Thursday, July 26, 2012

Called to Live Counter Culture

We live in a culture where being politically correct is valued more than being honest and not hurting any one's feelings is valued over sharing the truth of the gospel. We live in a culture where no one wants to offend any one and I will be honest in saying that at times I get caught up in that as well. It's a lot less awkward to share a watered down gospel so people will not get offended than to share with people the radical truth, that we are called to die in order that we may live. Jesus requires us to give up everything and follow him. 

This week during my quiet times I have studied the Beatitudes. While I have read them many times before I had never truly meditated on the weight they carry in my life. As you read these words let them sink into your heart and pierce your very being. 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:1-12

These words should not only bring you comfort, but also conviction, as they have for me. This world values money, strength, and pride but Jesus values the poor, weak, and humble. We rely more on Jesus when we have nothing than we have everything. When we are weak He makes us strong and when we are humble God raises us up. If we are truly honest with ourselves we will see that Jesus and the gospel are counter culture. 

It is in our nature to seek the approval of our fellow man, but man didn't create us so we should seek the approval of the one who did, God. He is the one who gives us life and the one who deserves all of our praise. He is the one who has promised us eternal glories in heaven so we can REJOICE when trials come for He has promised comfort. We can be GLAD when persecutions come because our reward is not on earth, but in heaven. We do not answer to man but to God. So press on towards the goal that is waiting for us in heaven, and let us live our lives according to what Jesus has commanded us. He has commanded us to love all people and if we truly love people then we will not withhold the good news of Jesus Christ, even if it is offensive. After all, Jesus himself was offensive. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Who knows best?

Have you ever wanted something so bad, but when you got it it wasn't what you thought it would be? I know I have. I have a tendency to build up things in my mind and have these great expectations only to be disappointed. Even though those experiences are painful and hard I know God uses them for our good and for his glory, because let's be hones, he's in the business of bringing himself glory through our lives and how awesome is that. He can use my crappiest moments, when I feel like I've hit the absolute bottom to bring glory to his name! All I can say to that is thank you God!

I was talking with my mom recently and she said something that really struck me. She said, "sometimes, God gives us what we want only teach us that he knows better." And I started thinking to myself, mom you did it again! She always knows how to pierce straight to my heart and tell me what I need to hear, because at that time I was asking a lot of why questions. Why do things have to be so hard and why didn't this turn out like I had hoped it would? And the answer is because I don't know anything about anything! God knows best and there are many times that I forget that. It's extremely hard to put your complete and utter trust into someone when you've been burned by people time after time. We think we know better. We think we know ourselves the best, but let me tell you I am confident that the one who created me and knit me together in my mother's womb knows me better than I ever thought I could. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9  And how thankful I am that his ways and thoughts are higher than mine, for whenever I get what I thought I wanted it is never what I thought it would be. 

We serve a God who is in the business of working for our good. Romans 8:28 says "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[b] for those who are called according to his purpose." So my question for you is, do you love him? Because we sure know he loves us. (John 3:16) We just need to respond to his love and when we respond to his love with complete and total trust in him he will work all things for our good and for his glory! 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Worry and Prayer Just Don't Mix

" If you're going to pray don't worry and if you're going to worry don't pray." I don't remember where I first heard this quote, but it's something that has stuck with me. So what's the big deal if we worry a little? I mean, as a parent I am sure you feel it is completely justifiable to worry about the safety of your children. As we all have seen on the news, there are a lot of dangerous people in this world and something could go wrong at any minute. Does that mean if you pray for the safety of your children then you should stop worrying about them? Well actually, yes it does. You might feel like that's a little harsh, and it might be, but it's the truth.

Paul tells in Philippians, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6) And right after that he tells what what will happen when we do that. The Holy Spirit will give us a peace that surpasses ALL understanding. Meaning it will be a peace that you human words cannot describe. And let me tell you, I have experienced that peace and it is the most freeing feeling I have ever experienced, knowing there is absolutely nothing I have to be afraid of. And you can experience it to. 

The God of the UNIVERSE will not let the storms over take you. He will not let the waters overcome you for you have a savior who has overcome death. It is true we will suffer in this life, but there are eternal glories waiting for us in Heaven. Jesus suffered greatly, but God glorified him by raising him from the dead and placing him at his right hand to be our mediator. He will do the same His children. Take your worries, fears, and anxieties to God. Offer them up to Him and let Him have them. Do not hold on to them. God has made many promises and he has kept every one. He promised us life and He has given us a way to eternal life, through his son Jesus Christ. It will be hard and there will be times where we are tempted to doubt, and when that happens remember this promise, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Isaiah 43:2

This song has been a great reminder to me that God doesn't promise us an easy life, but He does promise us that He will ALWAYS be there. Enjoy! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Can obedience be natural?

Let's be honest. The obedience part of Christianity isn't where we spend most of our time. We like the part where Jesus willingly chose to die on the cross for us so that we can spend eternity in heaven with him.  And please don't get me wrong. That's the basis for our faith. We're sinners and the only way we can get to God is through the ultimate sacrifice and that ultimate sacrifice came through Jesus living a perfect and blameless life so he could satisfy our dept once for all. BUT, it doesn't stop there. It can't. Why you may ask? Because, we can't accept that radical life altering reality without something about us changing afterward. Our very hearts change so there is no way we can go on living and doing what we did before believing in Jesus. That just wouldn't make sense.

Now, the important thing to remember is that God didn't require obedience before sending Jesus. If he had I'm afraid Jesus would have never made it since there is no way for us to live up the standards of God on our own. So if it wasn't for our lack of obedience that God sent Jesus, why did he do it?  John 3:16 says, "For God so LOVED the world that he sent his only son..." (emphasis mine). How do you respond to someone who loves you unconditionally? You want to please them, right? I know I do. When my husband shows me his unconditional love for me I want nothing more than to please him. That is my response to his love. Do you see where I'm going with this?? I bet you do. Understanding obedience as my natural response to God's love for me drastically changed my perception of what it means to obey. It's not always easy, though. Things happen in our lives that make it difficult to obey because they cause us to question God's love, but remember what I said yesterday, sometimes those things are used as discipline. And let's be honest, discipline doesn't feel good. It's supposed to hurt, because it is meant to change a behavior. 

I spent time in Hebrews 5 this morning and discovered that even Jesus learned obedience! Hebrews 5:8 says,"Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered." That statement has been with me all day. I began to ponder something. I asked this what God is trying to do in my life? And it suddenly become very clear. I have spent too much time trying to plan my own life while at the same time blatantly ignoring God's plan for me life. And who do you think knows best? Not me of course! And it looks like it has taken me a few trials to finally realize this truth, but it is such a freeing realization. I am now seeking everyday to say God, what you want is what I want and I will go where you want me to go. And I'll be honest, it's one of the best feelings to have. I find myself no longer worrying about where my husband and I will be next year and whether or not we'll be ready for babies because you know what?? There is someone who already knows when all of that will happen and that someone is my Creator! Wow, talk about a true relief. So now, obedience feels natural, I won't say it's easy, but the Holy Spirit has placed the desire in my heart. My God loves me so much and has an awesome plan for my life so why on earth would I not want to obey him?? And what's even better is, he has an equally awesome plan for you life and wants so badly to share it with you. So I encourage you to experience the great love he has for, let the Holy Spirit awaken your heart, and respond to God with the desire to obey so that you can discover what he has in store for you!

And to answer the question, can obedience be natural? YES! It's not going to be easy, but as we grow in our faith and begin to understand the true depth of God's love for us then desiring to obey his commands will become a natural response.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why do bad things happen?

Why do bad things happen to good people? As a Christian, I can honestly say I've struggles with this question. Over the past few months, though, I discovered some pretty awesome and comforting answers. Probably my favorite answer to date comes from a sermon I heard a few months ago and that is, "for one, we're not good people." After I heard that it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Duh we're not good people. We're sinners. That's not the only answer, though. Jesus also didn't promise us a life free of suffering. Jesus says in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves..." If God's one and only son was beaten and put to death how can we think that as his followers our lives will be filled with rainbows and butterflies? It's ridiculous! But, we can take comfort in knowing that just as we share in Christ's suffering we will also share in his glory! (2 Corinthians 1:5) Knowing that I will delight when bad things happen because I know the glory I will experience when my time on earth is finished. 

There's another answer to this question. When bad things happen, God's power is made known. When I think about the times I pray the most, and spend the most time seeking after God in his word, it's always during times of adversity. When a close friend died, when my parents got divorced, when my husband lost his job. When we've exhausted all our options is when we seek the hardest after God. And don't you think he knows that? 2 Corinthians 12:9 says "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." What a sobering thought. When we're weak is when Christ's power rests on us. 

Don't let hardships and adversity push you away from God or cause you to questions his love. God is our father and at times fathers must discipline their children, but Proverbs 3 reminds us, "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." So, if you are going through a hard time do not lose hope. Put your hope in the one who loves you, in the one who has kept every promise he has ever made, and the only one who will never let you down, your heavenly Father. During hard times I am always reminded of the story of Esther. She didn't ask to be chosen as the one to carry out God's plan to deliver the Jews and she knew it was going to be hard and death was surely a possibility, talk about difficult times. When she was questioning it all the words of Mordecai rang in her ears, "...And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14