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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kicking and Screaming



Any blushing mom who has ushered a screaming toddler out of a store knows of what I'm about to speak.  It's often about a battle of wills - the toddler, exercising their newfound ability to make decisions and test independence, protests being told to do something (or that they can't have something), and a dramatic scene takes place.  The child leaves with mom, kicking and screaming, insisting to have their way.

I envision that a lukewarm Christian's walk is often like this.  They go to church and hear an inspirational sermon, determined to better walk the straight and narrow path.  They do their best to pray, and they put some money into the offering plate on Sunday.  They know right from wrong, as it has been ingrained in many of us since childhood.  They might buy a few cans for the food drive, and donate a box of clothing to a charity.  Do not misunderstand me - these things are all good things.  But it's not enough.  The inspiration will often fade, the spirit will get weak, and people slip back into old ways and sinful habits.

Sometimes, we are like a toddler in the midst of his tantrum - unwilling to lay down pride to surrender to the one in charge.  We often come to the Lord, yet inside our hearts are reluctant to give up selfish ways.  The Lord summons us, but often we're kicking and screaming.  We aren't ready to submit, to surrender, to humbly accept defeat and powerlessness.

To achieve true closeness and relationship with the Lord, though, much more is required.  In the gospel of John, when John the Baptist is questioned about Jesus, John states, "He must become greater, I must become less."  Such is it in our walk with Jesus.  WE CANNOT COMPLETELY SUBMIT TO JESUS UNTIL WE BECOME LESS.  Jesus says in Matthew 18: 3, "Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."  That is to say, we are to be completely, utterly, wholly dependent upon him for provision, guidance, and survival.

What does complete surrender look like?
 
It looks like unconditional love.
It looks like forgiveness (maybe seventy times seven times).
Picking up your bible regularly.  
Being able to lovingly confront someone else's sin.
It looks like giving your time on the Sabbath to the local soup kitchen instead of kicking back and watching football.
It looks like tithing, even when you don't know where the money will come from to pay your other bills.
It's biting your tongue instead of engaging in gossip.  Or, perhaps standing up for the person and possibly enduring ridicule or judgment.
It's teaching your children to pray and sticking with it, even if at the end of the day you can't put two sentences together.
It's withholding criticism of character in an argument.
It looks like submitting sinful thoughts to the Lord and denying them.
It looks like self-control.
It's a purity of heart and mind.
It looks like submission to God's will, even if it scares the pants off of you.

Colossians 3:5-10 states, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But no you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these:  anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with these practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."

As humans, we are sinful by nature.  It is IMPERATIVE that we come to the Lord in prayer to surrender these things to him.  He is faithful and will hear us when we ask for transformation.  "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will." - Romans 12:2 (emphasis added)

So, as in the case of the exhausted toddler, we learn that we will not win this battle.  The Lord is in charge, and we must completely bend to his will and surrender to him in order to achieve peace and transformation.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Last Cookie

There is this little bible verse that you may have heard of on my heart today that I'd like to dissect - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Cue the eye rolls - this verse has likely been used at almost every wedding EVER.  We are completely desensitized to it because of its frequent use, but there is a reason clergy and soon-to-be-newlyweds turn to it time and time again.

It reads: "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

The kind of love that is represented by Jesus in the bible is agape - the Greek word to paraphrase "selfless love."  It's the same variety He showed us at the cross.  Though Jesus had done no wrong, He walked the road to Calvary for us, having been beaten, taunted, and tortured, so that we might experience mercy and life with the Father.  Matthew 16:24-5 states, "Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  I am no theologian, so I personally cannot be certain if Jesus was using this literally (as in martyrdom) or in a more figurative way, but nevertheless, I feel we are to apply it to our lives today.  Jesus calls us to love each other selflessly, without condition.  We are to put aside our selfish, worldly ways and desires to live a life that is dedicated to mirroring the love of Christ.  Paul wrote to the people in Corinth, advising them to love in exactly this way.  Broken down, this is what the verse does (and does not) mean:

"Love is patient" - it's allowing someone time to heal from past hurts or abuse; it's trying to understand someone else's perspective; it is slow to anger and abounding in grace 

"love is kind" - it doesn't harass, condemn, insult, or condescend; it is empathetic and compassionate

"It does not envy" - it isn't jealous; it doesn't want what someone else has

"it does not boast" - it's not gloating, bragging, or saying "I told you so"

"it is not proud" - it is humble; it's not viewing yourself as better than another; it's admitting when you're wrong; it's taking responsibility for your actions

"It does not dishonor others" - it's not pointing fingers, placing blame; it's not smearing someone's name; it doesn't humiliate or degrade

"it is not self-seeking" - it's working for the benefit of another; it's working toward common ground and compromise

"it is not easily angered" - it's not rushing to reprimand or scold

"it keeps no record of wrongs" - it forgives completely; it erases an offense, once and for all; it's not bringing up past wrongs in current arguments; it's not bitter or resentful

"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" - love does not lure those around us to sin, but seeks righteousness; it's wanting others to feel the joy that you do in Christ

"It always protects" - it's caring for the hearts and interests of others; it's taking care with someone's emotions

"always trusts" - it's having faith in someone; it's believing they have your best interest at heart

"always hopes" - it's always believing the best and glass-is-half-full

"always perseveres" - love will always win over hate and evil.

It's easy for us to read this passage and gloss over the true meaning, because we've heard it countless times.  When you really stop to consider all that it implies and represents, it's really quite profound, in my humble opinion.  When you pause to consider your own actions and whether or not they qualify as "loving," what do you see?  

Love is giving with reckless abandon; expecting nothing in return.  Love is humbly admitting that you were wrong.  Love is sometimes biting your tongue.  Love is waking early with the kids so that your mate can sleep in.  Love is giving someone else the last cookie.  Love is letting someone else go before you in line.  Love is stopping to buy the homeless man a drink and a sandwich.  Love is sharing the gospel with others, so that they too may find joy in Christ.  








Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Still

Psalm 46:10 - "Be still, and know that I am God."

Exodus 14:14 - "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."

I have four children, ages 9, 7, 5, and 4.  The word "still" is essential to my vocabulary.  "Sit still!," I tell them in church.  "Lie still!," as I wrestle them into bed at night.  "Sit still at the dinner table!"  "Sit still!," while the barber gives a haircut.  We love our children, but as parents, we know there are times when your children have to learn to wait.  Patiently.  To be still.  To rest.  To cease activity.  It's not to control them.  It's because as parents, we know what's best for them.  If they sit still in church, they're more likely to hear the word of God (or you are, at least).  If they lie still in bed, they'll have an easier transition into a restful night.  If he sits still in the barber's chair, he's a lot less likely to have a giant nick on his scalp.  It's for their benefit and the greater good of the family.  Be still.  Time and time again, the Lord tells us through scripture to be still.  As our omniscient,  omnipresent Father, He knows what's best for us.

Stop.  Cease.  Let go.  Be calm.

He's constantly reminding us just who is in control.  When the Lord says be still in scripture, it's in the midst of battle; at the brink of defeat.  Life may be a little less primitive in our first-world country than it was in the middle east of the bible, but these scriptures are certainly still applicable today.  In the midst of a divorce?  Be still.  Undergoing chemotherapy?  Be still.  Have you lost the person you loved most in this world?  Be still.  God instructs us frequently to sit back and trust that He has everything under control.  It won't always be easy.  In fact, in some cases it will be the hardest thing we ever do - to trust the Lord and wait on him.  But it will always be worth it.

As we read God's word and soak it up, we grow closer to Him and are more able to quiet ourselves and listen for His voice and instruction.  It's in the quiet and the meditation over scripture where He often comes to us, comforting and guiding us.  James 4:8 says, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."

Romans 8:28 says, "For we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose."  Now, that isn't to say everything will be gravy for us if we follow Him.  Life will definitely not always be gravy.  But we are to trust Him with the good...and the awful.  The blessings, and the major upheavals of life.  When Job's life falls into shambles and his wife instructs him to "Curse God and die!,"  "He replies, You are talking like a foolish woman.  Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (Job 2:10).  If the Lord provides for us and blesses us, should we not also trust that our troubles have a far greater purpose than is within our understanding?  People are flawed.  People make terrible mistakes, awful judgment calls.  I'd much rather entrust my life to a sovereign Lord than to my own flawed, sinful thinking.  So "be still, and know that He is God."

So listen for His instruction.  Immerse yourself in His word.  Pray.  Let the Lord do His work.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Not Alone

It's been far too long since I've indulged in blogging.  I don't have an earth-shattering, mind-blowing purpose for writing tonight; if only to fulfill selfish purposes, that will be enough.

Today has been a rough day.  It started out well enough; I was in a good mood, had my necessary cup of Joe, snuggled with the kiddos, got through some chores, etc.  This afternoon, though, some old demons hit home.  I started wrestling with old feelings of insufficiency and falling short.  "You're human," you may say, to which I would think, I believe so.... but that's just it.  I'm human, surrounded by other humans, who are not designed to fulfill me.  Their sole purpose is not to revolve their worlds around me.  SHOCKER, right?  But it is so.  It's that God-shaped hole again.  He put it there for a reason.  When people have lives, other things going on, when people can't completely invest in you, the Lord calls.  He is waiting for you to come to him, shoulders slumped, looking for comfort.  And when you go, he will be there.

I was extremely comforted tonight in the reading of a lovely blog I follow, which can be found here.  Her post was titled "Chosen" and hit so close to home, it hurt.  But again, I was reminded of God's awesome power.  While in the throes of emotional distress, he uses another one of His children for healing.  I am so grateful for the clever workings of the Lord, and find comfort in His plan.

If you get nothing else from this post, I pray you find comfort in loneliness, also.  You are not alone, and the Lord is always there to bring you peace.  You need only call to Him.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Live Forever

I went to a funeral today.  The woman who passed away was someone I knew throughout my childhood, a dear friend of my mom's.  She was the type of person who radiated light and love; always positive, always trusting.  The marriage she shared with her husband of almost thirty years was one that would make you sigh and go, "Awww."  She battled breast cancer for over two years before it got the best of her.  Anyone who knew her says she faced her circumstances with faith and optimism.  So, not only was today a day to mourn her loss; it was also a day to celebrate her homecoming to be with her savior Jesus Christ.

The gravity of death hits me every time I attend a funeral; I suddenly recall how finite and brief our time is here on earth.  It is but the blink of an eye to God.  It has my mind reeling tonight, feeling the urgency of salvation.  On another note, I was recently blessed with the opportunity to attend a NEEDTOBREATHE concert with my aunt and a gentleman named Drew Holcomb opened for them.  One of his songs, I can't shake tonight, as I contemplate the human condition of life, death, and meaning.  I urge to you check out this music video from Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors for "Live Forever."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8UXgTprJGY&feature=related

It suddenly feels extremely urgent to me to convert anyone and everyone I've ever known who's never known the love and mercy of Christ.  Of course, I know this isn't possible.  With me, anyway.  However, I know someone who makes things happen.  So I will continue to pray that God will grant me the words to say and the courage to say them - to show people the love and the way of Christ.  I pray that all of my loved ones and many, many more will come to see eternity, sitting at the throne of Jesus.  May the Lord put it in your heart tonight to seek Him; I assure you that if you do, you will most certainly find Him. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mustard Seed

I need to take a moment to brag about the power of the holy spirit.  I assure you, this is no rant tooting my own horn or singing my own praises.  It's only through the grace of God that these things are even possible.

A couple of months ago, I was told about a man and wife who were clinging to their marriage, desperate to keep it alive but failing miserably.  They had been struggling for quite some time, and it was apparently the beginning of the end.  As soon as I heard these things, I began praying incessantly, night after night.
    
"Lord, help this couple in need.
Help them to set aside their pride and forgive past hurts.
Help them to love, serve, honor and respect one another.
Help them to lower their walls and 
to remember why they fell in love in the first place.
Strengthen and heal them.
Help them to see each other in a new and refreshing light.
Let nothing and no one come between or separate them."

I heard nothing about them for quite some time.  Then, out of the blue, I was told that, surprisingly, they were succeeding at making amends.  In summary of the husband's words, I was told, "I don't know, for some reason, we've just been doing really well."  I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear, for in that moment, the holy spirit led me to believe that my prayers were answered.  

Prayer changes things.  Matthew 7:7 states:  "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you."  The Lord wants to give us the greatest desires of our hearts in accordance with His will, if only we ask him for it.  Matthew 21:22:  "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."  If you have faith only as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains. You need only ask.



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New Address

If you've ever been a reader of godsprodigaldaughter.blogspot.com, I have a new home.  You can find me now at hisprodigaldaughter.blogspot.com.  I hope to visit and post regularly, as well as reach multitudes to tell about the love of Christ.  Have a wonderful day!