Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hidden Idols Behind Closed Doors

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21

There may not be a visible golden calf set up in our living room that we bow down and worship, but for most of us, there are things in the heart and our own lives that we value so highly that they take a higher place than God in our lives. Valuing God’s law as a perfect treasure above all else replaces every idol we so easily set up. Idols silently creep into our lives because of lax focus and diligence towards our faith. A mindset of ‘everyone else is doing it, even other Christian’s’ easily keeps many from stepping forward in true faith to live a life solely devoted to the one true God. “Fear of man”--- of stepping out in faith to do what we know God has asked us to do because we fear walking our own road, is an idol.

“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.  Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.” Psalm 119:1-3

Doing what everyone else does to ‘keep up’ while being spiritually depleted in our hearts and ignoring the gentle whisper of God, not seeking God and truly making changes, not working hard to seek the truth of God’s word so that we may walk with Him because we are so distracted by the ‘good things’---idols---of this world. These are ‘hidden’ idols in our hearts. Putting men---even preachers and great Bible teachers and what they say---above God and above the perfect truth of His word, can lead us astray. Many times in the Bible God allowed advisers to kings to come under a spirit of foolishness. Even these great and wise advisers in the eyes of men could not rightly discern God’s way.

“The LORD has sent a spirit of foolishness on them, so all their suggestions are wrong. They cause Egypt to stagger like a drunk in his vomit.” Isaiah 19:14

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:8)  Making God our refuge, studying His word diligently, following his paths, removing idols in our lives that block our spiritual eyesight will bring peace and a renewed heart. It will bring the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. God will faithfully guide us as we commit to removing distractions and focus our hearts solely on Him.  Abraham, Joseph, David, Noah, Jonah, Moses---- all followed God’s path. He did not guide them through any man, ritual or church attendance, but through His relationship with them. They sought God, not man, and fulfilled God’s purpose for them. They walked with their creator, knew Him, and followed his statutes. Could any of them have walked under the fear of man and still walked by the spirit of God? The pressure to keep up with others, do what they did to fit in or feel falsely satisfied, conform, even to the masses around them would have held them back.

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” Psalm 119:9

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)  Like Abraham, we have a place that is our inheritance.  We must be willing to walk by faith alone, and trust God’s plan for us, even if it means separating from the crowd. There is no inheritance on earth. Temporary money, or property, or possessions will all pass away and not be carried with us into eternity. The inheritance of those who walk with God, who listen when he calls our their name, is eternal. We may not see where we are going, but God does, and His are the only eyes we need. We can obey, by faith, like Abraham, and look to the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

“And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.” James 2:23

When we believe God, leaning the weight of our whole life on Him, we can easily cast off sin, idolatry, and belief in any tradition, habit, or way of man that holds us back from our walk with God. He will guide us and free our spirits of these entanglements, so we are no longer enslaved to the world. The enemy will use anything, no matter how subtle, to distract us and take us away from our purpose. Studying God’s word, keeping watch to follow His ways, turning back when we slip, and a willing heart to give up old habits is what the “faith of our fathers” consisted of. Getting rid of the hidden idols in our lives brings peace, joy, greater faith, and freedom from the bondages the enemy wishes to keep the children of God entangled in.

Prayer: "Lord, open the eyes of my heart to the idols that hold me back in fear---fear of following only you. Give me peace and guide me in your ways. Show me how to follow only you and follow your word, so that I may drink of your living water." Amen.

“I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.  I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.  Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word. Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me.” Psalm 119:14-19

“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior.” ~Martin Luther

“‎A careful reading of the Old and New Testaments shows that idolatry is nothing like the crude picture that springs to mind of a sculpture in some distant country. The idea is highly sophisticated, drawing together the complexities of motivation in individual psychology, the social environment, and also the unseen world. Idols are not just on pagan altars, but in well-educated human hearts and minds.” ~Richard Keyes

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Have A Family? You Have a Ministry!

“He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.” Titus 2:14

So many search high and low for their “calling,” they scatter here and there involving themselves in every activity and their addiction to busyness. Meanwhile, their children are growing up much without their devotion and guidance, and the years are gone. Searching for a ministry or a “purpose” they never really found. This ministry was in front of them all those years just waiting---their own family and children. Buying into the lie that investing in anywhere but home was worthwhile and being afraid what that might require, the fulfillment that came from busyness and a ‘full schedule’ was seen as what was best. The enemy’s lie was bought into under the cover of “good things”---things that don’t look bad on the outside, may not be inherently wrong, but served as a distraction from the real ministry.

If we have a family, we have a ministry. Living the gospel out in our homes, ministering to the ones God has placed in front of us---is a calling. Pouring ourselves into everyone around us while treating those in front of us as less deserving of seeing and hearing the faith lived out is neglectful. It is honoring God with our actions outside our homes of busyness, yet not honoring God in our hearts. Some are afraid of the hidden work of the home life. The mundane tasks, the lack of thanks, and the total commitment to doing what is right that this work requires. It can’t be done half heartedly, but we must abide in Jesus for this fruit to begin to blossom in our lives. It takes many years of dedication, building up the home, weathering storms, and dying to self. It is not ‘feel good’ work in the way that a busy schedule and being out of the home gives some temporary satisfaction. We have to pray that the blindness that keeps us from seeing the value of the ministry to those in front of us is removed.

God grows us in our homes. We learn what deep, abiding peace is,  being truly satisfied and content with the work we are doing. Some are afraid of quiet, or what the silence of a less busy, home abiding lifestyle will bring, they are afraid of facing themselves, or of truly listening to God. When we follow God’s ways, he blesses us with inner peace. Old habits or a lifestyle we were afraid to give up are nothing compared to obeying and walking God’s path. Busyness with the wrong things does not mean we are living obediently to God. Busyness does not equal righteousness. Obeying God, allowing him to purify us, strip away our idols and become people who truly abide in him and walk with him daily is what refines us and grows us. This spills over into our homes.

We have to train our children in the ways of God. This is very hard to do with a full, overly busy activity based schedule. It can’t be done with one or two memorized scriptures, or weekly church attendance. We can’t train for a marathon with one or two runs---it requires sacrifice and even pain, but we know there is no chance of making it to the finish line without training. When we are committed to training our children, God trains us along the way with them.  It requires devotion, total commitment to walking God's way and wisdom that this will require giving up many other things.  Yet, when we devote ourselves to those God puts in front of us, and we are faithful to do every good work for God, we see we gave nothing up, but gained Christ.

Prayer: “Lord, show me how to forsake the call of the world and hear the call of your voice. Show me how to live the calling and ministry I have to my family first so that I am not neglectful of the good work you have prepared in advance for me to do.” Amen.

“By their wrong teaching, they have already turned whole families away from the truth.” ~Titus 2:11

“Such people claim to know God, but deny him by the way they live.” ~Titus 2:16

“But as for you, promote the kind of right living that reflects right teaching.” ~Titus 2:1

“Love begins by taking care of the closest ones---the ones at home.” ~Mother Teresa

Thursday, March 19, 2015


“What’s more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this?” ~Esther 4:14

God has a plan and purpose for each of us. He has us here for “such a time as this.” When we submit to his will, and allow his strength to work in us, he will accomplish great things through us. The mission he has for us may not look glamourous, or make us famous. It may seem daunting, impossible, and the challenges may seem insurmountable. If we look closely enough at the people in front of us, situations we face, and we have a living faith in the God who saves us, we will see his direction for us. So many of God’s people have faced impossible circumstances, yet God used them at that time to accomplish his great purpose. David, a small boy, facing Goliath and defeating him. Noah, building an ark for decades and walking in obedience to God. Esther, saving her people from certain death and risking death herself. John, serving as forerunner to Jesus, a loyal and loving servant who spread the Gospel.

“They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” ~Acts 14:22

Many of us want to run away from what we perceive as difficulty and a life that is less than easy.  Leaning on God’s strength, our character grows, God molds us and shapes us, and we learn more about who he is. We come to understand Jesus more through our service to God and through the challenges we face. Each of us, like God’s people in the Bible, have a valuable service to perform for him. God has placed what is before us so that with his direction we will act.If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die.” Esther 4:14    

For Esther, the people God placed right before her were the ones she needed to save and to act for. He put her right in the center of her mission for him. She could not keep quiet, the consequences were dire, and she had to act out of trust and faith in God to be with her. Instead of whining, running away, seeking distraction or an easier way, she stayed just where she was and fulfilled her purpose for such a time as this.  As Christians, how many of us are serving God by serving those right in front of us? Are we running away, seeking distraction, and undervaluing ourselves in the work God has for us? The enemy will seek to distract us however he can from the mission God has in front of us.

If God has placed being a mother on our path in this time, then that is our first mission, our calling from God. It may seem small and insignificant, the daily repetitive tasks, the training repeated over and over, but it is God’s work for us. We are irreplaceable in this role at this time and God will use our weaknesses to glorify himself. We don’t want to leave a mother-sized hole in our children’s hearts by withholding from them, being distracted with other “more important” missions while they sit on the sidelines, waiting for their hearts to fill with what only we are designed to fill. If Esther had not followed through with courage, someone else would have filled her role but her and her relatives would have died. Her role was pivotal and designed by God. We don’t want to “keep quiet” in our role for God. We should lean on his strength and wisdom and then live out our faith, by living out the mission of motherhood right in front of us. For we have been called to our own palace for such a time as this.

We are neglecting a holy, and pure calling from God when we neglect the mission of motherhood. When we believe the lies that surround us, that we are worth more elsewhere, that dollar signs attached to our name will make us worthy, or that other activities will fill us or make us feel valued and boost our “self esteem.” God has placed little ones in front of us to perform our mission wholeheartedly for him. Trusting in His wisdom, and not the worlds. Believing his promises, and standing on them confidently---not believing the world’s weak lies. If the great people of the Bible had lacked faith and courage, faltered in their strong faith in God, not believed in his promises, their great missions for God would have been neglected. As mothers, we also have a great mission, an irreplaceable one, and we are called to have faith and courage enough to fulfill it.

Esther was willing to give her life for her people. As mothers, we must be willing to give our lives for our children, to lay ‘self’ down every day, to risk pouring our whole hearts into our families for God.  He will not fail us, he is faithful and blesses our faithfulness to the mission he has put in front of us. God’s blessing may not come with immediate reward, or material wealth, but he guides us, strengthens us and gives us peace. We can rest in him and abide in him as we fulfill the mission he has placed before us.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” ~Acts 20:24

“I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” ~Isaiah 46:11

“You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, training them up in God’s fear, minding the house, and making your house a church for God as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts.” ~Charles Spurgeon

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why Non-Conformity Matters

“You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness---righteous, holy and true.”

~Ephesians 4:24

There wasn’t much about Jesus’ character that he conformed to those around him. He loved others, cared for them, befriended them, but he did not try to be like them, or to win them over with his sameness. He won them with his love and healing. There was something different  about Jesus, and the crowds gathered wherever he went. His light shone before all men and he did not have need to  worry about how others viewed him for God to do his work. Jesus’ concern was being a member of heaven, not of earth. Jesus ministered, healed, walked and lived according to the Word. To those he touched he loved, healed, forgave, and then said “go, and sin no more.”  He spoke out to the Pharisees, to those who were skeptical. He only loved, valued the human heart and let people know their eternal worth. But he did not conform.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” ~Romans 12:2

The Jubilee Bible 2000 translates this as “do not be conformed to this age…”  The American Standard versions says “And be not fashioned according to this world…” So often, we are fashioned to the world, and conformed to the present age. We are always changing and riding whatever current wave of political correctness hits us next. Our simplicity in Christ becomes watered down, and our foundations crumble as we become white washed. People responded to Jesus because they were searching for a peace and love that was different than what the world offered not a love that was changed and twisted to blend in with the worlds definition of what it should look like. God doesn’t need our worrying about blending in, he will do his work and use us as his instruments. He needs our faithfulness, our separation for him and towards him, so that our lights can shine before all men. He needs our steadfast commitment to non conformity so that our hearts are not compromised; they are pure and ready to do his work.

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” ~2 Corinthians 11:3

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His church will always reach people, he does not need our faulty human wisdom to decide how to update him or compromise him. As Christians, we are only called to conform to Christ. We don’t have to conform to customs, watch current entertainment, live out the cultures “current” values, or have any concern about blending in. We can live as God calls us; trusting that we can reach those he asks us to reach for him. People are searching for something that will feed them living water to take away their thirst, and our shining light of a different life lived well, faithfully, with joy---with non conformity will draw them to Christ. In our hearts we are to be conformed to Christ’s kingdom, not the present and temporal world.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

~1 John 2:15

Non conformity used to be the standard among Christians. We are a people called out, set apart for Christ. During the time periods where Christianity spread the fastest it was never because of Christians conformity, but because of God and his work. The Muslim world is experiencing the biggest growth of Christianity in history. Yet, none of these Muslim’s have come to Christ because of any person or any church conforming to be popular. They come to Christ in countries where Christianity is outlawed and dangerous. They have visions, dreams, read a Bible, or speak to someone whose light is shining brightly for Christ, and they want to know what is different. God does not rely on anyone “updating” themselves to the current culture. In America, where most churches have made themselves current, young people leave the church after high school in large numbers and many leave Christianity behind.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” ~2 Corinthians 6:17

The human heart is made to desire a love that is lasting and eternal, one that remains unchanged. When culture is always changing, church’s are updating themselves and changing their foundational beliefs to suit the culture, it does not fill. Building on an unchanging foundation---God, and being taught how to live that out without needing to worry about being relevant, is the true freedom God desires for us. We are free from the cultures constant chains of updates and free to do God’s work, live for Christ, walk in the power of the Holy Spirit daily, reaching others. The freedom of the unchanging and ancient faith, the truths of living out the Word are never suited for conformity to a world that will pass away. These truths stand on the foundation and unchanging cornerstone---Christ. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever.” ~Hebrews 13:8

Prayer: “Lord, show me where I have conformed. Where my heart and mind---my very lifestyle---have become compromised and lukewarm. Renew my heart and mind to be transformed and conformed to Christ. Help me to shine before others without worry of conforming and keeping up. Amen.”

“Don’t participate in the things these people do. For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” Ephesians 5:7-9

“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18

“Build your nest upon no tree here; for you see God has sold the forest to death.” ~Samuel Rutherford

“Let none of us be content to tarry down below in the marshland of the poor poverty-stricken religion of this present day---but let us climb the high mountains where the sun of God’s grace is shining brightest---and stand there enjoying communion with Him, leaving the world.” -Charles Spurgeon

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Living for the Greatest Treasure

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men…” ~Ephesians 6:7

Mothers, when we spend a life serving and pouring ourselves out for others it is unlikely we will be awarded the ‘most popular’ sash. Taught from a young age to live for self, find our dreams, build our self esteem and to “achieve our potential” we are programmed to live for these things and put self on a pedestal to be lived for. So we live for ourselves, and don’t know how to lay ourselves down ---even for our own families. Serving Christ in the nitty gritty, the mundane, serving the “least of these” is not considered worthy work.

“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” ~John 12:26

Serving in the daily grind, day in and day out, pressing into Christ in this service, we come to know and understand Him more. We work for Him. The only path to joy in service is to daily go about our lives serving Jesus. Being in the word, studying him, knowing him, and hiding the word in our hearts is the way to understand the value of our work. Slowing down, cutting out outside obligations, growing our relationship with him----resting in him. In Christ, we are not obligated to follow anyone else’s path or opinions. Our worth is defined by who we are in him. Not in our career or in outside applause. Somehow we are programmed to think that unless self is glorified by the world we are not worthy, our self esteem is wrapped up in how much our achievements are “‘seen.”  Living a life of daily unseen service lies in understanding our worth is wrapped up and hidden in Christ. Then we are free; truly free to serve and live. We will achieve our true potential by serving him.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” ~Galations 5:13

The world says we are wasting our lives, have lost ourselves, or simply can’t find anything better to do. Yet, we are giving our best, pouring out ourselves for Christ. Our children should see this way of life, and learn that serving others and asking God what his dreams are for them is the path to achieving their real potential. Others say we pour ourselves out for a paycheck, or for accolades, or for vacations and nice clothes, cars and possessions. These things will all pass away. We can live a life pouring ourselves out for years on end for that which is not lasting, and what have we achieved in the end? The greatest investment, knowing Christ, serving him and changing lives by doing so is lost. To teach our children to follow God, build up a home and faith that will be carried throughout the generations, without fear for what we are “giving up”---this is living for the greatest treasure.  We can love, serve, be gentle with our children, truly serving the least of these, the helpless ones.

“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” ~John 12:3

Mary poured this fragrant, expensive ointment out for Jesus. It was worth about a years worth of wages. The house was filled with the odor of the ointment, filled with her sacrifice and love, filled with her best offered up for him. She could have used it for herself, saved it up, portioned it out throughout time, instead she poured it all out for him. She did it with the utmost confidence, because she trusted in him and knew who he was. She did not fear that she had wasted anything, but knew that it was offered to the only one who can truly take what we offer, however small when done for him, and turn it into something worthy and lasting.

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” ~Hebrews 6:10

We don’t have to worry about wasting a years worth of wages for Jesus, or a lifetimes worth of work and self sacrifice, we can pour out all we have to serve others every day and know it is not in vain. Our service is a fragrance to him; an offering of love.

“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” ~2 Corinthians 2:15

“The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.” ~Billy Graham