Tell Them The Truth

Last night I was woken at one by a heart wrenching wailing. At first I thought they were screams of pain, and I guess in a way they were. I opened my window to pinpoint the sound so that I would better know what to do. Right across the street a woman was howling and pounding on the window of the house. As I groped for my phone to call 911 another neighbor shouted, “What’s going on?” Her reply was, “My brother just killed himself.” I finished the call and cried. My husband and I prayed. My heart hurt for the family, that young woman, and the young man who thought that life was so bad, he took his own.

How do you go back to sleep after that? I prayed some more. I thanked God that my children and grandchildren were safe. Then I asked God, “How many people committed suicide today.” Which led to, “How many were murdered, raped, abandoned, hurt, tortured, and left to die.” I didn’t receive an answer. So I asked, “Isn’t this breaking your heart?” Still no answer. As I thought about this hurting world, this evil world we live in, God reminded me of a blog I wrote recently. I had stated that asking God “why” when bad things happen is futile, what we should be asking is “What now?” Not the answer I expected, however, it was the one I needed.

The more I thought about the evil in this world, especially suicide, the angrier I got. No, I wasn’t angry at God. But I was so filled with hate for the Devil. That old serpent who still deceives. His original lie in the garden is the same one he uses today. He still tells us that something is being withheld from us, something that is either unattainable, or that we have to somehow get for ourselves. He lied to that young man and told him, “No one cares, end your life and the pain will be gone.” That man believed that the only way to peace was at his own hand. He never found out the truth that someone does care, more than he could ever imagine and that that Someone could have brought peace into his life.

I remember those lies. They used to be whispered in my ear as a young person. I had my battle with the spirit of suicide, the spirit of death, and I spent some time last night and today thanking God for staying my own hand so many times when I thought I couldn’t handle the pain anymore. Satin is evil. He has infected this world with his evil. BUT God is good!

So now I am asking God, “What now?”

His answer, “Tell them I am good. Tell them they are loved, they matter, they have value. Tell them the truth.”

Obviously

 

Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV), “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 7:20 (NLT), “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

What exactly is a “Silent Witness” or a “Closet Christian”? To some it is the opposite of a so-called follower of Christ who beats them over the head with the word, or who spouts off scripture when a hug or a helping hand is needed, or even worse, blasts them with a fire hose when a refreshing drink is all that is needed, the ones who are afraid as coming across as “one of those” people.

Honestly, in today’s world I can see the temptation to just keep your mouth shut and live right and hope someone asks you what is different about your life. However, if we are being honest, that isn’t what God has asked us to do at all. Yes, we live right. Yes, our life should be a living testimony of God’s love and forgiveness. Yet it is more than that. It has to be. Look at Matthew five again. We are to be a light that can’t be hidden. And in Matthew 7, Jesus tells us that a tree is identified by its fruit. If I am an apple tree, I should be bearing apples. If I am a light house, my light should be seen by every sinking and faltering ship out there in the perilous waters.

Sometimes, most of the time actually, that involves speaking. We have to tell them who’s we are. Just living right isn’t going to get a single soul saved. Living a hidden Christian life, so as not to offend anyone, isn’t going to help bring anyone out of the darkness and into the light. If we speak boldly as we ought, if we shine that light on some sinful behavior, if we live right in the midst of a world living so…wrong, won’t we face some opposition, maybe even persecution. Yep! In fact that is one way that we will know we are living for Him.

Who we are should be obvious. Again I know in today’s world that is a hard one. Today you can’t even use the once affective, “checking the body parts” to see if that seemingly genderless person is male or female. We can’t tell by the clothes, the makeup or lack of, we can’t tell by mannerisms, or really anything. We have become a world that wants no divisions at all, yet is so divided! So shouldn’t we live by a different standard? As Christians we want it to be obvious that we are male, or female. We want it to be obvious that we are hard workers, honest people, good parents, productive citizens, and fun people to be around. Shouldn’t it be just as obvious that we are His? I want people to know that Heaven is my home, that Jesus is my King, and that God is my Father. I want them to know that I am being led by The Holy Spirit, I have been washed by the blood, and that they can be too.

There is no such thing as a closet Christian. Shouldn’t it be obvious who’s we are. Obviously!

Be a shining star!

Philippians 2:12-15 (Berean Study Bible) “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world.”

Hard Stuff

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II Peter 1:5-9 (NASB), “for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”

Life is tough, living in this fallen world isn’t always easy, and we have an enemy who loves to tempt our fleshly nature to take over. On top of all of that, sometimes we are just plain stupid and we do stupid things, think stupid thoughts, and say stupid words. One of my favorite quotes is a John Wayne quote: “Life if hard, it is even harder when you are stupid.”

That kind of stupid can only be fixed by one kind of education, educating yourself, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in the word. Finding out who God really is and how He thinks of you. Knowing your rights and responsibilities as a Christian keeps you from living a life that is harder than it has to be.

I Corinthians 10:13 (NIV), “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And 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.”

Sure we all go through stuff, hard stuff, ugly stuff, and unwanted stuff. Stuff happens! We don’t get to choose what we are handed, but we do get to choose how we handle it. I want to learn from my mistakes, don’t you? In fact I would prefer to learn from other’s mistakes and not have to deal with it in a close and personal way, but sometimes I am hard headed and hard hearted and God allows me to go through the fire to get rid of the junk. When I do, if I really surrender to Him, I come out looking, feeling, and living better. The dross is skimmed off of the top and all that is left is the precious metal. Like silver and gold that goes thru the furnace so that it can be purified, I come out stronger, with more faith, and more confidence in the Father.

Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to so that our lives get better. We stand in the gap for a loved one (or an enemy). We do the job no one wants, we work out things in our lives that shouldn’t be there, when the easy thing is to just pretend it isn’t there. We tell others when we mess up, we confess our sin, we repent, turn back to God and move on. I choose to obey God, to follow instructions, to submit to those in authority over me because they watch over my soul.

When I do this I grow up, I mature. My weaknesses are shored up, and my strengths are used for His glory.

Today I will do what others want so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” – Football player Jerry Rice

We all go through the same stuff, but in Christ, we don’t lose our joy over it.

Heart Hooks

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Isaiah 61:1-3 (KJB), “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”

Have you ever been hooked by a fish hook? Maybe seen someone who has? I have several times, some of the stories are downright comical, others make you cringe just thinking about them. The thing about a fish hook is that you can’t just pull those things out. They have little barbs on them that are supposed to keep you from losing your fish.

I read a book recently where they used this analogy to explain the hurts in our heart. Those hurts are like fish hooks, full of barbs that are embedded in our hearts. You really can’t just pull them out. God knows this and cares about us so much that he takes them out the “easy way”. This involves pushing them through. It is still painful, believe me, it will hurt. However, it will not do more damage. Our Father knows the safest way to get them out. He can remove them without tearing our hearts to pieces. He is in the repair business not the demolition business after all.

We read in scripture about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, resisting, and then coming out of that experience full of the power of the Holy Spirit. He immediately started teaching in the synagogues. We read in Luke that He returns to His hometown, where He was raised and as was His custom, went to the synagogue there. He stands up and reads those words out of Isaiah. I enjoy the King James Version of this one because it reads that He came to “bind up the brokenhearted”. When I read this version, I always picture a torn and ravaged heart that He tenderly wraps in the gauze of His love, stopping the hemorrhaging.

That’s why He came. To heal our hearts. To show us that the Father’s love is more than enough to bind up any brokenness, to stitch up every wound, to break up every stony place, and to fill our hearts with His love (His love is “shed abroad” in our hearts.)

I found myself recently having to allow one of those barbs to be removed. I thought that the broken place had already been healed. Sometimes we don’t even know about a wound until God starts that gently pushing. Did it hurt? You bet. It also brought up some ugly stuff that I didn’t want to deal with. Yet, I have gotten smarter with every hook removed, so I allowed Him to do His thing. I was left feeling emotional, drained, and free! One more hurt gone. One more kiss from Daddy on the boo-boo. I am glad that just because we think everything is fine, doesn’t mean that He stops working on us. He knew I still harbored that hook. He also knew it was not part of His plan for my life. So out came the spotlight and there it was.

When that happens, the best thing to do is immediately surrender that hurt to God. Forgive anyone you need to, and ask Him to take it out. I used to reason with myself, make excuses, say things like, “I already got over that years ago,” or get on the bandwagon of lamenting all the hurts in my life, or take on a victim mentality. I learned the hard way that doing those things only makes those barbs reproduce. It makes the hooks grow, and it makes the process of removing them take even longer, and hurt a lot worse. That’s why it is important ask God to search our hearts. Allow the Holy Spirit to show us what’s really in there.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB), “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me,  And lead me in the everlasting way.”

This isn’t about just looking for sin, or bad habits, it is also looking for wrong thought patterns, unforgiveness, and unhealed hurts, every “hurtful way” in us. He is faithful, He is gentle, and His love can heal every wound.

Will you let Him?

Intimacy Versus Imitation

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James 4:8a (ESV), “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Hypocrites. We all know a few, maybe we have even been one. Prayerfully you aren’t one now. They say one thing, but do another. They say they are pro-life, but vote for abortion rights. They say they are Christian, but they treat people with contempt not compassion. There are Churches full of people who say they have surrendered to Jesus, yet haven’t changed anything about how they think, live, or talk. There are bars, universities, social clubs, and governments who say they don’t believe in God… until there is a disaster, or war, or a financial crisis.

How about those people over the years who claimed they were your friends, they said they had your back, and they said a lot of things to make you feel good. But when the going got tough, they got going. I call those “two faced” people and “so called friends.”

We can be the same way with God. Instead of being true, real, vulnerable with Him, we fake it. We don’t fool Him, but most of the time we are really trying to fool other people. We can talk like a Christian, spout scripture, even do “good works” but we don’t really know Him, and we certainly haven’t surrendered our lives. Look what Jesus had to say about that.

Matthew 7:21-23 (KJB), “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Just doing good works doesn’t cut it. Sure James said that he’d show us his faith by his works. Yes, if we truly are born of heaven and sold out to the Father, there will be fruit and works. However, works alone won’t get you anything but the accolade of men, and possibly exhaustion.

Back to what James said, there are those who say they love God but they won’t lift a finger for Him. They won’t take their authority as Son’s of God, and they refuse to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit.

II Timothy 1:3-7 (NASB), “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Mark calls them Hypocrites. God says they only do lip service.

Mark 7:6 (NIV), “He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

God doesn’t want bodies. He isn’t into head-counts or roll calls. He wants hearts. Even David talks about this after he had sinned.

Psalm 51:16-17 (NLT), “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

His desire is and always has been intimacy. After kneeling and humbly breathing life into Adam, who He hand sculpted out of dirty, He walked and talking with His creation. He gave them everything, but most importantly, He lavished his affection on mankind. He never wanted anything else. After the fall, His desire didn’t change. Man had changed and every decision, every law, Jesus’ sacrifice, everything He did was for our own good, for the good of mankind. God is love. He loves us always. He wants our love in return. Not out of obligation, that isn’t true love. Not a false and fake love, not lip service, no one-sided, two-faced love affair for Him. He wants genuine, lavish, sacrificial love.

What do you want?

Intimacy or imitation?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then They Will Know

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Ezekiel 39:28 (KJB), “Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them anymore there.”

All through the book of Ezekiel God uses this phrase, “Then they will know that I am God.” Some may have a few words added like “The Lord God” or “Sovereign Lord” but they all say the same thing I started counting in the seventh chapter and gave up. Over and over again God uses these words as He is explaining to Ezekiel what He is doing, what Ezekiel needs to do, and what the prophet needs to tell the people. All of this takes place during the exile to Babylon.

I have often pondered the events that took place in Jerusalem all those years ago. At first glance, it seemed that God was a tad cruel. After a few readings I began to understand a little better. After years of reading through the Bible, I began to side with God, feel deep sorrow in my heart for His spurned love and care. Eventually I understood as much as I am able, of why He allowed His chosen people to go as slaves into other countries.

Let’s take a look at Ezekiel 16:4-14 (NASB),

“As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths. No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.   When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall and reached the age for fine ornaments; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown. Yet you were naked and bare.  Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord GOD. Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord GOD.”

Who is He talking about? Unfaithful Jerusalem. His chosen people. Unwanted, cast out to die, picture a baby still with its umbilical cord attached thrashing, hungry and cold in its own blood, in the garbage dump. Unloved! Then along came the Creator of the Universe and chose them. While they were in that state …He loved them. He had compassion. He cleaned them up, dressed them, covered their shame, and decked them out in jewels. Till they were exceedingly beautiful! What a perfect picture of Perfect Love. It’s better than any fairytale and more romantic than any novel, so we expect a happy ending for Jerusalem, right? The “she loved Him for all of her days, thankful for all that He had done for her.” Let’s keep reading.

Ezekiel 16:15- 22(NASB), “But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing. You took some of your clothes, made for yourself high places of various colors and played the harlot on them, which should never come about nor happen. You also took your beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images that you might play the harlot with them. Then you took your embroidered cloth and covered them, and offered My oil and My incense before them. Also My bread which I gave you, fine flour, oil and honey with which I fed you, you would offer before them for a soothing aroma; so it happened,” declares the Lord GOD. Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire. Besides all your abominations and harlotries you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare and squirming in your blood.”

What? No way. After all this great Lover did for her, she cheated on Him! Can you feel a little righteous anger rising up in you? Can you see things from the eyes of the one who was spurned, mocked, laughed at, and stolen from? Now before we get all self-righteous… He is also writing about me. You. His Church. The Bride of Christ. Weren’t we unwanted, unloved, cast out to die, hungry, and cold wallowing in our own blood, our own filth, in the refuse heap. Then along came the Lover of our souls. Yet, while we were in that condition He loved us. He had compassion. He saw something in us that no one else did. He cleaned us up, dressed us, covered our shame, decked us out in jewels. Till we were exceedingly beautiful.

Our own sin took us there, that awful place where the unwanted, used up, garbage goes. He took us out of the dump and placed us in a palace. He exchanged our ugly garments stained in dirt and blood and dressed us in robes of praise. He did that.

Jesus said that those who were forgiven much, loved much. Yet look at Israel. They turned their backs. How could they? They didn’t really know who their Lover was. When we know Him, really truly, know Him, we won’t leave. Never. We will be like Job and when those around us say, “curse God and die” we will reply, “I know that my redeemer lives, and even if He slays me, yet will I praise Him!” Job lived before grace, so did those adulteress Israelites, but even now under such glorious, scandalous grace, people still turn away from Him. If only they understood how much He loves them. If only they realized that no matter how “green” things look on the other side of the fence, it’s all lies, an illusion, its mirrors and parlor tricks by our enemy to lure us away. Or no matter how rough the path we are on looks, it’s His way. He planned it, He knows where it ends, and He walks with us.

Even after all of Israel’s sin. He saved a few faithful. His word did not return void. Some “knew that He was Lord” because of all they witnessed. Shouldn’t all of His goodness cause us to say, “I know that He is God, He truly is my Lord, the Lover of my soul?”

He will gather them back, if you stray, He will call for you, asking you to come back to Him.

But, the best plan would be to never leave, to remain faithful to your first love, to love Him all the days of your mortal life and for eternity beyond this one. To dedicate yourself to pleasing Him, to showing His love to others, to proving how much you love Him by word deed. It may be lawful for us to do anything under grace, but the question shouldn’t be “is it legal” but “does it please Him?” Don’t run away from the best thing that ever happened to you. Let yourself be “exceedingly beautiful” under His love. Show the world your beauty. It will glorify Him.

Then they will know… that He is Lord.

The Importance of Commitment

Hebrews 10:24-25 (Holman Christian Standard Bible), “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works,  not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Our human nature sure can be a pain. Even though my new nature in Christ is His nature, that old man sure tries to resurrect itself. I have been thinking about the importance of belonging and faithfully attending a local church. I love mine, hate to miss any service, and so whenever the doors are open, you will find me there. However, for a lot of people that just isn’t so. I don’t understand it frankly, except to chalk it up to that same human nature. We quite often find ourselves in a pickle or face to face with what seems to be a grand predicament, or maybe a whole set of problems all at one time. We find ourselves looking for a “specialist” who can set things straight. Now days we don’t have to even “let our fingers do the walking” through the yellow pages, all we have to do is grab our smart phones and do a quick search.

How many of us will run to a doctor, lawyer, therapist, psychologist, dietitians, financial advisor, or counselor? We expect them to fix or at least help us with our mountain (trouble). I expect that from the world, but why are God’s children going to the world first? Our senior pastor brings this point up quite often. We run here and there and when they can’t fix it, or we end up facing yet another issue days later, then we turn to God. How many time have we heard, or God forbid, said, “The only thing left to do is pray”? No, we should first pray! He is doctor, mentor, counselor, father, advisor, He knows us inside and out, He knows our problems, issues, weaknesses, and He knows exactly what we need, and when we need it.

Once we get stuck in the worlds ways of handling problems, we end up running to all of these appointments, setting our schedules around them. We wouldn’t miss one for any reason short of death! You know how hard it is to reschedule an appointment with a specialist. But, when was the last time you missed church? We will miss a service, a prayer meeting, or bible study for the smallest reasons. Did you stay up too late, the kids weren’t cooperating, the dog ran away, your favorite show is on, or just too tired, well then stay home. God understands… right?

I think that is so backwards. How do these worldly people with some fancy letters behind or in front of their name rate as more important than our brothers and sisters in Christ, or more able than God?

How easy is it to tell a doctor all your embarrassing bodily issues,  to tell a counselor all of your weird dreams or troubles, or talk about your financial mess to a financial advisor? How hard is it to go up and ask for prayer during a service, or to call a friend from church to confess your mess and ask for prayer? It shouldn’t be that way.

I remember a conversation with a family (relative) member about sharing something with my pastors and their reply was, “you told your pastors that!” I answered, “if I can’t tell them, who can I tell.” God places us, hand picks us for each local body. If we seek Him, He will put us with believers that are to now be our FAMILY. Sometimes we may act a little dysfunctional, just like our natural families, but unlike in the natural, we have a supernatural Father! He will help us work things out when we are humble and real with Him, each other, and ourselves.

A local church is where we can share our troubles and our triumphs. We can pray for one another, laying hands on the sick, helping out, and encouraging one another. If “Church” to you is just a building that houses a social group who sometimes asks for your money, or if “Church” is something you do once a week, month, or year as a duty, then you might as well stay home. However, if “Church” is a family that happens to meet in a building, and you go to be with your Father and be in relationship with Him and your brother and sisters, you’ll want to go.

I’ll say it again. I love going to church! Is my church family perfect? Ha! No, but do we love each other? You bet we do. Most of them know me inside and out. They’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ungodly parts of me. I can be real, they know they can too. I am committed to them, and to the growth and upkeep of our family. I pay my tithe, I volunteer, I help out where I can, I offer time, resources, and finances to my church. We hang out together and not just at service.

Everything going good for you? Great! Go to church and give God the glory. Having some issues? Get up, no excuses, and GO to Church! You’ll find help there. “But, my church isn’t like that…” I hear you say.

Find a new one! So what if your parents, or your boss go to “that church”, ask God to place you in a church family. Then listen and obey. You may have to sit through a few services, visit a few churches, talk to a few people, but God will help you find your family.