Overwhelmed

“I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold. I will never be shaken.—Psalm 62:1-2

There have been times when my life has gotten overwhelming. Does that ever happen to anyone else? Recently, things have been quite overwhelming and frustrating for me and I could see my attitude slipping, frustration oozing out, and I was just all around irritated. In the past, I have just “white-knuckled” through those times until they passed, knowing full well that they would. My problem was I was using my own strength and not always exhibiting the character of my Savior.

As I have been going through this last time of struggle, I have managed to get away for a time to pray. That still small voice kept leading me to Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be provided for you.” And of course, I am like, yeah, I know. But I didn’t know.

When I finally looked up the verse…and read the surrounding verses…that whole passage just struck me…like I had never heard it before…even though I have…several times.

“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’  or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”—Matthew 6:25-34

Not that the overwhelming struggle was necessarily about food, drink, or clothing, but what a comfort to know that my God knows what I need and if I seek Him FIRST, he will provide what I need. Then the conviction came…have I been seeking Him first. Sadly, no. That’s been a tendency of mine, when things get hectic, my quiet time is one of the first things to go when it should be the only thing I cling to. And I know this…but I do not do this…until now. So, I’ll let you know what happens…my prediction is my attitude might get an adjustment!

Verse 32 is what really struck me, “For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” And I got this picture in my mind…of all these people running here and there trying to get the things they need…or want. But as a citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom, my life shouldn’t look like the world. I need to have righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

“Young lions lack food and go hungry, but those who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing.”—Psalm 34:10

 

Focused

2corinthians4-18

In a world filled with turmoil and strife, it is so easy to get caught up in what is going on … terrorism … wars … ridiculous candidate choices … corrupt government … fraudulent voting systems … black lives matter … blue lives matter … and the list can go on and on and on. How depressing! How utterly helpless we could feel!

As believers, we are called to turn our focus elsewhere. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to, “Keep our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.” Colossians 3:2 tells us to, “Set our minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.” So what if we did these things…no questions asked…how would our perspectives be different…how would our lives be different?

As believers, we must know and accept that Yahweh alone is in control. As a matter of fact, a lot of what is going on now in the world was warned about nearly two thousand years ago. “But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) That sure sounds like the world today.

But notice, it sounds like the world today. Yahweh knows everything that is happening. Nothing takes Him by surprise, not even the two main presidential candidates! He is in control. He will put who he will put in power. He will be with us through all of the strife and turmoil and all of the conflicts and wars. But we must turn our focus to Him. We must follow His ways and His leading. We must remember that as believers in the Most High God, our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20) We must live according to the Spirit and set our minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5) We must focus on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and morally excellent. (Philippians 4:8)

If we keep our focus on Him, he promises “He will keep the mind that is dependent on Him in perfect peace, for it is trusting in Him” (Isaiah 26:3)

 

 

Numbered

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while then vanishes.” – James 4:13-14

It was nearly dusk. Everything was set in the house for him. She gave him a hug and told him she loved him and promised to come check on him in the next couple of days. As she drove away, he stood on the porch waving, a solitary figure in the approaching night.

And that was the last time I saw my father alive. What if I knew when I left that it would be the last time I saw him? What would I have done differently? What should I have done differently?

As I ponder these things, the best I can come up with is…I don’t know. But I cling to the fact that I know that God is sovereign and I cling to this verse, “Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.” – Psalm 139:16. God knows the number of our days before we are born. So if I had been there…could I have changed the outcome? I don’t think so. But, if I had been there…would there have been one last opportunity to share Jesus with him? I don’t know. Now my hope and my prayer is that he called on the name of Jesus in his final moments.

Through this dark time in my life, I am clinging to my Rock, my Shelter, my Refuge. He is sovereign and knows the beginning from the end. His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts higher than my thoughts. And, I am learning to take nothing for granted and make the most of every opportunity because our days are fleeting…like a vapor…a mist…a shadow.

“Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” – Psalm 90:12

“Don’t boast about tomorrow, for you don’t know what a day might bring.” – Proverbs 27:1

 

 

Unstained

red-wine-stain-in-carpet

“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world,”(James 1:27).

I have been studying the book of James. One of the verses that really stuck out to me a couple of weeks ago was James 1:27, especially the part that says to keep oneself unstained by the world. It seems that this part of the verse often gets overlooked in the good Christian’s quest to help the widows and the orphans. So what does it mean to keep oneself unstained? What does God’s word have to say about the matter?

First off, let’s look at the definition of the word stain. Dictionary.com defines stain as, “a discoloration produced by foreign matter having penetrated into or chemically reacted with a material; a spot not easily removed. So what does this have to do with being a Christian? How can Christians be stained by the world? There are several passages that tell us about stains or sins. I will list a few here, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Mark 7:20-23, “Then He said, “What comes out of a person—that defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”

 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.”

 Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, and dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

 Ephesians 5:3-5, “But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. For now and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.”

 James 4:17, “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”

Like I said, not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.

As I was pondering and meditating about being stained by the world and about how to remain unstained by it, I was struck with what a monumental task this really is. How do we avoid all these “stains” when there is always something ready to discolor our garments? I mean really, there are the blatantly obvious sins, then there are the not so obvious things like desires of the heart, following the traditions of man, and wait…what about our motives? Doing the right thing with the wrong motive still leaves a stain.

And then it hit me…there is no way that we can remain unstained by the world…at least if we are trying to remain unstained by the things we do or don’t do…by the rules we follow. These things don’t make us righteous. Yahweh desires integrity in the inner self and teaches us wisdom from deep within. (Psalm 51:6)

Want to know the secret? It is by having the nature of Jesus Christ in us and by having a renewed mind, the mind of Christ. Galatians 2:19b-20a tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” We should make our own attitude that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). We need to put to death our worldly nature…putting off the old self and put on the new self which is being renewed in the knowledge according to the image of our Creator. (Colossians 3:5-10). We should not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) We should cling to the great and precious promises He has given us, so that through them we may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in this world because of evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4) We should be putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not making plans to satisfy our fleshly desires. (Romans 13:14)

You see, we are in a constant battle between our old nature and our new nature, our flesh and our Spirit. It is a daily battle to crucify our fleshly desires and we cannot do it without the help of the Holy Spirit. We can follow the rules on our own for a time, but it isn’t about rule following, it is about changing our heart.

Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you unstained?

The Ruling Heard ‘Round the World

As I sit here pondering all of the different things I have heard and read about Friday’s Supreme Court ruling on homosexual marriage, I am deeply saddened. There is so much hurt and anger on both sides of this issue. The anger is what saddens me the most. If you oppose same-sex marriage, you are narrow-minded, judgmental, and bigoted according to its supporters. If you are for it you are going to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I am not writing this post to bash homosexuality, or same-sex marriage. The Word of the Most High, Sovereign God speaks very, very clearly about how He feels about this. His Word is crystal clear, and as a follower of Him, I will not condone this lifestyle. That being said, I have friends that are homosexuals, I treat them with love and respect for the person they are, but I do not support their lifestyle.

I have also been thinking deeply about how this happened. There are many viewpoints and theories about how and why. But the conclusion I have come to is this: Should we expect anything different? After all, this is the world. “Whatever is born of flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.”—John 3:6. The world does not have the Spirit to lead and to guide them. This world is ruled by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 14:30; 1 John 5:19, etc.). “For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”—Romans 8:5-8. We have a worldly government, built by worldly people. Should we expect anything different?

Then I got to thinking if we shouldn’t expect anything different, how then should we live in this present darkness?

  1. Be like the One who has called us. We are called to live holy, set-apart lives, not living as the world lives, but as ones that are bought with a price, ones that are Holy Spirit-filled vessels, ones that have their mind set on the Spirit. “But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct.”—1 Peter 1:15. “This is how we know we are in Him: The one who says he remains in Himshould walk just as He walked.”—1 John 2:6.
  2. Be a light in the darkness. We are called to be salt and light. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lampand puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”—Matthew 5:13-16. These metaphors tell us that we are to be positive influences in the world. We are to penetrate the darkness by shining the light of Jesus. We are to lead others to the One who can save them by being a guiding light and providing a Hope for the hopeless.
  3. Do not be surprised when the world hates you. “If the world hatesyou, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master. ’If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me.”—John 15:18-21. Trials and persecutions are almost a guaranteed thing if you are a follower of Christ. He never promised a life free from trials and suffering. However, He does promise to be there with us through it all.
  4. Live like you know the end of the book. If we know how the story ends, that should affect the way we respond to the temporary victories of the enemy. If we know that our sins are forgiven and we know where we are going…if we know that Jesus is coming back to set up His kingdom and rule and reign in glory and righteousness…if we know victory is a sure thing, then despair and pessimism over the latest court ruling does not make sense. “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”—John 16:33. Living with the peace that passes understanding makes sense in these trying times.

I will leave you with this: “Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.  Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”—Romans 12:9-21

No Other Gods

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides me.”—Exodus 20:2-3

On the surface, this verse sounds easy enough to follow. After all, we don’t live back in the day when people worshipped other gods, like the Roman gods, the Greek gods, Molech, Ishtar…right? We live here in 21st century America. We either believe in God or we don’t. We either worship God or we don’t.

Except…

What about the god of convenience? You know, the one where we sacrifice our unborn children by the millions; the god of convenience, the one where we sacrifice our families in the name of the easy way out; the god of convenience, the one where we’d rather have the microwave meal than the homemade version. The god of convenience…the one we worship when we feel like it and how we feel like it…if it’s convenient for us.

I have been reminded of the story of Jeroboam in many different times and ways lately. Have you read about him? You can find his story in 1 Kings 11:26-14:20. The verses that stuck out to me were 1 Kings 12:28-33, “So the king sought advice. Then he made two golden calves, and he said to the people, “Going to Jerusalem is too difficult for you. Israel, here is your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” He set up one in Bethel, and put the other in Dan. This led to sin; the people walked in procession before one of the calves all the way to Dan. Jeroboam also built shrines on the high places and set up priests from every class of people who were not Levites. Jeroboam made a festival in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the festival in Judah. He offered sacrifices on the altar; he made this offering in Bethel to sacrifice to the calves he had set up. He also stationed the priests in Bethel for the high places he had set up. He offered sacrifices on the altar he had set up in Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. He chose this month on his own. He made a festival for the Israelites, offered sacrifices on the altar, and burned incense.” Notice the people fell into sin because they chose to worship God in a way that was convenient for them, but not how and when God had told them to worship Him. Jeroboam chose to create this new human-made system of worship based on convenience and fear rather than being faithful and obedient to the Most High God. He put himself above the Creator and worshipped his own god. What are the ways we do this today?

What about the god of money? Having money is not sin; it is the worship of it that becomes the problem. When our focus is on getting money and acquiring things it takes our focus off from God and turns money into a god. The bible has many warnings about the love of money.  1 Timothy 6:9-10 says, “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” Matthew 6:24 is another great reminder, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” Let’s remember to keep our lives free from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5), and lay up our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). In what ways have we become slaves to money?

What about the god of self? When we put our own interests above the interests of others, we worship the god of self. The “if it feels good, do it” mentality serves the god of self. The bible is clear in Philippians 2:3-4 that we are to, “do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” We are also to “take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.”—Ephesians 4:22-24 Are we self-serving or God-serving?

Here in the United States of America where money is plentiful, and there is a plethora of convenience and comfort, and we live to satisfy ourselves…we need to repent and return to the One True God and to His ways. My prayer is that we would tear down these high places in our lives and serve and worship the Most High God. He has revealed Himself through His Word. Let’s dig deeply into the well and learn His truths about how to live our lives and have no other gods.

“May they know that You alone—whose name is Yahweh—are the Most High over all the earth.”—Psalm 83:18

The Archaic Book

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and He judges and makes war in righteousness. His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on His head. He had a name written that no one knows except Himself. He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is the Word of God. (Revelation 19: 11-13)

The Word of God in the beginning. The Word of God in the end. But what about the Word of God in the middle? Do we really need His Word today…some archaic book to tell us right from wrong? I mean in this age of grace, can’t we all just do what seems right to us…after all, we are being led by the Holy Spirit, right? Well, any place that I see in scripture where the people are doing what seems right in their own eyes, it doesn’t end well.

Now about this archaic book. There are several places all throughout this archaic book that teach us the importance of God and His Word.

For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures. –Romans 15:4

And you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:15-17

For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. –Hebrews 4:12

Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. –Psalm 119:105

Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you.—James 1:21

God’s word is the inspired direction book for all of us to live by. It reveals the mind of the Most High, Sovereign God of the universe. It shows us His ways in which we are to walk and pattern our lives. It teaches us right from wrong, holy from profane, ways of God versus ways of man. It is a God-breathed, written record of all things pertaining to God and how to live a Godly life. It illuminates the narrow path to the Almighty God…our way of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is chock full of the wisdom of God that enriches our lives when we live according to His ways. It shows us how to live because, “it is written…”