8/15/17

America: "Seek the Lord and Live"

The prophet Amos carried a message of judgment to God's people, Israel, but with another message of hope.


As I read the words in Chapter 5, I'm struck by how many of these pronouncements could apply to my country today. 

"...many and great are your sins... you take bribes, you refuse justice to the poor... Be good, flee evil... Then the Lord God of Hosts will truly be your Helper, as you have claimed he is. ... remodel your courts into true halls of justice ... I hate your show and pretense--your hypocrisy of honoring' me ...Away with your hymns of praise--they are mere noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. I want to see a mighty flood of justice--a torrent of doing good." (Amos 5:12-24, LB).

That's a lot to take in.

  • Many and great sins.
  • Bribery.
  • Not caring for the poor.
  • A court system that not always just.
  • Hypocrisy in God's people"show and pretense."

Sound like any country you know?

Yet repeatedly throughout this chapter we read words of hope: "seek the Lord."

  • "... Seek meand live." (v. 4)
  • "Seek the Lord and live..." (v. 6)
  • "Seek Him who created the Seven Stars and the constellation,Orion... The Lord, Jehovah, is His name." (v. 8)

I read these words in verse 15 soberly:


"Perhaps even yet the Lord of Hosts will have mercy...."

We need to pray for revival in this country.
We need to pray for revival in our churches.
We need to pray for revival in our families.
But we need to first pray for revival in our own hearts.

Watch the news.
Look at what's going on in the culture.
Don't be afraid to examine what's going on in your church.
Think about family sins and failures to teach our children the ways of the Lord.
Examine your own heart.

It's so apparent we are going down a foolish and dangerous road away from the Lord.


America, who knows if God will yet be merciful to us.

"Seek the Lord and Live."


Graphic adapted, courtesy of Lightstock

8/12/17

Less Is Best so God Can Bless

When mentioning to a friend my desire to cut back on my food intake and the things I own in order to allow the Lord to bless others through my life, she said, "Oh, you are a minimalist."


No, not really, although that's not necessarily a bad thing or un-Christian. But I am coming to the conclusionat least for my own lifethat less is best so God can bless.

Let me explain.

Minimalism is the perspective or philosophy that simplicity, even sparseness, in life is the best way to live. Minimalists rid themselves of unused and "unneeded" things. They prefer a simple, uncluttered environment. (Think: the exact opposite of hoarding!)

They tend not to stockpile things for the future, and some don't even save money. They want to rid themselves of everything they don't need immediately. Some do so in order to help others with true immediate needs.

The Christian minimalist desires to join this philosophy with biblical teachings, and to some extent, that's feasible. Some Christians do live in a way similar to minimalism, but others own things, save money and even accumulate wealth.

It's entirely a matter of conscience. We should let the Holy Spirit guide us concerning what we possess and save. And the Spirit should also direct our giving.

It's true that Jesus owned little in this world—not even a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20), but you won't see Him commanding his disciples to follow His example in this. 

The Lord had followers like His friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary, and women including Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna (John 12:1-5; Luke 8:1-3) who offered their own resources to support and care for the Lord! We also know Paul supported his own mission endeavors (1 Corinthians 9:1-27).

If Christian minimalism can help us worship the Lord in a meaningful way, this is good. If Christian minimalism can remind us to care for those who suffer or have needs, this is also good. But we can't use it as a yardstick for righteous behavior, because the scriptures only warn against greed and foolishness in regard to money and possessions—not possession of them (Luke 6:24; James 5:1-6; 1 Timothy 6:9).

The Bible encourages us to be generous, cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), no matter the amount of possessions and wealth we enjoy.

So why did I tell my friend, 
"less is best so God can bless"?

I had two things in mind.

1. I want to consume less so I can be healthy enough to minister to others for a long, long time.

I'm on a journey toward better health, and the Lord convicted me of my "disease of more." For years, I didn't just snack and eat, I inhaled great quantities of food.

That is changing. My Christian nutritionist finally got through to my heart. "How long do you want to continue ministering?" she asked.

And when I gave her a deer-in-headlights stare, she continued: "If you want to have a healthy body that will equip you to minister for a lifetime, you need to deal with your overeating."

My gluttony.

Lately, the Lord has been dealing with me severely about portion control. It's not just because there are "starving children in China," as my mom said when I didn't clean my plate as a kid—and that "clean plate" club is another concerning issue. 

I didn't even recognize anymore what a normal, healthy portion looked like. 

I'm learning to stop eating before I'm stuffed. Or even uncomfortable. 


I'm learning I can say, "That's enough." 

2. I've been accumulating much, much more than I'll ever need—and that needs to change.

I had a Costco mentality long before there was a Costco. It continually whispered, "more is better!"  
It's an easy mentality to develop in the United States where we have so much abundance.

I think I first noticed how crazy I've become about things when I looked at my collection of scissors. I had scissors for everything and in every room of the house. At one point, I counted 22 pair of scissors!

I felt the Lord prompting me, reminding me of an article I'd read about poor teachers who didn't have school supplies—paper, pens and pencils ... and scissors.

Over the weeks following that revelation, I looked in every cabinet and drawer in my house. 
  • Why did I need 33 vases
  • Why did I have drawers of jewelry
  • What possessed me to buy 42 pair of shoes
  • Why did I have 14 Bibles? 
Why was every space in my garage filled to overflowing? Was I in danger of resembling an episode of "Hoarders"?

So many questions.

Even if I could argue that all of these things weren't "wrong" to possess, how could I justify having so much when so many people struggle to get even one pair of shoes... or a single Bible?
I wept that day as I sensed the Spirit say, "Stop! You have enough."
I'm still thinking these things through, and that exercise is positive in itself. I'm deciding how to turn my revelations into positive action. It's not an easy process with years of accumulation, accompanied by memories associated with my "stuff." But I know the truth is "you can't take it with you." 

The only things that matter are the souls of people and the Word of God. And anything I can do to facilitate God using my life and resources to further those two priorities is a good thing. An excellent thing. 

I truly I want the Lord to bless others through my "bounty." And in that process, I want to have the opportunity to share how the Lord is the God of abundance, the ultimate Giver. 

I want to learn how to steward my abundance well. God may lead others in a different direction, but in my case, stewardship means sifting through my stuff and "distributing to the needs of the saints" (Romans 12:13a).

Truly, less (for me) is best so God can bless (others).

How about you? Have you discovered the importance—the joy—of converting your abundance into opportunities to bless others?


- Graphic adapted, courtesy of congerdesign at Pixabay.

8/4/17

If Not Now, When?


Every week, visiting my nutritionist, I see this rock. It's a constant reminder not to put off what I know the Lord is asking me to do today. 

It's a perspective Christians often set aside, thinking it is a little too "pushy." Maybe it requires too much effort. To some, it might even seem legalistic. Or maybe we're just lazy in regard to obedience and holiness.

As I leave the nutritionist and go home until the next appointment, I have a lot of choices to make regarding my health.

  • I can decide to make wiser choices about the kinds of food I eat, and how much.
  • I can choose to stock my cabinets and refrigerator with healthy foods... or not.
  • I can cite excuses for over-indulgence, or stick to the truth and steward my body.
  • I can choose to satisfy my cravings with healthy choices, or give in to the cravings of the flesh.
  • I can decide to be a good example of wisdom and self-control to my children and grandchildren.

One choice I do not have is to put off what the Lord is clearly speaking to me about in His Word and through prayerthat I must OBEY Him in regard to my health and my personal idol, gluttony.

The rock says, "If not now, when?" 

Or in the words of the writer of Proverbs:
"Don't put it off. Do it now. Don't rest until you do."

God wants me to be diligent and prudent, not asleep and lazy regarding His will.

Solomon expanded on this theme:

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest."

I need to wake up, be wise and get busyto make the kinds of choices that will please the Lord. I need to make the best use of my time in obeying the Lord. And I need to remember what I sow will reap a harvest for good or evil, health or dysfunction.

Christians tend to focus on the sins of commission, those things we do that are not right. Things that displease the Lord.

And certainly we need to check ourselves and allow God to examine our hearts so we can root out the habits, addictions and idolatries that hinder our walk with the Lord and our testimony and ministry for Him.

But the Word of God takes that one step further.

The New Testament writer James says,
"Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, 
for him it is sin." 

These are the sins of omission. Things that are right, good and holy that we fail to do, for one reason or another. And that also displeases the Lord.

The apostle Paul juxtaposes sins of commission and omission in Romans 7:14-20. He wrote that he does what he knows is wrong, and he fails to do what he knows he should do. And he is not alone in that assessment.

Both are an evidence of our conflict with the flesh as believers having a new nature in Christ. We are dead to sin and alive to God, but we still have choices to make. Will we "become obedient from the heart"? Will we "walk habitually in newness of life," abandoning our old ways? Will we live "as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness"?

This is the "If not now, when?" choice for me. Others might put off obeying the Lord in regard to their health. But that is not for me to judge. God is calling ME to be diligent, obedient, wise and holy in my choices.

It doesn't really matter if others do the same.

No matter whether the Lord is dealing with our health, our finances, our relationshipswhateverwe must be sure we are following and obeying Him. As the old hymn proclaims, "Though none go with me, still I will follow."

Years ago I read a little tract titled "Others Can, You Cannot" by G.D. Watson. It changed my life. An audio version of this tract is linked here, and I encourage you to listen.

My heart's desire is to follow hard after the Lord, and I can't be careless or lazy about that. God says, "Be holy, for I am holy." That doesn't just happen. It's all about resting in His good grace and making wise and godly choices that grow out of our gratefulness and desire to be His holy Bride. I want to hear the "Well done" from my Father God.

And the time is short. Whether Jesus returns soon or not is not the issue. Our lives are a short vapor, we're all terminal, and we will all appear before Himin Christ with our sins forgiven, but still receiving "what is due."

What's important now is, what will we do with our lives? 
What choices will we make that count for eternity? 
How will we steward our bodies, talents and gifts, resources, ministry and time? Only what is done for Christ in faith will last. 


What is the Lord clearly speaking to you about today? 
Why are you hesitating, holding back?

"If Not Now, When?"




7/7/17

Christian Marriage: A Glimpse of Our Spouse's 'Glory-Self'

I absolutely love this Christian vision for marriage from Tim and Kathy Keller in The Meaning of Marriage.
Here is a longer quote:
What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. The common horizon husband and wife look toward is the Throne, and the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have. I can think of no more powerful common horizon than that, and that is why putting a Christian friendship at the heart of a marriage relationship can lift it to a level that no other vision for marriage approaches.

. . . here's what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, "I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be a part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there I will look at your magnificence and say, "I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!"

Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse then should give him- or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory.


Randy Alcorn notes our marriage to Christ is the true marriage of the believer's life, "of which the best of earthly marriages was a symbol and shadow. ... One day all heaven will attend the ultimate wedding, and we will be His bride." (Ephesians 5:21-33; Revelation 19:7-9) But Alcorn also says he envisions people who've had important roles in our lives will continue to be friends... including a lot of people who have been married.

I can't say for sure that is true, but I do know my husband Bob is my best earthly friend, and the scriptures teach he is also my brother in Christ. We will serve and praise the Lord throughout eternity, along with all God's transformed creation!

I can't wait to look up my husband in heaven in his glorified state and say: 
"Look at you! I knew you'd be like this!"
Are you getting a glimpse of who your marriage partner will be in heaven? How can you encourage your spouse's growth into their "glory-self," all to the glory of God?



Graphic adapted, courtesy of Gabriel Ferraz at Pixabay.

7/5/17

What Does Your Photo Really Show?


I received a devotional from "Today's Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah" that was so timely for me. I had just put a new photo on Facebook to replace a rather "ancient" one I had at the top of my page.

I started thinking, "What does this photo show?"
  • Does it show my inner joy in knowing the Lord?
  • Does it show my struggle with a food addiction?
  • Does it show my desire to be used by Christ and make a difference in people's lives?
  • Does it show my love for my family?
In the end, I decided it really didn't matter what my Facebook Friends thought. All that matters is I'm living for the Lord, pursuing God with all my heart and loving any "neighbors" He brings across my path with His love (Mark 12:30-31).
  • I'm set apart for His glory.
  • I'm walking in the Spirit, keeping step with Him and bearing fruit.
  • I'm living for an audience of One.
It's really true, what I read in the devotional: "Those viewing your photos can't see your heart, but God can. Make sure He finds in you a heart that is pursuing Him."

God sees the heart, not what others may or may not see (1 Samuel 16:7; Acts 13:22). And that's a blessing to me today.

The Lord sees my struggles, but He also sees my desire to please Him—to do all His will

It's not about performance. It's about grace. 

His grace making me more grace-filled. His grace helping me not beat myself up with a club of self-condemnation (Romans 8:1). His grace transforms my heart and motivates me to greater love, obedience and service.

Look at your Facebook photo today. 
What do you think others see? 
What do you think God knows?