Saturday, September 29, 2007

Kingdom Building

Disclaimer--I know so little about how to do construction, it's scary. I can't dig a foundation, and even if I could, I would have NO idea where to go from there. So, if you're a builder, a contractor, or just plain smarter than me, just try to ignore it if I say something that displays my ignorance of all things construction.

Habitat for Humanity can build an entire house in a matter of days--so fast that I used to suspect they couldn't possibly be very GOOD houses...they must be pretty shoddy if you can put them up that first, right? But the fact is, these houses are as good as most, better than some. So how do they build in sometimes as little as a week what it often takes months for others to do?

Well, my apologies to Habitat here, because I'm about to really oversimplify this, but essentially what they do is this:
Make a plan
Get willing volunteers
Give their volunteers the necessary tools and supplies
Send the volunteers off to work.

Now, for a moment, I want you to imagine a scene. You're building a house, and everyone's been given their tools. Some have hammers, some screwdrivers, some saws, and so forth. Once everybody has their tool, you send them off to work, but when you come to check on the progress, nothing has happened. NOTHING. There has been NO building done on this house. And so, you start looking around, and what you discover is someone trying to install a window with their hammer (THAT's not gonna be pretty!), someone else trying to cut a piece of wood with their screwdriver. You also notice a few people just wandering around, picking up wood and looking under it, or just looking around dumbfounded. You ask a couple of them what they're doing and they tell you that they don't know where their tools are. And then there's a whole bunch of people sitting in a corner, talking. As you approach this group, you hear the conversation...they are talking about HOW to build a house, what a hammer is for, how to hold a screwdriver, safety precautions when using a power saw.
You look at this group, and notice that all of them still have their tools, but they've stuffed them into their pockets, or set them off against the wall.
There is ONE guy who seems to have been working--sweat is just dripping off the poor guy, there's sawdust all around his work area...but when you ask him where the wood he's cut is, he says every time he cut it, somebody would tell him he was doing it all wrong, and he had to start over.

How long will it take to get this house built? FOREVER...and then some. Because the ONLY way you're going to get the house built is to get these people to start USING these tools...and using them PROPERLY. You've got some with tools who aren't working at all, and others who ARE working but they are completely ineffective because they are using the wrong tool.

Well, it strikes me that the church today is frighteningly like that group of building volunteers.
Look back up at those simple steps Habitat takes:
Make A Plan. Get volunteers. Equip your volunteers. Send them to work.
God has a plan to build His Kingdom. He had this plan since, well, since forever...and ever since He laid the foundation, He planned to use volunteers on this project. The volunteers are those who choose to put their faith in Him. Believers. Christians.
Then He gave each "volunteer" the tools they needed...these are our spiritual gifts. "in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues."

So far, so good...most Christians can agree that God has called them to serve, to be a "volunteer" for His Kingdom, as it were. And most of us agree that God gives us each a spiritual gift when we become a believer.

So, why isn't the Kingdom growing the way (I believe) God desires? Well, first, without gettting WAY off my topic here, let's define Building the Kingdom; I'm talking here, really, about fulfilling the Great Commission. Reaching the lost for Christ, seeing them come INTO the Kingdom, and THEN teaching them how to grow in their relationship with Christ, and equipping them to become "volunteer" builders themselves.

I believe we (the Body of Christ) are not doing our job of fulfilling the Great Commission, and I believe that a big part of the reason can be seen in this house-building example. At the building site I described, everyone there had "volunteered" and said they were willing to help; they are professing Christians, those who have SAID that they have made Christ Lord, and they will obey His will for their lives. The tools are the spiritual gifts that God has given us.

But the building isn't getting done, and there are several reasons for this that I want to point out:
--Some Christians are just wandering around doing nothing, because they have no idea what their spiritual gift IS. They're still trying to FIND their tools. If that describes you, let me give you some suggestions to FIND your tool--first, while Spiritual Gift tests are interesting, and, in my opinion, often quite accurate, they are NOT the best way to find your gift (again, in my opinion). There are TWO good ways to find your gift: First, ask those who know you best what THEY think your gift is. Second, and this is radical, I know--DO SOMETHING!!
Teach, Participate in a Missions project, go on visitation, help organize an event,...just go DO something in your church, and you'll know pretty quickly if God has given you a gift for that particular ministry. I've done lots of different jobs in our church, and I've learned a lot of things that God did NOT give me a gift for; I've also learned a couple of things He did gift me with, and that has become my focus. (that does NOT mean, by the way, that I don't need to practice those other things...but that's a topic for another day, I won't chase that rabbit here).
--Some Christians have their tools; they KNOW what their spiritual gift is--but they aren't using it. They'd rather sit around and talk about the NEED to use these tools, HOW to use the tools, and criticizing how others are using their tools. Sadly, this seems to describe a majority of those in our churches today; they fill our pews, they can certainly talk about what needs to be done, and find fault with what others are doing...but they don't bother to actually pick up their OWN tool/gift and start helping out!!
--Finally, there are a few out there using their tools for the wrong purpose. What am I talking about here? Sometimes, those who are WILLING to do the work take jobs within our churches just because they "need" to be done, NOT because they sense God calling them to do them. I once got a NEGATIVE score in Mercy on a Spiritual Gift test--I am probably NOT the best choice to head the benevolence ministry or an encourager's ministry. If someone handed me three paper bags to sort by size and store, I'd lose them all within a week's time--so my skill set probably doesn't include organizing an event. But ask me to speak, or to teach, and I'm all over it!! Now, let me add one thing--I don't teach or speak because I'M good at it, but because God has gifted me with it. It may seem a small distinction, but it all makes ALL the difference! Maybe I AM good at it, maybe others really enjoy it--I certainly hope so--but if that is the case, that is to God's Glory, not mine...I'm just USING the tools He gave me.

Oh, that last guy...he represents those few poor folks at church who ARE working, they ARE using their gifts, the WAY God intended...but they don't seem to get much accomplished because everything they do gets criticized by the pew sitters, the very ones who aren't actually working themselves. Whatever you do, DO NOT be one of these critical pew-sitters!!

WHAT is your tool? How are you using it? ARE you using it? What are you helping to build for the Kingdom? If we are to accomplish all He has planned for us to do, we need EVERY "volunteer" out there, working!!

There are so many great verses regarding spiritual gifts, I just can't choose! So, I'll put a couple of verses here, and also some Scripture references...go check them out!
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:10-11
Also read:

Romans 12:6-8
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 Corinthians 14:26
1 Corinthians 12:8-28 (it's long, but worth it!!)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Piling On

I've had this post in mind for awhile but haven't had a chance to write lately. And I'm not sure it really says all I want it to, but it'll do for a start...I'll change it if God gives me another direction for it!

Piling on is a football term for when a runner is tackled and the play is over, but then one or more other players "pile on" top of the runner, even though he is already down. You see this especially when there is a fumble--someone dives for it, then someone else, and pretty soon there's twelve guys all piled on top of each other. Did that tenth guy REALLY think he was gonna come up with the ball? Of course not, he just wanted to be part of the action.

Sometimes, it seems like Life is "piling on," as has been the case for a couple of my friends lately.
One close friend has been trying for several years to adopt two boys from a foreign country; recently her family accepted God's call to MOVE to that country as full-time missionaries. THEN her dad was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer, and also lost his job of 38 years.

Another dear friend has recently faced surgery on her dad which turned into a near-death episode and a long hospital stay; the diagnosis of late stage cancer in her brother, who is already paralyzed from a car accident years ago; her own fairly major surgery and recovery; and most recently, a scare with a bad report on a test her mom. Not to mention that she now has a teenage driver, which is enough stress for anyone!

This two friends were there for me when life was "piling on" for me a couple of years a five-month period, I lost my father, my house and my job, and my will to keep going on. And so, to watch them face these trials, well, you just wish you could make it all better. But I can't...I do, however, know the One who can!!

It was on the day that she got the bad test results for her mom though, that I witnessed a different version of "piling on." During choir practice, we always have a time for prayer...after all the requests had been voiced that night, our choir director said that he just felt a special need for us to really pray for my friend who has had SO many things happening lately. But rather than just have someone pray for her (which is good, I encourage that!!), he asked that we all actually gather around her and pray. So, there were all were, like one great big pile, covering the one person in the middle who had the ball.

Only the ball wasn't a football, it was the "ball" of problems that life had been piling on. And as we all gathered around her, and prayed, one at a time, for specific needs in her life and in the life of her family...well, God joined us there. "Whenever two or more are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Matthew 18:20

Prayer works, anyway, whether you are alone in your bed or surrounded by 5,00o others...but when believers come together, physically, and earnestly seek God together...well, something truly supernatural happens! It happened that night...I think we ALL left that huddle with lighter spirits, lightened burdens. And oh, yeah, those test results? They turned out to be fine...

It is time for Christians to start "piling on" each other. Instead of shooting our own wounded, we need to take the stance that we will leave no one behind. The marines will risk their own lives, to go back for a wounded, or even a dead, comrade...they will not leave them alone.

Our churches today are too often sanctuaries full of individuals trying to make it on their own, instead of the Body of Christ, banded together. Too often, we live each other alone to fight our battles...and the devil loves it!! It's so much easier to defeat one isolated soldier, than to have to face the whole battalion!!

Not even sure WHY I picked these two verses, but they just keep coming to mind as I type this:

"Troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 10:37

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Dogs are Fighting

No, I don't know Michael Vick; it's not that kind of dog fight...

I've written about three different versions of this post; it's a subject that I need to prepare as a topic for a women's ministry event (so if you want to hear more, ask me to come speak to your group!) because there is no way to really handle it completely here, even if I made it a series of postings. So, this is like the Reader's Digest Condensed version...

I am a perfectionist. Unfortunately, I am NOT perfect. Not even close. This is a highly irritating reality to people like me, cause I wanna be the “Super Jesus Girl” as Angela Thomas puts it (if you don’t know who she is, google her name and buy one of her books…you’ll be glad you did!).

This past week, God has given me lots of chances to see just how imperfect I am. Moments when I've felt like the worst Mom in the world. Moments when I’ve fallen to the same sin I’ve fallen to umpteen times before, and I wonder if I will EVER learn. Moments when pride has brought me low, when anger has bested me, when a “little white lie” came out before I even thought about it.

Now, we all mess up from time to time. But there are times when it seems like our mistakes just come in spades, when you make mistakes trying to correct your mistakes, when you realize you’ve committed a sin right on the heels of asking forgiveness for the last sin you committed…this is what my week has been like, and it makes me want to just crawl in bed, and cancel the rest of the week. But God decided HE kinda liked this week (cause He made it...) and He thought He'd just stick with it.

And then I remember that evidently, Paul sometimes felt the same way:

“For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do... I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am!" Romans 7:15-24

I love this passage in Romans because I think of Paul as such a great man of God, and he was…but he sometimes felt the same way I do, like he just couldn’t get it right!!
BUT…Paul added one other little detail, a detail that we need desperately to remember when we feel defeated by our faults:

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:25

God KNOWS we won’t always get it right!! That’s why He not only sent His Son to die for us, but He sent Him to Live through us, too…"I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

There is just ONE way for me to ever defeat sin in my life, and that is to let Jesus live through me. Think of your “flesh” nature and your “spiritual” nature as two dogs living inside you. These dogs keep getting into fights (okay, dog fighting might be a touchy subject just now…but just hang with me!). Which dog is gonna win? The strongest one; the one that’s been fed right, exercised, and taken care of. Well, then, which dog are you taking the best care of? Do you “feed” your spirit with Scripture, prayer, preaching, uplifting music? Or are you feeding your flesh with inappropriate TV shows, movies, foul language and jokes (saying them OR listening to them), music that has questionable lyrics…

Do you “exercise” your spirit? The Scripture is full of ways to do that—GO and tell others about Jesus, DO something good for someone in need and let them know why you’re doing it, FORGIVE someone you’re angry with, RECONCILE with a brother…pretty much anywhere you see a verb in the Bible, it’s an opportunity to “exercise” your spirit. But instead, we exercise the flesh instead—I know, you’re thinking “exercise” is the farthest thing in the world from what you do with your flesh…but I’m not talking about jumping jacks here. I’m talking about the flesh involved more in your actions or is the Spirit?
Just an example...I could wallow in my pity and focus on the mistakes I've made this week and become pretty negative...or I could sit down and write a blog post about how to learn a spiritual lesson through this experience...guess which one I chose?!...

Which dog do you want to win? What are you doing to make sure of victory? That's the one you need to feed...let the other one starve for awhile (good grief, now I'm even getting into animal abuse...just in case the ASPCA is reading this, remember, these are NOT real dogs...if you have a real dog, please be nice to it..).

Finally, here’s a bit of encouragement…I needed it, so I’m guessing maybe you do too:
God’s not done with you, and He’s NOT giving up, ever, on making you what He knows you can be.

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Now, excuse me, I've got a dog to feed…

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Never Forget

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

I pledge allegiance to the Lamb
With all my strength
With all I am
I will seek to honor His commands
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb

I have heard how Christians long ago
Were brought before a tyrants throne
They were told that he
Would spare their lives
If they would renounce
The name of Christ
But one by one they chose to die
The Son of God, they would not deny
Like a great angelic choir sings
I can almost hear their voices ring

Now the years have come
And the years have gone
And the cause of Jesus still goes on
Now our time has come
To count the cost
To reject this world
To embrace the Cross

And one by one let us live our lives
For the One who died to give us life
Till the trumpet sounds on the final day
Let us proudly stand and boldly say

To the Lamb of God who bore my pain
Who took my place
Who wore my shame
I will seek to honor His commands
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb
Allegiance, by Ray Boltz

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Follow the Truck

In my Sunday School class this morning, during our discussion of the story (based on Daniel 2--it's cool, you should read it!) we were talking about how we can know that we are acting in faith and not acting in folly. One of my class members said, "Don't you think that the difference is that Daniel was walking BEHIND God, not in front of Him." She was exactly right and it was a great way to show how to apply this to our own lives.
When we run off in front of God, and merely ask Him to bless what we have already decided to do, that's just folly. But when we walk just behind Him, checking each step of the way that He is still in front, then He will be able to lead us down the right path, and we CAN be confident in what we do, because we KNOW He is the one leading us to do it.

This made me think of an experience I had years ago. I was driving through Atlanta, up past the airport. At night. In the rain. I hate driving in Atlanta, and I especially hate driving in the dark and the rain. So I was not enjoying the experience. And then, it started raining harder. And harder. At this point, I thought of the advice my father had given me, that if it is raining too hard, you should just pull off to the side of the road until it lets up, instead of risking an accident. Good advice, that...only, until that moment, I hadn't thought of the problem with that advice, which is that if you can't SEE the side of the road, HOW do you pull over on it!? So, I kept driving, unable to tell which lane I was in, or if I was even in a lane at all. I still praise God that I did not meet my end via a concrete wall that night, because my eternity would have been spent in the wrong place!
And then, help arrived in the form of an 18-wheeler. It entered the interstate just ahead of me, and I just fell right in behind him, and decided he was my "safe passage," my salvation. I just drove along, following that truck like a baby duck follows its mama. It occurred to me that if that truck suddenly drove off a 50-ft. cliff, I was gonna be landing on top of it, but I just decided to trust that it was going to stay on the did, the rain finally let up, I became more comfortable with finding my own way, pulled out ahead of the truck, and arrived back home safely, except for a tension headache...

The thing that got me safely where I was going was my decision to just stay behind that truck--sure, I was really just "lucky" that I picked the right truck, because I could just as easily gotten behind one that wouldn't have been safe to follow (well, it wasn't luck; God sent that truck, even though I was spiritually lost at the time.) But, hey, that's not the point here.

The point is, that the safest way to get through life is to get yourself up behind God, and just follow His lead. He will NEVER lead you onto the wrong path, and you are absolutely guaranteed to arrive safe at home, because He knows the way! It is when I become comfortable, and pull out ahead of God that I get myself in trouble, because then the storm comes, and I can't see a thing, and I have NO idea whether I'm on the right road or not. I become afraid that I'm going to end up in trouble, because I can't see ahead of me. The good news is that all I have to do is STOP trying to make it on my own, get back behind Him, and I'm right back on track.

Where are you in life? Do you know you're headed in the right direction, because you're following The Leader...are you trusting Christ to take you in the right direction?
Or are you out ahead of Him trying to do things on your own and just hoping He will bless what you do? That is folly, and you'll find yourself in a storm, unable to find your way out!
Maybe you're already out in the storm, alone, and unable to see where you need to head. You're scared and you don't know how to find your way out. Pull off for a minute and turn your life over to Christ...He will lead you in the right direction, because He knows the way home!!

Today's closing passage is a bit long, but worth it, especially if you're trying to find your way:
" 'Trust in God, trust also in Me. In my Father's house are many rooms...I am going there to prepare a place for you...I will come back and take you to be with me...You know the way to the place where I am going.' Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?' Jesus answered, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.' " John 14:1-6

Friday, September 7, 2007

Here I Stand, Too

Well, yesterday's post was so long, even I almost didn't read it all!! When I really get going, it's hard to stop me! That's why I blog, so my friends don't have to listen to it all the time...

Anyway, today's post is something different. A friend sent me this video and I thought it was worth sharing. Now, let me first state, this is NOT a political endorsement!! I do not yet know who I plan to vote for, but I know that I DO NOT plan to make this, or any of my blogs, a forum for politics.

No, I'm not showing this because of its political nature, but because of its Spiritual message. Here is a man who is willing to take a stand, even though he KNOWS it may cost him some votes. Clearly this is a person who cares more about pleasing his Savior than about pleasing man.

My point in posting this video is this--if HE can do it, knowing he may lose votes, knowing that he is going to get attacked in the media for it...well, then, what about YOU?

WHAT do you believe? Are you so firm in your faith that you are willing to proclaim it, no matter the response you get? Are you living to please God, or man?

Finally, I leave you with this quote, which Huckabee's one of my favorites. It's from Martin Luther when asked to defend or reject his 95 theses that inspired the Protestant Reformation, including the idea that Scripture says we are saved by faith in God alone and by His grace. Luther's response was this:
"Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Oops! You Did It Again

Some time ago, the city where I live began putting up traffic cameras at some of the busier intersections throughout the city. These aren't just any traffic camera, though--these cameras snap a picture of the car and license plate of anyone who decides the whole "red light, green light" thing doesn't work for them and just keeps on going through the red light. Should you choose to ignore the red light and go anyway, in a few weeks you will get your very own, personalized traffic ticket in the mail. You can pay it, or you can go to court, but you should remember that they did catch it on tape...

This story is not about whether these cameras are good or bad, but just a couple of secondhand experiences I've had with them recently that got me thinking.
A friend of mine told me that her daughter had gotten one of these tickets in the mail; but her daughter insisted that, not only did she have a good reason for speeding (her son was having a seizure...not a first time, but always scary...), but that she did stop and look before going on through the light. So, my friend called the number on the citation, and explained all this to the lady on the phone. Ms. Ticket-by-mail lady listened politely, then told my friend that she was looking at the video and that her daughter had not in fact stopped. She said they would probably forgive the ticket based on the situation if she had shown some caution, but that she had not even slowed down. Ticket-by-mail lady said daughter did not even slow down...if anything, she sped up. The ticket was paid, and hopefully, the lesson learned.

Then yesterday, I witnessed what must be just about the most bone-headed thing I've seen this year. I was driving down the road, approaching a light just before one of these traffic cam intersections and saw THE flash--that super-bright, white light that tells you one of the cams has just snapped a red-light transgressor. I looked up the road to see the culprit, just then getting to other side of the intersection, and I thought, "man, I bet he wishes he hadn't done that! (yes, in all fairness, perhaps "She" wishes it...I don't know)"
Now, this is a stretch of road where there are actually two large, busy intersections in a row, both with cameras. Well, while I'm still watching this car, thinking how it must feel to have that bright light flash behind you and realize what you've done, they get up to the second intersection, which has also just turned red, and what do they do? Oh yes, they did it...they went right through that one too! They were turning right this time, but they did not even slow down to see if there was anything coming. And yes, there was another flash of light, meant just for them...

All this got me thinking about....God. Pretty scary how weird my brain works sometimes, but I suddenly saw how these cameras were like God's security system for us.
In the last post, I talked about how God warns us before we "hit" something, before we fall into a temptation. But what about after? Once I fall to temptation, once I enter into sin, does God just punish me and that's that? No, God is more interested in helping me learn so that I don't keep making the same mistakes.

In the first instance, the daughter insisted she had stopped, she had done what she was supposed to, and besides her situation made what she had done okay...I do this ALL the time; it's called rationalization...what I did was okay, because....
Her mother didn't see her at that intersection. Her friends didn't see her there. She could have told them anything and they would have believed her. Except for one problem. The camera saw her. And the camera doesn't lie...she was busted.

God is the same way--I may be able to fool everyone else and make them believe that I didn't do something, or at least that my reasons were pure and just. I might even make myself believe it...but sometimes I forget one little thing. God was watching--He saw it, and there's just no getting around it.
If you had your dad, or your mom, or your pastor, or the principal of your school, with you everwhere you went, do you think there might be some things you'd do differently? Would you work a little harder, be a little nicer, stay out of certain places? Well, as Christians, we DO have Jesus with us, everywhere. He's there when you tell that little lie. He's there when you tell that dirty joke. He's there when you decide to go somewhere you shouldn't, even though you pick a place far away from your home so "nobody will know." Think about that the next time you're facing temptation!

But then there's the second part of this, the guy/girl who went through not one light, but two, even though they got busted the first time.
There are two parts to this. First, God doesn't just warn us when we're about to sin, He also tries to make us stop and think, and repent, as soon as we do sin, so that it won't get any worse than it already is. That first camera flash really should have done the trick! Once busted, he could have acknowledged his mistake and changed his behavior the next time, but he didn't, and now you can bet, it is not going to be pretty when this poor soul gets not one, but two tickets!!

So, what about us? How does God "bust" us sometimes? What about when you get caught in a lie? Or, you let temptation win, and you go to that place you shouldn't go, far away from home, and somebody you know sees you as they're driving past? Or you let the urge win, and you get on the computer and go to that site you have no business looking at, and someone walks into your room? BUSTED....but does it change your behavior? Does it make you stop, realize what you're doing is wrong, and repent (change your mind & change your direction)?
That's what God wants us to do, you know, and He'll even help us do it, if we'll let Him. But if we blatantly disregard the warnings, and if even getting busted once doesn't wake us up, then pretty soon, we will find ourselves in a real mess. Beware--getting caught in the lie was a warning to not tell the lie again!! Getting caught on the website was a warning to block those sites, don't let yourself go there!! Those are all God's ways of saying, "Hey! I'm watching, don't do're gonna get yourself in a big mess if you keep that up!" See, God will allow us to suffer consequences for our actions, but it is NOT because He enjoys punishing's because He loves us, and He wants us to learn from our mistakes and draw closer to Him. In fact, He wants us to draw SO close, that we go everywhere with Jesus, and we let Him decide what we do...

For I am crucified with Christ and yet I live; yet, not I, but
Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Monday, September 3, 2007

Warning, Warning!!

This past weekend I went to a family gathering in my cousin's Expedition. As she was backing up to park, there was a beeping noise--turns out, her vehicle tells her that she's about to hit something...and the closer you get to the object, the faster it beeps.
You can choose to ignore the beeping sound, and just hit the object (realistically, you might just do this, because it will beep whether you're about to hit a truck or a wispy little branch shooting off from a bush). Or, you can abort and try a different direction.
Well, I thought that was pretty cool, but didn't think much more about it until the next day, Sunday. During the service, a particular verse our pastor mentioned just really struck me--well, the first thing that struck me was that this was probably the 3rd time that week I had heard that verse.
And that was when I heard the beeping. Not literal beeping, mind you, which was good, because that would probably be the sound of my cell phone ringing during church. No, this beeping was happening entirely in my head, and behind it was the voice of God, saying, "You know, when you hear My Word, the SAME verse, that many times in one short period, you might want to stop and ask yourself, 'what am I about to hit that God is trying to warn me about?'"

See, God wants us to stay on the right path, and He sees it so clearly when we are heading off the wrong way. And, contrary to what some seem to believe, God is NOT looking just to make us stick to a bunch of rules, and to "punish" us when we do wrong. No, God wants us to stay on His path, because He knows that's where we will stay safe, that's where we will find all the blessings He has in store for us, that's where we will be able to use best the gifts He has given us and find the "life more abundantly" that Jesus promises.
Sometimes, we just begin to angle off that path--we don't even realize it. Maybe it's something "little" to our eyes--we lied about something and have refused to admit it, we are angry with someone and refuse to confront it and find reconciliation, we're confused and trying to find our own way out of a problem instead of waiting for God's answer. And slowly, if we'll listen, the beeping starts.
We are continually reminded of the lie we told...different people keep bringing up a subject that reminds us of the person we're angry with...even newspaper articles and TV shows "coincidentally" bring up the very thing we are either struggling with, or maybe struggling to ignore. And, of course, often the beeping takes the form of God's Word. "In your anger, sin not." "Do not be anxious about anything..." "He who knows the good he should do, and doesn't do it, that is sin for him." Beep, beep, beep!! Warning! Get back on the path before you hit something!!
The beeping gets louder, and faster. "Warning, warning" is ringing out, if we will hear it.

God will continue to warn us as long as He can, but if we choose to ignore the warnings, we WILL eventually run smack into our own sins, and then we will have a much bigger mess for God to clean up.

But we can also listen to the beeps, HEED the warning, and change our direction. It's called "repentance" which just means "change your mind AND change your direction."
See, the car beeped because the sensor KNOWS there IS something there and if you ignore you WILL hit it, whether you even realize it's there or not. Well, God knows that when we sin and ignore it, we ARE going to run right off His path and straight into trouble, whether we can see the trouble coming or not.

I have no idea what else the pastor said that morning, because I was busy backing up and getting myself back on the right was a little thing I was about to hit, and I'm glad of that. But it was still off His path, and that's just not where I want to be.

Is God's warning system "beeping" at you about something? Pay attention, and move back where He wants you to be!!