Monday, April 18, 2011

He kept his mouth shut!

Isaiah 53
I love this passage.  It talks about the man of sorrows, the one despised by men who would bear the iniquities of us all.  It is when I happen again upon scriptures like these, that I am reminded how amazing our God is.  hundreds of years before Jesus walked amoung us, Isaiah  wrote about this servant. Detailing things like the beatings that would leave him marred and disfigured (Isaiah 52:14); which was later echoed in all of the Gospels as they tell how he was beaten multiple times by the  Sanhedrin, the roman guards and crowds .
Isaiah also tells us he would be despised and rejected; we would “esteem him not”. And again in Matthew we see Christ spat upon, the crowds cheering “crucify him, crucify him!”  Isaiah tells us he will be pierce for our transgressions, it is his punishment that will bring us peace and it is by his wounds we are healed.  I wonder if Isaiah could have imagined what this looked like; how exactly Jesus would fulfill this prophecy.  
Isaiah tells us he was opposed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter.   Matthew tells us how Jesus was dragged before the Sanhedrin (the ruling  Jewish party), we are told that false testimony was given against Jesus, accusations flew.  We know he could have commanded the Angels appear, torn the temple in two with an earthquake, he could have ascended into heaven right before their eyes. 
But he didn’t.  He kept his mouth shut!
He chose the suffering that would follow, for us.  He knew the price for our sin had to be paid; the thought of us being separated from him for eternity was more painful than the beatings, the tauntings, death on the cross.  That is amazing to me.  That he did it for me.  He did it for you.
And I have trouble rolling out of bed to spend time with Him in the morning. 
Thank you Jesus, thank you keeping your mouth shut for me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You mean you don't see it my way?

Remember the Lord’s past faithfulness to you, and trust Him now 

 You should make a journal, a brief recording of when you see God at work! I can’t tell you how many times I have suggested this to others who have come and are struggling to see God’s hand.  Any yet do I ever take my own advice? No, of course not. However, I am blessed that seeing God and remembering his faithfulness, is not such a struggle for me. I am blessed to have the gift of faith.   When I look at my life I am able to trust and see God’s hand with very little effort.  I now realize this is not the case for everyone. I just assumed that everyone looked at things they way I did.  In fact this used to be a source of discord for my husband and me.  I couldn’t understand why obstacles would discourage him so. Why if something went wrong he felt God had looked away. It would make me crazy that he couldn't see things the way I did.  I would get so frustrated with him for what I saw as weakness. In actuality I think his faith may be stronger. He has to work twice as hard as I do to pursue God in difficult time - that takes strength!!

 Now don’t let me confuse you, everyone who believes has faith. Ephesians 2:8 clearly says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” so the act of believing at all means we all have faith!
 Once we accept Christ the Holy Spirit begins drawing out and refining the spiritual gifts He has given us. If you've been hanging around a church at all I am sure you've heard of some of them; service, hospitality, teaching, etc. 1 Corinthians 12:8-9 lists still more of the spiritual gifts the Spirit may grow in us once we believe,  “8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit. "   
Here the Bible is quite clear about two things. One - the Holy Spirit is the author of all of these gifts. Two - these gifts are being given out to different people. Now all of these people have faith through grace (otherwise the Spirit wouldn't be there working in them), so we have to conclude that there is something different about that faith given. 

If you haven't quite figured out what your gift is yet, ask God to show you.  Look at your passions; ask your friends, they have even created assessments nowadays.  But seek it out; there is nothing more fulfilling than doing things in your Spirit gifted area!

Oh and my husband, he has the gift of knowledge and teaching – he is so wise when it comes to scripture and I would never want to go head to head with him in a spiritual debate (apologetics) he would kick my butt every time! He can pull up 10 scripture and point to examples supported by history while I would still be looking for my bible.  He teaches me new things every day.  And when things are difficult and He has trouble finding God in a situation, then I can help him.  I can point out God's hand at work and encourage him that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him. 

Guess that is why made us the BODY of Christ, we each have an important role to play. So if you are struggling to remember God's past faithfulness or see His hand at work now, look around, I am willing to bet he has placed someone with the gift of faith in your life.  And they will be blessed to look for God with you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What camp are you in?

OK, so picking up on the third of our responsibilities in receiving our Promised Land:

Be courageous and do not fear (v29)

Seems simple enough, but we know it isn’t right! We are wired with a biological response - fight or flight.  Our first and possibly most natural response to life is often fear! I think it is easiest to see in children.  There are two kinds; the child who has too much fear and the child with no fear. Both can be disastrous.  As we grow older we tend to settle in one of these camps as well. We either live our lives governed by the "what if's" in life; or we decided long ago that there were no rules and whatever feels good goes.   

Today God is talking to those of us who settled somewhere in the camp of "what if".  Now we may live on the outskirts of this camp; we let our kids walk to school (although often with knots in our stomach), we feel rebellious when we put plastic in the microwave, and we resist the urge to go to Web MD for every stubbed toe. But we have to fight to keep our spot; every decision is a pull against fear.  And then there are those of us who truly have given into fear, we live our lives never really experiencing joy because we won't allow it.  You know this type; children under lock and key, often saying no to travel because they wouldn't be able to control what was going on at home, plagued by fears of their health or that of their loved ones, sure that around each corner disaster is impending.  Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we can control things, but really deep down the truth eats away at us.

Please know I am not making fun, I was one of these campers.  In fact, I think for a while I lived in a tower in the middle of that camp waving a huge white flag!  But God had to grab a hold of me and tell me that was NOT how He had created me to live.  That was not my Promised Land and I was not serving him well in this camp!

 In Isaiah alone we are told over 9 times not to fear.  But God doesn't just say it, he backs it up. Each time he tells us not to fear He gives us the reason we don't have to: God is there, He is with us, He has redeemed us, He will respond to our enemies with vengeance, He will provide for his children. Basically He covers it all!    The Bible repeatedly in old and new testaments alike tells us not to fear – and each time the reason given is God. It makes me sing again and again in my head the praise and worship song “If then our God is for us, what could ever stop us. If then our God is for us, what could stand against?”  It is so true – sometimes I forget that the creator of the universe is my God, and He is for me. Wow – makes all my problems seem small.  Of course, I still feel fear pulling at my feet, but I try each and every day to consciously choose to trust God. 

 I guess that is key – keeping all things in proper perspective – God perspective.

Here is a link to the song I was referencing – it is Our God is Greater by Chris Tomlin

Thursday, April 7, 2011

You want me to do WHAT? You've met me right?

Continuing this series I wanted to look at the second of our responsibilities in reaching our Promised Land:    

 Don’t focus on the obstacles or let them stop you.

The bible is full of stories of the underdog, in fact it is all part of God's plan! You see the smaller, less qualified, more dependant we are on HIM then the more glory He receives when we accomplish the task He has called us to (2 Corinthians 12:9). Time and again we see it. Gideon, David, and Esther, all faced odds that should have been insurmountable; but all were victorious because they were willing to submit to God’s direct leading and intervention.  I love Gideon’s response to the Lord when He calls Gideon to lead the Israelites against the Midianites. “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:14-16)  I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to say the same thing to God, "Excuse me Lord, but you want me to do WHAT?  You've met me right???" 

But all of that said they moved past the obstacles.  Gideon trusted God and ignored the fact that he was outnumbered by the hundred thousands (the Bible tells us there were so many Midianites you couldn’t count them or their camels- they were  thick like locusts). David looked past Goliath’s massive strength. Esther faced the possibility of death and spoke truth to her king. 

I find that I am often crippled by the obstacles – they loom so large my eyes can’t see anything but them.  I’d like to say that I always persevere, always remember to look at God instead. But I don’t. There are times where I have missed opportunities for blessings altogether, or I am dragged kicking and screaming down the path.  But those are the times when my eyes are not on Jesus and my ears have chosen to believe the lies of this world and its father.  So each day I will chose to listen to the voice of truth and trust in God's promises; because He does know me and through Him I can do whatever he calls me to!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Promised Land

Based on Entering the Promised Land by Charles Stanley (Deuteronomy 1:21 - 46), which was published in In Touch Magazine April edition.

So I am reading about the Promised Land, our responsibilities in receiving it and God’s Commitment to us. You see we may be familiar with the literal Promised Land - the land of abundance promised to the Israelites after they fled from Egypt under Moses' leading.  But there is a Promised Land that the Lord has for us right now as well. He wants us to dwell in the land of abundance; abundant joy, peace, and love.  A land where our will matches His, a land where we are walking in step with the Holy Spirit. But, I digress, Charles Stanley breaks down five ways this passage from Deuteronomy shows we need to be responsible in reaching OUR promised land:
1)      Go and take it (v.21)
2)      Don’t focus on the obstacles or let them stop you (v.28)
3)      Be courageous and do not fear (v.29)
4)      Remember the Lord’s past faithfulness to you and trust Him now (vv. 30-32)
5)      Follow Him fully (v.36)
They all sound good.  But it amazes me when I break them down how hard they are. 

1)       Go and take it –I struggle with this.  You see on some level, no matter how much I know better, some hidden part of me stills feel like to be a “good” Christian I should be unhappy, deprived, and striving. So to go and take my promised land feels like cheating.  Shouldn’t I have to wait?  If I am happy aren’t I doing something wrong? But, within this same passage of Deuteronomy God promises the land he gives us is good and fuitful (Deut. 1:25). I recognize that God promises joy as a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:16) and that he wants us to have it always (Philippians 4:4-9). I also know that God wants to bless us abundantly (2 Corinthians 9::8); in fact, in John 10:10 Jesus himself says that he has come that we may have life and have it abundantly.
       But I also want to be clear, living in our Promised Land does not mean life is a cake walk. In fact, it is the opposite there will be battles to fight! BUT the amazing thing is that God promises to fight on our behalf, and show us the way we should go (Deut. 1:30 -33).  As opposed to stumbling around in our own will finally hitting that brick wall, and then asking God to show us the way out! Oh, I have wasted so much time and energy this way!  So, I would rather get over myself and "go take it" .   I want to walk where the Creator of the Universe is going to fight on my behalf! Yes, no matter how hard it may be, this is where I want to be.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What is The Narrow Gate?

OK, so for a while now I've been feeling like maybe I should be blogging.  Don't know why - who on earth would want to read what I am thinking!!  But more for me than anyone else I think I am going to start  . . . who knows what it will lead to??

I think for me this is going to be a place to process and grow in my walk with the Lord, hence The Narrow Gate.  Matthew 7:13 - 14 says  “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. "  I don't know about you but I love the Lord and have chosen the narrow gate; but staying on that narrow path can be difficult! Often I think I have to "hop the fence" cause I've wandered too far down the wide path!  So this will be about my walk, my struggles, my fears, and well I will just see where God leads.  If it helps to know you aren't alone - then feel free to read on, if not, that's OK too - God is using it to help me process - out loud.

 Right now I have been battling apathy.  Things are good, busy, generally going smoothly . . . but I am struggling to feel that same passion; that burning fire that I desire.  Now I know this is perfectly normal - just like any relationship, our relationship with the Lord has its' peeks and valleys.   I also firmly believe that we are the most ineffective when we are apathetic.  When we are scared it is natural to turn to God, when things are awesome we sing His praises, when things are hard we cry out . . . but apathy, it is a useless emotion  it leaves us thinking only of ourselves (if of anything at all).  So I will push through it - commit to dedicate time, thought, and blogging hours to seeking His face more clearly.Knowing and trusting that  when I ask  it will be given to me; if I seek I will find; and when I knock and the door will be opened to me. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

Feel free to ask, seek, and knock along with me!