Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Voice in My Head

It's the voice in my head. I didn't hear it for years, but I started listening and it says the same things over and over. "I really should (fill in the blank)." "I'm just going to taste it, not eat it." "I wonder what she thinks of me." And around. And around.

If you've seen previews or the movie, "Inside Out," you have faces for those voices. Do you hear them? Listen. They're there. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust. And behind them all is a theme--the theme of you.
It's interesting that the book of James calls the motivating factor behind emotions "desires." When my desires are thwarted, I get angry. When my desires are met, I experience happiness. When circumstances don't meet my desires, or expectations, I'm sad. And when someone beats me to the punch, or overthrows my desires for their own, I'm disgusted. Desires. Voices. It's what makes me tick.

God knows us so well, He knows how easily we give in to what we want (or think we want) because of deceit. In the beginning, Satan deceived Eve. She knew right and wrong, but she was deceived with the age-old question, "Did God really say...." In other words, "Is God good? Does He love you or is He holding out?"

God knows all about those temptations and desires--they don't surprise Him. In love, He provided what we need to fight back: truth. He is good. He does love us. He showed it when He gave us His best--His only Son--to pay our debt of sin. That's love! And He knows our weakness. He gave us His Word to illuminate our path and our feet: Which way do I go? Where am I now? He also gave us one another: encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13).

When life is hard, when confusion hits, when we don't know which voice to listen to and which one to ignore, we need God's Word and His people more than ever. Listen to the voices in your head. Write down what they say; write down the things you say to yourself that no one else can hear. Then get real with God's Word. Get real with God's people. Humble yourself and ask for help. That's what God's Word and His people are there for. Don't be taken in. Don't be tricked and deceived into forfeiting the best God has for you. We need one another--and we need Jesus. It's not a secret, so why live like it?

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. James 1:12-18

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;  and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way,  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:11-24

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Got Trash?

One of the best house-keeping tips I ever got was to be generous with collection containers for trash, dirty laundry, and things I don't need or use anymore. The closer and easier they are the more we use them. Why? Because life is full of garbage, dirty garments, and things that break or fall apart. A full-time wife and mom, I was often asked at corporate functions with my husband, "What do you do?"

"I'm an entropological engineer." If they asked further I would answer, "I reverse entropy (chaos), all day, every day."

I like to think of our home as controlled, fairly clean. I hate to imagine a trail soda cans, dirty dishes, spilled milk, and food-littered floors. I've been in homes like that. Guess what? Trash never takes care of itself. Ever. It builds, rots, stinks and takes down everything in its domain.

Entropy, or chaos, is part of life on Earth. It affects the physical--and spiritual--world. We say things we regret. We do things we wish we hadn't. We think about things that take us far from where we know we should be. And we need a close, handy trash receptacle, laundry basket or please-get-this-out-of-my-life bin. If we don't address sin, it--like trash--will not take care of itself. We can try to ignore it, live around it or in it, but it will build up, rot, stink, keep people away and take us down a path of ruin and destruction.

Knowing and believing in Jesus doesn't automatically whisk away sin or remove consequences. We are responsible for our choices and actions. But as we determine to believe that He paid the penalty for our sin before Almighty God, we can live in the power of forgiveness and righteousness. We can purpose to live out our calling--knowing the trash bin of confession, repentance and reconciliation are as close as saying the words. Sin. Deal with it.

The answer, the only answer, is Jesus. If you don't know how or where to start, ask.

What a Savior! What a God!

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:8-23)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lessons from a Barn

This morning I was given the task of moving our new little calves out of the barn into the warm sunshine, pasture and grass.

Here are a couple of take-aways:

1) Calves don't follow because I say, "Come, little calf. Follow me!" in a sing-song voice.

2) Flip-flops are not ideal barn/lifestock shoes.

3) When you help the weak, prepare to be peed and shite upon--in a nice way.

4) Flies make themselves at home in filth--along with other unwelcome bacteria and vermin.

Sun, grass and fresh air do a body good.
Barn experience translated to ministry:

1) No one will follow me. It's all about Jesus. He's the One who calls, convicts, prods and moves individuals.

2)  Jesus likely wore sandals through the kind of terrain found in our barn. To follow Him is to live a life of self-sacrifice and dirty feet (good thing skin (and lives) are wash-and-wear). Jesus has cleansed me. Humility, love and service means kneeling to cleanse the filth that builds up on the exposed, traveling parts of others' lives and allowing them to do the same for me.

3) Helping the weak and hurting means they will let loose with foul, out-of-control issues unexpectedly. Love says, "That's okay--it's not about me, it's about Jesus. He loves you. Let me show you how."

4) Ignoring sin compounds the problem. When we harbor sin we can expect it to attract other sinful thoughts and behaviors that eat away at the life God has given us in Christ.

Jesus, His Word and repentance change lives. Helping and loving is the least we can do.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.  So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John 13:1-17 NASB)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Comparison Noodle: The Rich Young Ruler and Zaccheus

I haven't posted thoughts from my daily Bible reading in a while, but here's what happened in my mind and heart today. God's Word is so rich and He is so good to reveal Himself to us! I hope this encourages, strengthens--and maybe even surprises you (like it did for me).

Luke 18:15-19:48
18:20-22 “You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.’”
And he said, “All these thing I have kept from my youth.”
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.”

Impression:  Jesus addressed the commandments that are horizontal—the ones that speak to our relationships with one another—and the ruler had kept every one of them all his life. By asking him to sell and give to the poor, Jesus was not asking him to extend his love for others to a greater extent as if what he was doing wasn’t enough. Instead, Jesus was challenging his obedience to the first commandment—to love the LORD, His God, with all his heart, strength, soul and strength. That is what the young ruler was unwilling to do: love God more; love God most. The poor didn’t need his wealth, but he needed to love God. The truth is that he kept the commandments as a way of loving himself. He was trying to live in both worlds successfully—to do good and please God and have what he wanted. In the end, he could not please God and hold on to what he loved. There is no room for both. We cannot please God by doing good things, in fact, doing good to others is—without Christ—simply another way of loving ourselves, not God.

Application: Is there anything I’m unwilling to give up? If Jesus said, “Give up this one thing” would I do it? What is that one thing? Children? Husband? Home? Nick-nacks? A bank account or job or position or friend or family member? The challenge this morning is that one thing that keeps me from loving God most.

19:4-10 so [Zaccheus] ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see [Jesus], for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”
And Jesus said to him, Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Impression: Compared to the young ruler, Zaccheus was eager, but timid. Humble. Unworthy. Jesus went to him instead of him going to Jesus. Jesus didn’t ask him to give up anything, but he wanted to give more than was required to make things right. What a different attitude and response! The people grumbled—why didn’t Jesus choose their house? Weren’t they good enough? Instead, Jesus chose Zaccheus.

Application: Jesus chose me. And I’m so glad. Now I have the opportunity to look for and find others who need and want Him. What they appear to be has nothing to do with their need or response. I could be wrong—but God knows and He will find them!

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Velcro of Life

I'll blame it on the start of a new school year. Waiting for children after sports practice, music rehearsals, doctor's appointments--a run of short times--led me to install an app on my phone. "Just a little something to fill the gaps," I thought. But oh, was I wrong!

Somewhere around level 3 I looked for hints online. Then I tried and tried, started to get bored, when lo and behold, Lights! Sound! Action! Bing, bing, bing!! Victory! Level 13. Level 23.

It filled my moments--all of them, even when I wasn't waiting on anyone or anything. When I closed my eyes figures floated in space. When I should have been _______, I said, "Just one more." It grabbed. It pulled. It wouldn't let go.

At my age I should know better. But I didn't. Or couldn't. Or didn't want to. It takes very little pleasure to get hooked--or so I've found. This was just a silly game. It couldn't be that big a deal. But I wanted more. A taste of joy, a rush, a magical moment... maybe.. just... one... more. And now, a couple of weeks into it I see that the problem is not the game--it's me. It's that part of me that wants more, the five-letter thing we don't talk about: greed. The Velcro of life (a light word for such an ugly, destructive force).

Just. one. more.

It may not grab you with an app on your phone. If you're like me, that's the least of your worries. It happens on multiple levels, to different degrees, at different times and places: relationships, projects, work, hobbies, entertainment, sleep, even (gasp) ministry! In each case, the object is neutral--or good--but my heart grabs and won't let go. Then it grabs me...and won't let go.

Here are some brief observations of my recent experience "under the influence."When all I want is "just one more:"

1) I fail to acknowledge the pleasantries of life. My responses aren't gracious, kind and endearing but short, brief and guttural.

2) I miss opportunities to serve. Instead of setting out preparations for my husband and children, I'm distracted. Needs pass me by--and I never even knew they existed.

3) I lose think time. In those empty moments of the day when everything stops, my mind is occupied with immediate rather than big, eternal thoughts.

4) I lose prayer time. I don't have room to think about others and intercede for them. I forget the blessing of emptiness.

5) I don't hear or remember important things because I'm in la-la land.

The blatant reality of a silly game was frightening. How did it happen so fast? I was frightened for myself and the effects of a seemingly mindless game. I was frightened for our young people and our world. Where are our thinkers? Our pray-ers? Our servants and listeners? What happens to conversation and gracious friendships when we're consumed with greed and self?

I needed to cut loose. I wanted freedom. I also know myself well enough to understand that saying "no" isn't enough. It doesn't have the power I need to shake free.

Fortunately, God's Word has the answer."Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)  I can only be free from one thing by wanting something else more. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37) When I love God more, my eyes are turned upward and outward, not inward.

Unfortunately, the more I know about the "should's," the worse I feel. I can't even do what I should. But God can. Until I ask for help and turn from doing it on my own I will fail. But when I humbly ask for help (repent) and turn to Him, He answers.

He saves and gives life! He warns because He loves us, drawing us away from poison with living water. The things I seek for myself lead to death; death of relationships, death of self, death of reward. God--the Creator and Giver of all good things--is about life and freedom. Have problems? He has--He is--the perfect answer.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:19-34)