Thursday, March 28, 2013

Who Is The Cheerleader? God Or You?

The sound of March Madness has filled our home lately. The squeaking of shoes on the court, the cheers of the crowd, the commentary of the announcers... The excitement in the air can almost be felt through the TV. I am not really interested in basketball, instead I am more entertained by commercials and the NCAA commercial caught my attention with the tag line “Think of us as your cheerleader.”  In fact, it got me to thinking about my spiritual “game”.
Makes me think about the streets of Jerusalem as they were filled with excitement on one very special day 1,980 years ago. People lined the streets, palm branches waving.  Exuberance filled the air. “Hosannah!” “Hosannah!” They had waited for a deliverer, and as Jesus rode into the city they cheered Him on. The One on the donkey didn’t join in the enthusiasm. Instead, He wept, saddened by their lack of belief. They wanted Him to deliver them, but on their own terms and in their own way. They wanted Him to meet their expectations. They weren’t cheering because of Who He was, but for who they wanted Him to be. They wanted physical deliverance; He came to bring spiritual deliverance.

Often, I want God to be my cheerleader, to bring about my plans and in my timing,  I want the warm fuzzy feelings. “Bless ME…Bless ME…Bless ME!” I say. I want physical blessings here and now. I want God to fit in the box I designed to suit my purposes. I get it turned around. Backwards.
He gave up His life for mine and brought me spiritual blessings. Redemption. Salvation. Sanctifiaction. He has blessed me. He is my deliverer. And His plans and timing are far superior to my own.  I should be His cheerleader, so to speak. I should be praising Him…shouting about His greatness… cheering Him on in His will…getting others excited over His love. 

Psalm 63:3-5 (NIV)
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

Psalm 35:18 (NIV)
18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among the throngs I will praise you

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Prayer and Praise While I Wait

We recently finished up our study of James and chapter 5 left me with a lot to think about.
It’s so easy to envy the wicked. They seem to have abundance, answer to no one and have all the fun…. At least that is what Satan wants me to believe. But God reminds me of the truth. The truth of eternity.  And it is because of this truth that I can push aside the envy and be patient, waiting on God.

With spring approaching, I have been eagerly perusing the racks of seeds on display in the home improvement stores. My mind envisions plants of zucchini, tomatoes, snap peas, and basil growing in the sunshine this summer. I can’t wait to plant my garden, but the cold weather insists that I be patient and wait.
Once I do get to plant it, there will be more waiting to be done. But as I wait, I will can busy myself with weeding, watching for bugs, fertilizing, watering and caring for the plants as they grow, anticipating the delicious veggies that will be produced. I don’t exactly enjoy all these tasks, but the end product is definitely worth it all!
My heart is a lot like a spiritual garden. I can’t expect fruit without the work or in the wrong season. As I anticipate Christ’s return I can busy myself planting seeds of the gospel and serving others in His love. I don’t always enjoy each and every task or see the progress, but the benefits far outweigh this; establishing in my heart a steadfastness that will not crumble and definitely worth it all!

I cannot forget that in all this planting, serving and waiting, prayer and praise play a big part.  In fact, prayer and praise should be where I begin. And if God is my number one bestie and main focus, prayer and praise will come more naturally.

These two actions produce trust, security, joy, healing, confession and power. All things I will need as I wait. And I will be too busy to have time to envy.

Isaiah 40:31 (NAS) “but they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Humble, Humble, Humble

The desires that battle with in me have a huge pull on my heart and devotion. I want my way, I want to go and do and have. As a little girl in kindergarten, I envied my friend’s pretty curls and wanted them.  I even prayed over and over that God would give me curly hair. He never did. Why not? I asked purely for my own satisfaction. All for me, me, me with no desire to please God.
Friendship with the world. God calls this adultery. Unfaithfulness to the One and Only. I can’t love God and be or even wish to be friends with the world. Straddling the fence is making a choice. And it’s a bad choice that sets me as an enemy to God. Not a place I want to be, no, sir! 

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (Verse 6)  It is pride that makes me want to belong in the world. To fit in and look normal. To do what everyone else is doing. To be noticed and liked. To be my own boss. Pride in my heart says “I know what’s best for me, I don’t really need God.”
I must put on humility to overcome the desire to rule my own life. It takes humility to be able to see that I don’t have to fit in.  With humility I can lovingly serve those in the world and won’t need to be loved by the world. Like everyone, I want to be first or best or served. Humility is the quality that settles my heart and waits for God will lift me up.

Submit…Resist…Come…Wash…Purify…Grieve…Mourn…Wail...Change…Humble. Whew! Sounds like a lot to do, but when I truly submit my heart to God and resist the devil, the rest will follow in that path. I will want to come near and then I will see my need to wash, purify, and grieve over my sin.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Wisdom, Genuine or Counterfeit, That is the Question.

Welcome back! We are in James 3:13-18 this week, and we are half way done with our study. There is so much packed into this short book, and its been so fun to study it with you!
There are two kinds of wisdom, one from God (the genuine article) and the other a counterfeit version from the Father of Lies.  James makes it clear that the earthly variety looks like wisdom and can be mistaken for true wisdom of the heavenly variety.
When we break this passage down into 2 lists and it’s hard to see how one could get the 2 confused. Bitter envy on one side and mercy on the other.  Selfish ambition vs humility.  Disorder vs peace- loving. Doesn’t sound too easy to mistake one for the other to me.  But they can and do get confused, even by the most well-intentioned of us.

Sometimes we live as if sin labeled with “good judgment” or “standing on a principle” somehow gets excused. Attempts to manipulate and cajole others to get our way - done in the name of what is “right” - seem to be acceptable and the label of selfishness never crosses our minds.  Attitudes we have towards others often lack the love we are called to have and we “ok” this as we point out how “wrong” the other is in certain ways. We lack grace and impress our standards on others and view them with contempt when they don’t measure up, forgetting that God calls us to first be concerned with our own sin before we help others with theirs.  We withhold forgiveness or refuse to settle a dispute because the other is so “wrong” and we leave behind our call to be peaceable.  It makes perfect sense in human reasoning and without giving it a second thought, we fail to see our sin for what it is and assume we are “right” before God.
So how can we know which wisdom we have? This is a very important issue which we see by the way James describes it. Earthly, unspiritual, demon-like.  A close examination is needed and I think honesty is key here.  We hold certain view points and attitudes for so long, they feel so comfy and oh so right. Bringing them to God and being willing to be wrong about being right is where we need to begin.

“Do not boast about it or deny the truth.” (v 14) Its so much easier to deny the truth about our sin. To rationalize it and somehow tell ourselves that God would put His stamp of approval on this one because we have good cause for it. But that leaves us treading on thin ice, it’s just not going to hold us up. (Psalm 35:2-3; Isaiah 5:20-21; Jeremiah 8:6b)
But I don’t want to stay focused on the negative, let’s ask God to examine our hearts and then humbly accept what He shows us, seek forgiveness and repentance then move on to the positives. What we can become.

Have you ever noticed that after you have decided to eat healthy, you spot the donuts sitting on the counter. If you repeatedly reprimand yourself for wanting one, “No, you’re not eating one of those, you ate too much junk today already, it’s not good for you…” pretty soon you find yourself munching on one? But, if you remind yourself how healthy you will feel if you don’t eat it, and how good that pomegranate is, and how much you love the strawberries and oranges sitting there as well, it is easier to skip the donut? Beating yourself up doesn’t encourage positive actions. Focusing on what we can be turns us towards growth. Not perfect, but growing, and that’s the goal.
When we look at the list of Wisdom from above, we see character traits that Jesus has. Pure…Peace-loving…considerate…submissive…full of mercy…impartial…sincere…humble.  We are called to be transformed to be like Him. (Romans 8.29) He is our example. When we follow him, starting at the heart level, we will end up with the wisdom from above. We can be peace-loving…pure…condiderate…merciful…humble…just like Him. That will lead us to real wisdom.

What are your thoughts on wisdom? Do you see counterfeit wisdom pop up in your life? How do you teach yourself to follow godly wisdom instead?  Leave a comment below.  :)