Monthly Archives: January 2018

Taking it to the Next Level

I have no one else like Timothy who takes a genuine interest in your welfare, for everyone else looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:21

I was in a prayer meeting this week.  We are trying to bring an evangelistic event to a nearby Native American reservation.  This is a big step of faith, but God is leading.  The area is riddled with drugs, especially heroin and meth.  There have been several overdose deaths in the last year of young people, a symptom of a much bigger epidemic in our area.  One of the Native American Christians at the prayer meeting asked for prayer for her handful of fellow Natives who are Christians.  She asked that they would have a burden for their people, not just for themselves.

It struck me that this is another level of our faith walk–caring about the welfare of others, not just ourselves.  When a sports team does badly and the coach is interviewed at the end of the season about how to do better the next year, the answer usually includes this statement: “we’re going to take it to the next level.”  Just what that means for them as a sports team and coaching staff probably involves analyzing their weak links and irradiating them, maybe changing their offense or defense or trying something new.

For us as Christians, taking it to the next level means something else.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.  It is a deeper work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. How every next levelcan we make this happen?  What element was present in Timothy’s life that made him genuinely interested in the welfare of the Philippians, where no one else was?  What element is missing, not just in the Native American believers’ lives, but in the church as a whole, that takes us away from being self absorbed and toward being ‘about our Father’s business’ as Jesus pronounced in Luke 2:49?

There are three things that I can think of that ‘takes us to the next level’:

1–Prayer for ourselves and others that God would take us there.  Paul’s prayers at the beginning of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians for the believers in those churches modeled prayers we ought to be praying for ourselves and for the people around us.  He prayed for things like that ‘their spiritual eyes would be opened’ and ‘that they would please God in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…’

Why not pray that the people around you would wake up to the spiritual needs of the people around them?  Pray that God would open their eyes to what He wants to do in their jobs and their neighborhoods and communities for His kingdom, and that He would light a fire in their souls.  And pray that they would become Timothy’s, people who are concerned about the welfare of others and the interests of Jesus Christ.

2.  Teaching and discipling.  In Matthew 28:18-20, the ‘Great Commission’ verses, Jesus told His disciples, and us, to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us.  Being about the welfare of others’ spiritual interests is woven throughout the teachings of Paul.  In 2 Corinthians 5 18-19 Paul says that Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation and the message of reconciliation.  That’s not a suggestion, it’s a command–it’s a passing of the baton on to us.

In order for people to know that they have to look out for others besides themselves, it has to be taught to them and modeled for them by us.  If we aren’t doing it, then we might as well forget it.  If we are, then we should bring them along in the process and make it very clear that this is what the Christian life is about–pouring our lives into other peoples’ lives.

3.  Asking, seeking, and waiting for God to do that deeper work of the Holy Spirit that only He can do.  Becoming a Christian that has a deeper working of the Holy Spirit in their lives is a work of God.  When God has had those power surges in my life, I see that it has been at His hand, not mine.  I am dependent on Him and the work of His grace to work when and how He pleases.  I know He says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” in James 4:8, but it is still a waiting game for when God chooses to do His work that takes us deeper into Him.

make God your visionI will not stop pushing into God, asking Him to take me closer to Him, to use me in peoples’ lives, to show me more of Himself and to use Him for His kingdom’s sake.  May He say of me: “I have no one else like Martha who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.  She helps others look out for the interests of Jesus Christ.”


You don’t just wake up one day in a 10′ by 10′ shack

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:6

In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory...Ephesians 1:11-12

That is a promise from God.  I have often drawn out a tangled path drawing showing what happens when we do things our way, as contrasted by the much straighter line when we do things God’s way.  As the mathematical theorem states: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  God directs us more in a straight line fashion.

In Sunday school I was sharing about how several years ago there was a gal who hadflirted a bit with following God.  She and her family ended up in a ten by ten hunting shack with an extension cord strung from the next lot’s RV line.  There were five people jammed in a little shed, and it wasn’t insulated in a cold oncoming winter.  They were determined to stay there, so some men at church had tried to help build on an extra addition and put in some insulation so they could endure the winter.

shackA friend at work was saying that no one should live in those conditions, which I agreed with, but I said, “you don’t just wake up one day in a ten by ten shack.”  My meaning was that it was a series of choices that got them there.  For them it was drugs and alcohol.  It was also a lot of manipulating and not working steady jobs when given the opportunities.  It has become my “go to” thought about being responsible for your choices.  You can think that you’re a victim, but one day you have to examine your own choices to see what you did to get you in that shack.

Life is always a series of choices and we have to own our choices.

In Sunday school one lady got angered at the Proverbs straight line illustration and she said something to the effect that I was making it sound like a prosperity gospel where no one ends up in shacks.  She has not had a straight line path, but a broken road.  It has been at the hands of others: the brokenness of rape, an abusive x husband, a grandchild who died…I mentioned Joseph, who faced his brothers, slavery, false accusations, prison and was still able to say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

He was also able to say in Genesis 39: 9, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” when Potiphar’s wife called out to him to lay with her.  He could have reasoned in his heart, “I am a victim.  No one knows I am here.  I deserve this.  I had a bad childhood.  I’ll sleep with her…”  But no.  He acknowledged and obeyed God still.  Though his path looked like a crooked one to him, it was a straight one to God.  And it was a path with a purpose and plan for the Kingdom.  Joseph didn’t know that, but he stayed obedient.  But once Joseph saw his brothers and his father with him in Egypt, suddenly the crooked paths became straight.  They made sense.

He could be glad that he didn’t compromise and cave to the call of the world that says, “It’s not your fault if you live a morally corrupt life because that was the ground work that was laid for you…You were a victim…Keep the script going.  Sleep with her.”  My thoughts are about being obedient in the midst of the seemingly crooked paths.  I didn’t have a fairy tale beginning, but by God’s heavy hand on me, His work of grace on my life, He kept me from buying that victim script.  He kept me from falling.  He gave me the grit to say ‘no’ when everyone else around me was diving in.

I can say with Joseph, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” and not make my path more tangled.  It is so easy to make compromising choices and justify them saying, “I had to because…” and not be obedient, and then complain about the 10′ x 10′ shack.

Later, as the Sunday school thoughts were tumbling around in my mind, processing the questions of the seemingly crooked paths at the hands of others and the promise of Proverbs 3:6 about straight paths, God spoke Ephesians 1 to my heart.  It was as if He were giving me an answer.  He works all things according to the counsel of His will in order that we might be to the praise of His glory.

In other words, whether our crooked paths are because of others’ abuse or because of our sinful choices, or because of God’s sovereign hand that takes us to Egypt ahead of our brothers Joseph style–He has His hand on it all, working it out according to His sovereign plan.  Just like Romans 8:28 promises, He is working it out for my good because I love Him and I am called according to His purpose.

There are three ‘according’s’:

  • Ephesians 1:11 ‘according to the purpose of Him who works all things
  • Ephesians 1:11 ‘according to the purpose of His will’
  • Romans 8:28 ‘to those who are called according to His purpose’

The upshot of all of this is that I don’t have to be bitter at God, wondering why my path was crooked.  Joseph wasn’t.  He didn’t spew bitterness at his brothers and get revenge once his father Jacob was dead, which is what his brothers all feared might happen.  The other thing Joseph didn’t do that we all must copy is that he didn’t use his harsh treatment at the hand of his brothers as an excuse to sin.

Joseph kept being obedient even when he had every right to do otherwise.  Don’t use anything as an excuse to sin.  Your choices matter in this life and they matter to God.

Finally, we can say that God will take our crooked paths and strange circumstances and weave them together for good because we love Him.  We are His, and we are called according to his purposes.  God works all things according to the counsel of His will, or according to His plan, so His glory will be worked out in our lives.


Here I am to Worship

Malachi 1.jpg

This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.  In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.  Matthew 15:8-9

Where is My honor?  You priests despise My name by offering polluted food on My altar with blind animals, your second best, as a sacrifice.  Would the governor be pleased with that?  Oh that you would shut the doors and not light a fire on My altar for I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts…For from the rising of the sun to its setting, My name is great among the nations.  Malachi 1

We have a tendency to think that God should be pleased with any feeble attempt that we bring to Him and He should be happy with it.  An old boyfriend once chose to go on a card playing weekend with his buddies instead of traveling with me to get a much needed new (used) car at my parents several hours away.  It was dreadfully cold and my old car was prone to stalling out.  It did stall out  in three lanes of traffic, and I was stuck while strangers rescued me, mercifully pushing me off to the side of the busy city street.

He sent me a half of dozen roses after the weekend, most likely a feeble attempt to say “I’m sorry I chose my buddies over you,” without using words.  Unimpressed, I didn’t even put the roses in water.  Perhaps that’s how God feels when we give Him our second, third or twentieth best.  It’s not worship, so don’t even try to pretend it is.  To use Malachi’s words, don’t even bother showing up.  Yet we do it all of the time and think, “How lucky God is to have me.”

What does God take pleasure in?  What worship does He delight in?

Here are a few verses to give us some hints:

  • Psalm 50:23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me.
  • Psalm 51:6 Behold You delight in truth in the inward being.
  • Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You won’t despise.
  • 1 Samuel 15:22 To obey is better than sacrifice.  Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
  • 1 Kings 10:9  The Queen of Sheba said to Solomon: Blessed be the Lord your God who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel!

God delights in thankful hearts, truth, broken spirits, obedience, and He delights in us.  John Piper says that “Christ is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.”  He expands worship to being bigger than just my frame of mind when I go to church on Sunday mornings, or whether I sing along to Christian songs.  Here are some expanded thought on that:

1.  Our pursuit of joy honors God.  It’s a joy that is found because we have come to Him hungry, thirsty and desperate and we know that satisfaction is found only in Jesus.  Our thirst honors God because we have come to Him to be filled (not to anything or anyone else).

2.  If we pursue God as our joy and satisfaction then it makes worship God centered.  If I love to be satisfied in God because He’s the center of my existence, then I am worshiping Him.  If my boyfriend went with me to get my new used car because he wanted to be with me, then he wouldn’t be my “old” boyfriend.  He consistently chose other things as more important than me.  I didn’t like it.  Neither does God.

If I delight in God, it is an end in itself because I love God and want to be with Him.  And He likes that.

3.  When we worship for the sake of God’s greatness and beauty, stuff happens.  In true worship, God is at work because the Holy Spirit is free to work.   People are drawn to God, conviction of sin takes place, people are encouraged, gifts come oozing out and a positive mojo happens.  If we come to church or to God to use Him, to give Him or second or third best, or to put ourselves in the pole position, God isn’t glorified and the  Spirit isn’t set free to work–and things don’t happen.

4.  All of life is worship and not just church.  Again, to requote John Piper: “Christ is most glorified in me when I’m most satisfied in Him.”  So if I am satisfied in Jesus, I find my joy in Him, and I pursue my satisfaction in Him then He is going to be magnified in my life.  I think about how easily I find my joy and satisfaction in fleeting, temporal things and think that I am no different than anyone else who doesn’t know Jesus.

God, turn my face and my heart to You.  My only hope is in You, my only joy is in You.  All that I have is in You.  I count the rest as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing You.  You are the pearl of great price.  For joy I will sell all that I have to gain You and Your kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 


A Special Friendship With God

Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of hosts.  I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because Your hand was upon me…you shall stand before Me.  If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as My mouth.  Jeremiah 15:16-17; 19

Our women’s Sunday school class is still going through the book, “Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than the Jesus Beside You,” by JD Greear.  We’re on the chapter, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Word of God.”  Greear’s angle is following the Spirit in the Bible to find that ‘special mission’ that God has for each of us.

Maybe back in my college days I encountered people who were prone to using the Bible as a ‘spiritual Magic 8 Ball’ to figure out who to date/marry and take all of the forks in the road, and it seems that  those are the kind of people he was writing this chapter to.  But JD Greear made a good point about being more concerned about who we should be and getting that worked out.  Then the when and where will work itself out.

We need to have someplace where we can grow and get grounded in the who.  If that doesn’t happen, no matter where we end up, we’ll be like King Saul or Samson–always wondering why we got dealt the bad hand.

But thinking about the deeper message of the role of the Bible in my life and what the role of the Bible should and could be in everyone’s life took me on a rabbit trail, so here it is…

Jeremiah spoke of this special friendship he had with God in chapter 15.  God called him to it.  I don’t think Jeremiah went out looking for it and had anything to brag about on the topic.  In Jeremiah 1 he told about how God called him and he said, “I’m only a youth.”  But God told him not to use that as an excuse and that He was going to put words in his mouth to set him over kingdoms to pluck up and to break them down.

It wasn’t an easy call.  Most of the time he’d go to the rebellious king who didn’t want to hear what Jeremiah had to say and he’d have Jeremiah put in a dungeon or a cistern.  And he was emaciated one time they had to pull him out of the well with rags because a rope would have broken his arms.

But he had a special friendship.  There’s a word for that special friendship in Hebrew, “Cowdh” where you recline in God’s presence, like special friends conversing, sharing face to face in a confidential conversation.  It had a cost, like not just telling people things they didn’t want to hear and things they wouldn’t listen to.  Jeremiah 15:17 indicates that it meant sitting alone, not with the revelers.  Jeremiah made a clear choice to go to the secret place to be with God.

In Mark 1:35, we find that Jesus did the same thing: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place (a lonely place, a secret place) and there He prayed.”  To get to that secret place of friendship with God means saying ‘no’ to the revelers, and ‘no’ to our flesh.  It means saying ‘no’ to TV, other hobbies and pursuits, all so we can sit elbow to elbow with Jesus in the Word and in prayer.

That is Cowdh.  It is there where we get precious words and not worthless ones.  It is there we get that special mission spoken to our lives from the Spirit.  It is there that the Word of Christ dwells richly in our heart, as Colossians 3:16 admonishes us to do.  We sit in the early morning hours, the late night hours or the days off, or whenever in that place of special friendship to shut out the world and to sit at Jesus’ feet.

I had a 10′ x 10′ prayer cabin built for the express purpose of having a place to go.  It is IMG_0973.jpgmy Cowdh. My Saturday wish is to be there, in quiet communion, uninterrupted.  My husband simply does not grasp the concept.  His Saturdays are to make noise, sound productive, run around to hunt, fish and to not burn daylight.  He may never get the concept of my prayer cabin, but I don’t care.

In Matthew 22:29 Jesus told the Sadducees that they were wrong because they didn’t know the Scriptures nor the power of God.  It is thru the Scriptures that we get to know power and the character of God.  Contrast that with Daniel 11:32 that simply says, “but the people who know their God shall stand firm (rise up) and take action.”

Your words are the joy and delight of my heart for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of Hosts.


Exchanging the lies in our life for God’s truth

divine-exchange-by-amy-pape

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Romans 1:21, 25

 

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Jeff Vanderstelt’s videos on Gospel Fluency.  In his third video he talks about the more fluent we get as believers in speaking the gospel to one another and to ourselves, the more it overflows to others and into more areas of our lives.  It’s about taking our thoughts captive and applying the truths of the gospel to every area of our lives.

When we worship the wrong thing in our own life, we’re just like unbelievers.  We exchange truth for a lie and we pay the price.  We are all idolators in certain areas.  We worship the wrong things until somehow, some way it gets revealed and then we get it straightened out and repent of it. Then we bring it to Jesus to show us a different way to deal with it.

For example, let’s say someone starts grumbling about their boss.  That’s the example that Jeff used in his teaching.  If we jump on the bandwagon and talk about a time our boss was a jerk too, we’re reflecting the same wrong belief–that our hope is in the wrong person to find our fulfillment and accolades.

So instead of agreeing and saying, “That’s right, your boss sounds like an ego maniac,” you could instead say graciously, “You know, she’s not meant to be your all in all, God is.” Supposing this person is a Christian, we can go on to point to how in Colossians 3 we’re told to work for the Lord and not for man and what that looks like.  If they’re not a Christian, perhaps you could say something about how since you’ve become a Christian, God has shifted your perspective to what really matters and where you get your affirmation from.

His next example really hit home.  It was about taking a look at a time (or times) when we revert to a false view of God, believing that He has done things that aren’t really true, then believing things about ourselves that aren’t really true and acting out of those false beliefs.  For example we may get anxious in certain situations because we believe we have to be in control.  This might be driven by a false belief that God has lost control and abandoned us, or that He is absent, impotent or unloving.

Turning this around involves giving myself the Gospel, if I’m the one that holds to this false belief, or to another person that is struggling with anxiety, control issues, or other related problems.  Part of this has to do with looking at Scriptures that show that God is loving, powerful, present, etc.  Another part would be pointing at times in my own life or in the other person’s life when God has shown Himself to be loving, trustworthy, present and powerful.

You would think that once we hear and experience these truths once that we would get it.  But no, we need to hear the truths of the Gospel over and over in all different ways spoken into those areas where we doubt and fear and relapse.  And we need to speak them to each other.  I need to repent in my heart from the false truths that have caused me to be an idolater, exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  I need to exchange the lies for truth, claim the truths of Scripture and write my name on them like on the bottom of a check.  And I need to graciously help others do the same.

It’s funny.  I think I have it all figured out.  And then I get around people who drive me nuts and I start muttering and becoming less kind and gracious than someone who knows Jesus should be.  Or when other weaknesses come popping up like prairie dogs, then it’s time to go back to what lies I’m believing about myself or about God and start over again.  Or if I sit and listen to someone whose weaknesses poke out quickly as well, then I can help them sort through the same process.

Let us not become futile in our thinking and let our foolish hearts be darkened, exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  Instead, let us exchange those devious lies for the truth of God and be changed by them.  Let us speak the good news of Jesus to ourselves and to others so that He sinks deep down into the crevices of our hearts and lives.

 

*Image by Amy Pape


May the Mind of Christ My Savior

It’s past New Year’s now, and I suppose everyone has made their resolutions.  I’m a bit late.  I have a pretty good excuse.  It’s been cold here, like -25 below cold.  And when it’s that cold, nothing works right, including our pump house.  A hose broke in the middle of one of the coldest nights, flooding water into our bedroom while we slept.  My husband was first to get up.  He wasn’t very pleasant when his feet were covered with water as he stepped out of bed.

Our little house was filled with family, in for the holiday weekend.  Not a good time for the pump to malfunction and the basement to flood.  I had just spent New Years Eve in the emergency room until late the night before with my sister and brother-in-law because my sister had some kind of gall bladder attack…

This too shall pass.  We’re digging out and moving ahead.  As I sit today and ponder what I want God to do in my life over the next year, and what I want to set my mind to, I am reminded of one of my all time favorite hymns, “May the Mind of Christ My Savior,” by Kate B. Wilkinson.  It is one that I committed all of the verses to memory years ago and have used as a prayer many times.  Check out the words:

May the Mind of Christ My Savior 
Live in me from day to day
By His love and power controlling 
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His pow’r.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/May_the_Mind_of_Christ_My_Savior/

May God bless you as you resolve to love Him and to serve Him this year!