Thursday, July 16, 2015

Temporary Fun or Everlasting Joy

“You make known to me the path of life;
  in your presence there is fullness of joy;
   at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

God created fun, happiness, leisure, joy and things that lift the human heart. In His goodness and mercy to us He created joys we experience on earth. He is a refuge and resting place for us, He places dreams in the human heart, laughter and joys. Ultimately though, pursuing the kingdom of God doesn’t mean that we only pursue ‘fun’ and make a sacred cow of it. Fun and entertainment are an idol in most of American society. Most people work hard to make a living, and with their leisure time pursue only fun. This is hedonism-when pleasure, fun and self-indulgence are seen as the chief goal of life. To many people, hedonism is like a religion, they follow pleasure as if it’s a lord and master.

The entertainment industry makes billions of dollars a year because of our addictions to being entertained. Sometimes pursuing fun can become a temporary high like shopping---being thrilled with the new purchases but bored in a day or two and moving on to the next ‘spree.’ Concerts, movies, shopping, and endless activities designed to entertain us have numbed our spirits to what God wants us to pursue. They have dumbed us down to God’s true joy and life giving spirit. God’s joy is everlasting--- fun is temporary and the pursuit of pleasure will never be satisfied by the pursuit of the entertainment this world offers. It is not mandatory for believers to participate in the modern day roman colosseum entertainment.

Finding fullness of joy in God makes the heart satisfied. When we are content and resting in God, we don’t pursue the world’s so called satisfying entertainments with the same enthusiasm. Walking God’s path of life we can see behind the masquerade of entertainment, excitement and materialism. Pursuing pleasure and our own ‘happiness’ can truly blind us to the depth of riches God has for us to possess if we will only seek Him first.

God’s people are not meant to pursue all of the pleasures those who do not know God make a life of endlessly chasing. God’s word speaks of the older women  being ‘sober minded’ and full of ‘good works.’ We are told by God to “glory in the Lord.” We find joy in God, doing the work of our hands He has placed before us, pursuing Him and glorifying Him. He gives us good gifts from above to enjoy, but they come from joy in God and seeking first His kingdom. They are not an idol above God, but a gift from Him to be thankful for.

Prayer: “Lord, show me how to pursue you and not entertainment to numb myself. Show me how to find my rest and pleasure in you. Reveal to me the fullness of joy in your presence that I may come to know you more. Amen.”

“Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.” ~Psalm 97:11

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” John 17:13

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11

“If this sense of need and a feeling of dependence are at the root of natural religion, it is not hard to see why the great god Entertainment is so ardently worshiped by so many. For there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon courage to face existence.

No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things, if used with discretion, may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing, however, the all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again.

The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern men. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth.

And the ominous thing is that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, crowding out the long eternal thoughts which would fill the souls of men, if they were but worthy to entertain them. The whole thing has grown into a veritable religion which holds its devotees with a strange fascination; and a religion, incidentally, against which it is now dangerous to speak. For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was—a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability.” ~A. W. Tozer “The Great God Entertainment”

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Service or Status?

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:10-12

Many stay at home moms, in order to justify how hard they work, still seek the same promotions or status that they would if they were working outside the home. They just seek them in a different way. Remodeling, bigger houses, big jewelry, nicer clothes, taking the kids to every class and sport, and making a sort of corporate job out of their role. This is almost like mothering while seeking the world’s admiration. This is mothering for ‘status.’   It’s possible to be a mother ‘of the world’ whose eyes are still fixed on the same things they would be if we worked outside the home. Lack of proper biblical teaching by many churches leads many believers to not understand the depth of service for Christ there is in mothering. We end up parenting with little variation from those who are non believers. Many Christian mothers have lost their saltiness.  Christian mothers must show that there is great peace, fulfillment and eternal value in raising children for God. We are His hands and feet on earth, we minister to ‘the least of these’ every day. Even the most mundane and repetitive task done for our little ones is done for Christ.

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40

As we mother for Christ, we are in service to Him. We are washing the feet of God’s children,  discipling, training, cleaning up endless messes, disciplining and comforting tantrums and tiredness, not seeking status as a mother, but seeking Christ and how to show Him to our children. When a once restless heart is abiding in Him, we aren’t fixed on the busyness, or fixed on status and the acceptance of society. Jesus wasn’t and has never been accepted by society, and we as mothers who serve Christ every day will not be accepted by society either. We know our ‘status’ is in heaven as we seek to serve God on earth every day. Our hearts are at peace and rest because we do not have to chase after endless things and activities that will burn us out, we can follow after God’s way and ask Him to lead us. Jesus says “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10   The enemy would like to steal, kill and destroy a mother’s role in her children’s lives, and a mother’s spirit. A mother needs the fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit every day to walk with patience, love and a steadfast spirit through the challenges of constant mothering. Through Jesus, our role of mother can be filled with His abundant life.

Most professions require some form of structured study and even when there is a degree or certification earned, there is continued training and study. The Bible and many books by seasoned Christian mothers who have lived out the Christian life in their homes, can help us study the purpose and role of mothering for God’s kingdom for a lifetime. Being a keeper at home, then growing into an older woman whose behavior “becometh holiness, and is a teacher of good things…” (Titus 2:3) As we walk with God, He will help us to fulfill our lifelong vocation as a mother and then a grandmother. This life of service is a great work for God, not seeking status, but serving the one who gave His life for us.

“So no one can be my disciple without giving up everything for me.” Luke 14:33

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” Isaiah 58:18

“And so train the young women to love their husbands and children…” Titus 2:4

“God pardons like a mother, who kisses the offense into everlasting forgiveness.” - Henry Ward Beecher

“Let me once more press upon you the necessity and importance of using every single means in your power, if you would train children for heaven.” -JC Ryle

Thursday, July 2, 2015

They Began Making Excuses

“Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations.  When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.” Luke 14:16-18

We are invited to the greatest banquet---Jesus’ offer to follow Him and have eternal life. All the pressing needs of this life---seemingly important things to us at the time, take precedence over Jesus. We can only put off His invitation for so long. Some put it off for a lifetime and it is too late. Following Jesus is for a lifetime. Accepting Jesus as ‘Lord’ means we are submitting our very life, our self will, our hearts to Him as King.

Life is busy and eventful, and full of pressing things that demand our attention. Yet, when we commit to God’s invitation, to following Him, we will put Him first and stop our excuses. We can learn to gain wisdom, live simply and follow the guidance of God.

There are a lot of blogs devoted to order and simplicity, giving advice so  that we can live better lives, yet we need God at the top of the list in order to find His order and simplicity for us.

We are to seek FIRST His kingdom---not order, simplicity, tasks, or pressing, urgent needs of life, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33) It we are stuck in the rat race of the American way of life, this will take a reordering of our lives to find, but God will help us and guide us each step of the way. As we seek first His kingdom those principles began to guide our decisions and we find ourselves living every day more and more for the ultimate end of God’s feast. We don’t want to ‘miss out’ on the invitation and find it is too late.

“Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’  Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’  After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’  So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.  For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’” Luke 14:19-24

Has Jesus invited us, and we have denied him, because we began to make excuses and have never stopped?
After this teaching in Luke, Jesus talks about the cost of being a disciple of His. He says “don’t begin until you count the cost.” (Luke 14:28) The cost may be loss of wealth in this life, being popular or admired, and simply not living for material things and earthly gain---living for our ‘excuses.’ Many count the cost and conclude it is too high, others begin the road and turn back again, others never fully realize what it is to live with Jesus guiding everything first in their lives.
Jesus has a perfect and unimaginable banquet waiting for us. The lie the enemy puts in front of us is that everything we have to do, every luxury to live for on earth is worth more than Jesus. So we sacrifice our eternal life for the temporary and fleeting pleasures that pass away. We reject God; and view the temporary things in front of us as more important, we place an urgency on the things right before our eyes instead of placing our eyes on Jesus.
Jesus calls to us “repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He still calls to our hearts, He waits for us to accept His invitation. We still reject Him with hard hearts, making excuses and go our own way. There is only so long we can continue making excuses for not following God’s way. We should make excuses to the world---”I can’t follow your way because it means I will sacrifice living for God’s kingdom.”

Prayer: “Lord, it’s easy to see the pressing needs and wants of this life as permanent and I often live for those and not for you. Show me how to let go of my excuses, to live for you and fix my eyes on what is eternal. Help me to keep my heart focused on the eternal life you have prepared for me. Amen.”

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 14:17

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,  not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
“Too many sit at the banquet table of the gospel of Jesus Christ and merely nibble at the feast placed before them. They go through the motions - attending their meetings perhaps, glancing at scriptures, repeating familiar prayers - but their hearts are far away.” -Joseph B. Wirthlin