Monday, June 27, 2011

Are You Wearing the Right Shoes?

The right shoes are so important. Now, i'm not talking about fashion, although i will agree that the right shoes can make an outfit. =) I'm talking about the right shoes for other activities. The runner needs the right shoes so he/she can run as fast as possible. And if you're really into track & field, you know that cleats keep you from slipping & sliding when you try to throw the javelin. Some athletes dream of standing, during an awards ceremony with gold medals around their necks. To achieve this it takes talent & a lot of hard work. But there is a more valuable ornament than a gold medal.
"My son, preserve sound judgement & discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace you neck. They you will go on your way safely, & your foot will not stumble"
Proverbs 3:21-23 (NIV)

Sound judgement & discernment are the medals that we can earn when we walk in wisdom. It's true, money can take us places, but it can only take us so far. And money does provide a sense of security in providing a roof over our heads & food on our tables. But wisdom.....wisdom is the footwear we need to run the race of life that God has given us. Wisdom will help us make the journey from our earthly to our everlasting life.

"Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this; that, wisdom preserves the life of its possessor."
Ecclesiastes  7:12 (NIV)

God doesn't promise a flat road for us to walk or run on, but He does promise that when we walk in His wisdom, He'll give us solid footing -- no matter how smooth or steep & rocky the road is. That's the ultimate security! Money can't do that. And no matter what shoes we're wearing -- nursing shoes, work boots, high heels, or flip flops, we can walk securely. God equips us to follow Him through the Bible, through prayer, through His Spirit, & through other Christians. My mom planted a very strong seed of faith in my life. But she went to be with Jesus before i surrendered my life to Him. My aunt (Mom's sister) continued tending that seed through prayer, encouragement & being a living example. I see her as not only my aunt & my friend, but as a spiritual mentor also.

If you're not wearing the right spiritual shoes right now, a spiritual mentor can help you find the correct size & fit. Who in your life can coach you in the ways of wisdom through Jesus Christ? Ask God to lead you to that person today & to help you grow in His wisdom.

"....if you look for it as for silver & search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord & find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom & from His mouth comes knowledge & understanding."
Proverbs 2:4-6 (NIV)

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Mark of a Christian

Do you remember how Cinderella looked when she arrived at the ball? There were all of the whispers about who she was & how beautiful she was. Suppose Jesus said to you, "Let's give them something to talk about." Wouldn't it be wonderful if people would see the reality of Christ after being with you?
If we are honest with ourselves, we do care about what people think of how we least some of the time. If that weren't the case, the diet & beauty industries wouldn't be so profitable. But what really matters is that we be a Godly person. Someone who possesses so much of Jesus in their heart that people believe He exists because He is so powerful in us. My husband often says, "Don't tell me you're a Christian. Show me you're a Christian." Imagine that you're in a room with other people - perhaps a business meeting setting, or something of that nature. When you leave the room, wouldn't it be awesome if the people would comment about building their relationship with Jesus because they see Him shining through you?

Do you know what the Bible says is the mark of a Christian? Our views on abortion or homosexuality? Or involvement in a Bible believing church? Our stance on salvation? No. Our convictions are important. But the mark of a Christian is love. When we can live a life of love, people do take notice. When we can overcome our differences of denominations, race, culture, etc. & truly love each other, non believers may think: "Maybe there really is something to this Christianity thing."

Jesus prayed for all of us before He was arrested:
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one. Father, just as you are in me & I am in You. may they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent me, that they may be in me as we are one: I am in them & you are in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me & have loved them even as You have loved me."
John 17:20-23 (NIV)

In The Mark Of A Christian, Francis  Schaeffer explains that if we really love each other, the world is drawn to Christ. But if we don't the world dismisses us as just another club. 

Love is the mark of a Christian because God is love.

"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, & God in Him."
I John 4:16b (NIV)

It's one thing to make a pledge to the Lord in a single moment. It's another thing to truly make a lifelong commitment to Him, day after day, after day. But when you choose to live consistently in the love of God, then that love will be complete in you.

I understand that it can take time to know God's heart & to trust His goodness. It takes getting quiet in order to hear Him. It takes a child like trust to hold on to His hand. But once you have experienced His faithfulness, you will never want to let go & walk away. God's love does not mean freedom from trouble, but the knowledge that when trouble does come, God will not abandon nor betray us. His perfect love cast out fear because we know He is coming & that His love is here to stay.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just Like the First Time

Do you remember the Neil Diamond - Barbra Streisand song "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"? The song expressed the sadness of being taken for granted. The lovers missed the flowers, the love songs & the anticipation of being together. They miss the romance. Imagine Jesus singing this song to you. To His followers of Ephesus, He practically did.
"I know your deeds, your hard work & your preserverence. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, & have found them false. You have preservered & have endured hardships for my name & had not grown weary."
Revelation 2:2-3 (NIV)
But....the romance was gone.
"Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent & do the things you did at first...."
Revelation 2:4-5a (NIV)

Do you remember what it felt like when you first loved Jesus? The anticipation of what He had in store for you!? The excitement!? The thankfulness for each breath you took!? You wanted to share with everyone how your heart overflowed with His love so that they could feel it too. Are you as excited about Jesus today as you were then? If not, you need to do the 3 things that Jesus pleaded the the people of Ephesus to do:
1)  Remember the heights from which you have fallen
2)  Repent
3)  Do the things you did at first.

If you don't address these things, your life may become increasingly dull. And we all know that when we become bored, we look for diversions. 

But be careful, we could find the wrong diversions which could be a perfect set up for the enemy. And we all know how tricky he is. You may feel excitement for the moment, but afterwards, there's twice as much grief & despair. The consequences of sin are much higher that the enemy would have us believe. This is a hard place to be. especially when we find ourselves there because of our own wrong choices. The guilt can be overwhelming & we have trouble forgiving ourselves. But if you find yourself in this situation, there is a wonderful & even more exciting way out. God wants us to repent....actually, He wants us to be in a constant state of repentance. As human beings, God has given us the freedom of choice, so therefore we do make mistakes. And when we do, He wants us to stop & make a U turn. Just remember though, remorse isn't going to accomplish anything by itself. Changes must be involved too. Remorse is only sadness, without change.

Don't tell lies --- Tell the truth
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood & speak truthfully to his neighbors, for we are all members of one body."
Ephesians 4:25 (NIV)

Don't steal --- Work
"He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, then he may have something to share with those in need."
Ephesians 4:28 (NIV)

Don't speak harshly --- Speak kindly
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Don't harbor malice --- Forgive.
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage & anger, brawling & slander, along with every form of malice."
Ephesians 4:31 (NIV)

And last, but certainly not least ---
"Be kind & compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

Keeping all this in mind, you can feel the excitement of loving Jesus every single day. With a heart overflowing with anticipation of what the day will bring. His love shining through you to every one you meet. Every day can be like the first time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Are You Hiding Your Habits?

In the Song of Songs, the lover comes, leaping across the mountains & invites his beloved to go higher with him:
"Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, & come with me." (Song of Songs 2:10)
But she is content. She has camped out
"in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside." (2:14)
She refuses to go higher with him, afraid of what it might involve.

Many of us are like that & have become satisfied with where we are. Our Christian life may be like that too. Maybe you've gone so far with the Lord, but are now in a "hiding place". There are those who may be so busy with Christian service, but they really don't want to surrender some of their hidden habits to Jesus. Sometimes, we are as sick as our secrets & end up doing things because of brokenness instead of wholeness. Jesus wants us to live differently & He longs to set us free. He calls us to take His hand & keep climbing. Maye you seem happy, but inside, you're not. And with each call from Jesus, you feel sadder because you know the change might be inconvenient, or even painful.

Breaking bad habits, especially those we have practiced for a long time, take drastic measures. Going higher will involve suffering. Think of your bad habit as a broken bone. Your first visit to the doctor involves pain, because the bone needs to be set straight so it can heal properly. But if you don't go to the doctor & instead, "let nature take its course", your bone will heal improperly & you may be crippled for life. We must trust the Great Physician, even if the treatment is painful & difficult. But it can be done & it will be worth it. Some people may say, "That's just the way I am". But in Christ, we have the power to change. We must strive to be the way He is.

Remember to be aware. We do have an enemy on the prowl who would love to keep us from climbing higher with God. Satan will lie to us & try to fan the flames of our passions & encourage us to live in the moment. He will try to fan the flames of our fears to keep us in that hiding place. He'll tell you that a little bit of back sliding is no big deal. But Jesus always gives us the grace to make the right decisions. We may be sad & discouraged, but He is always there to lead us to the cross where His blood for us was shed, so that we find new life.