Consider the Lilies..: September 2012   

Sep 30, 2012

There is grace for that..

There is nothing we can do to earn our way to Heaven..  All we need to do is proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our Savior, and believe it..  That's it..   We don't NEED to do good works, we don't NEED to go out and make disciples, we don't NEED to love everyone including our enemies, we don't NEED to change our behavior or our sinful lifestyle, and we don't NEED to be obedient.
We don't NEED to be humble, tithe, turn the other cheek (I totally failed at that one today!)  control our emotions, guard our hearts and our tongues, and we don't NEED to try our hardest to live as Jesus would (something else I failed at today)..  We don't NEED to do any of these things..  But shouldn't we want to?

It's almost as if we have decided that we can and should be able to do whatever we want, behave in a manner that pleases us, regardless of how our behavior affects othe people because we live under the umbrella of grace..  Yes, we all make mistakes..  But that is where repentance comes into play..  We should be able to recognize that sometimes our behavior is not how Jesus would want us to behave, ask for forgiveness and repent (meaning, do our best to change that behavior)..

For example:  I made a mistake today..  I got angry and instead of controlling my emotions and turning the other cheek, I fired off an angry email.. I should have prayed about it, I should have let it go, but I didn't..  Yeah, there is grace for that..  But what if I had considered all of this before I sent the email and then said to myself "I will not be acting in a manner that is pleasing to God, what I am doing is probably not ok, but I'll do it anyway because God will give me grace for it"?  That my friend, would not be ok..

It's no different than deciding that it would be ok to cheat on my husband because even though its not ok, everything will be fine because I can just ask God for forgiveness later and He will give me grace for it..

The point is, we should want to be obedient..  We should want to do good works..  We should want to live the way the Bible tells us too..  Not because we have to, not because our salvation depends on it, but because it pleases the Father when we do..

Grace is a gift, not a perk..

Sep 23, 2012

Act like it..


For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, 
but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)


When Grant Woods painted American Gothic in 1930 and entered it in the Art Institute of Chicago’s forty-third annual exhibition, he could not have expected it would become an American icon and create so much controversy. People either loved or hated it.

While I’m certain it was not the artist’s intent, to me the painting represents how many people view Christians. Jesus said it is by our love the world will come to know Him, but sadly some have only experienced condemnation from us. Of course they are turned off when they encounter a holier-than-thou attitude, and no one likes to feel someone is pointing a finger at them and judging them. Others see only a rigid set of rules to be followed. They brand Christians as naysayers and killjoys, especially when the lives of the Christians they know do not reflect the joy of the Lord and when anything but love is evident in how Christians treat them.

What about how we treat each other?  Gossiping, pointing fingers, making snap judgements, forming opinions about people we don't know or spend any time with, thinking the worst of anyone..
Do we truly behave as Jesus did?  Do we really even try?  Why would anyone want to join a group of people who treat each other so badly?  Jesus said the words "you hypocrites!" seven times in the book of Matthew alone..  Do you think that maybe He was trying to tell us something?

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Corinthians 13
It says all things..  That means we are to believe the best about everyone, all the time..  It's not about our opinions, it's not about our feelings..  Our opinions are not God's opinions, and feelings are fickle..
It's about Jesus..  Jesus loves us.  He loves us in spite of us..  Should we not do the same for others?

Jesus loved..  Really loved..  Everyone..
Do we?
Do you truly believe that the Spirit of God lives IN you?  If you do, then act like it..


I know I can do better..  Can you?

Sep 16, 2012

"Thar she blows.."

     God told Jonah to bring His message to Nineveh.    Nineveh was the “most hated” city of the Israelites.  Jonah knew how God worked and he knew that God was going to offer mercy to the Ninevites, and frankly Jonah did not believe that they deserved it..  God was willing to bestow Love, Mercy, and Grace to Nineveh; but Jonah was not willing to do the same..

     So Jonah ran in the other direction..  Maybe he thought that God would come to His senses and realize that saving Nineveh was a stupid idea, maybe he thought that if God wanted it to happen bad enough, He would send someone else after Jonah refused..  
     But I'm not sure that God works that way..  Jonah did everything he could to get out of it, but God prevented his escape..  He went so far as to have Jonah swallowed by a whale and then vomited on the shore of Nineveh..
Sure , God could have chosen someone else after Jonah said no, but He chose Jonah..

     Today I learned some rather devastating news and I was given a job to do..  I don't know how to do it, I don't know where to start and I'm not prepared to do it..  It feels too big for me..  I know that nothing is too big for God and I know that with His help, nothing is too big for me.. 
 I want to be obedient..  But I am overwhelmed.  I feel uneasy and out of sorts..  It's not a good feeling and not one that I'm used to..  I am very organized, systematic, and I like to have a plan..  
     But right now I feel like Jonah..  I want to run in the other direction..  I want to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears and shout " la la la la la la la" until God chooses someone else..
I don't think that's going to happen though..  

     Fortunately I don't live near an ocean so I don't have to worry about keeping an eye out for whales, but I am sure God has other ways..  
But when God gives you a job to do, you just gotta do what you gotta do..  
Right?

Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.
Psalms 85:10-13



Sep 14, 2012

Hit me baby one more time!

Abel did nothing wrong, yet his brother murdered him, Joseph did nothing wrong, yet he was sold into slavery and later imprisoned..  David did nothing wrong, yet Saul tried to pin him to a wall with a spear, Job was a faithful man of God, yet God allowed Satan to take everything away from him.
Stephen was innocent, yet he was stoned to death, Peter was innocent, yet he was crucified.  James lead the church and was beheaded..  Paul was obedient to God and was imprisoned several times, beaten several times, and then eventually beheaded..  John preached the love of Jesus, also did nothing wrong and was banished to the island of Patmos unil he died..

Stephen, James, Paul, Peter, and John were all innocent..  But the suffered greatly..  They suffered unfairly..  They did absolutely nothing to deserve the way they were treated..  They didn't fight back, they didn't defend themselves, they didn't get angry..  All of them were grateful for their suffering..  Two of them even prayed for God to forgive their persecutors before they were killed..  


Jesus was innocent.  But He was beaten, humiliated, and then murdered..  He did not fight back, He did not defend Himself, He didn't run away, or even try to ward off the blows that struck Him again and again..  He did not pull away from the whip that stripped the flesh from His bones..  He did not shout curses at anyone or try to get the people around Him to take His side..  Even when nailed to the cross and suffering from what had to be unbearable pain, even then He put others before Himself..  He ministered to the man crucified next to Him, and then asked His Father to forgive those who hurt Him..

Jesus said "But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also"   Matthew 5:39

But we don't really do that (I said 'we' that includes me too..)  No, we hold grudges, we fight back, we defend ourselves, and we try to get others on our side too..  It's a natural response when we feel that we have been treated unfairly..
Honestly, if someone walked up to you and slapped you right across the face, would you really turn your face so they could hit you again?  Or would you knock a couple of their teeth out instead?  If someone verbally attacked you would you stand there patiently while they yelled and then calmly walk away, praying for them as you went?  Would you let it go?  
I would like to say that I would..  I would like to say that I would react like Jesus did, but I don't know if I truly would or not..  Sure, maybe I could refrain from hitting someone and maybe I could stand there and let them yell at me (it would be really hard!) but I don't know how I would behave after I walked away.. 

Would I walk away praying for that person?  I doubt it, unless it was to pray that God would show them what jerks they were..  Would I forgive right away?  No, probably not..  I would grumble, I would complain,  I would stay angry for a while, and because I know me, I know I would probably find someone who could feed my anger for a while too by telling me how unfair that person was and what a jerk they were too..

Aw heck, who am I kidding?  I know I would do those things..  There is no 'probably' about it..  In fact I have done those things..  A little over a year ago..  And because I didn't behave the way Jesus would have, the way the Bible commands me to, I held on to it for over a year..  Yeah, I grumbled and let it fester for  a whole stupid year..  
It's only recently (like 10 minutes ago) that I realized how incredibly stupid and petty it all was..  The problem is, it doesn't seem petty and stupid in the middle of it..  But I think that is why the Bible tells us to guard our hearts..  So we don't fester for a whole year on something that doesn't even matter now..  And you know what?  Whatever bothering you now will probably seem pretty stupid a year from now too..

But aside from all that, it's Biblical..  The Bible commands forgiveness..  It tells us not to hold a grudge, it tells us to turn the other cheek..  Right OR wrong..  It doesn't matter if you feel justified or not..  God deals with the just and the unjust..  That's His job, not ours..

Seriously, if Jesus could go through what He did, and the apostles could go through what they did, when none of them had done anything to deserve it, can't we do the same?

There is nothing in the Bible that says life is fair..  However it does say "God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. "  Matthew 5:11-12 (NLT)

Losing

A really good song..  Pay special attention to the lyrics.. ;)

Sep 13, 2012

Would you stay the same?

A few weeks ago my daughter and her friend from church (and school) were sitting at my kitchen table talking about a girl they go to school with..  My daughter's friend said "I hate her, she's such a *insert really bad name here*..
I'm not sure where it came from, but I turned and asked her "would you have said that if Jesus were standing in this kitchen?"  She gave me a deer in the headlights look for a second and then said "no, I guess not"..

Since then that thought has popped into my head a number of times..  Would I behave differently if Jesus was standing next to me wherever I went?  I questioned almost every situation..  Would I complain about anything, would I say mean things about someone?  Would I cut someone off in traffic or get angry at someone who cut me off?  Would I make judgments about anyone?  Ever?  Would I vent to anyone about someone I didn't like?  Even to my spouse?  Would I give my last five dollars to someone if they needed it, or would I keep it to buy that Starbucks I had been craving?

I have to admit that my behavior would be so dramatically different if Jesus were standing right next to me..  Not just in my attitude or how I related to people, but in the privacy of my own home too..  I don't think I would watch some of the television shows that I do if Jesus were sitting on the couch with me..
I know for a fact that I would think before I said or did anything, I would ask His opinion before I did anything, and I can promise you that I would never ever tell Him that I didn't have time to talk to Him or listen to Him..  I know would never ever say "You know Jesus, I really should read the Bible but I haven't looked at Pinterest today."

But you see, Jesus IS standing right next to me..  He does hear me when I speak, He watches what I do, and He knows what I am thinking..  We can make excuses for our behavior and how we treat others all the time, but I wonder if we would use those same excuses if we were actually face to face with Jesus?

So how would my life be different if I were actually face to face with Jesus every moment of every day?  I can't say exactly, but I think I would begin every morning with "thank you Jesus for blessing me with another day, thank you for blessing me with life"..  I think I would ask Him "what do YOU want me to do today?  How can I serve YOU?"..  I think I would spend hours talking to Him, listening to Him, and doing everything I possibly could to please Him..  I know I wouldn't complain because my coffee wasn't hot enough, I know I wouldn't say negative things about anyone, I would be kinder, and I would make a real effort to show love to everyone I met..  I hope I would make more of an effort to serve others.

So what about you?  How would your life be different if you were face to face with Jesus, every moment of every day?

I think we can do better..  Don't you?

Sep 12, 2012

What Is the Condition of Your Heart?

Worth a few minutes of your day..

Sep 8, 2012

I can relate..

     There is usually someone in the Bible that we each can relate to..  For example, my friend Groovy Mama is definitely a Peter.. She has a fierce, protective love for her friends, and amazing faith..  She also has an incredible temper and she has to make a conscience effort to think first and act later, rather than the other way around..
     My husband is a combination of Sampson and David..  Strong, arrogant and prideful, but also humble, incredibly loving, with a faith that makes my own look minimal..

     Of all the people in the Bible, I can most relate to Paul..  Now before you go thinking "wow!  Comparing yourself to one of the greatest apostles in the Bible!  How self-righteous can you be?"  let me explain..
Paul was a very smart man..  He was educated, people listened to him when he talked, and he had influence over his peers..  He was a scholar who enjoyed learning, reading, writing, the arts, and even sports..  Paul was good at what he did and people liked him..  But Paul was incredibly prideful, impatient with people, and stubborn..  Paul knew he was smart, figured he was always right, and wouldn't budge when challenged..
Because of this, several times he went his own way, separating himself from anyone who didn't agree with his direction or decisions..


     I have a similar personality..  I am a learner..  I love to read, write, study, and at the risk of sounding full of myself, I do have a pretty high IQ..  Though I'm not an incredibly social person, I can talk to people, I can hold their attention, and I can teach..  I am also incredibly prideful, impatient with people, and stubborn..  I do go my own way, and I have walked away from people who I thought were holding on too tightly or not going in the same direction..

   
     Paul knew where he needed to go and what he needed to do when he got there..  He was truly on a mission and let absolutely nothing keep him from his task..  However, he made several enemies along the way, lost friends, and I'm sure he was considered self-righteous by many people..  This is something else Paul and I have in common..
   I don't think that Paul was good at being tactful (neither am I)..  I think that Paul knew what needed to be said, so he just said it..  But there were times that he was seriously lacking kindness in his delivery..

     But there was something about Paul that I completely understand, that maybe not  lot of people have considered..  Many people refused to listen to Paul for quite some time because they knew him before, when he was a Pharisee..  Especially the other apostles..  They had walked with Jesus, they knew Jesus personally and they had suffered for it..  And then here comes this guy who they thought, knew nothing at all about Jesus, telling them how to live like Christ..  It didn't go over well at first, and there were more arguments along the way..   But even though Paul could be harsh and sometimes flat out mean, he was also the apostle who wrote 1 Corinthians 13.  He did have a heart for Jesus and his peers..  He just didn't always show it well..
     I believe that Paul didn't write about anything that he hadn't learned himself, probably the hard way..  I really doubt that he just sat in his room and listened while God dictated to him word for word what He wanted Paul to write..  If God just told us what he wanted us to know, we wouldn't really learn the lesson..  It's like someone else giving you the answers to your homework..  You didn't do the work, you didn't learn the lesson, so you failed the test that came later..

     It's the same for me..  I write and talk about things I have personally learned, and usually learned the hard way (conviction).  Sometimes I am told that I have been incredibly helpful and other times I am told that I am full of myself and self-righteous..  In fact, I took my blog offline for a while because of an email I received about something I had posted a while ago.  This person was angry because she felt that I had written about her personally..  She said that I had no idea what I was talking about and that she didn't appreciate me blogging about her private life..  She called me self-righteous, told me that I had no idea what her life was truly like, and if I walked a mile in her shoes I would feel differently..  Now here is the funny part..  I have never met or spoken to this person in my life!  I know nothing about her or her personal life..
   
     Here's the thing..  There was a time when I used my blog as a weapon..  I would write something knowing that a particular person would read it..  I would even say "If you think I'm writing about you, I probably am"..  But I have matured since then..  That is one of the reasons that I became so disillusioned with Facebook..  You know that saying 'what you hate about someone else is the same thing you hate about yourself'..?  Well that was me..  I hated seeing people anonymously bash each other on Facebook because I knew that just a year and a half ago I was doing the same thing on my blog..

    I have matured since, and now when I write, I make it more personal..  I write about my own lessons, my own struggles, and my own triumphs..  If something I have learned the hard way helps someone else learn it a little easier?  Fantastic!  But on the downside, if something I write upsets you, bumps you a little, or flat out ticks you off?  Well, there isn't a whole lot I can do about that except to tell you that it's about me and not you..  You can chose to believe that or not..  Totally your call..  I won't even be offended if you don't believe it..  At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I don't care..
But if reading my blog really does make you upset, you can always stop reading it..

But I would like to ask you to do one thing..  If something I write makes you angry, before you go off on me, before you call me self-righteous and mean, please take a moment to ask yourself if I truly am the one making you angry..  Maybe there is something I hit on that bumped you, but maybe there is a deeper reason why it did?
Of course, if you just want to blow it off as me being full of myself?  Well, you can do that to..  Like I said..  It doesn't bother me..  At all..

Sep 3, 2012

Knowledge is power.. Kinda..


1 Thessalonians 5:17- "pray continually"
I learned a new lesson yesterday..  Being a 'learner' you would think that I would be thrilled every time I learn something new..  Instead, I am usually kicking myself because the lessons I learn are lessons I already know.. 
Well, I know them in theory..  I am an avid Bible reader..  In the past two and a half years I have read it cover to cover several times..  I am maintaining a 4.0 average in theology school..  On top of that I spend at least a week on word studies, I chose a book in the Bible and spend several hours a day reading it over and over..
I'm not claiming to be a Bible expert, but I can hold my own..

The thing is..  You can study constantly but unless you live what you learn, everything you learn is pointless..  I mean, you can learn the mechanics of football, you can memorize the play-book, and you can watch the game repeatedly..  But that doesn't mean you can walk out on the field and be a great football player..
You have to play the game to get good at it..

The Bible says -Colossians 4:2 (amplified version)
"Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being [both] alert and intent in [your praying] with thanksgiving."

That's pretty cut and dry.  Pray always..  Basically in everything you do, pray.  Pray before, pray during, and pray after..
Easy enough right?  Well, obviously not, because I didn't..
Last Friday I was waiting in line at the DMV (someone had broken into my husband's truck a couple weeks ago and one of the things stolen was my daughter's wallet, so we were getting her a new learner's permit)..  
All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, a thought popped into my head..  "something bad is gonna happen"..  
I leaned over and told my husband..  He nodded and said something like "OK, we will be on guard"..  I should have started praying right then, but I didn't..  Instead I just sat around wondering what it would be and when it would happen..

Yesterday at church during worship it came to me..  Not all of it, just another piece of the puzzle..  I knew it had something to do with my husband..  So in the middle of a song I pulled my phone out and sent him a text..  He replied and said "I'll call you later"..  Uh oh..  That's never a good sign..  
I should have started praying right then..  I should have nudged Tina who was standing next to me and told her to pray..  I should have leaned forward and told Kenyatta, I could have even told one of the three pastors I had talked to that morning to pray also..  All of them would have taken me seriously, they probably wouldn't have even asked me to explain..
But I didn't..  I just went home and waited for my husband to call..
He did, and yeah it was bad..

This past year has been a hard one for us..  We have been hammered  emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, you name it..  We have an amazing support system and up until last Friday, I had depended on friends to stand with us in prayer and we have pulled through..  But this time, for some reason that I simply can't explain, I didn't think to pray..  I should have prayed the second I knew something was wrong..  But I dropped the ball..

It's quite possible that had I prayed at the onset, had I asked others to intercede for us, what happened might not have happened at all..
So again, lesson learned..  Just because I know the Bible, just because I can quote it when necessary, and just because I can tell others "the Bible says.." doesn't mean that I will always have the answer..  It doesn't make me invincible..  Sure, knowledge is power, but what good is that power if you don't use it?

So, read the Bible..  Read it daily..  Learn it, consume it, meditate on it, and study it..  But don't stop there..  You have to apply it!  Walk the walk, lean into God, pray about everything..  Good things, bad things, everything..  Don't wait for something to happen before going to God..  
He's here now..