Truthful Tuesday: One Faith For All

his-love-is-too-great-to-permit-a-sinful-lifestyle-that-enslaves-his-children

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

His love is too great to permit a sinful lifestyle that enslaves His children.

Scriptures of the Day:

Ephesians 4:5-6

“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.”

1 Corinthians 8:6

“But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.”

Acts 4:12

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

John 14:6

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

Matthew 7:13

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Tears fill my eyes as I see Scripture after Scripture telling of only one way to be saved and contemplate the goodness of God that He would make a way, yet so many refuse to accept God’s goodness.

In our pride, we would like to have our way. We think we know best. We think we are deserving of salvation because we are on the throne of our souls.

The standard shifts to accommodate all, yet then no standard remains at all.

It seems fair that we should be able to create our own religion and beliefs, our own list of dos and don’ts. The humanistic philosophy that everyone should be included and everything should be tolerated and allowed seems to make sense. One size fits all. But we, the Created, are not in a position of telling the Creator how things should be done.

In our desire to justify our sin and make ourselves acceptable before a Holy God, we crave a standard that is relativistic and pluralistic. In this thinking, we believe all can be saved. But what is this salvation? Salvation from our sins, not a salvation that allows sins. A great salvation that would cover over our sins but also transform our hearts and minds to be like His.

God is not unloving to have a standard. He would be unloving not to. To have a clear understanding of our need of a Holy God is kind. Further, it is not exclusive to say there is one way, it would be cruel to lie and say all paths lead to God. They simply don’t. God’s word says it over and over again.

There is one Faith, and this is not an ecumenical statement, not a pluralistic view, but a call to the reality that we have One God and One Faith. So simple, yet so many stumble over this reality.

In His incredible mercy, God extended salvation to the entire world, but many miss it. For fear of judgment from the one true faith, people flock to their brand of religion that fits their personality and what they want, when all they would have to do to be accepted is believe and admit that they are unholy, in need of salvation from our Holy God, and ask God for forgiveness.

The one Who laid down His life to bear our iniquity – every single sin – that we could stand in His presence and know our Father – His love is too great to permit a sinful lifestyle that enslaves His children. He paid too high a price to set us free. Too big a sacrifice to allow us to believe in a religion that is a lie, which requires us to try and earn our own salvation. He already bought us with His own blood.

“Jesus paid it all. All to Him we owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, but He washed us white as snow.”

Oh God, may everyone who reads this posting today know that they can be saved and accept Your salvation. Open the eyes of all who read to know that they are loved and cherished and don’t have to live in sin any longer. Remove the liberal view which tries to condone our lifestyle and justify self. We are sinful, wretched, lost without You. Thank you, oh God, for your free gift of salvation which cost the life of Your beloved Son, our Savior!

Truthful Tuesday: The Relic’s Power

relic or good luck charm

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Trusting in religion or religious relics are not a substitute for a vibrant relationship with God. If we want God to go with us, we have to go with God.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Samuel 4:3

“When the army came back to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why did the LORD let us be defeated today by the Philistines? Let’s take with us the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. When it is with us, it will save us from the hand of our enemies.”

Back in middle school I went through a very challenging time.  Sexual abuse, multiple divorces and moves rocked my home and I was looking for answers. Some friends introduced me to the occult, including games like “bloody Mary” and levitation games while another gave me a picture of a European-looking Jesus in a frame.

I began to experience supernatural things that were not Holy and realized I was getting into trouble. I did not know God, but I wanted to. As I grasped the picture of Jesus, I asked Him to protect me.  Somehow I felt safer with the picture, but looking back now I know the picture did not do anything – it was a tender heart crying out to God that made the difference.

It makes me sad when I see people clutching icons or relics thinking that they bring life or comfort. They can serve as a symbol reminding us of God, but they can also become an obstacle and idolatry.  They cannot save.  Only God can.

The Israelites were befuddled that the LORD had allowed them to fail. They were on the right “team”.  How could God forsake them?  Or was it the other way around?

The slow creep to religiosity is barely perceivable, but it happens, nonetheless. Slowly we begin to get comfortable and instead of crying out we just expect God to favor us because we are the King’s kids. Trouble is, the kids begin to compromise and forget that they need to be under His Lordship to receive the promised blessings.

Instead of crying out to God, the Israelites thought the ark could save them. The presence of the LORD was there, and they wanted that insurance. They reduced the presence of God to a good luck charm. The end result was their devastation. God cannot be manipulated and our disobedience does not require Him to still “pull through” for us. In His mercy, He will restore and forgive, but it is after we have learned what we needed to from our mistakes. As a loving Father, He could do nothing less.

Though sorrow may last for a night, joy will come in the morning. If we can somehow get into our hearts that the amazing unconditional love of God longs to comfort us, longs for us to be in relationship with Him. Substitutes just will not satisfy. Though part of His care is allowing us to learn from our errors, the redemptive plan of God is the other side.  He will hear and answer when we cry out and He beautifully weaves together every aspect of our lives with Himself.

God wants to save us, but He longingly draws us to Himself; not a religion, not a picture or a statue – just Himself – and that is all we need.

Lord, thank You for Your mercy in opening my eyes to understand my sinful condition and need of You.  How can it be? Please help us to run to You and no one or nothing on this earth.  

#SeeingDeep #DenisePassMusic

Worshipful Wednesday: God With Us

Pursue a relationship with God - God with us

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Christianity is the only religion where the One true living God is near and living within His people.

Scriptures of the Day:

Genesis 39:2

“The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.”

Genesis 39:21

“The LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.”

Ever feel like God has forgotten you?  I am sure Joseph can relate.  Being thrown into a cistern with no water then sold as a slave to his ex-family – the Ishmaelites – was not exactly the appearance of favor by God.

After Joseph had climbed his way to a position of status with Potiphar, once again he was betrayed.  Being thrown in prison for a deed he did not commit must have made him feel as if God was not taking care of him.  How could God allow the wicked to prosper?

But it was in the dark dungeon that God spoke to Joseph and once again gave him favor. Joseph could not see all that God was doing, but that did not mean God wasn’t doing it.

His purposes were much higher than Joseph’s personal comfort and His plans were far superior to any that plan Joseph could have dreamed.  Joseph  might have thought the dreams he had meant solely that he would be in a position of power.  Ultimately, it was not about Joseph, but about the salvation of all his people and the glory of God.

Our perspective is changed when we see how small our view is in light of God’s sovereignty.  We might not understand why we have to suffer or why things have to happen the way they often do, but if our motivation is God’s glory and not our own selfish gain, then we begin to understand how amazing our living God is and how we can trust Him.

Joseph could not have imagined the methodology employed to save his people, but God sees everything.  This same God also lives in each person who chooses to believe in Him and receive the gift of salvation.  He chose to be with us when He came as a babe to offer His life for our sins and now He dwells in us and speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.

God desires relationship with His creation and has gone to great lengths to demonstrate His love and faithfulness toward us.  Right when Joseph’s life seemed jaded, the very next sentence God says He was with him.  With him in the cistern.  Chained with him in the dungeon.  That is our God.  He never leaves us and promises to be with us at all times.  He truly is Emmanuel – God with us – and worthy of all praise!

Lord, thank you for loving us and making a way that we could have fellowship with You.  your love is extravagant.  How You brought the Holy and unholy together never ceases to amaze me.  Thank You for living inside me and teaching me daily, moment by moment.

A Season of Thankfulness: Day 9 – The God of Rest

God of rest

Ezekiel 20:12, 20

“I also gave them my Sabbaths as a reminder of our relationship, so that they would know that I, the LORD, sanctify them. 20 Treat my Sabbaths as holy and they will be a reminder of our relationship, and then you will know that I am the LORD your God.”

Psalm 127:2

“It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food. Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep.”

Isaiah 30:15

“For this is what the master, the LORD, the Holy One of Israel says: “If you repented and patiently waited for me, you would be delivered; if you calmly trusted in me you would find strength, but you are unwilling.”

Many religions of this world mandate earning salvation by good works.  Rules are made and conditions set that must be met. But those who walk with Christ are pardoned by the only true living God, not by their good works, but by the confession of their mouth, professing their need for salvation.  The One Who set the righteous standard is the only One Who could meet it, too.

God’s provision of salvation for all of His creation was an invitation to rest.  This is completely opposite from any other man-made religion which places the emphasis on us or on anything that we could offer to the one perfect One.

The rest God offers is not so we could become lazy or take for granted His amazing gift, but so we could take time to slow down and know Him.  It is a reminder of the goodness of God who invites us to simply trust in Him instead of ourselves.

God wants to fight our battles and take care of us; to hide us in the shadow of His wings.  Our greatest joy is found in complete dependence upon Him.

It is a curious thing that the God of this universe would choose to rest when He did not need to.  He leads us by example and is faithful in all His ways, showing us the way so we can follow.  In resting in God, we renew our strength and faith and recognize our frailty before an all-powerful God.  We are just a vapor, a mist here for awhile, but God is the great I AM, the Eternal God.

Lord, thank you for the gift of rest.  Help us to rest in You and to never forget our relationship with You is deepened when we pause to focus on You in this weary, busy world.

Intolerable Tolerance

2 Corinthians 11:3-4

11 But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treacheryyour minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimedor if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you acceptedyou put up with it well enough!

1 John 4:1

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Matthew 24:4

“And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.”
Ephesians 5:6

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

One thing that tops the chart for me as something I detest is being lied to.  We can excuse deceptive behavior by calling it a white lie or giving it a righteous spin by saying it protects the one being deceived, but it is far more painful to discover the truth later on than to face the truth from the beginning.

Lies have a way of growing over time and the harm done to the deceived multiplies in intensity, as well.  Deception is evil, yet we can play a role in willingly allow it without noticing and the church can be one of the most affected.

We do not want to be judgmental, but we can be lulled into lies by believing the best in the name of grace – without discernment.  The religion of tolerance has slipped into the church and mouths are silenced by the theme of acceptance to all.  This might at first blush seem exclusive, until we see that there are absolutes in God’s Word.  Living in a relativistic world where anything goes allows evil to thrive silently.

God will grant us wisdom to recognize false doctrines if we ask Him.  Motivation to be purposeful in discernment concerning the newest revelation comes from a desire to maintain a pure devotion to Christ.  To “put up” with false beliefs is to accept them.  Over time the convictions we held can be replaced by whitewashed “enlightened” viewpoints if we aren’t careful to hold on firmly to the true Gospel.

We are not called to be pious, self righteous or judgmental, as we are reminded that we have blind spots, too.  But we are not called to compromise, either, in the name of grace.  Grace is undeserved favor, but it does not placate or permit someone to remain in sin.  Finding balance between abusing grace in the name of liberal freedom and strict adherence to fundamentalism that imposes expectations beyond the written word is challenging, but not impossible.

No one has perfect doctrine, but we all continue to grow in our understanding and relationship with God.  Some beliefs we have held onto need to be debunked if they do not line up with the Word of God and some need to be held onto tenaciously.  God is faithful to speak to us through His Holy Spirit and to guide us into all truth.  We have a choice whether we are going to allow ourselves to be deceived or be like the Bereans, searching out God’s truth.

The church needs to speak the truth with grace.  May we endeavor to do so passionately, but never let go of love in the process.  If the church becomes just like the world in the name of tolerance, we lose our effectiveness and souls, as well.

Lord, forgive us for our lackadaisical compromise.  We are so needful of You to open our eyes to see our own hypocrisy. Wake us up to zealously cling to Your Word and help us to not tolerate sin but to love the sinner.

Tradition’s Grip

Photo Credits: othejoys.blogspot.com

Photo Credits:
othejoys.blogspot.com

Mark 7:5-9

5 The Pharisees and the experts in the law asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with unwashed hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” 9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Isaiah 29:13

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

“Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can’t even describe, aren’t even aware of.” – author unknown

Traditions can be precious when they are founded on the word of God and there is genuine understanding in keeping them.  They can also be a hindrance to our faith that pulls away from sincere love of God if we are not careful.  Bound to them by duty and not conviction is a prison which does not inspire ardent joy that we can have in Christ.  Imposing convictions as duty on others is also once again vain tradition.

That does not mean that some traditions are not worth keeping, but it is a personal decision that must be made by each soul wandering through this adventure called life.

When I was first saved, my eyes were opened to many traditions I had been following, blindly.  We do not have to be a religious person to live according to traditions.  We might not even recognize the control certain belief systems have over us and that we are ascribing mental ascent to them.

The Pharisees probably get a bad rap because of their religiosity, but I wonder how they got there.  It frightens me to think that I could drift away from a simple life hidden in Christ and become religious, instead.  Yet, it I am honest, that is the natural progression if we are not mindful.  The Pharisees were upset when they saw that the disciples were not subscribing to the ritual washing before eating.  It was shocking to them.  But where did this ritual washing come from?

At the root of the purpose of ritual washing was holiness.  Sounds good.  But was it mandated by God?  There were prescribed methods of cleansing after someone had been made unclean in the Old Testament, but no example of the exact application the pharisees were insisting on was ever commanded by God.  Their intent might have been self righteousness or religiosity, or it might have been as devout as wanting to be pure in God’s sight.  But God did not command it.  Going beyond what God has said is not being a super Christian – it is disobedience to God.  He commands us in several Scriptures to not add or subtract from His word.

It might seem silly to us today that such a rule as ritual washing was ever made, but the same spirit behind those traditions is at work today in the body of Christ.  Members of a church subscribe to certain beliefs that are based on traditions rather than God’s word. They might even be worthy traditions based on wise principles, but man-made, nonetheless.  The danger is in judging others who do not participate in the same liturgy as another.

I personally did not feel led by God to participate in a certain ministry at a church I attended.  Most other parents did.  The persecution was real.  If we are not careful, we can spin our wheels worrying about all of our traditions in the church while the unsaved all around us will perish, not wanting to get involved in our circus of religious confusion and traditions.

God has impressed upon me certain convictions that the Holy Spirit within me inspires me to follow.  They are not blind leadings, but clear impressions from the LORD.  The difference between tradition and conviction is relationship.  But even convictions can become a stumbling block if we impose them on others or put them above God’s word.  Following Christian fads is not our holiness – God is.

Lord, thank You for relating with us – sinful mankind – so that we might know You!  Thank You for not having commands which are burdensome, but a light ad a guide to us.  How amazing it is that you speak to us!  Help us to recognize when we begin to idolize traditions and to walk in purity and genuine faith in You.  I love You, LORD!

Thoughtful Thursday: Debunking Positive Thinking & other Escapes

Photo Credits jacquelinegum.com

Photo Credits
jacquelinegum.com

Job 9:25, 27-28

25My days are swifter than a runner, they speed by without seeing happiness27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaintI will change my expression and be cheerful,’ 28 I dread all my sufferings, for I know that you do not hold me blameless. 

Job 10:8-9, 15

8Your hands have shaped me and made me, but now you destroy me completely9 Remember that you have made me as with the claywill you return me to dust?  15 If I am guiltywoe to me, and if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head; I am full of shame, and satiated with my affliction.

Job 8:21

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughterand your lips with gladness.”

Psalm 27:13

“Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the LORD’s favor in the land of the living?”

Life can deal some painful blows that do not make sense and cannot be rationalized by our human perspective.  Well-meaning people can try to either hyper-spiritualize our situation or prescribe the power of positive thinking dogma.  Others might even try to pin your current demise on the possibility of your own sin being the cause.  These solutions do not bring us out of our pain, they only serve to multiply our sufferings.

Be honest about the struggle.  It is not fun – in fact, it is often heartbreaking.  A good attitude is a great approach, and seeing things through the lens of faith a necessity, but we cannot just resort to positive thinking as our solution.  A good profession of faith in God, yes, but not just merely saying positive words or self talk which are not grounded in Scripture. Pretending won’t work, either.  Religion, too, is not our Savior.  Using Scripture or numbly trying to manipulate the results we want is also not effective and ultimately trying to bypass the heart surgery God wants to perform on our character.

We don’t like being examined so ruthlessly, put through such prodding; we would rather worship God in our comfort zone. But Christ is in the dark valleys with us.  It is there that we fellowship with Him and realize our perspective was focused on self and our deliverance – being free from the trial at hand.  Deliverance is given, but not the kind we were seeking – escaping pain or the end of hardship.  No, instead we receive the priceless gift of deliverance from self and a right focus of bringing God glory in all of the many testings life brings.

Sometimes when calamity visits our home or our life, if we are honest, we admit that the trial can create a doubting of God. He let it in.  We thought He loved us, and our definition of love evidently meant that no hardship would be allowed to encroach upon our lives.  Instead, the medicine God provides is His counsel, His comfort and His presence.  This happiness does not mean all is well.  It is choosing to trust God and delight in Him, choosing to place our hope in Him when sorrows abound.

There is a sweetness in surrendering and trusting in God when it appears that He slays us.  The profession of Job in the book of Job 13:15 was such a surrender.  Instead of looking to escape adversity, it is an opportunity that we do not want to waste.  In that place of knowing God is good and knowing that He has covered all of our sins, we begin to see that temporary hardship is not the final judgment – it is just a passing through and a refinement which will pale in comparison to the sweetest moment of all, when we are with Him for all eternity.

Lord, we are but flesh and cannot comprehend how anything good could come from pain.  Give us Your eyes and understanding.  Give us faith when life hurts.  You are our sufficiency and with us always.  Thank you, God!

Thoughtful Thursday: What is Your Vision?

Photo Credits deserthills.org

Photo Credits
deserthills.org

Proverbs 29:18

“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but the one who keeps the law, blessed is he!”

Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.”

Habakkuk 2:3

“For the message is a witness to what is decreed; it gives reliable testimony about how matters will turn out. Even if the message is not fulfilled right away, wait patiently; for it will certainly come to pass–it will not arrive late.”

2 Peter 1:3

“I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.”

As the curtain closed on the Old Testament, we are told that approximately four hundred years followed with silence before the time of Christ.  No divine communication with God’s prophets – but was God really silent?  I have wondered about this silence and what genuine believers did during this time.  I can identify with seasons in my own life where it seemed God was silent and there was no perceived new revelation.  The scriptures all began to sound familiar to me and I wondered if there was anything new God could show me.  The thought of nothing new being revealed in God’s word sounds incredibly foolish to me now, but I was being tested.  Would I dig in and seek Him, even if there was no low-hanging fruit?  If the chips were down and it seemed as though I was forsaken or forgotten, would I worship Him fervently then, too?

Some believe today that there are no more prophesies – the canon is complete.  Others believe God is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow and still speaks to His people – not adding or subtracting from God’s Word, but speaking through visions, dreams, His people and His word.  Whatever you believe concerning the gifts and their possible cessation, we all can agree that God’s Word is living.  Active.  He speaks through His Rhema word to those who will listen.  When I do not feel like I can hear God, I need to be still and read His Word and pray.  It might be that nothing will be revealed to me – can I still trust in Him and His wisdom that He has given me everything I need to walk faithfully in Him?  When I am tempted to doubt that God will draw near to me, or teach me a new treasure about Himself, a still small voice reminds me of Who really is my vision, after all.

So then, rather than seeking a vision, or the latest inspiration or Christian fad to follow, I cannot settle for any counterfeit or good looking substitute.  Being near to Him is vastly more amazing than being religious ever could be.  Even though in my desire to know Him more, I can sometimes get side-tracked in the knowledge itself, He is my vision.  While I love contemporary worship, hymns still have a way of piercing my soul and bringing me to His throne room.  One of my favorite hymns is “Be Thou My Vision”.  It is such a sweet reminder of the simplicity of worshiping Christ alone – not methods of worshiping Him or the devotions themselves, but Christ alone.  If my life is hidden in Him, not trying to be established in our society’s concept of a vision, that is bliss, indeed.

I leave you today with the original translation of “Be Thou My Vision”, circa the 6th or 8th century.  Just as powerful today as it was then.  See if you can hear the servant’s cry after God’s own heart.  May it be our cry, too.

English translation by Mary Byrne, 1905, originally written by Dallán Forgaill, an Irish poet in the 6th century:

Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart

None other is aught but the King of the seven heavens.

Be thou my meditation by day and night.

May it be thou that I behold even in my sleep.

Be thou my speech, be thou my understanding.

Be thou with me, be I with thee

Be thou my father, be I thy son.

Mayst thou be mine, may I be thine.

Be thou my battle-shield, be thou my sword.

Be thou my dignity, be thou my delight.

Be thou my shelter, be thou my stronghold.

Mayst thou raise me up to the company of the angels.

Be thou every good to my body and soul.

Be thou my kingdom in heaven and on earth.

Be thou solely chief love of my heart.

Let there be none other, O high King of Heaven.

Till I am able to pass into thy hands,

My treasure, my beloved through the greatness of thy love

Be thou alone my noble and wondrous estate.

I seek not men nor lifeless wealth.

Be thou the constant guardian of every possession and every life.

For our corrupt desires are dead at the mere sight of thee.

Thy love in my soul and in my heart —

Grant this to me, O King of the seven heavens.

O King of the seven heavens grant me this —

Thy love to be in my heart and in my soul.

With the King of all, with him after victory won by piety,

May I be in the kingdom of heaven O brightness of the son.

Beloved Father, hear, hear my lamentations.

Timely is the cry of woe of this miserable wretch.

O heart of my heart, whatever befall me,

O ruler of all, be thou my vision.

Lord, may nothing hinder us from coming and having fellowship with You!  Remove any obstacles and help us to worship You with pure hearts.  Be our Vision, sweet Lord!