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Posts Tagged ‘change’

change

Once upon a time there lived a man who wanted to change the world for the better.  He wanted to make clear statements about social injustice, the place of politics and government, and help all those who would care to listen and follow his lead on the road that leads to positive change and personal growth.

One by one, the man spoke to others.  He prayed for them.  He got to know them.  He helped them and healed them by simply doing what his father sent him out to do.  Sometimes, he had to correct them because all of them made poor choices and bad decisions at one point or another.

After some time, many began to follow him.  Others began to hate him.  Some were not sure and watched from the sidelines as he continued to amaze and overcome the entire world as they knew it.  Eventually, he was murdered out of jealousy by those he offered nothing more than love and friendship.

I am not one much for arguing politics, football, presidents, or protests.  I believe presenting and arguing for the truth of the gospel and applying it practically is where all battles are truly won.  Bringing clarity from the scriptures is the only way to rightly diagnose and treat the condition of sick, angry, erring human hearts.

The state our nation is in is shameful and not one of us can point the finger at another for our wretched condition.  It is time to stop complaining and blaming and start doing the simple things that lead to change.  If every single person that had an opinion about what football players were doing about the National Anthem yesterday was working to better their own community somehow, help their neighbors, and be a light in the world we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  You know why?  Because we would all be too busy doing good to care what a bunch of overpaid hypocrites did or didn’t do with their influence, their money, and their game playing.  Change starts with you.  It is does not start with the president, your boss, your kids, your church, your husband, your wife, your mother, your father, or a football team.  None of their decisions are your decisions.  Your decisions decide what kind of influence you will bring to the table of this world.  Focus on that.

As far as the actions of others, namely football players on September 24, 2017, say the truth.  Give your two cents and then work to be the kind of person you want others to be.  Truth be told, for most people watching this whole charade, the reason they are kneeling is largely unclear.  They claim to be standing up for social justice but all the world sees is grown men sitting down, hiding out in locker rooms, and refusing to participate in what most of the country still believes is a gesture of great importance, respect, and honor.  The last time I checked, standing up for what you believe did not involve staying hidden from view when you do so.  Not only that, but can a large group of multimillionaires not find anything more helpful and altruistic to do for those they claim to be kneeling down in support of than igniting outrage in people who just showed up to watch football?

I do not care which side of the debate you are on, cowardice is cowardice.  If you need to stand, stand.  If you need to kneel, kneel.  But there is no respect for a person or a group of people who claim to want to make a statement about unity, hide while making it, and, in so-doing knowingly divide their audience.

We live in a culture where abstaining from difficult conversation, debate, critical thinking, and honest reasoning together is obsolete and has even become taboo.  Avoidance, silent treatments, and the lack of accountability are the things that will ultimately destroy what is left of the solid foundation of this country.  Recognize that.  Change it in your own life and relationships.  Talk about hard things without shutting differing opinions out.  Debate important issues without becoming enemies.  Pray for those who fail to see what is true.  Serve everyone.  Live to love even when you are hated.  Read the gospel and then read it again.  Preach and teach the gospel.  Make disciples.  Jesus Christ showed us exactly what to do in the midst of this kind of hostility.  He was willing to shed his own blood so that others could be free.  Kind of sounds like the guys who fought for the symbol in question.  Stop bending your knee in protest and start laying down your life in love.  Go.

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altar

In Exodus 20:22-26, we find Moses meeting with God.  He has just walked into the darkness after God has given the 10 Commandments and all the people are afraid.  Moses is elected mediator and he enters God’s presence on Mt. Sinai.  Here, God begins to expound about the commands he just gave.  In this passage, we find God giving details as to how to carry out worship to him and how to avoid breaking the first two commandments he has just given.

22 And the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ ~Exodus 20:22-26

In verse 22, God instructs Moses to tell His people that because they have seen for themselves that he has come down and condescended them from heaven – because they have personally witnessed God’s presence among them – that there should be no need to break command number one.  There should be no reasonable excuse for you to make images of God as if he were not present.  Not only that, but they had experienced God’s voice, not his form.  They had not seen any images of Him to even have the ability to make a proper representation even if they had been permitted to do so.  This served as a reminder to both they and we that we must keep close to God and his presence on account of his Word alone.

In verse 23, God forbids making gods out of fine materials.  He knew the people were apt to use their silver and gold to make images and set them up beside him in pretense of worship to him.  With these, they pretended to worship and honor God but actually became guilty of idolatry and worshipped them in place of or in addition to God.  In other words, they started out with the idea that they were going to use their best, most expensive materials to make the most elaborate things to worship god with, but ended up worshipping those things their hands had made as idols.  They stopped giving honor and glory to God and began giving it to the things their hands had made.

Next, verse 24-26 instructs the building of altars and promises a blessing where he is remembered.  The altars were to be made of earth or unhewn stone.  The altar was to be a place of honor and worship to God.  Therefore, God determined that it ought to be made from the unadulterated versions of what he created without man’s modifications.  The composition of the altar was to remind men that they cannot improve upon God’s building blocks for change. Furthermore, they may be tempted to make a graven image if they were permitted to finish the stones rather than using them as they found them.   Finally, the humble, base materials God called for here coupled with the lowness with which they were to be constructed were to help God’s people realize that worship to God ought to be humble and self-abasing rather than external, flashy, prideful, and pompous.

Matthew Henry says this in relation to God’s promise to meet with them and bless them anywhere his name is remembered: “In all places where I record my name, or where my name is recorded (that is, where I am worshipped in sincerity), I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.  Afterwards, God chose one particular place wherein to record his name: but that being taken away now under the gospel, when men are encouraged to pray everywhere, this promise revives in its full extent, that wherever God’s people meet in his name to worship him, he will be in the midst of them, he will honor them with his presence, and reward them with the gifts of his grace; there he will come unto them, and will bless them, and more than this we need not desire for the beautifying of our solemn assemblies.” 

So, what does this mean for us today?  The practical applications are thus:

  1. God’s Word alone is to be sufficient evidence of his enduring presence with us.
  2. We must recognize and be on guard against the temptation that comes by setting out to build God’s kingdom starting with what we consider the best materials when we are actually building a kingdom for ourselves because we love those things and the praise and honor that comes with them more than we love God.  True worship and acceptable sacrifice is a result of what God gives, not what man makes.
  3. The place of change, worship, and sacrifice ought to be a place of noticeable humility and lowliness rather than extravagance and man-made showmanship.
  4. God honors the gathering together of his people no matter how humble and small the group is.  If he is being honored and his name is being lifted up and remembered among us, that is a place God is bound and determined to bless.

 

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confess

“Is anyone among you suffering?”

Can any one of us answer this question with anything other than an absolutely overwhelming, “YES!?”  We all personally know many, many people who are suffering every single day.  In chapter 5, James tells us that their comfort is found in prayer.  He gives only one instruction for those suffering: pray.

“Is anyone cheerful?”

What do we do when we experience joy?  James tells us to sing praise to God.  I recently had a miraculous experience wherein joy was poured out upon me.  When we are happy, it is hard to contain.  Should we?  James says no.

“Is anyone sick?” 

There is a prescription for sickness, too.  Those who battle illness are instructed to call for the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.

Do we, the church, go directly to these commands when suffering, or cheerful, or sick?  Do we do these things?  Are these our first lines of defense and reaction?  Do we believe this?  Do we do them?

Because our churches are chock full of sufferers and sickness.  And last time I felt extraordinarily cheerful, I actually felt out of place and insensitive for just being so – even without saying so – among all the downcast hearts.

Why are these things rarely happening on any given Sunday in the church today?  We know we have suffering, cheer, and sickness.  There can be no doubt about that.  But where is prayer?  Where is non-rehearsed, naturally overflowing, honest praise?  Where is leader-led laying on of hands and anointing with oil prayer?

James goes on.  He gives us the means to this end.  Maybe the means are what is truly missing.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Aha.  Confession.  Confession – specifically in community – is the means to these ends.  Confession in community is the remedy for suffering.  Confessing that one is suffering is the first line of defense against that suffering.  When we hide our suffering from one another – whether it is not our fault, sin-related, or otherwise – we fail to ask for and receive prayer.  We often fail to pray because of doubt and discouragement.  We miss healing and wholeness because of the fear of man and pride.  Those who suffer are commanded to confess those things and to pray and be prayed for.  The same instructions pertain to those who are sick.

The cheerful have other confessions to make.  The cheerful are commanded to sing praise.  When God blesses us with good times, we are called to give him glory.  We are instructed to sing praise.  Our good is not just for our benefit.  Our good is meant to give to those around us.  We give him glory by confessing his goodness in community.

So why does the church struggle so with transparent community if that is exactly what we are commanded to do?  Community that laughs together, cries together, confesses together, and learns together?  To know and be known?  To share and to care?  To give and to receive?

I am sure there a too many reasons to count, but I have considered a few.

1. Misplaced Fear

Many in the church fear men over God.  We often fear what someone may think or say of us when and if we are honest about our sin, our doubts, our joy, or our disbelief.  There is a severe lack of willingness to be known within the church for this reason.  Still, failure to confess does not only make us superficial and fake, it proves us painfully dishonest.

2. Pride

Confessing our struggles, our sins, our sickness, and even our joy can become a matter of personal pride and preference.  There is an attitude going on in our world and our church today that says, “I am above others and I will never let them see my imperfections.  I will listen to theirs and judge them but I will never reveal mine.  I cannot look less than because I value my reputation more than God’s Word.  I want respected.”  This kind of prideful pretending is a lie straight from the pit of hell.  God is probably up there saying, “Please, get over yourself and listen to me.”

3. Ignorance

There are those who see everyone’s sin except their own.  They are completely ignorant of their own offenses and even when enlightened by well-meaning brothers and sisters, they refuse to acknowledge the truth that would set them free.  These are the religious – perhaps the most difficult group to preach the gospel to.

4. Love of sin

No one likes to suffer or remain sick but many love the sin that holds them in those bondages.  Everyone wants help as long as they do not have to change.  The church must not enable this kind of attitude by failing to call people to repentance and confession.  We cannot pretend there is no problem when it is clear that rebuke is in order.

These are just a few examples that I believe shed light upon why our churches are full of people who are suffering, sick, and fail to honestly confess to and pray with one another. Brian T. Anderson puts it this way in his book, Six Habits of Highly Effective Christians:

Many of the healing miracles Jesus performed involved physical healings.  But Jesus also healed broken hearts, broken relationships, broken dreams, and broken identities.  These are just some types of healing we can experience when we confess our sins to each others and pray for each other. 

Community is one place where is is fully safe for us to take off our masks and know the healing power of being known and loved.  Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were naked and not ashamed.  The idea behind this is there were no secrets.  They were fully known and loved.  Everything about them was revealed.

What happens in many churches is that people attend every week, but no one knows them, and they are dying inside.  Nobody knows their fears, their dreams, or their problems. That’s not Jesus’ plan for his community.  The only way to receive healing is to make the choice to begin living in community with other people.” 

Amen.  Amen, amen, amen, amen.  It does not get any truer than that.  If we want to be healed and set free, we must be honest.  We must confess to one another.  We must work to know Him and one another and be known by Him and by one another.

Satan loves pretense.  He loves to masquerade.  Stop acting like him, church.  You belong to Christ.

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flowers

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

Husbands are called to love, that is, to show love in their actions and speech towards their wives.  Their natural tendency and temptation is not to.  Paul wouldn’t have specified this if it were not so.

This, the second instruction given by Paul for human relationships, is obviously not for me.  But I do know something of what he is talking about.  I don’t really like to focus on things that God instructs others to do because I feel our priorities lie in searching out the things he instructs us to do.  But I can tell you what a loving husband looks like.

Despite my undeservedness, I have a husband who tries very hard to show love.  He works hard and provides for our family.  He apologizes when he is wrong.  He buys me flowers for no reason.  He sacrifices his precious little time for me and for our kids.  He says good things of me.  He asks me what I need.  He prays for me and with me daily.  He compliments me.  He tells me he loves me.  He takes care of me when I am sick or tired.  He tries to do right.  He follows Christ.  He forsakes things that cause me pain or fear.  He forgives me.  He treats me as an equal.  He is growing out of harshness and replacing it with patience, kindness, and love.  He does good to me every day and I could not be more thankful.  God has richly blessed me with a husband who proves to look more like Christ every day.

Just as my failure or success in the area of submission and respect toward him can make it easier or harder for him to love me well, his obedience to love me well can make the difference in how difficult it is for me to submit to him.  Neither is responsible for the others’ obedience, however, regardless of the other’s failure or success.  In other words, just because your spouse is not obeying God in these instructions, it does not get you off the hook as responsible for obeying God in these instructions.  Obeying might just be the catalyst for their repentance.

If your husband is not loving, do not give up.  Obey God and respect him.  If he is harsh, answer kindly.  Try not to react.  Stop expecting him to change and instead expect God to work.  Pray.  The Lord will honor your obedience and fill up where your husband lacks.  If you are a husband, find out how to love your wife.  Ask her.  She will tell you.  Obey God and trust him even when your spouse fails.

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cross

“I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love…” ~Michael Jackson

Have you ever wondered if you are part of the problem?  I have.  I was.  Listen carefully.

Fayette County.  What do you think of when you hear those words?

Fascinating history; purple mountains capped with snow in the winter, every hue in autumn, unique wildlife, and beautiful greenery in the spring and summer; opportunities to serve the less fortunate; faces who need my encouragement; great talent; natural wonders; friends; beautiful people.

I could go on.  I bet you could, too.  I know you could, in fact, because I see you shake your head.  I hear you almost everywhere I go.  You say other things, though – the things I used to say.

Obesity; welfare; ignorance; entitlement; drugs; crime; ugliness; deceit; poverty; teen pregnancy; domestic abuse; violence; fatherless children; deadbeat dads; strife; junkies; homelessness; discontentment; complaining; child abuse; hopelessness; despair; depression; wastefulness; trash; lazy people; unworthiness; bitterness; resentment.

Is there more to the story than we see?  Why, of all the places on this vast universe Our Creator could have put us, did he chose this one?  There is a reason, readers, and it is not to give us a superiority or and inferiority complex.

“Who am I to be blind pretending not to see their need?” ~Michael Jackson

In my opinion, there is exactly one problem in Fayette County.  One.  Yes, this one trumps them all.  It knows no color or class.  It infiltrates them all.  It is a problem I have had my entire life.  I am a native, after all.  That problem is properly termed “entitlement.”

Entitle: verb 1. to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim.

Claim: verb 1. to demand by or as by virtue of a right; demand as a right or as due: to claim an estate by inheritance. 2. to assert and demand the recognition of (a right, title, possession, etc.); assert one’s right to: to claim payment for services. 3. to assert or maintain as a fact. 4. to require as due or fitting.

When a person believes she deserves more, better, faster, newer, nicer, than what she has already been so graciously given, she stalls out.   Whether that already is a dry crust of bread or a meal fit for a king, it really makes no difference.  One who cannot be content with little will scarcely ever be content with much.  Her attitude shifts with every whim.  There can be no gratitude.  No thanks can be given in exchange for good things.  That person is ever discontent.  Her glass is always half empty.  She never stops to think that she is the one who drank the other half and failed to appreciate it.  She never sees the amazing gifts that have been placed in her hands.  She is greedy.  She is spoiled.  She sees blessings as burdens.  She sees opportunities as intruders.

Oh!  How dark our lives become when we fail to look for what’s right in the world!  We cannot deny what is wrong, but we can use our positivity to help change it.  Or, we can complain.  We can grumble.  We can blameshift.  We can look down upon.  We can shake our heads and we can hate.

Fayette County, it is a choice.  No one and nothing can make you bitter, unhappy, dissatisfied, or disgusted.  Those attitudes are choices.  I know because I had them all.  They belong to the entitled.

I don’t know about you, but I want to play for the other team – the one known as “Thankful.”

Thankful.  Thankful to whom?  God.  The gospel.  Restoration.  Redemption.  Yes, redemption.  Even for a county the whole world hates.  Even for a girl who hated the whole world.

Then sings my soul! My Savior, God, to Thee!  How great Thou art!

Are you part of the problem?  I was.  And I am here to say I am so, so sorry.  I need to ask your forgiveness.  I live in a beautiful place with beautiful people who need exactly what God, in his infinite grace, just so happened to give specifically to me – a beautiful smile.  I’m never going to stop using it, Fayette County, because I love you and I love your people.  I pray the Lord will use me to give you and your children hope.

Please don’t shake your head at me.  Remember that once upon a time the God of the Universe lived in a throw away town that everyone loved to hate, too.

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. ~John 1:44-46

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speeding

Dense fog covers the highway.  Slow down.  I remember yesterday’s warning and I stop speeding.  For the remainder of my trip I think of him.

Grace.  The man in uniform extended grace as unexpected as his presence.  No ticket was issued.  No points were affixed.  Despite my best attempts to let luck run out, life number nine was not the end.

I live speeding.  I’ve been stopped at least half a dozen times in the past year.  I have no excuse.  Generally, I don’t even have a reason.  The tickets don’t faze me.  But today I am changed.  Today I was overcome with gratitude when I turned onto that foggy 25 mph road where I was stopped the day before.

I thought about what I would say if I was stopped again and it grieved me.  Then, a miracle for the girl who married a drag racing mad man.  I slowed down.  I drove 25 mph for the several mile stretch through town.  During what had always felt like a total waste of time, I looked around.  I gave thanks.  I appreciated my surroundings and the laws that seek to protect them.

It was grace that slowed me down.  It was grace that corrected my hellbent rebellion.  It is grace that makes me stop and think about the goodness of the law.  It is grace that grieves me when I find myself breaking it again.

It grieves me.  When the mercy of a man who owes you nothing but a forceful demand for retribution shows up on your doorstep, all that’s left to do is take a good, hard look at your own careless, sneaking rebellion in light of his goodness.  One cannot help but grieve.

But I was let go.  No penalty.  I got away with it, right?  I should be laughing.  But, no.  When forgiveness finds us, forgetfulness about our most famous failures is not an option.  No.  There is only one option – slowing down, grieveing over our misconduct, and living a life filled with newfound appriciation for the grandiose gift we were freely given.

Will I ever break the speed limit again?  Chances are I will, albeit unintentionally, still fail at times.  I do know this, though, there scarce will come a day when I drive 60 mph through that particular 25 mph stretch without slowing down and remembering the goodness of that one man’s grace.  His road is safe with me.

Furthermore, when I am struggling to extend grace to those who have offended me, I will ever think of him.

No amount of punishment changes a heart as stubborn as mine.  That’s why Jesus came extending lavish grace.  He knows tickets don’t really faze us.  Bit and bridle may change behavior, but only grace and mercy bind the heart to blithe obedience.  That, my dear readers, is why the gospel works and prisons do not.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyoVJfADlwo

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maleficent


Surprising as it was creative, Angelina Jolie’s new movie Maleficent captured my heart. Expecting a dark story line about a sinister witch, I came out reminding myself never to jump to hasty conclusions about either sketchy or squeaky clean characters until the whole story is told.

Disney hit the mark once again successfully finding a way to make identifying with their main character effortless and natural.  Let’s face it, unless you’re under 16 and going through a Gothic phase, Maleficent is an unlikely role model at first glance.  As a Christian, home schooling mom of three young girls who has never once been tempted to paint my fingernails with jet black polish, making Maleficent my mentor is no small feat.  Nevertheless, Disney managed to do just that.  *Spoiler alert* Here’s how:

Maleficent did do something terribly selfish and wrong as we were schooled by the original Sleeping Beauty  – this much is true.  It is what was done to her before that act that changes one’s heart about who she really is underneath.  An unimaginable evil had been done to her by the only man she’d ever trusted – by the only man she’d ever loved.  He had all of her and he stole the part of herself she held most dear for his own greed.

Maleficent took revenge.  She made sure the pain she had experienced did not pale in comparison to the pain she inflicted.  Still, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Maleficent learns as much after the fact.

When Maleficent was maimed by the one she loved, she was still very strong and powerful, but, she was no longer free.  She allowed the immense pain felt in her heart and the entrapment of her circumstances to turn her whole world black, color her decisions dark, and drive her to do evil.  She was no longer happy or kind or full of joy as she had always been before.  Because of the magnitude of what she suffered, she forgot how to be who she really was – the leader who protected others from evil.

That is the crux of the story.  That is how Disney wins.  Everyone wants to believe they are a good person who, once in a while, does bad things when seriously provoked.  No one wants to believe they are a bad person who is acting out their true character when evil emerges from within.  Unless, of course, they are innately evil in which case they may identify more with the king in this film.

It got me to thinking…are there really good people and bad people?  Is it really that simple?  Many will say, “Yes.”  I believe the answer is, “No.”  There are only changed people and unchanged people.  By the end of the movie, Maleficent was among the changed.  She was as beautiful as she had ever been inside and out, only now she was mature in her beauty and her character.  I guess she had to be an ugly duckling for a moment in time in order to get there.  I guess we all do on our way to forgiveness, grace, and maturity.  One cannot grow in grace if she need never find a reason to extend it.  She cannot learn to forgive if she is not first grievously offended.  One cannot learn selflessness without having to sacrifice.  She cannot fully mature if she is not tested and proven through a whole life of trials, failures, successes, blessing and adversity.  Even Jesus Christ in all his perfection was not fully mature in obedience until he walked through his suffering.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” ~Hebrews 5:8-9

Maleficent’s anger and and revenge only lasted a moment.  She was not the monster we all thought she was all these years.  She was simply hurt.  As the old adage goes, hurt people hurt people.  But she learned how to love truly through forgiveness, grace, and mercy…just like non-Gothic stay at home moms who love Jesus and are afraid of witches.  Matter of fact, I believe that is the only way it has ever been done.

Bravo, Disney.  Maleficent was magnificent!

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