Thursday, June 26, 2014

Don't give up!

I love the saying "if you don't like the weather in the south, just wait a little will change".  The same is true for most anything.

The question is not whether or not something will change, but whether or not we will hang on until it does.

One of my favorite "go to" Bible verses is Exodus 14:14. The Israelites have escaped slavery in Egypt. They are standing on the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian Soldiers closing in behind them. They are trapped and all looks quite hopeless. Moses tells the people. "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still".
Sure enough, God parts the Red Sea, the Israelites walk across on DRY land, and, as they reach the safety of the far shore, God releases the waters and drowns the Egyptians that were chasing His people. Wow. Of ALL the things that the Israelites imagined God might do to save them, I bet no one guessed he would part the sea!

Another favorite go-to verse is Psalms 121:3(b), "The one who  watches over you does not sleep."  The picture of God watching over me gives me such comfort.

Sometimes we need be still and let the LORD fight for us. Other times we need to trust Him to watch over a troubling situation so that we can get some much needed rest.

The Bible is full of stories of people who faced troubling times and did not give up. How tragic it would have been if:
  • Moses' mother had simply thrown her hands up in desperation when Pharaoh decreed that all male babies be killed. story of Moses's birth
  • David had given up on life because he'd sinned against God and his life was falling apart. David's fall
  • Noah had been overwhelmed by what God asked of him and succumbed to anxiety. Noah's story
  • Joseph was too devastated by Mary's apparent betrayal to be a father to Jesus. Joseph's story
There are so many others...what if the Disciples had given up hope after Jesus was crucified? What if Peter had succumbed to despair and depression after denying Christ 3 times? What if Saul had wallowed in regret and despair after Christ revealed Himself on the Road to Damascus? I wonder what story of redemption could have been told through the life of Judas...if he hadn't hung himself.
My point is is hard. There are definitely times that we feel like giving up. BUT when we give up, we end our story in the worst part. Hang in there. Give God time to change change YOU. Rest in knowing that He is in control. Trust Him even when things look bad and life doesn't make sense. The Bible is full of folks who hung on through the tough times.
If you give up, you won't know what God had in mind for the end of your story...and neither will anyone else.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

MY God....

Yesterday my mind was on how we turn things that remind us of God into idols.

Today, I remembered another aspect of "images of God" that we discussed last week in Sunday School. Not only are we not to create images of God, but included in that command is to not create our own image of God. Let me give you an example...

My friend is engaged to be married. She says that sex before marriage is okay because they are in love and are going to get married. She says that God knows her heart and that He understands. Besides, "marriage" is just a sheet of paper.

The fact of the matter is, God forbids sex outside of marriage. Period.

There are other things that we as Christians do and say to modify God to meet our needs. Can you think of any?
My God understands my situation....
My God knows my heart....
My God made me this way....
My God knows the circumstances that lead up to my decision....
My God would not allow more than you can bear....
My God.....

We sin. That is a fact. We live in a broken world full of sinful people and bad things happen, even things that are too much for us to bear apart from Christ. This isn't going to change this side of Heaven.

To accept that I sin and ask forgiveness for my sin is one thing. To deny responsibility for my sin by altering my perception of God so that I believe He overlooks my sin or even makes allowances for my sin is all together different. It goes completely against the character of God to say that He will tolerate or permit any sin.  He takes sin so seriously that He sent Jesus to be crucified to atone for our sin.

God does understand our situations and he does know our hearts, but He did not make us this way. He created mankind to be perfect, but He understands the sinful world we have created and the circumstances that lead up to the sinful decisions we make. Still, they are sinful decisions and He knows the penalty we must pay for our sin and that this is more than we can bear, so He sent Christ to pay that penalty for us. He understands that sin separates us from Him and will never condone thoughts, words, or actions that lead to the heartache and consequences that are attached to sinful behavior.

MY God loves us too much to condone any behavior that will separate us from Him.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Idols and Images

Do not make an idol for yourself in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.   You must not bow down to them or worship them, because I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,  but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands. Deuteronomy 5:8-10

THANKFULLY,  this is a commandment that most of us can just overlook. I know that I am not going to make a little statue of a bird, cow, or even a man and worship it, and
I've always been rather harsh in my judgment of the Israelites concerning their worship of the golden calf. (you can read about it here) Until last week, I thought that they had turned their back on God and chosen instead to worship a calf...who would do that?? As usual, there is more to the story than I first believed.
The Israelites  simply wanted something to focus their worship on since Moses was MIA. (Moses was on Mt Sinai getting the 10 Commandments from God.) They were afraid and were seeking God's strength. Initially, they worshiped the calf as a representation of the One True God... not a separate god.
I'm going to stop there and leave you to research the event and the speculation surrounding it for yourself.
My point is this....The Israelites did not intend to worship a bull instead of God. They initially worshiped the bull as a representation of God.
In light of this, the 2nd Commandment is maybe not one we can just overlook. While I am sure that few, if any, Christians would worship some "thing" other than God, would we by chance unintentionally worship some "thing" that represents God to us?
It is a valid question.
A precious, God fearing, Christ loving friend of mine carries a cross with her when she speaks to groups. It is called a Clinging Cross and fits nicely in the palm of your hand.
She told me on more than one occasion that she will not attempt to speak in public without her cross because it reminds her that this is all about God, that He is with her, that He is the source of her strength and that He gives her the words to say. I have to wonder if this is much different than what the Calf was for the Israelites.  In the beginning, my friend received the cross as a gift...a reminder of God's love for her. Over the course of a few years, she grew to depend on the cross, feeling that she "must" have it with her in order to speak. She did not realize that she had grown to put more faith in the actual cross than in the God it represents.
Are there representations of God in your life that you value, treasure, protect, even worship more than God Himself?
Do you have an item, like my friend's cross,  that represents God?
Do you have to be in a certain location to worship God?
Do you have to listen to or sing certain music to worship God?
Do you seek the words of a person (pastor, Sunday school teacher, parent, friend) rather than seeking God's Word?
God is enough. He is with you always. He is all knowing and all powerful. We do not need to attach things to Him in order for Him to be real to us. We only need to seek HIM.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Good Life

"What must you have in order for your life to be good?"

Stop for just a minute and think about that...

I've put a lot of thought into this recently.
Except for my husband and children, there is really no tangible thing that I can honestly say I would suffer to live without. Granted, there are other people (such as my parents and dear friends and other relatives) who I depend on and who bring me great joy. The loss of any of these would be tragic and I would certainly mourn their passing, but I would recover. The rest of my life would not be "bad" because of that loss. Obviously, the loss of a job, house, car, etc. would put stress and pressure on me, but again, would not cause the rest of my life to be "bad".

I never much thought about it until 2 weeks ago when the question was presented in our Sunday School lesson.

Ahhhh....that changes everything.

I will be honest and say that my FIRST thought upon reading the question in my Sunday School book was "Well I must have Christ of course! (DUH!!!)"...but then I had to question my answer. Is that true? Do I really believe that I only need Christ?

The first commandment says "have no other gods before me."  Few would claim to put something before God, yet to limit this command to putting others BEFORE God is to misunderstand the commandment.

God is not to be the most important of many.

God is to be the ONLY god.

I had to pick apart my  thoughts and feelings about those I love in order to feel certain that I had this right before I dare write about it.

I had to sort through the people and things that I hold dear and determine how losing them would affect me. In the end, only losing my husband or my children would cause me to question my reason for living.

BUT, should they be taken from me, I know that my Savior would give me my next breath and every breath thereafter until He takes me home.

There are things that I don't want to lose. There are people who I cannot bear the thought of losing. Even so, I know that with Christ, I can face any amount of loss.

Would it be easy? Of course not.

Without Christ and the promise of heaven, it would be impossible.

So, back to the question, "What must you have in order for life to be good?"

After much soul searching, I can honestly say that I must have Christ in order for life to be good. Knowing Christ makes "the good life" better, the hard times bearable, and gives me the courage to face the truly bad times.

While I cannot imagine facing one day without my husband or my children, I know that, with God, I could.

Often times people view the Commandments of God to be restricting. While we may think that God is being unfair in commanding us to have no other gods, when we really stop and sort through the people (and things) in our lives, there is not one of them who can TRULY make life good after the loss of what we treasure most. Only God has the power to give hope to the hopeless, to give peace and comfort to those who mourn, and to heal the broken.

Only God deserves to be God.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Silly little prayer requests

As a pastor's wife, I find myself in lots of situations where the question is asked, "Does anyone have any prayer requests?"  and it breaks my heart for someone to say "I know it's silly, but....." or "I know it's not a big deal, but.....". It breaks my heart that so many people believe that only the "big" things are worthy of prayer.
Scripture tells us not to worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God (Philippians 4:6) Everything. Not just the big stuff.
Don't get me wrong, The big stuff sends us reeling and we definitely need to cling to God when our world turns upside down. BUT Big things USUALLY last a finite amount of time, and, let's face it, as Christians, we know to run to God when our world starts to fall apart.
In all honesty, it has never been the big things that suck the life out of us, steal our joy, and damage our's the "silly" things, the "little" things. Laundry, fussy toddlers, cooking something for dinner that everyone likes,  smart mouth teenagers, children who want to grow up too fast, housework that never ends,  parents who are growing old too fast, money that doesn't stretch far enough, endless to-do lists, bosses that don't understand family, family that don't understand bosses, babies that don't sleep, misunderstandings between friends, hurt feelings, jealousy, lust, short tempered spouses, picky eaters, kids that struggle in school, gosh...the list goes on and on and on. THESE are the things what wear us out day after day after day. These things make hearts heavy and tempers short. They make us weary.
wea·ry adjective \ˈwir-ē\
  • : lacking strength, energy, or freshness because of a need for rest or sleep
  • : bored or annoyed by something because you have seen it, heard it, done it, etc., many times or for a long time
  • : causing you to feel tired
I used to think that I was wasting God's time if I prayed for anything "little". I treated God like I treated everyone else....I didn't want to "bother" Him with my "little" problems. I talked to God about everyone else's big problems, and made sure that He "understood" that I was doing just fine....I had everything under control. He didn't need to spend His time worrying with me when there are so many "big" things that need His attention.
I could not have been more wrong.
It is such a blessing to be able to go before the throne of Grace with all my faults and failures and know that I have nothing to hide. My Father knows my heart and knows why I am there before a word is spoken. At the feet of my Father, I am not "the pastor's wife", "the assistant to the President and CEO", "the responsible sibling", "Mom", "Bible Study Leader", or "Ladies' Ministry Leader"...I'm just Kris. His child. His servant. His creation. I'm just Kris...and I'm just His.
And so are you.
Don't miss out on the blessing of intimacy with your Creator. Go to Him with all your "little" requests and burdens. Let Him into all the hidden places of your heart and mind. Let Him wash over you with His love and healing. Let Him envelope you with the comfort and peace only He can give. Let Him fill you with the courage to face tomorrow. Let Him fill you with the grace, mercy, and forgiveness needed to deal with the people in your life.
Here's what He promises:
Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Creation

There are days when, just like anyone else,  I go through the motions. Truth be told, there have been weeks...even months...when I have just gone through the motions of life. During these times, I don't notice what God is doing in my life or in the lives of those around me. It is much the same as driving a long stretch of interstate with the cruise control on.
Then, there are times when God grabs hold of me and shakes me awake and suddenly I see all these amazing things that He has done while I was just cruising through life.
This week God grabbed hold of me.
A friend from high school has been given the opportunity to serve as editor for an online Christian magazine. (He is praying about the decision.) We talked about the possibility of me contributing to the magazine  and I promised to pray that he have a clear direction from God as to whether not this is something he should get involved in. Talking to him about this opportunity made me realize the tremendous work God has done in my life, in his life and in the lives of many of the people I've known through the years. We are not the same people we were back then, and while some of the change can be attributed to "growing up", much of the change is a direct result of the impact Christ has had on our lives.
I am so thankful that Christ pursued me. I am so thankful that He drew me to himself.  When I stop and think about who I WAS compared to who I AM, I am left breathless. I am an example of the promise in 2Corinthians 5:17 For if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.  I am far from good. I have LOTS of room for improvement. I fail every single day at one thing or another....sometimes it feels like I fail at everything. But I know this: I am not the same person I was before I knew Christ. I don't just follow a stricter set of rules, or live a more moral life... I am a different person. Christ changed everything about me, all the way down to what I desire in the deep recesses of my heart. Christ took the mess that I'd made of me and is gradually restoring me to more and more of the woman He created me to be.
I Love that God reveals Himself to me over and over again. I love that HE can take my fears, my failures, my weakness, and my brokenness and use them for HIS glory. I love that He continually surprises me with the enormity of Himself. I love that He is more powerful than my sin, my shame and my past. I love that He is completely trustworthy. I love that He continues to challenge me and grow me. I love that He still draws me to Himself.
And I love that he takes hell-bent teenagers and grows them into God serving, Christ-following adults who want nothing more than to share His love with others.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hope for the hopeless

Tonight we got a phone call letting us know that a local minister has been caught in an affair. We know this man. More specifically, we know his wife's family.
News like this fills me with a wide range of emotions, the strongest of which is anger. Thankfully, God has burdened my heart to dig below the surface in situations such as this. When I dig below the surface emotion of anger, I am deeply broken for him. Yes, he took his eyes off Christ. Yes, he allowed his selfishness and his own sinful desires to shatter the lives of people who love him. Yes, he is wrong in what he did. Still, my heart breaks for him...because there is no way he can make it right.
He can't go back in time and make different choices. He can't make his wife forget that he betrayed her...or even hope that she will ever understand his reasons for choosing to behave in a way that would obviously  hurt her so terribly. 

He can't make this "okay". 

Not only has he hurt his family, but he has also betrayed The Lord he promised to serve. He listened to the same whispers of Satan that he told others to ignore. He fell to the same temptation he told others to resist. He committed the same sins that he warned others about. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of knowing that he willingly turned away from God and followed the enemy of our souls down this path of devastation.  

What a tragic, tragic place to be. 

That is exactly where we stand without Christ. Without Him, we are alone and abandoned in our sin. 

Thankfully, God saw our need for a Savior. Jesus Christ gave up His life to pay our debt for sin. Then He rose from the grave, defeating death and giving us the gift of eternal life in Christ. 

Therefore, we are not abandoned to our sin. We have hope in heaven through Jesus Christ. 

And so does my minister friend. While his life here will be marked with the consequences of his sin, he can find hope in the promise of heaven. 

No matter where you find yourself as you read this, whether you are standing alone in your sin or buried in the rubble of a life that was shattered by someone else's sin, there is hope. Thankfully, Jesus Christ provides us all hope in heaven. 

My prayer is that you will embrace the hope we have in heaven and live the rest of your days to bring Glory to the One who is the source of that hope.