Thoughtful Thursday: Hidden Treasure – Our Prized Possession

Proverbs 7:1-2

“My child, keep my words and treasure up my commands in your own keeping.  2 Keep my commands so that you may live, and obey my instruction as your most prized possession.”

Proverbs 2:4-5

“If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

Luke 12:34

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Colossians 2:2-3

“My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

We can go our entire lives searching for treasure – what our hearts long for.  Yet all the while it is right in front of us, sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.

Imagine finding a treasure and looking at it and taking just one piece of the treasure out, then leaving it there.  The treasure would not benefit us and would not be shared with anyone else, either.  In this fast-paced world, we can step over the greatest treasure and miss it, if we are not careful.

What are the various gems in this treasure chest?  Understanding.  Why is it that our eyes were opened to be able to comprehend what God has done?  Knowledge.  Adding to our understanding, more and more knowledge of Him and the ability to see our sins and His grace.  Wisdom. Knowledge applied and used for God’s glory.  Peace. Souls at rest no matter what is transpiring around us.  Salvation.  The penalty for our sins removed – our guilt stains washed away! Communion with God. being able to fellowship with Jesus and go to Him anytime.  Forgiveness.  All of our guilt washed away.  Grace.  Strength to live for Jesus.  Healing.  Changed hearts and minds yielded to Him, delivered from the burdens of this world.  Assurance.  The sweetest jewel – assurance that we will be with Him for all eternity lasts longer than any temporary treasure on this earth.

On and on the precious gems to be found.  To some the Bible is a book of rules, void of life.  To those who have recognized it’s worth, it is the greatest gift God has given to us.  Boundaries set to free us, counsel to comfort us, His word a lamp to guide us.

To be able to know the God of this universe and fellowship with Him is the greatest treasure given to mankind, but often we accept what is more tangible as a substitute and miss out on the gold He has for us.  No where else will we be able to find such a treasure, that supplies all our needs to each individual.

Lord, we delight in You!  Thank You for the treasure of Your most precious Son!  Help us to seek You without ceasing and to daily,moment by moment bask in your Word.

Thoughtful Thursday: How to Fight

Job 15:1-9

15:2Does a wise man answer with blustery knowledge, or fill his belly with the east wind3 Does he argue with useless talk, with words that have no value in them? 4 But you even break off piety, and hinder meditation before God5 Your sin inspires your mouthyou choose the language of the crafty. 6 Your own mouth condemns you, not Iyour own lips testify against you7Were you the first man ever bornWere you brought forth before the hills8 Do you listen in on God’s secret council? Do you limit wisdom to yourself? 9 What do you know that we don’t know?  What do you understand that we don’t understand?

Job 16:2-5

16:2I have heard many things like these before.  What miserable comforters are you all3 Will there be an end to your windy words?  Or what provokes you that you answer? 4 I also could speak like you, if you were in my placeI could pile up words against you and I could shake my head at you. 5 But I would strengthen you with my words; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.

James 4:1-3

“Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you?  2 You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; 3 you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.”

Assumptions.  Pride.  Hurt feelings.  Control.  Put any two people in a room and conflict is inevitable.  Sure, some conflicts might be more sparky, and depending on whether or not you have a fighter or a flighter, the duration and intensity can vary. Add to that the past baggage each one brings into the fray, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a good old fashioned quarrel.

I do not think many people truly enjoy conflict – so why do we do it?  It is one of those necessary components of life and can actually be a very healthy thing if we do not permit bitterness, envy or vengeance to cloud our view.  At the root of every disagreement is a desire to be understood.  We want to be known and cared for – even when we do not see eye to eye. We want people to believe the best in us – even when perhaps that assessment is not accurate.

In humility, we are all flesh and even when we think we are right, we are wrong.  Wrong for wanting to be proved right, perhaps, or wrong for not caring for our brother or sister in Christ.  A constructive discussion should always contain the elements of respect, kindness and consideration.  When voices are raised, chances of being understood are vanishing quickly.  Laying down our agenda and seeking to understand is a beautiful Christ-like response when engaged in difficult conversations and can end up turning the argument into a beautiful expression of love and caring for souls.  Asking questions and refusing to pass judgment is essential.

What is our goal?  Evaluating our motives can help us to stay on track.  Why is it so important to us that we win an argument?  What are we trying to achieve?  Redemption?  Or having our way?  Frustration is a pretty good indicator of pushiness and not entrusting the process and other person’s heart to God.  Judgment and guilt trips are an indicator of someone trying to control or manipulate.  Seeking to understand why someone is hurt, however, is beautiful.

How about laying all techniques in arguing down and praying first?  Sometimes both parties need to take a reprieve and realize they are a team.  Working on a solution together and hearing every argument as valid will help bring the quarrel to a healthy resolution.  Ultimately, His glory should be our highest goal and cherishing one another and putting each other above our own needs is honoring to God and all parties.  Just as Christ served as an intermediary when we were at odds with God, sometimes we might need someone to help guide our conflicts, too, if no solution seems possible.  May we endeavor to love one another and give to Christ our deepest need to be known and accepted.

Lord, we want to honor you in every aspect of our lives.  In struggles and hurt, disagreements and pain.  Help us to die to self and to glorify You by our unity.

Worshipful Wednesday: The Blame Shame Game

Genesis 16:3-6, 13

16:3 So after Abram had lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai, Abram’s wife, gave Hagar, her Egyptian servant, to her husband to be his wife. 4 He had sexual relations with Hagar,and she became pregnant.  Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, she despised Sarai5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You have brought this wrong on me!  I allowed my servant to have sexual relations with you, but when she realized that she was pregnant, she despised me.  May the Lord judge between you and me! 6 Abram said to Sarai, “Since your servant is under your authoritydo to her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai treated Hagar harshly, so she ran away from Sarai. 13 So Hagar named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said,“Here I have seen one who sees me!

Genesis 17:1

17:1 When Abram was 99 years oldthe Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the sovereign GodWalk before me and be blameless.

Blame is a funny thing.  We somehow think blaming others will vindicate us, all the while inwardly it is an inner child trying to avoid the shame that is welling up inside.  We want the problem to be someone else’s, because we try to convince ourselves that we don’t have problems, or “issues” as they are called today.  Blaming does not achieve the goal of easing our consciences – instead, it serves to create even more baggage to sort through.

Sarai was a bold woman.  Many regard her as submissive, and she was, but in this moment she felt shame that she could not bear a child for her husband.  That shame motivated her to manipulate to achieve God’s promise and bypass the process of God’s blessing.  God said it, she would see it done!

The problem is, she did not go about it God’s way.  Waiting can be painful, especially when we have something to look forward to.  An uncomfortable station in life might motivate us to try to escape and maybe dull the pain.  Or maybe blame others around us that we are not where we should be.  Looking to the future too much, though, can steal our joy in the present.

Maybe we are on the receiving end of blame.  Not fun at all.  I am encouraged when I see how God treated Hagar, the maidservant.  A slave woman used to birth a son for another woman, then blamed for it.  And God saw her.  God sees when we are mistreated and He also sees when we use people for our own glory or desires.  When others manipulate us, in His sovereignty He will take all things, good and bad, and use them for His purposes.  Amazing God.

Whichever end you are on in the blame/shame game, there is hope.  If you are excusing your shortcomings and placing them on someone else, acknowledge that guilt and lay it at His feet.  If you are the one accused by others, lay it down at His feet.  We are all guilty, all desperate before our God Who took all of our blame.  We are all messed up – even the heroes of the faith made mistakes.

We have hope in a God Who sees all, forgives us and HOLDS US BLAMELESS!  God is so gracious, that He still granted that promise – a precious son, Isaac, to Abraham and Sarah.  This son would be a part of fulfilling the blessing of salvation for the whole earth.

LORD, You are awesome, Holy and Perfect in all Your ways!  Thank you for taking up all of our burdens, shame and blame.

The Guilt Complex and False righteousness

Romans 8:1-4; 31-35, 37-39

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus2 For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Indeed,he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him,freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulersnor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 9:13-14

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

I suffer from a natural proclivity of feeling guilty.  Those who can identify with me on this know why I say suffer.  I can pick up the same sin that I have already brought before my heavenly father multiple times and feel the judgment afresh.  I cannot imagine someone willingly doing this in our court system, yet in the court process of our own minds, our guilt echoes loudly.

Perhaps recognizing that we do not deserve forgiveness can seem like a worthy, humble quality.  Indeed, we do not deserve anything but God’s wrath.  But wallowing in past mistakes does not bring God glory nor help us to walk victoriously. Instead, it saps us of strength and is yet another filthy garment, sometimes cloaked in false righteousness, as if our guilt will earn us a reward or make us feel better for the suffering that guilt incurs. Any punishment for our guilt would never earn salvation – only Christ could bear the punishment for all of our sins

Our accuser is always ready to agree with us on our wretchedness.  He and our flesh can even offer potential things to feel guilty about which are not even our own offenses.  What to do with the constant vicious cycle of judgment and guilt?  Accept God’s gift and believe Him at His word.  I, for one, do not want to doubt Him and that He has the authority to justify.  Instead of feeling sheepish about our unworthiness, such amazing forgiveness can be an incubator for a life of gratitude and serve to motivate us to live lives worthy of such lavish grace that has been given to us.

The guilt complex is just one aspect of the battle that takes place in our mind.  Unseen by those around us, it is a sharpened tool in the enemy’s arsenal to attempt to discourage Christians and lay the groundwork for us to live unproductive lives.  What a waste.  That is not why Christ died.  He died to free us not just from the sinful lifestyle, but from the guilt of our sin, too.

Hallelujah!  What a Savior!  God help us to ever allow such a salvation to become merely a means of forgiveness.  Christ carried all of our sins, all of our pain, all of our judgement that we deserved. I must pause to worship Him.  I hope you are, too.  He loves you so much and does not want His children any longer to be imprisoned by their own faulty application of what it means to accept His salvation.  No more guilt, no more judgment.  We are free indeed!

Oh God, I am overcome when I consider how great your gift is!  Help me to daily remember this undeserved forgiveness and live in a way that reflects being accepted by the King of all kings, my Lord, Jesus Christ!

The Choice of Consequences

Photo credits josueaparicio.com

Photo credits josueaparicio.com

2 Samuel 24:10-15, 17

“David felt guilty after he had numbered the army. David said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, O LORD, please remove the guilt of your servant for I have acted foolishly.’ 11 When David got up the next morning, the LORD has already spoken to Gad the prophet, David’s seer. 12 ‘Go, tell David, this is what the LORD says: I am offering you three forms of judgment, Pick one of them and I will carry it against you.’ 13 Gad went to David and told him, ‘Shall seven years of famine come upon your land? Or shall you flee for three months from your enemy with him in hot pursuit? Or shall there be three days of plague in your land? Now decide what I should tell the one who sent me.’ 14 David said to Gad, ‘I am very upset! I prefer that we be attacked by the LORD, for His mercy is great; I do not want to be attacked by men.’ 15 So the LORD sent a plague through Israel from the morning until the completion of the appointed time. Seventy thousand men died from Dan to Beer Sheba. 17 When he saw the angel who was destroying the people, David said to the LORD, “Look, it is I who have sinned and done this evil thing! As for these sheep – what have they done? Attack me and my family.’”

Sin. Free will. Our choices impacting others often with devastating results. David was a man after God’s own heart, yet when he had sinned, there was going to be a consequence. I cannot imagine being given a choice for the punishment I was about to receive. The guilt that David wanted to be released from resulted in seventy thousand men dying. Seventy thousand. Not sure my guilt would be allayed after such a tragic loss from my own sin. David had already tasted of the option of fleeing for fifteen years while his enemy was in hot pursuit, the thought of that must have been too painful to consider, all though he knew the terrain well. I guess seven years of famine was not his favorite, either. Three days was a shorter time of suffering and meted out by the hand of God, not man – surely it would be easier?

The cause for this turmoil? Counting his men. Today, the gravity of such a decision surely falls flat. Wow – counting an army is sin, much less, worth the loss of 70,000 men? Why? What or who prompted David to do such a thing, knowing it would not be pleasing to the LORD? The Bible says the Lord moved David to count. Uh oh. Trouble here – God is Holy and righteous – He never tempts us with evil – but this is looking a little tricky. Until we understand that God moment by moment keeps us from sin, but on this occasion, He perhaps removed that hedge and allowed Satan to tempt David, we cannot comprehend how often He prevents us from the same. Oh how I want God to keep me from sinning – yet we often do not see each day the miracles around us that keep us in Christ. David could have been motivated by pride, wanting to know how mighty his army was, or it could have been any myriad of motives – perhaps not trusting God – as if counting the army would assure victory? Either way, he decided in that moment of temptation that it was worth it, perhaps not thinking through the consequences of disobedience.

Have you ever felt the consequence of your sin? How about the consequences of another’s sin? It’s a bummer for sure, when someone else has made a choice that rocks your world, but then perhaps we have not thought about how our sin might have impacted others, too. I remember crying out to God over the pain my children and I were enduring because of another person’s sin against us. We were dragged to court relentlessly while the person who committed the wrong placated their guilt by proclaiming their own victim status. I wept before the Lord and asked, “Why, God, must we suffer and have consequences for his sin?” In that place of agony, shock and horror, God whispered to my heart, “I wasn’t angry with you when I bore your sin.”

End of pity party for this girl. Did God care that my children and I were suffering? He did. He also cared for the one who transgressed and caused the turmoil. But He modeled perfect love in bearing all of our sins. I realized in that moment that I had to let go of anger – I was just as guilty of sin, not the same sin – but there were still going to be consequences. I wonder what it was like for David after all those people died? I am sure humility would reign the rest of his days. I wonder if people persecuted him or were like, I don’t want to make him sin – we will all suffer, lol.

Today if you are reminded of a sin that you have committed which has hurt others, lay it at Christ’s feet, repent, make amends as God leads and forgive yourself. A guilty conscience is not pleasing to God. Live as one freed from prison on a mission to free others, too.

Lord, help us to live in holy fear and to consider our actions carefully, that we might not sin against you. May we think through the consequences of our actions and who it might harm, living thoughtfully a life of forgiveness and mercy, all for Your magnificent glory!

Judge Not

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By: Denise Pass © 6/9/14

I Corinthians 4:3-5

“So for me, it is a minor matter that I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not acquitted because of this. The one who judges me is the Lord. So then, do not judge anything before the time. Wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts. Then each will receive recognition from God.”

You know the feeling – it’s a stare and sudden looking away that leaves you with a distinct impression that you are being shunned. You are not adequate. At once you remember the guilt of your actions, or perhaps are aware of the slander spoken about you.  In that moment you can feel inferior and labeled.

The problem is, you don’t really know for certain that the individual is in fact judging you, but you act as though it were fact.

Well, what if it were fact?  What if instead you acknowledged whatever conviction (not guilt) that you were feeling?  What then?  Instead of denying even the false rumors, perhaps real freedom comes from humbly admitting that while their perception might not be true, certainly there are some things in me that are not praiseworthy.

Then comes liberty. There is no longer judgment in my failures. No more worrying about other people’s perceptions or judgments. We are aware of some of our shortcomings, though we are all myopic and incapable of seeing them all. Our Lord knew that man’s opinion was not trustworthy. ”  But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.”  There is amazing freedom when we know we are guilty and not perfect, but accepted in His sight!  I am free!  I am not condemned.

We all know we are not supposed to judge others, but how about ourselves? Isn’t it liberating that we are not qualified to judge even ourselves? We can think ourselves righteous or a martyr when we beat ourselves up for our weaknesses, but, in fact, it is legalism which is not godly at all.

Lastly, if we can realize that focusing on the perfect One instead of focusing on trying to make ourselves look perfect to everyone else, it is liberation for our souls. Replace the description of us with God’s description of us.

Let go of worrying about false perceptions and thinking of self and lay that burden at His feet.  He is your Defender and our lives are hidden in Him.

Lord, help us to stop judging ourselves or others and to not allow anyone to judge us but You alone. You are the perfect, righteous Judge and I thank you that you shape my weaknesses to make me more like you.