Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Whispers in our Thoughts

Today as I was out for a run, something hit me. (It's okay! Not literally!) I was running along in the wind and snow, singing some praise songs in my head (because I was far too winded to sing them out loud...LOL!) when the awesome power of God just seemed to be there, all around me! The air was chilling and the wind was strong, blowing sharp wisps of snow into my face. The trees were bending to the power of the wind and it definitely slowed my pace as I tried to press forward. It was cold and the wind was so mighty, but yet nothing compared to what it could be. How easily it could overpower me. It's good to experience that...to physically get a glimpse of the power God has injected into His creation.

It is so much more *pleasant* to be out running in the beautiful sunshine on a nice, wind-free day (a rarity in my neck of the woods). I know my run is much easier when I'm not battling the tumultuous winds...that's for sure! But the extra workout it gives, even though I'd rather do without the added effort, was well worth it. I came home from my run feeling energized and refreshed, more than usual. The same is true for our lives. We'd so much rather go through life like a warm, sunny day. No breeze to ruffle our feathers, sipping lemonade in the shade, when it's warm but not too hot. Peaceful. Easy. But the lessons well learned are learned in the storm.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we would all just hear the Lord when he's speaking to us in whispers? Like the gentle breeze on a warm summer day. I know He speaks to me far more often than I listen. After a while, to get His point across, He has to make Himself known more obviously, like a freezing cold wind slapping me in the face. Thankfully, we serve a mighty God! He has the power to get our attention no matter how hard of hearing we might be, even when it requires a hurricane to speak to our hearts. We need quiet ourselves so we can tune ourselves in to hear Him.

The beauty of our God's power, though, is that He treats us with such delicacy and tenderness. His patience while refining us is so enduring. Just dwell for a minute on the power in the tornado or the hurricane -- with a Word He could wipe everything away in the twinkling of an eye. Those are works of our Father's mighty hands. Yet, here we are still. In our smallness and infinite un-worthiness, He still desires us and approaches us in the most intimate of moments in life. When we're alone in the silence, He comes to us and speaks to us as whispers in our thoughts. So much power and majesty, and yet so soft and tender. In this world that can be so cold and harsh, He is our warm summer day, if only we will open ourselves up to hear Him speaking in that still, small voice.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin' in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

We cry holy, holy, holy
You are holy, holy, holy
I want to see you
Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy
You are holy, holy, holy
I want to see you"

--Michael W. Smith, Open the Eyes of My Heart

"To you, God, in Zion, silence is praise; and vows to you are to be fulfilled. You who listen to prayer, to you all living creatures come. When deeds of wickedness overwhelm me, you will atone for our crimes. How blessed are those you choose and bring near, so that they can remain in your courtyards! We will be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the Holy Place of your temple.

"It is just that you answer us with awesome deeds, God of our salvation, you in whom all put their trust, to the ends of the earth and on distant seas. By your strength you set up the mountains. You are clothed with power. You still the roaring of the seas, their crashing waves, and the peoples' turmoil. This is why those living at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your signs.

"The places where the sun rises and sets you cause to sing for joy. You care for the earth and water it, you enrich it greatly; with the river of God, full of water, you provide them grain and prepare the ground. Soaking its furrows and settling its soil, you soften it with showers and bless its growth. You crown the year with your goodness, your tracks overflow with richness. The desert pastures drip water, the hills are wrapped with joy, the meadows are clothed with flocks and the valleys blanketed with grain, so they shout for joy and break into song."
--Psalm 65

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

Wow! What a summer it has been! It's been a busy, hectic season filled with great times with lots of friends and family, but I'm also ready to get back to a routine. In my spare time, I wanted to focus this summer more on reflection of just what direction I should be taking in some certain areas of my life. Now, with the fall festivals on their way, I think it's high time to put these decisions into action. In this season of repentance and cleansing, I've got a renewed determination to keep my seat in this saddle, right where it belongs.

In my many hours spent in reflection on things this summer, oftentimes I found myself wondering why God allows certain things to happen, and in talking with others, it seems they have the same struggles as well. This is such a common thing to struggle with and I found myself looking for deeper answers than the standard "refining fire for believers" answer, or to prepare us for something to come. I know our Father in heaven loves us and allows us to go through trials so that we can learn things about His nature and become stronger in our walk with Him. I've even learned to rejoice in these trials as He would have us do. These are good and true, but there's more to it than just that.

What about the bigger picture? We can all face personal trials, but what about mankind as a whole? If God knew we were going to fall into sin in the first place, why did He bother? These answers may seem simple to the seasoned believer, but I know many a non-believer that feels God cannot exist simply because of this fact. It is a reasonable question after all. When the non-believer looks at the craziness around us, they see a world filled with bad things but are searching for the meaning in it all. They're not so concerned about grace as they are with justice. Where is there justice in a world so filled with evil? What can we say to them?

When there is no fear of punishment, what a man is at heart cannot be hidden. God allows all this evil to happen because He is patiently waiting for the situation to sort itself out. What a wise and knowing father! After all, He knew what would happen when He created us (the more immediate outcome), but He also knows the FINAL outcome. His patience allows us the time to forget our fear of punishment, which in turn allows our true colors to show through. His patience is long-lasting, but there will come a time of judgement. He is patiently waiting on us to mature...either to mature in His salvation (sanctification), or to allow our sinful state to mature -- and then will come the time of reckoning. I think this understanding is just as reassuring as is the assurance that the grace of God is upon us. It may be fearful to some, but we do serve a just God and I am thankful for that! And thank goodness He is also a God filled with everlasting love, kindness and patience who knows enough to let the situation run it's course.

In the meantime, it's important for believers not to hinder His work here on earth by losing OUR patience. We've just gotta keep on keepin' on, even when times get tough and the saddle sores are wearing down our resolve. We must not "despise the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience; because you don't realize that God's kindness is intended to lead you to turn from your sins," Romans 2:4. He wants to give every last person who's willing the chance to be with us in the world to come and we just need to wait on Him to work all things out.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summertime in the Rockies!

Well, warmer weather has officially arrived here in the Rocky Mountains! In the summertime, I rarely find time to spend on the computer unless it is regarding work. As a result, I won't be blogging much but will be gardening and enjoying the outdoors as much as possible. Hope you have a blessed summer and I'll leave you with a passage:

"A wise son is a joy to his father, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother. No good comes from ill-gotten wealth, but righteousness rescues from death. Adonai does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. Idle hands bring poverty; diligent hands bring wealth. A sensible person gathers in summer, but he who sleeps during harvest is an embarrassment. Blessings are for the head of the righteous, but the speech of the wicked is a cover for violence. The memory of the righteous will be for a blessing, but the reputation of the wicked will rot. Wise-hearted people take orders, but a babbling fool will have trouble. He who walks purely walks securely, but he who walks in crooked ways will be found out. He who winks his eye [instead of rebuking] causes pain, yet a babbling fool will have trouble. The speech of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the speech of the wicked is a cover for violence. Hate stirs up disputes, but love covers all kinds of transgressions." -- Proverbs 10:1-12
May you have a summer filled with all good things!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Redefining Hate Crimes


The above is a link to an article about the re-definition of hate crimes and how it could potentially affect our daily lives in a very real way regarding our freedom of speech. I found the prospect of this quite disconcerting. The audio link on the page is very informational.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Righteousness and Justice

As we were studying the story of Abraham the other day, God's love for mankind was soooooo evident. Even in his justice. To most people, I think the justice of God strikes fear, which it should, to a point. But really, if you think about it, justice is such a good thing!

We were reading in Genesis about the promise from God to Abraham that He will make a great nation out of Abraham's descendants, and then where God went on to visit Sodom and Gomorrah and, taking Lot and his family out to safety, destroyed the evil cities. On so many levels, this story is just amazing.

First, God goes and gives mankind a nation through which He will give us a Savior as well as a nation that will uphold God's right-rulings. Then, despite the fact that having to kill so many people must break his heart, He destroys those who are spreading corruption and evil. Yes, yes, this sounds so hardhearted...like a ruling king who just obliterates all of those who can't follow his rules. But, our Creator, the one who loves us unconditionally and actually did give His own life for us, this is the King that we're talking about. Would a King like that really rule in such a harsh and cruel way? No.

How can such justice be loving? All it takes is a quick look around us to see how. When we watch the evening news, it is plastered with stories of murder, thefts, so many forms of death and destruction. How are these horrendeous acts to be stopped? All of these are what happen to us when we are left to our own devices, when we're given over to do what we think is right in our own eyes. Only when we follow God's morality can we be saved from destroying ourselves. I do not believe for one second that our Heavenly Father takes even the smallest bit of joy in destroying evildoers, but He must. He must to protect those who are trying to get along in this life, trying to do righteousness, as well as those who are still not ready to turn from their evil doing, but they are not completely hard of heart yet either. He must take action to stop the spread of such corruption. Those who refuse to turn from their sins (disobeying the rules our Creator made for us so that we can all get along) can't simply be left to destroy all others. What a sad situation we've placed ourselves in! There must be a line drawn in the sand so that when we cross it, we will know we've done wrong and either learn our lesson or suffer the consequences. Without these lines of right and wrong, the world will have gone completely mad and not one of us could sleep a wink at night for fear of what might happen. So thank the Lord for His righteous judgments!

Though they sometimes seem harsh and cruel, it is this same righteousness that saves us from ourselves. Then to top it all off, God gives us a glimmer of hope! No, not just a glimmer, even...a bright, shining light of hope! We are able to look at His sacrifice and see that He's willing to walk in this weary world alongside us. And He's willing to tell those who love Him and those who choose to adopt His morals to suffer too, for the sake of those who haven't discovered this hope. He leads a whole NATION into right-doing to bless ALL the nations, no matter how high the cost! It's like network marketing at it's finest!

So, while we plug along in this weary, depressing world, we have hope...real hope! And even though it's tough, it would be far tougher if we were completely left to our own devices. Instead of living in constant fear, we do have good in this world because there are those who do His will (even when they don't always realize it). So let us not fear, because our wise God has led us into this battle and He created the victorious outcome...our suffering is just for a time because He is righteous and because He is just.

"Do you not know that to whom you yield yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to him whom you obey; whether it is of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness. " --Romans 6:16

"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears open to their prayers. But the Lord's face is against those who do evil. And who is the one who will harm you if you become imitators of the good? But if you also suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. And do not fear their fear, nor be troubled, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts," --1 Peter 3:12-15

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I think every season is my favorite as it comes around because I'm always ready for the next change, but spring is my favorite of favorites. In America, we celebrate the new year in January, in the middle of the winter. According to the biblical calendar, however, the month of Nisan is the beginning of the year, which always falls around March or April of the gregorian calendar, and I love how the spring season fits with this. It is such a time of renewal when the world around us is springing to life after a long, cold winter. What a great time for fresh starts!

It is amazing to me how the Lord has worked His timing to reveal important events to us. First, Passover, where we're redeemed from our slavery (to sin), then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where we begin our journey away from our personal Egypt and our slavery. Now, we're counting the Omer, which is basically counting out 50 days to the day of Shavuot, more widely know as Pentecost. This is traditionally known as the day of the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and Christians also know this day as the day of the giving of the Spirit after Jesus' ascention. Both of these, the written Word and the Word written on our hearts, give us the tools we need to take further steps away from the sin in our lives and to bear fruits of righteousness.

What a wise and awesome God we serve! He has taken the physical world around us and used it as yet another teaching tool for His wayward children. The birds gathering once again in the budding trees, flowers sprouting and the grass greening...all beautiful reminders to allow Him to melt our cold, hard hearts so that we can bear fruit once again!

"Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit." Psalm 51:10-12

Monday, April 20, 2009

Crack in the Track

Have you ever read the story, "A Crack in the Track?" Well, my kiddos love this story, so it's one we get to read often around our house. Thomas the train felt that a train could do anything. He learned, however, that life doesn't always work that way.

Along his "route" that day, a terrible storm hit, which cracked the track that Thomas was travelling on. He couldn't back up because there others on the track behind him and he couldn't go forward because the track was broken. He was stuck on his own track. As I was reading this story the other night, the thought occurred to me that Thomas' delimma is not unlike our lives in so many ways!

How often do we think that we can accomplish things through our own abilities? Thomas learned, in the end, that a "train is only as good as it's track." The same is so very true for us! We can accomplish nothing in and of ourselves...our success in life is fully dependent upon the track that we're travelling on.

In our lives, there are two tracks...the one we build for ourselves and the one that God builds for us. If we attempt to build our track ourselves, the track will most likely end up very twisted and broken, for track building is not our purpose. Our purpose is simply to travel along our track , wherever it may lead. The track building should always be left up to the professionals who know what they're doing. As believers, God should be our track builder.

For those of us who already know the Messiah (we've been saved through faith), we're faced with the question of, "I'm saved...so now what?" What are we to do on this faith journey, this new track that God Himself has built for us? Once we're saved, we have the high calling of being a disciple, but what does that mean? Where does this track lead?

The Bible tells us in Romans 6:22 that we are are now "...freed from sin and enslaved to God, you do get the benefit — it consists in being made holy, set apart for God, and its end result is eternal life." God has set us apart to walk in holiness. So, how do we do that? If we are truly free from sin, we must allow our outer man to mirror our inner man and cast off this sin outwardly as well. 1 John 3:4 says, "Whoever commits sin transgresses the law, for sin is transgression of the law." God set Israel apart by taking her out of Egypt so that she would be free to serve God alone, and then He gave her the law to allow her to live as the set apart nation that He had made her. In Romans, we learn that we are set apart as well, as a holy people unto God. Then in 1 John we learn that we are to cast of our sins the same as Israel was told to do, by turning from transgression of the law. This is the track God has given us to lead set apart lives.

Matthew 7:12-14 says, "Therefore all things, whatever you desire that men should do to you, do even so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets. Go in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." God's track will lead you there!

Aren't we taught in many congregations that this "law" is done away with? In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus specifically says, "Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any way pass from the Law until all is fulfilled. Therefore whoever shall relax one of these commandments, the least, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven." The "fulfill" here can also mean "to complete, fill up, or fully preach." The "law" that this is referring to is the Old Testament law, also known in Hebrew as the Torah. Torah means "instruction." Jesus came to fully preach God's instructions to His people! Heaven and earth have not yet passed away just as God's Word has not passed away!

Many teachers say that we are no longer under the law. And right they are...we are not under the condemnation of the law, that curse of the law, which is eternal separation from our Father in heaven. Jesus drew us near through His sacrifice and we no longer have to be separated, for He is our Passover Lamb! We are not under the law, but we should not exalt ourselves above it, either. We are to line ourselves up with God's instructions for our lives and, "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48) In this manner, we submit our lives to God as His slaves as Romans 6:22 teaches. There is only One who is above the law and that is it's Creator, our Creator. Even He, in human form, fully submitted Himself to this law in order that He would be the sinless sacrifice. Remember, in 1 John we learned that sin is "transgression of the law."

Belief alone is not enough, for "even the demons believe and tremble." (James 2:19) "But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20) A saving faith spurs us on to walking as Jesus walked. He led the way in rejecting lawlesness and we as His disciples, are called to follow His track, for His is the track to life. Salvation isn't just moment in time where our train jumps off it's track onto a new one. Salvation is also travelling down that new track until we reach the end of it, that great and glorious reward!

Now all this talk of "law" seems very daunting. Keep in mind that this is not a track that we conquer all in one moment...it takes a lifetime. The point is that we are on this track. A lifetime of baby steps, crawling along God's track and learning how to live in righteousness, because this is an entirely new track for us to be on! But with Jesus our Messiah leading the way, and God's Spirit living in us, we are well on our way. May we follow God's track and learn a little lesson from our sweet blue friend, Thomas, that a "train is only as good as it's track."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Matzah Mayhem

I just wanted to share my joyful experience with you. In the last 4 years, I've come to learn about and love God's Torah, which means "instruction" in Hebrew. The term "Torah" is primarily speaking of the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy. Included in the Torah are instructions to observe the Passover as a memorial to the wonderful works of God and it is also a prophetic holiday (holy-day) speaking of Jesus' sacrifice. It is a beautiful way to teach our children of God's wonderous works on earth and my children have come to really anticipate this feast.

We are the only ones in our extended family that celebrate the Passover, with the exception of a couple out-of-state relatives. Sometimes it is difficult and lonely when nobody rejoices with us on such a day. However, for the last two years, I have been the hostess of a Passover Seder in my home. Last year, about half of the invitees came, so I expected a similar turnout this year. This year, I invited 20 or so people and every person I invited came, as well as a few extras! Yikes! Well, I was quite nervous about fitting all these people into my small home, but it worked out so perfectly, and God definitely blessed the event. With the removal of most of my living room furniture, we arranged additional dining space to fit everyone. It was such a joy to share what the Lord has done for us as believers with such a crowd in our home!

Nearly every guest was a first time Passover participant, so I worried that some who attended might be put off by some of the traditions (as I am well aware that they can become a snare, as my previous post reveals!); so my prayer was that those who attended would see the meaning behind the traditions we do keep, and that God would be glorified through the evening. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, we had a wonderful time of fellowship, and we received many comments about how meaningful it was for them to experience the Seder. What a joy when God uses us in such a way...I feel so humbled and so blessed!

May you have a blessed Passover season!

Tradition or Teaching?

Sometimes the lines between Biblical teaching and traditions are very easily blurred. How do we prevent the traditions of man from becoming the standards by which we hold ourselves, and others, accountable? It's a very fine line.

If we are constantly in the Word, I think it is much easier to discern the truth from tradition. I have to say that I love traditions. I enjoy taking part in ancient traditions as well as creating traditions of my own. I think that they're a wonderful way to make our lives more beautiful and enjoyable. The danger is that these beloved traditions can become a snare. At the very least, they create feelings of guilt for some believers when they may not be able to keep certain man-made rules. I think it is extremely important to discern between God's teachings and our personal preferances.

In Judaisms of Jesus' day, oral law became rules that it's followers had to abide by and Jesus' taught repeatedly against such things because God does not hold man accountable to OUR standards...we will only be held accountable to HIS standards. For Christianity, it has become much of the same. This is a very hard thing to articulate because at what point does one draw the line and say that a tradition is preventing us from doing the will of the Father? Often in congregations, we create a set of rules that members of the congregation must abide by if they want to continue as (or become) a "member." Usually, these rules include things taught in the Bible, but quite often they also include some extra rules as well. By whose authority do we rule over our brothers and sisters in such a fashion? Too often, we hold these man-made rules as a higher standard than the teachings of the Bible; we don't want to judge our brothers and sisters when it comes to obedience in regards to Biblical teaching, but we will readily judge someone according to a rule we've made for our congregation...I personally have never been the recipient of this type of judgment, but have witnessed it in virtually every congregation I've been a participant in. This is the very reason there are so many believers who truly are believers, but they will have nothing to do with a church institution.

The only solution I can see is that each believer be immersed in the Word themselves (not simply relying on others to teach them what the Bible says) so that we all know the difference between true Biblical teaching and what is tradition. When a situation arises where a Believer is being judged by other believers because of a man-made rule, we need to speak up for the truth. We must first remove the log from our own eye before picking at the splinter in our brothers eye (Matt. 7:3-5).

Mark 7:6-9, "Jesus answered them, 'Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites — as it is written, these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from Me. Their worship of Me is useless, because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.' You depart from God's command and hold onto human tradition. Indeed,' He said to them, 'you have made a fine art of departing from God's command in order to keep your tradition!'"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Living Sacrifice

In our family, we keep Shabbat. This just means that we observe the Sabbath, as the 4th commandment teaches, as a day to avoid chores and work and instead we spend time with each other, with friends and most importantly, with God. It is a day for relationship. This provides the perfect opportunity for me to sit down and do an in depth Bible study with the kids every Saturday morning, and we've come to cherish this time together.

Our last study was in Genesis, but we ended up learning something so much more amazing than simply the creation story (which is awesome in itself) that I just have to share it! When we typically think of Christ's sacrifice, we think of His death on the cross. But, until now, I never really realized that it was much more than just that Passover day.

It began that we were studying how Adam and Eve, before their fall into sin, were in perfect communion with God. They didn't need clothing because because they were "clothed" in righteousness...they were sin free. This "clothing" may have been very much like the "Shekinah," the fire/light in the cloud that was the presence of God Himself, that led the Israelites in the wilderness. The light shining from within them must have been so glorious and overcoming that they had no need of clothing to cover their flesh. They lost that pure, white, bright light of righteousness the moment they disobeyed God's instructions (sin), thus exposing their nakedness. As punishment for their sin, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, that beautiful and sustaining environment that God had created just for them to dwell in. They were thrown out of their perfect dwelling, and an angel bearing swords was placed at the gate to prevent their re-entry into the garden. They were separated from that unity with their Creator. Since He is our source of life, our separation from Him brings slow death.

This whole time, the Messiah was dwelling as God in the heavenlies. When He came to Earth as the Messiah, He had to take on the flesh of sinful man, that dirty flesh void of God's "Shekinah" glory, so that He could walk as we walk. He gave up His rightful place as the Right Hand of God. He allowed Himself to be separated, just as we are separated in our sinful, agonizing state. He was cast out of the garden just as we were. The moment He allowed Himself to be conceived into that human state, He was separated. His own slow death began. He experienced that fullness of separation for the 30 odd years that He walked among us, experiencing the pain that we all know so well, right alongside of us. As if that separation wasn't enough, He had to die a bloody death to fulfill the promise of a Sacrifice in our stead. But finally free from His fleshly "veil," He was freed from that separation and resurrected to His rightful place once again! This gives a whole new meaning to his last words in Mark 15:34, "'Elohi! Elohi! L'mah sh'vaktani?' (which means, 'My God! My God! Why have you deserted me?')" His death began at the moment of his conception.

His living was the sacrifice. This tears at my heart in the deepest of ways and it brings me to my knees.
And it makes me wonder if my living is the sacrifice it needs to be?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dirty Denominationalism

Something that has been on my mind a lot lately has been religion. By religion, I'm talking about the "denomination" or "religious following" that we practice, in contrast to the faith values we hold to and live out in our daily lives. I think believers, especially the younger generation, today find themselves experiencing a paradigm shift in how we view our practices. We are coming to realize that the practice of religion isn't always all it's cracked up to be.

Growing up, I remember being taught in church that other denominations hold faulty beliefs, that we need to be at church every week or we were in danger of falling away from the faith, that we need to fully adhere to the "tenants of our faith," and that it is bad to "pick and choose" different things from different denominations; sound familiar? I think when congregational leaders tell us these things, they have the best of intentions, however these things couldn't be farther from the truth. Even new believers shouldn't blindly follow...they should work out the beliefs they hold to be true by studying for themselves.

When Jesus wanted to be nearer to God, He went out alone. If He wanted to spend time with the Father, He would separate Himself from the crowds, and oftentimes even from His closest disciples, to pray. After His baptism, He spent 40 days in the wilderness, alone. My times of greatest growth have been when I have separated from the institution of church. These are the times when we are able to shift our focus from "church participation" to true fellowship. Now don't get me wrong, it is indeed a wonderful thing to be able to commune with other believers, however, we are called to fellowship with our Father first and foremost. He alone is our true source of strength and sanctification. Shouldn't "church" be just about that? Fellowship with other believers together with our Father...a means of worshipping God as a group? When did it become a podium (or pulpit) for teaching others what they should think about what the Bible says? Why do we have to make a separate set of rules that each must follow in order to be part of each fellowship? I believe all these things are done to try to protect us from falling into sin, but in the end, our own ignorance has caused that very thing.

Our faith-walk really has nothing to do with what denomination we choose. Each has it's strengths and it's weaknesses...we really should all be united in the Source of our faith. This is the weakness of mankind and it plagues every one of the worlds largest religions. Every form of the Judeo/Christian faith believes that it alone is the correct one. That is precisely why the Pharisees wanted to destroy Jesus...He was bringing unity under Himself where man wanted division.

The first believers in Jesus were Jewish and non-Jew alike. They were hungry for His teaching and, no matter their background, just wanted to be with Him. Once they recognized Him as the Messiah, they were taught, in a nutshell, to learn to love--God's way. It was that simple. After Messiah's ascention, the dissentions among those first believers arose very quickly because of their own notions of how things should work or be done or because of their lack of repentance and love. Religious disagreement is much of what crucified Christ! Our Messiah died because we can't just all get along and love God and our brother. Didn't we learn the first time?

Jesus said it all when He taught us to "Love the Lord our God" and to "Love our neighbor as ourselves." On these two--very basic--things hinge all the law and the prophets. After all, it isn't about religion or denomination, it's about relationship with our Creator.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Childlike Faith

I've often heard it said that we need to have "childlike faith." Well, what does this mean? My children have taught me invaluable lessons in this area!!

Many interpret childlike faith as having an unquestioning faith. I think, however, we may be wiser to do the exact opposite. Anyone who knows my son, Lane, will know how I've come to this conclusion. Daily, Lane has an unending list of questions. Some of these questions require answers far to complicated for his 5 year old mind to grasp, so sometimes I feel it's wiser to defer answers in full or in part until a time when he can better understand. I believe the Lord works this way with us as well. I sometimes (unwisely) give Lane too much information for his young mind to process and he isn't able to utilize it properly and what a mess that can make! He will say the wrong thing to the wrong person in the wrong way, for example. He's still too young to discern the proper use of some information. So I must be careful in the answers I provide...just as the Lord must be careful with what he reveals to us. I'm glad that the Lord knows better than me!

Back to my point, my children have shown me that childlike faith questions a LOT, but that trust is also key. To my kids, what I say is the ultimate truth. As a parent, this means I need to watch what I say. As a child of God, we need to have that type of trust in our Heavenly Father.

I've learned in recent months to not take unanswered questions for granted. Seek answers! In Matthew 7:7 we are told, "Seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." Faith in the Lord's promises coupled with prayers for Godly wisdom will lead us to truth. The Lord wants us to have childlike faith, not blind faith. We can't take the road less traveled if we're not looking hard enough. We'll never find it if we don't shuffle through all the fallen leaves, and what kid doesn't love to play in the leaf pile?!

The Roads We Travel

Today, as I was driving along the interstate, it got me to thinking about life.

We are all on a road to somewhere. When we are passive, we tend not to get anywhere very quickly. Sometimes we're too agressive and we end up driving off the road.
For those of us on the road of salvation and righteousness, there are so many who believe that it's all a matter of the heart; it doesn't matter what we do. We truly can be on the right road, but until we take action and press the gas pedal, we are simply at a stand still. Our faith in Messiah places us on the right road, but only acting on that faith will cause us to move forward. When we don't "do," not only are we getting nowhere, but we are blocking the road for others as well.

Christ is the bridge, called Salvation, that takes us off the road to destruction and brings us to the road of Righteousness. Then we need to follow the road of Righteousness, which takes us to the streets of Intimacy with God. God hasn't given us a difficult road of Righteousness to follow. On the contrary, he has made it a well marked highway, also called the Torah or the law. The guidelines here promise we will arrive safely and they will take us on the most direct path to more fully knowing Him.

When we interject our own directions onto our map, we will hit a bump in the road or will make a wrong turn that takes us away from Righteousness, until He brings us back to the right path. We must "do" with a spirit of love and obedience and not just for the sake of doing. The main thing is to keep searching for His road, not ours; not being too passive and blocking traffic, but at the same time being sure we're obeying the Laws; this is where the safety, security and blessings lie.

Where are you today? Are you contemplating the bridge of Salvation? Are you on the road of Righteousness? Are you looking for God's way at all? Turn your eyes to Him and he will make all your paths straight.

Our Identity in Messiah

James 1:22-25, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."

I love this passage because it reminds me of who I am as one who has faith in the Messiah. The words "the law" here are translated from the Greek word "nomos," which is in reference to the Mosaic covenant instructions found in Genesis - Deuteronomy. Christ was a DOER of this law, and in Him, so should we be, if we are to imitate Him. James is teaching us that when we are likewise doers of the instructions given in the Mosaic covenant, we will be blessed in what we do.

1 John 3:4 says that "Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." This is the same law ("nomos") referenced above: the instructions of the Mosaic covenant. Because our burdens have been lifted through our faith in Messiah, we would be wise not to attempt hanging on to those burdens! They will only weigh us down anyway. Without the burdens of these fleshly sins, we can partake of the blessings of the Lord.

It is a common interpretation that when we are saved, we become "clothed" in the righteousness of Christ. This idea behind this interpretation is correct, but it also implies that our inner man is still sinful, and this implication leads to many feelings of guilt and frustration among believers. When we believe in the Messiah for our salvation, we ARE righteous. We are not merely "clothed" in righteousness; we are made FULLY righteous, inside and out. We are a completely new person, regenerated and born again. Romans 5:1 teaches this as well, "Because we have come to be considered righteous by God because of our trust, let us continue to have peace with our God through our Lord Jesus Christ." We can have peace in knowing that we are already righteous and thus we should not forget who we are...like the man who looks into the mirror, then turns away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

Living Water

I was reading a book recently on the subject of health. Specifically, it was about the effects that holistic salt and pure water has on our bodies. But what struck me even more were some of the results of the testing they did on unprocessed water.

They spoke in the book about "living water." This water was qualified as "living" because it hadn't been processed in any way and still contained it's natural vibrations and it's molecules were still composed in a very strong structure, so as to be of the most benefit to our bodies. This water has the ability to give us energy in and of itself because it's own energy has not been stripped away by processing or so-called purification. In addition, this water is said to hydrate our bodies and satisfy our thirst much better.

This is all interesting, but it got me to thinking about the Messiah as our "living water." How often do we try to fill our lives with bits and pieces of Messiah, a "processed" form of Him through what religions say He is, instead of the real thing? That's like trying to fully satisfy our thirst with water that has had all the naturally occurring energy removed. It is a temporary fix because it has no lasting effect. Messiah, as our "living water," quenches our thirst permanently, but we must accept the whole of Him. This means we accept His loving nature, but also His judgments. When we are found to have sin in our lives, we must put it far from us. He is a God of love, but He is also a just God. Only when we allow Him to permeate EVERY aspect of our lives can He fully sanctify us. We accept the Father and the Spirit, the WHOLE being of our Creator God.

There was one other thing that really struck me in this book about water. Did you know that water has a memory? If you freeze a water drop into a crystal, it forms into a snowflake. If you allow that same water drop to thaw and then refreeze it, it will form into the EXACT same snowflake. That in itself is an amazing fact, but this is even more amazing. That same water molecule can be destroyed or repaired simply through words being spoken to it. Really. One scientist studied the effect our words have on water. When negative words were spoken to that same molecule, the molecule broke down and mutated. Then, when he spoke positive words to the water molecule, even if it had been greatly damaged, it could repair itself (in some cases fully). Considering that the majority of our bodies are made up of water, imagine the effect our words have on a body containing many water molecules that are either being built up or torn down. Physical proof that the Scriptures speak truth!

Jesus truly is our "Living Water." He can repair even the most broken down pieces of our lives. I just found this fascinating; it's symbolic on so many levels and really brought a deeper understanding of some Scriptures to light.

"Yeshua answered her, "If you knew God's gift, that is, who it is saying to you, 'Give me a drink of water,' then you would have asked him; and he would have given you living water." She said to him, "Sir, you don't have a bucket, and the well is deep; so where do you get this 'living water'? You aren't greater than our father Ya..akov, are you? He gave us this well and drank from it, and so did his sons and his cattle." Yeshua answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I will give him will never be thirsty again! On the contrary, the water I give him will become a spring of water inside him, welling up into eternal life!" --John 4:10-14

"Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!" --John 7:38

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sourdough Starter

Today I was "feeding" the "mother" that I'm making for some sourdough bread, the sourdough starter. This is the old fashioned kind...you know, that chewy, hearty sourdough bread that great-grandma would have made? This is a sourdough that is made without the quick-rise yeast you buy in the store. It is the simple, lasting kind where you just mix some flour and water and let it turn "sour"...or ferment. It pulls yeast spores out of the air and this is what allows the mother to ferment. Each day, you need to add a little more flour and a little more water and this feeds the yeast and allows it to do it's work. If the "mother" is not properly fed, it will spoil. However, if it is lovingly fed and nurtured each day, it will mature into the final product that makes "sourdough" the hearty, scrumptious bread that I am so looking forward to eating!

I got to thinking that this "mother" is not unlike us as believers. It dawned on me that our life in this time (meaning before our death) is much like the growing process that my "mother" must go through. The Lord lovingly creates us and cares for us just as we must feed and nuture for the "mother."

During this time of nuturing, a lot of yeast, necessarily, comes into our lives. In the Bible, yeast is often symbolic of the sin in our lives. We read, "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy," in Luke 12:1. Though this leaven is necessary to produce a mature person the same as the yeast is necessary to produce a mature mother, we must keep it in check or it will destroy us. If my sourdough "mother" is not properly fed, the yeast will devour and destroy the whole batch. In the same way, our sin will devour and destroy us.

During the Passover feast, we are not to eat leaven (Exodus 13:7) and that act is symbolic of putting off the sin in our lives. Jesus the Messiah is our Passover lamb and because of his sacrifice, we are made into a new person. In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul teaches us that glorying in our sin is not good and, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even the Messiah our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." 1 John 3:4 teaches us that "sin is transgression of the law." If we have a repentant heart that we allow to change our actions and our lives, that makes us into a new lump of dough...a fresh, unspoiled "mother."

The leaven of sin is bad for our lives, however, there is a leaven that brings life. A yeast that is not properly fed will become consuming and destructive, just as it will destroy my sourdough "mother," but the leaven of the Messiah (the repentant heart that brings salvation through faith) produces a person of righteousness. Luke 13:20-21 says, "Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened." If this repentant person allows themselves to be properly fed through the Word of God and submission to the Holy Spirit, they will bring forth much fruit for the kingdom of God. This is a lovely "mother" that creates a mouthwatering, delightful loaf!

"And when they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, 'Then to the gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life.'" --Acts 11:18