead of focusing on God's miracles, pouring out gratitude to God and rejoicing in their hearts, the poured out all of their energies into making a dead object. This took time, effort and energy away from what they really should have been doing.

"The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.  How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” Exodus 32:7-8

The Israelite's made sacrifices to the golden calf, but we bow down in our own way to make sacrifices to screens and entertainment, or to other vices that come treading down our path. The ever glowing screens, held in our palms, held in our laps, stared at in the living room. And God is crowded out. Do we run to God first, or the screen? We spend hours upon hours of our lives engaging in social media, websites, apps, our smart phones, texting and staring at the computer and television. For many, this is put before their spiritual lives. It is our own golden calf. Mothers and fathers are no longer engaged with their children, but with a dead screen. We don't know the word of God for ourselves and our children do not know it because we don't engage with God, and God is hardly mentioned in most homes. But ask the kids and parents about the latest show or entertainment news and they are quick to answer. 

The hearts of those we love are neglected. Our own heart, soul and mind is neglected by the wasting of time staring at a screen. We run to the screens. Our lives are dictated by them and they have mastered us.

God made us to engage with Him first, and those we love. God's word transcends time. He knew what He was talking about when He warned against idols. He knew that there would be many golden calfs that we would put in His place.

There seems to be a mentality that if we do not engage almost constantly with the internet we are missing out. This screen we are engaging with cannot help us to get to know the one, true God as we should. So we are missing out on the one thing that really matters. God.  To not feel that we are missing out on anything we engage with the tv to watch the latest and popular shows, we engage with social media to see what everyone is up too. Yet we run back for more, never satisfied. The Living Water is right before us wanting us to turn to Him and yet we do not drink. We drink of the world and remain parched. We do not drink of the one thing that will never leave us wanting and depleted but will leave us thirsting for righteousness and that will fill our souls.

"Jesus Christ is refreshing. Flight from Him into Christless leisure makes the soul parched.  At first it may seem like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and neglect the Word. But then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the spirit." -John Piper

  We worship these idols so much we are willing to go to great lengths to get them, wait out in lines in the cold and spend hard earned dollars on them.  We even willingly sacrifice time with our families, time spent seeking after God, our own eternal life, so that we can spend more time with our screens.

"But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there." 1 Kings 12:30

    Neglected when we live in our vast wasteland of screens is our own creativity and development of talents, not to mention our thought life. Afraid of boredom (which spurs on creativity, learning and great thoughts) we stifle it with a mind numbing screen. God gave us many talents, and the gift of creating is one of His great gifts. ("In the beginning, God created...." Genesis 1:1) Did Benjamin Franklin, Michelangelo, Albert Einstein,  Galileo and so many others depend on computers to develop their great minds? That creativity comes from God alone and what He by His power alone has put into the human heart and mind.  How many undiscovered talents do our children and even ourselves have because we waste so much time serving our idols? The enemy will use anything he can, even things that can be used for good, to distract us from God's purposes and from our relationship with God. Even something we brush off as benign.

"The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.
    He trusts something that can’t help him at all.
Yet he cannot bring himself to ask,
    “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?” Isaiah 44:20

We have to be honest with ourselves. The things we make idols out of are lies. It's a lie that we can't live a wonderful and full life not spending every waking moment connected. It's a lie that it is necessary to be plugged into every media source there is. We have to bring ourselves to ask the hard questions. Do we use the screens as a tool or are they our master? We find ourselves automatically turning them on without thought and they have mastered us. 

 Addicts are often afraid to give up their substance of choice because they can't imagine their lives without it. But when they do and they succeed in their recovery they are joyful and thrilled to have discovered a new life without that substance. We are not far from being addicts to our screens when we cannot imagine a week without them. Our screens at times serve as a form of "self medicating." We fear feeling and dealing with things inside ourselves and what will be revealed so we escape into our screens.

We think we are "learning," and doing things of value all day on our screens. But we are made to connect with the one great Adonai who pours Himself into us and fills us--- so that we can pour ourselves back into those we love. We are not made to pour ourselves into a void of a screen. It is dead and does not return the favor. We must not be the foolish one who does not realize or examine that they are spending hours worshiping an idol every day.

"Even though the nations around us worship idols, we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever." Micah 4:6

“O Israel, stay away from idols!
    I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green;
    all your fruit comes from me.”

Let those who are wise understand these things.
    Let those with discernment listen carefully.
The paths of the Lord are true and right,
    and righteous people live by walking in them.
    But in those paths sinners stumble and fall." Hosea 14:8-9


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Strive For Rest


"So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.Hebrews 4:9-11

In our culture of "build your self esteem!" "You can be all you want to be!" "Shoot for the stars!", we often miss that in all of our planning and dreaming we are striving for the wrong thing. Dreams, goals, accomplishments, these are gifts of God. But when the end goal does not line up with God's plans and His word, we miss the mark and we end up exhausted---running on a hamster wheel that never ends up anywhere and we wonder why. 

We always seem to strive when we encounter any obstacle in life, but often God begins to work when we begin to take our hands off of a situation. He wants to show us His ways and His power and often we block God out ourselves by trying to take His place. How can He fully work when it is our own self that is stopping Him? Then we wonder and ask ourselves where God is and it is a cycle that we have to break.

Our manipulating a situation, trying desperately to turn it into what we want, often ends up a fruitless activity, we end up frustrated and having made ourselves sick.

God tells us strive to enter my rest. Enter my arms, the work is finished. I have already completed it. You don't write your story, I write it. I am the author of your story. You aren't in charge, I am. You aren't God. In all your constant, blind striving you are trying to be the great I AM. You are not a god, I am the great Yahweh! In your constant striving you are sinning because you are failing to trust me and allow me to be God and you fall into disobedience.

Jesus finished the work for us on the cross, He strove to finish it so we don't have to. Let this truth be cemented into our souls. We can enter peace and rest without a whip at our backs, because the work is already complete!

Of course this is a much different truth than what we have absorbed all of our lives, but the truth is God has a much different view of accomplishments than we do, and this should come as no surprise. The Bible is our plumb line for any situation in life, and our thoughts, situations, problems, dreams, goals, all need to be measured against God's truth.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD." Isaiah 55:8
 So much effort is put into striving for the outward things. Educations, cars, houses, finances. Where is the work on our inner soul? When God looks at us He does not see our possessions. He sees the inner life, the thought life, the soul. It is not very well taught that we are to develop the soul and thought life in a rich and deep way. We are to put MORE effort into these things than the outer things. And a funny thing happens when we pursue God with our whole being---we begin to enter into His rest. He blesses us with this because He sees us pursuing the thing that is best.

Jesus tells us that the ONE thing we are to be concerned about, is resting at His feet and it will never be taken away! All we strive for in our own human efforts will someday vanish. How important is it then that we learn what is truly important?

 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”  But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:38-42

When we stop striving in our own blind ambition, be begin to see. Our eyes and hearts are open and we see Jesus. In that place of peace and rest is where God begins to open doors and we see His power and love. God knows our hearts, our goals, He is the author of our life! Who loves us more than Him and who wants us to fulfill His purposes more than Himself? So He asks us to enter His rest, so He can accomplish through us more than we ever thought possible and more than we will ever "achieve" through our own aimless striving.

 "Many in this life care little for the service of God and their lives end up in futility. They perish through their own ambition because they choose to be famous rather than humble. The truly great are humble in mind, and consider public acclimation to be worthless. In order to find Christ, the truly wise consider all earthly things to be rubbish. The really wise surrender their own wills to the will of God." Thomas Kempis

 Let our main goal be to know God and allow Him to mold us into one of the "really wise",  and enter His wonderful rest, that we may not spiritually perish through our own earthly ambition.

Be still, and know that I am God:
I will be exalted among the heathen,
I will be exalted in the earth.  Psalm 46:10

Be still and enter His wonderful place of rest.  If you aim for one thing may it be for His peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)



Friday, January 3, 2014

Boundaries and Borders


"He makes peace in your borders, and fills you with the finest wheat." -Psalm 147:14

 Driven by my personality I am always striving and wanting to push past my limitations. This has served me well many times in life but I am realizing that limits and boundaries are at times created by God to teach us virtue. They are healthy and grow us closer to God.

Sometimes we are setting things for ourselves to do that are out of our God given sphere. God gives us each a sphere of influence, a sphere of life. Can any of us reasonably travel the world over, go to every store, join every social media site, be pinterest worthy, seek perfection--- do everything well, or can we do a few things well? Can we minister to a few well? Sometimes we set the goals so high they will exhaust us or push us further away from God. Sometimes the goals are simply not what God has set before us.

If we minister to a few well, and they minister to a few well, and so on---the influence God gives us is extended. Yet so often we focus on "the large, the big, the many" of life instead of the small things we are given to do well.

God designed our limits this way and yet we push and push and strive to exhaustion to get past our healthy limits. Boundaries teach us lessons-virtue--and they teach us to do well at the few things we are given.

Numerous times in the Bible when God gives His people land He speaks of the borders of the land. He knows human limitations. We are meant to live where God puts us so He will bless us and make us thrive. We are blessed and thrive as we recognize these limits but don't see them as a curse but rather  a blessing.

"You have increased the nation, O Lord, You have increased the nation; You are glorified; You have expanded all the borders of the land." Isaiah 26:15

When we are given more, unlimited opportunities we take them. More food? I'll eat it. Free internet? I'll use it. Unlimited channels on your cable? Sure I"ll watch it! An unlimited shopping spree? I'll shop until I drop! It's on clearance? I"ll buy 10! Is having everything all without limits spiritually healthy? It is not God's way. His ways are not our ways. He sets limits so we grow, learn, thrive and get to know Him in a new way. He sets limits so we take the time to sit at His feet. Without limits we become gluttons, slothful and lacking self control.

 There is a critical discipline many miss- self governance. Governing the self and being disciplined enough to know what is for us and what is not. What to participate in and what to walk away from and leave behind. Without self governance given by the grace of God we will indulge ourselves into a spiritual sickness of more. And that more will never be enough. There will be another more and another and another. God knows this about sin, so He sets His holy borders, His limits so we will thrive. 

Our example---Jesus--- He was not able to travel to every country during His ministry, He wasn't able to heal every person He came in contact with or every person that He heard was sick. He couldn't, it wasn't possible. He followed God's leading and stayed within the boundaries God had set for His ministry straight to the cross. Yet His ministry and His life have now traveled across all nations and all time periods because He obeyed God and where God asked Him to go. He didn't run off and say, "but God, there is this town here and there and there and I must go to this latest market to buy the newest garment even if I can't afford it because it's offered! I must have it!" Put it that way and it sounds unreasonable and silly doesn't it? We'd say to Jesus "but you are doing such great work where God has you! Don't disobey!" Jesus would have worked Himself into a frenzy trying to see and accomplish much but in the end not accomplishing much that was worthy.

We say and do this often ourselves. "It's not enough." "My world is so small." "I need more." "I need to participate in everything to feel accomplished and important." We work ourselves into a frazzle--- in the end not doing the few things God has put on our plate well and for His glory.

If you are in a situation of borders right now and it seems you can't get past them, pray and ask God what He is teaching and revealing about His character and what He is molding in yours. He makes peace within our borders and He fills us. Overflowing, running over, joy bursting forth. They are there for our benefit and because God loves us.

"You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter." Psalm 74:17

"There is hope in your future, says the Lord, That your children shall come back to their own border." Jeremiah 31:17

"Your eyes shall see, And you shall say, ‘The Lord is magnified beyond the border of Israel." Malachi 1:5