Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Preparing For Battle:Don't Worry!

"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.”  Matthew 6:34.  People love to quote this verse to anyone  who’s experiencing trouble.  I think it makes them feel better, if only for the fact they’re not the ones experiencing the problem.  Let’s face it, just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we get a free pass when it comes to dealing with anxiety and worries.  There are many Bible stories, in both the old and new testaments, that deal with this subject, but one of my favorites is this one found in 2 Chronicles 20.  King Jehoshaphat was a good guy, a God-honoring fellow, but he still found himself facing a mighty big problem.  Take some time to read this short account, then we’ll look closely at how he handled it.

1. After this, the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites declared war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army from Edom is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea. They are already at Hazazon-tamar.” 3 Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the LORD for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. 4 So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the LORD’s help. 5 Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the LORD. 6 He prayed, “O LORD, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 7 O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8 Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. 9 They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war,d plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’ 10. And now see what the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir are doing. You would not let our ancestors invade those nations when Israel left Egypt, so they went around them and did not destroy them.11 Now see how they reward us! For they have come to throw us out of your land, which you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”
13 As all the men of Judah stood before the LORD with their little ones, wives, and children, 14 the Spirit of the LORD came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph.
15 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.16 Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!”
18 Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the LORD. 19 Then the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Korah stood to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud shout.
20 Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.”
21 After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the LORDand praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:
“Give thanks to the LORD;
his faithful love endures forever!”
22 At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the LORD caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. 23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. 24 So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.
25 King Jehoshaphat and his men went out to gather the plunder. They found vast amounts of equipment, clothing,e and other valuables—more than they could carry. There was so much plunder that it took them three days just to collect it all! 26 On the fourth day they gathered in the Valley of Blessing,f which got its name that day because the people praised and thanked the LORD there. It is still called the Valley of Blessing today.
27 Then all the men returned to Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat leading them, overjoyed that the LORD had given them victory over their enemies. 28 They marched into Jerusalem to the music of harps, lyres, and trumpets, and they proceeded to the Temple of the LORD.
29 When all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the LORD himself had fought against the enemies of Israel, the fear of God came over them. 30 So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.

Great story, wasn’t it?  So what exactly did King Jehoshaphat do, and how can we apply his actions to our own struggles.
1. He prayed, really hard, fasted and sought God‘s guidance, not people’s.
2. He didn’t let anxiety control his thoughts. He knew the odds were against him, but was confident that God could secure the victory. He concentrated on the victory not the problem.
3. He knew that God rules, and has total control.
4. He remembered, believed and called on God’s promises.
5. He kept thanking and praising God even in the face of trouble.
6. He trusted God’s plan, even when it looked hopeless.
7. Finally, he gave all the glory to God when the battle was won.

God knows we live in an imperfect world, fraught with anxieties, but he has also shown us, over and over, how to deal with them.  What  King Jehoshaphat did wasn’t rocket science, it was trust.  This kind of God-based trust will achieve the same victory for you and me, despite the enormity of the battle.  Can you find the strength to turn the battle over to Him?  Is it scary, absolutely!  Will it work, you bet!!   Start reading other accounts, if you have doubts, then apply these simple steps to your overcome your issues. Remember, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

Monday, December 29, 2014

What Color is God's Bathroom?

My son-in-law was painting his bathroom, the other day, when my husband asked him what color it was going to be.  He answered, “It’s the same color as yours.”  To which my husband replied, “What color is that?”  I was nearby listening to this exchange, and frankly I was flabbergasted.  “You mean to tell me you don’t know the color of the room that you use so frequently?” I blurted out.  In casual reply he told me, no he didn’t.  He went on to inform me that as long as it was clean, and functional, that was all he noticed about it, details were unimportant.

 My brain couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing, especially since I had spent so much time decorating it.  I had poured over color samples, and spent hours looking for accessories. How could he not see beyond mere function?  Of course this got me thinking on a spiritual plane, surprise, surprise!  How many Christians think of Jesus in that same, one dimensional way?  He’s there to serve a purpose, and that‘s about it.  But what do we know about him?  For example, do you know what pleases him, and what doesn‘t?  Are you familiar with his family tree?  How much information could you pass on to someone who asked you about your relationship with him?  Do you know the color of his bathroom?

OK, so that last one was silly, but the point I’m trying to make is, we should strive for such intimacy with our Savior, that if he had a bathroom, we’d know what color of it.  All too often I hear people complain about the length of a sermon, citing that the pastor should be able to keep the service short.  In other words, clean and functional.  We don’t have the time, or the desire to know the details of the one who sacrificed his life for ours. Insert sad face here, and if you are one of the “clean and functional” folks, make that an embarrassed face.

God has designed us to be his own, and to know everything about him.  Look how popular genealogy is.  People research their family trees, to find out all they can about their roots.  Why aren’t we, in the same way, desiring to intimately know him?   Our only true family roots are in Him.  If you don’t feel this yearning, ask him to supply it.  Seek Him, study his word, and surround yourself with brothers and sisters who will encourage you.  Isaiah said this, “All night long I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek for God.” Isaiah 26:9.   Wake up and see all the marvelous details of his Kingdom, and especially the color of his bathroom!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where Has All The Power Gone?

Where Has All the Power Gone?  This is my paraphrase of the song, “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?“ written by Pete Seeger in 1955, and made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary.  My question remains, where has all the power, gone, God’s power that is.

When I pulled up the word power on Bible Hub, it revealed 862 occurrences in scripture, so we can assume that it’s a pretty vital component of faith. Throughout both testaments, the power of God is demonstrated repeatedly. Beginning with the creation of the world in Genesis, straight through to the anticipated return of Christ in the battle of Armageddon, and countless incidents in between. Consider this, the Greek word for power is dunamis, from which our word dynamite is derived.

God’s power has always been the life force of believers, so why is it that we never see these kinds of display.  Has the power died out, did God forget to put in fresh batteries, or  have we become too educated to believe in such fables?  I’ve had numerous “religious” people tell me that  those power-filled accounts were merely stories designed to teach  the poor, and uneducated masses throughout history.  “Get real”, they say.  “You can’t possibly believe all those childish tales.  We have science, and technology now, so we know better.  Who needs God’s power when we have the internet?” In our enlightened, techno-overloaded society, God’s power and authority has been designated to the back of the closet with all the other broken, and outdated stuff.

Sure, I agree, the Bible stories sound impossible, but that’s because they are, humanly speaking.  None of us, even working together could part the waters of the Red Sea, or create a human being from the dust of the earth.  Do you think that good ole’ God is asleep in his La-Z-Boy, and is unaware of this problem?   Guess again, he’s fully awake, and aware of what’s occurring.  In fact he predicted it through Timothy centuries ago, when he said this about people, “….always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”  2 Timothy 3:7.  We have become a society so full of ourselves, and seeking out “power-filled knowledge” that many have totally lost sight of the truth.  The equation is simple, No God = No Truth, No Truth = No Power.

Sure, we have power, in a sense, but what happens if the electric goes off, or the internet.  All we have left is a pile of useless plastic.   God’s always available, and will never force his power on us.  I, for one, can’t fully live the Christian life without it, nor can you.   God’s promise to us is power, dunamis, dynamite, supernatural power…who doesn’t want that!  Don’t believe me, believe his word….“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16.  No batteries or internet connection is ever required!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

You got some splainin' to do, Lucy!!!

“You’ve got some splainin’ to do Lucy!”  Those of you old enough to remember the iconic “I Love Lucy“ show, will remember this catch phrase.  As you may recall, Lucy was always getting herself into some kind of trouble.  Albeit, most of it was innocent enough, not like the mischief  T.V. wives get themselves today, but her husband, Ricky Ricardo, always called her on it, and these were the words he used when he confronted her.

Not unlike Lucy, who thought she could pull the wool over Ricky’s eyes, we often think that our “mischievous acts”, (sins) are going to slide right under God’s radar.  “After all”, we tell ourselves, “God is much more hip and lenient today.  Those old time sins don’t count any more, and it’s certainly not PC to pick on anyone’s personal life choices.  Besides, I do all kinds of good works, and try to get to church fairly often, that should white out my minimal sinning.“ I hate to be the bubble buster, but  God is still very much the same.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. He hasn’t changed his view of sin, we have.

Society has turned morality every which way but upright.  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” God told this fact to the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago, and it holds true today. I’m not going to name any particular sins, because we each have our own favorites, let me just say they all have to be explained, to God someday.  Think about that.  Makes you a little bit squirmy, doesn’t it?  Imagine standing before God’s throne on that day, trying to pull off your best Lucy impersonation.  We‘ll try to justify our behavior by saying, “But, God, I’m a good person.  But, God, it wasn’t too bad. But, God, society has changed, it’s ok now.  But, God, I didn’t hurt anyone.” That kind of “splainin” didn’t cut it with  Ricky, and it sure won’t cut it with God.

Have no doubts, saint or sinner, we will all stand before God one day, and have to explain ourselves. You better get ready, and today is the perfect time to start practicing.  Right now, call to mind your own area of mischief, and try to justify it to yourself, or better yet, someone else.  It sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it, Lucy?  Jesus himself tells us this, "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:36-37. God always gives us a way out of sinning, take it!  Listen to His word, not the world’s.   “Don't be misled--you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.“ Galatians 6:7.  If you’re not sure about what’s on God’s naughty list, I strongly suggest that you get into his word, and find out before He asks you to splain!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Fed vs Nourished

I recently returned from spending a week at an All-Inclusive resort, where all kinds of foods were available 24/7.  Let’s just say, I tried to get my money’s worth! I started thinking about the difference between being fed, and being nourished.  Yesterday, a friend of mine, mentioned this same thing to me when she said needed to be in an environment where she was “being fed“, spiritually.  I agreed with her, and have said it myself many times, but then God shared with me this insight….being fed isn’t enough, we must be nourished.  

Let’s face it, when we’re hungry we can shove all matter of food into our pie holes, just to sate the belly.  Everyone realizes that a greasy burger and fries will satisfy us, but they will do nothing to nourish our physical bodies. The same thing holds true for our spiritual selves.  The word of God can be served to us in many forms.  Sometimes it is sugar-coated or diluted,  other times deep-fried and smothered in gravy.  It makes you feel full, but only for a while, and it certainly isn’t healthy.  As is my custom, I like to check the dictionary for a secular definition.  To nourish means: 1. sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth.2.to cherish, foster, keep alive, 3.to strengthen, build up, or Promote.  

Do you see where I’m going with this?  Feeding merely satisfies temporarily, while nourishment goes further, bringing us life, health , growth and strength which not only keeps us alive but builds us up.  There is no such thing as spiritual obesity, tooth decay or diabetes. The pure, unadulterated word is true food indeed, and you won‘t bloat on it or rot your teeth. Sometimes it may seem more like broccoli than a Snickers, but we can’t be nourished on a steady diet of sweets, even though our humanness desires it. 

Are you hungry?  Do you want to grow, and be nourished, not merely fed?   Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35.  Good, wholesome food nourishes our physical bodies enabling them to grow and develop, we can all agree on that.  So why would you desire less than that for you spirit?  “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8.  Seek out his Word, served on his banqueting table. Eat up, and you will be nourished!  On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-- the best of meats and the finest of wines. Isaiah 25:6