Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jesus Isn't A Cute Knick Knack to Add to Life


("The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" By Jennie A Brownscombe)

"And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray." Isaiah 35:8 (ESV)


A highway of holiness, a way of life. Jesus paved this way for us, leaving us His words, His sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit. A Christian life is one that reflects the holy way. It is a path that orders our steps and directs our whole way of life. Following Jesus isn't just something to 'add in' to busy schedules, faith is something that is a part of us and He cannot be separated from any part of life. After accepting Jesus as our Savior, the 'master' of our lives, our life should begin to be refined---changed. The way of holiness shall belong to those who walk in the way.

"Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work." 2 Timothy 2:21

Jesus won't leave us alone to purge out what is dishonorable in our lives. He will walk with us, guiding us and teaching us. Yet, we cannot expect that He won't cleanse us. Our former way of life is cast off, the world and it's sin, humanism, impurity and lies was the former master. Now God in the flesh is our Savior, so we must cast off the weight of the former life. Jesus wants to make us honorable and set apart for Him, ready for every good work.

"Holiness, as taught in the Scriptures, is not based upon knowledge on our part. Rather, it is based upon the resurrected Christ in-dwelling us and changing us into His likeness.”  A.W. Tozer

There is no 'readiness' for Christ's work and healing in our lives if we are unwilling to be cleansed and to rid our lives of impure things. Our whole way of life in fact can be 'impure.' Impurity is not just what we deem "the big stuff"---drugs, crime, abuse etc. Running around in chaos, a schedule so busy it will lead to our demise, taking in too much media, addiction to screens, a focus on self, idols in our life, not honoring God as we should, laziness and lack of spiritual discipline----all of these are impure things in our lives that do not lead us closer to God.

"For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness." 1 Thessalonians 4:7

Often we overlook impurity, take it as no big deal. Over time these things begin to build up and callous our hearts. Impurity in tv shows, songs, our speech, our habits, our schedules---they are a big deal, and they matter to God. They numb us to true holiness and love, and most of the time we do not realize it. Jesus, the ultimate representation of purity, calls us to His refining fire and His way of life for us. As these things are removed from life we can see Jesus anew and with clearer eyes. The eyes of the heart are renewed and can see the pure life we are called to live. 

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:23

 If we have accepted Christ's blood shed for us, that He has cleansed us to make us anew, and we are continuing on the same path as before with Jesus as an accessory like a nice handbag, we do not truly understand His way, or we are hesitant to alter our lives so drastically that they will look different from almost everyone. (even most Christians today) When we understand His way, we will slowly eliminate things from our lives, growing more like Him, and listening to the Holy Spirit direct our steps. He cares about everything in our lives, including how we live, that our life reflects Him.

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24

Now we are dead to sin, and alive to righteousness. Being truly alive in hearts, in the Holy Spirit, will begin to produce the fruit of change in our life, as we walk the Highway of Holiness.

The Pilgrims sailed in cramped quarters and risked disease, starvation and death. Why did they do this? They believed their worship of Jesus, their way of life---their 'way of Holiness' was so sacred to them, the way of life-giving salvation---that they were unwilling to give up this way of life. To them, it was THE only way. There weren't any other options, no compromise with truth. The Truth (Jesus) was so valuable to them that they were willing to start life over in a new land as "strangers and pilgrims."

"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." Hebrews 11:13

Today, we don't want to accept that following Christ will change everything. We won't watch, listen to, or live the lifestyle that most have. Truly, following Jesus means a return to some of the old paths of life. These paths produce so much fruit---peace and holiness. Having peace in our life, healing in our hearts, carrying Jesus' true peace every day---this is priceless and worth more than any sacrifice of petty things. Our hearts and minds are no longer 'cluttered' with things that do not matter, things that make our hearts and minds feel heavy and chaotic. We are free in Christ to walk His way, not the world's. God's way and walking His path is the purest freedom. 

"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." Isaiah 30:21

“If you don’t delight in the fact that your Father is holy, holy, holy, then you are spiritually dead. You may be in a church. You may go to a Christian school. But if there is no delight in your soul for the holiness of God, you don’t know God. You don’t love God. You’re out of touch with God. You’re asleep to his character.” ~R.C. Sproul

“Why would we want fame, when God promises us glory? Why would we be seeking the wealth of the world when the wealth of heaven is ours? Why would we run for a crown that will perish with time, when we're called to win a crown that is imperishable?”  ~Paul Washer




Sunday, November 9, 2014

Living Loud, Do you always need to be "seen?"


"I will be careful to live a blameless life—
    when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity
    in my own home." Psalm 101:2 (NLT)


For hundreds of years many families lived quiet, unseen lives in the family home. They enjoyed the 'simple' pleasures of life, being together and spending time as a family. Worshiping God together and seeking Him was the focus. There was less focus on self, and more focus on service to others and the family. The home and family were viewed as sacred, and home was a sanctuary. The virtues of life were learned in the family home---love, patience, service, orderliness and most importantly, loving God and having a heart to follow Him.

Before facebook, instagram and twitter, people led "quieter" lives. Life wasn't showcased and people went about their work in a quiet manner. There wasn't the addiction to needing to be 'seen'. Somehow social media tricks us into thinking that constantly spending time on it documenting our lives suddenly makes us more valuable, as if our worth "goes up" by how much we post and are seen, heard and admired. Many before us lived lives that were unseen by crowds of men; but seen by God. A mother who is placing her value on the work and service she does for her family and God is just as valuable as a "famous" woman whose work is seen and admired by the masses. God sees her, and in His eyes she is a faithful child.

Fame and the admiration of many are wanted more than ever today. Rarely do we meet anyone who does not advertise or brand themselves. The ability to showcase ourselves in all we do is at our fingertips. Everyone is somewhat seen and heard today, being 'loud' on the internet. While the brand we have made of ourselves can be used for good, sometimes that brand becomes an idol and forgotten is the value of living quietly for God.  The virtue of a quiet life is almost lost, the value of a meek and quiet spirit is often tossed aside.  Many lives were lived before us that weren't advertised. Even the apostles didn't advertise themselves for the purpose of fame; but for the glory of God and service to Jesus. They knew the value of their work was seen by God and their worth was found in Him.

"But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." 1 Peter 3:4
One of the most famous quiet lives of a mother is of Ma Ingalls. She probably never thought her work and love of her family would be publicized and beloved by readers. She never advertised herself or seemed to long for fame. She lived on the prairies caring for her family, loving them and teaching them. Many times it was her strength that kept her family going through the hard times. She was always faithful, gentle and loving. Many times in the "Little House" books she is described as opening her Bible for encouragement.  She truly lived simply. She had no gadgets, not even kitchen ones, and whipped up simple meals over a wood stove with cast iron pots. She was faithful in the smallest tasks and gave timeless advice.

“This earthly life is a battle,” said Ma. “If it isn’t one thing to contend with, it’s another. It always has been so, and it always will be. The sooner you make up your mind to that, the better off you are, and the more thankful for your pleasures." (from "Little Town on the Prairie")

If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of a light,” Ma considered. “We didn’t lack for light when I was a girl, before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of.”

 “That’s so,” said Pa. “These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves- they’re good things to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ‘em.”

This sounds old fashioned now but maybe Ma and Pa had some wisdom. When we depend on fast, better and more--- always looking for things to constantly be improved to lead us in a life of ease, we forget many values of life. Often, the truly important things of life are neglected when the priority is to be loud, seen and heard. Ma probably couldn't have imagined a mother posting her life to facebook all day seeking recognition for herself, having "busy-itis" or spending all her time at the gym because she did not know the value of the work God had given her. She truly knew the value of the 'ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit.'

"For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

"And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you..." 1 Thessalonians 4:11

"We must give up the vain idea of trying to please everybody. That is impossible and the attempt is a mere waste of time. We must be content to walk in Christ's steps, and let the world say what it likes." JC Ryle





Saturday, November 1, 2014

Finding Freedom In Simplicity


"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."  

2 Corinthians 1:12


As Christians, walking with simplicity and sincerity in our daily lives a is part of our faithful witness. When we are deeply entangled, trapped by complexities we were not meant to bear, sometimes self imposed complexities, we are just as deceived and trapped by this world as non-believers. The simplicity of our lives and the way of refreshment---Christ---should seem like a cool, clean air breeze to others.

Called to freedom in Christ there is no obligation or burden to keep up with the Jones'. We don't have to have the busiest schedule on the block, or do things the way everyone else does them just to fit in, only to find ourselves burnt out, stressed out, and not living in the peaceful ways of God. God's ways are always opposite of the worlds. There is no time in a packed schedule to hear, see, learn and taste the ways of God.

“There are no 'if's' in God's kingdom. His timing is perfect. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety. His will is our hiding place. Let us pray that we may always know it. ‘Lord Jesus, keep me in Your will. Don't let me go mad by poking about outside it.’”
-Corrie ten Boom

If we are enslaved to tv's, smart phones, computers, activities we feel we must be a part of, our homes, our cars, our appliances, whom are we serving? All these things require time, effort, work, money---so we work harder and harder to pay for them and become enslaved to the lure of stuff. The lie of the 'good life.' The good life in God's eyes is a true life of abundance, not of possessions or monetary wealth, but of spiritual wealth and wisdom. The less we are serving things, the more we can serve God and get to know Him. He refreshes our spirit and shows us the way of life.

"You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him.
    Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images.
You will throw them out like filthy rags,  saying to them, “Good riddance!” Isaiah 30:20-22

God provided Eve with more than enough, but by not trusting God and instead following her desire to see if another way (her way) was better, she entangled herself in sin. Just as the serpent deceived Eve away from what God had provided, we are often fooled into wanting and running after more than God has called us to, thinking He is not enough, and we entangle ourselves back into slavery again. We pile our plate higher and higher with so many things, yet we would have found true freedom being satisfied with the first serving. If we are willing to listen to God, take Him at His word, and take the portion He has provided to us, He will not fail us.

"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Micah 6:8

The real question and test of our faith is to ask ourselves: are we willing to live simply? Are we willing to reevaluate, hit the restart button and make real, lasting changes? We must be willing to untangle ourselves from all the ways of the world, and bind ourselves to God's way. This requires communing with God, listening and allowing Him to direct our steps. This will most likely lead us away from the crowd, rather than to it, but it will lead us to God.

"You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."
-Psalm 32:7-8

If we want to be enslaved, stressed, unhealthy, harried and frenzied, then we will follow the path of the world, the popular and trendy path. If we want the life God truly has for us, we will follow His way no matter how it looks or how opposite it is to the world. He will gradually peel back the layers of untruth that are hiding our true life in Him. He will heal us and guide us on the simple path. God wants His people to live as He asks, because we are His children, "strangers and pilgrims"--- when we become too entangled with 'stuff' in this life, we are not as tied to the things of God and heaven as we should be. God wants our hearts and minds resting in Him, the only true refreshment.

"No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." 
Luke 16:13

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." 1 Thessalonians 5:21

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand… We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without." Henry David Thoreau

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter ... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life." John Burroughs