Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trouble in the Sheep Pen

     Recently, I had the opportunity to read two articles published by "The Aquila Report" online.  One dealt with Mark Driscoll ("Yes, Restore Mark Driscoll, But to What?") and the other discussed "Young, Reckless, and Reformed".  Both of these articles are worth the time to read and think about because in many respects they are related.
Windows in the Cathedral at Lincolnshire 
     In the first article, the author discusses the fact that Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church fame has resigned from that ministry.  Over the past couple of years there have been charges by former members of being treated unfairly.  There were also charges of plagiarism by Driscoll in a book published under his name.  Of course, it is always sad to see a pastor leave a ministry he began, but this is not a new phenomenon.  There have been any number of leaders in the past who have resigned in the midst of scandal, but in this case, the author of the article asks a good question.  He says that Mark Driscoll should be restored to fellowship.  However, he questions if he should be restored to the pastorate.  There are some, he argues, that would be better off pursuing other callings.  Not everyone is meant to be a pastor especially if there are relationship problems that occur that results in a number of the sheep leaving the flock.  While I am not privy to all that transpired, I have read a number of accounts by former members who were themselves involved in leadership that reminded me how important it is to have a servant's heart if a person is in the position of pastor, elder or even a Sunday School teacher.
     In the second article (Young, Reckless, and Reformed), the author Mark Singleton points out the fact that the Reformed faith (of which Mark Driscoll was a part) has grown by leaps and bounds in the last several years.  With this growth, there is also great enthusiasm, but there are also some dangers.  He writes:  "There are churches and pastors who can testify about a difficult situation that arises from this large movement. The problem is the trend of young, reformed but heady college students who can talk theological circles around most layman, and even many pastors. Because of this theological depth they may request or receive authoritative positions they are completely unqualified for. This trend produces young people who are reformed and ready to have a microphone. The problem is that, because of their age, many of these guys—myself included—can be lacking in some serious wisdom."  Mark Singleton goes on to propose three important considerations that would help bring maturity to these believers.  Without understanding how to apply what we believe in a manner that is glorifying to God, we can wound others.  We may have great education, Bible college or even a seminary degree but are we ready to lead?  I wondered if this is what happened to Mark Driscoll.  Did he start to believe his own press?  Was he caught up in the success of the church?
     In Paul's letter to Timothy (3:1-7), he lays out the qualifications for teaching and ruling elders in the church:  "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil."  
     Within the passage, there are several things which stand out for leaders.  First, Paul mentions some character qualities.  The person must be self-controlled.  No hair trigger tempers here that result in conflict.  The individual should be respectable and hospitable.  That word "hospitable" describes the ability to be welcoming to everyone in the body of Christ both young and old alike.  Furthermore, Paul describes a man who is gentle and not quarrelsome or a lover of money.  This indicates the heart of a servant not someone thinking only of his own welfare.  Paul also rules out recent converts who may not be mature enough in the faith to effectively lead as well as someone who is well thought of by those outside the church body.  It is a picture of a humble servant with a tender heart not a bully, or someone who demands his own way.
      I remember when I was in college that there were some who went into teaching for all the wrong reasons.  They wanted the benefits, three months off and a retirement plan, but they confided in me that they really were not crazy about working with students.  It made me sad because that meant shortchanging the students.  They would be the ones to suffer.  The same is true if a person undertakes leadership as a pastor, teacher or elder when they really only want the title, benefits, or the spotlight.  The sheep will ultimately be shortchanged.
     A pastor/counselor wisely told me some years ago that when someone ministers out of a desire to be recognized and to have his needs met, he will ultimately end up wounding others.  I believe this is a valid point.  James 3:1 tells us:  "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."  Our motives are always on display before God.  He alone knows the heart.
     It is my prayer that in the situation with Mark Driscoll as with anyone else in similar circumstances there can be repentance and sincere restoration to fellowship.  I also pray there will be greater accountability to other believers.  May God grant us all grace as we walk daily that our motives and hearts can be humble, righteous and holy before the Lord so that He ALONE can receive the glory.  We are all called to have a servant's heart.  Selah!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"I Can See Clearly Now"

     This past weekend, I did a job I do not enjoy, but the weather was so beautiful I knew I had to use the time.  I washed windows outside and in the house.  Now we can see clearly through sparkling clean windows.  It gives me a good feeling when I have worked hard and can actually view the results.  I also now realize just how dirty those windows were!  Isn't it funny how easy it is to let our vision become clouded much like those dirty windows?  That is why reading God's Word and letting it be the measure of all we say, think, and do should be a priority.
     An often quoted verse from Romans 12:2 reminds us that we need to keep our spiritual windows clean:  "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  When Paul wrote these words, he was trying to remind the Roman believers that it is easy to fall into conformity with the world's style, fashion, music and thought process.  After all, we live in this world 24/7.  We are bombarded by media through our smart phones, computers, electronic tablets and T.V.'s.  All day
A view from Neuschawnstein Castle near Munich, Germany
long we hear the world view as presented by the Prince of this world - satan.  However, we know his end will come, and so will his lies, perversions and injustice.  Therefore shouldn't we bathe our minds in the Word of God so that we more consistently hold to a Christian worldview?
     In my study Bible, there is a footnote with this verse that explains this verse in even more depth.
"...this world is better translated 'age', which refers to the system of beliefs, values - or the spirit of the age - at any time current in the world.  The sum of contemporary thinking and values forms the moral atmosphere of our world and is always dominated by Satan."  We all know that daily we see changes in the values that are acceptable in the world culture.  At one time, life was considered precious and now we see babies being aborted at a record rate and assisted suicide being promoted.  As we float along the river of life, even Christians can get caught up in the rapids of worldly thinking.  The only sure foundation for our faith and life is the Word of God.  His truth is everlasting and does not change even as God Himself does not change.
     When my husband and I were privileged to watch and study Focus on the Family's "The Truth Project", our eyes were opened to all the subtle lies being sold in our world.  It is amazing how dim the windows of our spirit had become.  This is the reason that we began to share it in our church, Sunday School and in our home group.  If we allow ourselves to be indoctrinated by the ideas of this present age, we will be unable to present a defense for the faith we hold dear.  We must understand the Word of God and what He says about life, our relationship to Him, our need for a Savior, and what He sets as the moral standard for our conduct.  After all, He made us and knows us better than we know ourselves.
     As we continue to look at the verse in Romans, we see the word "transformed" which has its origin in the Greek, and in English, it means "metamorphosis" or a change in outward appearance.  The same word is used in Matthew (Matthew 17:2) to describe the Transfiguration.  Jesus was changed outwardly, and we, as believers, are to show outwardly what has happened in our life on a daily basis.  This means that we are to be different than the world.  How do we accomplish this?  We do so by the power of the Holy Spirit as we are renewed in our minds.  Only through consistent study of God's Word can we live a life that is good, acceptable and perfect.  This is the kind of holy living which God desires.
     Bible study, prayer and regular fellowship with other believers is crucial to our spiritual health.  These are the things which keep the windows of our heart clean and clear as we travel through this life.  Sitting under the solid preaching of God's Word will also keep our feet grounded.  God has provided so many opportunities for us to grow that we are without excuse.  If you have not ever seen "The Truth Project", I would encourage you to go through this series.  It helps us to understand what it means to have a Christian worldview.  Lets all keep the windows of our spirit clean and clear so we can see what is the "good and acceptable and perfect" will of God.  Selah!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Doing Good While We Have the Opportunity

The Church of the Holy Rood
 Several years ago my husband and I had the privilege of traveling to Scotland as well as several other countries.  It was not only a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate our anniversary in a special way, but also a chance to travel to places where history was made.  One such location was the city of Stirling, Scotland which not only had a monument to William Wallace ("Brave Heart") but also The Church of the Holy Rood where both John Knox and Ebenezer Erskine had preached the Gospel of Salvation.
     As we toured this old church, I noted in several places both on the wall as well as in the graveyard behind the church, inscriptions in stone commemorating the lives of various individuals who had died in the faith.  One such writing touched my heart.  It described a woman who had been the wife of a pastor, a faithful mother, someone much loved by others and a caring person who demonstrated the love of the Lord.  What a testimony to a life well lived that brought glory to God!  In fact, all of us should have this type of epitaph when we leave this world.
     In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul wrote some encouraging words for all believers to walk out.  Chapter 6, verses 9-10 read:  "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."  I believe that this is how the good lady written about on that stone wall had lived her life, and this is how we should live ours.  We are told, by the Apostle, to not grow weary in doing good.  This is not always easy is it?  There are days at work when our fellow man may say or do something that arouses a desire in us to strike back with a harsh word.  Likewise, for those who are young mothers, it can be difficult to continue on when the weight of family demands may be at an all time high.  Yet, Paul tells us not to become weary in doing good.  Realistically, only the Holy Spirit can help us be successful in this endeavor.
     Furthermore, Paul encourages us to do good to everyone and especially to fellow believers.  This should not be hard, but we also struggle with the old flesh that at times would rather do things our way and ignore the needs of others.  Keeping this in mind, the first place we need to start is in prayer before our heavenly Father.  We need to ask God to open our eyes and show us where we might be a blessing to people we encounter.  Today, for example, a gentleman came into our office distressed over a situation concerning his eyes.  I sought the counsel of my husband and took time to explain the best approach to this gentleman.  He needed someone to help him sort out what he should do, and after our brief discussion, he felt reassured.  All I did was listen and try to answer his questions.  This is what he needed.  It is that simple.  We do good to others when we listen to them, visit the sick, help someone grocery shop, call a friend who needs encouragement or give someone a ride to an appointment.  We demonstrate the love of Christ in many simple ways, but we need to look for the daily opportunities.
     Not only are we to do good to others, but we are to especially look for ways to bless our fellow believers.  In the book of Corinthians, Paul talked about how we are all part of the body and each one of us cannot do without the other part.    Therefore, by serving one another, we are glorifying God.  Life is short here on this earth so we must make use of every opportunity to do good.  One small act of kindness can change the course of someone's life.  Selah1

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two Kinds of Funerals

     Over the last several days, I have been thinking about the passing of some folks that I know.  It is always sad to say good-bye to someone with whom you have been acquainted, but it is even more difficult if you do not know where they stood with Christ.  I have personally been to many funerals during my life, and they come down to two types.  There is one type of funeral which is the celebration of a life that was committed to Jesus Christ.  This is a bittersweet service where all present know they will miss the person but will one day see him/her again in heaven.  Then, the other type of funeral is one that is far more difficult both for the pastor and the people.  At this funeral, no one really knows for certain that the person who has died was a believer.  What do you say to comfort the family?  Based on the Word of God, we know their destination was not heaven if they had never made Christ their Savior.  Yes, this is a difficult thing to think about, but I believe the Lord
wants us to wake up and take the opportunity to tell others about His saving love and grace while there is still time.

     Jesus gave a command to his disciples and all believers that would come after them to go out and tell others about His life, death and resurrection.  Matthew 28:18b-20 reads:  "...All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age."  We know these verses as the "Great Commission".  It is a directive given to us by the Lord Himself to tell others about Him and offer them the opportunity to commit their life to Christ.  Then, we are to teach them what we have learned from God's Word so they can grow in faith.  This sounds simple, but we often avoid doing this very thing.  Our excuses range from "I don't like to be rejected" to "It's the Pastor's job to tell people about Jesus."  Yet, there is nothing so final as when the coffin lid closes on someone we could have shared Christ with and now it is too late.

     Perhaps, the thing which spurred my thoughts on the two types of funerals was a conversation I had with someone this past week.  A mutual friend had passed away and they remarked that this individual was now at rest in heaven.  I thought to myself, "How do they know that?"  I had talked with the person who had died many times and never once did that person show any interest in spiritual things.  They may have been baptized and confirmed but does that make you a believer?  In my own life, I was baptized as an infant and confirmed in my church, but it was not until I was 23 that I had a divine appointment where I met the Savior as my Lord.  If people had thought that based on my church attendance and confirmation I was a Christian, they would have been wrong.  I had a "head" knowledge about Christ.  I could recite verses, but He was not in my heart.  I was not a new creation in Him.

     According to the Apostle Paul in his letter to believers in Rome, this is what it takes to become a child of God:  "....if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved" (Romans 10:9b-10).  There is an element of vocal and public affirmation stated in this verse.  We are to confess with our mouth that Christ is our Lord and then believe in our heart.  This is what happened to me and to my dear husband three months before we were married.  We gave our lives to Christ and made it public both to our families and to our friends.  Since we made that commitment, it dramatically changed our lives for the better.  We became new creations in Him, and when we are called home by the Lord, we will be alive in Him in heaven.  This is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

     I readily confess that I, like many of you reading this, have not done all I can to share the message of Jesus Christ with others.  For this reason, my heart was heavy over the death of this acquaintance.  I am not certain where this person is.  Only God knows if there was repentance before this person left this life.  What we cannot depend on to save us is church membership, confirmation, baptism or any of these good works.  The only thing that can redeem us from our sins is the blood of Jesus Christ.  When we call upon Him, repent and make Him the Lord over our life, then, we can know that we will spend eternity in His presence in Heaven.

     Sadly, there are people dying every day who have never heard the news of salvation in Jesus Christ.  They will go into eternity without God's presence.  Their funeral will truly be a sad one.  However, we can make a difference if we accept the call which Christ has put in His Word and tell and friends....about the wonderful news of salvation.  Then, when their time to leave this earth comes, we can rejoice knowing they will enjoy the Lord forever even though we will miss them in life.  May we take seriously this call to share the Good News with those around us.  Selah!

Friday, October 17, 2014


I remember my days growing up in small town America where we had full service gas stations.  We would pull in and my father would roll down the window when the attendant came out and he would simply say “Fill ‘ER up.”  They washed our windshield, checked the oil and tire pressure and took good care of us.  Plus the cost of gas was next to nothing at that time.  But as we all know, times have changed!
The cost of gasoline has skyrocketed with no end in sight, and we have to do the pumping, windshield cleaning and checking all on our own.
     Despite how bad the prices are right now, no one can do without gas.  We need to get to work, shop and take our family to various events.  As a result, we take good care of our cars by making certain the tank is full.
     Today, however, I got a fill-up that was free and I have been delighted ever since then.  The fill-up I am talking about  comes from going to church.  This is where I have an opportunity to find encouragement and accountability from other believers.   It is a place where I can learn by sitting at the feet of Jesus as Scripture is read and discussed and it is a place where I can worship the Lord.
     My father always used to say that he could worship God riding his tractor while working in the field.  This is true.  We can worship God anywhere and at any time.  However, something unique happens when we come together in shared faith to lift our voices to God.  The writer of Hebrews knew how important this was and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned these words:  “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
     In this passage, the author mentions holding fast to our confession of hope without wavering.  Let me suggest that this is easier to do when we are in regular fellowship.  I liken this to attending classes in college.  I had the freedom then to attend class or not.  However, if I did not go, I missed material that often ended up on a final test.  Plus, I was wasting my investment in my education.  Therefore, I made it to my classes even when there were times I would rather have stayed in bed.
      Several months ago on a Sunday, for example, I was not particularly motivated to attend church.  My husband was away and I hate to go alone.  Nevertheless, I knew that my heart needed inspiration…a fill-up if you will.  I was not at all disappointed.  God never disappoints!  When we go to meet Him, He will always touch us.  In addition, I got to sit next to a wonderful young woman whose husband was also away.  We had the chance to visit after church and share about our respective family’s.  I left with renewed joy, encouragement, fresh teaching from God’s Word that stimulated me and a sense of great peace.  Now I ask you….where can you get all that for free in this day and age?
     In his letter to the Ephesian believers, the Apostle Paul wrote these words of exhortation:  “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart….”(Ephesians 5:15-19).  Where better can we do this than in the body of believers?  It serves as a spiritual filling station where we can meet the Lord to make certain our lives stay on track.
     Just as I take my car in for regular tune-ups, I want my life to be in tune with God’s will.  As I study and share with other believers, my faith grows, and I am better prepared to face the new week.  We all need a “safe house” from the storms of life and that is what church  fellowship can do.  It helps us refocus our lives on Jesus Christ.  May we all search out a fellowship to be a part of if we do not have one so we can say as David did in Psalm 84:10:  “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”  Selah!

    Father, You delight in our worship and coming together.  You admonish us not to miss assembling together.  Let us never forsake the privilege we have in gathering together to study Your Word.  Implant in our hearts a desire to encourage each other and all the more as the Day of Your return draws closer.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sowing the Seeds of Prayer

 When my father became disabled and was no longer able to farm his land due to heart disease, he found great comfort in playing hymns on the organ in our home.  He was not a great musician, but this did not matter to any of us.  We knew that he found solace in the words and notes of the hymns.  One of his favorites was “Sweet Hour of Prayer”.  I think he played that one more than any other because for him, prayer is what kept him going day by day.  This should be true not only in our individual lives but also in the church as well.
     Since I grew up on an Ohio farm, I know about planting season and harvest time.  There was a lot of work in preparing the ground and planting the crop.  The rest was in God’s hands.  My father worked hard to keep the weeds down, and the plants fertilized.  His labor is not unlike that of a Christian.  As we labor in prayer, we are planting seeds that will one day come to fruition just as my father’s crop came to harvest time.  The question is will our harvest be plentiful because we sowed many seeds to the Lord or will we reap only a small harvest because we did not spend much time in His presence?  How then, do we begin to sow the seeds of prayer?
     Coming into His presence with reverence, worship and thanksgiving opens our heart before the Lord.  Psalm 50:14-15 says:  “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”  We honor God by coming to Him and offering ourselves in an attitude of thanksgiving.  Yes, sometimes it is a sacrifice on our part.  Life is hard, and at times, it is all we can do to find much to thank God for.  Yet, when we come thanking Him, we open our own hearts to His healing touch.  He rejoices more in this sacrifice than anything else we could bring to Him.
     Once the soil of thanksgiving has been tilled, we are ready to plant the seeds of prayer not only for our concerns but also for the needs of others.  I Timothy 2:1-2 reads:  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Rather than spend our time complaining about things we cannot change, let us go to the only One who has the authority and power to change the things that concern us.  God already knows our thoughts and our hearts, but He waits to hear from our lips the words of our concern.  What a release we experience when we can carry our burdens, our cares and our family before the Lord.  He is able to do what we cannot.  As we pray, we sow these seeds into His soil.  Likewise, these verses tell us to pray for our leaders, our church and our brothers and sisters in the faith.  More is accomplished in prayer than can ever be done through our own efforts.
     Now, at this point, I have to caution that prayer does not mean instant answers any more than when my father sowed seeds in the ground.  It is God’s perfect timing for all things that brings results.  My father could not make those plants grow.  He did what he could but only God could bring the harvest.  The same is true in prayer.  Be patient but persistent in prayer.
The harvest will come if we remain faithful.
     What should we carry to God?  All that troubles our heart as well as all the praise for what He has done.  Once we have spent time communing with Him, we will never be the same.  Corrie Ten Boom once said:  “Don’t pray when you feel like it.  Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.  A man is powerful on his knees.”  What a privilege we have to carry everything to God in prayer.  The more we sow to His glory the more we will find joy in our daily living.  Do we want to see souls saved?  Then, we need to pray daily for those around us.  Do we want to see God at work in our church and our homes?  Then, we need to bathe all this in prayer.
     My father always had a great harvest each year.  It did not come about by chance but by effort in working his ground and trusting in God.  We must, likewise, labor in prayer sowing the seeds of faith and see what great things God will do for His glory and our growth.  His harvest never fails.  Selah!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chicken Yard Living

       Growing up in farm country (Ohio), I experienced being around a lot of livestock and poultry.  One of my great uncles had a chicken yard.  As a child, I thought it was funny to go in the chicken yard and watch them scratch the ground for food.  When my uncle threw some feed on the ground, the chickens ran to quickly grab their share.  My mother was not too happy with me walking around in the chicken yard because it was smelly and there was a lot a little girl could step in!  In addition, there was a bully rooster who liked to chase me around and try to peck me.  I guess that old rooster knew I didn’t belong in that yard.  It is the same in our daily lives too.  We were not created to live a chicken yard life.

     As Christians, we tend to settle for far less than what our Heavenly Father has provided for us.  After all, we are now children of the King through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  He paid for us and brought us out of slavery to sin.  However, we do not live like it.  Quite often, we travel through life content to just scratch for food.  We allow the “bully” roosters to scare us away from what little there is for us to find.  Somehow, we come to accept a mediocre existence when we could be soaring with the eagles.

     Much of this is our faulty thinking which can only be changed by reading God’s Word.  After all, it is the manual for living.  In the pages of the Bible we read this in Isaiah 40:31:  “Those who wait for the Lord shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.”

     First, we need to think about what it means to be an eagle.  Here in Florida, we have a good share of hawks, osprey and eagles.  It is marvelous to see them glide on the wind currents high above the ground as they search for food.  Their eyesight is extremely sharp, and they have tremendous strength.  Eagles do not scratch for their food on the ground like chickens but rather, they search for fresh game to feast upon from on high. In addition, few birds are bothersome to an eagle because when he is attacked he just rises higher and higher where the smaller creature cannot fly.  What an analogy Isaiah has created for us by using the term eagle in the verse above!

     Secondly, we must consider the word “wait” which the prophet tells us to do.  What does it mean to wait on the Lord?  I personally believe it means to pray, meditate on the Word and study it.  Instead of just scratching around for answers to life’s problems like the chickens, we need to wait for the air current like the eagle.  Then, we can mount up with God’s power and soar high above the difficulties we face.  Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word “Ruwach” refers to wind or the Holy Spirit.  When we are empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than self, we can mount up like eagles and soar on the breath of God.

     Unfortunately, many of us waste our time scratching on the ground of life.  We become content just picking up crumbs.  Don’t get me wrong here.  God is NOT our meal ticket to riches and fame.  He does not wait upon us.  We are to wait upon Him.  When we do, He will be the “wind beneath our wings.”  He will satisfy our souls more than anything we can accomplish in this life.

     What often happens to us is that we get stuck in “chicken thinking”.
The world and our sin nature have so thoroughly permeated every ounce of our being that we look for quick fixes.  We tell ourselves that we will find fulfillment when we reach a certain business level, get married, have children or a new house.  Yet, those things will NEVER fill up the empty spot in our hearts.  No, we were meant for even greater things.  Our life is not a series of goals to be achieved.  Each one of us was meant to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  If we are busy scratching for the world’s approval, we are missing the heights for which we were created.  The world offers cheap imitations of love and acceptance, but God offers us the real thing!

     I don’t know about you but I am done being chased around by bully roosters and scratching in the chicken yard.  I want to soar with the eagles and find strength in God.  To do that, we need to immerse ourselves in His Word and prayer daily.  We cannot experience all we are meant to be by living in the chicken yard.  Our calling in Christ is for a higher purpose.  Today, look into the Word and allow God to be the wind beneath your wings.  Selah!

     Father, we desire to wait upon You that we may find our satisfaction and fulfillment in You alone.  This world has nothing to offer us compared with Your eternal riches in glory.  Teach us to think differently and to fly higher by the power of Your Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The picture is courtesy of Jorg Hempel at Wiki Commons.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Standing Firm Against the Enemy

     When I hung my bird feeder over a year ago, it was placed in a small oak tree near our home.  My intent was to attract the beautiful Florida birds that live in and around Serenity Acres.  I delight in watching the Indigo Bunting and his mate, the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Red Winged Black Birds and other varieties that come for a visit.  Lately, however, the many squirrels that also inhabit our acreage have invaded my lovely feeding station.
     In an effort to drive them away and keep them from depleting my birdseed, my husband hung one of my flowerpots upside down over the top of the feeder to serve as a baffle for the squirrels.  They just use it as a stepping-stone to get to the feeder.  Then, I tried purchasing a holder and ears of dried corn to hang from a nearby tree to attract them to this area and away from my bird feeder.  Once again, they would eat some of the corn and then return to the scene of the crime.
     On my day off from work, I find myself going outside at least a million times during the day to scare them off my bird feeder.  Sometimes I stand at the door and hiss like a snake, and my husband merely chuckles at me.  He says I remind him of "Wiley Coyote" and the "Road Runner".  I try and try to get the squirrels to back off and nothing seems to work.  As we all know, poor "Wiley Coyote" has no luck either in catching up with the "Road Runner".  At least, I am making a good effort to stand against those sneaky squirrels, and in some respects this is not unlike what we are called to do as believers.

     Scripture teaches us to stand against the enemy of our souls.  In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul writes:  "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:10-13).
     In this passage, Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord.  There is no expectation by the Apostle that we can be strong on our own accord.  We all know how easy it is to give in to temptation and our efforts alone are not enough to ward off the attack of the enemy.  We need God's power, wisdom and insight if we are to stand our ground.  Additionally, Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God.  There are two things we can learn from this admonition.  First, God has provided for us a means of protection.  Secondly, when we employ this spiritual armor, we are able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  This should be a comfort to us because life is filled with difficulties, pit falls, and temptations.  Furthermore, we are not battling people as we sometimes think we are.  Yes, we all meet those hard to get along with individuals, but the real battle comes from the spiritual powers of evil behind the darkness of this present age.  In fact, Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:8-9:  "...for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)...."  This is our purpose in standing to act as a contrast to the darkness that rules hearts and minds of unbelievers in this world system.
     Paul goes on in Ephesians 6 to describe the armor and weapons that God has supplied for us.  Of course, they are all important.  The helmet of salvation protects our mind.  This is the entry point where temptation can come knocking on our door.  The breastplate of righteousness protects the heart.  This is the seat of our will and emotions.  Taking a dart from the enemy in this area can leave us wounded, which is why it is critical to keep this piece of protection in place.  Next comes the belt of truth for without truth we cannot combat the lies of the enemy.  Paul then goes on to tell us that we must put on shoes that protect our feet as they did the Roman soldiers.  They give us stability and protection in battle and are founded upon the peace of the Gospel that readies us for war.  Then, he tells us to take up the shield of faith that puts out the flaming darts of the enemy.  We know that we will be assaulted, challenged, attacked.  To be without this important defensive device is to leave us exposed.  Finally, the most critical offensive device is the Sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God.  We know that Jesus defeated the enemy in the wilderness by wielding the Word of God as a weapon against Satan.  What did Satan do?  He left Him.  If we carefully handle God's Word, we will also defeat the powers of darkness that wage war against our souls.
     Three times in the book of Ephesians chapter 6, Paul repeats the admonition for us to stand firm.  We can do this only if we are prepared, prayed up, and ready to handle God's Word with care and accuracy.  Unlike "Wiley Coyote", we are victorious in our efforts to combat the enemy of our souls, but only through the power of God's strength and might.
     Thus far, my efforts to fight off the squirrels with baffles, extra feeding stations, and my attempts at scaring them, haven't worked completely, but this doesn't mean I am giving up.  I will continue to plot my strategy to outwit them.  In the same way, we need to continue to stand firm in our faith and not give in to the enemy who wants to demoralize, depress and discourage us.  We are more than conquerors in Christ and this is what we must remember.  "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4) needs to be our motto in this battle.  Daily, lets remember to put on our armor trusting in God to give us strength, feeding our minds in His Word so we can refute the lies of the enemy and praying that we might have God's battle plan.  This is how we will be able to stand firm as vessels of light in this dark world.  Until He comes again, may we be found faithful.  Selah!