Have You Seen ME?

Suggested Reading: Job 42:1-7

Thought for the Day: “I have seen you, and I loathe myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5

 

I admit it; sometimes I don’t approach the throne of God with fear. Sometimes I get complacent. Sometimes I get indifferent. Sometimes my prayers begin with a “Hey, God” or “Jesus, I really need you to do…” and it’s not long before I’m getting nothing but silence. My prayers seem to bounce off the rubber ceiling.

Familiarity can produce a casual attitude. I see this in my human relationships. The more comfortable I am with someone, the more likely I am to approach them with a “Hey there” or “Can you do this for me?” But a human relationship is far different then a divine relationship.

As I read through the latter chapters of Job, I am reminded of God’s power, sovereignty, control, and awesomeness in relation to me, the creation. Who am I to approach the throne of God with such callousness? Is God my friend? Yes. Is God my companion? Yes. But he is still God.

When I’m faced with the reality of God versus the reality of myself, I have no choice but to fall on my face, loathe my state of sin, and repent. It’s so unbelievably tempting to walk through the day with pride. It’s so easy to think I’m doing okay, and God can be proud of me, His good little child. But that is a deception of the highest form.

God is proud of me as his creation, not because of anything I have done.

Job was about as righteous as they come, but after three chapters of verbal chastisement from the Holiest of Holies (see Job 38-41), Job was left on his face in repentance. He had seen God.

Today, I am humbled as God gives me a glimpse of His righteousness. Who am I but a lowly servant of the greatest King! God owes me nothing—I owe Him everything.

“I owe no one anything. Everything under the heaven is Mine.”—God (Job 41:11)

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Who Are YOU?

Who are you?

Are you a parent? Are you spouse? Are you a musician?  Are you a lawyer? Are you a teacher? Are you a business man (or woman)?

Are you in recovery? Do you suffer with a chronic illness? Have you been abused? Are you a victim? Are you a survivor?

Who are you? How would you answer that question?

Most of us have identified ourselves through our circumstances, but there is a better way to live.

6 months ago if you had asked me that question I may have answered, “I am a recovering addict” or “I’ve survived a terrible illness” or even “I am a pianist”. Today, though, I would not answer that way.

Today I am a child of God, I am free, I am washed, I am clean, I am sanctified, I am pure, and I am righteous in His eyes. In other words, I am united with Christ, I am complete in Him, and He is my identity. I am a not a survivor; I am a Jesus follower who was brought through a painful illness. I am not a recovering addict; I am a redeemed sinner delivered from the bondage of chemicals. I am not a musician; I am a friend of God who enjoys worship through the expression of music.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what we experience and use that as our identity. We put labels on ourselves and spew them out naturally in our conversations. We’ve been tricked into thinking what we do is who we are. We are not what we do, we are not what we’ve done, we are not our hobbies, we are not our passions, we are not our illnesses, we are not our failures; that is not who we are if we have placed our trust in Jesus.

We are disciples of Jesus who are in a process. We are saved by grace and being sanctified daily. We are loved, cherished, bought for, sought after, ravished with blessings, and free from condemnation. That friends, is who we are. We experience any number of difficult things in our lifetime, but we were never meant to use those experiences as our identity.

Am I a mom? Yes. I am a mother and a wife, but that is not my identity. My identity is solely enveloped in the person of Jesus and I am merely a vessel available for his use in various aspects of living. No doubt, he gives me numerous opportunities to rely on Him.

 “I was [those things] but now I am washed, I am sanctified, I am justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of my God.” (1 Cor. 6:11)

Personalizing Scripture is an excellent way to retrain your mind in understanding your identity. Turning “you” into “I” and “me” helps the brain make a connection from God’s word into daily living. Eventually it will be natural to claim your identity for what it really is. You’ll be less tempted to sulk in self-pity as a victim of your circumstances, but will be able to boldly proclaim the truth.

So, once again I ask, who are you?

 

I’m Hearing Voices…

“Every negative thought about yourself or another person is not from God. It cannot be from God. It is either from the Enemy, the World, or the Flesh,” Steve told me after I asked him about the negative thoughts that had possessed my mind for two decades.

Such a simple statement and yet the truth is profound, even life-changing for someone like me. I started hearing that “voice” at a young age, maybe 6 or 7. The voice said, “You’re not good enough” and “They don’t care about you.” I also heard voices like, “He’s such a jerk” and “She is always using you, wiping her feet on you like a doormat.” I’d venture to say I am not the only one who has experienced such mental interference. Even in prayer the voice interrupts. “God doesn’t want to hear from you” and “Isn’t it selfish to pray for yourself?” What would my life look like if I believed these lies and behaved accordingly? Well, until recently, my life took on the form of these lies through my behaviors. It required honesty, confession, repentance, and spiritual warfare to break free from those chains of bondage.

Any voice of condemnation, shame, or slander could not come from my Holy Heavenly God. When I look at my husband and think, “He is so mean”, I can acknowledge this voice for what it is: a liar. I can acknowledge where the voice came from: the Accuser. I can renounce the enemy and his lies, and choose the way of truth: “God so loved the world” (Jn. 3:16) and “He first loved us”. (1 Jn. 4:19) All of us were created in His image (Gen. 1:26) and I am to think and act blamelessly towards my fellow creations, regardless of how I’ve been treated.

*Recognize the Enemy’s influence in my thought life:

“How is it that Satan has filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3)

*Recognize the World’s influence in my thought life:

“We know…that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn. 5:19)

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” (Rom. 12:2)

*Recognize the Flesh’s influence in my thoughts.

“For the sinful nature [flesh] desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:17)

The next time I hear the negative voices, I can identify where it is coming from and renounce it in the name of Jesus. “We also know that the Son of God has come to give us understanding, so that we may know him who is TRUE.” (1 Jn. 5:20)

I cannot think on what is pure, lovely, good and wholesome (Phil. 4:8) if my mind is filled with lies and slander towards God’s creation, people. I’m determined to make a daily trade in my stocks of beliefs. I’m trading the lies for the truth; what is ugly for purity; what is demoralizing for what restores. If my gaping wounds of lies are left open, they will quickly fester into infection of more lies. The only way the wounds heal is if they are soothed with the balm of truth.

Lies steal; truth heals.

“[I] demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and [I] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)

“By faith I choose to be filled with the Spirit so I can be guided into all truth. I choose to walk by the Spirit so that I will not carry out the desires of the flesh. I choose to renew my mind by the living word of God in order that I may prove that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect. I put off the old self with its evil practices and I put on the new self. I declare myself to be a new creation in Christ.”Statements of Truth, (The Steps to Freedom in Christ -Neil Anderson)

Well, That’s Not How I See It….

“Mommy, when I’m 29 like you, I won’t be afraid anymore!” My daughter has an interesting perspective on things. She firmly believes that everything will be better for her when she is older. Eventually we are faced with the reality that life does not get easier with age.

Children can be short-sighted in their perspective.

They get excited over little things like petting animals at a farm, eating at a special restaurant, or getting a new box of crayons. Their world is small and simple and they usually don’t understand why the adults are so serious. They want to run and play, laugh and learn while the grown-ups have to work and budget, say “no” to their wants, and discipline the bad choices.

As adults our perspectives can be influenced by outside sources. Some may become “pessimistic” because they see everything in their life as a personal attack against them. There is the “glass-half-full” crowd who appear bubbly and worry free most of the time, skipping gleefully by the faulty elements surrounding them. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Media plays a role in our views. We are inundated with messages to look good, spend money, get rich, and seek personal happiness at any cost to those around us. We receive messages from other people that may influence our perspective. Recently my daughter looked up at my husband and said, “Daddy, you’re fat! I think you eat too much!” I quickly shushed her and explained that it wasn’t nice to call people “fat”. However, my husband was deeply affected by that statement from his wide-eyed four year old even though he knew she was not being malicious. A few minutes later he came to us and exclaimed, “Daddy’s going on a diet!” For some reasons my pleas for him to improve his health went unnoticed, but this comment from his daughter was a powerful motivator. Over time we each receive similar messages from people about who we are and what we are worth which shapes how we view ourselves and our world.

God also has a perspective, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9) His perspective is far superior to ours and as much as we try to understand, it will always surpass our complete comprehension.

God’s perspective is righteous, “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”(Hosea 14:9), and eternal, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Understanding how God sees things should effect how we see things. As we learn his ways we recognize through our circumstances we are given opportunities to trust him (Psalm 37:7-9), be rewarded (Proverbs 14:14), mature (Philippians 4:11-13), and fulfill our purpose (1 Corinthians 7:17, Ephesians 2:10).

Today I woke up and checked my electricity meter. (We have a pay-as-you-go system where we load our card with whatever amount of money we want then insert it in our meter to purchase as much electricity as we can afford at any given time.) It read $3.34 and I chuckled to my husband, “Not bad!” That would get us a few more hours of lights, computers, televisions and air-conditioning. There was a day when I would have panicked at the same scenario but I realized this morning that God is reshaping my perspective. He uses his word of truth, wisdom of Godly friends, and sometimes the honest remarks of my little Samantha.

As I traverse my God-given path through life,

 I’m trying to be mindful of my limited and somewhat faulty perspective. I’m determining to give my experiences to God and trust him with the results. Thank you, Jesus, for continuing to mold my perspective.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am God, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

Effective

Effective

“I pray with all my heart.” Psalm 119:145 NLT

It’s impossible to talk about the word of God and not mention prayer. The Psalmist says that he will not only obey with all his heart, seek with all his heart, but also pray with all his heart. This, of course, implies that we could pray with less than our whole heart. What would that look like?

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men….But when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen.” Matthew 6:5-6

Jesus knew there were many people who loved to give lip service and be seen and admired by men. He strongly urged his disciples to avoid this kind of prayer at all costs. While there is nothing wrong with praying in public, we do it every Sunday in churches all over the world, there is something wrong with praying to impress others. It shows a division of heart. The intellect is involved with fancy words and long elegant speeches, but the rest of the heart (acting out the truth with the will, for example) is not on board or backing up the prayer. Jesus also warned us:

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

Prayer is a form of worship, just as much as singing songs, Bible study, or tithing. We are told that no gift should be offered when we are not right with our brothers and sisters in Christ. How many times have we persisted in prayer, study, and singing while knowing we were bitter against someone else or they were bitter against us? We are admonished to do all we can to keep peace and unity in order for our offerings to be accepted. We cannot change how people feel about us, but we can make every effort to make things right. 12 step programs often refer to this as “making amends”. While the person we seek to restore fellowship with may not accept our offer, we must make the effort in sincerity of heart in order for God to be honored and our gift to be accepted.  Perhaps when we pray and God is silent, it is because He is waiting for us to act in obedience to his revealed will.

“The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them.” Psalm 34:17

The word righteous in this passage comes from the Hebrew root word meaning “cleanse”, “clear”, or “morally right”. Thus, the believer who is pure in heart or cleansed is the just believer whose prayers are heard. I don’t know about you, but I want my prayers to be heard! This is a powerful motivation for keeping my conscience clean before God, and others. What good does it do to spend an hour in elaborate prayer when my prayers are not being heard?

A few years ago my brother in law was diagnosed with leukemia. There was a sinking feeling that it wasn’t going to turn out well, and deep down in my spirit, I knew the outcome, though I certainly believed that God could bring healing if it was His will to do so. This was a life-changing event for me. I knew God could heal, I knew God had a plan, but I also knew I was called to pray over the situation in earnest. God brought me to James 5:16b over and over again.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

The word righteous here is translated “holy”, “just”, or “innocent”. I realized that if I wanted God to hear me, I needed to have a clean heart before Him. Realizing that there are so many needs today for health, healing, freedom, truth, enlightenment, and wisdom (among many other things) was also a realization that praying for these things was a useless endeavor if my heart was not right with God. I was wasting my breath. I clearly remember this time of my life because God used it to motivate me to holiness, and being sold out to Him in living my faith.  Many times my prayers begin with confession as I come into the presence of a holy God and am reminded of my own ungodliness.

In order to have an undivided heart in prayer, we need to seek cleansing and purity before God. In order to be an effective prayer warrior, we need to ask God to convict us that we need a change of heart. God is the only One who can reveal to us faults we otherwise cannot see. I have experienced this truth time and again when asking God to cleanse my heart. There have been grievous sins committed on my part that I never even realized were sins until God opened my eyes to it! Once he did, I was horrified at my attitude! But unless I had asked him to search me and show me what needed fixing, I would have ignorantly gone on with an undivided heart probably wondering why my prayer life wasn’t as effective as it could be.

Just to be clear; I am not saying that the only way our prayers will be heard is if we are perfect. I am saying that God is clear in his word of what will hinder our prayers from being effective; willful disobedience, sin in ignorance, or a divided heart. I don’t want to be guilty of any of these things, and I pray you feel the same way! Let us obey, seek, and pray with a whole heart. Let us seek to be right before God in all we do, and keep a clear conscience in order to be the most effective prayer warriors that we can be!

Prayer

As I come into your presence, Lord, I ask that you reveal to me any secret sins I have hidden in my heart. I want to wholeheartedly serve you and I want to pray with a heart that is united to fear you. I want to be an effective prayer warrior; even more so I want to be right and have a clear conscience before you. Search me and cleanse me, give me a heart that understands your holiness and give me displeasure for the things that will divide my heart. Thank you for being merciful and loving to show me where I need cleansing!

Blameless

Blameless

“May I be blameless in keeping your decrees; then I will never be ashamed.” Psalm 119:80 NLT

When we enter the presence of God are we ashamed or confident? Can we come to him in prayer and feel good about the way we have conducted our lives? The prophet Isaiah got a taste of the holiness of God and declared, “Woe is me for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…for mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord of hosts!” (Isa 6:5) This account gives me goose bumps every time I read it. How do we view ourselves when we come into the presence of the Almighty? Do we come to him with an attitude of indulgence, demanding what we think we need? I fear much of what has happened today is a lack of self-awareness. We don’t view ourselves as we ought to. We are weighed down with pride. We approach God as if he is our vending machine. “Bless this pursuit, God, thank you!”

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for ever losing sight of the holiness of God!

Yet, God doesn’t call us into a life of shame and regret, does he? He calls us into a life of holiness. He is a Holy God, and he demands holiness from his children.  However, there is a big difference between living a holy life, and living a life of bondage. We can try so hard to be “good” in our own power that we become slaves to rituals, rules, and conduct codes. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and try to live that out. It can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit! Reading the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the law then trying to act them out is a sure way to feel like a failure. We are called to live a blameless life, but we are not called into bondage. The only way to live a holy life is to walk in the will of God, and that involves spending time getting to know Him. As we get to know the voice of God and his leading we get “in tune” with the Holy Spirit and his ways. Over time we see a change in our conduct.

 The behavior springs forth from the relationship, the relationship doesn’t come from the behavior.  If we have the relationship right, the behavior will flow. So, are we walking the “fruits of the spirit”? Are we a living testimony of the Sermon on the Mount? If not, we need to check in on our relationship and knowledge of the Lord. If we are walking in the Spirit, he will lead us into his will.

When I come into the presence of God I do not want to be ashamed.

“I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.” 2 Samuel 22:24

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life-when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with a blameless heart. I will set my eyes before no vile thing.” Psalm 101:2-3

“He whose walk is blameless is kept safe.” Proverbs 28:18

“You must be blameless before the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 18:13

“For he chose us in him before the beginning of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:4

“Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.” 2 Peter 3:14

All of the biblical knowledge in the world will be put to shame without a right heart. The Pharisees followed all the rules, but their hearts were perverse. They didn’t grasp the fact that their behavior would not earn them anything before God. They had to come to Jesus first, and they were unwilling to do that. No doubt, they were put to shame because of their religious hypocrisy.

If we want to have confidence in our prayer life, we need to be walking the blameless life. We cannot do that apart from Jesus. Intimate dependence on him is the beginning of correct behavior. We start in his word, getting to know him, spending time with him and letting his Spirit change our hearts as we mature in him.

This is the holy life; walking in the will of God.

A relationship with a holy God will lead us into the blameless life. In this way we can enter the throne room of Christ and have confidence in what we ask.

The holy life is the life never put to shame.

Prayer

Jesus, I know every single day I fall far short of your holy standard. I want to come into your presence with confidence and assurance that I am in your will. Help me this moment to see a glimpse of your true holiness. I know you want what is best for me, and that it’s perfectly lined out in your word. Teach me to love your word so I can know your word and follow your word. I need your Spirit to guide me into truth to keep me from being ashamed in your presence. I want to stand before you confident that I am in your will and living the blameless life.

Balancing Act II

“Righteous are you, O Lord, and your laws are right. The statutes you have laid down are righteous.” Psalm 119:137-138 NIV

Balancing Act II

As important as it is to stay balanced through our studies in the word of God, it is also important to stay balanced in our everyday life. When we are unbalanced with our nutrition we become vitamin deficient. When we have an unbalanced activity level our muscles atrophy. If we have two vehicles and we only focus on maintaining one of them, the other one will fail to work properly. If we play too much and refuse to work, the bills won’t get paid. Balance is necessary everywhere.

I wanted to get more specific with this issue of balance. I have a confession to make; I raise my hand in guilt. I become easily side-tracked, like a cat with cat-nip. Throw me a toy (said theological debate) and I chase like a cat rabid for a fix. Come back to me a few days later and I’m tired, cranky, drained, emotional, and no better off than when it started. God whispers to my heart, balance, you’ve lost your balance child.

Sigh

Yes, I’ve done it again. Next time I will keep my mouth shut, live peaceably with all people…and all that good stuff.

Oh look, is that cat-nip?! Chases toy….

We all have our hang ups, our vices, our debates or truths we hold dear and defend. God help those who get in the way! We can be ravenous about our beliefs. Give a group of believers some tricky subjects and watch the blood flow:

Tongues

Prophecies

Tribulation/End Times

Sports

Politics

Ding! Let’s get ready to rumble folks!

It’s downright ugly what we do to each other over such issues. God is righteous, or just. His word is right. Why do we act like unrighteous heathens quarreling like rabid animals over things that cause strife and divisions? Is it edifying, does it build up the church, does it draw us to love and good works? Is this how we are communicating with each other?

Balance

How easy it is to lose focus!

My Pastor said something in his sermon today that clarified the issue for me.

Just because it’s important, doesn’t mean we need to focus on it.

Think about that for a minute. Example: Should I devote my life to figuring out what day Jesus will return? Well, it is important isn’t it? Yes, but is it our focus to try to figure out the exact date? No. It’s our greater focus to live for him now, while there is still time, and live in anticipation for his return, whenever that may be.

God’s righteous word is full of important issues. All of them worthy of our attention, but are we to lose sight of the big picture and focus on one particular item alone? Who’s to say which subject is more important than the next? Isn’t that more or less up to the individual preference? One person loves all things Old Testament, another loves all things end times….both important, but neither to be weighed as more important than the other.

Is it ok to discuss these issues? Of course! Argue, fight, get hurt feelings, lose relationships, and attack people over them? No!

When engaging in discussion, we should always consider:

Does it edify the brethren?

Does it honor God?

Am I speaking truth as best as I understand it as laid out in God’s word?

Usually the best option is to agree to disagree and move on. It really is the spiritually mature choice. Our faith is best lived out, not blared out through verbal attacks.

“Run after mature righteousness-faith, love, peace -joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servants must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a servant who keeps cool…” 2 Timothy 2:23-24 MSG

As we balance out our daily Bible study, let us also balance out our daily communication with our sisters and brothers in Christ. The next time that hot debate topic comes up, whether it is about religion or politics, food, television, books, or sports, why don’t you consider the Psalmists view of Gods character first and how you can be a reflection of that in your conversation.  Are we displaying a balanced mature faith by living righteously?

We live righteously by following a righteous word.

Balance

Prayer

Thank you for your righteousness, for being a just and holy God. Thank you for being perfectly balanced, and for walking on this earth in human form, demonstrating what it means to be perfect. I know I fall so short of that standard, but I want you to continue to change my heart and make it clean. I want to be balanced in my words and actions, as well as my prayer and Bible study. Jesus, continue to purge the bad habits from my life! Before I sleep tonight, reveal to me any unbalanced ways that need healing, and restore them. Let this truth be on my heart as I sleep tonight, your statutes are righteous! I want to be righteous like you!