Thursday, October 16, 2014

Accepting Christ and Rejecting His Cross: A Modern Day Plague


"St Joseph with the infant Jesus" By Guido Reni (1620's)

"And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philipians 2:8



 There's a plague going around. It's spreading fast, infecting people's precious hearts and minds. It's spreading in many churches, books, 'motivational' speakers and false teachings. Jesus is reduced to a mere "feel good" cartoon character, His death on the cross to a fairy tale. If we just accept Him, we will live happily ever after. We are free to pursue our 'bliss', our own happiness, and free to pursue ourselves. Jesus and the Christian walk are reduced to a nice feel good club. What is this plague that is so contagious? Accepting Christ while rejecting His cross.

Accepting Jesus without owning our own sin---without repentance and an open and willing heart that sees the personal need for His atoning cross---is not accepting Jesus. We're accepting part of Him and leaving out the inconvenient parts that require change, somberness, and a change of life. Accepting Jesus as our King means giving leadership to a new ruler over our entire heart and mind. Our whole self is given over to Him, not withholding the parts that we hang so tightly onto controlling. Jesus gave His whole self so that we might gain eternal life, yet we hold back out of stubbornness, fear, immaturity and an unwillingness to be different.

Many people are afraid to speak of the true message of Jesus, so it is watered down, changed to suit the times, the surrounding culture, or to tickle people's ears. When Jesus ministered to many different groups of people, personalities, diseases and stubborn hearts His message was the same to all. It was up to those listening to Him, witnessing His miracles whether they accepted Him or not. But He did not change. He did not say "if the people want more entertainment to draw them to me, let's give them more entertainment." "If you need to make me relevant to pop culture, and change me a little, then by all means do so." 

A sincere and repentant heart---a truly broken heart seeking a Savior, a heart committed to being faithful to the end, is not drawn in by shallow things. The heart is drawn by Jesus and His work on the cross. Knowing that we are sinners in need of a Savior or we have no hope of eternal life and recognizing our need to be made pure and spotless by Christ is essential.

"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Romans 5:6-8

Jesus shedding His blood for us means that every day we lay down our lives at the foot of the cross. Our life is His, we serve Him and live as humble servants to the King of Kings. Who we were before--- selfish, living in bondage to ourselves, past hurts, sins and abuses, we lay all of these down at the cross. Now we are a new creation, no longer serving ourselves. Most of modern Christianity leaves this type of unselfishness out of it's message. It says that we can accept Jesus as a feel good Savior, but leave out the part about taking up our own cross. 

 "Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" Matthew 16:24-26

Self denial, losing our selfish life to live a life of service for God, forgetting self to be refined into a new person and worshiping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, following Christ's commandments, walking the old paths---these are all part of the Christian walk. It won't always be 'feel good', it will require sacrifice of ourselves and most of the time not being popular.  Christ was despised, rejected, whipped, slandered, not accepted but did it all for the joy that was set before Him. (Heb.12:2) He did it for us, that we may have eternal life, and that we will truly know what real life is, and who He is. He wants us to know Him and accept all of Him, not just partial truths that are convenient when needed.

"Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God. Don't just say "we're safe---we're the descendants of Abraham." That proves nothing. God can change even these stones into children of Abraham. Even now the ax of God's judgement is poised, ready to sever your roots. yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire." Luke 3:8-9

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18

“And now brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?”
  -Frederick Buechner

“God Hold us to that which drew us first, when the Cross was the attraction, and we wanted nothing else.” -Amy Carmichael "God's Missionary"



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Simple Path Mothering


"And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart." Luke 2:51


 Mary and Joseph didn't know the full reality of what it meant to be the parents to God's son, but they treasured Him, loved Him and understood as best they could that He had a special purpose. When Jesus went "missing" and was later found in Jerusalem at the Temple, answering the religious teachers questions, Mary, being the holy, loving handmaiden of God, treasured all of these things about Jesus in her heart. She couldn't see the end yet, she didn't even fully understand Jesus, yet she trusted God enough to treasure Jesus and the purpose God had for Him.

There can be times in our culture that an 'idolizing' of motherhood takes place. It distracts from motherhood's real purpose. Pinterest perfect birthday parties, activities and making our children into mini celebrities, taking pictures of their every move to post on social media! Motherhood has become this sort of "show" for others. The pressure of activities, birthday parties and this entertainment driven life for our children can get heavy and expensive. Amidst all of this is there time to treasure these things in our hearts? The enemy seeks to devour and distract us, and He will use anything glittery, shiny and appealing to deter us from God's real purpose.

 What is God's purpose for mothers? To be Jesus' hands and feet to our children, to reflect Jesus to those we love, a ministry of sacrifice and laying down our lives---an offering to God. This is missed amongst all the glitter and temporary glory of raising children with all the 'trappings' of the world.  Raising our children to love God, serve Him, have a love for learning and growing, these seeds we sow are what matter! A cupcake baked with love, a simple celebration surrounded by those who love them, does an expensive birthday party filled with excessive materialism beat that? Playing outside, learning, creating and exploring---all while learning to connect with their Creator---no booked activities calendar trumps that. So many have bought into the lie of what childhood is and what motherhood is and we need to go back to the God path.

Time to nurture, teach, train, allowing adequate time to grow and explore doesn't happen on a rushed schedule. Living life saying 'hurry' constantly does not allow time for us to instill the treasures of virtue and Jesus into a young heart. Children also treasure their mother's in their hearts, and the time we take to show they are important is a reflection of God.

Return to the old paths of mothering--- nurturing, simple fun, growing, teaching, loving, serving with a God fearing heart and we turn again to God's way. Years from now the expensive birthday parties and entertainment filled life won't be the focus of our children's memories. The simple memories and love that was shown to them will be the legacy, and they will pass it on to their children. Like Mary, we must focus on God's way and that He holds the future, and point our children towards Him. We must trust God and remember what is important to Him in our parenting.  Mary's way---the way of treasuring, the way of God, her example is one for all mother's. From Jesus birth, to His teaching at the Temple, to His death on the cross, Mary was treasuring the things of God and trusting Him.

"All those who heard the shepherds story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often." Luke 2:18-19

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,  and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him." Luke 1:46-50



Thursday, October 2, 2014



Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem,
    a firm and tested stone.
It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.
    Whoever believes need never be shaken." Isaiah 28:16 (NLT)


Every day each of us must have an awareness that we are building something with the rising and setting of the sun. We are building a family, a home, a job, possessions---our life. Working hard to get a promotion, the next car, the kids in the best schools. Always looking to 'the next phase' to "better" ourselves. How do we view the most important things, eternal things----are we building those? How often we forget that the 'next phase' is really our eternal life. I don't want my earthly things to be in order, organized and looking "perfect" while my relationship with God and my eternal life are on flimsy ground.

 So many people are focused on building things that do not last because of a lack of trust in our firm and tested stone---Jesus. Our eyes are on our own fears and failures and anxieties and our hearts are not built on our firm foundation, Jesus. Fear and lack of trust in God's absolute sovereignty and provision for us makes us look to everything but Him. So we build, day by day, and we pour into the things that we think will bring security. Suddenly a life was poured into school, jobs, hobbies, fun and entertainment, and in the blink of an eye life is over. We have then built upon fleeting and passing things, and suddenly faced with the reality of eternal life, we have built upon things that have rotted and rusted.

A life built upon Jesus, a firm and tested cornerstone, can never be pulled out from under us. We will come to the end of life knowing that in spite of ourselves and our sins, our hearts and eyes were fixed on Jesus, and not on earth. Our life was not poured out for that which was a false idol, but for Jesus, whom we can trust with our very life. If we each examine what our time is poured our for, we will most likely find a few things that we are putting too much emphasis on building.

In this culture, we tend to build children's lives around activities---preschool, classes, and sports galore. None of these are wrong in and of themselves. The overriding message and emphasis is on building up their accomplishments and 'self esteem.' At the end of a month with all of these activities more time was spent on those than on discipling and teaching children about God. Teaching them that their true value, and the true meaning of their life is wrapped up in God and His love for them. These children become adults who will then wonder if the meaning of life is in activities and accomplishment, and the cycle will continue. When we "break the cycle" by letting them know what is truly important and valuable, they have the ability to view their activities, talents and hobbies in the right perspective. 

Careers are another huge time suck for our 'building' time. Hard work is poured into many careers to the sacrifice of the spiritual life and health. Promotions, achievements, recognition, bonuses, all will pass away. They do not go with us to our permanent home. Lives are spent building careers with the wrong motives----self esteem, self glorification and making money to make ourselves feel worthy. We can build a career for ourselves or a career to bring God glory.

Mothers can sometimes build our daily mothering around the kids activities, a designer house, our looks, achieving the perfect kids birthday party or striving for some sort of unattainable perfection. It's easy to pour effort into the external things that seem to matter but in the end aren't the truly important things. Pouring into our children's hearts and our homes with eternity in mind, as an offering to God that will last---this is what matters. 

What will others see we built from our lives? A home, a huge bank account, fine cars, jewelry and the finest things earth had to offer? Or will they see a heart that was willing to serve, a faith that stood through the wind and waves, a life poured into children and family, a life of perseverance and trust in the One who promised to never leave us or forsake us?

Building on Jesus comes at a cost---a temporary one. We no longer are in control of our time, finances, or career. Our choices are now in control of the King of Kings. We can trust Him! We must know and 'count the cost.' Building on Jesus means an awareness that our life choices, our  entire lifestyle will not be the same as others and every building decision will be taken to Jesus and guided by Him. Every day we are each builders. Whom we are building for---the world or Jesus----is up to us to decide.

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?  Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ Luke 14:28-30 (NLT)

“To have faith in Christ means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity