Friday, March 24, 2017

Great Expectations

Philippians 4:19English Standard Version (ESV)

19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

The Lord wants us to have relationship with others, but He wants us to put our relationship with Him first above all others. When we do this, we experience much more balanced and rich relationship then when we place people on a pedestal. To place unfair and unbalanced expectations on people you are growing relationship with can be very devastating to the relationship. 

For example; if a wife places her husband above Christ in her life, she will be very disappointing. The expectations she is placing on her husband are unfair and unhealthy if she is expecting him to be her Christ (idolizing the relationship or the man). When we expect people to fit standards only God can, we find ourselves let down in the long run. This is not to say that it is unhealthy to desire your husband to be the godly man who leads you and loves you as Christ loved the church; but it is to say that you should be Christ focused with a husband the points you to Jesus. A godly husband is not to be confused with God. We are all human and you can't expect a man to do what only God can; satisfy a longing soul. Being content in the Lord and seeking Him as your everything will flow into your other relationships; especially your marriage. 

When we expect a human to meet our every need (as we did when we were babies and reliant on our caretaker), we will be let down. We can not have a human be our all in all. That is why it is so important to let God be our caretaker as we are babes in Christ. Sure, the Lord uses people to help meet our needs (husbands included), but the recognition that it is God through them and not them alone is crucial to balance in the relationship. 

We can often sink into this trap without even realizing it. The devil creeps in or we think we have it straight... then boom... your husband leaves you for another woman and you find yourself lost and falling apart; a victim of your circumstance. I'm not saying it's not natural to be sad, grieve the loss, or be angry and upset. Don't make decisions out of emotions. Also, it's okay to have standards and goals! If someone let you down and you are feeling hurt and confused, those are natural emotions tied to such a crisis. It's how we work through it and handle the situation that makes the difference. One who has their foundation in Christ can rise above the situation because they recognize their true All in All and Meeter of Needs is God and God alone. 

This also can be applied in family and friendships. We often latch on to friends or family members as expect them to be our everything. I often call my Dad when I need guidance and my Mother when I need comfort. I usually call my Grandmother or mentor when it comes to spiritual matters. These are the people God blessed me with... but they are not my God. You bet your buttered biscuits I try to remember to pray before I make any phone calls. I pray for the Lord to tell me who He wants me to discuss the matter with, if I am to even discuss it at all. He uses these people in my life to minister to me and meet my needs; but I recognize it is God through them doing that. God wants us to rely on Him for everything. I think of it as I'm walking, Jesus by my side, I am looking over and asking Him what to do and why and where to go. I imagine Him smiling at me, as a Father with a curious child full of questions does, as He takes my hand to move forward. He helps me navigate the journey of life, and He is absolutely all I need. No human can fill the spot meant for God. It's not fair to the human and it really prevents you from walking in your full inheritance. Don't short change yourself.

Lord God, Adonay,

I praise Your holy name and thank you for your provision. Thank you for being the solid foundation I need in my life. Thank you for being my everything in a world full of disappointment. Help me to be fully satisfied in you Lord; help me to feel the joy that only comes from knowing You! Help me to be fair to those I am in relationship with. Help me keep my heart in check so that I do not end up idolizing a person or relationship above You Lord. I am truly grateful for You and I love You for who You are. You are enough for me and so much more than I deserve. 

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.  

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The One Who Owes the Most

Luke 7:36-50NIV

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

See also Matthew 26: 6-13 and Mark 14: 3-9*


Just take that story in for a moment. From a Pharisee mindset, it would have probably seemed like a very awkward and inappropriate scene. A street walker, comes into a party unwelcome... Everything stops and gets quiet... Whispers ensue as the audacious woman kneels at Jesus' feet and rips the Alabaster box off of the cord around her neck, she breaks a bottle of expensive and potent fragrance (pure nard*) beside his feet; sobbing as she pours out the precious perfume on them; mingling the liquid with her tears and wiping them off the with her beautiful tresses...
Eyebrows raise... no one speaks... then Simon breaks the silence...
"What on earth..."
No my friend... heavenly places is where this scene makes sense... Not earth. This story is so beautiful from a Jesus mindset...
Jesus compares this occurrence to debtors who owe a moneylender. What a great way to explain what was happening as the baffled audience watched with confusion on their faces...
Those who owe the most seem to understand Jesus' love from a unique perspective. 
I'm not by any means saying that just because some of us, by the hand of God, who were lifted to Jesus from a deeper, dirtier hole, that we love Jesus more. We are all equal in His love. I'm just saying there are different perspectives to appreciate as we study the work of God. My mind can't even wrap around the fact that Jesus has a unique and intimate relationship with each of us. He knows us.
My growing up and coming to Jesus may be very different from someone else's. No one is any better than anyone else in God's eyes. There is something lovely about someone who is raised up in the church and are blessed with a family who knows and teaches them about God. Some of us were in the dark. Regardless... by the glorious power of Jesus, no matter where we came from or where we stray, we are never too far from the arm of God. He can snatch us back to himself from anywhere. Some of us can relate to Mary of Bethany... 
Some of us came to Jesus desperate, broken, and lost. We didn't come to him in the perfect circumstance from the world's perspective... but we came to Him... which is what He wants us to do. Regardless of where we find Him. It's often the times we come to Jesus is when we are at the end of ourselves. This woman took the most valuable thing she had (out of the little she had) and willingly and boldly gushed it over the road-dusted feet of Jesus... Holding nothing back from Him. She had a past of trying to satisfy a longing in her spirit with all the wrong things. Filth to the world, but precious in the eyes of Jesus, she had finally found the One who would satisfy and save her. 
If you found out the secret to fill the emptiness you've had for years was somewhere in town at a party... I bet you'd barge in and fall on your knees, gasping for air in between sobs of joyful weeping... at the feet of the answer you'd been so desperately searching for. 
I knew all the wrong answers... I found out the hard way by trying to fill the God sized spot in my heart with all the wrong things. It caused much self-inflicted pain, suffering, grief, and heartache. But in my brokenness is when I saw the love of Jesus, and I knew I had found the one I'd been searching for. 
So from Mary's example, we see the steps to an intimate relationship with Jesus.
First...
Come to Him unashamed, keep nothing from Him...
Run to Him and find Him, no matter what. Even if it means crashing a party...
Second...
Come to Him with all you have, everything that you are, hold nothing back. Be broken before Him...
Just like the alabaster box.
Third...
Give Him the best of yourself, lay absolutely everything out at the feet of Jesus,
Pour into your relationship with Him, giving it your all. Going all in no matter what it costs. 
And what does Jesus do after this woman's seemingly odd favor?
He forgives her of her sins... Everything... All of it. Lifted off of her shoulders.
He saved her.
He saved me.
He can surely save you if He hasn't already.
Lord God, my Savior, My All in All,
I come to you, sinful and unworthy. I know I don't deserve, yet I still receive. I am the least, I give all I have to you. My best; I hold nothing back. Thank you for saving me. I desire an intimate relationship with You and I am unashamed.
In Jesus' name I pray,
Amen

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Confirm... Don't Conform.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2 NIV

Confirm, Don't conform. Our God did not create us with a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

When the Holy Spirit resides in your heart and you fine tune your intimate relationship with God, you become familiar with God's desires because He places them in your soul. When I started growing in my faith, I began to react differently.

I used to desire to be accepted by people and what they thought of me. I used to want to fit in. If a girl at school made an ugly comment about something I was wearing, I'd be that girl that made sure I never wore that shirt again... at least anywhere she might see me in it. Like anywhere in town or on the outskirts of the town the school was in.

My reaction was to conform. My decisions were fear driven. Based out of the fear of what others think. This entailed way more then my wardrobe (even though I shouldn't worry about that too much either... Matthew 6:25). My whole life had been submitted to the world because I thought that is what I was supposed to do. I was watching the wrong people, listening to the wrong advice, and depending on the world to guide me instead of the Word.

Now I have realized if I look to God for all the things I used to look to the world for... I will be able to tell what is right and what is wrong. I'd be able to be healthy spiritually, physically, and emotionally. My Father tells me if I look to Him and stay focused, the rest will be added to me (Matthew 6:33). I'd be able to call out the devil and his schemes. Instead of bending to the darkness and squirming around shadows, I'd be able to walk boldly wherever my Father called, and light would pour out before my feet even hit the path. And when I do the right thing, it may not be widely accepted by the world.

If I hit a hard place on my Christian walk when I believe I'm following Jesus, I look for confirmation now instead of instantly conforming to prevent any confrontation or criticism. I used to immediately back down and mold myself to whatever would smooth out the snag. I knew how to work the world. I knew what I had to say, do and look like to avoid many confrontations or hard situations. But I didn't grow when I did that.

God said we would be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

When the renewing of our mind starts happening after we have received salvation and are working through our sanctification, we start to hit more snags. The devil bucks up and takes notice of a child of God awakening from the comatose of the world.

I can imagine what the devil might have said when my dry bones came alive after I was reborn...

"Crap... I was really hoping I could at least get that one into her forties without realizing the call God has for her. She is gonna give me a run for my money. I already have so much to do... Ugh!!! I'll just send some spirits after her. They will get her all muddled up and maybe slow down her sanctification. That girl won't know up from down and right from wrong when I'm done messing with her... *cue maniacal laugh*

Okay... maybe he wasn't that dramatic... but you get the point.

As I learn God's Word I desire confirmation despite the rocky road I find it on instead of backing down and taking the less resistant path.

Morale of the story is... As you grow in God's Word and focus on Him, you will be able to discern what is from Him and what is not from Him. You will know what is right and what is wrong. As you become more spiritually fit, you will be able to K/O the devil's attempts to set you off track and bring you back to the sleepy coma from whence you came... That would keep you quiet and he'd have once less warrior of God to worry about. So when something seems weird, hard, or scares the crap out of you, look over to your Abba and say "Is this where I go... Is this what you want?" and He will be able to comfort you and fill you with His peace through confirmation. The Word being written in you (Proverbs 7:3, Deuteronomy 11:18) helps the Holy Spirit answer those questions as you walk with the Lord, so immerse yourself in it daily and crave it like you are starved.

Lord, my Abba,

Direct my steps. Help me hide Your Word in my heart and write it in every corner of my mind. Let me know what you want from me and give me the strength and courage to obey. When I am scared, be my protector. When I am weak, show Your strength. You call me daughter and it floods my heart with joy; what greater love could there be? The Lord of all, Master of the Universe, has adopted me and promised me an inheritance. Help me to ask for confirmation from You Lord instead of backing down in fear by conformity. Lord God, You are my comfort and peace. What in this world should I fear when I have you by my side all the time. You told me you will never forsake me and I believe it with all that I am. Thank you for all the blessing you shower on me. Continue to keep me on track to becoming the woman of God you desire me to be. In your precious name I pray, Amen.