September 29, 2008

Truth and Integrity

Have mercy on me, O God,
       according to your unfailing love;
       according to your great compassion
       blot out my transgressions.

  Wash away all my iniquity
       and cleanse me from my sin.

  For I know my transgressions,
       and my sin is always before me.

  Against you, you only, have I sinned
       and done what is evil in your sight,
       so that you are proved right when you speak
       and justified when you judge.

  Surely I was sinful at birth,
       sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

  Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
       you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Psalms 51:1-6


 

In the last posting, we talked about carrying our cross and following Christ by our devotion to Him and by submitting to His authority. In order for us to follow Him, we must walk with integrity. In this Psalm, we hear the crying out for mercy of David to the Lord for the sin in his life. In order to know the joy that comes from walking in truth and living a life of integrity, we must recognize and confess our sin before the Lord because our sin not only brings harm to our own life but it dishonors the name of God.

Whenever we take a wrong step, there will always be those who are standing over us to point a buoyant finger because we have disgraced the name of the Lord. Not only that but Satan will always be there to remind us of how appalling we are and that God could never forgive our sin. Of course, Satan is lying but he will use whatever means (people, situations, etc) to remind us constantly of our sin in order for us to forget God's unconditional love for us and the sacrifice that Christ made upon the cross. We must remember there is not a sin that God will not forgive although there may be consequences and discipline. God will always wipe away our sin if we just confess and seek His forgiveness.

We also have to learn that when we sin, we must face the reality of the bad choices we made and the fact that we sinned and disobeyed God by knowing right yet still choosing wrong. We can either choose to justify our actions or make excuses or we can step up to the plate and walk with integrity and repent before the Lord for the poor choices we have made in our life and this is just what David did.

For I know my transgressions,
       and my sin is always before me.

  Against you, you only, have I sinned
       and done what is evil in your sight,
       so that you are proved right when you speak
       and justified when you judge.

When we choose to follow Christ, we not only declare to ourselves but to our family, friends and the world that our trust is found in Christ alone and that we are choosing to stand for His truth. God has called us to be totally and completely honest in our inner being and not to be deceived by the things that others get away with or the justification in their minds for their own sin. When we fail, we must always be willing to admit our guilt and confess before the Lord in order to walk with integrity. We must strive to live with truth in our inner most being and remind ourselves that only God and God alone knows what is in our heart and because of this, we should live in honesty and truth.

"Father I pray for honesty and truth in my life. Help me to desire truth in my inner most being so that I may walk righteously down the path that You have prepared for me. May I take up my cross and follow you completely, declaring Your truth in my life not just to You or myself but to the world around me."


 

September 25, 2008

Our Cross

Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her motherinlaw—
a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'[a]

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:32-39


Lately I have found myself quiet and still before the Lord due to various issues occurring in my own life. Writing has become my time of focus on the Lord and what it is that He has for me and lately that time has not been as significant as it once was due to sin in my own life. I have been struggling in many areas lately trying to figure out what God would actually have me do in order to serve and honor Him with my life. After spending some still time before the Lord, I discovered that my busyness, my ministries and my job as a mom had taken precedence to my time with Him. God is to come before all else and if we put anything else in our life before Him, it becomes our idol and we in turn are serving those things instead of serving God. When our focus is on other things, we find that our fellowship with God is disrupted for that time and we are unable to hear Him and our lives become unsettled.

After these last few weeks of reflection and stillness before Him, He made things clear reminding me of what priorities in life should look like. I began to recognize God as the Creator and Owner of all things. I began to recognize that He is self-sufficient and needs for absolutely nothing. He does not need the sacrifices that we lay at His feet and He does not need our offerings because everything we have already (our time, our money, our jobs, our homes) belong to Him.

God does however want and He needs our consecration to Him. He wants our complete love and devotion and when we serve, if we are doing if for any other reason than to serve and honor Him, than it is worthless.

The cost to follow Christ is very clear when we look at scripture. Not even the love of our family should ever be greater than our love for Him. Our service to our friends and family should never come before our time with Him. He should be our priority at all times.

True followers of Christ will pick up their crosses and follow Him completely, which is symbolic to that of Roman practice in which criminals would carry their own crosses as a public display of their guilt. When we carry our crosses, we are professing the supremacy of Jesus Christ in our lives and our total submission to His very authority. It is then and only then, that when we finally turn over our lives to Him will we truly discover the call He has upon our lives and find ourselves.


September 7, 2008

Shackles

Keep me from deceitful ways;

be gracious to me through your law.
I have chosen the way of truth;

I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD;

do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,

for you have set my heart free.
Psalm 119:29-32

What if we lived this passage with our whole heart? Can you imagine the kind of joy we would experience? When we allow the shackles of sin to be removed, we are able to release the burden of our hearts that hold us back from giving God everything to Him. We can turn our focus toward the race that He has planned before us and run with a perseverance that makes us even more determined to live a life of obedience and purpose.

His ways are perfect and the path He has laid out for us is perfect. We choose whether we will stay on that path with the finish line ahead or detour down a road that will prolong the race possibly bringing about more struggles. Ultimately, He knows the choices we will make and will use those struggles to grow our faith so that our joy is increased when we realize how He has worked all things out to glorify Him.

Rejoice in how God takes our sin, struggles and pain and uses it all to bring glory to His name.

September 6, 2008

The Fellowship of Love

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

(John 13:34 NIV)

Love is an act of our will and God says that we must choose to love one another no matter how we may feel towards someone or how unlovable we may think that they seem. No matter how difficult it is at times to love, we are constantly and deeply to love those believers that God brings into our lives at church, at bible studies, our neighborhoods and our families.

Love is a command that was given to us by God and it is our decision as to whether or not we will love as an act of obedience to the One who told us that we MUST love.

"And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother."

1 John 4:21

Scriptures says that love and obedience are synonymous with one another and Jesus tells us that if we love Him we will obey His commandments. (John14:15) Obeying is connected with love because it is a reflection of our unity as believers in Christ and that our foundation is in God. Jesus destroyed the illusion that love is based on feelings and He has pressed that definition to a higher level. Real love is the sacrifice of one life for another. Real love is Jesus on the cross and dying for us even while we are still lost in our sins. (Romans 5:8) We are to view one another as valued children in the eyes of our Heavenly Father realizing that everyone is well worth our time and energy because we are all a part of God's family. We must choose to love and not selectively choose whom we will love.

Love requires us to be in fellowship with one another because we cannot be obedient to the command of Christ if we are living in isolation. We must be connected in some way in order to show love to one another. Because God created each of us differently with different personalities and perspectives, it allows us each to bring something different to the table. It also means there will be hurt feelings or hang-ups because we will not always get along. Pride results in a lot of our issue but another reason is that it can just be too hard. We fail at being authentic with one another in our relationships and genuine relationships require a lot of work. We must be willing to be transparent and honest and able to confront one another in order to have relationships that are real and meaningful. It is always a lot easier to have those superficial relationships that allow us to condemn one another when we disagree about something and run the other way instead of committing to uphold what God has given each of us. God placed within us the need for real commitment and because His commitment to each of us is unbreakable, He wants us to extend that same commitment to each other. What I have learned is that this kind of commitment takes time and that is something that has become incredibly scarce in our lives today because of the self-centered way of thinking that has been taught to us by this world. It all comes down to choices and our commitment to Christ. Relationships allow us the opportunity to grow in Christ and love for one another as we learn to deal with conflict, forgiveness, reconciliation and commitment.

God planned for us to have healthy Christian relationships and this is how He designed it IF we are willing to make each other a priority and make the time to spend with one another. Proverbs 18:24 says that there is a
"friend who sticks closer than a brother"
and the only way to become this to one another is by focusing on having quality relationships in our lives and reflect Christ.

"A friend is always loyal,
      and a brother is born to help in time of need."

Proverbs 17:17

The love and commitment of Christ is a high standard to follow and it means that we should always be striving to reach towards that standard through His grace because on our own, it IS impossible. We must fully rely on His Spirit living within us to love as He loves and we must practice the most basic behavior of commitment and that is simply showing up; being there for those God has placed in your life.

"Father, may I not run from relationships because they become too hard. Teach me a love and commitment that can come only from Your Spirit living within me. Help me to always be available to those who need me and not focused on myself and my I always be reminded of my unbreakable commitment with You."

September 3, 2008

My Hope

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard presses on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also me revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that this life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.


 

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


 

2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18

Do you often find yourself feeling beaten and broken? Is your heart weary and crushed? Do things in this world leave you feeling perplexed? At this moment, do you feel as if you have been struck down and the world is crumbling down around you?

So often times in this life, things do not make sense and we find ourselves wondering how we got to this point in our life. We feel broken and bruised and abandoned and the only out we see is to just give up. Moreover, we often times find ourselves losing hope.

At one time or another, we have all probably found ourselves at this very place in our lives searching for some kind of truth that will bring us comfort, hope and direction. We often submerge ourselves in things like internet, TV, video games, music or books hoping for an escape or maybe even looking for answers. We become so full of the world that we lose the clear picture of what truth really looks like and only find ourselves more lost and alone than before we started. Our lives become full of the world and there is no room left within us for the truth of God's word. We are such broken vessels, just crooked jars of clay, looking for purpose, meaning and love. We go to all the wrong places and rely on all the wrong things only to find ourselves disappointed and still searching.

God has given us the most beautiful love letter in the world. This letter is God-breathed and speaks to our very hearts if we are open and receptive to what it has to say. That love letter is His word, the Bible and it offers hope, love, comfort, encouragement, direction and is full of promise.

God does not ever intend for us to walk the path of life alone and wants to always be by our side above all else but it is up to us as to whether or not we will allow Him to take that place and to pick us up and carry us when we have fallen.

When we find ourselves discouraged and broken, we should turn to the One who holds our joy and contentment. We should willingly lay down every care that we have at His feet and allow the joy of Lord to consume us and set us free. When we focus on His face and His word, allowing it to flow through us and choose not to allow the woes of life to bring us down, then we will experience an abundance of joy that can only come from looking into the face of our Heavenly Father and knowing and resting in His truth.