Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Are A Slave

I was reading in Romans 6 this morning... one of my favorite "battle" chapters when it comes to renewing the desire to obey the Lord at all costs. I just love how the Lord will speak so loud and clear when I am in need of it. I have been listening to "The Pursuit of God" by A.W. Tozer on the way to work for some added meditation throughout the day and part of the chapter I listened to was the following:

Anyone who might feel reluctant to surrender his will to the will of another should remember Jesus' words, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." We must of necessity be servant to someone, either to God or to sin. The sinner prides himself on his independence, completely overlooking the fact that he is the weak slave of the sins that rule his members. The man who surrenders to Christ exchanges a cruel slave driver for a kind and gentle Master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

I just love how He will drive a point deep into my heart when I need it... and yet He does it in such a kind, loving, gentle and faithful manner. His yoke really is easy, and His burden, light. "His commands are not burdensome." God, help me to continually find submission to You a delight. Tune my heart to sing Your praise.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Simple Truths

I have never been a big reader. This is generally not a good thing because there is so much wisdom to be gained through God's Word and through godly men and women that have gone before us. One of the struggles that I always face when reading something new is, "Should I continue reading even if I've read more than I can apply right now?" I am fearful of listening to truth and it not penetrating my heart. The truth that doesn't penetrate my heart will tend to make my heart harder. Any truth rejected is yet another barrier to tear down. I have come to the conclusion that it is good to continue reading because those truths will come to mind at the right times when I really need to be applying them. At the same time, I do not want to ignore the danger of hearing truth and not responding in full obedience to it. I was reading tonight in Psalm 33 and thinking about how the simple truths within it have such a huge impact on how I live.

Here are just a few phrases from Psalm 33:
The Word of the Lord is upright.

All His work is done in faithfulness.

Let all the earth fear the Lord.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever.

He sees all the sons of men.

He fashions the hearts of them all.

He understands all their works.

The eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him.

He is our help and our shield.
It kind of scares me to read a passage like this. Yes, I rejoice very much in the character of God as described here, but it scares me that I could potentially read these things and ignore the impact that they must have on my heart. Let's just look at the first few for example.

The Word of the Lord is upright: If I truly believe that God's Word is right in every way, I must submit my every thought, attitude and action to His instruction within it. How does this change the way I read the Word?

All His work is done in faithfulness: If He is completely faithful and He is in the process of conforming me into the image of His Son, I must be fully faithful. This also means that I have no excuse. He has never failed at acoomplishing His work and He has never been slow in doing it. He is the perfect Father, the perfect Shepherd, the perfect High Priest, the perfect Sacrifice, the perfect Judge. He does all these things with complete faithfulness and He calls me to be filled with the Spirit and faithfulnes is one of the fruits of the Spirit's work inside me. How ought this to impact how I treat my coworkers? How should this impact the way I treat my family? How does this impact the words I say to friends? How does this change my level of commitment to the Lord and His ways? How does this effect my view of sin? How does this change the way I love the Lord?

Let all the earth fear the Lord: This command is to me and to everyone else, but I would do well to take responibility for fearing Him as I ought before attempting to get the whole world to do so lest I fall in the category of one that has cleaned the outside of the cup and still has an inside full of filth. Am I truly living in the fear of the Lord and is this causing my heart to worship Him more, or am I living in the fear of man and doing things to please men rather than God? Do I understand His power enough to flee from any kind of sin at all costs? Do I honor Him in front of my boss, my coworkers, my friends, my family? Am I continually obedient and submissiveto His ways because of my understanding and reverence of Him and the glory He deserves?

I think you can get the picture why it is a bit scary for me to just read a chapter like Psalm 33. The natural tendency is just to move on and check off the chapter as being read, but unless God changes my heart with these things, is it profitable?

God, help me to take Your Word seriously. Use it to cut to the depths of my heart and turn me to fear You as I ought. Turn my heart from any fear of man so that I would serve You without hesitancy. Purify my heart. Teach me to be an effectual doer of the Word and not just a hearer. Guard me from hardness of heart in hearing truth and not applying it. Unite my heart to fear Your name.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Dependence

It's been a pretty relaxing day today. I worked a little bit more on a little project I was working on in the kitchen, played ulimate frisbee with my family and several students at Cal Baptist University, spent time with the family, and helped a friend of ours with some computer issues. It's not often that I get majorly stuck on a computer issue. Most of them are pretty much the same... or at least have similar methods for resolution of the issue; however, I ran into one tonight that I was unable to resolve in the couple hours that I spent working on it. As I was driving home, God did that gracious nudging that He does so often... "You didn't ask Me for help." I hate when He has to show me that I am working on my own strength and yet so thankful for His faithfulness to do so. His gentle reminders to depend on Him are so needed. For some reason, we think along the lines of... "God, I can't wait until I am strong enough to do this all myself." This thinking is completely contrary to the gospel.

As I think about Christ taking the full wrath of God upon Himself, there is nothing that I can add to the righteousness that I now have in Christ. As Paul says to the Galatians, if we try to add our own righteousness to Christ's for our justification before God, we are left with just our "filthy rag" righteousness... we are still dead in our sins. It is only through completely depending on Christ for the atonement of my sin that I find forgiveness before the holy and just God.

God, thank You for the cross. Thank You for Christ. Thank You for sending Your Son to take Your full wrath so that I bear none of it. Thank You for exchanging my unrighteousness laid upon Christ for His righteousness as a covering for me. Thank You for seeing me, a helpless sinner, just like You see Christ. Thank You for your constant reminders that my dependence must be fully on You. You are my ever present help in time of need. Cause me to turn to You immediately in times of need. Quiet my heart with Your love so that I hear Your clear leading amongst the busyness of life. Make me so in-tune with Your voice that I recognize it and obey it immediately. Thank You again for Christ and for the fact that He has risen and lives to make intercession for us according to Your will. You are so good.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Blessed Fellowship

I absolutely love days like today. The day started with the joy of fellowship in the form of talking and praying with one of my best friends in the world. There really isn't anything I can think of that I enjoy more than that quality time praying together... asking the Lord to work... submitting to Him not only as an individual but as committed brothers. God's invention of fellowship is absolutely brilliant. Had a fun time of playing basketball after that... winning and dunking always make basketball a more joyous experience, but it is a lot of fun regardless. :) It was a very profitable day at work today, I am learning something entirely new and absolutely loving it. This evening was filled with a hands on mini-home-improvement job and fellowship with a wonderful young couple. The Lord used them to be such a great blessing and encouragement to me specifically, but I know He also used them to bless the rest of my family as well. He is so good to me.

I was reading in Ephesians 3 this morning specifically because I wanted to read and pray through verses 14-21. These verse have been very much on my heart for a long time and often come up in my talking with Him.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
I am in continual need of the strength that comes with being filled with His Spirit... the dwelling of Christ in my heart, so that I can understand the depths of His love... not just by myself, but "with the saints"--that is fellowship!

As I meditate on the gospel: my sinfulness and my deserving of God's eternal wrath, Christ having God's wrath poured out on Him on my behalf, I feel like I am so far from being able to understand the depths of His love for me... yet we are to pray for that understanding so that we can be filled up to the fullness of God who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think through His work in us. If that doesn't turn my heart to glory in Christ, I don't know what will.

God, I long to know the depths of Your love for me. Give me a heart of thankfulness. Cause me to meditate continually on Your love so that I love You in return. We like You because and only because You first loved us. We were once separated from You, but now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. God, thank You for Christ. Put in me a heart that lives no longer for myself but for Christ who died and rose again on my behalf.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

When Will It Be Over?

This evening I read the book of Amos. I honestly don't remember the last time I read it, but it has been quite a while. It's not really a book you generally go to for joy and encouragement, but it is inspired by God and profitable! I am saddened by the parallels that I see between the people of Israel as described in Amos and the modern day church. This is not by any means true across the board... but I think we do ourselves great harm not to take responsibility, as men like Nehemiah did, for the unfaithfulness of our nation to God. These words stuck out to me from chapter 8, verses 5-6.
When will the new moon be over, so that we may sell grain? And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market, to make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger, and to cheat with dishonest scales, so as to buy the helpless for money and the needy for a pair of sandals, and that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?
I think if we are honest with ourselves before the Lord, we all have done more than our share of living life our own way. While we wouldn't sit in church and say, "When is it going to be over?", we live that way at times. The church as a whole has lost its focus on the treasure of Christ. We seek the next new thing to bring people in the doors so they too can "make their shekel bigger". The fellowship of God's people exhorting one another is no longer the reason we meet, but rather for social interaction that can be found outside the body of Christ. We seek the comfort and encouragement from the Word of God and despise the things that convict us of sin. We have trained our pastors to preach the Word how we like to hear it rather than how the Lord speaks it. We love the Lord as long as He doesn't call us to give up anything for His sake.

God, forgive us for the many ways in which we have forsaken You. Cleanse Your people. Turn our hearts back to You. Don't let our sin go unseen before You, for we desperately need Your shepherding. It is your gentleness that makes us great. Do not grant any peace when we are not fully committed to You. Cause us to turn from sin to serve You, the Living God. Bring Your people together for true fellowship... for speaking to one another with songs, hymns and spiritual songs, for exhorting one another to live for Christ. God, we don't need more social interaction. We need true Spirit-led fellowship with men and women that are passionate about living for You. Put a guard over the lips of our church leaders to proclaim nothing but Your truth. Free them from the fear of man. Give them a passion for You that no longer cares what people might think of their preaching, but only cares to please You, Lord. Bring up godly men and women that will no longer listen to false doctrine. Give them courage. Strengthen their hearts. Use them for Your Name's sake in our churches. Use them amongst Your people. Do whatever it takes to be glorified here once again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

To Love Christ

I have been thinking a bit lately about what it means to just love the Lord. It is a blessing that He has given us little hints of what it ought to be like within our relationships with others whether it be family or friends (or enemies... but we won't go there at this time). :) Do you ever sit down and think, "What would be the most loving thing for me to do right now?" If you don't do that, I would challenge you to start making a habit of it first and foremost in your relationship with the Lord, but also in your relationships with those around you. I was helped a friend of mine with filling out some applications and spiffing up his resume and so I went back and looked at a bunch of my applications and cover letters and letters of recommendation and all that fun stuff. It brought back many memories of many different interviews and challenges and yet pointed me to the incredible faithfulness and loveliness of Christ. I remember specifically in the first couple weeks of work when I was being told to do things that I really disliked... things that weren't making use of my skills... the "dirty work". I remember one of those mornings right before going into work and I heard that clear direction from the Lord... "love him [the person above me]".

This gave me a whole new view (at least experientially) on what it meant to love others... to whole-heartedly seek their best interests, etc. Since then, I have had many such opportunities to grow in this area. The biggest area (and one that I will always be able to grow in) is the area of loving Christ. The strange thing about this is that He is perfectly lovable in every way. This is not at all the case where I am having to seek the other person's best interests regardless of their treatment of me. In this case, He fully loves me regardless of my faults already. There is nothing about Him that is unlovely.

So I must ask myself... "What is best for You, Lord?"... "What would bring You glory today?"... "How can I work for You in these two hours before I get off work?"... "What would please You the most?"... "If You could change anything about me, what would it be?" I heard the song, "While I'm Waiting" from Fireproof on the radio this morning and those phrases, "I will worship while I'm waiting, I will serve You while I'm waiting", just resonated in my heart throughout the day today. It doesn't ultimately matter what He has me doing, but I must continually commit myself to love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. This results in heart-felt worship... not necessarily singing to Him (though that does happen), but the living-sacrifice type of worship. It is the worship of obedience based on love for the most lovable God.

God, make me to love You more... to seek Your will above my own... to seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. Put in me a passion for serving You that cannot be quenched by the passing pleasures of sin. Teach me over and over the joy of serving Christ.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Quick Prayers

We were reading this evening in Nehemiah 2. With God's graciousness in getting me out of a potentially difficult situation (mentioned previously) fresh in my mind... Nehemiah's time and place of prayer really stuck out to me.
So the king said to me, "Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart." Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, "Let the king live forever Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?" Then the king said to me, "What would you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king, "If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it." Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, "How long will your journey be, and when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time. And I said to the king, "If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city and for the house to which I will go " And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.
So often we get caught up in the stress of the moment and fail to turn to Him as our source of help. True dependence on the Lord would cause us to turn to Him the moment we face difficulty. I just love this passage because here he is standing in front of one of the most powerful people in the world, very close to death (for looking sad)... the king probably surprised him when he asked what he wanted... and rather than jumping on the opportunity right away, he took it to the Lord in prayer. I don't think he told the king to wait for 2 days... or even 5 minutes. I think this was one of those two second, "Lord help me!", prayers. Sometimes, I think these are the most important. It is those short acts of submission to Him... humbling ourselves before Him... reminding ourselves that we can't do it on our own... that really indicate weather or not we are depending on Him as we ought. To prove that this dependence on the Lord as displayed by Nehemiah wasn't just a fluke, we see him give the glory back to God when the king granted his request. How easy it would have been at that moment to say, "I said the right words and the king let me do what I asked and gave his full support." It was God's doing and Nehemiah recognized that... and not only recognized it, but gave Him glory because of it. This is true dependence on the Lord: turning to Him as a first instinct and glorifying Him for any successes.

God, I so often turn to my own wisdom in tough situations. Help me always to take everything to You in earnest prayer! Change my heart to truly love and depend on You as I ought to. Burn away any desires I have to bring glory to myself, for You tell us that every good thing comes from You. Turn my heart to glorify You. Rid me of the self-glorification tendencies of my flesh. Bring me to the end of myself. Glorify Yourself in me and through me.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Great Gain

Pastor Tim was sick so Eric (our newest elder... as of last week) filled in. It was one of those times where the Lord was obviously working in him to speak the truth of the Word to us. Such a blessing! I needed to hear so many of the things he was saying.

This morning we sang these words: "Hast thou not seen how thy desires all have been granted in what He ordaineth?" These words are so convicting and true in my heart! I can't think of any past desire that He has not fulfilled. Yes, sometimes He changed my desires to line up with His, but He met those needs perfectly! My answer to that question is... Yes, I have seen how all my desires have been and are continuing to be fulfilled through Christ and everything that He has planned. The convicting part comes when I ask myself about my level of trust in Him when it comes to the new desires yet to be fulfilled. Even as I think about this, I am writing the words to this song on a little piece of paper that will be added to my random stash of encouragements/prayer requests that sit in the cup holder of my car.

I am reminded of 1 Timothy 6:6...
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
Godliness is not for the purpose of gaining wealth or favor with God. Godliness is an act of love for and submission to God's ways. It becomes great gain when we throw out the need to gain His favor (we can't gain it any more than having Christ as our righteousness anyway). It is gain when we are content with what He has given us and we love and serve Him out of that heart of full satisfactions in what He has granted.

God, I have seen how You have indeed granted all my desires within Your perfect plan. I can't even tell You why I don't fully trust You. I want to... I have no reason not to... but my sinful heart is so prone to dependence on self. Help me to see You as my shepherd! I shall not want! I do not lack any good thing. Help me to pursue godliness with a heart of full contentment in what You have given... for it truly is great gain when it is no longer for me but for You. Christ is my righteousness... and I have no favor to gain from You. Your complete favor is mine in Christ. I want to obey You out of love, for that is great gain.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

When He Is On Our Side

Life has been so full lately... all good things, but very full! Today was filled with men's Bible study this morning followed by a missions lunch for some friends that are going to Brazil followed by visiting grandma who recently got out of the hospital and celebration of Jonathan's birthday. A day can't get a whole lot better than that, but I am ready to get some rest, that is for sure!

I was reading some Psalms this evening and was meditating on Psalm 124 and the phrase, "Had it not been the Lord who was on our side..." Oh how easily I take Him for granted.

I have made a commitment of sorts for the sake of purity and not having the appearance of evil not to drive alone in the car with a young lady until the proper time with the right young lady... and with boundaries at that point. I say "of sorts" because I see this in the same light as Christ's teaching on the Sabbath... the Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath. In the same way, this commitment is for the sake of my purity and her purity. There may be a situation that comes up where it has to happen... but that hasn't happened up to this point. I was at work on Friday and was going to help my boss deliver test materials to a few schools. As I was loading the boxes, he mentioned that I would drive his truck and a young lady that works part time would be assisting me in the delivery. I didn't really know what to say and didn't really say anything. As I made the next trip up that stair case to carry some more boxes down, I sent one of those two second prayers up to the Lord... "God, You know my commitment... help me get out of this!" I didn't know what to say or what to do and I have to admit that my faith was very very small at that point. I was thinking, How am I going to get the courage to say something here?"... or... "Is this one of the exceptions to this conviction of mine?" As I was thinking these things, my boss came up to me and said, "Is it okay if she goes with you?" This was the perfect opportunity to graciously tell him that I would prefer not and that I should be able to deliver the test materials without the help.

As I drove to deliver those test materials I was just floored that God would work in the heart of my boss so as to ask me if it was okay... just to make my life easy. He didn't have to do that. He could have let me battle what to do in that difficult situation, but instead, He graciously got me out of the situation with no awkwardness or anything. I was instantly convicted of my small view of God in that moment and asked His forgiveness for my disbelief. This phrase, "Had it not been the Lord who was on our side..." really reminded me that I would be in a whole lot of trouble if the Lord was not on my side. As verse 8 says...
Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
The reality is that He created my boss and is fully able to work in his heart however He pleases. Sometimes I get the [false] idea that God works only in those that are submissive to Him, but this is absolutely untrue. God works in all men and women as He deems best. God, thank You for Your abundant grace and help in this situation. You are so good and I am overwhelmed that You would care that much about me to make it "easy" for me to deal with that situation. You truly are the strength of Your people. God, You know how I need these little reminders to trust You more than I do. I believe, help my unbelief! Help me to truly know You... know Your character... know Your heart. Turn that knowledge into full belief resulting in full submission and obedience to Your ways. Thank You for Your faithfulness to me.