Shame was first introduced in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Verse 7 states, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (NIV). Later in the passage God called out to Adam and Eve and their immediate response was to hide, because they were naked and felt afraid. Before sin entered the world, there was an essence of pure freedom in the Garden of Eden. All was right, no guilt and shame existed. Can you imagine it? No guilt. No shame. Freedom.
Then sin kicked open the door and attacked that freedom. It went after everyone’s security, peace, and even their identity. You see, when we give sin power its sole desire is to overpower us. It wants to take the wheel of the car and tell us to get in the back seat. Then it fills up suitcase after suitcase with shame and guilt. Guess where those suitcases are thrown? In the backseat with you until you have no room to grow or breath.
His sacrifice for our sins. His deep love for you took the wheel back. Hebrews 12:2 states, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (NIV). He took out the suitcases from the car and put you back in the front seat. The suitcases filled with shame and guilt are no more. The power now lies within the one who OVERPOWERED the enemy. The same power is given to you and me through the Holy Spirit. A spirit that encourages you to live a life according to the spirit and not the flesh.
“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:3-6).
We do not have to live a life with a suitcase filled with shame and guilt. God has forgiven us of our sins-past, present and future. When those feelings come up, it might indicate areas in your life to ask God about. Perhaps there are places that need more healing or sin that has surfaced. Don’t dwell in shame. Work through it, feel it, and ask God help you heal.
November 22, 2017
Living a Thankful Life
As we approach Thanksgiving and take time to reflect on our lives, our attention often attaches to the events we encountered over the past year. Life being as it is, naturally brings a share of good and a measure of struggle. As Christians, we are called to recognize more than just the good events and lift up those good events to show our gratefulness. Instead, we, as the people of God, are invited to live truly thankful lives in all of the circumstances of life, both triumph and tragedy.
Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In light of the good and bad that life can throw our way, giving thanks in everything is the challenge of living a thankful life.
Over this past year, as I faced some wonderful circumstances and struggled through some difficult times, I came to realize that it was not the events of life that had the greatest impact on me, but rather it was the people God used to touch my life as I celebrated and as I mourned, that drew me into a truly thankful life.
God works through His people. Through a hug, a phone call, a text message, a prayer, a visit, through laughter and through tears with others, God reminds us that He is always present in our lives. The love of Jesus is best felt through the caring hands of his disciples.
Living a thankful life comes from the realization that the Creator is invested in us and is present with us and will walk beside us through all circumstances. Living a thankful life means appreciating those people in our lives that provide us a way of experiencing the living Christ through them
Thanks be to God and thanks be for His people.
November 15, 2017
The Posture of our Heart, Worship
A bell rings out as the Goin’ Band begins to play the fight song. The crowd roars and claps along with the band, it is all they can do to not jump out of their seats and run out onto the field.
The ball goes through the hoop as the buzzer rings out and in unison, an arena that moments earlier seemed desolate, erupts in a frenzy of excitement and joy.
After 64.5 innings, with one out a team energizes a city that has endured much pain and suffering. Today they are World Series Champions. Football, basketball, baseball or any other sport or activity you might want to insert in that place; these are all exciting events that elicit a response from us.
My wife knows about football. Let me be clear she knows enough about football to get excited about it and shout, only positive things on occasion, that is. However she, nor myself for that matter, would be qualified to fill the role of the officials that review the close calls. And that, brothers and sisters, is the point.
While an intellectual understanding of how and why we worship is a good thing, it is not a prerequisite for our worship. God is not calling us to an analytical or academic comprehension of Him in order to seek Him; rather we are called to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37). Now, as is evident in the last part of that passage from Matthew, we don’t just turn our minds off, we pursue God with every part of our being.
As we spend time in The Word and seek God in our prayer and devotions, God reveals his character to us. When we join with our brothers and sisters in fellowship and bless one another with our presence by sharing our life with them, God reveals himself to us. When we gather together in corporate worship, God reveals himself to us. “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them” (Jn 14:21). When we seek God, He is faithful to reveal himself to us.
Worship is the posture of our heart as a response to our Heavenly Father’s unending love and His boundless mercy and grace. These are the things that should elicit a response from us in all aspects of our lives, not just Sunday mornings. Our offering and investment in worship is not predicated on understanding, but is a response to who God is.
“O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure” (Isa 25:1).
November 8, 2017
Recently at our son’s wedding reception, one of the precious young bridesmaids asked me the secret to raising such great kids. She had limited time with our family but she detected our love and dedication to Christ and one another during her short time with us that wedding-week. Her question took me by surprise but led me to think how I would answer her with more clarity now.
First, even with perfect parenting, kids make poor decisions and often have to live out the consequences...just look at Adam and Eve! Here is my disclaimer: Craig and I are not perfect people, certainly not perfect parents, but we were and are intentional in our parenting. Here are a few things that we did that assisted in raising kids that bless us.
1. Parent with the end goal in mind. What kind of person do we want our children to become? We wanted them to know God’s great and faithful love for them, to be worshippers of Jesus and be kind and contributing people. I journaled goals, mission and vision statements for my children. I prayed for God to do His work in them.
2. Be a person with the desire to progress spiritually. Our pursuit of Jesus enables us to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, more patient, kind, good, gentle, faithful and to parent our children with better self-control. He leads us as we lead them. Have your own devotional time, prayer and study, go on retreats, seek God. Experience God delighting in you, and delight in your children as He does.
3. Live out your faith, talk about Jesus in everyday life situations.
Be the same at home as you are in public. Be authentic. Jesus is real and a relationship with God is life-changing, life-directing and good! That He comforts us through the tough times and He is always with us.
4. Seek out your children’s Love Language, their personality (Meyers Briggs, True Colors, Enneagram number, etc) and relate in the most effective way with him/her. Teach them how to seek to understand others and honor their differences, to learn to work with others with various strengths and weaknesses.
5. As we serve others and work serving God in the church, keep in mind that our children are our first disciples. Make sure to prioritize time and energy for them. Read Christian books, watch Christian videos, listen to Christian music, talk about the things of God. Worship together, pray together, serve others together. Decide what is really important in life then emphasize that. I would ask myself, “What eternal value does this have?”, then I would try to prioritize that or not worry. This helps you choose your battles, decide what can be deleted from the schedule or your worries.
6. Have fun! Play, laugh, work together. Camping, then backpacking together once our youngest was 4 years old, was the answer for us. No distractions, no electronics: TV, phone calls, social media, etc. We had to work as a team, helping one another, then sharing communion and verbalizing what God was showing us to “leave on the mountain and what new thing God was showing us to take home”. Find out what activities help bond your family together and do it.
7. Make opportunities for your kids to learn about Jesus and hear the same lessons you are teaching at home about God’s love, His Gospel and service to others from other Christian leaders: Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Church Camps, Mission Trips, etc. Our kids made life altering decisions at church camp, dedicating their lives to God’s calling.
8. Discipline with a balance of love and consistent, fair, firmness, not anger. Teach obedience that is required for protection and life!
9. Teach kindness, responsibility, sacrifice, and consequences to actions. Be an example of the kind of person you want them to become. When we fall short, we must be willing to admit when we are wrong and should not be afraid to apologize.
10. Know that our kids are God’s kids first. He loves them more than we do, believe it or not! He has a hope and plan for their lives. Trust Him. Their souls are in His hands.
Again, we made many mistakes, but thankfully, His grace is bigger than our mistakes! And still is!
“Children are a gift from the LORD.” Psalm 127:3
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
In His grace,
November 1, 2017
Biblical Ways to Handle Stress
Every morning I wake up with a song. Funny how that happens, I never know what it will be. Some days it is the same songs as the day before. Sometimes that song gets stuck on replay… over and over again. Some days it is perfectly obvious how that song has meaning for me today. Those are great days. I have just the words for a friend in need, just the song for an aching in my heart and some days I struggle with that replay.
Today’s song was O for a Heart to Praise my God. I wonder why that one comes today. I haven’t heard it in a while. It wouldn’t be one of my top 10 or 100 favorites. As I have prayed over this week’s devotional on how to handle stress in a biblical way, maybe that was God’s answer for me. Maybe an answer is music.
Several years ago there was a 30 day challenge on Christian radio to listen to nothing but Christian music for a month. I decided to try that and these years later my radio still stays on Christian music. There are lots of different types of Christian music and lots of stations it seems! What that challenge meant to me was what to surround and focus myself with when driving. As a result so many more songs have filled my heart and mind in answer to prayers and praise to God. My favorites expanded to so many more different kinds of music.
Music has always seemed to evoke special emotions in all of us. We remember the hymn our grand-parents may have sung, or maybe special music from weddings funerals and other special occasions. The best thing about Christian music is that it fits every occasion in every form. Try listening to Gods words in music for a while and see if that doesn’t transform some of that stress to praise.
For today I am going to stick with my song for the day. Written by John Wesley and introduced to hymn books in 1742. Oh for a Heart to Praise my God.
1. O for a heart to praise my God,
a heart from sin set free,
a heart that always feels thy blood
so freely shed for me.
2. A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
my great Redeemer's throne,
where only Christ is heard to speak,
where Jesus reigns alone.
3. A humble, lowly, contrite heart,
believing, true, and clean,
which neither life nor death can part
from Christ who dwells within.
4. A heart in every thought renewed
and full of love divine,
perfect and right and pure and good,
a copy, Lord, of thine.
5. Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart;
come quickly from above;
write thy new name upon my heart,
thy new, best name of Love.