Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fear the Lord

(Some amazing Bald Eagles we had the privilege of watching on our recent trip to Washington.  Did you know that Arizona is the only state in the nation in which Bald Eagle populations haven't recovered?)

Isaiah 11: 1- 5 (NLT)

Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—

    yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.

And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
He will delight in obeying the Lord.
    He will not judge by appearance
    nor make a decision based on hearsay.
He will give justice to the poor
    and make fair decisions for the exploited.
The earth will shake at the force of his word,
    and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
He will wear righteousness like a belt
    and truth like an undergarment.

I've been reading through the book of Isaiah, following Matthew.  Yes, the order is perhaps backwards, or might seem so, but it's what the Lord led me to do, so there you have it.

This passage jumped out and grabbed me.  Once again, the order in which it grabbed was, well, out of the order in which it was written.  First, verse 3, He will delight in obeying the Lord.  I pondered this for quite a while, wondering how often I actually delight in obeying Him.  

I determined that this is something I can work on.  When the LORD directs me to do a thing, I can choose to take delight in the obedience.  In some of the specific areas, that will be difficult.

Next, I was captured by the idea that he wears righteousness and truth.  It took me to another scripture which I was memorizing a while back (and since I haven't been practicing, have largely forgotten, ack!), 

Colossians 3:12 - 14 which says 'Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  and over all these virtues, put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.

I'd pondered over this bit because I hadn't quite nailed down in my mind what it meant to clothe oneself.  But thanks to my husbands input, I think I've come to a better understanding.  Jeremy points out that one chooses clothing as a way to identify who one is.  So, if I am putting on humility and kindness and so forth, I'm identifying myself with Christ.  Well that is certainly something I want to do, hmmm, now to update my wardrobe.

And finally, I was wowed by verse 2. 

And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Jesus himself had the Spirit of knowledge coupled with fear of the Lord.  And the result was that he delighted to obey the Lord.  If you and I do not have a fear of the Lord, we'll lack a desire to obey, we won't dress ourselves in righteousness and truth, we won't have wisdom or understanding or be empowered by the Spirit of God.  

What struck me is that we must have fear of the Lord in order to have all the rest.  Well it's not the first time we come across this concept in Scripture now is it? Proverbs 1:7 which says:

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Or what about Abraham in Genesis 22, specifically verse 12:

Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.

Abraham demonstrated that he feared the Lord through his obedience.  Hmmm, I wonder if he delighted in obeying in that instance?  God's Word is so full of places that explain what it is to love Him, serve Him, obey Him and I am so thankful today that He generously showed me this.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What are you empowering?

(A quiet lake in Southern Idaho that jeremy and I visited recently)

God is so generous to teach us if we ask Him to do so.  Recently, I've been on a mission to learn to truly love my Lord more deeply than ever before.  The things he's asked me to do as this has unfolded have been varied.  Some of them have been easy and some have been difficult.  Each one has had purpose far beyond what I understood at the moment of command.

But obedience has brought with it greater understanding and light in dark corners.

I wanted to take a moment today to share with you some of the specifics, finishing with one that a dear woman of God shared with me only today.

One of the first revelations came as the Lord asked me to begin memorizing Scripture.  I began by looking at small portions, either from the bible study I was working on or perhaps the reading I was engaged in that week.  But then, the Lord asked me to do something a bit more intensive.  I'd heard of the concept before, and decided that it was too difficult for me to accomplish.  (Hmmm, wonder where that idea came from???? Any ideas?)  

The Lord asked me to memorize a book of the bible!  In particular, 1 Peter.  And so, because he's also been teaching me to obey, right away, I began.  I don't think I can express to you the joy and peace that has come to me through this exercise.  Not only so, but did you know that repeating a scripture until it's burned deeply into your heart is a form of bible study like NO OTHER!? 

I've found that when I struggle with a particular portion, it is ALWAYS because the Lord wants me to seek Him for the meaning of that bit.  In 1 John 2: 27-28, it tells us that the Spirit WILL teach us! '  As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.'  And so I ask my Lord what those portions mean and He begins to open my mind and heart to understand through the Spirit's teaching.  

The Lord has also asked me to step out of some of the things I was doing to make room so that I can do what He wants me to do.  He's asking me to do the things that bring Him glory.  They are often quieter than the things I was doing before.  But the joy I've had in watching Him change the lives of people around me is without compare.

He's asked me to spend more time just getting to know Him. This particular bit I've been a little reluctant to do.  But He is faithful, and today, through a friend, confirmed my need for obedience in this area.  Thank you Jesus, I will follow.

So the last thing I want to share?????  My friend shared this with me today.  You empower what you focus on.  If you focus on failure, hurts, bad habits, etc, that is what you are giving power to in your life. This is why Our Lord tells us to think on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.   If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:8-9)

So.....what are you empowering in your life today?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.

    All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.
Praise him forever! Psalm 111:10 (NLT)

This passage comes up for me time and time again over the years.  In part, because I spend more time than I should trying to figure out if I am off my rocker.  You may wonder why.  Well, it's because I don't see alot of the fear of the Lord in the people around me.

More often, even within the church, there are many excuses made about why it's acceptable for an individual to engage in pretty much whatever they want to do.  In the church, the hideous excuse is 'GRACE'.  As though God's incredible grace were a good reason to sin against a holy God continually.

So what is fear of the Lord?  Is it being literally afraid of Him?  Is it reverence?  Is it obedience?

Fear of the Lord means seeking the Lord for wisdom in all things.  Fear of the Lord means looking for His way of doing life.  EVERY. ASPECT. of life.  

The way you talk(tone of voice, word choice, body language), how you spend your time, what you watch, what you listen to, how you dress, what you look at, what you read, where you go, who you go with, who you ignore or don't ignore, how you spend your money, what causes you champion, what causes you malign.

I've heard people mock those who will literally ask God about every action they take.  I like to stand a little distance from someone who would mock someone else for seeking wisdom.  We are called to submit to the Lord in all things, not just the things we decide are the important ones.  

It may be the case that after a person has spent years asking the Lord for direction in every little thing that he gains the perspective of the Lord more fully and doesn't need to ask every time, but how can we go wrong in asking the Lord for direction?  Is learning to wait on His answer ever going to hurt us?  

Fear of the Lord is ultimately humility. Humbling ourselves before an awesome God and seeking Him alone for wisdom.  Putting ourselves in His hands regardless of what those around us may think and fully surrendering.

Since fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, I'm going to guess it's also the beginning of true love.  And we know that is a priority dear to the Father's great and gracious heart.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Does following Christ really look like what we see in the Church today? Ask Hard Questions.

Just as He asked Peter, Jesus asks each of His children, we, who are disciples of Christ are asked, by the Lord himself, 'Do you love me child?' ................................'Do you love me child?.......................'Do you love me child?'

I believe He is asking if we love Him first and best?  He was showing Peter that he was going to need to lay aside whatever else he loved first and best and love Jesus himself, FIRST and BEST.  

The scriptures are full of passages demonstrating what that looks like.  We can believe an interpretation that we've been taught, or we can choose to act on what the Scripture actually says.  

I've often wondered why it is so confusing to read the bible and then hear it taught in ways that are often quite non-literal.  I've wondered why it has to be so confusing.  I've asked LOTS of questions along the way and the answers are different depending on who I ask.  But the most common response I've received is one that explains away what the Scripture actually says.  

For example I'll share the following Scripture with you that has often tied me up in knots.  Mainly this is because what I read has not been consistent with how I've lived or how I've seen others live.

1 John 3 says 'Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life[a] is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers[b] does not belong to God.' 

Does it actually mean that a believer can't continue to live in continual sin?  The common explanation is that this means that while they will continue to sin, sin won't characterize their whole life.  Even this is pretty weak when I look at myself and others who say we are children of God.  The Scripture says that a child of God CANNOT keep on sinning.  CANNOT!

When it says that a believer is filled by the Spirit and can do things greater than what Jesus himself did, does it mean it?  What does the Lord say about that?  

And what about the spiritual battle?  Is that a real thing that we must expect and actively fight, moment by moment?  

If you've read this far, I am encouraging you to look at the Scriptures and ask the Lord to show you the truth.  Many of us have been looking to men for answers which we should be looking to God for.  Take 1 John 2:26-27 to heart and be taught by the Spirit of God instead of the spirit of religion. 'I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. 27 But you have received the Holy Spirit,[h] and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit[i] teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ'.'

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Fruit of Destruction

I just watched an episode of the show 'Hoarders'.  It's the first time I'd seen this show.  I really almost never watch television at all.  However, someone linked the show, saying it was about a scrap-booker.  I thought it might be good to see so that I can be careful of where my thoughts could take me.

I was blown away.  Truly, I was dramatically affected by the pain displayed on this show.

As I reflected on what causes such additive and compulsive behavior, I came to the conclusion that it is often the result of hurt or disappointment.

Hurt is the sort of thing that Satan pounces on rather quickly.  Once a hurt has taken place, he piles on the fertilizer producing a large tree of pain whose fruit is destruction.  The end result is hopelessness.

Further, I began to consider that many people I know within the church are harvesting this very fruit daily.  The hopelessness that exists even within the church is astounding.  It's painful to consider.  And I wonder that most of us don't even see that it is there.  How then do we address it?  What do we do?

I pray, asking God for wisdom, for healing and for revelation from His Spirit.  I invite you to do the same. We certainly can do nothing while we just sit an wonder. But we can and must pray.  Will you join me?

Perhaps you are thinking that this is not true.  Perhaps you think that it's not that common in the church.  Why do you think that is the case?  Do an inventory or your church body?  What do you find?  Is it joy unspeakable that permeates the people?  If so, then praise God.  If not, praise God and then pray for His healing touch.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What do you crave most?

"One of the reasons we want to overeat is because the human heart craves fullness and satisfaction." Mike Cleveland

This would be the third time I've read this statement and yet again, I am moved to think about why I eat.....or shop.....or talk when I need to just be quiet with the Lord.  

I'm not suggesting that we are called to continually sit with our hands folded in prayer and listen for what God might say.  That would be unreasonable as we all have responsibilities.  However, I am beginning to think that I react to life without a lot of thought quite often.

A reaction looks a whole lot like an addiction as far as I can tell.  It looks like doing something to cover up the uncomfortable feelings that I have inside.  The thing that makes it difficult to recognize is that I've been doing it my whole life.  Every. Single. Day.  For nearly 40 years.

Addiction is often fed by a heart darkened by sinfulness.  I want to continue in my sin.  I do continue in my sin.  I feel guilt/shame.  I indulge in my addiction to cover up that feeling.  Our addictions come in many more forms than the obvious ones.  Most of us fancy ourselves to not be addicted.  I submit that this is far from true.

We're addicted to control in some form or other and when we feel out of control, we indulge in more control.  Maybe we're addicted to scheduling, to cleaning, to exercise, to looking put together, to golf, to food, to shopping, to yelling, blah blah blah.  

It's Jesus I must turn to when I feel out of control.  I need to create that habit as my first defense.  I know that for me, life feels out of control every day.  Multiple times a day.  I must turn to Jesus over and over, leaving those things I can't control at His feet.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Self Worship vs. Hardcore Christianity

I'm doing a study called the Lord's Table.  I've started it over for the third time because once you get  half-way through, if you don't see the fruit that you should see, they recommend starting over.

Each time I start, I learn more.

Today, what struck me is this statement by Mike Cleveland:

"Most dieters are motivated to lose weight by a desire for personal glory; they want to slim down in order to fit in that outfit, look good at their class reunion, hear others comment on how good they look… or maybe they just want to be healthy and feel better about themselves. As innocuous as these motives may seem, they all grow out of self-worship, which should have no place in the heart of the Christian who professes to worship God."

Self - worship. I wonder how often any of us can see that we are worshiping self.  Whether in the area of dieting or any other area.  

I can see that for me, this is certainly true.  I have tried to rid myself of this attitude but have failed every time.  I think the truth is that I really do love myself more than I love God.  More surgery needed.