July 29, 2010

Radically Transformed

The Beatitudes

"1Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying: 
 3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
 4Blessed are those who mourn, 
      for they will be comforted. 
 5Blessed are the meek, 
      for they will inherit the earth. 
 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
      for they will be filled. 
 7Blessed are the merciful, 
      for they will be shown mercy. 
 8Blessed are the pure in heart, 
      for they will see God. 
 9Blessed are the peacemakers, 
      for they will be called sons of God. 
 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Matthew 5:1-12


 

The Beatitudes are a model of perfection and describe the quality of life that God has intended for us. As a believer, I cannot accomplish these things on my own but through obedience to God. I will always have moments of failure but I am to press on and be obedient. When I respond out of love for God and am grateful for His grace, the ideals become easier for me to approach and accomplish.

The closer I come to His standards the more I will experience God's blessing in my life but it requires recognizing a need. Think of it this way. I am a ragged old house with crooked walls and peeling paint. My floors are squeaky and the doors are hanging by the hinges while my yard is filled with overgrown weeds. One day the builder of this house walks by and his heart sinks at the mess of his once beautiful creation. Because of the great love he has for his creation, his mission is to rebuild it. It is a process and it will take time.

It is the same with my walk. When I asked Christ into my life 26 years ago, I was not instantly made perfect. I was made pure by His blood but I was not instantly transformed into the perfect Christian, never to fail again. Little by little, God is changing my heart and molding me into His image. He is totally reconstructing my heart into something new.

The process involves:

  • My need for a Savior (the poor in spirit)
  • repenting of my self-reliance (we mourn)
  • giving up control of my life and surrender(we're meek)
  • yearning for more of Him (we hunger for Him)
  • forgiving others (we're merciful)
  • my perspective changes (we're pure in heart)
  • loving others (we're peace-makers)
  • accepting injustice (we're persecuted)


 

This simple shift of my attitude does not occur overnight. Instead, it is a complete elimination of my old self, which then allows something new to be created. When I recognized my great need for Him that process began. Now I am finding true joy and happiness that comes from the blessings He has promised to me because of my obedience to Him.


 

July 23, 2010

The Greater Good


"To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
German, Theologian



I often hear my dad speak of Bonhoeffer and the stand he took. Bonhoeffer was a 20th century martyr that was imprisoned for his part in a plot to assassinate Hitler. He believed that suffering was needed in order for our relationship with God to grow. That suffering increases our faith and teaches us to find comfort in God as well as presents the opportunity for us to share this with the world. Summed up, our suffering is for the greater good.



"But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Genesis 50:19-20


This verse can be found in the Old Testament, Genesis, chapters 37-50 which tells the story of Joseph. The short of this story is that Joseph was rejected by his brothers and thrown into a pit where he was then sold as a slave for 20 pieces of silver. Can you even begin to imagine that feeling? To be rejected by your own flesh and blood and sold for nothing.


Have you ever found yourself in that pit? Have you known the fear of being rejected and abandoned by those that claimed to love you? You do not have to fear because though you may feel alone, you are not. God has not left you. He knows every tear you have cried, and hurt you have experienced. He has a greater plan for you just as He did for Joseph.


After several years, Joseph was promoted to second in command in Egypt. He had predicted that a drought would take place and because of this Egypt was able to prepare and survive. Joseph's brothers traveled to Egypt to buy grain and came face to face with the brother they had "thrown away". This became the perfect opportunity for Joseph to take revenge but instead, he forgave and his family was reunited.


When you choose to let down your guard and trust God, you will find a measure of restoration that you would never have known on your own. More often times than not, it is easier to hold tight to the pain but that kind of thinking will only keep you in that dark pit where your hurt continues to grow. God has so very much more planned for your life.


Whatever evil has taken place in your life, God wants to use it for your good but you have to make that choice. You again can choose to focus on your pain and horrible circumstances but by doing so will miss the blessings that God has for your life. You can choose to take a chance and trust God and forgive those who have hurt you believing that God has an amazing plan for your future and experience the blessings He has for you.


There will always be a cross to bear and there will always be some kind of suffering that you will face but redemption can be found from your suffering when you choose to live in the presence of God and His comfort. Be assured that your pain will never be in vain or that you ever have to go through it alone. Instead, discover the God who suffered for you. He is truly your help and your comfort in every situation.



July 21, 2010

Perspective

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. 
      God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

1 John 4:16-18

Sometimes you find yourself frightened by the circumstances that surround you. They bring about feelings of anxiousness leaving you awake at night wondering what bad news will come the next morning. You become paralyzed by its intensity. You try to concentrate on the things of life that need to be done but it just does not happen. Your issues overwhelm you and you are bombarded by your thoughts unable to separate one from another. Has a situation in your life ever made you feel so bound that you truly cannot take your mind off it?

This is where God steps in. He is the only one who can free you from your difficulties and the power of fear. God's perfect love drives out your fear and He shows you that anything that you go through in this life must first pass through His loving hands. If He allows you to experience a difficult time, then He will most certainly use if for your good.

No matter what trouble you are facing, you do not have to despair. When you call out to Him and lay your burdens at His feet, He is always there to speak peace into your soul. For this reason, you do not need to be afraid. When those nights come and your running mind keeps you from sleep, just turn your thoughts to His perfect love and allow Him to bring peace into your heart.

"I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears."

Psalm 34:4


 

July 19, 2010

Arrows

I immediately woke up this morning reminded of the hurt that I have experienced from others. I was in tears before my feet even hit the floor. I tried to shake it off and not think about it but the more I ignored it the angrier I became.

Finally, I sat down and opened up my bible, hoping to find some peace and direction. God led me to Psalm 64:6-7

"They plot injustice and say,
"We have devised a perfect plan!"
Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.

But God will shoot them with arrows;
suddenly they will be struck down."

Now you are probably thinking that this led me to the whole "God will avenge those who have wronged me" kind of thinking but it didn't. He led me down a very different path. When I saw the "shoot them with arrows" my mind focused on the "arrows" and He began speaking to me.

God does not want anger and bitterness to rob us of His blessings and the joy in our life. Instead, this morning, an "arrow" hit my heart and reminded me that I have not completely dealt with my anger and hurt. He is an awesome God with an amazing love for us and reveals those things to us that hinder us from His blessings. I need to deal with the issues that are consuming my thoughts, my emotions and my energy.

It is so much easier to hold on to feelings of unforgiveness and anger but God calls us to do the exact opposite. We are to forgive and to move beyond the hurt and must choose to let it go. Once that happens we can then experience the blessings that He has for us and find joy again.




July 9, 2010

“Neither” Side

"Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"

"Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come."


 

Joshua 5:13-14


 


 

Does it strike anyone else as odd that the Commander said he was on "Neither" side? It puzzled me because as I spent time reading this passage I could not understand how God could not be on the side of the Israelites who were His people. He told them that He was their God and brought them through horrible times so it baffled me as to how He could not take their side. It just did not make any sense to me so I began searching the web.

One of the things I found said, "Joshua and Israel must know their place--it is not that God is on their side; rather, they must fight God's battles."

I thought that was brilliant! It is up to us to fight the battles of God not for Him to fight our battles for us. This really got me thinking.

As Christians, we are supposed to fight on God's side. Jesus was crucified for the very fact that He took a stand that many did not like. He took the stand claiming to be the Son of God, and stated that the Pharisees were nothing more than "white-washed tombs". He even claimed that He could tear down the holy Temple and rebuild it in 3 days. Because He took such strong stands, He made many enemies.

His truth and priorities are always to come first in our lives and we must choose what position and what convictions we will stand for based on those truths. So when we are wondering whose side God is on, we should really be focusing on what God's Word says regarding truth in our situation. In other words, we are to stand on truth rather than expecting the Truth to stand with us. We can always be wrong but God's truth cannot. In the end, we have to look around us and make sure that we are on God's side, living His Truth rather than thinking He ought to pick ours.

July 8, 2010

Be Still…

The other part of that verse is ". . .and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) Sometimes I spend so much time thinking, even obsessing at times about the things in my life or the world as if I have to solve them or figure them out right then and there. My struggle then becomes quieting those worrisome thoughts and directing my attention towards God. I have to remind myself of the need to turn those things over to Him and allowing Him the control because He IS God and I am not.

For me to be still, I have to focus my attention on God and pray without having my mind wander into the many different areas that I find myself concerned about that day. I have to pray over those things and then be willing to turn them over to Him and let go. I am still learning what it means to be still but the more I find rest in Him, the more I find comfort in my circumstances as I realize He holds every moment in His hands.

July 2, 2010

Choose

"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings" Jeremiah 17:9-10.



There is nothing we can do about the evil that lives within our hearts. When we want something, we will do whatever is necessary to get it. Whether it be a new house, a new car, a new spouse or whatever our desire, we will find a way to get it. We may use legal means like working overtime to make the extra money or we may turn on the charm to impress someone new or may turn to illegal things such as stealing, cheating, lying or killing. These things are practically the same with only a difference of degree.


 

Difference: A legal means will require of sacrifice somewhere within our life. It may be that we steal time from our family to make the extra money or pad our timecard. These things are just as sinful as robbing a bank or lying. A sin is a sin to God. There is no difference.


 

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."


 

Romans 3:22-24


 

A sin is a sin and every sin that we commit will keep us from God.  

We cannot do anything about our deceitful hearts but we have a loving God who can and will if we only ask.


 

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."


 

Psalm 51:10


 

God can take our hard and self-centered hearts and replace them with a heart that is full of mercy and love. We may find it a hopeless cause but there is nothing is too great for God although He will not do it until we are ready and we ask. He points us in the right direction but He has given us the freedom to choose whether to accept or refuse Him.


 

Do you feel defeated and full of despair? Just turn to Jesus and He will lead you down the path you should go. He will take your lifeless heart and make it come alive with His love because He is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIGHT!