Saturday, February 28, 2015

Making A Way

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
~Exodus 14:13-14

As we pray for God’s help in any impossible situation, we can trust that He hears us. Just as Moses told his people that the Lord would fight for them, and make a way for them, He will make a way for us to pass through the seas on dry land. We must trust Him, and hold fast to His peace, knowing that where we cannot see a way that the seas will part, God sees the way. We only have to trust the one who sees, not lean on our own poor eyesight.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” ~Malachi 3:6

God is not stuck behind bronze gates. He is the eternal living God. His word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is not held back by anything. Like little children leaning on God, we can trust that He can part the waters of our lives and help us walk the path to freedom.

“Before the mountains were brought forth,
   or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
   from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” ~Psalm 90:2

“Strength of my heart, I need not fail,
Not mind to fear but to obey,
With such a Leader, who could quail?
Thou art as Thou wert yesterday.
Strength of my heart, I rest in Thee,
Fulfil Thy purposes through me.” ~Amy Carmichael

Wearing the Wrong Yoke

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."

~Galations 5:1

Yoking ourselves to the 'Egypt' of our day leads to stress, anxiety, and a yoke of iron around our hearts, minds and souls. Busyness, self inflicted complications and the pressure of living in a performance based society do not have us living under the yoke of Christ. Sometimes we pile our own plates so high, and none of it was given to us by God to do. It may be our yoke is wanting to impress others---so we go above and beyond, get into debt and yoke ourselves to the worlds standards. Other times our yoke is the pressure on us and our children to 'perform' for others---too many classes, too much academic pressure, the focus is on performance and "accomplishment" and not on God.

"Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you."
~Deuteronomy 28:47-48

The yoke of Christ is there for us. We need only to follow God's ways, listen to Him and be willing to admit to ourselves our own worldliness. We have not lived for God, we have lived for impressing man, and it has led to heavy iron yoke of bondage. "With joyfulness and gladness of heart...." means that we follow God's ways knowing that in Him we are not giving up anything, but we are gaining a relationship with the one who knows what is best for us. Resentfully following God while thinking we are 'sacrificing' to do so does not lead us to living under His light yoke. So often we serve our "enemies" and the yoke of iron destroys us. It destroys our peace, our health, our families and our Godly values because we have taken the yoke of the world's expectations upon us, where we will never measure up and where we will never be enough.

"I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love,
And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.
I stooped and fed them." Hosea 11:4

God stoops to feed us with His living word, with His peaceful ways, with His salvation, yet we refuse to walk in His ways! The world's path is so broad and so appealing, it offers false happiness and bondage under the disguise of deceitful freedom. Jesus is our guide and shepherd. He teaches us what needs to be in our lives and what is false. We can keep things simple without feeling we are missing out ---missing out on the temporary that will pass away and really missing out on peace and life. Missing out on Jesus, who He is, and walking step by step with Him.

"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them, and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” ~2 Corinthians 6:14-16

We cannot yoke ourselves to a worldly lifestyle and not expect consequences. So often we have 'fear of missing out syndrome' so we watch all the latest tv shows, we keep up with pop culture, we get the "right" job that will impress others, we buy the right house and cars, and we push our children into a life that is so busy and unhealthy for young, growing minds. Social media takes our time, impressive birthday parties take our time...all while claiming we are followers of Christ. Yet this lifestyle is only following the world, with little time to examine the ways of God, or even to hear His quiet voice. So our yoke is heavy, all the while longing for a yoke of rest and not knowing how to attain it.

If we want to strive for anything, it should be to wear Christ's light yoke. In Him we are not pressured or obligated to perform, we are not yoked to the ways of the world, we are yoked to Christ and walking His way. When we truly turn our hearts to Him, with a commitment to change our life and walk God's narrow path, we find the light yoke. It is lighter and more freeing than what we feared giving up. We may find we only feared giving up our old slavery, because that was all we had ever known. We don't have to complicate things in our lives so that we impress ourselves with our feelings of stress, that we are stressed because we are "doing so much" and it's the "right thing to do." Walking the simple path leads to freedom, health and knowing God.

We can be free from the chains of the world, it's expectations, from performing, and rest in Christ, the work He accomplished on the cross for us, and follow Him without fear.

“If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness, shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." 
~Isaiah 58:10-11

"Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets His yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under it's gentle pressure receives the gentle power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy and the burden is light." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Is it a misfortune to be delivered from the heavy yoke of the world, and to bear the light burden of Jesus Christ? Do we fear to be too happy, too much delivered from ourselves, from the caprices of pride, the violence of our passions, and the tyranny of this deceitful world?" ~Francois Fenelon

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Searching for Peace and Happiness: Psalm 119

"I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.  I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word." Psalm 119:14-16

The search for peace of heart and mind--- elusive 'happiness' leads people on many searches. Some search for years---reading books on how to achieve and "be your best self", how to always have happiness 'present' in your life and how to conquer our fears. We spend endless time listening to speakers and watching tv shows to help us achieve this, even pursuing hobbies, busyness and 'chasing the wind.' Some of these things help us for a time, but we are quickly moving on to something else when all of these fail. We want to rejoice in the riches, the temporary satisfaction of the world, and the latest and greatest. God tells us to rejoice in His laws and delight in His decrees.

"Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word." Psalm 119:37

God, knowing man's elusive search for these things, and that we cannot find them or achieve them ourselves, gave us the answers. They are all laid out when we search for His ways, when we seek Him and know Him. Yet, we often view God's ways as a burden, or as something that will not lead to peace, and so we continue on our own way---still not finding peace and joy. God's ways are applicable to our daily lives, they involve more than sitting in church every Sunday. God's way is a way of life, it requires discipline, study, prayer and a willing, humble heart. When we are committed to learning God's ways and how to apply them to our lives, God will answer us. He provided His path for us so that we may find Him and walk in His ways of peace. He wants His children to have what is best for them, and what is best for us is to follow the ways of the One who made us.

"All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.    We have left God’s paths to follow our own." Isaiah 53:6

The enemy would like to get us with what we try to believe is 'innocent compromise.' We let things in the door of our hearts and minds, our very lives and pretty soon we live our whole life based upon these things. We don't even remember when we made a conscious choice to walk the path we are on. We compromise with what everyone else is doing, lifestyle, possessions, entertainment, reading, lack of spiritual discipline or how we raise our children and yet we lack for a richness in our lives and we long to fill the emptiness and the lack of peace our life is reflecting. When we sow into God's ways, we will reap the benefits of walking in God's way, and when we sow into the world's ways of compromise, we will reap the end results. David said "I will study your commandments, and reflect upon your ways." What are we studying, thinking, reflecting upon? Is it constantly distraction, or are we reflecting upon God and the new path we are choosing?

"Oh, that my actions would consistently
   reflect your decrees!" Psalm 119:5

Christians in centuries past cycled their days and lives around God. They began their day with Him, they went about their work with Him, asking Him to guide them, and they kept Him in the front of their minds and hearts all day. They consistently reflected His decrees because they delighted to walk with Him all day. Because they began their day with Him, scripture was in their mind and hearts and those truths overtook even their own thoughts.They ended their day with God, began their day with Him, and spent their life with Him. In return, they knew Jesus deeply, and whatever storms or trials came their way, they knew their shelter would not fail. These Christians did not compromise. They did not let into their lifestyle the things that 'everyone' else around them did, they simply knew God's way, followed Him, and knew that they were not missing out on anything. They were wise in learning to shut the door on compromise and live a simple life with God, not tangled up in the things which they knew were not for them.

"As I learn your righteous regulations,
   I will thank you by living as I should!" Psalm 119:7

Being thankful to God for all He has done for us, we thank Him by living as we should! A thankful, grateful heart to God desires to walk in His truths, knowing it is the only way to walk. He is our God, and we will only follow Him, and nothing else can tug us off of His path. So many of us forget this important step in our walk with God. Studying His ways, then turning the head knowledge into action in our lives. If we say we follow God, but know nothing of His ways, and are undisciplined, still following the world's ways, then we are not really following God, but man.

"Be good to your servant,
   that I may live and obey your word.
Open my eyes to see
   the wonderful truths in your instructions.
I am only a foreigner in the land.
   Don’t hide your commands from me!
I am always overwhelmed
   with a desire for your regulations." Psalm 119:17-20

Our days can easily be "overwhelmed" with many things, but when we are overwhelmed with a desire to walk in God's ways, those things fall away as we walk in step with Him. The beauty and truth that shines when we walk God's path is that we are not bound to do anything anyone else does, we are not 'entangled' to the world's desires or the rat race. We are not slaves to this world and it's trappings, but to God and His ways. God asks us to walk in His ways, to change our ways to His, so that we are free to walk as His children.

Prayer: "Lord, teach me your ways and guide me. Break my fear of giving up my old habits and learning habits of peace. Teach me and guide me in the way I should go, change my path that I may delight in living in your ways each day. Amen."

"Teach me your decrees, O Lord;
   I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
   I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Make me walk along the path of your commands,
   for that is where my happiness is found." Psalm 119:33-35

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Whispers of Wisdom

"Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge." Proverbs 19:27 

It takes effort to drop what is unnecessary everyday and take time to sit at the feet of Jesus, but when we do, we are doing the one thing that will not be taken away from us. We have to sit at his feet every day to know him and walk with him. To walk in his spirit every day we must hear his instruction.

Jesus wants our intimacy, our whole hearts. Yet, like any relationship where someone doesn't want to shout at us to get our attention, he waits for us to have the deep desire to come to him. The enemy wants us so busy and distracted our whole life that when there are opportunities to listen to Jesus, to be still for him to heal the layers of our minds and hearts, we hardly know how to do that. We don't know how to listen to him and to be guided by his voice of truth.

We've been trained and told that so many activities, so much endless and mindless and meaningless 'doing' is worth something. All these things pass away, in fact most of us don't remember all our 'doing' a year later. Taking the time to build upon the rock of Jesus and his teaching, is the thing that we will remember, that will penetrate our hearts and minds so deeply that we are changed forever by his perfect teaching.

We are taught that if we don't enroll ourselves and our children in endless sports, clubs, meetings and activities that we are missing out on the 'best development' of them and ourselves. The truth is the endless busyness and emptiness this creates truly makes us miss out. We miss out on the only one who can give us life, truth, peace and renewal. We must have adequate time to sit at our Savior's feet, to hear his teaching that brings healing to us, and leads us to the truly full, abundant life. While we try to fill with endless things of the world, afraid of 'missing out' we are truly deceiving ourselves. The enemy wants nothing more than to hold us in fear, so he convinces us that if we truly sit at Jesus' feet and stop all our activity we will miss out.

When we get to know Jesus, sit at his feet every day, walk in his ways of truth, and obey his teaching, then we cannot imagine every going back to our previous life of emptiness. The life that we falsely told ourselves was full and rich, the life the world sold to us and said would satisfy. The only lasting, satisfying, rich life is the one lived in the richness of Christ every day.

"And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice...." 1 Kings 19:11-12

"He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Psalm 25:9-10 





Double Minded


 "But who so looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." -James 1:25

Every day I look into God's perfect ways, his law of liberty and desire to continue in it. I don't want to be a forgetful hearer, but a true doer of the word. God in his grace and mercy has saved me, and now I must act on this love and not let Jesus sacrifice be lost on me. He cared enough to give His life for me, and in my heart I must truly understand what love that is and in return offer my pure and complete devotion. May God help us out of our double mindedness in thinking we can offer him less, and our complacency of compromise.

God's ways lead to the path of righteousness and truth and walking in his ways lead to life. We can't treat God's advice as something to be discarded, or something that can be done away with according to our momentary feelings. We doubt if God's way is best, and so we stray back and forth debating whether or not we will fully give ourselves to his way. This leads to years of floundering and "being unstable in all our ways."

"Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do." 
James 1:6-8

Being loyal to God and his ways is a daily walk---moment by moment, hour by hour being guided by him. We must come to a place of absolutely trusting that His ways are true and right, and that our changing opinions and daily moods are not the ones to be followed. God's ways are there to guide us and give us peace. We can't halfway give ourselves to God, while compromising with the world's ways. God gave his son fully to us, he gave his life away to us. We must give our life away to him. We must daily look into his perfect law of liberty and then be a doer of the word.

We compromise with debt, entertainment, our attitudes, materialism---we compromise our simplicity and purity in Christ. We are now his dear children, the ones he calls his own, and we must learn what he calls us to live out in our lives. We are not called to freedom in Christ to do what we want, to be enslaved to the world of sin. We are called to pure freedom to walk in God's ways because the old things no longer have a hold on us. When we are holding on to both, saying we are God's and then enslaving ourselves to the worlds ways, we are double minded. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

The enemy would like nothing more than to get us away from God with his sweet as honey compromise. We can be ok with God, and be ok with the world, and all will be well. We will never know real freedom and peace this way. The heart wants to hang onto sin and bondage until it knows Christ. To let go of this double mindedness, we must give ourselves fully to Christ. Are our days set up for us by our moods, likes and dislikes, by our feelings? Or are they set by God's ways, his priorities for us and the things he says are important?

"So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls." James 1:21

God calls us to have a pure mind and heart for Him, one that is undivided and believing in his ways, we must get to know his ways and live them out until they are a very part of our being; this requires walking in close communion with the Father. He teaches us and guides us, leading us along the path for his name's sake.

"The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand." Psalm 27:23-24

"Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25:5

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."  Psalm 32:8


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sincere Faith and Commitment


"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." 2 Timothy 1:5

There is an old episode of "The Waltons" called 'The Bicycle.' Olivia, (the mother of seven) faithfully cooks, tidies, sews, cares emotionally and spiritually for her family day in and day out. One day, her children aren't listening, aren't doing their chores, she is exhausted and feels taken for granted. Remembering that she was once a person who had thoughts, dreams and goals of her own, she decides she's had enough.

Olivia gives the children instructions for the day, what to make for meals, and decides to take an opportunity at church, singing in the choir, that will require a lot more time away from home than her and her family are used to. Olivia saw a blue bicycle at the general store that she liked, so she rides her way to freedom on her blue bicycle, remembering what it felt like to have some "freedom" and wind in her hair.

At first, Olivia enjoys her new choir practices and obligations outside her home, and she gets in touch with some of her talents again. She always feels a sense of unease in herself, as if she isn't where she belongs and she is forcing a situation that is unnatural. After the practices, the church ladies stand around and gossip, and invite Olivia into their conversation and coffee time. Olivia tries to participate, but has the nagging sense inside herself that her children and family need her.

Olivia notices that pots and pans have stuck on food, the kitchen is a mess, and everyone is falling apart emotionally from the lack of her presence. Her children make their own breakfast, get themselves off to school everyday, and go about their lives while she is in a rush pursuing what she temporarily thinks is more worthwhile or fulfilling. She sees all the little "touches" she puts in everyday that she thinks are insignificant, but make every difference in the life of the people she loves every day. She realizes that the 'freedom' she desired wasn't freedom at all, but a false sense of satisfaction, a temporary way to fill that would never deeply satisfy. She knows the really fulfilling, satisfying things in life take hard work and sacrifice but they are not shallow or false.

This story (episode) is so truthful because of the feelings Olivia goes through, the love in her heart, and the open eyes she has to see truth. She sees that her choir practice and pursuit of herself are worth nothing in the end and are not fulfilling if she isn't fully present with those she loves, providing them what they need from her. Through the years she passes on her love, values, and faith because of her deep commitment to her family, her uncompromising values to be the mom at home, and her unwavering unselfishness.

If this were on tv today, her 'escape' from home would have been the main storyline, where her new found "freedom" would be celebrated and nothing of the suffering at home of her family and children would be mentioned. That part would be ignored, and glamorized would be her new job, or new hobbies or "new self." The truth of this episode was so wisely done because the reality of the effect from the lack of her faithful presence in the home was shown, and the neglect and suffering that resulted wasn't swept under the rug. She found herself again in her faithful duties and realized she could not run away from deep responsibilities, even when the days were long and hard and she felt unappreciated. She maintained an eternal perspective.

"Strength and dignity are her clothing..." Proverbs 31:25

"I cannot tell you how much I owe to the solemn word of my good mother." ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"What a mother sings to the cradle goes all the way down to the coffin." ~ Henry Ward Beecher


He Is Strong


"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." Ephesians 6:10


Most of the time we are trying to be strong in our own might, which in reality is very weak, and discouragement sets in. We can't see past life's disappointments and to the God who won't ever disappoint us, because He isn't capable of failure like we are. Since we view things from a human viewpoint, we can only see our own failures and others, and assume that God must be like that too. So we take on everything and try to be strong in our own power, but this only leads to disappointment. 

"The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him." Nahum 1:7

We can't be our own stronghold's in the day of trouble, but when we know the God who is mighty, and He who knows those who trust in Him, we have a strong tower. When we have His word hidden in our hearts, when Jesus is alive in us, there is no strength to boast of in our own power, and we can lean on the only true strength we have, God. Man will always try to prove His strength, by doing stunts, exercising our muscles until they bulge, and trying to carry everyone's burdens, but any of our physical, mental or emotional strength is all weakness compared to God.

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength..." Isaiah 26:3-4

God doesn't have to perform any stunts to prove His might to us. He has already shown us who He is, through His word and by sending His son to take on man's weaknesses, sin, onto Himself, to be our righteousness and our strength. He loved His children enough to be the strong one for them, and not leave them to their faulty, weak selves. He sent us a strength to lean on, if we can only remember to lean Him and trust Him to be strong for us.

"The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength." 
1 Samuel 2:4

God doesn't care about our strength or our strong weapons, our "powerful bows"---He just meets us in our weaknesses and gives us strength, our weapons or power are not of importance to Him. He arms us, equips us, and bestows upon us His grace, mercy and strength in our weaknesses. Our human weakness will never be fixed apart from Christ, and He is the one to lean on for real, lasting strength that will not pass or fade away. In our sorrow, our weakest or darkest moments, we cannot carry ourselves. We just have to know deep in our soul the One who will always carry us with His deep, long suffering love for us.

The Bible is a book of strength and hope, stating again and again God's character, Jesus' sacrifice for us, and the hope we have of eternity, where there will be no sorrow, only resting in God's presence. God's strength is there for us, if we will take hold of Him and trust Him. His strength isn't faulty or weak, and He isn't capable of failing. The world will always give us messages about "finding your inner strength", "how to be strong and win!" and these are false and failing messages. Pursuing a fruitless search for a false inner strength in ourselves is a dead end road. As Christians, we know the true message of strength---leaning on God and His might.

"For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you." Deuteronomy 20:4

 “No one enjoys feeling weak, whether it is emotionally, spiritually or physically. There is something within the human spirit that wants to resist the thought of weakness. Many times this is nothing more than our human pride at work. Just as weakness carries a great potential for strength, pride carries an equally great potential for defeat.” ~ Charles Stanley, Pastor

"Do not strive in your own strength; cast yourself at the feet of the Lord Jesus, and wait upon Him in the sure confidence that He is with you, and works in you. Strive in prayer; let faith fill your heart-so will you be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” ~ Andrew Murray, Pastor