Monthly Archives: August, 2012

Keep The Doors Open

    Most people have heard the phrase, “We don’t live in a barn” growing up. As a little girl, I will admit I left the door open as I would rush into the house for a quick drink, allowing the cool air to send a chill through the home. We are told to keep our doors closed so the heat stays inside. However, when we look at doors from a church perspective, things are the opposite.

    In Acts 21, Paul was at the temple, a place where he would often preach the Good News. As was so common, the Jewish leadership was trying to find fault with Paul to arrest him, because He was sharing Christ and people were believing. Upon another accusation, they grabbed Paul to arrest him. The Bible says in verse 30, that “they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut” (NASB). The Jewish leadership did not want Paul telling people the Truth. To keep the Truth from people, they had to rid the temple of Paul and they closed the doors to keep him out.

    Sadly in many churches today, we close the doors. I am not talking about the fact that the doors are closed during the service hours, but rather, I am talking about how we as the body of Christ accept others. Instead of having an open door policy, where we are welcoming people to attend, we are judgmental. Instead of going out of the church to follow the Great Commission, and bring people to know Christ, we close ourselves up within the walls of the church and have fellowship amongst each other.

    It’s great to break bread with fellow believers, to have Bible study, to gather together for encouragement and edification purposes. At the same time, a question that must be posed is, are the doors of your church open? Do non-believers feel welcome to come through the doors? When Jesus had His ministry on earth, He ate with sinners. He sat down with tax collectors, people despised by everyone, and looked past the fact. He spoke with a woman at a well that most would have shunned. Are the doors open or are they closed?

    Today is a great day to open the doors, step outside for some fresh air, and see what is going on in your community. The Gospel isn’t meant to be all closed up.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 [NASB]

Eat The Word

    My children can always get me laughing. They have this secret talent which I’m sure will never be a claim to fame. They can sing all of the commercial jingles for all of the restaurant establishments that appear on television. From Subway’s, “Five Dollar Foot Long Jingle,” to Chili’s “Baby Back Ribs Jingle,” they know the words and the melody. So what do you like to eat? The Bible says we are to eat the Word.

    Some people hear that and find it puzzling. Who eats the Word? It’s written on paper. Well it was good enough for Ezekiel. God said, “Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you“ (Ezekiel 2:8b NASB). Ezekiel ate a scroll fed to him by God, and “it was sweet as honey“ (3:3). When Jeremiah was praying to God, he said, “Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16a NASB).

    So are we to eat the Word? Deuteronomy 8:8 states, “that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (NASB). We are to ingest the Word, so we must eat it. The question then is how do we eat the Word, because we aren’t supposed to follow suit in the manner of Ezekiel. Ephesians 6:18 tells us the manner to follow this directive is through prayer and petition. Simply put, we pray and read our Bibles.

    We can get busy with our daily lives. It seems like when we are not working, we are still busy with something to keep us occupied or on the move. At times we neglect to read the Word enough. Now Jeremiah said that when He ate the Word, it was “the delight of (his) heart.” I feel the same way. Every morning I aim to start my day off with my daily devotionals and my own personal Bible reading. If I get through the reading and the devotionals, I have a good start to my day. I feel better. It’s like I had a spoonful of honey. If something came up and my plan was derailed, my day starts off bad from the beginning, and the rest of the day is a steady decline until I get my Bible open.

    Perhaps you are making some pasta for dinner tonight or maybe you treating the family to some fine dining. Maybe you have a lot on the schedule and you will have to sneak in a quick meal at some fast food place. No matter where you eat, take some time to eat the Word. The Word is great for your body, great for your mind, and it’s always good to chew on.

Drowning in Clutter

    For exactly the last three months, I have lived a life with very little clutter. Three months ago, my family and I headed to the airport and we began our voyage to Australia. Our items were in storage. We stayed in Sydney for two and a half months, living out of suitcases. We really didn’t miss any of our belongings in the United States. When we returned back to the States, we ended up needing to wait for a home to rent. Therefore, we are staying with friends and still living out of suitcases.

    This morning, I went to our storage center, a small 10 x 10 unit that stores all of our possessions. Most people could not store all of their things in such a small area; however, we barely fill half of the unit. As I passed a few other people with their doors open, I couldn’t help but notice their things pouring out of the unit. Some people are drowning in clutter.

    The Bible tells us to not store up a bunch of possessions here on earth. The Apostle Paul was content with so little. Paul said,“ I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means” (Philippians 4:11b-12a NASB). Too often we tend to mix our wants and needs. We also fill the gaps in our lives with stuff in hope that we will feel better. The gap that needs filled can only be filled by our loving Father. This is why Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of heaven. If we truly do this with our entire heart, we wouldn’t feel such a void in our lives.

    Clutter can cause stress. Clutter can cause a loss of focus in our lives. It can keep us from experiencing peace. It can require a lot of energy from us. Clutter can become such a burden, and yet sometimes even more clutter is added to cope with the stress of the burden. It’s okay to have things. It’s okay to like things. But it’s not okay to drown ourselves with things. God wants you to have peace. If you feel your environment is not peaceful, look around and see if you are drowning in clutter.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21 [NASB]
    

Running

    When I was younger, I always was amazed at the story of Jonah. I imagined this man attempting to run away, and yet “the LORD hurled a great wind” and next thing you know he was swallowed by “a great fish.” Who tries to run away from God? It seems crazy and yet I believe we all have our moments.

    Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. God told him of the important task he had, but he did not agree. We do this same thing when God gives us an idea of what we are to do in life, and yet we think we know better or we allow fear to dictate our actions instead of giving God the chance to direct our path.

    Perhaps it could be that we have this high paying job, but God wants us to go back to school for a college degree in something far from our current career. Maybe we are told to move, to enter or end a relationship, or perhaps to wait for something. What really can be hard to swallow is when you make a plan or goal, you nearly are there at the end to reach this goal, and God turns you around. Maybe you are paying off a house or car and think you can settle, but God thinks it’s time for a change.

    No matter what it is, God promises us that we will be blessed abundantly if we trust in Him. It’s hard. I won’t argue with anyone. I went across the world because God said to despite many sacrifices that had to be made. I went back to school though I loved my career and it provided for my family. Stepping out in faith is scary and it can be very unsettling; however, the rewards always come. Trust in Him for He alone is faithful. He is our victorious warrior who is by our side each day as we press forward.

“Do not be afraid O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
– Zephaniah 3:16b-17 [NASB]

The God Of

    One of the stories most taught to children that comes from the Bible is from chapter 6 of the Book of Daniel. We love to hear about how Daniel refused to give up praying to God, and was thrown into the den of a vicious lion, but was saved by God as a result of his trust in God. Afterward, when he was removed from the lion’s den, King Darius wrote a decree to the people. The decree said that all the people of the kingdom were to fear “the God of Daniel” (v. 26).

    I think it’s important to note that it does not simply say God. When we think of King Darius calling God “the God of Daniel,” it gives us the impression that Daniel must have done something for such a close association. If Daniel did not act as he did, would Darius have said, “the God of Daniel” at all? I speculate that he wouldn’t have associated Daniel with God because he would have had no proof– no connection that Daniel served God.

    Do you think that we should see our names there as well? Are we such dedicated Christians that people would look and say, “the God of…” has done this or has blessed him or her? Simply put, do we show people God and do we make it clear that we are Christians? If a poll was taken of your friends, co-workers, family members, what would they say?

    We are to be image bearers of Christ. We are to shine the Light each and every day. If we aim to do that and we have some success, people will notice. Light is always noticed in the dark, no matter how small of a flicker. Right now we see a lot of darkness. May the Holy Spirit help you to shine some light somewhere today.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 [NASB]
    

He Didn’t Leave

    I have two children and one thing they know is that they can count on me. Throughout the years, I have made it known to them that I’m here for them no matter what happens. The other day, my daughter needed help. She tried to do something on her own and things didn’t work the way she desired. She wasn’t afraid though, because she knew that I had not left her.

    In John 8, the scribes and the Pharisees took an adulterous woman to Jesus. When they attempted to get her condemned and stoned, Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7 NASB). One by one, everyone left– everyone but Jesus.

    Jesus was the only one who actually could condemn her. He was the only one that was present that was without sin. Not only did He not condemn her, but He also did not leave her. This is an important reminder to all of us. He does not leave us, even when we are not having a good day. When we fall short, when we make mistakes, when we aren’t so pleasant to be around, He is right there waiting for us with open arms.

    At times we need to show ourselves the grace that God shows us. Too often because society is so quick to condemn us, we follow suit. We fear we won’t be accepted or good enough. Today, show yourself some grace. Don’t be afraid. Seek Jesus– He has not left. Understand that no matter what you have done, He awaits with open arms.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24 [NASB]

Laying It Before God

    Life can be overwhelming at times, especially when we try to carry everything on our own. The Lord tells us to come to Him for His yoke is light. The Bible says we aren’t to worry, because worry is not from God. Instead, we are to give it to God and trust Him.

    It is difficult to give it to God and then not worry. We are so tempted to give only so much to God, and then try to solve the rest on our own for whatever reason we have in our mind. Sometimes we do not even know why we cling to something that drags us down. What is worse is when we see that something is too much for us, and yet we still fight to survive with it weighing us down.

    In the Book of Isaiah, the Assyrians were trying to get the people of Israel to not trust in Hezekiah’s leadership and in his word from the Lord of upcoming deliverance. Rabshakeh stood before the people and told them why they should not believe and should not follow Hezekiah or his God. Later Hezekiah even received a letter to bring him down. This could have turned into a situation of doubt and fear. Hezekiah could have drowned his sorrow, ran from his problems, turned his back, or sank down and left Assyria have their way.

    Instead, Hezekiah took the letter he received, entered the house of the Lord, “and spread it out before the Lord” (Isaiah 37:14b NASB). Then he prayed, acknowledging God and seeking His answer.

    We receive “letters” all the time, letters that crush our spirits, diminish our hopes, challenge us, hurt us, intimidate us, and make us feel anything but confident. We fear, we doubt, we hurt. We get tired, overwhelmed, depressed, and ready to throw in the towel. But instead of allowing the senders of the letters to get the best of us, we have a God who is above all, a God who can do the impossible. We have the option to take our letter, spread it out before the Lord, and let Him have a go. It may seem easy, but it’s not. Nonetheless, after you’re able to fully release it out of your hands and place it in the hands of your loving Father, you’ll find this peace overcome you. It may not happen overnight, but there will be a change.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 [NASB]

Inquiring of the Lord

    Every believer has their own relationship with God, a relationship which can be very different from another believer. Some people, like well-known Brother Lawrence, spend the day talking to God, even while washing the dishes. Then there are other believers who will admit that speaking with God, inquiring of His will for their lives, has not been happening.

    In 1 Samuel 13:14, it states that God sought a man after His own heart. Acts 13:22 agrees that David was a man after God’s heart. In being a man after God’s heart, I noticed something David did often. What pops out while reading Scripture is a statement I see numerous times (1 Samuel 30, 2 Samuel 2, 2 Samuel 5, 2 Samuel 12, 1 Chronicles 14, etc.). It simply says that David “inquired of the Lord.”

    Inquiring of the Lord isn’t a difficult task. David was considering going into battle, but first he checked to see what God desired. This inquiring of God’s will is something we can do as well. Giving God time, seeking His will in prayer, we can do anywhere and at anytime. If the Lord is to be first place in our lives, there is an investment that we need to make as believers. Inquire of the Lord– it’s an invitation to allow Him to move through your life in some amazing ways!

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” – Colossians 1:17-18 [NASB]

Reclining with Christ

    I have told so many people that I have an inability to relax. I always try to keep myself busy, partly because I like to be productive, and partly because I really never learned how to relax. Even so, I see relaxation as a sleeping child or a cute, little puppy curled up in a ball. In my eyes, relaxation is peace.

    In John 12, Mary anoints Jesus. But if we look only at the anointing, we can miss something that barely sticks out in the text. Verse 2 states, “So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him” (NASB). Reclining is something one does when relaxing. Some of us sit in a reclining chair and put our feet up. I imagine sitting by the ocean reclining or reclining in a hammock. How peaceful?

    At this point in Lazarus’ life, why was he reclining? Yes he was dead not so long ago, and yet brought back to life. But now he had people seeking his life. The chief priests were planning how to have him killed (verse 10). Would you be reclining? I would probably be trying to figure out how to make a fast getaway via whatever mode of transportation was fastest.

    Perhaps Lazarus was reclining because he was at peace. He saw first hand the power of God. He was as low as death, and then as high as resurrected. He also knew he had a friend in Jesus. As believers of Christ, we have a friend in Jesus. Although our situation and pressures may be different, we have the ability to recline at the table with Christ. Don’t forget to recline with Christ.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7 [NASB]