Thoughtful Thursday: Seize the Day!

Seize the Day blog picture

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Seize the moments God gives and use them for eternity, for they vanish like the wind.

Scripture:

Job 14:1-2, 5

“Man, born of woman, lives but a few days, and they are full of trouble. 2 He grows up like a flower and then withers away; he flees like a shadow, and does not remain. 5 Since man’s days are determined, the number of his months is under your control; you have set his limit and he cannot pass it.”

Job paints a rather sober view of our existence, one colored by the turmoil he was encountering at the time.  I appreciate his honesty.  It is also helpful to know that our expectations should not be for a perfectly rosy life.  Such an expectation can lead to assured disillusionment.

This passage is just a snapshot, though, into the process God was guiding Job through. Job learned to appreciate his position before an Omnipotent God, but he had not yet learned that he was unworthy of any kindness from His Creator.

A lot of grappling with how a good God could allow suffering had to take place before Job would realize in the presence of God that He was unworthy.  Complaining about the deficient conditions he was in would not produce the righteous life God desired, but walking through trouble would change him into a grateful man of God who no longer took for granted the blessings God gave.

Although Job’s suffering is hard to hear, the lessons “caught” are precious.  Since we have a short life, we ought to live it well.  Climbing ladders for our own selfish gain or expecting a perfect trouble-free life will not be investing in eternity.  God help us to not waste the moments we have been given.

Although we live in a fallen world, the expectation of blessing is ours in Christ, but it is often veiled and hidden from our eyes.  We see blessings where God might see the blessings as stumbling blocks.  We see burdens where God sees a thing of beauty in the making.

Lord, You are all-knowing and know what is best.  Help us to live our lives down here in holy fear, grateful for every blessing and not straying from the mission you have given us – to know You and make You known.

Forgiven Friday: Our Gracious God

God spares us

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We cannot comprehend on a moment-by-moment basis what God spares us from.

Scripture:

Job 11:6b

Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.

Job 12:9-10

Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? 10  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. 

So much to share about what God has shown this weekend at the Worship Conference, but the verses above were from my own reading today.  In the midst of being in awe of God in all that we have learned, I found out that one of my children was in a car accident tonight.

Why would God be so gracious as to keep my child safe?  I don’t know, but all I can do is praise Him for His undeserved mercy.  Life is fragile and no one knows their end, but every moment, every breath we have – is in His perfectly sovereign hands.

Every day there are miracles untold, situations which never arose because God’s hand stayed them.  Then there are the painful circumstances that are allowed in.  Complaints can be quick to rise in such times, unless we remember all that God has done for us and contemplate what He has kept from penetrating into our lives.

Overwhelmed by His grace today.  Give a hug and kiss to your loved ones whom God has placed in your life.  They are a treasure to behold.

Lord, this precious life is Yours alone.  Thank You for the opportunity to live for You.  Be glorified, LORD, in everything we say and do and help us to be grateful for each moment.

Truthful Tuesday: Whose Lead Do You Follow?

Whose lead do you follow

Romans 8:5

“For  those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

We’d all like to think that we are led by the Spirit and are making decisions that are wise, but often we do not see the spiritual realm all around us, affecting our thoughts and actions.  The impact of flesh versus spirit affects our lives and those around us.

The choices we make moment by moment are filtered by our mindset which is impacted by many factors in our environment.  Evident in our choices about what we eat (ugh . . . chocoholic confessions here for me), to the clothing we wear, the words we say and the attitudes we have toward other people, we have impressions or feelings that bombard us constantly.  If we are not careful and discerning, we can allow our perception or someone else’s opinion to affect our own behavior.

One main way this flesh is played out is how we treat one another.  Rejection of others who aren’t like us is common in the world, but unfortunately, it also happens at church. People shun others or just plain old don’t like other people who are made in the image of God.  Where does this come from?  If it is not from God, then the answer is obvious, but all too often we do not stop to consider why we don’t like someone.  We might all have different personalities, but we ought to love one another so the world can see that body of Christ is indeed different.

The truth is we are more apt to be carnal than spiritual beings and when we are spiritual, we often get in the flesh and think it is us who are righteous, when Christ alone is our righteousness.

While this is a humbling truth, maybe it can provoke us to be aware of our thoughts and behaviors.  Do they honor God?  Are they of the Spirit or of the flesh?  If we could grab a hold of this reality, Christians would turn this world upside down with godly lives and choices that no longer appear hypocritical, unconditional acceptance and love instead of judgment and forming cliques.

Pleasing self or others and seeking acceptance from God’s creation does not compare with living for the audience of One.  Like Paul, we will have to battle the flesh, but staying in the battle is far better than not recognizing the battle of the flesh versus spirit in the first place.

Lord, may You increase and may we decrease.  Help us to recognize the things that are from You and the things that are not and to walk in the Spirit.

 

Funny Friday: Faith Sometimes Looks Silly

Radical faith

Isaiah 20:2

“At that time the LORD announced through Isaiah son of Amoz: “Go, remove the sackcloth from your waist and take your sandals off your feet.” He did as instructed and walked around in undergarments and barefoot. 3 Later the LORD explained, “In the same way that my servant Isaiah has walked around in undergarments and barefoot for the past three years, as an object lesson and omen pertaining to Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, both young and old. They will be in undergarments and barefoot, with the buttocks exposed; the Egyptians will be publicly humiliated.”

I don’t know about you, but walking around barefoot in underwear has not typically been what comes to mind when I think about what it means to be a prophet of the LORD.

But God goes through great lengths

to reach His people

and He often calls His followers to do the same.

But why?

Sometimes God calls us to do strange things or allows us to go through difficult times so we will have a passion and an understanding to live fully for Him and to communicate His heart and message to His people.

Noah had to build a boat amidst mockers in a dry land. Joshua had to march around a city and blow a trumpet.  Abraham was told to sacrifice his one heir, his precious son.  Moses was told to go back and demand from the king of the greatest land that their slaves be let go. Jeremiah bought a linen belt God told him to buy, hid it in a crevice then dug it up when it was ruined.   A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea and took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands to prophesy about what Paul would suffer. 

Sometimes we need object lessons to be warned or to wake us up to walk uprightly before God.  While it might seem futile for Jeremiah to bury a belt, the ruined article of clothing demonstrated how the people of God would be ruined if they did not repent and seek God.

While building a boat with no water or rain in sight was possibly embarrassing, it meant the salvation of Noah’s family and ultimately the continuation of the existence of mankind and all of the creatures God created.

Sometimes man can also come up with crazy radical ideologies that have nothing to do with God, but they claim it does, anyway.  The fruit of our behavior identifies where the calling originated from.  Does it bring life or death?

The words of the famous missionary, Jim Elliot, which were echoed by Twila Paris many years later, have been precious to me since I first came to know the LORD in 1988.  “He is no fool if he should choose to give the thing he cannot keep to gain what he can never lose. To see a treasure in one soul that far outshines the brightest gold; he is no fool.”

If God calls us to do something that is not popular or seems foolish to man, perhaps that makes it all the more reason to do it.  To live for Jesus, really live – is to seek to do His will in everything we do.  Sometimes it just won’t make sense.  But that’s ok.  He who chose to come and be born as a baby; King, Creator over all, humbling Himself to be at our level, conquered every heart with the most radical action of all.

Lord, help us to trust You when things don’t make sense.  Every trial we go through has a purpose – we can comfort others when we come out on the other side and bring You glory. May we be sensitive to Your calling and never doubt Your goodness.  Love You, Lord!

Truthful Tuesday: Who’s to Blame?

Pointing Fingers

Pointing Fingers — Image by © Images.com/Corbis

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When one falls, we all do.

Scripture:

Joshua 7:1, 11-12

But the Israelites disobeyed the command about the city’s riches. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, stole some of the riches. The LORD was furious with the Israelites. 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenantal commandment! They have taken some of the riches; they have stolen them and deceitfully put them among their own possessions. 12 The Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they retreat because they have become subject to annihilation. I will no longer be with you, unless you destroy what has contaminated you.”

But.  I hate that word.  It usually precedes something you don’t want to hear.  Before the “but” word is typically something encouraging to set you up for the plunge you are about to take.  I gotta say it … BUT if it were not for the buts we would probably have many lessons unlearned.

We all want to hear a fairy tale ending for someone who has suffered.  The Israelites had just defeated Jericho.  We don’t want to hear that they are now about to be annihilated because one person stole what was meant to be destroyed.  Instead of celebrating victory, 36 innocent men died because one of the Israelites just had to disobey.

What is difficult for me to swallow in the above passage is the plural on the people group Israelites.  One person is named to have sinned greatly before God, but they all take the rap for it.

At first God’s ire seems unjust, but if we consider the family unit, when just one member transgresses, the whole family is affected.  People question how the family could allow such an action.  So it is with the body of Christ.

Sometimes tragedy awakens us to realize we might have sin in our camp.  We can oversimplify and assume that any difficulty was brought about by sin, BUT in reality, whether the root cause is sin or not, there is always a lesson within that has the potential to draw us nearer to God.

Who is right and who is wrong does not really matter.  Finding someone to blame does not necessarily fix the problem, either.

If we are all the body, then when one part of the body of Christ is found in sin we should not consider ourselves better, but surround that person and count ourselves in their number until we right the wrong.

Ultimately, the discovery of sin is devastating, BUT it can produce the beautiful fruit of repentance if we humble ourselves and let it.  Like Moses who offered to bear the blame of the sin of his people, may God help us to bear one another’s weaknesses and point one another to Christ.

Lord, help us to yield to You when we want to run the other way because of someone else’s or our own shame.  May we discover the joy of obedience and help others around us to do the same.

Mundane Monday: Oh, Mercy!

Mercy Seat

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Costly mercy should never be casually accepted.

Scriptures:

Romans 3:25

“God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed.”

Hebrews 9:3-5

“And after the second curtain there was a tent called the holy of holies. 4 It contained the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered entirely with gold. In this ark were the golden urn containing the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 And above the ark were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Now is not the time to speak of these things in detail.”

Romans 2:4

“Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?”

Some of us need a big dose of God’s mercy on Monday mornings.  That and a large cup of Joe.  In the hamster wheel of life, we are all running about, aiming to achieve whatever objective that day holds.

Yet in the day-in and day-out of our busy lives, we receive mercy upon mercy and do not perceive it.

This lavish mercy, covering our every sin, was planned from the beginning and cost our Savior’s life.  Mercy for past sins, mercy for present and future ones, too.  Mercy to live a different way.

The mercy seat was the lid on top of the ark where the very presence of God would sit and give mercy when the blood of atonement was sprinkled there.

This is so graphic for our delicate ears to hear, for we are far removed from the fact that our sin brought death.  Blood.  Shed on our behalf.  Not so we would continue in sin, but that we would marvel at such forgiveness and in response die to our sin at such a great sacrifices given on our behalf.

Now this mercy seat is represented by Jesus, Who covers our sins and passes over them by His own righteous blood.  Even  more amazing to consider, this mercy seat is available to us at all times.

We do not have to be priests, entering with trepidation and bells attached to the hem of our robe in case we should die in the presence of a Holy God.  No, we, normal, sinful beings can enter the presence of the living God and find mercy.

May this truth help us to be amazed at You, oh God, on our ordinary days when we look only to this life for meaning.  Arrest our hearts with Your Faithful Love and help us to live our Mondays in awe of our merciful God!

Worshipful Wednesday: Planted in Purity

tumbleweed.jpgrooted-in-god

Inspirational thought of the day:

Guard against the pollution of our souls.  Light and darkness have no fellowship apart from God’s grace.

Scripture:

Psalm 1, 3-5

1 “How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway of sinner, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! 3 He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. 4 Not so with the wicked!  Instead they are like wind-driven chaff. 5 For this reason the wicked cannot withstand judgment, nor can sinners join the assembly of the godly.”

I vividly remember the whipping wind and the piercing sand stinging the back of my legs as I walked down my street in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was March, the windy season, and you had to be on the watch for tumbleweeds blowing down the street toward you at a rapid pace.  The .7 mile walk to school (yes, I mapquested this, since I was going to guess 2 miles and did not want to exaggerate), seemed like an eternity in such conditions.

What a vivid example it serves to me now as I consider the verses above. The wicked are not able to choose righteousness apart from the grace of God.  Wind-driven chaff such as the tumbleweeds I encountered, are dead and are not able to steer or guide, but are completely driven at the whim of the wind. But the follower of Christ is alive; like a blossoming, fertile tree who does have a choice and is able to choose righteousness by the Holy Spirit.

We are deceived if we think we can dabble in a little wickedness.  A speck of dirt contaminates a glass of water and sin hardens our hearts over time.  But God.

When my children all reached between the ages of eleven and thirteen, I went through the “Passport to Purity” with them – a wonderful study by Dennis & Barbara Rainey for parents to guide their children through discussions about purity.  One statement has left an impression on my children and I like no other.  When confronted by sinners who invited a young man to join in their revelry, the young man commented, “At any moment I could become just like you, but you can never become just like me”.

The wicked cannot choose to be righteous, save the grace of God.  Man cannot undo decisions of impurity, but God can redeem them all.  Praise be to God who plants the righteous firmly by the stream of His Word.  They cannot be moved.  They might suffer in this life, they might stumble and fall, but they will rise again and their foundation is firm.

Lord, thank You for your salvation!  Thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who guides us into understanding and obedience.  Please help us to remain firm in our faith and to resist evil.

rooted-in-the-word-kevin-ca

Truthful Tuesday: Representing the Invisible God

representing-god

Inspirational Thought of the day:

God’s transforming truth makes us truth bearers.

Scripture:

Joshua 2:19-20

“Anyone who leaves your house will be responsible for his own death–we are innocent in that case! But if anyone with you in the house is harmed, we will be responsible. 20 If you should report what we’ve been up to, we are not bound by this oath you made us swear.”

Truth is so very sweet to the soul.  Words like integrity, honesty, and responsibility smack of a valor from another era, but are just as much required of the child of God as they always were.

On the verge of imminent attack from Israel, Rahab took a risk.  She trusted in the spies from Israel and betrayed her own country in so doing.  This shrewd maneuver spared her family and ultimately her son, Boaz, who was in the lineage of the geneology of Christ.  God’s sovereignty always trumps all of man’s plans.

It is amazing to consider that she would trust these strangers, who were coming to destroy her people.  Why would they spare a prostitute?  What made her place her faith in them, her enemy?

Seeing God’s activity on the Israelites behalf was a testimony to Rahab.  If the God of this universe would part the Red Sea for His people, she wanted to be counted as one of them.  If a Holy God would do such things for His people, they must bear character worthy of such favor.

God’s mercy on Rahab and His people is such an example of the sweet grace of God, who had compassion on us, as well.  He could have destroyed us, yet chose to include us in His family.  With such mercy, we, too, are ambassadors of this grace so given.

As Christians, we stood before Truth incarnate and He judged us as innocent.  Not because we were guiltless, but because His grace was greater.  So often we forget this precious truth and do not bear the character of the One who redeemed us.

Promises are often unkept, sins repeated and grace often abused.  We lie to one another. We who have been extended such grace should not participate in or tolerate glossing over realities with half truths and schmoozing, which should be far from the people of God.

The Red rope hung from her window is reminiscent of the red painted over the Israelite’s door frames during the Passover, symbolic of the blood that covers us, too.  Our salvation has the potential to cover those in our household, as well, if we walk in the grace and truth God imparted to us.

Oh God, may Your involvement in our lives be obvious to those around us!  Help us to never forget the great salvation that You have provided and to represent you well, all for Your glory.

Mundane Monday: Unruly Rulers

Steward What You Do Have - unruly ruler

Inspirational Thought of the day:

God has given us everything from provisions to positions, yet still owns and rules it all.  

Scriptures:

Genesis 1:26-27

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.’ 27 God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”

Genesis 2:18

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.'”

No one likes to be told they have to follow someone else’s rules. Ugh. Our flesh in this culture cries out, “no one can be the boss of me”. That’s our nature. God made us to rule, after all. But in what manner?

Man and woman were both made to rule over God’s creation according to His boundaries, but the tendency of mankind is to add or subtract rules to define our own boundaries to suit our desires.

We were to be stewards of all He had given, and within that work was a blessing – our enjoyment. But we can easily forget that it all belongs to Him. The One Who gives us the right to rule is still the owner of it all.

Something innate within us wants to own things, but in God’s economy, He shares it all with us freely.  While He was demonstrating love and generosity to Adam and Eve, they were pursuing their own glory and wants instead of His.  Their rulership became all about them and was no longer blessed.

He knew all that they needed, provided food and even provided for their need for fellowship – woman was made as a companion for man.  With such blessings, why would they ever want for more?

Both of them were present when they chose to violate God’s law.  Both confused the purpose of the role of dominion and what they ruled over was therefore cursed.  Even their fellowship would never be the same.  A sad ending, if that were the end of the story.

In Christ, we can see the impact of the curse in our own lives and resist evil, but it is a battle we will have to fight our entire lives.  Our flesh gets wearied by this continual internal and external conflict, but it is a battle worth fighting.  Even though the curse is evident all around us, God uses even curses for good in our lives.

When things are not perfect, the curses in our lives can be a catalyst for seeking God and seeing our need of Him.  The initial punishment meted out by a Holy, righteous, perfect Judge ends up as a blessing to those who die to self and seek God’s glory and not their own.  What an amazing God.

It is ironic that the pursuit of wisdom would lead to their demise.  A pursuit of wisdom for our own glory bears cursed fruit, but loving wisdom in order to glorify God bears eternal fruit.  If we can see our rule over what God has given us as a position of servitude instead of a position of power, we begin to see the wisdom in God’s plan and reverse the curse.

Lord, thank You for Your kind provision.  You have blessed us beyond measure and we still always want for more.  Help us to be faithful stewards and to care for everything You have placed in our hands.  May we be content and grateful, never forgetting that everything we have is Yours and for Your glory. 

Thoughtful Thursday: Raising Abel

Train up a child

Photo Credits: kidsministryresources.com

Ecclesiastes 11:9 

“Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes, but know that God will judge your motives and actions.”

Ecclesiastes 12:1

“So remember your Creator in the days of your youth–before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”

A mantra spoken often in our culture is that teens think they know it all. And while there is surely a grain of truth in this statement, a step back reveals that it is a blossoming seed coming to fruition of the investment of earlier days.

It is sheer delight seeing the wonder in a child learning something new about the world around us.  Watching that wonder grow over time into fascination and a depth of wisdom and knowledge is even more amazing to see.  Such is the privilege of being a parent.

The quest I have held closely to in 21 years of parenting is an earnest desire to nurture a love of wisdom, fear of the LORD and a sincere love of the LORD in each of my children’s hearts.  Words cannot convey how wonderful it is to see them seeking after God and seeking to walk in His ways in a troubled generation.

The world around us insists that teens have to indulge in the flesh, sass their parents, live for self and rebel.  That is not what Scripture says.

Subcultures within Christianity can also have fads and recommendations of what convictions we should hold to in order to have godly children. While there is wise counsel often given by various authors and ministries, it becomes religiosity if we hold to methods and an external approach more than an internal commitment focusing on character.

We did not have television or electronics for most of my children’s childhood.  Then we did.  We learned lessons and how to grapple with this world around us and seek to impact the world rather than just avoid it.  We also utilize social media with age limits, are accountable and seek to use it for the glory of God.

I hesitate to share the parameters we set because everyone’s personal convictions vary widely and each one needs to honor God with the boundaries they have for their household.  Creating a center of wisdom through the provision of devotionals, worship music and a Christian education helped lay a foundation of providing a biblical lens in all that my children face.

Paramount above all is the voice within reminding us that “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD”.  We go through seasons in which we recognize the world creeping in and have to take actions to “clean house”, but such revelations are a gift from God and part of walking in relationship with Him.  More than rules is an understanding why we have such boundaries.

Giving space little by little for children to make their own successes and failures is frightening, but also a tool for them to learn from.  Encouraging them to pray for wisdom themselves will be their key to a faithful walk with God if they dare to ask.

Trying to find a magic bullet or set of rules will not produce the youth God is looking for, but fostering, living it our ourselves and creating an environment which encourages a love for God’s word and provokes living an honest life before our Maker is fundamental.

Instead of buying into the propaganda which makes excuses for folly in youth and wastes the days of youth, we can spur the next generation onto greatness.  There is a joy that comes from being accountable and living life through a biblical lens that no frivolous childhood could ever compare to.

Dispensing away with lies that say being godly is not fun and debunking the fear that says we cannot be in the world yet not of it, we can raise our children to have freedom within boundaries, genuine “wise guys”, guided by wisdom and the fear of the LORD.

Lord, it is a humbling, overwhelming task to raise children for You and for Your glory.  Please enable us to live a radical life for You that is infectious and attractive so the future generation will see the joy of the LORD in our faces, which far surpasses worldly pleasures.