Control

Control. The one thing I think everyone wants in their life. Instead, God gave us free will. I was reading the other day and came across a passage that really says this well

“I didn’t have control over what anyone else did. And while God could control anything and everything, He had given His creation the freedom to choose. God could intervene, but then He’d be no more than a master puppeteer. A puppet couldn’t love back. And that was what God asked. His children had to choose whether they’d love Him enough to obey or whether they’d go the other way. I had to accept that God gave everyone the same freedom.” Haley, Design On A Crime by Ginny Aiken

I don’t have control over anyone else, or over what they do, and trying to control them only hurts me We can choose to follow God’s teaching, taken from His Word, or we can choose to attempt to control our lives. He allows that choice, and I believe it saddens Him more than we can imagine or comprehend when we choose the path away from Him.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” – Colossians 3:12‭-‬15 ESV

Choosing to forgive someone takes the power away from them, and makes their actions weak and incapable of hurting us any longer. Years ago, I heard a song on the radio during a time of deep despair and at a time where my life was completely out of my control. These words are deeply meaningful. It’s called The Key, sung by Steve and Annie Chapman. This is just a tiny taste:

“Now don’t you know the offender

Is rarely the one in pain

Instead the one who will not forgive

Is the one who wears the chains.”

http://www.steveandanniechapman.com

Hope it helps you a little.

Are You Fractious?

It’s easy to learn something new every day, but I don’t always like what I learn. Take these verses from Titus and Romans:

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” – TITUS 3:9‭-‬11 NASB

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:18‭, ‬21 ESV

Have you ever truly read these verses? I’m quite sure I’ve read them before, or at the very least, heard them read, but they sure didn’t register with my brain until today. “Reject a fractious man ….” I looked up the word ‘fractious’ and was a bit dismayed by what I found.

Factious as defined by Dictionary.com is all of this and more. Aliented, belligerent, contentious, dissident, divisive, hostile, insubordinate, insurgent, litigious, malcontent, mutinous, partisan, quarrelson, rebellious. I’ve spent a large part of my life being fractious, and I still catch myself, especially the partisan and rebellious parts. I am partisan, a strong supporter of things I believe in. I am rebellious against anyone trying to force their beliefs on me, and I confess to some belligerence when I need to be forgiving to the person(s) who wrong me.
As R. T. Kendall wrote in Total Forgiveness, “forgiveness is giving up the natural desire to see the person who wronged you ‘get what’s coming to them.‘ ” Oh, such truth! It’s hard to give up our “natural desires,” because our “natural” selves are so deeply mired in sin. I am fortunate that a few of the people who have known me didn’t follow Titus’ words and reject me for being fractious. In today’s world, I think we’d all be pretty isolated if we were rejected for that. Look at how many people actually make a living by being fractious! Newscasters, social media talkshow hosts, so-called comedians, and politicians, just to name a few. The louder we get, the more fractious we become, the more people listen. As we become more controversial, our audience continues to grow.

It’s important to remember how these things, these attitudes, affect our walk with Christ. This morning, I watched a replay of a television show that was aired 22 years ago. A very famous woman, one with a great influence, came on a controversial new show to give her support. An audience member who identified as a Christian called this famous woman out, asking how she could support this show while calling herself a Christian. This famous, influential woman, answered “my definition of Christian is different from yours.” How can that be? There is, and can only be one definition of ‘Christian’. A follower of Jesus Christ, who accepts that Jesus is the Son of GOD, and that Jesus came as the ultimate, and final, sacrifice for our sins. Believing that Jesus died on the cross for us, was buried, and rose up out of that grave on the third day. He was resurrected for us. Knowing that He will return to earth one day and take His followers to spend eternity with Him. You have to know that Jesus was not a “good man” and He was not a prophet. He was, is, and will always be the Son of the Most High God.

More Christians need to be Chrst-followers and be considered fractious in the eyes of the world, standing up for the True Gospel. We need to be living peaceably, as much as is possible. If I am seen as fractious by the world because of my testimony, I accept that as an acknowlegement that I am doing what God wants of me. If, however, the Christian community sees me as being fractious and unforgiving, then I need to get on my knees and ask God for guidance.

Ready to Defend the Faith

“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” – 1 PETER 2:17 NASB

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing …..” – MATTHEW 6:1‭-‬3 NASB

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts (v. 13-14 are from Isaiah 8:12-13, with ‘Christ’ substituted for ‘Yahweh’), always being ready to make a defense (apologetics: a rational and reasonable answer or account for the HOPE that is in us, or why we believe what we believe) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” – 1 PETER 3:13‭-‬16 NASB

What is this Living Hope, that we would want to honor all people, or care for those less fortunate, or even be willing to submit to suffering for it? If you go back to 1 Peter 1, especially verses 3-5, we see it clearly stated:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to His great Mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” –
1 PETER 1:3‭-‬5 NAS

Apologetics in a nutshell. John Piper said (“Make a Case for Your Hope”, October 19, 1980) about verse 15, “….. literally Peter said, “Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts ready always to make a case . . . for your hope. This suggests that there is a very close connection between reverencing the Lord Christ in your hearts and always being ready to make a case for your hope. ……. How shall you always be ready to make a case for your hope? Answer: Reverence the Lord Christ in your heart, and you will always have a reason to give for why you are hopeful.

Charles Ryrie’s book “Basic Theology” looks like a good resource for really digging onto what you believe, and for understanding how and why you come to your conclusions. I’m convinced that not only does GOD exist (Genesis 1:1), but He is the Creator of everything. He is Triune, equally GOD the Father, GOD the Son, and GOD the Holy Spirit. The Bible is His Word, communicated through humans to put it into written form, and not to be disputed or changed by us. GOD the Son, Jesus, left heaven to live an unimpeachable life as a human; born of a virgin, 100% GOD and 100% human. He was brutally tortured and killed by us, only to conquer death and the grave, rising up out of that tomb in a glorious, resurrected body three days later. His return was witnessed first-hand by hundreds of people, and His transformation and ascent into heaven occured in front of witnesses. God wants to communicate with His creatures (that’s us!), and He does it through His Book, the Bible, and through prayer. In the Book, we can read the 500 prophecies that have already been 100% fulfilled; and the 500 prophecies still to come. He is GOD and He has come for me; He is my Hope – the ONLY Hope of life and eternity. Enthroned in our hearts, He is the Living Hope – the only Hope in a seriously depraved world. I have experienced – and embraced – that Hope and Mercy in my life.

Have you embraced the Living Hope of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to defend your faith?

Dumbed Down …..

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” – PROVERBS 3:7 NASB

I used to be so smart. I knew what everybody needed to do – what they should do, the right way to do it, and when it should be done. If people would’ve just listened to me, the whole world would have been so much better! That was me, perfect in every way. Do you know someone like that? Maybe, if you are honest with yourself, it’s you? If so, you are in for a rude awakening. I certainly was.

It hurts to realize you are a know-it-all. Maybe that seems like an oxymoron, but I believe that for many peoplem it’s a true statement. When I was in my ‘perfect’ life, it wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision to be that way. Instead, it was a subconscious push to be in charge of something, anything, in my life. Both men and women who feel trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship often search for an outlet. Since they aren’t in control of the emotions, they look for other things. “Knowing” how to do a thing is an easy way to exert some type of control. Excessive behavior is another, like being busy all the time. For many years, it was extremely difficult for me to sit and just enjoy company. I was too busy serving and fixing; my attempt at controlling a tiny aspect of my life. It can still be a struggle for me not to try to “fix” people and situations……

Sometimes it takes a drastic event for GOD to get our attention because our focus is so concentrated on ourselves…. or rather, on “fixing” everything and everybody around us, because there is nothing wrong with “me”. When I realized that it wasn’t possible to fix anyone else, and that I had to focus on me, it was truly an eye-opener. We are so used to focusing on others, we just can’t see anything else. Remember what Jesus said?

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3‭-‬5 ESV

It is so easy to judge someone else’s life. I have judged, and I have been judged (“I’m that sister”). It isn’t pretty when we have to confront our very human failings, and we all have them. No one, with the exception of Jesus Christ, can claim perfection. Being “dumbed down” can be a blessing if it means we finally realize we don’t have to know everything! Maybe, today, we can just be grateful for where we are in our life journey, without trying to make ourselves feel better about our own life by trying to control someone else’s life. If the GOD of the Universe can forgive me**, then I know He can – and will – forgive anyone who asks Him! **And I am Forgiven!! Hallelujah!!

Listen to the song “Scars” by I Am They.

Have You Prayed About It?

“Have you prayed about it?”

Whenever we have a question or concern, or we are worried about something, that phrase should be the first thing that pops into our mind.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” – JAMES 5:13‭-‬18 NASB

Billy Graham wrote: “Faith pleases God more than anything else. The Christian life is dependent upon faith. We stand on faith; we live on faith. Faith is loved and honored by God more than any other single thing.

The Bible teaches that faith is the only approach that we have to God. No man has sins forgiven, no man goes to heaven, no man has assurance of peace and happiness, until he has faith in Jesus Christ.

You may be saying, “God, I believe you are a great person, but I do not believe your Word; I do not believe what you say.” In order to please God, you must believe Him. Perhaps your faith is small and weak.

It does not matter how big your faith is, but rather, where your faith is. Is it in Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for your sins?”

I especially appreciate the last 2 sentences, because for years my faith was small… tiny, almost nonexistent. Because my faith was so small, my constant search for peace & happiness did not yield anything. Oh, I could sense them! I knew they were within reach ….. but I couldn’t quite get there. I knew, because of my parents teaching us while we were children, that true peace only comes thru JESUS. Scripture is quite clear on that:

“Without faith it isn’t possible to please GOD. Those who come to God must believe that He exists. And they must believe that He rewards those who look to Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Without faith, it is difficult to pray, and without prayer, it is difficult – maybe even impossible – to have faith. The thing I most hope to get across is this: No matter what is going on in your life, whether mental or physical, there is HOPE. There can be PEACE. Regardless of what anyone else says or does to us, JESUS is the answer. Claim it – claim HIM. Pray about it. Hold a conversation with God!

See that tiny flicker of faith that is hiding deep in your soul? Fan the flames. Let GOD supply the fuel!

Have you prayed about it?

MY Plans 🙊🙉🙈

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” – JAMES 4:13‭-‬16 NASB

Ah yes. I had great plans for my life. Yep….. I had great plans for my life. From high school to college, where I would graduate with a degree in Art (not education, mind you, just Art.) While at college, my plan was to meet “the” guy who would love me and protect me and support me, for the rest of my life. Problem was, instead of allowing God to lead, I became impatient (who, me??), and began making choices and decisions based on emotion and human want. If you’ve been following me for long, you know that hasn’t worked out too well. The guy I picked, the Prince of my dreams, turned out to be more the Prince of my nightmares. I was determined not to fail, though, so I stuck it out for eight long years of lies, cheating, and physical and emotional abuse.

Did I learn from that experience to lean on God, and rely more on His Will and less on mine? Of course not! I was on a roll! I picked another “Prince” to rescue me…… only it turned out that I was the one needing rescue, again, because I was right back in the same situation. I learned from that one, right? Oh, no, of course not. So I tried again, and again, and again. (My ‘picker’ was obviously broken!) I have to keep doing the same things over and over again, determined to get it right on my own, without outside help from other people or from God. That’s the definition of insanity, by the way.

You know how you hear from men who have been through divorce that their ex’s got “everything,” kids, house, car, child support, alimony? Somehow, I kept getting stuck giving them all those things!

I can blame the men, and I can blame God, for my situation in life, but ultimately it all falls on me and my poor choices. James said it perfectly:

“You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

I’m slow and late to acknowlege it, but it is absolutely true. What the future holds, I have no idea. The only thing I know is that I have to rely on the Lord and do my best to understand His Will for my life. Sounds simple; difficult for some of us to accept and do!! A line from an old tv show pops into my mind, and it probably should be one I repeat to myself more often. From Hogan’s Heros, whenever things spiraled out of control, Sgt. Schultz would say “I know nothing!” Only instead of waiting until after things go wrong, I need to say it first – and then listen to God! He knows everything. Amen!

Listen to Mandisa “I’m Just Unfinished”

Okay?

“Maybe it’s okay if I’m not okay….”

‘We Are Messengers’ sing this fantastic song, and it is so relevant! How can we know how good we have it, if we haven’t had it bad? If I haven’t hurt, what do I have to compare to?

Do you remember the story of Lazarus? Beloved friend of Jesus, brother to Mary and Martha, they lived in Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. I imagine Jesus stopped at their house whenever He was near. We (hopefully) all have a friend like that, a person who is family – even better than blood family. (Mary is the woman who annointed Jesus with a costly perfume while He was at their table, when Judas complained at the waste of such an expensive item.* – JOHN 12:3) She, her sister Martha, and her brother Lazarus made Jesus welcome. It happened that Lazarus became seriously ill, “So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” – JOHN 11:3‭, ‬5‭-‬6 NASB

What?

He hears that His beloved friend is sick, maybe dying, and He hangs out for two days before He goes to see him? Who does that? I’m sure that Mary and Martha were not okay during this time! Torn up knowing that their brother is dying – who in fact dies after the message is sent – and wondering why their best friend delays coming. Not until the fourth day after Lazarus’ death does Jesus show up. The body is in the grave, beginning to deteriorate and decompose, and the mourning is at it’s peak. Martha met Jesus on the road, and said this:

“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” – JOHN 11:22 NASB

She knows that Jesus could have prevented his death, and she believes – she knows – that He can bring her brother back! What faith!

“Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” – JOHN 11:25‭-‬27 NASB

Martha wasn’t “okay” with her brother’s physical death, but she was confident in her Lord’s ability to take care of the situation. How many of us can confidently believe as Martha did? She had no doubt that Jesus would receive whatever He asked of God His Father. Do I believe that Jesus is taking care of my situation? I’m not okay with my financial situation. Frankly, it stinks. (That’s my opinion.) But I know that it’s okay if I’m not okay, because I know that my life – such as it is – is in my GOD’s control, not mine. I have hurt and been hurt; I have reached out and been reached out to in good and in bad. Whatever comes, LORD, may I learn to be content. Amen.

[*This perfume is estimated to be worth 11 months wages. According to CNBC.com, the median U.S, household wage for 11 months would be over $40,000.]