Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Plumb Line of a Believer

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. 

Have you ever taken one of those self-assessment quizzes where you had to rate yourself?  As I was killing time I didn't have the other day, I decided to take one of these such quizzes.  Each of the questions asked me to rate myself according to how I thought I performed socially, emotionally, physically, etc.  Similarly, my husband had to do a self-evaluation of his job performance today.

Self-evaluation is a part of life and should be a part of the Christian life; for it helps us continue to strive for godly living.  However, it is important that we have a proper view of ourselves.  Romans 12:3 tells us that we are not to think too highly of ourselves.  My husband and I love watching "America's Got Talent."  Inevitably, they have the contestants on the show who think they are the next headliner; yet when they begin to perform, they are in actuality TERRIBLE.  When the judges tell them the truth of their fate, they are in disbelief!  Somehow, in their minds, they had built up an over-inflated and unrealistic view of themselves. Their pride blinded them to the truth.

Unfortunately, the same thing happens in a spiritual context.  Believers who once relied upon the grace of God somehow start to see themselves as the ones who are making things happen.  They start to believe that it is by their talent and influence that opportunities open.  Soon, their view of God and others becomes deflated because their view of self has become so grandiose.

The buffer to this puffed up way of thinking is to instead view ourselves with sober judgement.  In other words, we should look at ourselves in light of who we are under God's grace.  In Christ, we are redeemed, set free, complete, and sanctified.  Without Him, we condemned, accused, and separated from God.  The only thing that measures who we are in Him is our faith.  Therefore, an honest self-evaluation for a believer should consist of looking at how much faith we are putting in Christ.  That really is the only plumb line for a believer.  The works we do, the money we give, and anything else should be a reflection of the faith we have in Jesus.

If you had to rate yourself on a scale 1-10, how much time, attention, and daily trust are you giving to Jesus?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Beware of the Snake

1 Peter 5:8 - Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

This evening, as I was coming in from gathering a few items from my car, I almost stepped my bare feet directly upon a snake.  To say that I hate snakes would be a drastic understatement.  I loathe the very thought of snakes.  When God placed a curse between the woman and the serpent, He meant it for direct enmity between snakes and me for life. (I digress.) It was still light out and the snake was directly in my path.  However, there was a lot of activity going on in our neighborhood and yard (cars driving by, squirrels running up trees, etc.) and so I was distracted.  It wasn't until I was directly upon the snake that I noticed it.

How often we do the same in our spiritual lives?  We get distracted by harmless enough events.  Yet, it keeps us from being watchful from things that warrant our attention.  The difference between my example and Scripture is that this snake was not daring to come after me.  He was simply minding his own business.  It was I who almost interrupted his evening. However, John 10:10 says that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Therefore, he actively looks to harm those he seeks.  Likewise, 1 Peter 5:8 says that the devil prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Therefore, we are to be alert and sober minded.

The Christian community is called to wake up and keep watch because the adversary is actively prowling to consume.  I think we often either deny the existence of a real enemy of God or we bury our heads in the sand, assuming a spiritual attack would never happen to us.  We don't understand spiritual warfare and therefore, we simply ignore it. However, Scripture commands us to wake up and realize that there is more going on in the world than our own agenda.  The easiest way for an enemy to defeat an opponent is to catch them off guard.

This evening was a wake up call for me.  As much as I despise snakes, I know that there is a greater adversary out there who desires nothing more than for me to be distracted by "harmless" frivolities.  However, I must stay the course, knowing that I am on this earth for a Kingdom purpose and continue to look to Christ as my source and my strength.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How Do You Smell To The World?

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 - 14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

When my children come inside from playing, one of the first things I say to them is, "y'all smell like farm animals!"  In other words, it was quite evident where they had been based on their aroma.

This morning as I was reflecting on God's Word, I chuckled as I read 2 Corinthians 2 and as I thought about my two stinky children.  Their smell represented hours of fun to them, but to me, it was a sign of a much needed bath!  I then began to dive into the meaning of 2 Corinthians 2:14-17.  When a Roman army won a battle and defeated an enemy, they began a procession and celebration that could sometimes last three days.  People burnt incense and filled the streets with the smell of perfume.  The victors paraded the spoils and processed the warriors in victory.  For the winning army, it was a time of celebration and life.  The sights, sounds, and smells encompassed triumph.  In the same way, when Christ returns, it will be a moment of triumph for those who believe.  However, to those who never believed, it will be a time of judgment.  Likewise, in during the Roman times, the same festival with the same sights, sounds, and smells, carried with it an entirely different meaning to the defeated army.  The captives were paraded through the streets in cages.  Their gold, silver, art, and jewels were stolen.  The opposing king was often set out on display and then be publicly executed  The same smell elicited two very different reactions depending on which side you belonged.

Second Corinthians 2:15 states that as Christians, we are the fragrance of Christ.  To those who belong to Him, we elicit a sweet scent of life.  Yet to those who do not, we give off the odor of death.  We come off as offensive.  Therefore, when we truly live out the Gospel, there will be people who are offended by our message.  Unfortunately, that is the truth of God's Word.  That does not mean we should change the substance of the message or try to make it "smell better" to the world. Instead, we should have compassion on the world, and love the world as Christ did, yet stand firm on the truth of God's Word, no matter what.

If no one is ever offended by your testimony of Christ, how much are you actually displaying Him?

Monday, June 23, 2014

How do you see your God?

Isaiah 40

For the last two days, Isaiah 40 has been impressed upon me.  Literally, God has brought forth this passage of Scripture to my eyes.  As I studied this passage, I wondered if it was because I was feeling tired in ministry.  I am in the middle of summer, which for a children's minister is a very busy time.  However, as I looked upon the passage further, He began to ask me a different question.  That question was, "How are you currently seeing God?"

The passage is one of comfort of the people of Israel.  Isaiah had predicted the destruction of Israel and its fall to Babylon and now he gives her a call of comfort.  I feel that the main question being asked is, "Do you remember who your God is?"  He is seen in this chapter as One with power, who rules with a mighty arm, yet also a faithful shepherd.  He is powerful, yet gentle to those He loves.  He has been ever present since creation.  Nothing has escaped Him.  The most formidable armies are like dust compared to our God.  Yet, it seems that His people have forgotten His attributes.  Their complaints stem out of lack of faith that comes from forgetfulness.

How often I am guilty of the same offenses as the Israelites?  I complain about my circumstances and accuse God of not caring, when in fact He is the One who is my Creator and Sustainer.  My responsibility is to hope in His character and to look faithfully to Him.  It is then that He will allow me to do things that I would have never though possible.

How do you currently see God?  Do you see Him as the Almighty God who lovingly cares for your every need? Or do you see Him as being far away and aloof to your problems?  If you are going through a season of discouragement in your walk with the Lord, I would encourage you to reflect on Isaiah 40.  Perhaps a shift in perspective is what you need to get you back on track.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What Are You Striving For?

Mark 8:36 - What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

If I asked you to list out your five year plan, what would it look like?  It might include goals such as paying off debt, buying a car, getting a child to or through school, losing a pant size, running a marathon, changing a career, getting married, etc.  These are not necessarily bad things in and of themselves.  However, sometimes, we become so fixated on "our" plans, that we often forget about becoming the person God has designed us to be.

We live out our lives striving for the latest gadget or momentary fame that will fade away.  In God's economy, He asks us to strive and labor in order to purse righteousness and build up the body of Christ.  We should therefore examine how much time we are investing in our own spiritual growth and in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have never been to a funeral where in the eulogy they listed off all of the great "stuff" the person owned.  Conversely, it is how that person gave their life away to others that is remembered.  In the same way, at the end of our lives, we will be held accountable by not how much wealth we have accumulated, but by how faithful we were with the time we were given on earth.

In looking at your five year plan, make sure that there is a precedence of Christ in your life.  If there needs to be some adjusting in priorities, adjust.  If there needs to be a change in direction, begin that change.  It is best to start today than to look back thirty years from now, realizing that your life was lived in vain.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Being Me...As God Intended

This afternoon, I am in my recliner reading the blogs of several fellow Christian authors and I have a disturbing feeling creep up inside of me.....jealousy.  Here are these lovely, godly women who are sharing His Word and encouraging others. They are running the race and are running well. And I have to ask myself, "How?" How do they come up with the perfect recipe, the perfect family photos, the perfect words of encouragement? They have thousands of followers who adore everything about them.  They are picture perfect.  The real question I am asking is: why has God decided to use them in this way and not me?

I am sitting in my recliner with no make-up, hair unraveled, and my couch full of clothes that are yet to be folded.  As of this morning, my blog has four followers (thank you to those four people). Yet,  after my moment of confession, I am sitting here laughing at the lesson God is teaching me.

So often we try to measure success by the number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or other tangible evidences we can grasp. We crave attention and affirmation even when it comes to ministry.  Jesus' disciples did this as well.  Yet Scripture is abundantly clear as it relates to how Jesus sees discipleship. In Matthew 16:34. Jesus states that whoever wants to be His disciple must "deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." If ministry goals and objectives get in the way of God's purposes for us, we lose sight on what it truly means to be His disciple.  Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we might have a relationship with Him and that we might make Him known to others at His leading.  The lesson that I am reminded of is that I must say, "yes" to what He is asking me to do today.

 My "yes" to Jesus today was playing with my daughter and teaching her to be gentle. It will be putting up the clothes on the couch and making sure that my family has dinner on time. It is posting this authentic blog for whoever needs to read it at this time.  It is answering the phone to someone who needs to talk.

God does not rate us by how many fans we have or what our approval rating is. He acknowledges us by how obedient we have been and by how intimate of a relationship we have had with Him.  If my next task He asks of me is to scrub toilets for Him, my prayer is that I will be the best toilet scrubber I can be.

May we stop looking at how God is using others as discouragement, but rather encourage one another on and look for ways in which we can say "yes" to God every day for His kingdom and His glory.