Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Do They See When They Look at Us?

     Having worked in a number of job positions during my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to observe people as they interact with others.  There have been many bright spots through the years where I have witnessed acts of kindness as well as people willing to go the second mile to help another.  However, I have also seen the flip side, and this is what concerns me the most.  This should make all of us pause and reflect on our daily behavior because whether we like it or not we are painting a picture of Jesus Christ by our actions.  Those outside the Christian faith are watching.
So what are some examples that we can consider?
     While looking for a parking spot near the grocery store the other day, I saw someone with Jesus stickers all over the back of their vehicle hurriedly zip into a parking spot that someone else had signaled for.  It does not appear to be a big deal unless you are the person who had your turn signal on who was waiting for the spot.  Maybe we should be careful where we put our Jesus stickers if we are going to rush to the head of the line skipping others who have bided their time.  It isn't a criminal act, but what sort of witness was that?
     I am not certain if it is just grocery stores that tend to bring out the bad side in folks, but I have also seen people become irate over the price of something that was advertised.  The poor cashier must listen patiently to the person carry on when they have nothing to do with the pricing of an item.  Sadly, some of the people who do the loudest complaining are "good" church folks.  When we see this, we tell ourselves they are just having a bad day, but it is also a bad witness.  Demanding our way, using our friendships to try to get what we want, speaking ill of a brother or sister, demonstrating lack of respect for others are all symptoms of spiritual immaturity.  Whenever the flesh is in control, damage can be done to a relationship with a friend in Christ and can also keep those outside the faith from wanting to draw nearer.  What a frightful responsibility we have been given!  Christ lives in us so that we may be light in this dark world.  But our light grows very dim when we behave like everyone else in this dog eat dog world.
     Jesus told us in John 13:34-35:  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  How we treat one another in every day contact, business relationships and church fellowship tells a lot about how well we are keeping this commandment of our Lord.  Even when we think no one is looking or cares, God is observing our behavior.  We cannot hide from His eyes.
     In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul admonishes believers to avoid the sins of the flesh and be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1-17).  We are not to be involved in sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, no foolish talk, crude joking or filthy language.  Instead, Paul urges us "walk as children of the light" and to "discern what is pleasing to the Lord" (vs 8-10).  In fact, we are to expose darkness for what it is.  As Paul concludes his encouragement, he writes in verses 15-16:  "Look carefully then how you walk, not
as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."  As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to live a higher standard.
     How we behave in our every day life at work, at play and in our homes says a lot about the condition of our heart.  We may go to church every Sunday, but if we live like a heathen all week, what does this do to our testimony?  Certainly none of us is perfect and daily, we must depend on the Holy Spirit to guide and help us.
     Let us do some self examination.  Do we demand our rights?  Do we speak ill of someone else or their business?  Are we courteous and kind when dealing with those around us?  We need to remember that others are watching us to see if our actions line up with what we say we believe about Christ.  Yet, the most important observer of all our interactions is God Himself.  May we live to bring glory to His name and shine brightly in this dark world rather than merely blending in.  Selah!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Our Divine Appointment

     Many of you have asked how my husband and I came to know Christ as our Lord and Savior.  So on this throwback Thursday, I am reposting our story that I originally published in April of 2011 with a few updates.  I pray you are blessed as you look back with us at our beginning appointment with God.

          Story telling is an art, but I believe that when you have lived the story it becomes even more powerful.  Our story (my husband's and mine) started on April 20, 1971.  This was the night that both of us had a divine appointment with the Lord.
     We had been raised attending Presbyterian churches in our respective communities.  Both of us had gone through catechism and confirmation as well, but neither of us were really believers.  We had head knowledge about Christ, but a full awakening to His call had not yet come into our lives.
     When we met, we were college students.  I was studying communications and English at a small college and he was studying engineering at a well known school.  In both of our lives, individually, we sensed an emptiness.  I tried different churches to find the answers and even went so far as to dabble with the occult never realizing any danger.  By God's grace, He protected me from all the
things I could have fallen into.
     For my husband's part, he found during his scientific studies that there was wonderful order in the universe.  He felt that God had to have put it all together, but he also found himself wishing that God would come back to earth to stop the injustice, crime and pain.  Both of us were looking for answers.
     We became engaged in 1970, and went on with our education.  He began professional studies and I started post graduate work at Ohio State University.  During that time, we had met a married couple that we developed a friendship with.  On one visit to their home, we came in on a conversation they were having with a fellow from Campus Crusade for Christ.  He was telling them about Jesus Christ and how one day He would return again to the earth.  This captured our attention.  We listened until he was finished, and wanting to hear more, we set up a date to meet with him.
     Knowing we were planning to be married, we had visited several area churches, but found no real answers there.  Now, we would have an opportunity to meet with someone who had intrigued us.  He had a real relationship with Christ which we found attractive.
     On the appointed evening, he shared his testimony with us.  Then, he went through "The Four Spiritual Laws" booklet with us as well.  Along the way, he explained to us what sin was and how we were separated from God.  He, then, told us how Christ had been the perfect sacrifice that took away our sins.  We both heard that inner voice in our hearts that called us to repent and receive the gift of salvation.  God had awakened us from our death sleep and quickened our hearts to know Him in full relationship.  As we prayed, there was no emotional jolt or giddy high.  It was a solemn commitment of our lives to the only One who could really give us both peace.
     As our new brother in Christ got ready to leave, he gave us Bibles with the date and time of our commitment written on the front page.  He also invited us to a college Bible study for new believers.  We agreed to attend because we did want to learn more, and thus, began our 43 year adventure with Jesus Christ.
     We were married three months after our commitment to the Lord.  With this foundation, our marriage is about to enjoy a 44th anniversary in a few more months.  God has brought us through good times, bad times, and all the in between.  We have home educated our four children and taught them to follow hard after the Lord in their lives.  Now, He has allowed us to be blessed with eight grandchildren, and we could not be more content to walk with Him.
     My husband and I were living examples of two people who were church members, had been through catechism classes and attended on a regular basis, but we were not Christians.  There are many out there like us just waiting for someone to introduce them to the Lord.  We never know when someone has a divine appointment with the Lord, but we are commanded to go and tell and leave the rest to God.
     Coming to a place in your life where you realize you have a need that nothing or no one can meet could be the turning point for you.  I encourage you to seek the Lord while He may be found, and He will never disappoint you.  Confession of your sins, sincere repentance of them and complete commitment of your life to Him will open the door to a whole new life.  You will be a new creation as my husband and I were on that night in April.  Do not tarry.  Make that decision to hear His voice when He calls to you.  We are so glad that we answered Him when He knocked on the door of our hearts.  Selah!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Excuses, Excuses

     Many years ago, a singing group came to our small town and offered some wonderful music and a great testimony for Christ.  I will never forget one of the songs they sang that has stayed in my mind through the years called "Excuses".  The chorus goes like this:  "Excuses, excuses, you'll hear them every day.  And the Devil he'll supply them, if from church you stay away.  When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses.  So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses."  Its a catchy tune too which will stay in your head for a long time.  Of course, the point of this song is to show us how often we hide behind excuses when it comes to attending church, reading the Bible, or even obeying the Lord.
     Perhaps the best example comes from the book of Exodus.  Moses has ascended Mt. Sinai to receive from God His commandments.  The people had promised to obey God and remain faithful to Him, but this soon changed as Moses was gone for a period of 40 days.  Restless and impatient, the people came to Aaron (the brother of Moses and high priest of God).  They
St Giles Cathedral
did not know what had become of Moses so they asked Aaron to make gods for them (Exodus 32:1).  Aaron obliged them by calling for all the gold jewelry which the Israelites had taken from the Egyptians.  He melted the gold and formed a calf which he proclaimed was their god.  They built an altar and planned a feast for the next day (read the entire chapter for a detailed account).
     While the people played and danced around this idol of gold, God told Moses what was going on below.  The Lord burned with anger, but Moses interceded for them.  When he came down the mountain, he witnessed the children of Israel sinning against God.  He came to Aaron and this is the conversation they had in verses 21-24:  "And Moses said to Aaron, 'What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?'  And Aaron said, 'Let not the anger of my lord burn hot.  You know the people, that they are set on evil.  For they said to me, 'Make us gods who shall go before us.  As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'  So I said to them, 'Let any who have gold take it off.  So they gave it to me, and I threw it in the fire, and out came the calf.'"  What a conversation!  I am amazed that God allowed Aaron to continue in the priesthood after such poor leadership in the absence of Moses.  However, God worked all things together for good as He always does.
     If we look closely at this excuse that Aaron offered up, we can note several characteristics which we need to watch for in our own lives lest we also fall into sin.  First, Aaron laid the blame on others rather than owning up to his part in the act of rebellion.  He called the people evil, but wasn't he also one of those who participated?  Instead of putting the blame on the people, he should have acknowledged his failure to obey God and repent.  The Bible tells us clearly that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
     Secondly, he side stepped his responsibility to lead the people in the absence of Moses.  He was left in charge and served as the mouthpiece of Moses.  It is hard to know if he was afraid of the people or if he, himself, doubted God, but he definitely did not exercise good leadership.  A leader does not blame the people he cares for, but helps to guide them away from the danger of sin.
     Finally, the greatest excuse of all was given when Aaron tried to explain where the golden idol came from.  Instead of admitting his full, guilty partnership in these actions, Aaron said that he threw the gold jewelry into the fire and out came the calf.  This is beyond absurd to make such a claim!  Obviously, someone had to fashion this gold animal and proclaim a feast.  Since Aaron was set as the authority over the people, it is apparent that he was involved.
     From this story, we learn that nothing is ever hidden from God.  Our sins will always find us out.  We also see that there are consequences to our actions.  Many of the people (3,000 men) died by the sword.  Our excuses do not remove God's judgment for sin.
     One of the great blessings from reading the Word is that it serves as a mirror for us to look into daily.  God has placed these stories in the Bible to instruct us and turn us away from falling into the same temptation and feeble excuses.  Aaron tried to get around the issue that he fashioned that golden calf, but he made himself look silly...as though jewelry could jump into a fire and come out a calf.  This is how silly we appear before the Lord of heaven when we use excuses for disobedience to our duty to God as well as our duty to our neighbor.  We must remember that God delights in our obedience much more than any thing we can offer to Him.  Let us, therefore, strive to avoid excuses and live a life of holiness that will bring glory to God.  Selah!