Sunday, August 17, 2014

I Change My Mind

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
Philippians 2:5

     I have become a Negative Nancy. The older I get, the more I am like Crankshaft! I grouse about the state of our country. I slander whole races rather than seeing the worth of the individual. I gripe about television commercials. I'm an old grump! When and how did this happen? How can I gain the mind of Christ?

     I set out to implore God to change my mind and I have no doubt that He will. After all, he "knows the thoughts of man" (Psalm 94:11) and he is never against self-improvement. It gives him the glory he so deserves when people want to become more like him.

     My prayer is for wisdom. Lord, show me to adopt the attitude of Jesus.

     Here's a start I found in scripture: put myself aside. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3) Be interested in others. Take on the very nature of a servant. Humble myself. Be obedient to God's will. Die to self.

     I am reading a memoir written by Vinh Chung entitled Where The Wind Leads. He says:

"There is no greater love than to give one's life for a friend, but giving one's life does not always mean dying- sometimes it means living. Living can be a sacrifice, too, and a noble one, especially when it's done to benefit someone else. Dying might require more love, but living takes a lot more endurance."
     There are many little ways each day that I can "die to self" - call a friend, let someone go ahead of me in line, put a newspaper on the porch for a neighbor, send flowers anonymously, pay a compliment, visit an elderly person, mail a card of encouragement, practice hospitality, commit random acts of kindness. 
     Do not complain or argue. Work out my salvation with fear and trembling, being confident that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion. God, you are the Potter; I am the clay. "Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still."
     Romans 8:6 says, "The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace."  Therefore, may the Spirit help me to think about these things, as spoken of in Philippians chapter four: Whatever is noble, true, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Ferret out the good stuff, dig for treasure. Seek and I shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto me. Work at it with all my heart because it is the Lord Jesus I am serving. Let my conversation be always full of grace. (Colossians 4:6)
     If you notice you have become a Negative Nancy like me, you don't have to settle for that. Change your mind! It's a woman's perogative, after all.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Love Lavished on Us

"...he ran to his son..."
Luke 15:20

     When I picture God, I never picture him running. Seems like, in my imagination, he sits on his throne or he may stand with outspread arms and flowing garments. But running? What would cause him to run?

     In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells about a young man who was sick of working on the farm so he told his father he wanted his share of the inheritance - couldn't even wait for his father to die to receive it - he wanted it now. Then, he squandered it all in wild living. Seemed like a great idea at the time.

     This is likely how addictions get started. Alcohol commercials make it seem like only the sleek and sophisticated imbibe with the beautiful partygoers. A small voice deep inside prods you to partake in sinful living until you are so embroiled in it that it's killing you slowly. The sleek scenes that pulled you in have become ugly tableaus of dirty neediness yet you don't have the power to end it all unless you take your own life...

     The son in the parable had hit rock bottom, deciding he'd return to the farm and ask to be a hired hand.

     Picture his father, scanning the horizon as he has done each day since the son left. He spots him! Before the errant young man with the bowed head has a chance to open his mouth to explain, the father runs to him and engulfs him in a hearty embrace. "Get some clean clothes! Put a ring on his finger! Let's party! This son of mine who was lost, has come home!"

     It doesn't matter how you've squandered your riches, how you've treated your inheritance. You are God's child and he loves you unconditionally! Repent and come home. He has left a light on for you.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"
1 John 3:1

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When Money Morphs Into Mammon

"No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon."
Matthew 6:24

     What is money? Is it more than just a way of exchanging this for that? This week, I read a quote from an Irish clergyman, Donagh O'Shea:

     "Money is much more than the paper it seems to be, or the metal or the plastic. It is our love of things; it is our escape from dependence on people; it is our security against death; it is our effort to control life. It is easier to love things than to love people. Things are dead so you can possess them easily. Money will never hurt your feelings or challenge your motives, but neither will it respond to you - because it is dead. After a while, you will be incapable of loving anyone. The religion of God is the religion of love. The instinct of love is to share, to give away. But the instinct of Mammon is to accumulate."

     When the temple was going to be built by Solomon, King David, from his personal possessions, contributed 110 tons of gold and 260 tons of silver! It was not a tax write-off that possessed him to do so. This is what he had to say:

     "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand." (1 Chronicles 29:14)

      Once you know the source of your wealth, it makes it so much easier to let it all go! It is not yours, you can't take it with you. We are merely conduits of the power, like electricity; God is the source. So, let all he gives you run through you and overflow to others who really need it - be it money or talent or time or emotions. Freely you have been given; freely you should give. We have been commanded to love one another. Why would you want to love the things God gave you rather than the God who gives? That is when money morphs into Mammon. The definition of mammon is "the false god of riches and avarice."

     There is one suit I always wear that has no pockets: my birthday suit! It will also be my deathday suit, when I think about it. "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart." (Job 1:21) If I should die today, the only purse I will carry is my heart. What is in there? The admission price to heaven was paid with innocent blood, the sacrifice of Jesus. If he is not found in my heart, I am not admitted.

     Dear God, may I serve you and you alone. Forgive me if I ever feel prideful or possessive of the things you have given me. Remind me to keep the flow going, to share with others and not keep a clenched fist. I love because you first loved me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I'd Rather Be Laughing

"Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
James 4: 8-10

     I prefer Easter over Good Friday. At church, the altar is bursting with trumpeting lilies. The congregants are fairly buzzing with excitement, well-coifed and arrayed in their Sunday best. Star soloists lead the exuberant procession as brass horns gaily announce the Lord's resurrection. It's as if the rocks themselves would sing for joy if no one else did. This I much prefer over the somber melancholy of Good Friday; the black cloth entombing the cross, the stark altar void of decor, the dim lights and hushed tones, all very funereal.

     Yet, to arrive at the point of jubilation, I must first trod through the valley of Christ's death, humble myself, mourn and wail over my sinful soul. I must envelope myself with the sackcloth and ashes of my original state in order to recognize my need of a Savior. The outpouring of Jesus' innocent blood should cause me to kneel in true contrition, showing me just how much I have fallen short of the glory of God.

     Dear God, as your holy light shines into the dark cobwebs of my heart, convict me as the sinner I truly am so that, when you lift me up, I may soar higher than I ever thought possible. Amen.

"And God will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of his hand."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Don't Eat Pine Cones

     God's word is alive, viable, fresh every day. It never morphs into a dusty novel on the shelf. Even my favorite work, Gone With The Wind, cannot feed my soul, though I've read it numerous times. It cannot be a "lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:106) No other book can do this: "I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11)

     "If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." (John 8:51) Eternal life is within its pages!

     "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (Mark 13:31) This book will never be out of print.

     Think about the food you eat. There are calories. Vitamins and minerals are extracted to meet our daily needs. It gives us energy. We would not eat pebbles or pine cones (hopefully!) because they are void of the things our bodies need. No, we must eat the right things to thrive and survive.

     Living on God's word provides my soul with all it needs: direction, hope, eternal life. It satiates my curiosities about how the world began, how it's going to end and all that happened in between. Turning to any other book would be like eating pine cones. No wonder it remains the best seller. I know it's the only book in my collection that is read every day.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Fairy Tale Come True

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."
Ephesians 2:8 & 9

     Do you believe in fairy tales? Maybe you wished a Prince Charming would notice you, rescue you and take you to live in a wonderful castle. Maybe you married someone, your dreamy attractive person, only to be disappointed. Don't worry! You just picked the wrong Prince.

     Cinderella was lifted from the ashes of her life and given a diaphanous blue gown to wear to the impressive ball, where she had longed to go.

     Sleeping Beauty was roused from her nap, freed from the curse that was placed upon her, by the kiss of a benevolent lover.

     Snow White found unconditional love, apart from the vain queen who sought revenge.

     Every fairy tale seems to have an ogre, a rotten-toothed, hunchbacked, mean-spirited person that sets out to harm the protagonist, usually a sweet, young girl in need of rescue. Who will save her from this tower of captivity or this life of drudgery? Is there someone strong enough to break the binds of injustice, the curse of evil that was cast?

     Yes! Jesus is that Prince. True royalty, whose kingdom shall never end, he laid down his life for his Beloved. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He pulls us from the sooty ashes of despair, dressing us in the most lovely, shimmering gown. Listen to this passage from Isaiah, chapter 61:

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives
And release from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn,
And provide for those who grieve in Zion-
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
     This is one fairy tale that is true and has a happy ending.
"This is amazing grace,
This is unfailing love,
That you would take my place,
That you would bear my cross.
You laid down your life,
That I would be set free.
Jesus, I sing for all that you've done for me."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Hebrews Queue

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they'd been thinking of the country they'd left, they'd have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."
Hebrews 11: 13-16

     The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is known as The Faith Chapter since the word "faith" is used 28 times. God's definition of faith is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (verse one) It goes on with an all-saints line up, a who's who of Bible days. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses are a few named.

     Abel loved God and showed it by offering his very best to him. Enoch was so close in his walk with God that he did not taste death, he just disappeared one day. Noah risked ridicule by building a boat where there was no water and he kept his faith is a very godless society. Abraham struggled to assemble a crib on his 100th birthday.

     Maybe these people all seemed nuts to their neighbors. Picture one skeptic buzzing to a buddy at the corner bar: "Now why do you suppose Abraham would pull up his tent pegs without a game plan? He doesn't even know where he's going, doesn't even have a map! What a loser!"

     And what's up with this guy, Moses? He'd rather mush in mud with the tattered Hebrews than wallow in the riches of Egypt?

     Strange people, these Christians. In modern day, we might appear looney to some as we nibble a wee wafer and sip from a tiny cup, or dribble water on the sleeping head of an infant, or bow our heads to pray in a restaurant.

     But, you see, we are aliens here, eagerly waiting to set up housekeeping in the New Jerusalem, watching the skies for the trumpet call heralding the second advent of Christ. We believe in things we cannot see and are so certain about it that we surrender all.

    Where is my name in the Hebrews Queue? "By faith, Rachel..." How am I filling in the blanks today?