Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bringing Discernment Back

If the Lord should choose to tarry in coming for His bride another 20, 30, 50 years or more, I wonder what the Church, the bride of Christ, will look like. Our children and our grandchildren are the would-be heirs and future servants in the Church all over the world. I wonder what spiritual legacy we are leaving for them to follow. Which of our words will echo in their hearts when we are long gone? What example are we leaving them today to follow tomorrow?

There are a lot of teachers out there who are willing to teach our children and our children’s children for us. Some are saved and teach the truth unadulterated, and some are not saved and do not have the truth in them. Will our children be able to discern difference? Are we?

Part of our job as Christian parents is to lay as solid a foundation in their spiritual upbringing as possible. In order for us to be able to effectively teach our children, we must first know what we believe and we must be convinced of it if we are going to instill a passion for the undiluted truth.

But I fear the noise of the world has made our ears and hearts dull to the whispers of He Who is our teacher of the truth, our giver of spiritual discernment, the Holy Spirit, and consequently, our discernment is wanting.  And because many parents are unsure about their own faith, instead of boldly living out strong convictions before their children that stem from spiritual discernment, many young people in the Church are learning to live out a watered-down faith.

The apostle, Paul, said in Philippians 1:9-11, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

We will face a lot of possible stumbling blocks to our faith throughout our lives, as will our children, and their children. Satan and his followers are as cunning and crafty as they always were, and they will continue to set before us roadblocks to an abundant life in Christ. Even satan knows that there is power when the full strength of the truth is applied in our lives and he will do what he can to dilute it with lies and make those deceptions seem attractive. 

We must be discerning so that we don't deceive ourselves about the power of things that may seem harmless or acceptable by the world or even by some brothers or sisters in Christ. They are not our measuring stick of what is right and wrong or even what may be permissible and what is actually beneficial.  Christ is.

Once we learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and allow Him to convict us of right and wrong in our own lives, we will be equipped to properly train our children about the undiluted truth of God and how that practically translates in their own lives.

Our faith is not our own.

We live it out to the benefit or the detriment of those around us, and our first priority as parents and grandparents is to our children and grandchildren - to pass on a legacy of love for an unabashed truth as set forth in God’s Word by the Lord Himself.

If you're a parent with grown or nearly-grown children and you look back and feel you could have done a better job of instilling the truth, I'm right there with you.  But the biggest travesty about that would be to allow the enemy to continue to beat you up about it.  God knows you did the best that you could at the time.  The past is the past.  We have today and we can use this time forward to pray for them and be the best example of godliness that we can. 

And I realize that sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our children are going to do what they want to do and they may stray from the Lord despite our best efforts. But we can do our best to train them up to love the Lord and to be jealous for the truth, that is, the desire to guard its purity and to live out a life that is nothing more or less than a sincere heart loving and serving God according to His will rather than being caught up in the world and living out some sort of useless, carnal religion.

If we are faithful to pray for them, example to them and teach them a godly life (not perfect, but following hard after Jesus Christ), then even if they stray away from God for a time I believe that He will be faithful to bring them back around to Him.

If you're a young adult (or even an older one!) who didn't grow up with Christian parents or you had Christian parents but feel they could have done a better job with your spiritual upbringing, don't use that as an excuse to not live for the Lord now.  If you have repented of your sins and given your life to Christ, you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and you have available to you all the discernment, power and wisdom you need to live a life of truth and be a light in this dark world. 

I pray for the future Church and its well-being. I pray that we who are a part of it continue to wisely and unashamedly share the gospel in all its glorious, undiluted truth and I pray that our children and our children’s children are among the servants who boldly carry it on until the Lord’s return.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Funnies {Beachy Keen}

My inner California girl is missing the beach – lying on the soft sand, even though it always seems to have boundary issues; reading a book with the only background music being the waves’ own rhythmical stanzas; and watching the seagulls spy out the area as they creep up to take a peek and a peck at my food.

But this is about as close as I’m gonna get right now. So c'mon, take a virtual trip with me to the beach.

Hope your weekend goes swimmingly!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thankful Thursday {Keepers}

I'm thankful that there are people in my life who would rather put their efforts into building me up instead of tearing me down. 

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  (Ephesians 5:19-20 niv)

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  (Ephesians 4:29 niv)

What are you thankful for?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Of the Sons and Daughters of the King

I was sitting in the waiting room of a lab this morning next to a woman who was passing the time by talking on her cell phone. She wasn’t talking overly loudly, but loud enough that I (and a few other people who were waiting) could hear what she was saying. She and the person on the other end of the conversation were obviously talking about a third person (something I don’t necessarily advocate, by the way) and the fact that this third person, a woman, just did not understand how valuable the Bible was to her and that the book of Ephesians would be helpful for her to read. My ears pricked up at this point. Then she went on to say that this woman just didn’t fully understand who she was in Christ.

The arrow was shot and stuck straight into my heart.

And I thought, “Do I fully understand, I mean really understand, to the point of how it affects not only my thinking but also my day to day living, the full scope of who I am, right now, in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Do we know that we are the “beloved of the Lord,” (2 Thessalonians 2:13b) that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”? (Romans 8:37) Do we comprehend that Jesus calls us “friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”? (John 15:15b)

Do we remember that we are the bride of Christ, and that we can say with boldness and confidence, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”? (Isaiah 61:10)

And because we are espoused to the King of kings, we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”. (1 Peter 2:9)

We, the royal sons and daughters of Christ, have been called out of the world, out of darkness and into His light, the truth. So do we live like royalty, or have we become accustomed to and comfortable with living at the level of the world’s filthiness?

It’s easy to forget who we really are in Christ when we are surrounded by the world and its filth and when there are so many people who are ready, willing and even eager to tell us otherwise. And slowly but surely that filth, if we allow it, infiltrates our lives and minds and even hearts. As we live, so shall we think and believe.

But through His Word God says to us “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial (satan)? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1)

These can be hard verses to live by in this world in which we now live, but we must interpret scripture through the Holy Spirit, as the beloved, the bride, the heavenly royalty to which we’ve been called and indeed are, rather than interpreting scripture through our flesh or through a worldly or even cultural understanding.

That is why we need to not just read God’s Word, but let it be absorbed into our minds and owned within our hearts so they may be used for their God-given intended purpose: to love one another and to glorify Christ and to make Him known.

When the woman had finished her conversation and sat reading her book, I almost turned to thank her and let her know that God had used her in my life that morning, but I didn’t, and soon she was called to the back. I’m glad I was quiet, though, because her reward will be greater in heaven, reward for simply trusting the Lord and living her life in Him.

In Jesus' love,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Foodie {Penne Pasta Bake}

Penne Pasta Bake

12 oz. penne pasta
1 lb. ground beef or sausage
1 cup chopped onion
1 15-oz. can Italian-style tomato sauce
1 14 1/2-oz can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
1 6-oz. can Italian tomato paste with roasted garlic
3 cups shredded mozzerella cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook meat and onion in large skillet over medium-high heat, 5 minutes; drain. Stir in tomato sauce, undrained tomatoes, tomato paste and 1/2 cup water.  Cook, stirring ocassionally, for 10 minutes.

3. Layer half pasta, half sauce and half of each cheese in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish; repeat layers.  Cover with foil (non-stick if you have it) and bake in oven, 20 minutes.   Makes tons. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thankful Thursday {Inspiring Voices}

This world will just suck all the life out of a person's faith if you spend too long absorbed in it, ya know?  It will overwhelm you with thoughts of how you "should" look on the outside instead of telling you that a godly character is more beautiful than all the botox in the world.  It will remind you over and over that you probably don't have enough money saved up for your retirement years instead of the fact that we serve a God who owns everything we see and is willing and more than able to take care of His sons and daughters.  It will tell you to think of yourself, to have self-esteem, to do something for yourself "for a change," instead of telling us that focusing on our Savior and on serving others will bring us more peace and joy than running around like a dog chasing after our own tails.   The world is loud and confusing and sad and pessimistic. 

But there are other, far better voices to listen to. Over the years, those of long past and in the present, God has given us godly men and women who have endured fiery trials as they served Him in the world and have come through as gold with wisdom to share. 

It is those people I am thankful for today.  I'm so thankful to be able to read their stories about how God brought them through their hard times and know that I can make it, too.  They give peace and hope and encouragement.  Through their stories they hold my hand and take me through another day. 

Blessings to you,

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Foodie (sort of!) {Cherry Berry Smoothie}

Summer is winding down, the kids are going back to school, and Labor Day is just around the corner, but it's still hot out there.  So I thought today I'd give you a cool, refreshing and easy smoothie to enjoy. 

Cherry Berry Smoothie

1 1/4 cups unsweetened cherry juice
1/4 cup raspberry sorbet
1 1/2 cups frozen cherries
1 cup frozen peaches
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend.  Makes 2.  See?  That was easy, wasn't it?  :) 

Happy Weekend.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thankful Thursday {Communing with My Father}

One of the best things about knowing Christ is when I am feeling desperate and heartbroken and like there's no way to feel any other way, and I go to my Father and pour out my heart to Him and suddenly, right in the middle of the prayer or reading His Word, a new thought occurs to me, a thought that changes everything...a thought that comes right from the heart of my Lord.  And before I know it, I have hope again. 

That's what I'm thankful for this week. 


Monday, August 9, 2010

The Gift of Suffering

I was sitting in church yesterday listening intently on what was being said when the spoken words dimmed a bit, just for a moment, and the Lord whispered to my heart. It was one of those moments that I often have, when the Lord speaks out of what is being said, but He personalizes it just for me. Maybe it’s for you, too.

I can’t even remember exactly what was being said at that moment, but I thought about the time when my life here on this earth is over, and I am living in eternity. There’s no way for us to understand just how long forever is, no way to comprehend the infinite with our finite minds. But I know that in comparison this life is just a blink. While we’re living in it, especially when there are deep trials and suffering, it seems to last forever. But very soon, it will be over, and we’ll only remember it as a vague dream, something that lasted for only a short while, but it was a time when we had the chance to learn how to love.

God tells us in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up treasures on earth for yourselves, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up treasures in Heaven for yourselves, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”

It’s hard to say exactly what those treasures will be, but I know that as this blog’s scripture in Colossians says, all treasures that will last into eternity are found in God through Christ. They are the wisdom and knowledge of God that we obtain by walking with Him while we’re here. They are the things He whispers to our hearts when we’re still, and listening. They are the pure gold and silver character that will remain as we go through trials and the dross of anything less than godliness is taken away.

And that’s what the Lord was saying to me – that every trial, big and small, has been masterfully used by God to remove that which cannot enter into heaven, the fear, the unforgiveness, the pride, the selfishness, all those are being whittled away. And as they diminish, there is more room for His character in me, the treasure of a pure heart of love and compassion, and out of those I can do His will, in His strength, and store up even more treasure, the fruition that comes from being a part of God’s work here on this earth.

Through all my times of kicking and screaming and whining and complaining my way through trials, God remains steadfast in His love and in His patience to bring about in me a godliness that will store up treasures I can’t even imagine because He wants to bless me with a richer, fuller, more intimate experience of worshipping my Lord as I live with Him forever.

Friday, August 6, 2010

To Tell the Truth

Sometimes I go searching the blogosphere for good, Christian blogs, blogs that will uplift me and encourage me and give me hope, the kind that can only come from the truth that's in God's Word and is played out in the relationship between a believer in Christ and the Holy Spirit that indwells him or her.  But I often find something else.  I find people who seem to be compromising their faith in favor of being popular. I find blogs that claim to be Christian but will mock the purity that God has and desires us to have.  I find blogs with points of view that don't include the full counsel of God, but will take a point out of context and in the process they do the truth a great disservice. 

There are many very good blogs out there, but I also find blogs that seem to be trying to conform to the world rather than conforming to the heart of God.  I'm actually quite shocked and often saddened to read the things that are floating around out there in the name of Christianity and I believe that's a direct correlation to what's going on in much of the church today.. I'm sure there are many reasons why that happens, desire to gain readers, not spending enough time in prayer in order to hear from God, and probably a lot of other reasons I can't even think of right now. It boils down to the fact that what we believe, or don't, for whatever reasons, comes out in what we write.

And I can understand how that could happen.  I can understand how a person can start out with the best of intentions, godly intentions, and begin to look around at other blogs, Christian and otherwise, who have 100's and even 1,000's of readers and desire to be as successful as they are with something they love to do. 

I've been at this blogging business myself for over 2 years now and I will often get discouraged at the low numbers of readers I'm still getting.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate each and every one of you!  But the temptation to write like this or that successful blogger, to try to follow some formula or to quit blogging all together out of the feeling that I'm not having much of an impact, can be very great. 

But I can't quit, not yet at least.  I love to write and I love my God and my desire is to make Him known in all unadulterated, uncompromised truth.  By the grace of God this blog will never take a stance based on political correctness or popularity with the masses.  And if I never grow in readership, then so be it.  I will leave that to God.  My business is to be about God's business and to give testimony about Him in the purest light possible. 

When I stand before God I won't care one iota whether or not I was popular, or had thousands of readers or no readers at all.  What I will care about is whether or not I was true to my faith in Jesus Christ and whether or not I magnified His Name above all.  And that is what I aim to do.  All glory be to God. 

In Service to the King,

Friday Funnies - Waffle Fries, Sweet Tea and Fudge Nut Brownies, Part 2

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thankful Thursday {Resting and Recreating}

This week I'm thankful for a couple of days off just to hang out and do whatever.  Whatever's one of my favorite things.

"Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30mkjv)

What are you thankful for?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Being Different to Conform

All my life I’ve tried to fit in. The more I felt like I was different, the more I tried to fit in to the people immediately around me at any given time, to the world I live in, to the customs I’m surrounded by. Wanting to be accepted by one’s peers and one’s society is, I suppose, something that almost everyone goes through at least one time or another.  In fact, I believe that God gave us the desire to conform, but His desire is that we conform to Him, not the world. 

We can focus on being accepted by people, or we can focus on being accepted by God. Don’t get me wrong, God loves His children at all times. But we can choose behaviors and attitudes that are not godly and not acceptable by a Holy God. We can even choose actions that are not inherently bad in and of themselves, but if they’re not within the parameters of God’s perfect will for our own life, it doesn’t matter if someone else is doing it, or if a lot of people are doing it, it may not be God’s will for us personally, and so not acceptable for us to conform in that particular way.

I realize as I look back on the circumstances of my life that they’ve been so perfectly designed as to take me constantly out of my comfort zone and further away from feeling like I fit in more than I ever would have liked. And I believe that’s been the whole point. God doesn’t want me to fit in and be like “everyone else.” He wants me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable because making a difference in the kingdom of God doesn’t always mean comfort (rarely, in fact). Instead of looking to other people for acceptance, I have a much greater, wiser Master to look to for acceptance, for confidence, for purpose, for passion, for my life.

God uses people who are willing to be different.

I think of the people in God’s Word that He chose to be witnesses of His love and will and they were almost always different than the flow of society. They didn’t conform to the world around them, but they conformed to God’s will for them, even when it was extremely difficult. They weren’t exactly your people-pleaser-go-along-with-the-crowd types.

I think of John the Baptist - the one who paved the way for the coming Messiah - who set up shop out in the middle of the desert, eating locust and wild honey and wearing animal skins, shouting that people needed to repent. I think of the apostle, Paul, who spoke so boldly for Christ, even if that meant going against authorities’ direct instructions, that he spent multiple times in prison simply for obeying his God. I think of Jesus Christ Himself, who said and did only what His Father instructed Him to, and that ultimately sent Him to the cross. He didn’t want to go there, but He submitted to the will of His Father because He knew that His Father could see the bigger picture.

And our Father sees the bigger picture in our lives, too. It’s not about conforming to the world; it’s about conforming to the image of our Father and fulfilling a much grander purpose than any this temporary life could hold. It’s about the grand scheme of this love story that we are in as we walk with the Savior Who has called us by name to walk with Him.

“Think of us as servants of Christ who have been given the work of explaining God's mysterious ways. And since our first duty is to be faithful to the one we work for, it doesn't matter to me if I am judged by you or even by a court of law. In fact, I don't judge myself. I don't know of anything against me, but that doesn't prove that I am right. The Lord is my judge.” (1 Cor. 4:1-4)