Monday, January 27, 2014

True Happiness

Matthew 5:1-11 NIV

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

From "Once-a-Day Walk with Jesus", YouVersion Daily Devotional:

Blessed ... in the Eyes of God

"What is happiness? Ask 20 different people to answer that question, and you’ll probably get 20 different answers.

But for the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, the path to true happiness is the path of blessedness described by Jesus in Matthew 5:1–11.

As Matthew Henry points out, until you know what true happiness is, you will never discover God’s path to find it.

Walk With Matthew Henry
“Happiness is the thing people pretend to pursue. But most form a wrong notion of it and miss the way.

“The general opinion is: Blessed are those who are rich and honorable in the world, who spend their days in mirth and their years in pleasure.

“Jesus comes to correct this fundamental error and give us quite another notion of blessedness.

“However paradoxical his teaching may appear to those in the world, to those who are saved it is a rule of eternal truth and certainty by which we must shortly be judged.

“If this, therefore, be the beginning of Christ’s doctrine, the Christian’s duty must be to take his measure of happiness from those maxims, and to direct his life accordingly.”

Walk Closer to God
Would you consider yourself truly happy if your life were characterized by meekness ... mercy ... poverty in spirit ... persecution?

You would if you had God’s perspective on happiness.

Given the chance, the world will offer you a bogus substitute—a happiness dependent on money, prestige or circumstances.
Christ says true happiness consists of none of these.

But you must decide. Which notion of blessedness will you build your life on today? How do you complete the sentence “Happiness is ...”? "

For me, true happiness is the realization that there really is no way to obtain happiness without the desperate realization that it can only come through fulfillment in Christ. When I am reaching for this I am joyful in Jesus no matter my life circumstance. As a human, it is so easy to slip off this path and start reaching for other things. Thank God that He left us His Word and Spirit to continually redirect us.

Rethinking Church

This is almost a radical way of thinking for Christians of today, but it really resembles the early church that is described at the end of Acts 2. What is your response to this video?

The Parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee

This is my new favorite Bible story. I've read it many times and even while calling on Jesus to be my savior, I still floated on thinking "I'm so glad I'm not like the Pharisee" How foolish. 
One day, God set this story in front of me and it was like a beam straight out of Heaven finally shedding light on my sin. How could I not see that I was still the pharisee? While I was secretly "judging judges", I was stumbling through life with a "plank in my eye".(Matthew 7:3)
“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
How do you remove the eye plank obstacle? I don't think you can. I think God must do it for you. When somehow, the Holy Spirit grabs you and illuminates the depths of your soul, and you become like the tax collector and you can't even lift your eyes to Heaven, that's when you will really feel the weight of grace.

Inability to Forgive

Life circumstances have kept my family from attending church for several weeks. One or more of us has been sick almost since Christmas. Before the break, the church we have been attending was doing a sermon series on Sin Magnets. Members of the church voted and the pastor preached on what we considered to be our top five "sin magnets", or the top 5 temptations in our lives that lead us to sin.

Number 3 on that list was:  The Inability to Forgive  If you have the time I encourage you to watch this sermon. I was not at church this day, but I really felt the Holy Spirit saying "this is for you", so I sat down and watched it.

The first part of the sermon was the "why" of forgiveness. We know that we are called to because God forgave us. It really started to convict me at about 19 minutes when he got to the "how".

Steps to Forgiveness

1. Accept God's forgiveness for yourself

2. Forgive in the heart first

3. Then, make the first move

4. Forgetting is part of forgiving

5. Pray

I have held on to bitterness many times in my life. I think my problem is that I often forget step 2. I go straight to the action because I want to look like the better person. That is the honest truth.
Now, if I am not letting God into my heart, how can I expect him to bless my actions?
When Pastor Welsh talked about that, it really hit home for me. I started thinking about how my Heavenly Father has forgiven me. What if He was on His Heavenly throne thinking the same kind of bitter thoughts toward me like I have been doing toward others that I have claimed to forgive? I would be absolutely devastated.
That is the thing about grace. It comes straight from the heart. If I want it, I have to be able to give it out, too. Pastor Welsh said "...saying the words 'I forgive you' is not the same as forgiving." This is so much easier said than done. That is where step 5 comes in. Pastor Welsh said that " can't stay angry at someone that you honestly pray for every day. The Holy Spirit won't allow that...prayer not only changes our circumstances, prayer changes us..."
I wanted to write this down to write it on my heart. And, if anyone is out there, that like me, wants to forgive, but just doesn't know how to, I hope this helps you as it did me.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Testimony from The Lord's Table

I have struggled with my weight since my early twenties. I have tried many diets and even had some success, but it was always short lived. After the birth of my third child my weight was at an all time high. I was disgusted at my inability to control my eating habits which drove me further into shame and food. I was using food to try and comfort my sorrows, reward my joys, and simply provide entertainment.
I confessed to my husband that I thought I might be addicted to food much like a person would be addicted to drugs. On New Years Day, one of my friends mentioned that they were starting a Bible study called the Lord's Table to try and lose some weight. I checked out the website and I felt the Holy Spirit tugging at me to move, so I did.
Through the Bible studies in The Lord's Table course, I began to understand that food had become an idol for me. I was going to food to try to satisfy my soul hunger instead of to the Lord. How grievous this must have been for Him.
Learning that what I had always joked about or excused away was actually the sin of gluttony was a tough pill to swallow. What I have learned in the Bible through the studies at The Lord's Table really goes against everything our society has to say about food and weight loss. We are taught just to focus on the right foods and live in the gym, but that is just another kind of idolatry.
Through this course, I have learned how to feed myself at His table by sitting at Jesus' feet, daily and letting the living Word of God change my heart. As my desire for Jesus has awakened, my lust for things of this word, including food, is dying. It has been a difficult journey so far. I have actually taken the course two times because at the end of my first sixty days I was still really struggling to deny my flesh. I was still listening to Satan's lies that I should be able to handle this problem on my own.
I was finally granted the gift of repentance and saw my nasty sin for what it really was. For the first time in my life as a Christ follower I understood that not only did Jesus die and pay the price for my sins so that I can be granted eternal life, but when He rose again I was also granted a new life here on earth. One that is free from the bondage of sin. Yes, I am still a sinner, but I am not held captive by my sin. I still have a way to go before the outer evidence of my soul transformation is complete, but I can praise God for that victory that I know will be won. I can step out in faith to meet Jesus. When I make Him my first love He will bring victory to me.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Act of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us.We have started planning our menus, shopping, and the Black Friday adds are being published. Devoting a holiday to the celebration of all that we have to be thankful for is an American tradition. It's wonderful to take time away from work to be with our loved ones and enjoy each other's company. And there's the food. Who doesn't love the food? Juicy roasted turkey, creamy mounds of mashed potatoes, steaming heaps of green bean casserole- my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I love Thanksgiving!

We are all familiar with the traditional American celebration of Thanksgiving. Most of us know the puritan origins as well. We remember the stories we learned in elementary school about Squanto and the Pilgrims. What we may not realize is that when Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday during the height of the
Civil War in 1863 by president Lincoln, his intention was to entreat all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife..." It sounds to me, like President Lincoln wanted them to take that day and really reflect on how incredibly blessed they were and how much they had to be thankful for during those considerably trying times, and to come to God in prayer for those who were not as fortunate. This is still absolutely relevant, today.

I think we need to focus more on just what it looks like to be thankful. President Lincoln wanted us to "ask God", and prayer is definitely powerful and effective (James 5:16). I'm thinking of another scripture, though.
     If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:16)
We can pray to God and ask Him to help those in need. The Bible is full of the promise that He listens. The Bible is also full of the assurance that we can and should help.
     Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)
In fact, Ephesians 4:28 tells us that the reason we should work is so that we "...may have something to share with those in need."
I am really looking forward to celebrating all aspects of Thanksgiving this year, but I have been convicted about the true purpose of the holiday and just what it means to show my thanks. I believe it is best summed up by 2 Corinthians 9:12:
     This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

Here are some of my favorite local serving opportunities:

Here is a great way to find your own volunteering match:

Here us a quiz to help you in determining what you spiritual gifts are:


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What Can I learn From the Story of David and Bathsheba?

I was recently given a reading assignment:  2 Samuel 11.  It is the story of King David and Bathsheba.  How does this relate to me? You can read it here.  To paraphrase, David was King. He was very powerful and favored by God. His army was doing well. He happened to see a beautiful woman bathing across the street and he had to have her. He was told that she was married. It didn't matter to him. He wanted her anyway. He sent for her, slept with her, and got her pregnant. He sent for her husband and tried to trick him into sleeping with her so he would think it was his, and when that didn't work, he had him killed. It was a real downward spiral.
I was pretty familiar with this story.  I'd read the account numerous times and have seen Gregory Peck play it out on the silver screen. I have never really thought about how it related to me until now. I read it over and over again in several different versions (like the CEV, Message, and NIV), and three truths finaly stood out to me.
The first truth is that it all started with one, seemingly simple action.  David was looking at something he shouldn't have. He probably thought that it wasn't hurting anyone for him just to look. How many times have we had a similar dialogue with ourselves?
"It's okay just to have one more cookie, it's not hurting anyone. There are worse things I could be doing."  "One more drink is fine. It's not like I'm an alcoholic or something."
 "It's okay for me to talk to this person online.  We're just talking.  There's nothing wrong with that."
These little actions may seem harmless, or like they aren't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but they add up. They pave the path to destruction.  They cause little cracks in our wall that allow Satan to climb up higher and higher. He is the one who is giving us all of the excuses and telling us it's not a big deal.  I like the way the CEV version puts it in James 1:13-15.  "Don't blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn't tempt others.  We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us.  Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead."  David allowed himself to be tempted by his lust for Bathsheba, and that lust drug him off into committing adultery and murder.
The second truth that is apparent in this story is that God always gives us a way out.  1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) promises us that "...God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."  When reading David's story you can easily see all of the ways out that God has given him. In verse 3 of 2 Samuel 11 we see that David sent someone to find out about Bathsheba, and they reported back that she was married.  He didn't care! In verse 4 we find out that David slept with her during her time of purification from her monthly period.  This could have been another opportunity God was giving David to get out of the situation because a woman was still considered "unclean" for seven days after her period (Leviticus 15:19).  In verses 6-13 we see that David is trying to trick Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, into going home and sleeping with his wife so that he might end up thinking the baby is his.  It failed twice!  Uriah was a good guy and he didn't think it was right to have the comforts of his home and his wife when the rest of the soldiers were still out on the battlefield.  Don't you wish David had recognized Uriah's integrity and fessed up? After all, it's not like Uriah could do anything to him.  He was King!  God gave him so many opportunities to end all of the lies and deceit.  He will do that for all of us.
The third truth that I found in this story is probably the most important.  You actually have to read ahead a little bit to find it.  We read in the rest of the story that David had Uriah killed on the battlefield and took Bathsheba as his own wife.  Verse 27 tells us that "What David had done displeased the Lord."  If we read on into chapter 12 we see that David finally realized the gravity of what he had done and repented. (2 Samuel 12:13) and although God punished him, he forgave him and took away the sin.  I say this is the most important truth because it is true for us all. No matter what horrible thing we may have done (adultery and murder seems pretty bad), God will forgive us if we repent! David himself wrote in Psalm 103:12 "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."
Even though the story of David and Bathsheba might seem so far removed from our lives today,  I believe we can learn three important truths from it:  There is not such thing as a small sin, God always gives us a way out of our temptation, and God will always forgive.