Sunday, March 31, 2013

I Want It

I Want It
April 1, 2013
1 Chronicles 28:9   ". . . acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever . . . "

I want it.  This is the easiest thing for us to say when it comes to our likes.  If we like something we will declare our want for it.  But what about all the things we don't like?  Can we say we want that too?  We never want things we don't like; it is counter intuitive.  If we don't like to eat carrots, we will seldom say we want to eat them.  If you are a chocolate lover, you might want chocolate instead of those carrots.   Carrots, though, are a far healthier snack than a chocolate cupcake.  Life is full of things that we like and full of things that we dislike.  If we are smart, we will still want the things that we dislike IF we know they are good for us.  This is true in choosing healthy snack foods and true in choosing the will of the Heavenly Father.

The Lord has a will and a plan for your life, and it might be full of things you don't like or want.  If you don't like the things in your life, you may be inclined to say that you don't want them.  I would submit to you to consider that you DO want them, even if you don't like them.  They may be part of the Father's will for your life.  I'm not talking about the results of your foolish choices.  I'm talking about the things presented in your life beyond your control that you just can't shake loose.  The prime example of someone who walked this path is Jesus going to the cross.  He didn't necessarily like it, but He willingly submitted to it because He wanted the will of the Father.  There are many examples in the Bible of famous heroes who had to endure things they didn't like or necessarily want.  Joseph didn't like that he had to go to Egypt as a slave but it was part of the Lord's design.  Moses didn't like that he had to shepherd sheep for forty years in the desert, but it was part of the Lord's design.  Paul didn't like that he had to be imprisoned or shipwrecked, but it was all part of the Lord's design.

All of these heroes, in hindsight, could see the will of the Father at work and if they had to do it all over again would probably choose to "want" those things they previously didn't like.  They all realized their lives had been the product of the Lord's design and were glad to be used for His glory.  Though they didn't think they wanted the situation at the time, they later realized it was necessary and healthy for the Lord's master plan.  We have an opportunity to learn from them knowing our lives, by design, are working toward the will of the Lord.  We can chose to not like it, but maybe we should chose to want it instead, maybe even growing to like it.

It is time, as a mature believer in the truth, to submit to the fact that there are many things in your life you don't like, but must embrace if they are the will of the Father.  You probably have said that you want the will of the Father but when it comes down to it, if it is something you don't like, can you still say you want it?  For those of us who work hard to control our lives, this is extremely difficult.  So practice with me now. Say the words, "I want it," while thinking of that hard-to-shake-situation beyond your control.  While you may not mean it at this moment, if you continue to practice this, you might actually be able to bring your will into alignment with the will of the Father.  Then when you say, "I want it," it will be liberating instead of feeling like shackles.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Genesis 37, Genesis 50:20, Matthew 7:21, Matthew 26:39, Luke 22:42, John 6:38, John 21:18, Romans 8:28, 1 Peter 5:20

Sunday, March 24, 2013

You Earned It

You Earned It
March 25, 2013
Romans 6:23  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Wages are compensation for work.  If you've worked, then you've earned your wages; you are due that paycheck.  The paycheck is owed to you until you've received it.  It is rightfully yours.  You never get paid before you work, that's why it is called earned.  We'd often like something for nothing but all of us understand that we are due our paycheck for the work we have performed.  Our paycheck is justly deserved.  Scripture uses these same terms to describe what is due us.  It says that if we perform sin then we are due death; we have earned it.  We are justly deserving of death for our sin.  While you may not think you deserve to die for what you have done, the Lord sees it differently.

No matter your interpretation of your sin, if it is wrong then it is wrong, despite the weight the world may place on it.  If it is wrong in the Lord's eyes then it is a sin no matter how you classify it.  The Lord says that if we sin, then we are deserving of death.  This death is not just a physical execution but an eternal separation from Life, from living with the Lord.  Conversely, the Lord says that if you want eternal life, then you must accept the free gift.  We've earned our way to Hell but getting out of Hell requires the acceptance of the free gift.  You cannot earn your way to Heaven; you must accept the free gift.  But there is more to this lesson than where you will spend eternity.

When Paul was writing to the Romans regarding the wages of sin being death, he was discussing with them righteous living versus living with sin.  He talked about the benefits of each, that there are present-day benefits as well as long-term, more permanent benefits.  Obviously the long term benefits are Heaven instead of Hell, but there is more.  There is life or death in the present, too.  If you sin in your present life, you will earn rewards in those present situations (remember, it is death).  Stated another way, if you sin presently, you can expect to receive present death in your situations.  For instance, if you sin in your marriage, you are earning death for your marriage.  If you sin in your employment, you are earning death for your employment.  If you sin in your parenting techniques, you are earning death for your children.  This list could go on and none of us want present-day death for our situations.  If you have a situation that feels like it is on the brink of death, maybe you have been earning it through your actions, through your sins.

The converse of this is the gift of life.  We've already earned death; now let us accept life for our situations (for our marriages, for our work, for our children, for all of the situations that are on the brink of death).  This acceptance of present-day life is a free gift from the Lord but requires you to receive it.  After you have received it you must cease to earn the wages of sin in that situation.  You are feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit even now as you read this regarding situations in life where you have sin.  It is time to stop earning those wages and start accepting life, present-day life in every area of concern.  Start living life without earning more death.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Job 4:8, Proverbs 11:18, Proverbs 22:8, Hosea 10:12-14, Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 6, Galatians 6:7-8

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Taken Back

Taken Back
March 18, 2013
1 Corinthians 12:11  "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."

Scripture says that the Lord's gifts to us and His call on our lives are irrevocable.  This means no one can take them away and we cannot shake them loose from our lives.  It is in reference to the gifts of clemency and salvation from our sins, and an ever present beckoning to live for Him.  But the Lord doesn't stop there in gift giving.  He has spiritual gifts for each of us, not meant for selfish consumption but for building up His church.  The Lord has given each of you a particular gift, possibly a few, that are upon your life through the power of the Holy Spirit.  They are spiritual treasures to be protected and used for the betterment of the Lord's people.  Those gifts are, but not limited to: wisdom, knowledge, healing, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc.

Those gifts, the spiritual gifts for the building of the church, can those gifts be taken back by the Giver?  Does the Lord take back your spiritual gifts for any reason?  Can you have the power to heal people but then the gift be taken away from you by the Lord?  While there isn't a clear Scripture that declares the Lord to be a taker and not a giver, I believe the Lord will take back your spiritual gifts if He deems it appropriate.  The Bible says that the Lord gives out spiritual gifts "as He determines," which would suggest the Lord has determining criteria.  It is not known what the criteria are, but the Lord does require good stewards in managing His gifts.  This suggests if you are not a good steward with His gifts, then maybe He will not allow them to be manifested in your life.

The Bible is very clear that the gifts are for the edification of the church.  The gifts are to be used for a particular purpose and to be used for good.  Scripture never actually calls the gifts "spiritual gifts," that was a term later added by us in our topical headings for ease in reading the Bible.  The only phrase used in the Bible is "gifts of the Spirit."   To make a point, I will call them "gifts OF the Spirit."  The gifts OF the Spirit are only manifested through our lives in tandem with the Holy Spirit.  We are a conduit or vessel through which the Holy Spirit pours out His power.  The Holy Spirit can turn on the flow of the gifts and turn off the flow of the gifts if deemed necessary for building the Body of Believers.  So, should the conduit or vessel not be appropriate at the time for manifestation, the Spirit will not allow the gifts OF the Holy Spirit to be present.  This isn't the Holy Spirit taking back the gifts but rather it is the Holy Spirit retaining possession of the gifts at all times. 

We are never owners of the gifts of the Spirit.  They are not ours; it is only power that flows through our lives.  We do not possess any power alone and the Spirit would never allow the gifts to be used for sinful purposes.  If it is debated that the gifts can be used as the vessel determines, I would suggest the gift is being faked.  The vessel can stop the gift from being manifested but the vessel cannot conjure up any gift of the Spirit if the Holy Spirit is not willing.  It is imperative then, if you want to develop and strengthen the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life, to be the embodiment of selflessness and righteousness.  They are not your gifts, they are the Lord's to be used as He sees fit only to those deemed good stewards.  If the gifts are not present in your life, then maybe this gives cause for introspective evaluation.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Romans 11:28, Romans 12:5-7, Eph 2:8, 1 Cor 12, 1 Peter 4:9-11

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Puppet or Partner

Puppet or Partner
March 11, 2013
Ephesians 2:10  "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

The Master of the Universe has created each and every one of us.  We were all knit together by the Heavenly Father just for Himself, for His glory.  We were created to worship Him, serve Him, and bring Him honor.  He gave us breath, creating some for noble purposes and some for common purposes.  Our lives are not our own; we were bought with a price, redeemed from death and despair.    He has called us to be co-laborers with His Son, Jesus Christ, to advance His kingdom and fulfill His master plan.  The Lord is sovereign and no plan can come against His own.   He is all powerful and we are very finite, infinitesimal even, compared to His Majesty.  All of this, these words and imagery, might suggest we are the Lord's puppets, pawns.

Some people would argue against the case for being pawns in the Lord's planetary game of chess.  They want to feel good about themselves and so they might call themselves partners in the Lord's work.  I cannot find one Scripture where the Lord considers us partners with Him.  Partnerships can only be formed by equals.  You cannot harness a squirrel and an ox in the same plow.  We are not the Lord's equals; we are not His partners.  Yes, we have been called into fellowship THROUGH Jesus Christ, but we are not partners with the Lord.

If we are not His partners then can we be satisfied with being His puppets, doing His bidding?  I would suggest we are something totally different than a puppet or pawn.  We are the result of His craftsmanship, His workmanship.  He fashioned us and then loved us.  Consider a sculptor pulling the veil off his masterpiece to reveal the result of his life's work.  The cover comes down and all those who see the creation stand in awe at what he has made.  The sculptor falls in love with it, not because it serves him like a robot, but because of it's beauty, because he labored for so long to fashion it just right.  The Lord created us, spending laborious hours fashioning us just right.  But then He did something a sculptor or puppeteer cannot do.  He granted us a free will, releasing us out like butterflies into a garden.  We are not puppets, puppets do not have a free will and a puppeteer can have no loving relationship with a marionette.

We have been released like butterflies but the Lord desires deeply to have a loving relationship with us.  The free will allows us to fly away if we wish; He does not require us to stay with Him in the garden.  But He longs for us, pines for our affection as His children.  When He created us, He became our Father and we are intended to be a family, close-knit and with a common purpose.  He already loved us when He created us, but He hopes we would love Him in return and be united with Him in heart.

The question is not whether we are His puppets or His partners.  The question is, will we live with Him in His garden and love Him like His children?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Joshua 24:15, 2 Samuel 7:22, Isaiah 29:16 & 45:9, John 8:36, Acts 17:25, Romans 8:17-22, Romans 9:21, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Tim 2:20,  Hebrews 6:17, 1 John 4:10 & 19

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Quit

I Quit
March 4, 2013
Galatians 6:9  "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

I Quit.  Yes, that is a statement you've undoubtedly said many times over in your head regarding your Christianity and your circumstances.  You've said it and I've said it.  It is certainly how we feel at times, many days even.  We give a half hearted effort and when things don't pan out perfectly, we get frustrated and have a quitting attitude.  We try not to sin and yet fail at that too, inspiring the quitting attitude in us even more.  We figure it is useless, pointless to go forward.  It's too hard, too long, and too tiring to continue.  We feel unsuccessful, uninspired, and unimportant.  Just quit; that's what we tell ourselves.  But we never do it, we never fully quit.  Sure, we try a little less some days but we never fully quit.  We think of giving up, but we don't.  We can't.  There is something in us that won't let us fully walk away.

Inside each and every one of us is the voice of the Lord pulling us toward Him, toward His calling for our lives.  We hear it, feel it, know it to be real and it keeps us from fully quitting.  It is during this time (of having a quitting attitude) that our resolve actually gets stronger.  It doesn't feel stronger in the moment, just the opposite, but if we don't give up when quitting is the easiest, then we are actually proving our valor.  It seems backward but the human psyche is building it's steadfastness during this time of frustration and futility.

The Apostle Paul tells us not to give up, but stay steadfast.  He, of all people, understood feeling futile from hard efforts.  He was beaten down by the world, tortured, shipwrecked, and abandoned to prison several times.  He failed often in his work and in his personal life, falling short of what the Lord required of him.  Quitting would have been easier than going forward with life.  But he couldn't walk away.  He knew deep down inside of him what the Lord called out for his life.  He understood that he must go on, that he must continue to wake up every morning and try again.

You might feel like you are in the pit of despair, but that feeling of despair could not exist without hope.  Hope is what you still have inside of you; that's why it hurts so badly on days when you want to quit.  Your hope is not yet realized.  Scripture promises there will be an end, a due season of reaping for your hard work.  Only do not quit in your efforts of trying to do good, trying to do the right thing, trying to serve the Lord in whatever task He has called out for you.

Life is never promised to be all rainbows, cruise-ships, and roses.  Sometimes its floods, shipwrecks, and a crown of thorns.  So, have a silent pity party for yourself then get up out of bed, put your boots on, and get back at it.  You have to.  You must.  You cannot quit now.  It is your destiny.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 31:24, Psalm 55:22, Psalm 71:14, Matthew 11:28-30, Romans 5:5, Romans 12:12, Heb 10:24, Heb 12:4-13, Heb 13:5