Thursday, March 19, 2015

But What Does God Think?

      With all the hotly debated topics both in the media and even in Christian circles, we hear many ideas bandied about.  People have strong opinions on every side of a question.  However, the only question we need to ask ourselves when discussing any critical topic is "What does God think?"  It isn't hard to know the Lord's position on any important topic.  We only have to look into the Bible to find it.  
        For example, one of the principle teachings of the Bible is that actions have consequences.  We have only to read Genesis to learn this.  Man was given the opportunity to obey God in a perfect environment where no sin existed.  Yet we know that man and woman fell into sin in the Garden.  They would have lived forever in an unspoiled creation, but their act of rebellion brought in death, sin and sickness to the world, and we are inheritors of this fallen nature.  Knowing that this is God's position, let us contrast this with the opinions of the secular world in which we live.  
        Many today believe that there should not be any consequences for violating a specific law, legal agreement or even the marriage covenant.  We see evidence of that when people walk away from their mortgage, become involved in adultery, or knowingly break the law.  Lack of accountability and responsibility has escalated.  People make excuses for their actions, but in the end, it does not change the fact that God sees everything we do.  We will be held accountable when we stand before Him if we are not brought to face our wrongdoing here.  
       In the Christian faith, we know that we have God's forgiveness for our sins if we confess them.  We will have to face any consequences that come with our sin; however, we are not going to face God's ultimate judgment and loss of fellowship with Him forever in Hell.  This is another truth found in God's Word.  Jesus said in John 3:36:  "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."  It is a promise, and we can know that this is what God thinks on the topic.
       Furthermore, we know what God thinks about murder, stealing, worshipping other gods, lying, coveting and keeping the Sabbath.  It is all found in "The Ten Commandments".  When we open the pages of God's Word, we are reading God's thoughts after Him.  His character is fully revealed in the Bible from Old Testament to New Testament.  He is not hidden from us.  Likewise, He reveals who we are and why He made us.  We may not understand why He works the way He does, but the Bible even makes us aware of why in Isaiah 55:8:  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD."  
       No matter what decision we are trying to make shouldn't we seek first God and His wisdom?  So often, we want to run to others for their opinion or step out on our own strength.  We feel we can come to the conclusion without God's help.  As most of us know, however, when we do this, we are shortchanging ourselves and we often face the consequences of our folly.  Through the exercise of daily prayer and Bible study, we can begin to understand what God has to say to us.  Keep in mind, it is not wrong to seek godly counsel from Christian friends, but no decision should be made based on opinion only.
      In the pages of the Bible, we learn that God is holy, perfect, faithful, loving, just, merciful, wise, strong, almighty, all powerful, everywhere present, patient and on and on.  Would we not want His opinion first?  His truth? His insight?  I cannot think of a better resource when it comes to taking a stand in our lives.  Popular books, well-known people, politicians, and trendy ideas are great, but they lack the sovereignty of God who rules and reigns over all of life.  His perspective is the only one that counts.  May we remember this the next time we are faced with a crucial decision.  "What does God think?"  Selah!
       

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Our Very Best Gift

   
     Several years ago, when I would arrive home from work, Roscoe P. Coltrain, our basset hound extraordinaire, greeted me with his very best toy in mouth.  Then, he proceeded to carry it all the way to our back door so I could let him out in the yard.  Before I opened the door, I took his toy out of his mouth, patted him on the head and told him what a good dog he was.  This seemed to satisfy his desire to please me so he trotted outside to take care of his business.  I am amazed at this repeated behavior day after day.  Roscoe had an entire basket of toys, but he chose one that was his most favorite to present to me.  I chuckled at this routine, but deep down I felt honored that he wanted to bring me his best. However, this daily activity made me think about our relationship to God.  If my dog wants to please me and bring to me the best gift he has to offer, shouldn't I be doing the same on a daily basis with the Lord?
   
      Paul, the Apostle, wrote in his letter to the Roman believers that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1) which is our spiritual worship.  We are to devote ourselves to Him using our talents, abilities and the gifts which He graciously gives to us.  Each one of us has something we can offer.  This is one reason I started writing nearly twenty-two years ago.  I wanted to encourage others in their walk with Christ.  It is my offering unto the Father.  Some are gifted musicians who can play the most beautiful music for God.  Others can preach, sing, or render service to bless their neighbors.  It does not matter what the gift is as long as it is brought to our Lord with the right heart motive.
     Certainly, we cannot add to our salvation by offering our works to God.  Salvation, after all, is a gift and comes not as a result of anything which we do (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Our good works are to be done out of love as acts of worship to our heavenly Father.  Even our labor during the day is an opportunity to offer God our very best gifts.  When we stop and look at things from this vantage point, it makes everything we do seem much more important than we might think.
     I know I am delighted to be greeted every day by our faithful basset hound.  Unfortunately due to advanced age and blindness, Roscoe cannot offer me a toy but he still faithfully offers me his best love.   How much more then is God delighted when we seek Him out each day and bring to Him our very best gifts of time, talent, and resources?  No matter who we are or where we live, we all have something we can bring to God as our very best gift.  As unique individuals, no two gifts will be quite the same.  The chief end of our lives is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  We do this when we offer ourselves to Him as living sacrifices.  May we seek out avenues every day where we can serve the Lord by bringing Him our best.  Selah!


This picture is courtesy of Wiki Commons and can be found at:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/72153088@N08/6510934443

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Dark Night of the Soul

     On this Throw back Thursday, I wanted to share something I shared a number of years ago.  I have recently talked with a number of people who have been facing hard times.  I know about hard places, but I also know a Great Savior.  I hope this repeat will be a blessing to someone out there who needs to know there is an answer for their pain.  Blessings!

     I ran into a friend the other day who shared with me that she has been experiencing some physical and emotional struggles lately.  Her face showed the strain of trying to move forward in a normal fashion as her voice quivered while we talked.  The physical symptoms she was having seemed to ambush her out of no where, and it shook her to the core.  She had even made a trip to the ER recently thinking she might be having a heart attack.  How well I could identify with what she was saying because I, too, had walked through the dark valley of anxiety which eventually led me to the deep pit of depression.  I wanted her to know that she was not alone.  I wanted her to know that I
cared about her and that she would get through this place of trial.
     As I prayed for her and remembered the anguished look on her face, I recalled how my own feet stumbled trying to find solid ground not so many years ago.  A series of events came together like a cataclysmic earthquake in my life.  A dear friend that I had shared so many Bible studies with moved away.  My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and came to Florida so I could care for her needs, and I was trying to care for our four young children whom I was home schooling.  The stress, the change, the heartache was more than I could handle.  Heart palpitations, panic attacks and a total feeling of darkness seemed to overwhelm me.  I cannot recall any physical pain as great as the pain of depression.
     Through the love of my family, a sound counselor and a wonderful family doctor, I was able to over come this dark night of the soul which I had experienced.  It took time, but glimmers of light broke through the shadows more and more every day as I studied the Bible looking for the answers I needed.  There was no instant cure for the fractures I had in my heart.  Only time and the love of Christ helped to bring light into that dark cave I was in.
     Perhaps the greatest scripture shared with me during this time comes from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."  These words ministered to my soul as nothing else in scripture.  To know, that my pain would be comforted by God and that He would use it to one day help others gave me back the hope I had lost.
       When I pondered on this passage, I thought about the dark night of the soul that our Lord experienced in the garden before His arrest.  So great was His agony that he shed great drops of blood as he prayed.  He knew what lay ahead physically, but greater still was the crushing weight of carrying our sins in His sinless body.  Yet, our Lord Jesus yielded Himself to the Father's will.  He endured the cross for us, and no one can forget how He cried out in despair, "My God, My God why hast though forsaken me?"(Matt. 27:46).  As I thought about his, I knew in my own heart that what Hebrews says is true:  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."  It was at that moment that light bulbs illuminated the darkness for me!  Jesus knew how I felt, and He had over come all things.  Therefore, I could too.
      With new found understanding, and my feet once again firmly under me, I promised the Lord that I would take the comfort He had given to me and I would share it with others.  I knew there were many Christians out there that had suffered from depression/anxiety and felt like a failure.  They blamed themselves for not having enough faith to rise above the darkness; however, God does not waste any suffering we endure.  He takes what is meant for evil and turns it for good if we allow Him.
     As believers, we need to be ready to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  We need to be honest with one another instead of robotically saying, "I am fine" when life is NOT fine.  How can we pray for one another unless we do open up?  The fellowship of Christ's body along with the healing comfort of God the Father  will help to bring healing to those hurting hearts out there.  I would not share my own journey if this were not true.
     My prayer for my friend is that she will know that she will be all right.  She can open up.  Depression and anxiety are foes created by the Fall as surely as heart disease and cancer.  More importantly, God brings comfort when we seek His face.  Then, He allows us to pass the comfort along to one another.  If you or someone you love has been or is facing the dark night of the soul, they need to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  That light is Jesus Christ and He will lead them out as surely as He has guided me.  Take His comfort and share it with others!  Selah!


Father, I pray for all who have traveled the dark path of depression and anxiety.  Bring comfort to their souls and set them on solid ground again.  Let them know that they are not alone and that You fully understand where they are at.  Help them to find and place their hope in You once more.  For we ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons the photographer is:  w:bn:Balaram Mahalder