Consider the Lilies..: August 2012   

Aug 31, 2012

The odd one out..

I come from a blended family..  My mother has three children (my older sister, older brother, and myself) and my stepfather has one child, my younger stepsister "Sue"..
From the moment my mother married my stepfather, Sue became her target..  She was horrible to Sue and because my mother was horrible to her, my siblings and I were also..  We treated her terribly and my mother encouraged it..
Growing up, Sue lived a miserable life at home..  She was given the most difficult chores (including cleaning up after MY dog), she was yelled at by all of us, and put down constantly..  We ridiculed her, we were hurtful to her, and even ignore her on the school bus and in hallways at school..

Nothing she did was ever good enough for my mother..  My mother picked at her, looked for things to blame her for, never spent any time with her, refused to show her any affection and never praised her for anything she did well..  Usually when she did something well, she was accused of trying to 'impress her daddy' or accused of trying to make the rest of us look bad..  And believe me, the rest of us didn't need any help doing that..
Sue would go to her father when my mother was mean to her and my stepfather would confront my mother..    I remember listening to several arguments between them about her..  He would accuse my mother of picking on Sue, and my mother would deny it and accuse Sue of trying to come between them..  Then when my stepfather wasn't around my mother would be even harder on her..
But after a few years my mother wore him down..  It got to the point where he would just tell Sue to stand up for herself, or to try harder not to give my mother a reason to be mean to her..  Eventually Sue stopped going to her father at all..

You see, my mother was jealous of Sue..  Sue was not her child, she was her husband's child..  Her husband loved Sue first..  So my mother did everything she could to make Sue look bad to her husband..  She did everything she could to make Sue look bad to us, to her friends, everyone..  Everyone believed that Sue was the problem..

Sue could have done what many children do when they feel unloved..  She could have rebelled, run away, got mixed up with the wrong people..  She could have become defiant and made my mother's life miserable..  But instead she chose a different road..  She made it her goal to become everything my mother didn't want her to be..  My mother didn't want her to be successful, or happy, or loved..  My mother wanted her beaten down..
Sue rose above it all..  She did everything my mother demanded of her without complaint (it still wasn't good enough for my mother)..  She got straight A's in school while my mother's children failed and all dropped out of school at 15..
She stayed home and studied while my mother's children partied and slept around..

She went to college while my mother's children married in their teens and divorced 5 years later with nothing to show for it..  She went to law school while my mother's children partied more, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and struggled financially..  She graduated, became an attorney, and works for a judge on the Idaho supreme court..  She married a wonderful man, has 2 beautiful children, and owned her first home at the age of 24..  I'm 38 now and still renting, so is my sister, and my brother is probably jobless and living under a bridge somewhere..  I am also not a lawyer!

When Sue was still a teenager she stopped looking for love and approval from her father and stepmother and found it from the parents of her best friend..  Basically she found a new family..  They gave her everything we did not..  Support, encouragement, and most of all love..  Now when she goes 'home' for the holidays, she goes to their house..
Sue is successful, happy, and truly is the best of all of us..  I can't begin to say how much I admire her..
But my mother is not the proud mother of this wonderful, successful person..  Someone else's mother is..

So why am I writing about this?  I guess I'm writing to tell you that no one has to be the product of their environment if their environment is a bad one..  So many people today are unhappy, angry people who live like victims of their upbringing, blaming their childhood or circumstances for their behavior and failures..
But it doesn't have to be like that..  You can rise above it..
You can either believe what others say and think about you and wallow in your own misery and prove everyone right about you, or you can decide that what they think simply doesn't matter..

It's what God thinks that matters..  And God thinks you're wonderful!
God created you for a reason, He created you for a purpose, a great purpose!  People may look at you and see a failure or a screw-up, but when God looks at you He sees His beloved child..
If others refuse to see you the way God sees you, that's their shortcoming, not yours..

So be the person that God created you to be..  Not not the person others expect you to be..

Aug 30, 2012

The words we speak..

"The boneless tongue, so small and weak, can crush and kill" declared the Greek.
"The tongue destroys a greater heard" the Turk asserts, "than does the sword".
"A Persian proverb so wisely sanity, "A lengthy tongue - an early death" or sometimes takes this form instead; "don't let your tongue cut off your head."
"The tongue can speak a word whose speed," the Chinese say, "outstrips the steed".
While Arab sages this impart, "the tongue's great storehouse is your heart".
From Hebrew wit this maximum spring, "though feet should slip, ne'er let the tongue".
The sacred writer crowns the whole, "who keeps his tongue doth keep his soul"
-Charles Hadden Spurgeon

A single word can cut more deeply than any sword.
Once a hurtful word is spoken, it can not be taken back.
Bruises fade and cuts heal, but a word can wound forever.

"A wise person speaks carefully and with truth, for every word that passes through one's teeth is meant for something."
-Moefi Kete Asante

"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire  and is itself set on fire by hell.". James 3:6

"But no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.". James 3:8

Be nice to each other..  Speak kindly to each other..  What you say may seem harmless to you, or funny, or maybe even justified, but what you say can cause more damage than you realize..  Someone is always listening..  Honestly, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all..

Aug 27, 2012

Attitude adjustment..

Ok, we figured out what was causing my nighttime seizures..  Yay!  So now I can go back to blogging about every little thing that pops into my head..

Ever have one of those days where everything annoys you?  That was yesterday for me..  Oh it started off great..  Found a good parking spot at church, my daughter (who is the barista at the coffee shop) made my vanilla hazelnut latte just perfectly and brought with it a nicely toasted bagel..  I had a nice chat with one of my favorite people who can be counted on to spread absolute joy wherever he goes..  Then got to talk to P. Dave about a verse in Revelations that I was struggling with..  Worship was amazing and the sermon was the best I have heard so far..  Yeah, it was an awesome day..  Everything was perfect..  Then everything started going downhill..  

I went to a meeting/luncheon for the church volunteers..  The food was awful, I had to tell my daughter and her friends to be quiet at least a dozen times..  The meeting wore on, the T-shirts we will be wearing are ugly, I will have to wear a name tag (something I have been arguing against for over a year)..  

Then at home, my daughter decided that everything she said or did needed to be said or done with an attitude and my husband either didn't notice it or just chose to ignore it..  The chicken I made for dinner was terrible, the dogs were being obnoxious, and Rachel's cat mistook the bathtub for the litter box..
So at 9:00 I told my family (pets included) that I was sick of all of them and I went to bed..

This morning as I was brewing a cup of coffee I was reminded of a verse that  had read recently..  I had read it a few times but didn't put much thought into it until this morning..
Do everything without complaining or arguing..
Philippians 2:4
It's a good verse to teach your kids, but the same goes for adults too..  It was the word 'everything' that stood out to me..  It doesn't say 'almost everything' or 'most things' or 'some things'..  It says EVERYTHING..
The simple fact is this:  The Bible says don't complain..  This isn't a little thing..  It was important enough to God to put it in the Bible, so that should be enough for us..  Like everything else, it's a choice..  We can choose to complain or not..  We can choose to hold on to our peace or not, and if we can't hold on to our own peace, Jesus gave us His.. 
 John 14:27- "My peace I leave with you".

We are responsible for our actions.  Blaming someone for making us angry is just stupid..  We decide whether we will be angry or not, we decide if we will complain and argue or not..  Us, no one else..  Absolutely no one can make you get angry..  You make that decision completely on your own..  I have heard it before, heck I have said it before:  "If she didn't act that way" or "If he didn't say that" then "I wouldn't be angry"..  Seriously?  Blaming others for your inability to control your  emotions is sort of lame don't you think?
But it takes self control..  It's easier for us to be lazy, blame others and just let our emotions get the better of us..  Easier, but wrong..   

The way I see it, we have a choice to make; we can hold on to our peace, guard our tongues and consider it all joy..  Or we can choose to be disobedient..    This is something that I know I need to repent of..  It won't be easy and I might mess up now and again, but practice makes perfect right?

Aug 23, 2012

Church Leadership, part 2.

I wanted to cover a few thing concerning church leadership:  Why we should submit to their authority, what we should do if we don't agree with a leader, and what the Bible does NOT say about following church leaders..  I realized that I could probably write a full post about each of these, but y'all might get tired of reading them after a while so I  decided to post an email from one of my pastors in answer to my questions about authority in the church instead..

"The scriptures are very clear about staying under the authority of church leaders. 

The fact is church leaders are always going to make decisions that some people don't agree with. If people insisted on NOT coming under the authority of leaders every time they got bumped or didn't agree, the Church would be in a mess! That's not God's design. God establishes His authority through leaders and demands that we trust HIM in the leaders. Remember, we are all human. 

If a person feels a leader is wrong and it's not a "sin issue," they have three options... 
1. Submit and trust God's leading
2. Appeal to the leaders of the church with humility. 
3. Find another place to fellowship but leave with the leadership's blessing. When people leave because they are offended, their offense just follows them and they cause problems at the next church. Happens ALL the time. 

As you know, God is HUGE on the authority HE establishes. Let's take me, for example. God has placed me in leadership.  It's not always easy. I'm not always popular for decisions I have to make. It hurts when I have to confront and say things that are truth but hard for the person to hear. BUT God put me in this position so I follow His leading.."

There is one more point I would like to make..  
When I am discussing church authority and how we should follow our leaders, someone usually says "Yes we should follow our church leaders, but only if we believe they are leading us in the right direction."  When I ask how they know that, I get one of two answers.  "It's in the Bible" or "Well it's a matter of discerning, if you 'just know' then you shouldn't follow them"..
First, it is not in the Bible..  There are warnings against false prophets, and instruction on how to determine a false prophet.  But there is nothing in the Bible that says not to submit to church authority if you personally feel they are wrong.
Second, in my opinion it's not about discerning, it's about knowing Scripture..  If you feel that your church leader is leading in the wrong direction, don't just go with your gut..  The Bible says nothing about going on a hunch, follow your feelings, go by instinct, etc..   If your 'discerning' is legitimate, it will line up with the Bible..  If it doesn't, you aren't discerning..  Period.  
So, before you decide that the leaders in your church are wrong, before you go around telling other people in the church that the leaders are wrong (which by the way is spreading discord and dissension, something the Bible DOES say not to do), do your homework..  
See what God has to say about your opinion..  

Aug 22, 2012

Church leadership. part 1

Lets start with Trust..

I have serious trust issues when it comes to authority figures..  To be more specific, I have serious trust issues when it comes to male authority figures..  It goes all the way back to childhood, it's really too long and far too personal to go into here..  Lets just say that submitting to authority is not something that comes easily for me..
I'm not saying I'm a rebel or anything, I can submit to God because after all, He's God, the ultimate authority..  I can submit to my husband because he has proven over and over that he can be trusted, his decisions are sound and made with the correct motives, and pretty much everything he does, he does for my benefit..
But submitting to church leaders?  That's a different story..  To be completely honest, I just don't trust them..

Now I wan to make this perfectly clear..  The leaders at my church are good, trustworthy people!  They have never done anything that would ever cause me to question them or their motives..  They are anointed by God to lead our church, educated in Scripture, and the have the best interest of the church at heart..  They love Jesus, the church, and us..
But, with the exception of two women, all of the leaders are men, and like I said, I have trust issues..  Especially with men..

Obedience is a big thing for me..  Above all, I want to be obedient to God and the Bible says to submit to our church leaders as we would to Him..  So I submit..  I wish I could say that I submit easily with a peaceful heart, but I can't..  I submit because the Bible tells me to..
But I want to happily submit and I want to feel peace about it..  So I pray and ask for conviction and I ask Him to challenge me, to do whatever it takes to teach me to trust them..

Whenever we ask God to teach us something, very rarely do we wake up one morning and just 'know' it, you know?  Sadly I have not jumped out of bed yet with a brand new attitude..  If the answer came to me that easily, I doubt I would hang on to it for very long any way..  Instead He puts me in situations where I am given the opportunity to trust..  It is up to me to choose whether or not I will..
Take last Sunday for example:  During the sermon, the pastor said something that bumped me..  Really bumped me..  In all honesty it ticked me off..  As soon as I heard it I thought "did he really just say that?!?  What the heck is he thinking??"
I was so annoyed by what he said that I stopped listening to anything else he had to say and missed out on a big portion of the sermon..  The rest of that day, all of Monday and most of Tuesday I grumbled to myself about it..  The thought festered and made me angrier the more I thought about it..

On Tuesday evening while I was sitting on the porch (I seem to hear God better on the porch) A bunch of  thoughts just whooshed into my head..  What if I had taken what he said out of context?  I didn't listen to the rest of the sermon, maybe he explained what he said a little more?  Maybe he didn't mean it the way I understood it?  Maybe I'm just being stupid?
Then I thought of all the things I could have done:

  1. I could have asked him about it (duh). I could have gotten into the mile-long pastor line after service and asked him.  I could have sent him a text and asked him..  Just yesterday I went to his office to borrow a book, I could have asked him then..  
  2. I could have asked another leader, I mean we have 12, I am sure one of them could have answered me..  The guy who came over on Monday to pick up a DVD is a pastor, I could have asked him.  I walked past 6 pastors yesterday, I could have asked any one of them!
  3. I could have told myself "this man was put in this position of leadership by God, he knows what he's doing" and just trusted that.. I'm honestly think that this is the one I should have went with from the get-go.
But I didn't do any of those things..  I just chewed on it for 3 days..  So I blew it..  God gave me an opportunity to trust and I blew it..
This morning as I write this I am reminded of something a pastor told me last week- "If God trusts me to lead, it interests me that a person can't"..


But it wasn't a total loss..  I learned a lesson..  One I won't forget..  
I'll do better next time..

So please, unless your church leaders are living in sin (provable sin, not just that you have a hunch) give them a break..  Show a little grace..  Trust that your pastors understand that they are living under God's authority and leading you where God wants you to be..  A lot of pressure comes with leadership..  To whom much is given, much is required..  They will be held accountable for how they shepherd God's flock and they know that..  Honest!  They even told me so ;)

Aug 20, 2012

The right team..

My husband has had a tough year..  He is a very strong man, both physically and emotionally and I know any other man would have collapsed under the strain a long time ago..  

Right now he is going through the worst of it..  I have never seen him suffer the way he is now and it's breaking my heart knowing that other than praying, there is nothing else I can do..

A friend came by this evening to pick up a DVD..  He asked me how I was, and I said "I'm good" like I usually do..  Then I did something completely out of character for me..  I opened up a little..

I know that most of you don't know me, but that is something I don't normally do..  I'm not an emotional person..  It is not very often that I show vulnerability to others and the few times I have, I regretted it almost instantly..  
You see, I do not take comfort in being comforted..  I don't like to be hugged, or coddled..  I despise the constant "is there anything I can do?" questions, I hate the empathetic and the sympathetic looks from others, and it annoys me that when I say "I want to be left alone" they don't think I'm serious..  I think it's because when someone else is hurting, they really do need to be comforted so it's only natural to think that I would too..  But usually I don't..  More often than not I end up getting angry and lashing out at the person who so desperately wants to comfort me..  Isn't that strange?
So usually I just say "I'm good" so they will leave me alone..

Today I feel helpless, I'm scared, and I just don't know what to do.  
I told him that even though these last two and a half years that we have been Christians have been the most amazing two years of our lives, they have also been the worst years of our lives..
He nodded and said "well, you play for a different team now".

I have been sitting here thinking about that for a couple hours and I realized that he is absolutely right..  All the years that we were satanists were pretty easy ones..  We didn't really struggle, we didn't have many concerns and the few we did have never lasted long or had any real effect on us..  As the saying goes (at least among satanists) "its better to be at the right hand of the devil than in his path"..

You see, the enemy doesn't pay much attention to you when he has you..  But when he realizes that he has lost you?  That's when things get really bad..  I think that is how so many new Christians lose their way..  Things get rough and they begin to question their faith..  "If God really loves me, why is he allowing me to hurt so much?". 
But how do you say "the Bible never said that your life as a follower of Christ was going to be an easy one" to someone who is hurting?  They aren't exactly comforting words!

But Jesus said "take up your cross and follow me"..  The path IS a narrow one, and some will stumble along the way..  But the rewards are great..  So great that you can't even imagine!  If you just give God a chance you will see that its when you are hurting, when you are suffering, that He is closest to you..  He won't always keep you from stumbling, but He WILL give you the strength to stand up, shoulder your cross and keep going..  There is no way I could do this on my own, and at least for me there is no way I'm going back..

This is what builds our faith..  This is what strengthens our trust in Him..  This is what being planted in good soil means..  It is times like these that God really shows us how much He loves us..

Take it from me, someone who has played for both teams..  Take the hits as they come, even the really hard ones..  When you play for the right team, touchdowns are inevitable..

Aug 16, 2012

A new creation..

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;  
old things have passed away; behold all things have become new"
2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)

What happens when you become a new creation?  Emmet Fox said it perfectly when he said:
"When once you have accepted the Jesus Christ message, nothing is ever the same again.  All values change radically.  The things that one spent time and energy in striving for are felt to be no longer worth the having, while other things that one passed by on the way with scarcely a glance, are discovered to be the only things that matter."

Anyone who knew me before I gave my heart to Christ would not know me now..  It's difficult to know a person a certain way for a certain amount of years and then see them change all of a sudden ..  It's very rarely all of a sudden though, it really is a gradual change and usually a subtle one..  If you don't keep a close watch, it does seem like they are one person one moment and then a dramatically different person the next..  Sometimes others refuse to see the change because they were comfortable with the way the person was..  Or perhaps they figured there was just no way that person could ever change, at least not so dramatically..  I don't really know for sure..  
However I do know what it is to be a new creation..

I was a very different person before I was a believer..  I was rude, selfish, manipulative, antisocial, cold, uncaring, unfeeling, backstabbing, vindictive, and I didn't trust anyone..  I knew how to hold a grudge, how to tear others down emotionally and keep them there..  I made snap judgments about everyone and stuck to them without a so much as a passing thought for their feelings..  I knew how to hurt others and I enjoyed the power it gave me..
After I gave my life to God and welcomed the Spirit, I began to change..  Nothing very significant right away, I had a lot of garbage to sort through first..  The first year was a year of transformation for me..  The changes were gradual..
I started off like most everyone else..  Going to church on Sunday and classes on Wednesday.  I was baptized, read my Bible, said grace before dinner, and prayers before bed..
I still judged others, I still said mean things to people, and I didn't open up to anyone..

But as time wore on and I spent more time reading the Word, praying, serving, and worshiping, I began to change more rapidly..  My opinion of other people changed..  Instead of judging them or their actions right away I found myself wondering what had happened to them in their past to make them act the way they did, or feel the way they do..
I stopped wanting to hurt people and genuinely wanted to help them and intercede for them..
The more I read Paul's letters, especially Ephesians, Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians, the more I wanted to be like the Christians he was trying to mold them to be..
I'm not there yet, but I am a whole lot closer than I was..  I'll be even closer tomorrow, and the day after, and so on..

So..  The next time you think you know a person, when you are sure that they could never change and certainly not for the better, give them the benefit of the doubt..  You never know, the person you are looking at right now could be in a period of transformation..  You just have to be willing to put your feelings and opinions aside, and maybe wait a little..  It can happen..  To anyone at any time..

God works miracles..  
I'm living proof of that..

What is love?

Mark 12:28-31 says: 
Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  
 The most important one,” answered Jesus, is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

Now, if we believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and we truly wish to be obedient, we need to take this verse very seriously..  Love God, love each other.  "There is no commandment greater than these.
If you do nothing else, do these..  
So what is love?

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

How often do we truly practice this type of love?  And when we do, is it only for the people we like?  And even then, there is usually a limit to how much..  But what about the people we don't like?  Do we practice this sort of love for them?
Lets see...  We will just go though a few..

Love is patient:
Webster's 1828 dictionary defines patient as: Having the quality of enduring evils without murmuring or fretfulness; sustaining afflictions of body or mind with fortitude, calmness or christian submission to the divine will; calm under the sufferance of injuries or offenses; not revengeful.
When you are confronted with someone or something that makes you angry, does 'patient' describe you?  When you are upset with someone, do you have the peace of God about you?  Or do you roll your eyes, shake you head, maybe raise your voice, point your finger, or flat out go off on someone?

Love is not easily angered:
James 1:19 ~ "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry"..
When you become angry, do you take a moment to calm down and gather your thoughts?  Do you consider your words, your tone or the volume of your voice?  Are you truly quick to listen and slow to speak, or do you start off yelling and accusing?  
The Bible said everyone..  Even mother's who have 'had it up to here' with their children, wives who are ticked off at their husbands for doing the same thing over and over.  Husbands who have been nagged one too many times..  Everyone..  You are not the exception..  
The "Even Jesus got angry and turned over tables" argument doesn't fly in this situation..  Jesus had righteous anger..  Just because you think you are right, doesn't make the anger righteous ;)

Love keeps no record of wrongs:
Now this is the big one..  It has to do with forgiveness..  We forgive by faith, out of obedience to God.. Since forgiveness goes against our nature, we must forgive by faith, whether we feel like it or not..  God does not record our sins..  When we sin, recognize it, ask for forgiveness, receive it and repent of the sin, it's done..  If God kept a record of it, then His son died for nothing..  The whole idea of salvation would be pointless..
If God can let them go, so can we..
That means that once we have given our forgiveness, that's the end of it..  We don't bring it up again, we don't talk about to the offender or others, we don't remind the offender of the offense, and we certainly don't wait expectantly for them to do it again..
We don't tally up the offenses, instead we wipe the slate clean..

Aug 14, 2012

Our comfort zone..

"I can not recall one time that God has blessed me within my comfort zone"

T.D. Jakes 

My husband is going through a very trying and painful time...  He is confronted with challenges that neither he nor I thought he would ever be confronted with..  It is unexpected, uncertain, and incredibly challenging..  The difficult situation he is trying to process and work through is so far beyond his comfort zone that I really have no idea what the result will be..  But I know that no matter what happens, it will be a blessing when it's over..
This turn of events got me thinking about our comfort zones and how much we cling to them..

Sometimes the Lord has to move us out of situations, and away from certain places and  people in order to fulfill His promises and will for our lives..  We are very eager for the blessings but it is not often that we are willing to step up and do what is required of us to receive them.   We would rather just sit and "wait upon the Lord".. 
I am not saying that we should never wait on God; we should wait for direction, guidance, clarity, and confirmation..  But where does the Bible say "Sit there and do absolutely nothing while I shower my blessings upon you"?

We miss opportunities to receive blessing and to be used by God simply because we are too afraid to move out of our comfort zones, to let go of the things most familiar to us and venture off to an area we are unfamiliar with..
Usually when we face a trial that we have to struggle through, we call it an attack of the enemy because we can't imagine anything difficult coming from God..  So we spend our time renouncing the enemy instead of thanking God for the hardship..  In doing so, we deny the blessing..

Many of us pray daily to know God's will..  We pray that He use us to further his Kingdom, we tell God that we submit ourselves to Him completely, that we will go where He wants us to go, that we will do what He wants us to do..  But how often do we consider the fact that in order to send us where He wants us to go so we can do what He wants us to do, that He will have to prepare us for the journey, and train us for the assignment?

Ask anyone who went through military boot camp what it was like, I doubt you will hear words like fun, easy, or comfortable..  It's more likely that you will hear words like painful, gut-wrenching, and demanding..
But when they graduate from boot camp they are strong and disciplined soldiers  who are prepared to carry out whatever order they are given to the best of their ability..

Sometimes we afraid of change if it means we must leave certain things and certain people behind and go forward in faith to do the work the Lord has called us to do.  We don't want to go through the training if it means we will have to go through anything painful or even uncomfortable..  Just think of the blessings and the experiences we are missing because we are so protective of our comfort!

To do God's will, to receive the unimaginable blessings that He has in store for us means possibly letting go of certain people in your life, enduring things you do not want to endure, going places you don't want to go, and doing things you don't want to do..

Do you think that Abraham wanted to leave his entire family, everything familiar to him and set out into unknown territory in his old age?  Do you think that Joseph enjoyed years of slavery and imprisonment?    Do you think that David wanted to hide in the wilderness and fight for his very survival while Saul hunted him?
They did not, but they endured..  The remained faithful and obedient to God and received amazing blessing in the end..   Abraham was the father of a nation, Joseph was promoted to second in command of all of Egypt, and David became God's anointed king of Israel..

If you insist on clinging to things, places, and people you feel most comfortable with, and refuse to ever step out in faith, how can you expect His blessings to ever manifest in your life?  You can decide to remain where you are locked away in your comfort zone so nothing bad ever happens, or you can step out in faith, endure the hardship, thank God for it and see where you end up..

Peter took a chance..  When the storm was raging and all of the apostles were cowering on the bottom of the boat, Peter saw Jesus standing on the waves..  He gathered his courage, stepped out of the boat and walked on water..

Where do you truly want to be..?  
Walking on water, or cowering in the boat?

Aug 12, 2012

I love the Bible, part 3..

The day I was saved, the pastor gave me a copy of the New Testament and said "read this and do what it says"..  It was pretty much smooth sailing from there..  I don't mean to say that I haven't faced any trials or had anything that I didn't have to work through or struggle with; but I have never been uncertain about who God is..  From that day forward I have not struggled to follow Him, I have never felt that He didn't love me, I never questioned my salvation or doubted for a second that God was working in my life..  From that moment I have had full confidence in the Lord.

When the pastor said "read this and do what it says" I thought "no problem!"  Seriously, this is what I do..  I'm a learner, I love to learn..  I love to read, research, and gather information..  It's how I'm wired..  It doesn't even matter what the subject is.  If it exists, I will learn about it..  No, that's not exactly true, I have learned about a lot of things that don't exist too :)
But the awesome thing about God?  You never stop learning..  You will never run out of things to learn about when studying the Bible..  I get excited just thinking about it..

Anyway, I was saved on a Wednesday..  The following Sunday Brian (the pastor) asked me if I was reading the Bible he gave me.  I told him I had already finished it (I'm also a very fast reader)..  He said "great!  Now read it again"..  I was a little annoyed, but I did what he said..  This time I prayed before I started and took more time to read it..

Something was different this time..  Something inside me sort of shifted..  I felt different, I looked at things differently, I began to think differently..  The more I read, the more I changed..  It was just really weird..  I started to take the word literally..  I realized, really truly understood that this book IS the very Word of God..  How could I not obey?  Seriously, how can anyone not obey?

I began to feel conviction for my actions..  I would be listening to my music in the car and all of a sudden think "these lyrics are pretty bad, I don't think I should be listening to this" so I turned it off..  It was the same with shows on television and even books that I read..  It happened everywhere I went..  It changed how I talked to people, how I thought about people, how I related to them..
I'm not saying I'm perfect, nor am I saying that every moment of my life is lived in a biblical manner, I'm still learning..  But I can say that when I do feel convicted, or when I do learn something new, I apply it to my life..  I stop doing some things and start doing other things..

I have read the entire Bible about 8 times so far and I learn a multitude of new things every time..  The more I read it, the more I want to read it.  If I don't read it I miss it, I crave it..  My attitude changes when I don't read it, and it improves when I do..  I love this book..  It truly is living water for me..  I have to read this book, as often and as much as I can..

I know many of you believe that you simply can not afford to make the time to really dive into this book..  I'm telling you; you can't afford not to..  Make the time, cut something out of your schedule if you have to..    Read it, study it, meditate on it..  Every day..

If God truly is the most important thing in your life, prove it..
Read the Bible.  You won't regret it..  I promise..

Aug 9, 2012

What the Bible is not. (Bible part 2)

1. The Bible is not an amulet, a charm, a fetish, or a thing that will work wonders by its very presence without any voluntary agency. The Bible does not claim to be any such thing. It does claim that if one will study and practice it, it will work wonders in the life now and hereafter. It will not benefit a man by its presence any more than a spring of cool water to a thirsty man in the desert will benefit him if he refuses to drink. 

2 The Bible is not a book of chronological events or one unbroken series of divine utterances. It was given piecemeal, here a little and there a little, to many men through eighteen or more centuries (Isa. 28:9-11). In spite of this it forms a perfect unity.

3. The Bible is not a book of heavenly utterances in supernatural language. It is God's revelation in the most simple human language possible. 

4. The Bible is not a book of mysteries. It explains its so-called mysteries and it is self-interpreting, so that no mystery remains in it. 

5. The Bible is not a book that says one thing and means another. It has generally only one simple meaning. If a few passages have a double meaning, that is quite clear from the passage itself or from parallel passages. One cannot, as is commonly believed, get a thousand different meanings from any one passage. 

6. The Bible is not a specimen of God's skill as a writer or logician. It is a book written by men whom God used to record His revelation. God used the men by giving them freedom of expression to use their own language and ways of expressing truth. The writers were God's penmen, and not God's pens. All that inspiration guarantees is unity of thought, not the sameness of words and expressions. 

7. The Bible is not a book of systematic discourses on any one subject, but it does give divine information on practically every subject. One must collect together here and there all God's information through various writers in order to get the whole truth. When this is done, there is perfect harmony, and everything about the subject that man really needs to know, is clear. 

8. The Bible is not a book that conforms to the tastes, customs, or habits of any one nation or people, or for any one age or period of time. It is a book to which all people in all ages can conform, and yet retain their own peculiar customs and habits that are not sinful and contrary to the will of God.

So what is the Bible?

The Bible is the infallible, indisputable, living, breathing, Word of the Almighty God.

Aug 7, 2012

I love the Bible.. Part 1.

I have several..  I can't say that I started out wanting several, it just sort of happened..  I guess you could say that I have a Bible collection, or at least the start of one..  There are a few versions I don't have that I would like to have, and one version I already have and could probably do without..
Anyway, I thought I would show you my Bibles..
  I don't know that pictures of my Bibles will make much of an impression on you, but hey, it's my blog right?  So, here we go..
(you can click on them to get a bigger view)
This (below) is my study Bible..  It's the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Bible, King James Version.  I have gotten a few raised eyebrows from others when they learn that when I study the Bible, I use the KJV..  There are much easier versions to use if you are going to actually study the Bible word for word, but there is something about studying the KJV that really challenges me, and I love that..
I started using the KJV for study when Brutal bought me a Bible study course on DVD..  It was T.D. Jakes Bible study on Ephesians..  He used the KJV so to follow along properly, I decided to do so also..  By the time the course was over, I was hooked on the KJV..  It's also the version that I use for Theology school..  This is what the inside of my KJV looks like now..
This (below) is my Life in the Spirit study Bible..  It's NIV (New international version) and pretty good for Bible study too..  This is the Bible I started with when I decided that I was going to do more than just read the Bible..  I don't focus on this one as much as I used to, but when I am doing a Book study (which is not to be confused with my Theology school) I choose a different book of the Bible once a month and dive in, I pay more attention to this one.
It's only one of the versions I use for my book study though..  I like to haul all of them out and read each verse from each version..  It's time consuming, but totally worth it..
This one (below) is my parallel  Bible.  One side is the NIV and the other side is the Message Bible..  I don't use this one much at all..  In fact I don't know when or where I got it..  I don't even remember purchasing it.. The Message Bible is not one of my favorite versions of the Bible..  Actually, I don't like it much at all..  I think it simplifies scripture too much..  I suppose it's a good beginner's Bible..  But I don't feel like I am getting the meat of the Word when I read it, you know?
Below is my Amplfied Bible..   It's easy to understand, and it does exactly what it says it does..  It amplifies the Bible..  I go back and forth with this version..  I will read it for a week and then put in on the shelf for a month or so before getting it out again..  I enjoy the Amplified version though..  Sometimes when I come across a verse that I don't really understand, I pull out the Amplified..  It usually clears up the confusion :)
These two (below) are my NLT (New Living Translation) and my ESV (English Standard Version).  The NLT I got about a week after I was saved.  Brutal got it for me.  I wanted something easy because I felt the KJV was just too confusing (funny huh?) so he chose the  NLT..  It is an easy read and I do enjoy reading it, but lately it has spent more time on my shelf than off.. 
I can't give my opinion on the ESV yet..  I have only had it for about a month and a half and I haven't really looked at it..  It was a gift from a church that Brutal and I visited a while ago..  
These (below) are my One Year Bibles..  I have the regular One Year Bible and the Chronological One Year Bible..  I used to have the One Year Message Bible, but I gave it t Brutal to give it to a guy at work..  I am currently reading the regular One Year Bible (Brutal is reading the other one)..  The one I am reading is the NLT, so I guess I do read it more often than I thought.
This little Bible is one I haven't opened in almost 2 years..  I keep it for sentimental reasons..  Pastor Brian gave this to me the day I was saved..  We had just prayed, I had just given my heart to Christ, and had asked him (Brian) "what do I do now?"
Brian handed me this little book and said "Read this and so what it says"..
It was just that easy..
Now this one is my favorite..  I love this book..  It's an NIV, but there is something about this particular NIV (remember, I have 3) that I really love.  I love the size of it, the weight of it, the feel of the pages..  I even like the smell of it..
It's a lay-flat Bible so I can set it on the table, open it to whatever page I want, and it lays open perfectly..  It's a little larger print which I love..
This is the Bible that I read every day.  It's the Bible that I take to church, the Bible that I read when I wake up in the morning, when I am sitting on the porch, right before I go to bed, or when I just feel like reading..  
This is my Bible.

Oh wait, I have one more!
This (below) is The Book of God..  It's the Bible in novel form..  This is a pretty cool book and an easy read..  If you just want to sit down and read the Bible cover to cover, this is the one to read..
So, that is my small yet still growing Bible collection..  Why did I just post pictures of all my Bibles? 
Well, my next few blog posts will be about the Bible; why I love it, why it is so important to me, and why it should be important to you too..
So..  That's that!

Aug 6, 2012

Simple ways to love your enemies..

"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies"
Luke 6:27

     Easier said than done right?  Yeah, we hear love your enemies a lot, we know we are supposed to, but that doesn't mean we know how..  It's not as if we get a list of instructions from our pastors along with that statement..

     As far as I can tell, there isn't anything in the Bible that says we must be friends with everyone..  In fact, breaking away from friendships and relationships that are unhealthy for us is a good thing..  But the Bible tells us to love everyone..  It doesn't mean to love them in a romantic way like you love your spouse, or to love them in an unconditional way like you love your children.  
I believe that it means to give them grace and honor, and to be the bigger person..  Remember, honor is given, not earned.

     Yesterday, the speaker at church described grace in a way that I had never considered before..  I know that grace is forgiveness and I know that grace is empowerment, but this speaker said that "grace is undeserved love"..  So, to be obedient to God, to love your enemies, it means that you love them even if you don't think they deserve it..  It means actually doing something..  That means doing more than just saying "I love them with the love of the Lord" and leaving it at that..  Because you know what?  If we loved with the "love of the Lord" the whole world would look a lot different than it does..
Those are just words..  Real love, even loving your enemies, means actually doing something..

So, how do we love our enemies? 
I have a few suggestions..

1) Pray for them~ Pray for them every day and ask the Lord to shower them with blessing..
     A few months ago I ended a friendship..  It was a very close friendship of several years, but after time we had grown into different people going in different directions..  I don't regret ending the friendship, it was coming for some time, and I'm happy with the way things are..  However I do regret how I ended it.  
But let me tell you something..  I pray more blessing for this family now that we are not friends than I ever did when we were..  Seriously, I pray for them every day..  I don't ask God to change them or punish them.  I don't ask Him to make them see things my way (because that's just stupid)..
     I pray for their health, for financial blessing, for happiness, for peace in their home..  Every good thing I would want for my own family I pray for them.
And you wanna hear something weird?  I want to do it..  These aren't just empty words I pray because the Bible tells me to, these are real heartfelt prayers..  Just because I don't want to be their friend doesn't mean I don't want them to be happy..
     And, if you are in a position where you don't want your enemy to be happy?  Pray blessing anyway..  You never know, you might change your mind.

2) Speak well of them.
     Talk about them in a positive manner..  If you try hard enough you can always find the good in anyone..  Talk about how smart they are, how funny they are, whatever..  Even if you don't feel it yourself..  Do it anyway..  If all you can come up with is "she has great taste in shoes" then say  that.  If they have a particular talent in a particular field, talk about that..  If you can't think of anything positive to say, then just say "she's a good person"..  Even if you don't think he or she is..  Just say it..
     But this also means that you shouldn't speak badly about them either..  If you need to vent, vent to your spouse..  But keep your negative opinions to yourself when speaking to others..  Don't share them with your friends or your kids (who you dislike, your children will probably dislike too, and teaching your children to dislike someone is just not OK).  
     This also means that when you do speak positively about someone you don't like, don't say "oh, he's a good person, though I don't particularly care for him myself"..  That sort of statement doesn't honor anyone and it gives whoever you are talking to an opening to ask why you don't care for them which leads to gossip..
     Which leads me to number 3.

3)  Don't allow others to gossip to you about them.
     It's a lot easier (for me at least) not to spread gossip about someone than it is to not listen to it.  Anyone can refrain from talking about someone, but how many of us make it a point to stop others from gossiping to us?  How many of us, when someone starts gossiping to us about someone, actually speak up and say "please don't talk about so-and-so to me"?
There are several reasons why we don't:  
a) We worry that we may come off as rude..  b) When we speak up, we are convicting the person talking and run the risk of sounding self-righteous..  c) We worry about offending whoever is talking and possibly loosing a friend.  and d) Even though we know it's wrong to listen to gossip, we just really want to hear it..
     We even make up some pretty good excuses as to why it's OK that we listen; we need to hear it so we can pray for them, or my personal favorite "this person is venting and I need to be a good friend and listen"..  However, we don't need to know the all the juicy details to pray for someone..  God knows..  That's enough..
    As for being a good friend?  A real friend would encourage you to speak positively about someone instead of allowing you to gossip about them.

4) Do not retaliate.
Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
(Peter 3:9) 

Just because someone treats you badlly does not mean that you need to treat them badly in return..  It's in our nature to retaliate..  When someone hurts us, we want to hurt back..  When someone gossips about us, we want to gossip right back..  But Jesus said to "turn the other cheek"  (Matthew 5:39)
     When we retaliate we are lowering ourselves to their level..  Seriously..  It's petty, it's selfish, and it's childish..  We become so offended at their actions that we turn around and do the very same thing, and that makes us just as bad as they are..  
     There is no such thing as a private war..  There are spectators everywhere..  Our friends see us and so do our children..  When we retaliate we are showing others that this behavior is OK..  It speaks badly of us as parents, friends, and especially as Christians..  
If you lie down with a pig, you wake up smelling like one..
     I'm sure there is much more we can do to show love for our enemies, like forgiveness (by the way, forgiveness also means that once you forgive, you shut up about the offense) but forgiveness is kind of a no-brainer right?    
I would totally appreciate your feedback..  How do you show love for your enemies?