October 4, 2014

Consecration & Holiness

2 Timothy 1:9 AMP

[For it is He] Who delivered and saved us and called us with a calling in itself holy and leading to holiness [to a life of consecration, a vocation of holiness]; [He did it] not because of anything of merit that we have done, but because of and to further His own purpose and grace (unmerited favor) which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [eternal ages ago].

Society defines us by our vocation, by the work we do. Are you a firefighter? A doctor? A plumber? A waitress? Unemployed? But those are not the vocations by which God defines us. God's job is for us to be holy.

I've been meditating on this scripture for over a week now. I keep asking myself, "How much effort do I put into living a consecrated life? How much do I work at the job of being holy?" 
It is effort and work. If it wasn't difficult then life wouldn't be such a struggle. There are too many lies, distractions and tricks from the devil keeping us on our toes for us to say our lives are easy. Too many trials and tribulations for us to think we're sailing through our time on this earth. So how much effort are we putting in? Are we choosing to live our lives according to God's Word?  Or are we taking the easy way and living according to the world's standards?

As the choices come between the world's values and God's values I have to admit that there are times that I don't make the right choice. It is a daily and even hourly struggle. But I hope that as my life goes on I am choosing God's values more and more often. And I find that the more time I spend reading my bible or meditating on God's instruction the easier it becomes to choose God's values. 

I choose to live a life of consecration. I choose a vocation of holiness.

September 22, 2014

I Am Ashamed

"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,"
2 Timothy 1:8

How often do we back down from sharing Christ's sacrifice with others? We always have an excuse. It wasn't the right time. They wouldn't have listened. I didn't know what to say.  We say to ourselves that we are not ashamed of our belief, but we are afraid of how others will think of us when they know the depths of our faith. And that is being ashamed.

I am ashamed of the testimony of our Lord...

What suffering would we endure today? Lack of Respect? Sideways glances at the water cooler? Ridicule?  How does that compare to what Timothy and the Apostles went through? Jail? Beatings? Torture? Death? And those things didn't just happen in the Apostle's time. There are Christians dying for their faith in Sudan, Iraq, and China. I have a friend who was a missionary in China who at least once had his bags packed to leave at a moment's notice because the police were asking everyone around him about his activities. How small I feel when I compare the fear of possible ridicule to others fear for their family's life and safety.

I am ashamed of my shame and fear...

September 21, 2014

Fan the Flame

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,"
2 Timothy 1:6

I know I've asked God to increase my desire for the Word. To build up the fire in me. But that is not his job. He has placed in us the spark. And we are to cultivate that spark. It is up to us to build the fire. 

We won't have to do it alone. There will be people that help us protect the spark when it is small and fragile. Some will tend the fire with us. Some will give us fuel when it looks like the fire is dying. And we will do the same for others.

That doesn't mean we don't do our part in building the fire. We can't rely on others to build, tend and maintain our fire. It is OUR fire. And it will take time. A good fire isn't started with gasoline. That will burn out too quickly. You start with tinder. Slowly feed it twigs and sticks. Then put on the logs. Then you have a fire that will that will last. 

Spend time with God in prayer and study.  Meditate on His Truth.  Worship Him with everything you do.  Build up that spark until it is a roaring bonfire that jumps and spreads onto others.

April 27, 2011

He's Gone!

Nap time at our house has become a little bit of an ordeal. My son’s naps have shortened dramatically and my daughter is doing her very best to avoid them altogether. This past Monday at nap time my wife sat in my daughter’s room waiting for her to go to sleep. After telling her a couple of times to be quiet and go to sleep she finally heard her start to breathe deeply. She got and tiptoed out of the room. Just before she closed the door she stopped and left it cracked just a little bit to make sure she was sleeping. A few seconds later my daughter’s head popped up. She looked around to make sure Mom wasn’t in the room. Then she turned to her bear and said, “She’s gone!” It was all my wife could do to not bust out laughing as my daughter started playing with her stuffed animals.

How many times do we do find ourselves in that same situation with God? How many times do we feel that gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit in our heart showing us something that we are to do or say? And how many times do we try to wait until we don’t feel that nudge any longer so that we can tell ourselves, “He’s gone!”
As Christians we are followers of Christ. We are to attempt to emulate Jesus in everything we do. And when you boil it down the essentials of his life Jesus did only one thing during His time on the Earth. He lived His life according to God’s Will. Every word He spoke, every act He performed was to follow God’s Will. That needs to be our primary aspiration.  We must desire to live our life following God’s Will.

I’m certain that there were things that Jesus said and did that He did not want to say or do.  But He did them because He always followed God's Will.  When the disciples woke Him up out of fear from the storm I’m sure from His rebuke that He was a little annoyed. He might have even considered going back to sleep and letting them ride out the storm in fear. But God does not give us a spirit of fear. And God did not want the disciples to be afraid. So Jesus calmed the storm and their fears with it. I do know that Jesus did not want to die on the Cross. You may want to argue, but his prayer at Gethsemane proves the point.

"Then He said to them, My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow. Stay here and keep awake and keep watch with Me. And going a little farther, He threw Himself upon the ground on His face and prayed saying, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will [ not what I desire], but as You will and desire.”

Matthew 26:39-40

I had a “He’s gone!” moment recently. Last Friday at work in an attempt to joke around and be funny I made a disparaging comment about a co-worker. It wasn’t anything extreme or rude, but the comment was made behind her back. She didn’t hear it and would probably never know about it. It was gossip. And I knew that it was gossip. And God knew that it was gossip.

As I went to sit back down at my desk I knew I needed to apologize to her. But I was embarrassed and a little concerned about how she would react. So I procrastinated.  Before I knew it the day was over and she was gone.  I had lost my chance.  Or was I just saying to myself, "He's gone!"  Fast forward to Monday.  I hadn't thought but once or twice about apologizing and the day was close to over.  Then my wife called and told me about my daughter's nap time.  I hung up the phone still laughing.  And then it hit me.  I had done the same thing with God that my daughter had done with my wife.  I had acted like I was going to apologize, but I hadn't wanted to and was doing everything I could to convince myself not to.  So I waited until the opportunity was gone.  I knew what I had done.  And now I knew that God knew exactly what I had done.

Tuesday morning rolled around and I knew what I had to do.  I had to follow through on what God wanted me to do.  I had to apologize to her.  So I did.  It took a few minutes to work up the nerve, but I went over and apologized.  It was uneventful.  She was amused that I had was apologizing for something that she hadn't even overheard.  But it wasn't just about the apology.  It was about living my life following God Will.  

Think about the times in your life where you're trying to wait until "He's gone."  Is what God is asking you to do so unpleasant that you have to try and wait until God is gone before getting on with your life?  Because He is never gone.  He will always be there, waiting for you to follow His Will.  It may even be tougher than you think it will be, but following God's Will is much easier on your heart than trying to avoid it, and Him...

March 31, 2011

Gary Smalley Wisdom

I started reading over the notes that I took from the Gary Smalley conference earlier this month and thought it would be good to share.  These aren't exactly quotes.  There more my paraphrasing.  I hope you enjoy and are encouraged by them.

  • Stress is the gap between what you are expecting to have and what you do have.

  • Laughter melts away anger.

  • Only God can fulfill you.  Don't expect to be fulfilled by anything or anyone other than God.  You will not and cannot be fulfilled by your spouse.

  • Treat your spouse how you want your children to treat their spouses.

  • Holding a grudge is like drinking poison with the hope that the other person will get sick.

  • If you leave anger in your children's lives you are driving them away from you.  Daughters who aren't feeling loved from their Dad will get their love from someone else...

  • Changing your spouse is impossible.  It's a waste of time.  And trying to change your spouse creates anger and an unsafe atmosphere.  It will weaken and ruin your marriage.

  • You are the only person that you can change.

  • God can turn any trial that you're going through into a victory!

  • Every difficulty gives you more of God's Love and more of God's power!

March 14, 2011

A Peaceful Heart & A Bit of Encouragement

A Peaceful Heart

This past Saturday was one of the best days I can remember. It was our sixth wedding anniversary. My wife's parents came over to watch the kids so that we were able to attend a Gary Smalley conference at our church. Wonderful time. Learned much about ourselves and our relationship. After we got home and her parents left we started cooking for dinner with my parents. We enjoyed a wonderful meal with them and then we went out for the night while they stayed with the kids. We didn't do anything special. We went to the mall. We bought books for anniversary presents (Borders - 30% off) and went to a movie. 

All day we had done fun things and enjoyed ourselves. But that wasn't what made Saturday one of my best days. What made the day great was this: I realized that all day long I felt at peace. Even in the semi-stressful times of getting the kids up in the morning or running to the store for food or rushing home from the movie close to midnight, I was at peace. It was amazing.

Whenever we have peace is in our lives it becomes natural to follow God. As as easy as breathing. We have his presence. We hear his leading. The noise of the world fades away. We're in a groove. But it can be hard to stay in God's Peace. Satan knows that when we follow that groove it takes us farther from where he can reach us. So he starts to work his way back in as quickly as possible. He won't have the strength to steal that peace outright, but he is patient. He'll work and work until he finds a crack. And then he'll work that crack until it starts to break open.

Sunday morning came. On top of being tired from staying up much later than I normally do, we lost an hour due to daylight savings time. I was cranky. I had a crack. That morning the kids seemed to be listening less than normal. They weren't being disobedient. They just weren't paying attention and it was starting to get on my nerves. That crack was starting to open up. I definitely wasn't feeling very peaceful.

But then it hit me: Why was I allowing that peace be taken from me? I took a step back from myself and the situation. Should I be letting myself be cranky because I was tired? Should I be letting that crankiness out on my kids who, in all honesty, were just being kids? No, I shouldn't. I immediately stopped and prayed strength and grace. I wasn't going to let myself act on how I felt and get cranky with my family. I wasn't going to let Satan steal my peace! I won't say that I was immediately back to where I was the day before. But I was moving back in that direction.

A Bit of Encouragement 
I was still a little stressed after we got home from church. I started reading a old book while the kids played and my wife made lunch. The books we bought for me were a continuation of a couple of books that my wife had bought for my birthday and I was going to start by rereading the first two before reading the new books. I had left a bookmark in the second book and grabbed it to use as I read. It was a 3x5 card with a scripture written on it that my dad had given me. "Let peace rule. Col 3:15" And that peace began to come back. God is so good.
"And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as an umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one body you were also called to live. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always]." 
Colossians 3:15 Amplified

I love the way the Amplified Bible brings out certain phrases. Peace is Soul Harmony which comes from Christ. Looking back on Saturday that rings true. What do you feel inside when you hear two notes of music that are in disharmony? The feeling can range from brain freeze to the cringe of nails on a blackboard. It can feel like your entire body is out of whack. What about when you hear two notes that blend perfectly? There's no other way to describe it other than you feel right. Throughout the day Saturday my soul felt in harmony with God. My music was blending with God and it just felt right.

But even a Stradivarius can get off key. Humidity in the air or a change in temperature can affect the strings until the notes being played are not longer in harmony. What does the musician do? Tune in the strings and keep playing.

I don't remember when my dad gave me that 3x5 card. Or when I had started using it as a bookmark. But right at the moment when I needed a little encouragement, a tune-up, to keep me moving forward in an amazing time with God, there was that card. A little tweak. A reminder. And my soul started to regain it's harmony with God.

February 2, 2011

Why Kids Bounce (And We Don't)

Kids bounce.  I'll be watching my 1 year old toddle around, get a little unsteady and PLOP!  What happens as I keep watching?  No crying.  No whining.  He just gets back up and keeps going.  He bounces.  The same thing happened when my now three year old was a toddler.  She'd fall, get back up and keep going.  My wife and I made sure as we were raising her, and now him, that when our kids fell we didn't rush to them and fawn over them every time they had a bump or a bruise.  As much as it can hurt your heart not to rush to your children to make sure they haven't hurt themselves you must hold yourself back.  If they're really hurt they'll start screaming and then you can rush in and make them feel better.  Nine times out of ten I bet they just bounce and keep going.

I remember talking with some friends after church one Sunday and watching a little kid running around.  All of a sudden he fell and bumped something, knee or arm I can't remember.  He started to cry but then realized that his parents weren't anywhere around.  The faucets stopped.  He started looking for his parents.  After 5-10 seconds he saw them.  Immediately the tears started flowing as he ran to his mom.  She hugged him and kissed his hurt.  She did all she could to make him feel better.

Now imagine this happening to you.  You're walking along and you hit an ice patch.  PLOP!  What do you do next?  I'm pretty sure it's not as simple as getting back up and keeping on going.  In fact I wager that there's a little crying and whining going on with the rubbing of your backside.  You may even not say anything until you see someone you know who can commiserate with you and make you feel better.  As adults we just don't bounce as well as we used to because continued bouncing takes a toll.

My three year old bounces as well.  But her bouncing is a little different.  My wife recently called her a "little tigger."  Like any three year old she is full of endless energy.  Remember the saying "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line?"  It does not apply to three year olds.  And if it's been a hard day it can be a little much to handle.  I wrote about it a few months ago.  You have to let go and lose your impatience.  Otherwise it will be a trying experience. 

Adults just don't have the energy that kids have.  Let me rephrase that.  Adults don't have the same type of energy that kids have.  Kids have the energy of the Energizer Bunny.  They just keep going and going and going.  But as adults that energy turns into strength.  Adult can do the heavy lifting while kids can keep moving almost continuously, to bounce when something (like the floor) tries to get in their way.
So where am I going with all of this?  According to God's Word, the development our spiritual life is like the development of a child into an adult.  
"However, I could not talk to you as to men, but as to mere infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not yet strong enough for it."
1 Corinthians 3:1-2
There will be times as young Christians that bouncing is necesary.  A little unsteadiness will come along.  You'll be hanging out with friends and go ahead and have that cigarette you promised never to have again.  You're hanging a painting and the hammer hits a thumb, "$@#!"  You're late for work and someone cuts you off on the highway.  Out comes the bird.  PLOP!  You've fallen on your butt.  But then you bounce.  You ask God to forgive your sins.  He does.  You keep growing up.

Over time it gets easier.  You sin less and less.  You trust God more and more.  You grow into an adult Christian and you develop strength.  Strength that you'll need.  Because Satan will try to slip a little ice under you foot.  PLOP!  You've fallen on your butt.  But you don't bounce.  You sit there for a little while.  Then you get up and rub your backside a little.  Do a little whining and crying.  And then God forgives you.  You feel better.  And you keep growing.

You may not bounce anymore, but you still have the strength to keep going.