Monday, December 24, 2012

An Ordinary Day Revisited

A couple of months ago, I posted a blog on how God loves to intervene in our ordinary days. While we go about our normal routines, thinking everything is as it always will be, He visits us with life-changing power and smashes the bars of our self-imprisoning mindset.  He doesn't need angelic announcing (although at times He has used that to get our attention) and He certainly doesn't need for us to jump through a series of hoops in order to come in and work in our circumstances. He loves to turn ordinary into extraordinary!

I have witnessed the spiritual imprisonment of so many children of God lately..their desperate & heart-breaking situations have rendered them totally incapacitated. Sadness, grief, financial loss, broken relationships, & other kinds of "natural" disasters have locked them in cages of doubt, insecurity, & paralyzing fear. They can recite the verses, sing the songs, & proclaim the victory but don't feel or see the release so the downward spiral begins. The walls of doubt become thicker and the vines of unbelief grow increasingly longer, entangling them to where they can no longer move forward. God's plan gets set aside in favor of drawing away in isolation or seeking satisfaction and fulfillment through worldly avenues. While the results may seem to lead to freedom, they have just added the weighty chains of unrighteousness and the bondage of guilt to the other restraints. The chains may be wrapped in silk or satin, but they are chains nonetheless and the devil has now successfully caught them in his web of deceit. Along with this, they most commonly remove themselves from Godly influences that could strengthen and support them. Church is no longer desirable, Christians are "hypocrites", and rationalizations abound. The fires of negativity and discontent are fanned by others caught in the same trap. Escape is always available but not sought...for the temporal numbing of pain supersedes the desire for lasting results and fulfillment.

This is not how God intended us to live and it is certainly not the abundant life that Jesus sacrificed Himself to provide. The plan has always been for reconciliation, restoration, and growth but it is dependent on repentance & submission, both which grate against our human pride. We say we love God but don't obey His Word. We talk amazing "Christianese" but it is coming from our heads without really being rooted deeply down in our hearts. We attend meetings, Bible studies and church, in order to fellowship but worship, true adoration and appreciation of God, is absent. Our Bibles are dusty, our prayer closets empty, and our Christianity is more of a title than a lifestyle. Then we complain that our prayers go unanswered, our "walk" is stale, and our fellowship with God and others is unsatisfying.

There is hope, though, and you don't have to wait until Sunday or Easter. God is waiting, watching, & desiring to intervene in your life Today, right now. On this ordinary day, He wants to visit you and break all the chains that bind you. He wants to throw open your prison doors, lift you up, and escort you from your self-imposed captivity. He longs to release you from the burdens of guilt, anger, unforgiveness, & other derailing emotions that keep you from the joy of His presence and plan! He knows your weaknesses, failings, and fears but it doesn't influence Him. He has the ability to use you in spite of them if you surrender to Him. Today, right now, on this ordinary day, God is ready to bind your wounds, repair your broken places, & fill up your emptiness. He may choose to allow  circumstances that you would beg release from, but if you let go of manipulation and allow His orchestration you will find freedom in the midst of them! Your life situation may remain but your burdens will no longer overwhelm you, because Jesus will be carrying them. You will find joy in sorrow, peace in turmoil, & love in abundance. On this ordinary day, choose life...choose God... choose for eternity! This ordinary day can be the beginning of a lifetime of extraordinary days! Don't just believe me - Trust Him & you will see for yourself!!  God is good!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

"The People Under The Stairs"

In former days, the English gentry referred to their servants as "the people under the stairs". They were the silent, behind-the-scenes workers that kept everything at the manor running smoothly. They were meant to do their work and behave in such a manner as to be virtually invisible, unless they were called on to do yet another task or were brought in to be reprimanded because something went wrong.

Do you ever feel like you're part of the "under the stairs" group? Do you only seem to get noticed when there's a problem or when you mess something up?  Do you wish, just once in a while, that you'd get a thank you, an acknowledgement, or even a little recognition for a job well done? 

Well, here's some really great news!  The God of Creation, the Lord of the whole Earth, notices every effort, every completed task and every accomplishment. He sees your efforts, even if things don't quite turn out right, and He rewards the motivation of your heart as you do things for Him. He watches over you while you work, providing both guidance and resources. Nothing is too small or trivial for Him to notice. You can also count on the fact that nothing that you ever do for Him is wasted or done in vain because He promises results based on His abilities and your faithfulness.  He even gives you the desire to do what He asks if you want or need Him to do that! All He requires is that you give it your best effort and have the right heart when you do it. He takes care of the rest!

And there's more!  While you may think your gifts, talents, & abilities are unimportant or less meaningful than someone else's, the truth is that they are not!  The "platform" ministries & those that are more visible are dependent on the behind the scenes saints who perform the duties that free them to fulfill the call that God has given them. If you think of an army, the front line soldiers would be totally ineffective without the desk clerk who orders supplies and the truck driver who transports them. Generals are useless without the foot soldiers who carry out their orders.  It takes all of us, doing what God has gifted us to do, to make the Body of Christ run efficiently.  Jesus commended those who we might consider to be "the least" and said that in God's economy they are the greatest. He proved that by serving, rather than sitting around demanding to be served.  New Testament apostles chose deacons to perform daily ministry tasks so that they were free to teach and preach without the burden of the care-taking & hospitality jobs.  The Apostle Paul wrote several times about Body ministry, & how we all need each other.  EVERY part is important, visible or not, & critical to the proper functioning of the whole body. We might not always regard the "hidden" parts but they are severely missed when they are absent or improperly functioning!!

The bottom line is this - Whether you consider yourself a person of the "under the stairs" group or God has placed you in a position of leadership, do whatever your tasks are "as unto the Lord," knowing that He will reward you for them. Our goal, after all, is not to win the praise of men or the acclaim of the world but to hear God say "Well done, good and faithful servant."  If whatever we do results in THAT kind of recognition, we will have truly received the highest praise of all!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What's Up With That?

I hear the phrase "What's up with that?" quite frequently when I visit my sons in California. When they say it, it means that they either can't believe it or find it totally ridiculous! As I was rereading the nativity story, that phrase seemed to pop up again and again!

There are lots of things in the Christmas story that might cause you to think "What was up with that?"
What's up with a redemptive plan would cause Jesus to leave Heaven to come to earth to be abused and then sacrificed? What's up with shepherds, rather than religious leaders, being the first to be told of the new king's birth & by angels, no less? What's up with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords being born in an obscure town, where there was not even a vacant room anywhere, & using a manger as His cradle?  What's up with a mom and dad having to grab their child and escape to another country because the predominant ruler is so threatened over the possibility that he might be dethroned that he massacred hundreds of children to try to kill one? I could go on & on!! There are so many things about the nativity story that to our human way of thinking don't seem to be the best way to accomplish the plan, and yet God orchestrated every detail exactly as He desired in order to do it all exactly the way He chose to do it. 

So the Christmas story truly does bring tidings of comfort & joy...God offers us:

Security - The God that planned the perfect redemptive story, down to the most minute detail, has also planned your life down to the moment! Nothing surprises Him so there's never a chance that He will have to revert to plan B. He ordained every minute of every day before you were born & He is faithful to complete what He started in you, if you let Him.

Peace-  The love that God has for you is so amazing that not only has He made possible eternity with Him, but He also has provided everything we need in this life as well. We don't have to ever feel overwhelmed or under supplied because our resources come from an inexhaustible source - our Father God.

Freedom to be creative - God gave you gifts, talents, & traits that made you special to do the job that He has for you to do in just the way that He has designed you to do it! You don't have to look for others' affirmation or approval.  You are also freed from others' judgments, criticism, & negativity. If you are doing what He has called you to do, and are being faithful to follow His lead, then you can live up to your potential with excellence & without fear!

Hope - Nothing can stop you if you're in His will. No lack, no insecurities, no trials, no problems,... nothing is going to be too difficult, for He makes the way and nothing or no one can undo what He ordains. He will never leave or forsake you and He will always guide you in your walk with Him. No matter what happens, you are safe and secure in His loving care!

So I guess the only question to really ask yourself is whether you're freely accepting all that He has given for you and all that He's offering.  If you're not,  "What's up with that?"


Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Cure For “Gimmie” Disease

                Walking through the stores these days is to see firsthand the results of the unbridled commercialism of our country.  As a consumer-driven nation, we have raised generations of children who are without constraint as to their “needs”.  Children’s programming is laced with all the “must haves” of the season. Advertisers have honed their craft to perfection, with appealing and energetic commercials that emphasize the absolute importance of owning the latest – clothing styles, video games, electronics, toys,… the list is endless. And so is the whining, pouting, screaming, & temper tantrums that can be loudly heard throughout malls and stores everywhere! It’s a parent’s nightmare! 
                The stores themselves add to the problem in that they are only too happy to oblige their young consumers’ greed. Every aisle is jam-packed at a child’s eye level with those very items that have been touted again and again on television. The “must have” item is there, so readily available…  “So why can’t I have it?” And it’s not a new problem! Clear back in the Golden Age of the 1950s, the latest toys flashed across the screen in a relentless march! We wanted Barbie, Patty Play pal, & Chatty Cathy, or Matchbox cars, Lincoln logs, & erector sets.  Children then, and now, have serious cases of the “gimmies”.  We want it, have to have it, will “die” if we don’t get it. After all, EVERYONE else has it (implying that 1- I will be a loser if I don’t get it or 2- You are a bad parent if I don’t get it!) And we all know that even when we do get it, the next new thing has already come along, devaluing the “must have” that we just got. It’s a never ending cycle of wanting!
                There was a song written a few years back by Benny Hester called “The Never-Ending Shopping List” that recognized the propensity that Christians have to also get the “gimmie” disease. So often we use our prayer lives as opportunities to tell God all the things we must have, need to have, should have,…in order to live happily and serve the Lord with gladness. I am pretty sure that God must shake His head at our childish selfishness when He has so willingly & completely provided for us. His Word says He gives us everything we need to do what He asks us to do & supplies all our needs liberally out of His endless resources.  If we ask, He gives - not always what we ask for but exactly what He knows we truly need. After all, He sees the big picture, not the limited vision that we have, and prepares us for the long term rather than our immediate satisfaction! He delights in fulfilling our desires and can do way more than we ask or think, but still we grumble & complain either about His timing or His methods. We would prefer He behave like the genie in a magic lamp or a vending machine – request in, demand met…whether it is good for us or not!  But in His perfect Fatherhood, He gives only what He deems beneficial!  He isn’t swayed by our many words, our moaning, or even our temper tantrums! His gifts are always good and perfect! As givers, we should strive to do as well!
So the next time you’re subjected to the outcries of some whining, complaining kid with the “gimmie” disease, ­­use the occasion to thank God for all your blessings & do an attitude check of your prayer life. It should be a time to worship God, present your requests with boldness, & then rest in trusting Him to supply - rather than spending your prayer time enumerating an endless list of “needs”. He already knows them anyway!