Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Unrealistic Expectations of Ourselves and Others

 One of the greatest deceptions our culture offers today is the ability to be able to wear many hats and do all things well.  If we do not, then, something must be lacking in us or we are "lazy".   For many young homemakers, working mothers, as well as their husbands this unrealistic expectation can be crushing.  I have heard comments like this:  "I must be a horrible parent since I cannot attend that classroom activity this week" or "I know God must be disappointed in me since I cannot go on that mission trip."  We can beat ourselves up, but is this really what God expects of us?
     In the Book of Micah, the prophet tells the people of Israel what God desires from them.  They had been living in disobedience to the Lord, so Micah asks a question and then answers:  "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Chapter 6:7-8).  We can endeavor to be at every event, show up for church every Sunday, go on all the mission trips we want, but in the end, what is our motive?  According to Micah, God does not care about our activity performance.  All of the activities may be good but what God wants is our heart and commitment.
     When I was busy raising our four children and teaching them at home, I participated in what I was able to manage remembering that my first calling was to our children's upbringing and education.  However, I fully admit that there were times when I felt "less than" because I wasn't able to participate in some church event or other community activity.  Fortunately, my husband would remind me that none of us can do it all.  He pointed out that performance does not gain us points with God.  We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  As Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9:  "For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
     Too often, we buy into the world's idea that we have to be a super hero able to leap tall laundry piles, fix every broken pipe, mend a child's wounded heart, get the meal on the table with ease and still have time to go to work and read through the Bible in a year.  Am I right?  We demand far more from ourselves than God does.  What we need to do is sit down in prayer with God and ask Him what He has called us to do in our life?  After all, He has given to us the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us. The condemnation we often feel is not from God but from the Enemy of our souls who tries to make us feel like a loser.
     In the same way, we need to avoid judging others harshly when they do not meet our expectations.  Some of the things I have learned over the forty three years of our marriage is that: 1) My husband is not a mind reader.  I have to communicate with him so he knows what I would like him to do.  2) We both have our faults.  Neither one of us is perfect so we should not expect that the other person will do everything just the way we want them to do it.  Finally, 3) We tend to pick out things in one another that we find annoying because we may have the same issue ourselves.  Unrealistic expectations of our spouse, friends, pastors, or co-workers will damage our relationship to them.  Therefore, we need to go back to square one and remember what Micah told the Israelites:  we are to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.  Humbly is the operative word here.
     No matter how hard we may strive to be all things to all people, we will find that it is impossible to meet all the demands made on us.  What we need to remember is that our significance and worth as a person is found in Jesus Christ not in our performance.  So, when those feelings of guilt rise up because we cannot go to whatever activity it is, we need to think on what it is that God has called us to do and be.  We are complete in Him, and before we step out the door to attend another event we really don't have time for, we need to ask ourselves what our motive is.  Saying "no" is not a sin, and feeling guilty does not come from the Lord.  Let us evaluate our activities based upon godly priorities for our life and calling.  Selah!

Picture of the Stetson courtesy of Wiki Commons in the public domain.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Making a Change

 One of the hardest things we have to do in this life is to make changes.  Whether it is giving up a bad habit, moving to another location, or adapting to a new diet, we need God's grace to help us along the way.  I have found this out with my new lifestyle program I am taking right now.
     As many of you know, I discovered that I had a diagnosis of heart disease back in July.  In fact, my heart required a stent.  It was a big wake up call for me.  I had two choices: continue to do what I had been doing with the hope that medication would keep me healthy or make some other lifestyle changes.  For me, the choice was not complicated.  I did not want to depend solely on medication to keep me going so I entered cardiac rehab.  There I have been learning how to improve my health through diet and exercise.  Rehab also led me to the CHIP program (Cardiac Health Improvement Program).  It is a major departure from the way I used to eat focusing only on plant based eating and eliminating high sodium and animal products.
     Today, I spent time pulling things out of my cupboard that I can no longer eat.  It is amazing how many things I needed to get rid of, but it is worth it to regain my health.  While this program helps me to lose weight, the primary goal is overall health.  The change is big, but when your health is at stake, most of us are willing to do whatever it takes.  Likewise, the same should be true in our walk with Christ.
     According to the Apostle Paul, when we became a believer in Jesus Christ, the old man died and we have become new creations.  In his letter to the Corinthian Church, he writes:  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come"  (2 Corinthians 5:17).  God gives us a new heart, removes our sin and imputes the righteousness of Christ to our lives.  It is a miraculous and life changing event.  Who could ever imagine that the God of the Universe would do this for us, but He has!
     All this being said, we also have a part.  Our part is to open our hearts up to God daily that the Holy Spirit might convict us of any areas which we have not fully yielded to the Lord.  It is an ongoing process not a one time event.  We will not be perfected in this world, but we must remember that we are changed by His grace and power.  Therefore, we must put away sin, and leave behind our old flesh with its habits, temptations, and weakness.
     Being a believer in this world today means we must go against the flow of society that is steadily marching towards the wide gate that leads to Hell.  We may lose friends, jobs or even our life, but we have a salvation that is sure.  This, too, is a life or death matter when it comes to change just like my diet.
     I have already had many well meaning people tell me that this won't work or that I will quit when my educational classes conclude.  However, I have a different resolve now than I did before.  I know how serious my health status will be if I return to eating and living as I did before this incident.  As I told my husband, it is a shame I didn't do something before this, but so often, we are complacent until there is a wake-up call.  I do not want the same thing to happen in my spiritual life either.
     We have been warned in Scripture to: "8 Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8).  Therefore, we need to make changes.  Make time for God in prayer.  Study His Word daily, and do not miss the opportunity to worship together with a church family.  This is how the Holy Spirit will work within us to grow us, cleanse us and continually fill us with the power to live each day going against the flow.  Let us begin to make changes in how we live for Christ that we might not be caught off guard when difficulties come.  Our spiritual health is at stake!  Selah!

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons author Cheryl

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

God's Sweet Providence

 I do not believe in coincidence, but I do believe in God.  He is a God that meets all our needs and cares for us on a daily basis.  How do I know?  Throughout my life, I have had the privilege of seeing His hand deliver me from Bulbar Poliomyelitis when I asked for healing as a child of six.  Then, God used my teacher training from college so that I might teach our children at home.  Finally, I saw God's hand guiding a doctor to place a stent in my heart and preserve my life.  So I find it hard to understand why people fail to recognize the Lord's sovereign work in our lives.
     According to Webster's 1828 American Dictionary, providence means "the care and superintendence which God exercises over His creatures."  Indeed, we know that God created the whole universe and all that is in it.  He is sovereign over all of it, maintains it by His mighty power, and sent His only Son to offer redemption to those He has chosen from before the foundation of this world.  Yet there are those, today, who say that this universe was a result of "the Big Bang".  They deny a sovereign Creator who has marvelously made all that we see.  The Apostle Paul described this in his letter to the Romans.
     In chapter 1 verses 18-23, we read:  "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things."  Several things stand out in this passage.  First, men choose to suppress the truth.  Hasn't this been the history of man since the Garden of Eden?  God has revealed Himself through the things that are seen in the magnificence of His creation.  Instead of worshipping this great God of creation, the God of Providence who is Sovereign, they choose to follow the inclinations of their own hearts worshipping idols.  Furthermore, the life of Christ demonstrated God's love and care for us.
     Jesus Christ called Himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).  We know that shepherds care for their sheep, but Jesus went even further by laying down His life for His sheep.  He protects, guides, feeds and nurtures those in His care.  He also will not lose even one that is given to Him by the Father.  This is a picture of God's providential oversight.
     Living in the sheepfold of His care means He will carry us when we are weary.  He will weep with us when we are broken.  He will heal us and bind up our wounds.  Most importantly, He carries our sins and gives us in return His righteousness.  Who would not desire to live in His sweet Providence?
     Having seen God at work in my life over the years I could never deny His tender care.  He has always been there at just the right time.  His promises are certain, and His ways are perfect.  Today, trust in God's providential care for your life.  Tell others of the God that we serve that they too may enter into the perfect rest that can only be found in Him.  Selah!