Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Off and On

Tonight at our Bible Study, the Lord gave me a visual from part of what we discussed.  I've heard similar analogies, but this really made me think and He gave me a bigger picture on my way home.  Colossians 3 is a great chapter to learn how to become set apart as one of His children.  In this chapter it tells us what to take off.
Colossians 3:5-9 NLT So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world.8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.
It also tells us what to put on.
Colossians 3: 10,12-14 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
The visual is here.  I have a decorative glass bowl on my table with those flattened glass decorative marbles in it and also a candle.  If I remove the candle (light) from the bowl, the marbles fill in its hole.  When I try to replace the candle and scoop away the marbles, I can't quite get all of those marbles out from the bottom of the bowl and I just scoop and scoop to no avail.  The bowl wants to be filled and the marbles seek to do that job.  The only way I can put the candle in the center of the bowl is to empty it completely of the marbles and then put the candle in.  If I want to put the marbles back, I can then do it around the candle.
I am not a scientist, so I may be off a bit on this, but as far as I'm aware anything that is emptied must be filled again with something even if it is air.  Its like when you go to the beach and dig a hole near the water, the hole is always filling up with water.  If those marbles in my bowl are the things listed to get rid of: evil desires, sexual impurities, lust, etc.; and I don't completely get rid of them, I will not have room for the things I'm supposed to fill up with: mercy, kindness, gentleness, and so on.  The light is never in the center or won't fit when there are a couple of marbles under it.
A few more lessons from my candle and marbles in the bowl.
If you think of the bowl as me, the candle as the Light of Jesus, and the marbles as good things...
There are many good things in our lives that are not counted in the list of what to get rid of.  We just need to make sure that the foundation of the Light is exactly where it needs to be.  In the center of our lives.  I can wear jewelry and make-up and decorate my house with nice things, but when those things get in the way of the Light and take His place in the center of me, I need to get rid of them.
If you think of the marbles in my bowl...
The original marbles in my bowl were a light purple.  I bought them in a set and they looked really nice.  Eventually, I've found other marbles from different locations that are teal or clear or peach and different shapes.  Since I don't have another place to put them, I've just added them to this dish.  My pure purple display has become impure and tainted.  Just one extra marble of a different style can change the display, even a clear marble can change this whole look and make it impure.  So keeping just one of the sins listed in Colossians 3, can make me impure. Once I get rid of all of the different colored marbles, which we can call sin, and refill my bowl first by putting the Light in the center of it, and surround that light with all the things, purple marbles, that go with it like humility, patience and forgiveness, I can then be living a holy life.  Pure purple around the light.
There's a lot here to digest, but I don't want to just want to make analogies with the Word, I want my life to be transformed by it.  Father, help me to examine my life and daily put off the old nature and put on the new.  Renew me and refresh me.  Help me continually fill my life with the good things that You desire so there will be no room for the things You hate.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

He Speaks My Language

If God is all-knowing, and He is, then He knows every language, every dialect, and every culture in the world.  He is also loving and desiring of intimacy.  He would never speak to me in Chinese and expect me to communicate with Him because I don't know Chinese.  He doesn't speak to me in Spanish either.  I know some Spanish and can find my way to a taco and a bathroom, but I'm not fluent in the language and God wants me to communicate with Him.  Communication, by the way, is a process of sending AND receiving understandable messages.  I cannot see His hands or His face, so I don't get His body language.   He wants me to communicate with Him.
One of the ways He speaks is through the written word.  Very few people around the globe can fluently translate that Word in its original form.  He has enabled scholars to translate His words into a language I can understand.  I don't want to debate which translation is better or worse because each translation of the Word of God loses its potency as there are words in each language that are richest in their native tongue and will not translate directly.  I am still grateful that there are many translations of God's Word available to me in the English language so that I may know God more and more by reading His messages to me.  In fact, I have several digital and printed translations of the Bible so that I can more easily understand what is written down for me to read.  I love to hear the scriptures read aloud too, especially the book of Isaiah.
Another way that God communicates to me is through music and He knows the many styles of music that I like to hear and gives me what I need through a melody often times.  I believe that others hear from God through music that I don't like.  God wants to be intimate with me and He shows me love through my language and not even my mother's.
He also speaks to me through others who love Him.  I don't always hear Him through their rehearsed messages or recitations, but through unrehearsed loving acts and words.  Jesus told His disciples not to worry about what they were to say to the people because His words would be in their mouths by the power of Holy Spirit.  That's crazy!  If I want to share the gospel with someone, I often think I must be prepared with a proper message.  Well, I get that message by studying His Word and putting it in my heart that it would be on my lips when Holy Spirit brings it back to my memory.  I once planned a whole conversation and in the end, I didn't speak a word of it to my friend.  I spoke words of love that even surprised me.  He responded to those words and I really don't think He would have responded to my original message.
Sometimes I don't hear the message that God is sending to me because I've already judged the speaker and am thinking of other things as they speak.  He speaks my language and He is patiently sending an obedient one to deliver it and yet, I shut my ears because I think I've already got the answer or I know more than the speaker or .... well I come up with many excuses.
God often speaks to me through the way I speak to my children.  He is a Father you know.  "If you do that, you'll get hurt!" or "Why can't you obey me the first time I ask you to do something!"  I've actually stopped in the midst of scolding my kids and think, "Oh that's what You've been trying to tell me!"  I've learned so much about God in the 9+ years that I've been a mother.  God is slower to anger than I am, but He still becomes angry and disciplines the ones He loves.
God also speaks to my heart in His still, small voice.  I remember a simple one when I heard, "You need to carry that [box] with 2 hands."  I still thought I'd get more done faster if I carried one box in each hand and the box that I knew He spoke of ripped at the handle and spilled its contents of tiny pieces of trash all over the carpet.  It took me longer to clean up the huge mess than it would of if I had heeded His voice.  He doesn't always just speak huge revelation about international crises, He wants to guide our steps.  He wants us to turn right when He says to do so, often to avoid turmoil.  He wants us to help the poor man trying to balance his large bag of groceries and broken bicycle when He says to do so.
Don't expect Him to speak to your heart in King James English because you don't speak that way.  He may bring a verse to your mind in the King James text, because He knows you'll understand that, but when He speaks intimately to you with direction other than passages like those, He will speak your language.  I've not heard Him tell me, "Speak thou to thine pastor about such things as these."  He said, "Respond to what Pastor ______ just said with these words... ."  I have spoken on behalf of God and inserted rehearsed lines from growing up in charismatic churches.  "The Lord would say to you."  or "Thus says the Lord."  It's not wrong, but if I let Him put each word in my mouth, it would surely be in the language that the receiver of the message would understand.  His desire is to relate with us.
I believe that God still speaks today.  I've even had Him speak to me through people whom I would consider evil.  He used a donkey to speak to Balaam, so why wouldn't he use any means necessary to get through to me.  I don't want it to take a donkey to get through to me.  It's not fun to hear things in that way.  Lord, open my ears to hear Your voice!  I want to know You more!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I am His Bride

The idea that I am betrothed to Messiah is so complex.  It is beyond what I can comprehend and yet I believe it with all my heart.  The New Covenant makes provision for me and I am so blessed.  There are so many examples in the Word about His wooing us back unto Himself.  The parable of the lost sheep, the book of Hosea, Isaiah 62 (Hephzibah), Song of Songs.  I am my Beloved's and He is mine!  Now I watch and wait like the 10 virgins.  Will I be foolish or will I constantly be in a state of readiness?

Monday, March 19, 2012

He Opened Not His Mouth

Through my journey in life, I've been in several struggles in relationships.  It has not been until the most recent years that I've learned to control my tongue.  I guess I could say that I am learning still, but am less inclined to rant about my troubles.  The Lord had me throw away journal pages that reflected certain situations which only stirred up bitterness, but scars from past relationships are still present.  
As I'm sure many have experienced, my poor experience with someone caused a severing of that friendship for a time.  During the whole struggle, the Lord impressed upon me to not speak of it, especially to others with whom this friend spent a lot of time.  During that period, this friend continued to rant openly about me and say hurtful things to me.  During that course of time, several of my friends began to shun me and to this day, my attempts to reconcile with these others are futile.  I have reconciled with the first friend, but the damage has already been done to my reputation.  It has been years since that argument, but when I can't say, "Hello!" to certain friends, it really hurts.
I really wanted to avenge myself and make sure everyone knew my side of the story. While I was not guiltless in the situation, as no one really ever is entirely guiltless, I didn't want to be the bad guy.  When I took it to the Lord, He continued to tell me to be silent.  I was not to share my distress with anyone who befriended this one.
Today, as I browsed Facebook, I saw posts to this friend from another.  These two are still friends with each other while I have been "unfriended" by one.  My messages and requests for friendship have been rejected by this one who I cared deeply for.  I've seen others experience these same rejections, but in face to face meetings and not just Facebook.  Many of the rejected are pastors, servants of the King of Kings.  Why?
Jesus was accepted and worshiped and cheered in His triumphal entry to Jerusalem and then in a blink, the same people shouted, "Crucify Him!"  His broken heart had to be so much bigger because of the many that had rejected Him.  His love is so great for them! So much greater is His love than mine for the ones who reject me.  And even still, He did not open His mouth.
Isaiah 53:7  (NIV)  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
He bore all of the rejection, the physical and emotional abuse.  He bore the sins of man toward others and toward Himself and he FORGAVE it all.  He purchased my salvation with His blood.  With just one word, He could have stopped all of this that came against Him, but for my sake and humanity's sake, He chose silence and ultimately the cross.  
So the next time I suffer emotionally from the slander against me, I must remember Jesus' sacrifice and the multiplied sorrow that He must have felt.  His love is not comprehensible to me, so I cannot comprehend the ache His heart must have felt that day.  I don't believe it is wrong to mourn the loss of a friendship.  In that, consider His suffering and pain as so many are lost or have turned from Him.  
Father, my heart cries out with yours and that of Your Son over those who are lost.  Stir their hearts, O God! Help me to do my part to draw them unto You.  I know that You don't want any to perish!  Give me a heart for the lost!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Take the Dollar

I have heard this particular scripture at least 4 times in the past week and finally today, my 9 year old son says, "You know, like the people that were hired at different times and all made the same amount of money."  God speaks to me through my children often and this time I took notice.  So before I go any further, the passage:
Matthew 20 (The Message)A Story About Workers 
1 "God's kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.3 "Later, about nine o'clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. 4 He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage.5 They went. 6 At five o'clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, 'Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?7 ' "They said, 'Because no one hired us.' "He told them to go to work in his vineyard.8 "When the day's work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, 'Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.'9 "Those hired at five o'clock came up and were each given a dollar. 10 When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar.11 Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager,12 'These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.'13 "He replied to the one speaking for the rest, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn't we? 14 So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. 15 Can't I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?'16 "Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first."
The Lord showed me some time ago through prophetic words from some well-known men and women of God that He is about to bring in a great harvest.  I believe this to be true.  At the time I had been praying for several prodigals that I know as well as many that I've never heard of.  He told me simply that the church is not ready for the return of the prodigal.  Not speaking just about the church I attended, but the church as a whole.  We feel entitled to the titles that we currently have.  We feel that we've served our time faithfully and that we should be rewarded with kingdom promotions and esteem.
I saw a scenario where someone, whom I had watched make bad choices, came back just as I had prayed and then was promoted to a position above me.  Even though it was not a reality, but a vision of sorts, I became immediately offended.  Why should I, who has served faithfully and proven my worth, not become the leader and this one who just returned from the slop heap, be under me?  I deserve to be in charge?  Reading this, one might think that I sound petty, but I dare you to put yourself in that scenario.  Are you any less petty?
I have recently relocated to a new town, a new home and a new church.  In fact, I've only been in this church for about 3 weeks and so I'm asking God, why do I need to hear this lesson about the workers?  I'm one of the most recent hired.
 --- This might sound a bit strange, but the Lord's been dealing with me to type this blog for a few days now and I didn't know where it was going until I started typing.  In fact I knew I was to hold off on the title until it was complete and I am just now finding out why. ---
He doesn't want me to be afraid to take the dollar even though I just started the job and those ahead of me will receive the same wage.  I've been so convicted about my seniority issues that I've held for years and now I am seeing a whole new view to this, "inside, outside, upside-down Kingdom."  I'm so undone right now, I can hardly go on.  How can I "take the dollar" and still be humble?  It's that fine line between confidence and humility.  If one does not take what the Lord gives to them in the name of humility, it is false-humility and disobedience.  Isn't it He who qualified me?  Isn't it He who offered for me to join in His work?
I believe this message is for the prodigals as well.  He is calling you home.  He has a place for you and He intends for you to take it.  Sure, there will be those who are offended by your growth in Him, but Who has called you?  Who has named you?  Where does your fear and trembling lie?  Do you fear God or man?  He is the one pulling you up from the miry clay.  Stand on the Rock!
Now that I have at least a portion of the answer to my question, I have more questions.
No matter where you stand in the line of workers: first, second, fifth or last hired; trust that God is the one who offers the wage/reward and we need to trust that He knows what He is doing.

Take my focus from the wage, to the work, Lord.  Most importantly let my focus be on the One who called me in the first place.  Help me to have confidence in You alone and what You have for me to do.  Help me to do it with all my might and keep my eyes on You!