Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Cold Biscuits

Today, is the first day of my children’s summer break from school. On these days, they get up so quietly and even collect Sam, the 4-year-old, hoping they can sneak video games while I sleep in. Even though I’m upstairs sneaking around so they think I’m sleeping. While John I and love getting up early and having the quite house to ourselves for prayer and meditation. My kids and I have this funny, undisclosed agreement, that if we don’t acknowledge each other, we will get to do what we really want to do. Today, after my personal time, I decided to make biscuits. I made them, set the table, put on some calming music (whichis essential with four boys) I even set out jam to add to the fun. Then I went downstairs to find them all lined up on the couch, playing video games together. I said, very gently, “Good morning boys, I made biscuits, come on up and have breakfast with me while they are hot.” I went back up stairs and started reading at the breakfast table. They finally came up to cold biscuits 15 minutes later. While sitting there waiting for them, the Lord showed me the parallel. My kids would have come up right away if I had insisted, but I don’t feel love and respect in the relationship when I’m always shouting orders. It is wonderful when they hear my gentle voice and respond and act right away. Their obedience means more to me when they respond to my gentle voice. How many times have I been eating cold biscuits at Jesus table? How many times have I been slow to respond to His guidance and robbed myself of the full wonderful faith-growing experience? The Father does shout orders at some. i.e. Jonah, the apostle Paul,Balaam. But I would rather not have to be blinded, nearly drowned or scolded by a donkey in order for God to get my attention. No, I would rather be eager to hear my Father’s command and follow him. But just like my kids, it takes practice. I won’t hear the gentle leading of my Father into big life decisions if I don’t practice listening to gentle calls to warm, fresh biscuits. Like a smile and greeting to a neighbor, or a gentle nudge to call up a sibling, or friend; maybe even a whisper to sit and read a book to a little one. With practice, we can find ourselves growing in faith and love and obedience.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Faith does not equal believe

If you are a Bible reader, and, you are wondering why Jesus seemed to think we could live miraculous lives as he lived. The way Jesus spoke and lived, made walking on water seem like nothing. Just have faith and do not doubt! If you are like me and you are scratching your heard, thinking, something doesn’t add up, then this book is for you. In our language we like to use the word “faith” all over the place. “I have faith in you,” says the mother as she tries to encourage her son to walk boldly into whatever it is he fears. “Don’t you have faith in me?” says the husband to the hesitant wife, as he prepares to travel for work again. “Just have faith!” is what we say when we want someone to believe for the best. We use the word faith to describe the religion that we choose to believe. When Jesus uses the word that we translate into faith, I thought he meant simply to believe. He seems to be telling us that we could have the ability to live beyond the physical boundaries of this world--to see and understand a different dimension—to step into belief that Jesus himself has come to live in us and be a part of our being. That we have been given His Name, his identity. I grew up with a sort of blurry concept of the word, ‘faith’. What did Jesus mean, when he said “faith”? in Luke 17:6 “The Lord answered, "If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,' and it would obey you!” Has anyone out there seen any trees obeying your command? Jesus life seems more like a fantasy fiction novel than a reality. Many that use the word, “faith,” are simply meaning believe. (i.e. “I put my faith in Jesus) I don’t think the majority of us who claim Christ as Lord understand what it means to live like Jesus really is Lord, our King or our boss—with complete faith. I found the word ‘faith’ and the word ‘covenant’ sometimes overlap in the different translation of the Scriptures to English. Broadening our understand of faith from simply meaning ‘believe’, to an essential part of a committed relationship. Try using the word faith, as the most integral part of a covenant, or contract. We must have faith to have a covenant. We must have a covenant to have faith. My favorite example of this is drawn from a Seinfeld episode, when George hits a pigeon on the road with his girlfriend in the car. She warns him, “George, watch out for those pigeons.” And George confidently replies, “Oh, they will get out of the way,” right before he plows into the pigeons, feathers flying everywhere. As George is explain to Seinfeild later, how crazy the girlfriend is for thinking he is horrible. George exclaims, “It’s not my fault! Don’t we have a deal with the pigeons?” Seinfeld says, “Right! They get out of the way of our car, and we look the other way when they defecate on the statues.” George has faith in the social deal that humans have with the birds. He had so much faith, that he didn’t even slow the car down. Birds are supposed to get out of the way! When we have any contract, legal or not, we have a general assumption of good faith, expecting both sides to keep up with their part. A conversation recorded in Matthew 17:20-21, when the disciples couldn’t heal a young man, "You don't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." And again, in Mathew 21:18-22 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. 20The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” 21Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. 22You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” Let us also inspect other uses of the word, faith. Faithfulness! I can’t say that when I go to prayer in faith, believing that God would do as he said he would do (whatever I ask in Jesus name), that I even considered my part in the equation, my faithfulness to the covenant. Conversely, a lack of faith would be unfaithfulness. Let me be clear! Our salvation if free, Jesus said as much, but did he say following him would be free and easy? No! He said the opposite. He said it would be hard, that people would hate us. Are we living in a faithful committed relationship with God?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

To Be Master of Sin

From the beginning of the fall of man, we have been tasked with being master over sin. God said to Cain, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It's desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it." Gen. 4:7 In other words, if we do well, and listen to and follow what we know is good (living into our true created selves)-- we will be right with God. But if we allow sin or evil to linger in our thoughts and actions it will rule over us. God's advice is to rule over or be master over sin. How many times have I allowed sin to master me? Food used to be master over me in the form of gluttony. The Holy Spirit power has helped me overcome that. Now I find myself being mastered by pride and vanity. This too, I will pray and attempt to give over to the Lord Jesus and have mastery over this sin. When we allow sin to master us and act in us, we follow Cain and this is what God said to Cain, "Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened it's mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you it's strength. You shall be a fugitive and wander on the earth." Cain's reply, ". . . You have driven me from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden." Are the two connected? Cain could have the voice of sin in him and be in relationship with God, be in community with God. God is so merciful this way, even after the Fall, God was showing His face to His people, but as soon as man allowed sin to dwell in him, when Cain started listening to the advice of evil and acted on that evil, or let the evil master him, he could no longer see the face of God. Salvation from our sinfulness is extended to us all through the blood of Jesus for free, but then after we are saved, we have access to a journey called sanctification. This is the journey of having mastery over sin. God warned us, when speaking to Cain, that sinfulness is contrary to our very being, we should not allow it it master us, but we must enter into the fight against it. The beautiful thing that God has offered us is access to the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit that dwelt in Jesus. This Spirit will help us in the battle. I can say from experience, when I tried to battle the sin of gluttony on my own, it was too hard, again and again, I gave into it's power over me. Finding a false sense of comfort. I would think it would comfort me and go to food, but feel guilt and loneliness even as I consumed, only to feel more guilt and discussed with myself soon afterwards. Only when I started praying and asking God to deliver me from this sin that had mastery over me, did the Holy Spirit release me from it over time. I cannot say that during this lifetime we can have complete mastery over all sin, but I am in the fight and hope for as much. Sometimes we don't even know the sin that is mastering us. That was pride for me, I didn't even know until this year, when I asked to Lord to expose my sinfulness to me that I was so utterly Prideful. So now, I pray, and ask the Lord to deliver me too from this sin.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Tree of Life

According to the passage in Genesis 3:22-23 I will extract some meanings. “Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the three of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” After the humans ate from the tree of knowledge of food and evil, if they would have then eaten from the tree of life, they would have been able to live forever. God did not want that. Why? I think he simply did not want humanity to live forever with the knowledge of good and evil. Other places in Scriptures the word “know” has a very intimate meaning. If a man is to “know” a woman, he is to lay with her intimately. When humans ate of the fruit, was that symbolic of allowing evil into our hearts? Knowing “evil”? If that is true, we should also know “good” intimately. With that understanding, God did not want us to live forever with the battle of good and evil in our souls. But He does want us to live forever, he just needed to come up with a way for good to win over evil! His plan is that Jesus would come, 1.) give us another chance at the fruit of the tree of life. If we are to accept Jesus as our savior, that is like eating of the tree of life! And at that point we will have eternal life. But it doesn’t stop there. Jesus didn’t say just to accept Him as the way, Jesus also said to follow him. I will not make any claims that accepting Jesus but not following him will not get one eternal life. But Jesus taught that we could have access to the Kingdom of God here and now! Following him is the only way to have access to Kingdom freedom and Kingdom life. After accepting Jesus, we are promised access to the Holy Spirit which is our guarantee of eternal life. Channeling the Holy Spirit is a life journey called sanctification, where when given the lead, the Holy Spirit will refine us and make our hearts like they were meant to be; helping us forget the evil forces within us and leaning into the forces of good is the work of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that was residing in Jesus when he walked on this earth. The same Spirit of power, and of love and of self-control. Jesus’ ways are hard, but if we truly believe this story of God the Creator and Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our guide, then what other choice do we have.