Friday, November 25, 2011

#92 Weeding

Decorating one's home has always given people more appreciation for where they live. Once pictures are hung on the walls and all the trinkets unique to our life are placed around the home we feel more welcomed and our homes feel more livable.

Trends in home decoration change as time goes by and a recent trend is to have vinyl lettering or images on the walls. Lettering that expresses more of who we are and what we hold dear. You can buy pre-made vinyl designs or you can create them yourself using cutting machines. I bought one of those vinyl cutting machines for my wife some years back and we never really used it that much until we understood the potential of it.

The vinyl of various colors is placed onto cutting mats and then inserted into the machine. You then program the machine to cut out the lettering or design you want, press start and the machine does the cutting. After the cutting is completed the task of weeding comes. Yes, just like weeding in your garden means taking away the unwanted growth, weeding with vinyl means taking away the vinyl that is not part of the design. You have to carefully peel up the weedy vinyl and pull it away from the part you want to keep. Once the overall weeding is done you have to pull up the inside of circles and smaller areas that become unattached during cutting. Once all the weeds are pulled and plucked away you are left with a beautiful phrase or design that you can then apply to your walls making home sweet home a little sweeter.

Before you ask, no, this posting is not a commercial for vinyl design tools. But as my wife and I have been placing some phrases on our walls and performing the weeding to do so it made me think about the process of sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming holy as the Holy Spirit helps us overcome sin in our lives.

As soon as we accept Christ and ask Him to take away our sins we are justified or made right with God the Father because our sin debt against Him is cancelled or blotted out by the blood of Christ. Then we move into the process of becoming more Christ-like each day or becoming sanctified.

But in order for sanctification to occur there must be weeding that takes place in our lives. As we pray and study the Word of God we begin to become aware of the things in our life that need to go. Sometimes we can do it on our own but other times we can't no matter how hard we try. Some physical and mental addictions run deeper than our will power and we need divine intervention to overcome. In other words, we need Jesus to weed the sin from our lives. We need Christ to pull away the parts that keep us from reflecting His character every day. Just like weeding vinyl where the design appears as the discard vinyl is taken away, we begin to look, speak, and act more like Jesus as sin is weeded out.

It is my prayer that as we consider how Jesus wants us to live that we will have the desire to let Him make us weed free. I pray that we will not fight Him in this because He only takes away that which prevents us from being prepared to live in heaven with Him. Don't you want to live with Christ forever? Don't you want to be prepared for heaven? Why not choose today to let Him take away all the weeds that you too can become a beautiful reflection of Jesus in this dark world of sin.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for the blessings that come from being Your children. Thank You for being willing to sanctify us and to allow us the time to mature spiritually. Please forgive us for resisting the weeding process and please teach us to trust You more each day. We pray in Jesus's name, Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

#91 Spoon Feeding

Children are dependent upon others to care for them. Every need from the moment we arrive is thrust upon someone, be they parent or otherwise, to provide for us. Our food, cleanliness, protection, health care, and all facets of life that do not fall under the umbrella of autonomic function require attention from others.

As we grow and mature we begin to take on those roles ourselves. We transition from being carried or strolled everywhere to crawling, pulling up on things, to eventually walking and running. At some point we become aware of our bodily functions and become, much to our care givers' collective delight, "potty" trained. Consumption of food moves from the breast or bottle to being spoon fed from jars and ultimately to "table" food.

Yes, growing up means gradually assuming greater responsibility for all areas of life: including our spirituality. When we are babes in the Christian faith there is a certain amount of spoon feeding that has to occur simply because we have not developed the where-with-all to seek and search for the saving knowledge of Christ. But as we grown in our understanding and are more fully able to discern the will of God we have to also take ownership of our spiritual walk. We have to move from the milk of our early Christian experience to the meat of deeper theological truths.

However, too many of us fail to learn to walk spiritually. Why? Is it because we are incompetent and do not have the mental faculties to embrace deeper truth? It is because the things of God are so deep and complicated that they can be likened to spiritual calculus that only the religious elite can solve? No and no. I feel that at least part of the problem for a lack of deep spiritual maturity among God's children is that we simply do not take hold of the reins and invest in our own spiritual walk. We choose to lean on pastors and evangelists to show us what we need to do and think when really God's clergy are there to introduce us to Jesus, challenge us to a deeper relationship with Him, and, yes, teach us to walk on our own with God.

As a pastor I do not desire for a single person to follow me. I want only for people to follow and commit their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ to the point that they might be prepared as citizens of heaven and the New Jerusalem that the Lord is preparing for His people. In order for that to happen we have to take ownership in our own spiritual walk and not relegate it to the pastor or any other church leader. We have to invest in our daily walk through prayer, communicating with God on a moment by moment basis, and being lead in every decision by the Holy Spirit.

We have to read God's word and pray for wisdom to understand. Yes, it's alright for us to study together in groups or in a corporate worship setting, but let's not settle for only those moments. Our love for Christ should motivate us to seek Him each second of every day just as our thoughts become lost in one whom we long for in an earthly love scenario.

So where are you today? Are you lost or caught up in seeking Jesus or are you lost in the world? Do you search the Scriptures looking for the meat of a deeper relationship with Christ or are you content with the milk of an immature and possibly lukewarm spiritual experience?

It is my prayer today that each of us, including me, will have our hearts filled with the desire to know Christ more deeply with each passing day. It is my prayer that none of us will ever get lured or lulled into being satisfied with a spoon-fed approach to Christianity. It is my prayer that we will take ownership of our spirituality to the point that we seek the Lord daily while He may yet be found (Isa. 55:6). If there was every anything that each of us needed to grasp hold of, it is this.

Dear Father,
Thank You for allowing us the opportunity to grow into what You desire for us to be. Please forgive our lax approach to seeking You and please forgive us for leaving our spiritual well-being to others. Help us to never let others take the reigns of what You desire for us to take ownership of, and may we all lean wholly on You for our strength in all areas of life. We pray now in Jesus's name, Amen.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

#90 Somnambulance

1:John 1:7 "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."

I can remember when I was growing up that I went over to a friend's house to stay over. When it was time to go to bed he warned me that if I heard someone up walking around it may be his dad sleep walking as he had a habit to do. Sometimes it turned out badly for his dad because he would trip over things and had been hurt more than once. I actually laid awake longer than I would have just because I wanted to see someone sleep walk. No one in my family did that; at least not that I had ever heard.

Sleep walking is actually referred to medically as somnambulance. It comes from the Latin words somnus meaning sleep and ambulare meaning to walk. It is estimated that 18% of the world's population is prone to sleep walking and children in the U.S. between 11-12 are most likely to engage in this activity with males being most likely to do so.

Obviously sleep walking can be a very serious thing and poses obvious health concerns, but I think there is an even greater danger in the world: spiritual somnambulance. Far too many people walk through day-to-day life separated from God and their danger ranges beyond potential falling hazards from walking around their home technically asleep. The dangers of spiritual sleep walking have eternal consequences.

Some might wrongly assume that non-Christians have the most to be worried about. Sadly, this is not true. As Jesus points out in Revelation, the person who faces the greatest spiritual danger and is perhaps the most deeply spiritually asleep is the lukewarm Christian. Note how in Revelation 3:15, 16 Christ says that because you are neither hot nor cold I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. If we are cold then we know we are lost. If we are on fire for Christ then we have that deep connection with Him. It's the lukewarm Christian who has lost their fire but is still in the church that is more lost than the non-believer because the lukewarm Christian knows better but is not living connected to the Lord.

We will not take time to explore the potential reasons for spiritual sleep walking, but rather let's focus on the answer to the problem: rekindling that first-love experience with Jesus. If we will regularly spend time in prayer, Bible study, and experience Christian fellowship we will have a recipe, so to speak, for spiritual success. Why? Because if we are praying in earnest each day then the Lord can speak to our hearts and continue to draw us closer to Him. If we read His Word then we can be shown His will for our lives, and if we spend time around like-believers then we can be challenged and held accountable by the body of Christ.

I firmly believe that if we practice the Christian life truly seeking God's will then He can and will lead us all the way to the promised land. Will you choose to live fully for Christ today? Will you allow Him to awaken you from your spiritual slumber? He is willing to bring us into His marvelous light if we will walk according to His word being led by the Holy Spirit.

Dear Father God,
Thank You for calling us to faithfulness. Thank You for calling us to live holy lives before You. Please forgive us where we have failed and awaken us to a new understanding of Your will that we might glorify You in all that we do. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

#89 Managing the Load

Matthew 11:30 NKJV "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Moving has to be one of the most dreaded tasks that mankind has to encounter. The task of loading up all your stuff, taking it across town or across the country, then unloading, sorting, and putting away all that stuff at the new place can make for some tiring, cumbersome work.

As a pastoral family we have to experience that wonderful task more often than many families, but the great blessing associated with moving as a pastoral family is the church families who are so graciously willing to help with the task. Our experience has been one of great blessing as it realtes to moving because of the outpouring of support from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Of course every time you move there are always items you dread the most. Pianos and washing machines come to the forefront of my mind when I think about moving. But again, having people who are willing to help even makes pianos and refrigerators manageable because many hands are sharing the burden. I praise God and thank His people for the help we have been given at each move.

Although moving is a daunting task in many reagards, managing the everyday loads of life can seem even more overwhelming. Unlike moving a piano that's over relatively quickly, some of the emotional and physical burdens that we bear face us each day of our lives, and they can cause us to feel like we are trapped with no way out. But God has promised us that He will never allow us to bear more than we are able without giving us a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13). Basically, that means that when temptation or trials come our way God will give us strength that we do not have on our own.

But receiving this divine strength does not happen on our own; we must ask for it. Jesus promised us that if we ask anything according to His will then it shall be done (John 14:14). So all you and I have to do is ask and Jesus will take away the weight of our burdens. No, it does not mean that we will not face any trials or that trouble will not come near us. It means that when we face trials and have trouble that we do not have to face it on our own. We can lean on and trust in Jesus because He alone is able to help us manage the loads we carry in this life.

Are you carrying a load today that you need help with? Are you feeling weighed down with the trials of this life? Why not claim the promises of God and lean fully on Him for your source of strength and encouragement? Why not take on his yoke and His burden for He promises that they are light and very manageable. It is my prayer that as each of you face trials that you will let our loving, Creator God carry you through each situation. If we can learn to trust Him in each trial then He will carry us all the way to glory. He promised to do so.

Dear Father in Heaven,
Today, we praise You for being so good to us. We praise You for the love, mercy, grace, and strength that You provide every day. Please teach us to trust in You for everything; not just the major struggles in life. Please teach us to share You love with the world around us that they too might experience Your saving grace. We praise You and pray these things in Jesus' name, Amen.