Consider the Lilies..: July 2012   

Jul 24, 2012

If we are the Body..

But if we are the Body,
why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the Body,
Why aren't His feet going?
(Casting Crowns)

On the first Saturday of every month, people from my church go to serve at the homeless shelter.  This Started a couple months ago, and people have gone twice so far..  Out of a congregation of 2,400 people, last week 8 people showed up..  Only 8.  I am ashamed to say that I was not one of those 8 people..
I am willing to bet that the majority of the people in my church are in need of something and I am even more willing to bet that everyone in our church knows of at least one person in need of something.  I have no doubt that some are helping, and some are receiving..  But there are a lot more who need help that aren't getting it and a lot more that can help who aren't..
I'm not pointing fingers.  I could step up more myself too..  In fact I had decided that I would go to the shelter the last time, but obviously it wasn't important enough to me to remember, so I forgot (I AM going the next time!)..  
Several times our pastors have stood before the congregation and asked everyone to step up and help (single mothers, people with medical bills, etc)..  When they do that during the service, people do step up and help..  But what about the rest of the time?  Why do we have to be inspired by pastors, or people on television to really push in and help?
We have already been told..  By Jesus..
I know that everyone is facing hard times right now, but it seems to me that we have all somehow inherited a 'take care of ourselves first' attitude..  This is not what Jesus was about..  Jesus told us to put ourselves aside and take care of others first. 

When I was hungry you gave me nothing to eat,
When I was thirsty you gave me nothing to drink.
I was a stranger and you did not invite me in,
I needed clothes and you did not clothe me,
I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
They will answer "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger needing clothes, 
or sick in prison and we did not help you?"
He will reply "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these,
you did not do for me".
Matthew 25:42-45

There have been times when my husband and I could not afford to help someone, but we did anyway, and we have received blessings because of it..  But there have also been times that we could afford to help someone and we didn't..  Probably because we could not have done something for ourselves if we had..

I'm not talking about just my church..  I'm talking about everyone, everywhere.  Me included..  Maybe we don't always have money or food or clothes to give..  But we have our time, we have the power of prayer, and we have our voices..  We can step in and serve, we can truly offer our heartfelt prayers instead of just saying "Oh, I'll pray for you" and then forget..  We can make others aware of people in need.. We can ask if there is anyone in need and then offer whatever we can.. 

Though I have given money when I had it, I don't have it to give to someone right now, but that doesn't mean that I can't help at a homeless shelter or pass out water to someone on the street, cook a meal for someone in need, donate something of mine that could help someone else, offer to babysit for someone who can't afford childcare, visit someone in the hospital, pray over someone who is sick, clean a house for someone who needs it, or mow the lawn for someone who isn't able to..
There is so much that we can do for each other..  So much!  
But it involves getting off of our comfortable couches, turning off our favorite T.V. show, missing a date night, leaving the air conditioning, and doing some work..
Just because we can't individually do everything doesn't mean that we can't each do something..  We can make a difference..  Truly..

Jul 20, 2012

Limiting God..

Very rarely do we have a problem asking God for what we want or need..  I know there are some who feel guilty, or even maybe a little selfish constantly asking Him for something, but lets face it, the majority of us do not.
That's OK though..  We are supposed to ask God for things.  We are supposed to depend on Him for everything..  He wants us to ask.  The Bible even says "You do not have because you do not ask".

We are supposed to ask.
What we are not supposed to do is tell Him how to give us what we want..

I'll give you an example:

Things are pretty tight for our family financially right now..  We have some rather large expenses coming up in a couple of weeks and if something doesn't happen soon we are going to be in serious trouble..  My husband is up for a promotion..  The promotion comes with a significant pay raise..  We are not sure when he will receive the promotion, but we are sure that he will..
A couple weeks ago I was talking to a friend who knows of our financial problem, and he said something like "You two (my husband and I) have given a lot of money to a lot of people in need over the past 2 years, maybe God will inspire someone to give to you in your time of need".

Right away I said no, that won't happen..  You see, God has blessed my husband with a wonderful job..  I told my friend that because God has already blessed me so much through my husband that I simply could not expect Him to bless me through someone else.
So I have been praying that my husband receives this promotion right away..
Then my friend asked me "Who are you to put limitations on how God blesses you?"

He was absolutely right..  I had already decided what would be best and just expected God to agree with it..  I was asking Him to bless my plan..  I was telling God what I wanted and how I wanted Him to get it to me.
I was not trusting that He knew what was best for me..
I have been been limiting God's ability to give me what I need by only allowing Him to bless me through my husband..  And guess what?  My husband has not been promoted and we are still in financial trouble..
Go figure..

If God only gave us what we wanted the way we want Him to, how will we ever learn to trust Him?  How will we learn that He knows us far better that we will ever know ourselves?
The Bible tells us to bring our requests to God, to rely on Him completely.  When we tell Him how to answer our prayers, we are not being obedient to Him..
In all actuality, we are expecting Him to obey us.

I think we can do better..

Jul 18, 2012

The Sins of Others..

"My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins"
 James 5.19-20

The Bible tells us that pointing out the sins of others isn't really a bad thing..  When we see sin, we should confront it.  But how we confront it is important..

Francis Chan wrote a book called "Remembering a Forgotten God"..  Along with the book he wrote a workbook and filmed a set of dvd's for small groups.  In lesson four he encourages the groups to go around the table, and in an honest yet loving way, tell each other what sin they see in their lives..  That does sound like a scary thing, and I would assume that it would take a pretty strong person to take the criticism in a productive way..  To hear others point out their sin and be genuinely thankful for it..  I think it would also take a very brave person to face someone and say "I believe that your behavior is sinful, and this is why"..
I have had people close to me point out something in my life (a particular behavior or view) that was sinful and though I didn't like hearing it, I was grateful for it because it enabled me to take a look at my behavior, pray about it, and repent of it..  Usually I was not aware of this behavior and if I was, I didn't think it important enough to change it..  But when someone tells you that the way you are behaving is un-biblical and/or offensive to God, naturally you would want to make a change..
Sadly, most of the time when we are pointing out the sins of others, it's not the sinner we are pointing it out to..  Instead we point out the sins of a particular person to everyone but the one we are referring to..  When that happens, it's no longer pointing out sin, it's gossiping..
Several months ago I was standing in the fellowship hall before the church service getting myself some coffee..  There were a lot of people standing around, drinking coffee, talking to friends while waiting for the service to start..  A woman walked in wearing a very short skirt and a low cut blouse..  I didn't recognize her, so I assumed that  she was visiting..  It didn't take long for people to notice her..  She wasn't walking in a seductive way, she wasn't flirting with the men, she didn't stop to talk to anyone..  I actually think she was looking for the restroom..  But before she made it half way through the room I saw a few of the groups of people move closer together and start whispering, occasionally looking over their shoulder at her.  Some even pointed..

*I need to interject right here and say how grateful I am that I was by myself..  Had I been with a group of friends, I am ashamed to admit that I would have probably been whispering about her myself..*

As I walked through the room I could hear some of the people talking about her:
"I can't believe she would walk into a church like that!"
"Someone should tell her that her clothes are not appropriate here."
"She has some nerve carrying a Bible and looking like that!"
"I would never go anywhere dressed that way!"

But no one approached her.  At the end of the service I watched her leave..  No one said anything to her, not even hello.  As she maneuvered through the crowd to the doors, people made it a point not to make eye contact with her, but after she had walked past them, they turned their heads to watch her leave..  
For a moment I wanted to catch up with her and introduce myself..  I wanted to say something to her, though I really don't know what I would have said.  But I chickened out..  I just stood there and watched her leave..  I should have spoken to her..  I wish I had.  I haven't seen her at my church since..  Maybe if I had been friendly to her, if I had introduced myself, commented on her fabulous shoes..  If I had just said something, maybe she would have come back..  Maybe I would have gotten to know her, I could have made a new friend and she could have found a new church home..

I thought about her later and it occurred to me that no one (including me) stopped to think about why she was dressed the way she was, where she came from, how she grew up, what she has gone through in her life..  It upset me that our first reaction was to judge her and think the worst of her..
I wish I could say that I have learned my lesson and that I don't ever judge someone the moment I look at them..  I wish I could say that I am empathetic and always try to put myself in their shoes before pointing out what I think is their sin to other people..  I wish I could honestly say that when I see sin in others, that I am always brave enough to confront them in a loving and Biblical way instead of pointing them out to someone else..

But I can't..  I can say that I am learning this lesson, I can say that I try to remind myself to really think about what to say, why I say it, and to whom I say it to..  I can say that it is a process..  I can say that it is not impossible, for any of us..
I can do better..

Jul 16, 2012

Darkest before the dawn..

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 
James 1:12 

Suffering is always the worst, trials are harder, and the pain becomes almost unbearable right before the blessing.. 
Be grateful for your suffering and your pain; thank God for your trials because through it all God is working..
Hold on to your faith, ask big, think big, expect big. 
 Miracles happen every day..

Jul 14, 2012

Time with God..

“We need to spend time with God every day.”
That is a statement that we as believers hear over and over.  We hear it during the sermons at church, when we watch sermons on television, we hear it in our small groups on Wednesday nights.  We hear it all the time..
If you seek counseling from a pastor chances are he or she will ask you “how much time do you spend with God?”
We hear it so much, it’s like a broken record; spend time with God, spend time with God, spend time with God.
I have attended a women’s Bible study for the last two years.  Though I have completed 3 sessions so far, the basic theme has been ‘Spend time with God’.  I heard it so much that I became sick of it.  So sick of it that I actually told a friend “If the theme next season is ‘Spend time with God’ I’m not going!  I spend four hours every day with God.  I read the Bible, I pray, I study the Bible, I meditate on the Word, I am even attending Theology school.  I do not need to be told to spend time with God!”
Yeah, I know..  My arrogance was showing.  
Even worse, without realizing it, I was convincing my friend that she didn’t need to hear it any more either.  God has since reminded me that in the beginning of my Christian life I did not start off spending four hours a day with Him.  I didn’t just decide one day to free up a certain amount of time to devote to God.   It was a process.
But there is a reason why we are constantly told to spend time with God:  
We need to spend time with God!

A few weeks ago at connect group the people at my table were given a little survey to take.  There were 5 categories: God, Family, Work, Social life, Hobbies & Entertainment.  
The instructions were to number each category in the order that dictates how you spend your time..
For example, if your work dictates most of your time, and entertainment dictates the least, you would write 1 for work and 5 for entertainment..
Everyone around our table wrote #1 by either work or family and then #2 by God.  
It does sound like they were all being very honest with themselves and each other..  They were admitting that God does not come first where their time is concerned..
However, they weren't exactly being honest when they said that He came second either.

The week before, everyone at the table listed off the reasons why they just didn't have time to devote to God..  One girl who is single works from 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening said that every day she tells herself that she will spend some quality time with God.  When she gets up in the morning she turns the television to the Church Channel so it's playing in the background while she gets ready for work.  Then she goes to work, home for lunch, and then back to work..  She returns home at 5:00, grabs some dinner and then rushes out the door to meet with friends (promising herself that she will get up early the next morning and spend some real time with God).  At about 1:00 in the morning she gets home and falls into bed.  Naturally because she got home so late, waking up early isn't really going to happen.  But she has convinced herself that listening to a sermon on television while she brushes her teeth in the morning is the best she can do..
So what is really #2 on her list?  Is it God or her social life?

Another woman who is a stay at home mother of four explained that in a home with a husband and four children it's difficult to find any time to herself..  OK, I do understand that..  There is always cooking, cleaning, laundry, and driving, among other things to do..  She said that she is running from the moment she gets up in the morning until the moment her head hits the pillow at night.
But that's not exactly true..  Her husband works full time, 3 of her 4 children go to school for 8 hours a day, and her children do the majority of the household chores including their own laundry when they are home..  A big portion of her day is spent socializing on Facebook, watching Youtube, and browsing Pinterest.  It's not unusual for her to be doing this until very late at night.
What is really #2 on her list?  Is it God or her obsession with the internet?

What it comes down to is this..  What are their priorities?  What are yours?  If you are a Christian, is God #1 on your list?  Is He even #2?    Think about it..  

Jul 10, 2012

Why we Praise..

Praise ye the LORD. Praise , 
O ye servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.
From the rising of thesun unto the going down of the same the LORD'S name is to be praised .
Psalm 113:1-3

When the apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He began with; “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name.”
At the start of the prayer, He proclaimed His father the God o Heaven.  Hallowed means ‘to honor as holy’.  Jesus was honoring the name of God for its holiness.  He began by praising Him [God].  Jesus taught His apostles that above all else, to praise God when they prayed.

When many of us pray, we give praise.  But it’s something we do without much feeling or attitude of true devotion.  We do it so we can get past it and move on to the real reason we are praying in the first place; Us.
We have questions, we need help, and most of all, we want something.
God wants to hear our prayers and He wants to hear our requests.  After all the Bible does say:
“you have not because you ask not”
Matthew 7:7
But he requires that we put Him first in all things, even our prayers.  

Imagine again that you are having an audience with God.  Would you charge right up to Him as if He was your personal assistant just waiting for you to hand Him your list of demands?  Of course you wouldn’t.  It would be impossible to stand in the presence of God and not worship Him.  
Even the angels who surround His throne room cry out “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty!”
Could we as mere humans do any less?

When I first began to pray to God I struggled with praise.  Not because I didn’t mean it, but my prayers seemed so systematic and empty.  I would start out the same way “Lord you are great, you are worthy, you are good, etc”.  
Of course God is all of that and then some, but my praising felt so shallow to me.  I was throwing out whatever positive sounding word I could think of so I wouldn’t feel guilty when it came to the part of my prayer when I asked for something.  
But praise should be heartfelt, it should be sincere and meaningful.  

So I made it a point to do nothing but praise when I prayed.  I did this for about two weeks.  I didn’t ask for anything, I just focused on Him and praised. Now I spend more time praising and thanking than I do asking.

But why should we praise?  It’s not because God is so insecure that He needs our praise to edify Him, nor is it because He is so narcissistic that He expects us to feed His ego.  
We should praise Him because when we do, it establishes in us His majesty and reminds us of His Glory.  It puts us in the position of a loving servant before a king.  Praising God reminds us of our humanity and His magnificence and strengthens our relationship with Him.  

But most of all, we should praise Him because He deserves it.  

Jul 7, 2012

Pastoral expectations..

One of the biggest complaints of a large church is that there is not enough individual attention from the pastors..  There are a variety of things that we as a congregation believe that our pastors should be responsible for; visiting us in the hospital, coming to our house when we are sick, need prayer, or if we feel our home is in need of deliverance..
We expect them to be available when we need counseling, help with our marriage, our job, our kids, our parents, and friends..  We want them to answer our questions, fix our problems, and sometimes even to tell us what good little sheep we are.. We even try to get our pastors to spend time with us outside of church, and then become offended if one of them didn't accept our invitation to our dinner party or a round of golf.. 

Rarely do we take into consideration that counseling and ministering to the congregation on a one on one basis is just one part of their job.  Nor do we consider that like the rest of us, pastors have their own families, their own problems, and obligations outside of the church..
We put so much pressure on our pastors to do the impossible and then take it personally when they don't measure up to our standards..  We blame them, and in turn we harbor bad feelings about the church as a whole.

 But where do we, the congregation fit into all of this?  Are we not the body of Christ?  Are we not told through the Word of God to minister to each other? Why do we desperately need a pastor to pray over us rather than any other member of the church?  Is it because we think that a pastor somehow has a better access to God than the average church goer?  Do we think that maybe a pastor has some supernatural power that we do not?
I'm attending theology school right now and as far as I can tell, I will not receive a diploma in  superpowers when I graduate..  According to the pastors I have spoken to, they never received one either..

Why do we put so much pressure on our pastors to do for us what we can all do for each other?  A prayer from a friend is just as effective as a prayer from a pastor..  We can lay hands on someone and through faith and the Holy Spirit, we can bring about healing.   We can minister to each other, counsel each other, and support each other..
We can also attend dinner parties and play golf.

I'm not suggesting that we don't respect our pastors, follow their leadership, or ask them for help when we truly need it..  But expecting so much from pastors (who are really only human) and then becoming upset when they can't deliver is just selfish..
I'm sure some of you are thinking "I have asked others to help and have not received it".
Well, we get what we give right?  Ask yourself how many times you have stepped up to help others?  Or is it possible that someone has been there to help you, but that someone wasn't a pastor so you didn't appreciate it as much?
You know?  Maybe it's time to take the focus off our pastors (and ourselves) and put it where it will do the most good;

On each other..?

I'm telling ya, we can do better..

We Can Do Better

Jesus is perfect.  
     When He walked on this earth two thousand years ago, as a man of flesh and bone, He lived perfectly.  He never had an unholy thought, He was never selfish, the only anger He ever showed was righteous anger, He put everyone before himself, never denied help to anyone who asked for it, and never questioned the Lord.  All that He did, He did for the glory of God.
As believers we are called to emulate Christ.  We are called to behave like Christ, think like Christ, be obedient like Christ, and to love like Christ.  Unfortunately many Christians live with the “We will never be perfect like Him so it’s pointless to try” mentality.  We have given up before we even started.
Because we know that we can not earn our way to Heaven by doing anything, many of us have decided that it’s better to do nothing..
If we can’t do everything, why bother doing anything?  Why do good works?  Why read the Bible?  Why pray when I don’t need anything?

We have been given our salvation by the crucifixion of Christ, we have declared Jesus the Lord of our lives.  We are in.  Our spot in Heaven is reserved.  That’s all there is to it.  Why should we spend our time learning and meditating on the Word of God?  Why should we go out of our way to minister to others?  Why should we go out and spread the Word?  We are already saved!  We are going to Heaven!  Why try when we already have our eternal salvation?
What if Jesus had that same mentality when He walked on this earth?  Just imagine him saying to the Apostles, “I’m Jesus, the Son of God.  Why should I give sight to the blind, heal the sick, make the lame walk, and raise the dead?  I don’t need to do a darn thing to get to Heaven.  My throne is already waiting for me at the right hand of God!  Hello?  I’m God in the flesh! I don’t have to do anything to get my reward, so why should I?  Especially for these horrible sinners who don‘t deserve it, not to mention the ungrateful ones who will never appreciate it!”

Everything Jesus did, He did in obedience to glorify His Father.  But he didn’t have to do anything, He chose to.  In the Garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers came to arrest Him and lead Him to His death, He did not have to go with them, He chose to be taken, knowing full well what He would endure.
When Peter jumped forward to defend Jesus, did Jesus not say to him;
“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Matthew 26:53
Jesus had the power of God with Him.  He was already promised the Kingdom of God, but He chose to heal the sick and cast out demons.  He chose to be taken, humiliated, beaten, and eventually killed.  He could have stopped what was happening to Him at any time.  But He chose to endure and follow the will of God.  Why should we as the body of Christ be any different?  Are we not the hands and feet of Jesus?
We are followers of Christ.  We have our Bibles, we go to church, we say a prayer before we eat and again before bedtime, and we might even invite a friend to church once in a while.  We’re OK right?

Personally, I think we can do better..