Archive for January, 2010

Are we part-time Christians?

Posted: January 29, 2010 in Get Close to God

Twenty-fourth in the series Get close to God
 

 Seek His face continually.  (Psalm 105:4b)

To become really good at something you must be determined and dedicated.  Then you must persist and persevere until you get it right.  Whether it’s mastering a sport, playing a musical instrument, or honing any type of skill, time and energy must be sacrificed, and lots of it.

Why should our spiritual life be any different?  I’m not just talking about ministry or service.  Keeping busy doing the Lord’s work may look noble, but if we’re not careful it might replace the most important thing of all, and that’s our relationship with Christ.  It’s easier, really, to be a Martha and do stuff for God than to be a Mary and be still and listen to the Master.

I have set the Lord continually before me.  (Psalm 16:8) 

I’m going to stick my neck out by saying this, but I think Christian churches in America have missed the boat for the most part in providing their people hands-on training on how to abide in Christ.  Christianity 101 pretty much consists of the following: read a chapter a day in your Bible, go to church, pray when you need help, and be a good boy or girl and stay out of trouble.   I don’t know if what I saw in the Dominican Republic was typical of third world Christians, but they just seemed to have a natural God-consciousness about them.  Maybe it’s because they don’t have the material things we do to keep them distracted.  Or perhaps it’s the hard lives they lead that keep them depending on the Lord.  I’ll never forget seeing that old man singing and dancing and praising God all by himself as he witnessed our crew putting the roof on his new church.

 I am continually with You.  (Psalm 73:23)

One reason for taking Jesus with us wherever we go is that there is no way we can attract others to the glory and love of Christ if they don’t see him in us.  If we are not filled and in step with the Holy Spirit, there is no faking it, and we will not look or act any different from the people we’re trying to reach, except for maybe we don’t do as many bad things as they do.  How attractive is that?

 Pray continually.  (Thessalonians 5:17) 

I’m finding that getting close to God is a lot harder than I thought it would be.  You can only carry on a one way conversation for so long.  Well, some of you can do it better than others!  I’ve been picking up some tools that are helping me, though, and I’m slowly learning how to use them.  One is beginning my quiet time by praying worshipful verses out loud from the psalms.  Another is savoring and chewing scripture instead of swallowing it whole to get my chapter done for the day.  And since the main way the Lord speaks to me is through his word, I’ve made a greater effort to memorize verses and recite them during the day.  Saying quick little “breath prayers” and shouting out the different names of God, like “my Strong Deliverer!” and “my Refuge and Strength!” are a couple more tools I like to use.   Since I drive at least a couple of hours a day, my car has become my sanctuary. 

 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  (Psalm 34:1)  

No matter what tools work best for you, they won’t do you any good if they stay in your belt.  Have you noticed a key word that is in all the verses above?  Yes, CONTINUALLY.  Not just once in awhile, or when I get around to it, but regularly, consistently, habitually, always.  That’s the secret, but not really, since it’s all over the Bible.  It’s hard to do anything without stopping and no one does it perfectly, but if we put as much effort and devotion into building our friendship with Christ as we do with our other passions, we would be amazed at how deep our faith would grow!  The reaction is directly proportional to the amount of action put into it.

Secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.  (1 Corinthians 7:35b)

Oswald Chambers says “The golden rule for your life and mine is this concentrated keeping of the life open towards God.  Let everything else-work, clothes, food, everything on earth-go by the board, saving that one thing.  The rush of other things always tends to obscure this concentration on God.  We have to maintain ourselves in the place of beholding, keeping the life absolutely spiritual all through.”  The activities of life can demand our attention and divert our focus from the Lord, making Oswald sound unrealistic with trying to impose the supernatural into the natural world, but I believe it can be done, at least to a greater extent than I have carried it so far.  Jesus says to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” not seek things, then try to fit him in.

We shouldn’t let life crowd out God.  God should be our life!

Learning a new skill is usually more work than fun at first, which is why so many of us gave up on our dreams of playing the piano, or learning a different language, or juggling, or whatever.  But when we stick with it, we get rewarded with a great sense of accomplishment and pleasure from performing the craft we’ve perfected. 

Seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.  (Deuterononmy 4:29)

My heart breaks when I see people who are not willing to do what it takes to find God.  They want to meet him on their terms, not his, and when they don’t find him they throw up their hands and say “Well, God doesn’t care or doesn’t exist.”  God doesn’t force himself on us.   Cry out to him and immerse yourself in his Word.  The Bible is more than just wise sayings and stories.  The Holy Spirit uses it to speak to you.  It’s like getting personal text messages from heaven!  The ultimate smartphone.

If you wait until you’re sure there’s a God before you pursue him, you’ll never find him.
Seek, then you will find. 

Those who follow through, however, and diligently seek him will be richly rewarded by the Lord.  (Hebrews 11:6.)  What are the rewards?  How about a joy that’s stronger than happiness, a peace that surpasses understanding, and seeing God do awesome things through you?  It is only then when we understand how David could say:

Oh, God, You are my God; I shall seek you earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You…my soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me…As for me, it is good to be near God.  (Psalm 63:1, 8, 73:28) 

 

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Parting Waters

Posted: January 21, 2010 in Candle Lights

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     The Israelites were in a bad place.  “All the horses and chariots of Pharaoh…his horsemen, and his army” were closing in behind them, and the Red Sea was in front of them.  The children of Israel were afraid, they cried out to the Lord, the Lord intervened, the sea parted, the enemy was destroyed, and the children were safe (Exodus 14:9-28).

     In Joshua Chapter 3, we once again find the Israelites at the water’s edge.  The children of Israel had to cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, but the Jordan was overflowing its banks (v15).  Unlike the crossing of the Red Sea where Moses “stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back” (Exodus 14:21), this parting of the waters required the priests who were carrying the ark of the covenant to step in the brim (v15) of the water.  When the priests stepped in the edge of the water, the Lord held the water back, and while the Israelites “passed over on dry ground”, the priests stood in the middle of the Jordan (Joshua 3:17).

     As we journey Home, we will find that sometimes the sea will part before us, and sometimes, we will have to step in the water.  Either way the Lord never leaves us.  He will come between us and the enemy as He did at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:19&20), or He will stand in the middle of the water until we pass “clean over” (Joshua 3:17).

Isaiah 43:2  “When thou passes through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:….”

Diane Padgett

1/16/2010

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Twenty-third in the series Get close to God

 

We always want to know the last words spoken by someone as he or she leaves this world.  How much more, then, should we pay attention to the phrase that came out of our Lord Jesus just before he gave his life for us on the cross:

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”  (Luke 23:46)

 King David spoke these words 1100 years earlier.  Dr. William Barclay writes, “Jesus died with a prayer on his lips.  Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ That is Psalm 31:5 with one word added– Father.  That verse was the prayer every Jewish mother taught her child to say last thing at night. Just as we were taught, maybe, to say, `Now I lay me down to sleep,’ so the Jewish mother taught her child to say, before the threatening dark came down, `Into your hands I commit my spirit.’ Jesus made it even more intimate, for he began it with the word Father. Even on the cross Jesus died like a child falling asleep in his father’s arms.”

Have you ever wondered what that phrase means?  I think it’s the perfect picture of how we should follow Christ, by placing our very lives in his hands.  It’s giving him complete control of our hopes, dreams, and fears.  It’s unbridled trust and confidence in his love and capabilities to take care of us, no matter what comes against us.

As I fall into bed every night and climb out every morning I pray those words.  You can’t go wrong with scripture.  If it was good enough for Jesus and David, it’s more than good enough for me!

 

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Loose Sandals

Posted: January 9, 2010 in Candle Lights

 candle_lights_heading21

     The United States Postal Service is considered snail mail.  We carry cell phones so that we can reach out and touch someone and visa-versa.  No one wants to start a job at entry-level anymore.  Why in Las Vegas there is a drive-through wedding chapel!  Our world is a fast-paced, “I want it now” world.

     We want fast food, quick cures, and instant gratification.  This mentality is symptomatic of a world that does not take its shoes off and just sit awhile.  The sad part is that these same symptoms are being exhibited by Christians in the way that we worship the Lord.

     The Christian of today can find many websites with daily devotionals, and there are scores of booklets and books filled with a devotion designed for every day.  This is fast food.  There is nothing wrong with fast food, but it should not replace feasting on the Word.

     I read about drive through prayer booths in Mt. Morris Township, Michigan and Los Angeles, California.  Prayer needs do not occur only on Wednesday night and Sunday, and I can see how some folks may find that this service meets their need.  But, this should not replace spending time in our prayer closets with the Lord.

     In Joshua 5:13-15, the “captain of the host of the Lord” tells Joshua to “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.”  In a world that is moving full tilt ahead, I need to loose the sandals off my heart and remember that I am on holy ground when in the presence of my Lord.

Diane Padgett

1/2/2010

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TRY ME…

Posted: January 3, 2010 in Service with a Smile

 service_with_smile_heading4Chapter Seven

TRY ME……

 I have spent the last several New Years Eve celebrations going to parties or sitting at home and ushering in the New Year with a bottle (or two) of champagne, watching the ball drop and making resolutions that I knew I would never keep.  I would lament the previous year and dread the upcoming one.  This year however, was quite different……

There was absolutely no one on the road at 6am New Years day as I drove to work.  I was still remembering the wonderful worship service that I had attended the night before.  I had great peace in knowing that Anthony and I had stood together and determined that we would live our lives for the glory of God in 2010 and faithfully give our money and time to His service. I woke up that morning with a picture in my head of the outstretched hand of Jesus and He was saying “Try Me”.  It must have been a dream that I was in the process of waking up from and I attributed it to not enough sleep.  When I walked through the door things were already going wrong.  The cook and the kitchen manager had not showed up and the manager was frantically trying to put out the breakfast buffet. The first table that I served stayed a very long time and I was looking forward to my first tip of the New Year. Guess what? No tip. None whatsoever. Nada.  As a server, getting stiffed on your first table of the day, much less the year is not a very good indication of what’s to come.  I tried to put that superstition aside and thought about my upcoming trip to NYC.  All expenses were paid, but I knew that I would need some money for my daughter and I while we were there.  I felt like $100 would be sufficient…that is if I had a hundred dollars!  All year long the Lord had provided us with money from unexpected places and people and I was truly thankful.  Somehow, I didn’t think it would be right to ask him for money for a vacation. 

Mid-morning, a gentleman that I did not recognize (unusual in a local family restaurant) came in alone and was seated in my section.  I served him some juice and he served himself to the buffet.   “May I bring you some more juice?” I inquired, “No thank you, just the check please”.  When I handed him the check he looked me right in the eyes and held out his fist. “The Lord told me to give this to you. Happy New Year.”  I held out my hand and he closed it around the money that he placed there.  I couldn’t resist and I peeked into my slightly opened fist.  First I saw a one, then a zero….then another zero.  One hundred dollars!  Tears started rolling down my face as I looked at the man and thanked him.  I barely choked out a whisper, “Oh, thank you, and thank YOU Lord Jesus, I would have never asked” The man replied with a smile, “I know” and walked away to pay his bill.  I recalled the picture that I had seen of the Lord and remembered that He had said “Try Me”.  I was so overwhelmed, that an elderly guest and her husband asked if I was going to be okay.  I told them the whole story and the man pulled out a little white hanky and wiped away his tears.  “Thank you so much for sharing that with us, I can’t wait to tell my friends about how much Jesus cares.  Sometimes I forget myself.”  Later, when I called my Mom to tell her the story, she said that she had been praying for me and felt that I would need a hundred dollars for my trip.  She wanted to send it to me but knew that it wouldn’t arrive in time so she started praying for an answer-shortly after that the man entered the restaurant.

Try Him, vow to serve and honor Him this year with your time, your finances and even your fun! Malachi 3:10    “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house and TRY ME now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”.

 Karen Dunn

 

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