Monday, February 22, 2016

Keep Yourselves From Idols

Dear Children,
Keep yourselves from idols.
I John 5:21

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to look at houses with him. We began our search through the Internet to pick out the ones he wanted to see. Afterwards, he called a realtor in the area.

There was one property in particular that got our attention. As we viewed the house, we noticed there were pictures of different gods hanging in several of the rooms. Then when we toured the ground, we discovered two large wooden platforms with concrete idols on them.  As I inquired of the Lord, he told me this was like the idols of old in Isaiah’s time. I knew this form of worship still existed but it was strange to see it in an area so close to me. Needless to say, if my friend chose this property, he would have to make sure all the idols were gone and the land was cleansed.

Most of us in the Christian world cannot really identify with statues and that kind of idol. So let’s go a little closer.

What is an idol? Idols are anything that distracts us from the one true God who is our identity and true source of supply. We are drawn to idols because they can foster our need to be loved and accepted . Then of course, we have them to help us in our time of need. (But do they?)

As I thought about this more, I asked the Lord for a deeper meaning. This is what he gave me.

I     Deny     Our     Lord
access to my life.

What does it mean to deny?

·      to refuse to agree with
·      to withhold possession
·      to refuse to recognize or acknowledge
·      to withhold accessibility

In other words, when we deny the Lord, we are not allowing his influence to reign over a particular area of our life.

Now… most of us can name some of the biggie idols that we could have… our career, pride and ego, materialism, sports figures, TV personalities, children or even grandchildren. However, let’s dig a little different direction. How about…

·      Negative attitudes and criticisms of others, the need to be right
·      Offenses, bitterness, and unforgiveness
·      Worry and guilt
·      What others will think of me

Suddenly, idols may be closer to home then what we would like to admit. Idols are sneaky, if you are not vigilant. You give them an inch and they can take a mile. They start out innocently but slowly dig deep roots into our heart. Idols take away our sense of spiritual reasoning and choice. The thing about idols is, when you get in a pinch and really need the power to overcome, idols have no power to save you from whatever you are going through.

So what is the answer?  The real answer is not an idol at all. It is a personal relationship with Christ Jesus. He is not man made idol but  the true Son of God who has the power and grace to help us through whatever situation we face. If you haven't met Him personally, I encourage you to seek him out. Discovering Jesus's love for you will change your life forever.

The devil comes to kill, steal and destory but I have come to give you life and that more abundantly. 
John 10:10

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Melinda's Desire

The old car needed to many repairs! As Melinda prayed about the situation, her mind wandered back to an old Cadillac that had been given to her second hand years before. She smiled as she thought about that light blue beauty being the perfect car. It was a little worn but still roomy and luxurious inside. For her, it wasn’t just something that carried her from place to place but she felt special and set apart. Her meager circumstances seem to melt away as she dreamed of greatness for a time to come. Oh how my heart would sing if I could have that feeling again, she thought. Then, reality began to creep in again. I really need an economy car not a big luxury car; she contemplated with a sigh, a small one that gets good gas mileage. And with those thoughts securely in place, Melinda began her Internet search of the near by dealerships.

After a prayer, Melinda began to look for a car at the three local dealerships; she found it didn’t take long before the car hunt became frustrating.  She looked earnestly and honestly for one economy version after another but there were none she could afford or get excited about…none that made her feel like she wanted to take them home for a long time. Annoyed she began to pray again.

Then…she got a tip.

“Go to Moore’s.” the salesman at the Ford dealership said, “They may have what you want and they’ll make you an honest deal.”

Feeling like the Holy Spirit was leading her, Melinda decided to
try it out. What could she lose and she was running out of options.

As Melinda surveyed the car lot at Moore’s, her eyes seem to gravitate towards a black 2005 Lexus SUV. “I don’t think I can afford that Lord!” she assumed. Nevertheless, she looked inside and a smile came over her face. This car has more luxury then the Cadillac and it was roomy too. I could get excited about taking this car home Lord, she mused.

Was God providing Melinda with something she desired instead of having to settle for the car she thought she needed? Turns out, that is exactly what God was doing as He lead her by faith to negotiate the details over the next few days. For Melinda, this car was God doing something extra special for her, something far beyond what she had imagined he would do for her. She felt abundantly blessed and now continues to praise God for His generosity.

What is your need and deepest desire? Our Heavenly Father is waiting for us to focus on Him as we put those needs and desires into His loving hands. He is a good God and wants to bless us with good gifts. God not only wants to answer our requests but at times go beyond what we have asked for to what He knows we really desire. Go ahead…think big!

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works with us.

Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Sins, Whiter Than Snow Part 2

When Jesus came, everything changed. He put an end to the law and the need for animal sacrifices, not by destroying the law but fulfilling it once and for all. (Matthew 5:17) Judgment and the lingering feelings of condemnation, guilt and shame for sins vanished, if we chose to receive what Jesus has done on the cross.

The law required that the sacrificial lamb be perfect. Then, after the sins of a person were transferred, the animal would be put to death and the blood spread on the altar.

Jesus, being the Son of God, remained a sinless man. Before He was sacrificed on the cross, all of mankind’s sin past, present, and future were transferred to Jesus. Then He died. Unlike the animals of the Old Testament, though, Jesus had the power to rise again from the grave to claim victory over all of mankind’s sins and the death penalty as well once and for all. 

This means, we are free from God’s judgment and we do not have to carry around thoughts of condemnation, guilt, and shame anymore. We carry God’s grace because we have become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. No sin can ever steal our righteousness away. Now when I sin, I say I’m sorry, I remind myself of God’s promise of grace, I thank Him, and then I ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to avoid that sinful situation in the future.

God showed me a vision pertaining to this recently. I could see myself standing there with lots of dark spots (sins) all over on me. I tired to get them off but I couldn’t. When I hear the gospel, I saw myself accepting Jesus into my life and every last one of those dark spots immediately fell to the floor. Instantaneously, Jesus gave me a glowing white robe and I saw myself putting it on. Jesus told me it was my robe (gift) of righteousness and it would never come off even when I sinned again. From now on, He would take the responsibility for my sins and reminded me that His grace is sufficient.

Then the scene changed. I sensed I wasn’t ‘feeling so righteous’ anymore because I was still sinning. Guilt and shame permeated my thoughts. I felt like the dark spots should reappear to represent my present sin. I could see myself picking up the pile of dark spots and trying to make them stick by rubbing them back on my robe of righteousness but they slid off and fell to the ground.
As I pondered this, I realized that most of my life I did not understand the full significance of all that Jesus had accomplished on the cross for me. I knew in my heart my sins were forgiven but my mind was plagued with thoughts of guilt, shame and never measuring up from the enemy. Unfortunately, my mind (soul-mind, will, and emotions) ruled over what my heart wanted to believe. Fear overwhelmed me at times and I would go through bouts of depression. I felt unrighteous and my relationship with God was affected. I felt I had to “do” more to cleanse the sins I was still committing. Carrying around the guilt and shame was part of my penitence. I was never fully cleansed. Thus, I was never free from condemnation. In my mind, it always kept me at a distance from God.

Then I discovered:

The law is about ‘what I can continually do’ to remain righteous
but accepting Christ is about
being in a state of righteousness continually’ forever.
When I am in Christ,
I do not have to do anything more to stay righteous.
He is my righteousness!

What I had failed to comprehend years ago was that the sins I committed from then on did not affect my righteousness or God’s opinion of me. I had always measured up not because of me (my self-righteous activity) but because of Christ (the Cross). I was ‘in Christ’ and he had continually taken care of whatever sins I had. That truth does not make me want to sin more but love more…love the Trinity more. Share Christ with more of those around me. The fear and depression? It gradually melted away the more I meditated on: My sins were really gone forever and God loves me no matter what. Carrying around the guilt and shame as penitence was neither necessary nor desire by God. Now, we are freed to be grace-conscience instead of sin-conscience. When we accept that sacrifice of Jesus into our lives, we become whiter than snow for eternity.

The knowledge that I am truly free from the law of sin and death has turned my sorrow into great joy!

Blessings to each of you in this season of our Savior! 

(Romans 8:1-2, Galatians 5:1, John 8:32, Philippians 3:9, 1Cor. 1: 30) 

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Sins, Whiter Than Snow

I got excited recently when I hear it is going to snow. When I noticed the first flakes falling, I made a mug of tea, pull my over-stuffed chair around so it faced the picture window, and watched until peace filled my soul.

While I was enjoying the beauty of the snow, a verse permeated my thoughts and I knew the Lord desired to speak:

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me,
and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalms 51:7

“I will be whiter than snow” was the phrase He highlighted so I kept rolling that over in my mind. Hummm…snow looks really white, Lord, but there must be something about snow I’m not seeing.

So…I researched how snow is formed and found out an interesting fact. Snowflakes are formed from dust particles in the air. When the temperature of the cloud is below freezing, water vapor collects on those tiny particles of dust/dirt/pollutants and turns into ice. The tiny crystals stick together until they form snowflakes.

In David’s time, atonement for your sins (dust/dirt/pollutants) was a requirement by God to stand right before Him. Sins were transferred to the spotless lamb and then the sin ladened lamb was killed and his blood was drained and placed upon the alter. (Leviticus 17:11) The Jewish people came back yearly for their sins to be completely washed away by this ritual. However, the Jewish people were never completely rid of condemnation, guilt, and shame-consciousness for their wrongdoing and ungodly attitudes. Soon after the cleansing ritual would be completed, sin would again begin to accumulate. Being whiter then snow was only a momentarily blessing.

As I continued to meditate on the scriptures, God showed me the picture of a long wooden table, which I understood represented the entire life of a Jew who went through the yearly cleansing ritual for his sin. Next, I saw a long blood red silky fabric that had been gathered from one end to the middle. As I continued to look, an accumulation of what looked like black dirt (sins) appeared on the table, located just before the silky fabric. Suddenly the fabric moved to cover the dirt then stopped. I could see there were bumps from previous years. Then it moved again over a new accumulated pile of dirt that appeared and then once again. The process was representative of the blood of the lamb covering the yearly sins of a Jew. When the silky blood red cloth covered the full length of the table perfectly, it meant the person’s life would have been over with all sins covered under the blood of the lamb. As long as he kept up the yearly trip to the temple, his sins were covered.

This sacrificial system went on for hundreds of years and it was the only way the Jewish people could be free of God’s judgment in their lives.

Then...when the time was right Jesus came
…and everything changed!!

Part 2 of My Sins-Whiter Than Snow
Next Week

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Boy's Mistake, The Father's Mercy

Buying a new bed and a mattress, there is nothing like it.

Step one…find the perfect bed. I had waited for this moment for along time so I wanted to enjoy the process. At first, I thought I wanted a poster bed. Ya know…the ‘princess’ look but I could not find one I liked at first. Finally, I found two different styles that I thought would be perfect and they were displayed together. In the end, I decided against the poster bed for one with a tall headboard. I thought that bed would look better when spread one of my handmade quilts on it. I set up the delivery date for the next week.

Now, on to step two…go for the mattresses. I knew exactly what I wanted when it came to that…a tempa-pedic. I just had to find the best price. In my small town, there are not many options. However, I found a store that was moving and needed to sell their inventory. Thus, I got the good discount I was looking for. I set up delivery for the day after the bed would arrive.

The bed came as promised. It was big and heavy but there were two nice size men handling the job.

Then the mattress arrived the next day. A man and his twelve year old son got out of a pickup truck, looked to see where the mattress would be going, and then started to untie the box springs to bring it in first. As the father and son worked together, the father patiently instructed his son on how to maneuver each step of the way. You could tell the son was new at this but the father trusted him to do a good job. The father lifted his side over the footboard first. Then the son followed…but…the son dropped his end on the footboard shelf. When he lifted it up again, I saw the gash. Neither the son nor the father noticed the gash before going back out to get the mattress.

In those next few moments, the Lord cautioned me to hold my tongue. Then, he said,

“Look at what is really going on in this moment. This father and son are working well together and building a lasting relationship. Please don’t disturb their teamwork. Forgive and be at peace.”

Oh how my selfish side wanted to speak forth. However, in the end, I realized God’s request was much more important than my new piece of furniture.

Then this scripture came to mind:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Matthew 16:24

To deny yourself in this context means to forget one's self, lose sight of one's self and one's own interests. It means to say ‘No’ to your self and ‘Yes’ to God.

There was something going on in the spirit and I was asked to step aside and show mercy. Afterwards, when the father and son had gone, God filled me with great joy! I felt my obedience was a victorious moment for both My Lord and me!

What about you? Has God asked you to deny yourself for another in some small way? Remember and Rejoice! Denying yourself is not always some big public persecution event. Sometimes, it is just quiet affirmative smiles between you and Your Heavenly Father.