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.

Worshipful Wednesday: The Fruit of Patience in God Alone

Patience

Psalm 62:1-2, 5-9

1b  “For God alone I patiently wait; he is the one who delivers me. 2 He alone is my protector and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended. 5 Patiently wait for God alone, my soul! For he is the one who gives me confidence. 6 He alone is my protector and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended. 7 God delivers me and exalts me; God is my strong protector and my shelter. 8 Trust in him at all times, you people! Pour out your hearts before him! God is our shelter! (Selah) 9 Men are nothing but a mere breath; human beings are unreliable. When they are weighed in the scales, all of them together are lighter than air.”

Our flesh does not want to wait.  It does not want to be inconvenienced.  It wants what it wants, when it wants it.  It is a well known phrase that we should not pray for patience, but pray or not, we will all be tested to see if we possess this attribute. Patience is hard, but truly a trait of a virtuous person. It is the ability to endure hardship or suffering with humility.  It is the setting of our will to look to God alone.  It is not merely surviving.  It is not thinking that we deserve better, but recognizing that we all suffer in this life and that our dependence on God is what will strengthen us and enable us through whatever life brings.

The Psalmist knew that waiting on God alone was where His deliverance lay.  David knew where his help came from – only One.  How often we run to other sources for comfort or an escape, only to find we are worse off than we were before. Vices and substitutes can never fulfill us like God can.  They can temporarily provide relief, but deep down our soul cries out for more.

Patience is needed during the trials of life but the reward for patience is well worth it.  Eternal rewards are certain, but God also grants us encouragements on this earth.  To be able to have confidence despite our circumstances is supernatural. To have peace when everything around us ignites fear is nothing short of astounding.  That is the heritage of those who patiently run to God for the answer to every dilemma.

Our hope is not found in an entity or a person, which both fail.  The sovereign God Who knows all is the only real hope we have.  How amazing that the God Who we insulted and sinned against delivers us and exalts us when we come to Him.  We are not worthy of such a reward, and yet He lavishes His love and kindness upon us.

The fruit of patience is beautiful in its full bloom.  It is not patience for patience sake.  It is a deep trust in God and gratitude in the face of harsh reality.  It is rest in the wake of any storm.  Considering what we truly deserve, we learn contentment through suffering.  We can acknowledge that the ugly side of life has usefulness for patiently producing righteousness in all who do not harden their heart with bitterness, but instead look to God in faith – waiting on Him alone.

Lord, help us to go to You alone while we are in the waiting room of life.  You are our hope, our ever-present joy.  In a sea of uncertainty, You are our firm anchor.  Help us to see where we are impatient.  Grant us patience in all walks of life and a quiet trust in You.

Thinking Biblically in the Politics of Life

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Photo Credits:
rafik-rafikresponde.blogspot.com

 

 

Mark 14:56

“Many gave false testimony against him, but their testimony did not agree.”

Mark 15:3-5

3 “Then the chief priest began to accuse him repeatedly. 4 So Pilate asked him again, “Have you nothing to say?  See how many charges they are bringing against you.”  But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.”

I have been thinking about politics lately.  Not the ongoing rhetoric back and forth between political candidates, but the politics of life everywhere around us.

Manners and expectations of behavior are taught to us before we can speak and are a thread throughout civilized society.  We cannot escape at some point in our lives someone trying to define us.  It might be accurate and there might be truth in their analysis, but more often than not the scrutiny is false testimony, formed by sanitized motives of jealousy, bitterness, or a desire to control.

Peer pressure is not just for children in school.  It is politics at an early stage and is prevalent at all ages in the unspoken pressure to conform to the perceptions or behavior of people around us.  In church, in families, in any group, politics are among us.  As a leader, a follower, or in our relationships, a subtle influence tries to convince our behavior to be “correct” to another person’s expectations.

When others find fault in us, in humility we should consider their complaints.  As a leader, there will be many suggestions regarding how we lead.  Politics come into play in a benign way.  People might be offering input to improve and to help.  Their intentions might be pure, but when we do not choose to go with their suggestion, motives can become transparent and it just might be that they want things to be done their way.

Servant leadership considers first the principle of pleasing God and then what is best for the ones you are leading.   It is impossible to please everyone and you will not be leading to do so.  Jesus was surrounded by politics himself.  People who thought he should conduct his ministry in a different way offered advice.  People who were convicted by Him offered false testimony and maybe even began to believe it themselves.

Sometimes politics come about because of victimhood, which is commonplace today.  It makes sense to the flesh.  If we can blame someone else for our mistakes and be surrounded by people giving us attention because of what someone else supposedly did to us, we are not culpable.  Or are we?

Blaming others is man’s way of trying to glorify self and manipulate for something we want.  It is trying to make our sin okay.  (I am this way because . . .)  Jesus saw this in those who surrounded Him, and He offered truth.  He did not answer combatively.  He did not meet their demands, either.

We all have been players in the game of politics.  We have judged other’s according to our own vantage point or been the recipient of said judgment.  At the root of underlying politics is a needy people, searching for something or someone to meet the needs of our empty soul; trying to find life in things which were never meant to give us life.  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  Whatever position we are in, whatever wrongs were done to us in this life, we can choose to be a grateful people and not push others around us into a mold for our own gain.

It hurts when people we love assign us a place based on their perception, which might be rooted in their unmet desire.  But the most freeing moment came to me the other day when I sensed judgment.  While I wanted the opportunity to shed light and to share truth to clear up the false perception, the LORD nudged my heart and asked me, “is it biblical?”  No, their pressure upon me was not based on something unbiblical in my life.  Nor was their manner or complaint biblical.  It was based on their unmet desire and their persistence to apply pressure upon me to acquiesce to them – it was controlling.  “Let it go” was spoken to my spirit.

But what if I have been unbiblical in my behavior?  Does that mean I should be shunned or dismissed?  No.  It means I am filled with thankfulness that I can see my shortcomings and thank God for showing me.  It means I can throw myself upon his mercies and find forgiveness.

Teachability is not living for man’s acceptance.  Introspection is not obsessively analyzing ourselves for perfection.  We will never arrive.  We are not accountable to people’s perceptions of us – only accountable to the truth and to God’s evaluation of us.  Throughout our lives, politics will abound, but thinking biblically sets us free.  Free to love others where they are at and to not impose our own politics, either.  We are also no longer bound by man-made rules or trying to make ourselves fit into someone else’s agenda.  Sure, people will still talk and people will still try to put us in a box, but through Christ we are free.

Lord, thank You for opening our eyes to see the freedom we have in You.  Thank you for understanding and insight and for Your abounding mercy which never fails when we are the ones at fault.

Weapons of Warfare

Photo Credits: covenantpromises.org

Photo Credits:
covenantpromises.org

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“For though we live as human beingswe do not wage war according to human standards4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weaponsbut are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.  We tear down arguments  5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

2 Timothy 2:23-25

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting.  24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient,  25 correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth.

2 Corinthians 10:4

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Isaiah 54:17

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants–I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”

It is difficult to live in this body of flesh and live for the LORD.  Fatigue and worldliness creep in easily if we are not watchful. Sometimes I can be lulled into a false perspective that being Christian is to be “nice” and flexible, tolerant of everyone and everything.  I can become disillusioned when I think salvation is equated to being loved by all and living a trouble-free life.

While we are called to love everyone, that does not mean we should expect reciprocation.  It also does not mean that we ought to condone sinful lifestyles or give in to the philosophies of this world.  Paul, who had previously zealously persecuted Christians, was a fighter.  He knew that to be faithful to God meant to be vigilant with our thoughts, faithful to seek God and spread His word.  He recognized that this Christian walk is a battle and he armed himself for the task at hand.

But we all do not have personalities like Paul.  I confess that I am naturally a shy person and a peacemaker.  I would rather avoid conflict, but sometimes it is necessary.  On one hand, I will not seek it out and waste energy on controversial arguments, but on the other hand, I want to be ready at all times to give an answer when someone is truly seeking.

Timothy strikes me as a more gentle soul, wanting to shepherd those around him, but equally as faithful to disseminate the word of God.  I love his heart to keep what really matters in perspective – winning one precious soul with gentle correction. It wasn’t about being right, but about caring for the other person enough to be unpopular with them while the truth was lovingly shared.

We have all perhaps seen hostile arguments over faith and even tearing down of fellow believers because their style or personality was different.  We might have even done so ourselves.  These are not the weapons we are to use as believers. Pride and vanity can cloud our view and cause us to see things from a merely human point-of-view, but love can clear the fog.  Not the world’s definition of love, but God’s Agape, unconditional love, which speaks the truth completely in love.

Boldness from God consumes me and causes me to see my need of God and to fulfill the calling He has on my life.  I just want to be faithful.  Sometimes we can be about the work of God and suddenly find ourselves under attack.  (Which, by the way, should not surprise us, but being that my short term memory is lessened a great deal, I am surprised every time).

Even fellow believers can nip at our heels and judge the work we are doing in the LORD.  What weapons should be use in our arsenal?  Prayer.  Forgiveness.  Love.  When persecution or judgments arise, they are opportunities to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh; to cry out to God, not man; to read His Word and apply it in our lives.

The stumbling blocks of fear and self-preservation can inhibit us from using the weapons God prescribes for use in spiritual battle and from trusting in God to fight for us.  He is our Deliverer and able to accomplish far more than we ever could with our human tools.  His weapons are not of this world and the battles we face are not, either.

Lord, thank you for being our Defender.  Help us to recognize that every we battle we face in this life is a spiritual encounter, not a physical, fleshly one.  You have overcome all!  Help us to use the weapons You have given us, that many will be saved and healed.

Ministry of Reconciliation

reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:14-16, 18-21

14 “For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died.  15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised. 16 So then from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view. Even though we have known Christ from such a human point of view, now we do not know him in that way any longer. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come! 18 And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” 21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 6:4

But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, with distresses, 5 in beatings, imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolence, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, 7 by truthful teaching, by the power of God, with weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and the left, 8 through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as imposters, and yet true.”

Relationships can be tricky – especially if we go by feelings.  Offenses can run rampant in families, friendships and even the body of Christ.  Wherever two or more are gathered, there can be conflict or hurt feelings.  But in Christ, we who have been saved are new creatures and called to a different standard.

Likened to a soldier serving his country, we have been called as ambassadors for Christ and given a ministry of reconciliation.  What a wonderful occupation – peacemakers.  And yet in all honesty, there is not a lot of glamour or appreciation that comes from this position; rather, a lot of humble pie.  But the joy of pleasing God far outweighs the bitter heart weighed down with unforgiveness, resentment or bitter envy.

When someone is uncharitable or unkind to us, it hurts, but what an opportunity to glorify God.  If it is a Christian who is envious or bitter with us, God help us to see the individual as one whom God has forgiven.  We cannot hold a grudge, no matter how justified we feel we may be, for we, too, have trespassed against God and been forgiven.

This ministry of reconciliation should consume our souls.  We are on a mission from God to reconcile man back to a right relationship  with God.  And not just that, but with one another.  God demonstrated relationship to us through His Son.  We are called to relate to one another in humility and grace; embodied by Christ Himself, who we were enemies of and crucified, yet He did not count our sins against us.

At this present time, the “sufferings” of a Christian today in our country do not compare with those of the first generation of Christians in the New Testament.  They armed themselves with being prepared to die to self, to endure hardship all for the glory of God.  Their weapons were righteous – not self righteous, not for their own defense, but to win one soul to God.

Lord help us to not forget our calling and purpose or be distracted by controversies that just do not matter.  We can pursue unity as far as it depends upon us and leave all matters up to God.  Recently I saw a quote, which I had heard many years before in a sermon and it was such a fresh reminder of how to respond when people say things that are not true of ourselves.  To paraphrase, the part of us that wants the truth to be told fights against someone spreading falsehood, yet, in reality, there are things which are true of us that are just as hideous as the lie being told.

God help us to just let it go.  Let God straighten out any misperception and just be about the business of reconciliation as much as depends upon us.  Reconciliation is not for the super religious; it is not for the religious at all; it is expected by all who profess Christ and who have received mercy, grace and reconciliation themselves.

Lord, we surrender to You and ask You to help us to be focused on Your purposes and glory, not our own.  May zeal for Your salvation consume us and may we never tire of serving in this ministry of reconciliation.

The Higher Goal of God’s Deliverance

1 Samuel 1:10

“She was very upset as she prayed to the LORD, and she was weeping uncontrollably.”

1 Samuel 2:1-3, 9

1 Hannah prayed, “My heart rejoices in the Lordmy horn is exalted high because of the Lord.  I loudly denounce my enemiesfor I am happy that you delivered me. 2 No one is holy like the Lord!  There is no one other than you!  There is no rock like our God!  3 Don’t keep speaking so arrogantly, letting proud talk come out of your mouth!  For the Lord is a God who knows; he evaluates what people do. 9 He watches over his holy ones, but the wicked are made speechless in the darknessfor it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.”

Each day, I am amazed how God speaks to just what I need to hear.  This blog is written directly out of my devotion time, which is from a bible-in-a-year plan.  Yet in God’s sovereignty, He uses right where I am at in His Word to speak to me. What an awesome God.

Hannah’s story has always been special to me.  God sees our longings, but fulfills them in accordance with His will and timing.  Her response is so humble and surrendered to God.  In the face of a rival mocking her for her perceived inferiority because she could not bear children, she cried out to her God.

Don’t we all not measure up somehow, in someone else’s eyes?  Hannah suffered from the onslaught of minimizing, but it was not so much her concern for Penninah’s opinion.  She did not get involved with the small-minded desire to be esteemed by others or to have what others had for vanity’s sake.  No, she longed to be a mom.  The pain and shame of not being able to bear children stemmed from her innate, God-given role as a woman.  God honored this desire.

The sting of a longing unfulfilled can paralyze us if we let it.  But in this beautiful moment of Hannah’s submission to God’s will, she wipes away her tears and trusts in God.  When God granted her request, she praised Him and then gave back this cherished gift to her God.  Our tendency as humans is to want to hold onto God’s provision, but Hannah knew that Samuel, her precious son, was God’s and not hers.  Ultimately, her desire to honor God brought about more blessing for her and five more children.

More than victory over those who would demean her, Hannah had a joy in her relationship with her LORD and had gained something even more precious – character.  Humility gained from other people’s judgment is a reward, too.  It teaches us perspective and guards us from living to please man and reminds us that none of us are without fault.

Overly being concerned with man’s affronts is not righteous.  Jesus modeled this heart of humility when false accusations were hurled at Him and He is the only One in whom there was not a hint of truth in his enemy’s rants.  He was spat upon and murdered and responded by praying on behalf of those who wished Him harm.

Letting go of the idol of currying man’s favor is a beautiful place of peace and freedom.  Hannah was not trying to be glorified by man or be the best at anything.  She was not concerned with other people’s perception of her, and when Penninah’s judgment hurt, she ran to her Father – and He heard.

Man’s opinion is insignificant in the scope of eternity, but our response reveals pride and insecurities or trust and surrender to God.  Hannah chose the latter and glorified God, not herself.  We can, too.  Her “ladder” was leaned against God, not the culture.  Her greatest goal was not being right or triumphing over her enemies, but in glorifying God and being found in Him.

Lord, help us to be in the world and not of it.  May we care more about pleasing you than anything or anyone else.

I’m Not Bitter

Ruth 1:20

“But she replied to them, “Don’t call me ‘Naomi’! Call me ‘Mara’ because the Sovereign One has treated me very harshly.  I left here full, but the LORD has caused me to return empty-handed. Why do you call me ‘Naomi,’ seeing that the LORD has opposed me, and the Sovereign One has caused me to suffer?””

Psalm 119:75

“I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

This verse from Psalms still gives me an inner joy I cannot adequately describe.  Why, in the moments following a miscarriage, would I feel the most loved by my God, as I knelt and wept, reading this verse aloud?  Like a rose, life is beautiful, but it can be filled with thorns and thistles which prick us with throbbing pain and sorrows. While no one sees trials or tribulations as a blessing at first, taking a step back might grant a more accurate understanding of what is really transpiring.

I can identify with Naomi in the verse from the book of Ruth, above.  When one tragedy follows another, it is easy to feel forgotten.  When confronted with loss, we have a choice.  Though Naomi was blessed with a faithful daughter-in-law, she chose to focus on her loss.  Though she had previously been blessed, she chose to focus on her current status.  Don’t we all do that?  We feel we deserve blessings but are angry, hurt and doubt God when those blessings are seemingly removed.

What hurt Naomi most was that she knew her God – that He knew all; He was sovereign.  Yet she accused him of poor character – of being harsh and of being the source of her suffering.  The reality is that her God was loving her through it all, through a selfless servant.  God was for her – not against her.  The pain blinded her understanding and the blessings were not in the form she wanted, so her perception and decision was that God did not care.

This God who numbers the hair on our heads and our every tear is not a God Who does not notice our suffering.  He is the one Who bore it Himself, because He could not bear to be without us.  He is the One Who cares so much for our character that He allows pain in, knowing that the beauty made in the crucible is far superior than the shallow goal of living a perfectly comfortable life.

I hurt to write these words, for so many are going through or have gone through horrific burdens and trials, and I desperately want you to know those sorrows are real, and never trivialized by God with a pat religious statement.  Truly, I will never be the same as I was before the greatest sorrow of my life, but then, the compassion birthed through the catalyst of grief is far greater.  He walked through suffering, as well.  He knows what severe trials can do to us emotionally, physically and spiritually and wants to be the One we run to in those moments.

Whatever affliction that is allowed into our lives, it can never be compared with another person’s.  The severity of hardships can range from uncomfortable to debilitating, but in the midst there is a grace supplied – do we perceive it?  It might be a blessing hidden; someone like Ruth that God brings into our lives.  She was a comfort to Naomi, though a foreigner and a Moabite, she ended up being grafted into Christ’s lineage and blessing Naomi abundantly.  Or maybe God’s provision is Himself and His Word that we have to cling to with our whole being.

When our expectations are calibrated with the biblical humility of deserving nothing before a Holy God, we then are surprised we have any blessing at all.  Even greater than a temporary happiness on earth is the all-consuming joy of knowing our Maker and knowing that we will enjoy fellowship in His presence for all eternity.  Though life can be arduous we can choose delight in God instead of opting for regrets or bitterness.  Avoiding the thorns is not the goal, but embracing the beauty within affliction is.

Oh, Lord, You notice us and are aware of every sorrow we bear.  Thank You that You are the God who sees.  Help us to find our joy completely in you and grant us faith and strength to walk in that joy when circumstances would seek to rob us of contentment in You.  Be glorified in our sorrows and blessings.

Walking in His Sandals – the Call to Ministry

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Photo Credits
santatizing.wordpress.com

Isaiah 20:2-3

“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.”

Matthew 3:4

Now John wore clothing made from camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey.”

2 Kings 1:8

They replied, “He was a hairy man and had a leather belt tied around his waist.” The king said, “He is Elijah the Tishbite.” 

Ezekiel 3:1-3,25

1 He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you see in front of you – eat this scroll – and then go and speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth and he fed me the scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving to you.” So I ate it, and it was sweet like honey in my mouth.  25 As for you, son of man, they will put ropes on you and tie you up with them, so you cannot go out among them.

Ezekiel 4:4-15

4 “Also for your part lie on your left side and place the iniquity of the house of Israel on it. For the number of days you lie on your side you will bear their iniquity. 5 I have determined that the number of the years of their iniquity are to be the number of days for you – 390 days. So bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6 “When you have completed these days, then lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah 40 days – I have assigned one day for each year. 7 You must turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm bared and prophesy against it. 8 Look here, I will tie you up with ropes, so you cannot turn from one side to the other until you complete the days of your siege. 9 “As for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, put them in a single container, and make food from them for yourself. For the same number of days that you lie on your side – 390 days – you will eat it. 10 The food you eat will be eight ounces a day by weight; you must eat it at fixed times. 11 And you must drink water by measure, a pint and a half; you must drink it at fixed times. 12 And you must eat the food like you would a barley cake. You must bake it in front of them over a fire made with dried human excrement.” 13 And the Lord said, “This is how the people of Israel will eat their unclean food among the nations where I will banish them.” 14 And I said, “Ah, sovereign Lord, I have never been ceremonially defiled before. I have never eaten a carcass or an animal torn by wild beasts; from my youth up, unclean meat has never entered my mouth.”

15 So he said to me, “All right then, I will substitute cow’s manure instead of human excrement. You will cook your food over it.”

Isaiah walked around in his underwear barefoot for three years, John the Baptist ate locusts and honey.  Ezekiel ate a scroll and laid on his side for 390 days, eating 8 ounces of food each day.  Each considered themselves unworthy, just a tool, a forerunner to Christ.

God knows we don’t get it if we haven’t walked in those sandals.  If we are going to be used by God to share with others, we don’t understand unless we have suffered similarly, the compassion gained in the lessons of suffering is priceless.

We think being a vessel for God can mean a position that is respected – the Israelites thought the Messiah would be a King, triumphing over all.  He did.  But not in the way they would have chosen.  He served, laid down his life and bore our humiliation – embraced suffering instead of seeking to be elevated.

We all can think we want to be a man or woman of God, used for His kingdom, but are we willing to pay the price?  Life’s lessons also teach us to refrain from judgment on others, for we begin to understand that the pain others walk through has a larger purpose than what is on the surface.

Some of the things God calls us to do or allows in our lives do not make sense.  The compassion that Ezekiel had after enduring 390 days of punishment for Israel would cause him to passionately plea with Israel.  He saw what was coming and was a watchman indeed.  The hope was that Israel would turn away from their sin.  One who had suffered could deliver God’s message with zeal and a fortitude that would hopefully turn God’s children back to Himself.

What are our hopes for ministry?  Our aspirations?  If we belong to the LORD, we are all in ministry.  Will we be used as He wants to use us?  I remember well when God first called me.  Newly saved at the age of nineteen, my heart was full with a desire to minister for Him.  I did not know or understand what that meant.  I recall weeping as I would drive to D.C. to work every day.  This was not God’s calling for me.  I was supposed to be out on a mission field somewhere, or something that appeared more like ministry.

God began to give songs to me on the piano as a music major at the University of Maryland.  It was not my instrument, but God clearly opened doors for me to serve Him in this way.  Over time, songs were given with a desire to help others along in their walk with God.  I began to notice a degree of suffering before a song was inspired and asked God if He could use me to encourage others without me having to suffer first.  How foolish of me.  Ministry was never intended to be a cushy experience.

Our calling is ultimately God’s calling.  It is His life lived through us.  He chose a path of humility and service.  Will we?

Lord, help us to be yielded clay in Your hands.  Your will, not ours.  Whatever suffering we will walk through, we know You ordained and permitted it.  Help us to trust You despite what is on the surface of this life.

Thankfulness: Joy in the Humility of Gratitude

Photo Credits rootedforlife.wordpress.com

Photo Credits
rootedforlife.wordpress.com

Numbers 11:1, 4-6, 10, 18-20

1 When the people complained, it displeased the Lord. When the Lord heard it, his anger burned, and so the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outer parts of the camp. 4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except this manna!”  10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and when the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, Moses was also displeased18 “And say to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, and you will eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat, for life was good for us in Egypt?” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat. 19 You will eat, not just one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out your nostrils and makes you sick, because you have despised the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we ever come out of Egypt?”’”

As a mom and chief chef in our home, I feel the sting of this one.  Slaving over the stove to provide tasty meals, sometimes the creativity runs low.  But the attitude of gratitude is what the recipient should bear when provided with food.  God provided the food for them – they merely had to gather it.  But that was not good enough.  Ouch.  We can easily get spoiled when our needs are provided for.  When things come easily to us, we contemplate the value and wonder if we could do better.  Maintaining thankfulness takes effort.  It takes humility to understand what we really deserve instead of thinking we deserve better.

Moses was very humble – more than any man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).  He was surrounded by complaining yet lodged none of his own, well, except for having to lead the complainers themselves.  This is also something I have seen as a parent.  Loving parents tend to want to make their children comfortable.  But too much comfort leads to idolatry of that comfort and the flesh is not pleased when comfort is removed.  How do we treat such whining?  When tempted to complain we can always consider one less fortunate, but perhaps beyond consideration should be action.  Serving someone who has less would help produce a humility and take the focus off of ourselves.

Another aspect of our humanity is comparing – thinking that the grass is greener on the other side.  For the Israelites to say it was better to be enslaved than to follow God and be provided for by Him is a slap in the face of our LORD.  But do we do the same thing? Somehow we think earth should be like Heaven and when hardship happens or someone else is blessed more than we are, discontentment can grow – if we let it.  Back to the example in my own life.  One of my sons was not fond of split pea soup when he was a toddler.  So, much like the Israelites who consumed manna daily, he had split pea soup every day until it became his favorite.  He learned thankfulness and to appreciate what was given to him.

The parent/child relationship serves as a great analogy in my life when trying to understand why God our father would be offended over our discontent.  The hurt of sacrificing for another only to have it poorly received is painful.  If I am willing to examine myself, I can see where seeds of dissatisfaction are sown in my life, too.  A migraine kept me from blogging earlier today – crippled with pain, I first complained about headaches but then thanked God for medicine and a wonderful husband who made me soup.  Medical or household bills can be a source of a disgruntled attitude on my part, too, until I thank God that we have physicians.  As we are nearing the celebration of Thanksgiving, and in everyday life, may we turn the discontent in our hearts around into a praise instead.

Lord, forgive our discontent and lack of thankfulness.  Help us to trust Your provision and to recognize the everyday graces you bless us with and to have an attitude of gratitude and humility all for Your glory!

Slaves to Righteousness

The Thankful Slave

Philippians 1:1

“From Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”

Philippians 2:5-8

“You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 6 Who though He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.  8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!”

I had the privilege of attending a revival last week in which the guest pastor spoke about our position in Christ being that of a slave.  As I have been contemplating his message, today I read the verses above – confirmation to go deeper on this subject to try and understand what it means to be a slave of Christ.

Slavery is viewed in modern society as a cultural sin, unfair and evil.  For the purposes of this world, it has indeed been an evil that has existed in many cultures for the benefit of the rich and the economy, where man is devalued because he is esteemed by sinful man as less.  In God’s sight, each soul is so precious, whether slave or free – and while He created us to be free, we are indeed simultaneously all slaves.  It is, in fact, in our slavery to God that we find our greatest freedom.  For the slavery in this world is founded on wickedness and a lust for power, where the slavery in Christ is founded upon righteousness, humility and selflessness.

We are all slaves to what we give permission to rule over us, slaves to habits, slaves to cravings, and ultimately all slaves of God.  I can feel the cringing when I type that word.  Slaves.  Slaves.  Slaves.  That is what you are.  It is uncomfortable and smacks in the face of political correctness.  Our Savior, holding a lamb, calls us friend – not slaves, right?  Yes, but He has also made us joint heirs – us – the lowest of the earth – recipients of an eternal bliss we did not deserve.  Not typically how a slave-master would treat his slaves.  But every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and in hell below.  We bow because He is the only Worthy One, the owner of us all and of all we see.  He is indeed our Master, whether or not that reality is recognized by the creation.

Paul over and over again reiterates in the epistles his slavitude in Christ.  He does so in a rather boastful manner.  He is not ashamed of being a slave for the Gospel, but fully submits himself to that role.  A slave understands that he has a Master.  He comprehends that He is not the one in charge, but the one who must give an account.  This is at once humbling and the highest privilege one could conceive of.  Imagine being a servant in the White House – how much more a servant in the Kingdom of God.  A servant in God’s Kingdom is entrusted with the most precious gift of all – the Gospel.  Are we serving our Master well in this regard?

A godly servant does not question the Master or become angry and throw a fit when he does not get his way – he understands his position and his greatest pleasure is serving the King. He does not question whether or not he should tithe – he understands it all belongs to God and he is obedient.  This servant recognizes he was bought and does not deserve any kindness due to his transgression.  He is under authority – ooh – another difficult, not politically correct word.  In an age where children are rebellious to the authority of their parents and disregard the structure that God has set in place, being a servant under authority is indeed not popular today.  Nonetheless, we are slaves under authority.

Most humbling of all to me, is that my King, my LORD, chose to become a slave.  Think about that.  When has a King chosen such a role?  When He is righteous and knows that none of His slaves could ever pay what they owe their Master, He chose to serve.  What an amazing God!  May we joyously walk in our slavitude and the wonder that He grafts us in and calls us His children, too.  In that glorious day, all slavery will be abolished – slavery to sin, slavery to man, slavery to the flesh – no more sin, no more brokenness – nothing to keep us from Him any longer.  Glorious day, when our souls are finally set free.

Lord, forgive our pride and motivations that desire to be served rather than to serve.  Thank you for demonstrating real servanthood, even though You are above all.  Help us to glorify You by modeling to the world a holy, reverent walk with You.  Amen.