Thursday, June 27, 2013

Fem Fight Club

It's been a long couple of weeks. Insert long list of excuses here.
I've not spent time with my Savior like I should. My mind is loud.

I met with my accountability partners last night - a great group of God centered women. We call our little gathering Fem Fight Club. They are not afraid to say "hey I love you, and you are full of crap". Trust me, they'd probably say it just about like that.

Enter 1 and 2 Samuel - our reading for the next few weeks. I read through 1 Samuel one and two - saw some of my own notes, and moved on.  Then I got to Chapter 3 ~ when the Lord calls Samuel.  This is what my note said: "Sometimes I don't or can't recognize the voice of God calling to me" and "wise counsel can help me tune my ears." God was there and so was Samuel and Eli. In this case, God picked a quiet moment. God picked an unlikely person. Then God spoke some hard truth.  For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about, his sons made themselves contemptible and he failed to restrain them... Eli knew that his sons were sinning against God and he failed to act. Eli ignored and justified their sin and in doing so he dishonored God. His choice came at a high cost. Eli was not responsible for the sins of his children, but he was accountable for his own inaction. Eli was a good man, a Godly man; but he made some poor choices and God cannot overlook sin.

I cannot control anyone but myself. Accountability is part of the faith journey. It's not about my standards, or the standards of any one person ~ it's about God's expectations for His people. I am so glad that I have people in my life that love me and honor God. I don't always like what they have to say. Sometimes their questions make me uncomfortable. They are willing to fight for me, and I am willing to fight for them too. They're worth it, and it's part of how God expects us to do life together. The Christian experience is a group experience.

Quiet my mind God ~ tune my ears to your voice
Make me bold ~ let my actions bring glory to you
Take hold of my tongue ~ let my words be only what brings glory to You
Give me wisdom ~ let me see with eternal eyes what matters today, and what does not

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Do you think I stink?

Do you think I stink?
That is the question.
I am grateful that God always makes it possible for Christ to lead us to victory. God also helps us spread the knowledge about Christ everywhere, and this knowledge is like the smell of perfume. 15-16 In fact, God thinks of us as a perfume that brings Christ to everyone. For people who are being saved, this perfume has a sweet smell and leads them to a better life. But for people who are lost, it has a bad smell and leads them to a horrible death. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
The more I read these verses the more they inspire me. Yet the more I read these verses, the more troubled my heart becomes.
I am grateful that God always makes it possible for Christ to lead us to victory. God also helps us spread the knowledge about Christ everywhere
Christ is my leader. He sets the course. It is only with the supernatural power of God Himself that the gospel message can be successfully shared. It's not about me at all. God's word, God's timing, God's prevenient grace. Salvation is a gift to me shared.
...and this knowledge is like the smell of perfume. In fact, God thinks of us as a perfume that brings Christ to everyone.
The scent of a perfume travels fast and far. It reaches all. It is not selective in who gets to smell it.  Smell is one of our most powerful senses. It can effect us physically. It can trigger memories. It can stir emotions. God's presence in my life should be evident to all those who encounter me.
For people who are being saved, this perfume has a sweet smell and leads them to a better life. But for people who are lost, it has a bad smell and leads them to a horrible death.
There are just two groups. The first group - the people to whom the gospel message draws them closer to personal relationship from God.  The second group- the people to whom the gospel message drives them farther from God. There is no middle ground. There is no middle. To encounter Christ is to either draw closer to Him or to purposely be distant. The message of Christ brings hope, healing and restoration to those who claim His as Savior. The message of Christ will bring eternal separation from God for those who refuse.

My God is merciful. Full of grace, compassion and love. My God is just. He cannot stand sin. There is no audience or casual observer. There are no bench warmers. There there is no limbo. No minor leagues. No Drafting Day. God will not force you to be on His team, instead he wants you to pick Him. Your on a team. Right now. Even if you say "I'm not choosing a team, or I am not playing this game" - you have chosen a team.

I'm doing life with Jesus, and while I am far from perfect God is perfecting me. When you are near me, you are around God's perfume.

So how do I smell?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Hard Choice

Gotta love the First Church of Corinth! They are excessively inactive in addressing the sin of a believer, then they swing hard in the other direction. They are the church of extremes. No middle ground for them.
Now, regarding the one who started all this—the person in question who caused all this pain—I want you to know that I am not the one injured in this as much as, with a few exceptions, all of you. So I don’t want to come down too hard. What the majority of you agreed to as punishment is punishment enough. Now is the time to forgive this man and help him back on his feet. If all you do is pour on the guilt, you could very well drown him in it. My counsel now is to pour on the love. The focus of my letter was not on punishing the offender but on getting you to take responsibility for the health of the church. So if you forgive him, I forgive him. Don’t think I’m carrying around a list of personal grudges. The fact is that I’m joining in with your forgiveness, as Christ is with us, guiding us. After all, we don’t want to unwittingly give Satan an opening for yet more mischief—we’re not oblivious to his sly ways!   2 Corinthians 2:5-11(Message)

There is some important stuff I don't want to rush past. First, a brother, a believer was sinning and he was just fine with it. All the while the Church looked the other way. After some prompting from our good friend "oh so subtle Paul", the body of believers called the man out regarding his sin. Next Paul recognizes that beyond feeling guilty, the man has sorrow (an indicator or remorse and repentance). The offender has stopped sinning. Now it is time for the church to forgive, build a bridge and get over it. God has forgiven. To continue to "punish" the offender will not help him and it could in fact harm him. Now here is the wrap up wammy - Paul says his point in addressing the issue in the first place was to get the church to take a hard look at their spiritual health as a body of believers. When the church is sick, the church needs to address it. Satan is hoping for unforgiveness, so don't take the bait.

Unforgiveness is a Scheme of Satan.
It can strangle a marriage.
It can stagnate a friendship.
It can stifle a church.
It can shackle me and silence God.

Do actions have consequences? Yes. Does it take time for restoration and healing to occur? Yes. Is love part of the healing process? Always. If I choose to hold on to unforgiveness, can I pour on love as Paul directs? I don't think I can. A spirit of unforgiveness will block my ability to love. 

Some things may seem unforgivable, at least by human standards. 
Some things can only be forgiven with the power provided by God.
Some things I could never forgive on my own - but God has set me free.
Unforgiveness might hurt the other guy, but it always hurts me more. To forgive is the hard choice. It's obedience. It is an exercise of my will. Feelings don't always accompany the action. At least not at first. But God doesn't call me to a life of feeling, He calls me to a life of faith.

Today God, if my heart clings to hurts that are coming between You and Me, please bring them to my mind. Hold my hand, hold me close and then let me have Your strength to let them go.  AMEN

Monday, June 3, 2013

Toy Story - Lesson 2

Lesson # 1  ~ God's name is on my foot.  Cool

When I made the choice to be a Jesus follower something crazy happened. In my heart, in my soul and in my mind there was a new sign that was hung up. It said "Under new Ownership". It was no longer about me. Transform my thoughts to yours Jesus. Teach me to be like you. I don't want to do anything that does not reflect who You are God. Every part of me - make it yours. It wasn't that every part of me changed, but every part of me changed. I started the process of becoming the woman that God created me to be. His. It is scary sometimes. I don't always know what's next. It's an adventure that I get to discover a bit more each day.

Just like Woody, sometimes I can get separated from my owner. Sometimes life just happens. Sometimes I make the choice to step into sin and out of God's plan. Sometimes things get crazy, my relationship with my heavenly Daddy gets pushed to the back burner. His voice that I use to hear so clearly becomes very quiet and far away.

But my story is different than Woody's. "It is by grace through faith you have been saved - and it is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God.  Not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph 2:8-9). I couldn't earn my salvation in the first place; I cannot earn my way back into relationship with God either. There are obstacles in my path. There are forces that work to keep us apart. But God doesn't say to me "fix yourself up, start doing the right thing and then we will talk." God doesn't say to me, "I will meet you half way". God says "seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart" (Jer 29:12-13).

God's first plan has always been for the restoration of our relationship.
Like the father of the protocol son, He waits for me to come back to my senses.

Lesson #2 ~ God's not waiting for me to fix myself back up and work really hard to re-find Him. He's waiting for me to stop, turn around, and once again take His hand.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lessons from Toy Story

I love the movie Toy Story.
It came out on VHS just about the time Jay and Seth were discovering video entertainment. We watched that movie at least 3 times a week for a couple of years. We watched it enough that we wore out the tape and had to buy it again.
It's a classic!

"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

When I read this verse this morning - instantly my mind flashed back to Toy Story - and I had a visual image of what is actually going on with me and God.  In the movie, Andy writes his name on the foot of all of his most prized possessions. He marks them; he claims them; they are his.

I'll be honest. I looked at the bottom of my foot. Besides the toe rings and the gold sparkly nail polish, there is not much that is special about my feet. In fact, I think that feet in most cases are basically gross. Except for baby feet - every part of a baby is cute. I know you're smiling and shaking your head - probably because you know me.

Anyway, just like Andy marked all of his best things with his name, God has done the same to me. He has marked me. I am His. Cooler still, His Spirit is now in me. I get to live each day with a taste of what eternity with Him will be. Kinda like the free bees at Sam's Club. It's a sample, a taste. It's a glimpse of what is to come. And it's good. Really good.

Check your feet, check your heart.  Are you marked?  Are you ready for a taste?
What are you waiting for?