Friday, October 22, 2010

God Is Real

An interesting discussion about Christianity, the Bible and agnostics was had yesterday. It was sparked by a stressful day and upon seeing someone from a past family friendship. You see, this person because of some lack of good and proper communication on both our parts thinks we are dishonest people now. Honestly, my husband is the most honest person I know. It makes me sick. I wish people would just be open to honest conversation. We have tried to have this open conversation but this person is just not willing to listen. I think some people just love drama, intrigue and that oh so special feeling of a narcissism high when you can feel superior to someone and decide they are not worthy of you and just cut them out of your life completely. Great for that person, except they are dead wrong. Perception is reality but our perception of reality is not always true and accurate.

Anyhoo, we got to talking about the Bible and the promises in it and just how much the hand of God is in everything. Being a Christian does not mean just working on being on Christlike and developing great Christian character and everything in your life will be blessed and lovely, money, health, etc. We still have to make strong professional decisions, sound financial decisions, and make the choice to treat our bodies as temples so as to properly care for them. I got that. It just from an earthly standpoint is frustrating to watch smug & conceited people who live only for their own personal pleasures prosper so greatly while really great people who love the Lord passionately, work hard to succeed, serve in their churches, and give to others struggle month after month. That really chaps my tail. I always think of one of the Psalms in which the psalmist is complaining to the Lord about just such a thing. In fact, he is pretty ticked off that God allows it and gives God quite the tongue lashing. But, we are told that rewards and judgment are not always given in this life. It's a small comfort. I just try to tell myself that I will spend maybe another 40 to 45 years on this earth and then I am off for eternity to never struggle or watch my friends struggle again. Also, I won't have to be frustrated by mean smug people either. So I wait.

But then the whole topic of well what about the promises that if you are seeking with your whole heart, serving, etc. etc. that our lives will be blessed and the fact that the Bible talks about the storehouses overflowing (meaning finances, provision), cups running over, abundance and such. What about that? Do you only get that if you make sound decisions and have planned your life out perfectly? Hmmmm, I hate these scenarios, and I don't have the answers. I wonder these same things too. It is a little confusing sometimes. I watch small business owners like ourselves and several of our friends and acquaintances who are self employed as well and we all struggle. I can easily think of some families who are so passionately serving the Lord, humble, loving, generous beautiful people with wonderful kids and they struggle in these tough times. And I do mean nail biting struggling. Well, you can say this strengthens our faith and it does and that is most certainly necessary but when the struggling goes on for years that is tough. It just makes it hard I guess when you are doing all the things that promise prosperity and yet it is not there. Then you have to watch mean greedy people grow, thrive and sometimes even take advantage of you. That happens to us a lot.

The only thing I can say is that even though I may not always see the promises evident in my life (and if they aren't we need to pray for the Lord to search us and reveal anything displeasing to Him so we can get rid of it.) I know God is real. I know Jesus is real. I know this because God has revealed himself to me through answered prayers and through sending others as confirmations of things I had just prayed about. I know it because the Holy Spirit puts thoughts into my head. You know, when things just pop into your head and you weren't even thinking those thoughts, that's not you, it's the Holy Spirit. I know He is real through interaction such as that. I know that He is real. And, if I know that He is real what else is there but to just keep trusting and worshiping. Even though my life has never been ideal, I've always had to struggle for every single little thing, God always makes it okay. It's never not been okay. When I should have been dying inside, He gave me peace. He has healed my children. So I try to remind myself, He is real. He loves me. He loves us all, even the meanies. I will live with Him forever one day and every single moment of eternity will not just be all right but it will be glorious! Should I give up, should any of us give up because we do not see the promises in our lives? Well, I say no, we should just know that He is real and worship away anyway. We may not always like it but I do feel confident that God knows what He is doing with each of us. I believe He has a plan for our lives. I believe the devil messes with those who love God passionately because we are threats to his stinky earthly kingdom he fancies so much. So, yes, we Christians will face those battles and we will be messed with. That is why we must stand firm. We are soldiers in the Lord's army because we must fight. And, fight I will you stinky devil. I will be so glad when you are gone forever! And, I will be so glad to never see another smug face again. We must keep our faith, think on what is good and true and never forget to praise Him and thank Him in all circumstances. It's just what we have to do.

During a tough moment the other day I just took my 4 year old outside, set up the T ball thingy gave him a huge bucket of balls and his bat. I sat in my lawn chair and watched him hit balls for about 30 minutes and we had a blast. Suddenly my stress was gone and I was a much happier and thankful person. We enjoyed the grass, the weather, the pretty trees and I was no longer grumpy and saying "Why Lord?" but instead I was saying "Thank you Lord". Just keep on going......


Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Jealous God

The day of my last post I had the most fascinating revelation from my pastor's wife. I was really upset as I knew that God was dealing with me in an area of disobedience and He certainly knew how to get my attention since I had been mostly ignoring the prompting of the Holy Spirit to get myself in check. So, He did what He needed to do to put me back in line. I knew it but I was so upset that the issue was so minor in my personal opinion that it warranted such discipline. I couldn't understand why THIS thing was so hideous and after all, it's like really the only issue I have other than the minor stuff we all deal with from time to time. As I wrote in my last post, that I deleted as I just really was needing to vent, that I was majorly peeved that it seems like God just does not let me get out of line at all. I don't get it.... you know how we all know Christians and they are lovely people and all but they have some major issues? I'm like, Lord, can't I do anything? Not even a little sin? Huh? He just does not let me sway to the right or the left at all. Which is a great thing, yes, but oh my, sometimes it can be tough. It's not that I want to sin, but hey, I am not perfect by any means and yes sometimes I get out of line and sin. Yep, I do.

Well, I was talking to my pastor's wife about cancelling our ladies Bible study last Thursday because God would just not give me a topic to teach about and I NEVER EVER decide what to teach. I always wait on the Lord and He always gives me the topic in advance easy peasy with no problems. Well, He wasn't forking anything over the two weeks prior from our last lesson to the one that was supposed to happen last Thursday. I tried to write one on my own. I couldn't write anything, which only further proved that God was dealing with me because I can write a paper about anything, even things I know nothing about like it was nothing. Well, I had nuttin. I told my pastor's wife about how God was dealing with me about an issue and that He just was not allowing me to put a study together. I said we would need to cancel the study because I value the ladies time too much to have them leave home and drive to church and not get something from God out of me. Who wants to come to Bible study that isn't anointed and listen to someone spew poop? Not me.

She said we would not cancel the study until I called her tomorrow afternoon. She said she had a feeling God would move. I was hopeful but admittedly doubtful. Then she said the most amazing thing to me. She said our God is a jealous God Jennifer and He just wants your attention. You know, I never told her what my issue was and that it was taking my time away from the Lord. After she said that to me I told her that the issue was stealing from my time with the Lord. She said I should feel complimented that God was so jealous for my time with Him that He would take the time to get my attention back to Him so quickly. I was blown away! She said He missed me! Can you believe that? Gave me goosebumps, it did.

What she said to me had to have come from the Lord. There is no possible other way. The other cool thing was that just before she came and picked me up to go to Wed. night church together I had been reading in the book of James and I about fell over when I read this because I was only in the book of James because I felt led to read it.
James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Which if you read the last post that I deleted that was mostly what I was so frustrated about. The whole discipline factor and my frustration about why God does not seem to let me get out of line in the least before I get a few warnings and then if I treat them lightly I get the smack down of sorts. Well, here was my answer to that question as to why He does that. Ta da!

I teach the ladies and 8 to 12 year olds so does teaching two classes give me a double portion of that scripture? ha ha. Well, it's all a blessing to serve and it is totally worth it and I am most humbly in awe that He even pauses to look at me because I am a dork. But, I am an obedient dork so He can use me. It's all good :) I have really made strides to get myself and my nasty habit under check. I have been praying my way through the day so to speak, again. I didn't realize that I had stopped doing that to do my new little bad habit. I felt like a bum to give God the cold shoulder and then be mad at him for disciplining me. I am flattered He missed me :) That's pretty dang cool.

Well, I ended up being able to write a lesson and we went ahead with the study but guess what? Only one lady showed up ha ha!!!!! I about laughed myself to death. I took a picture of the empty classroom and put it on my facebook page with the caption "Bueller, Bueller, anyone? anyone??" It got some laughs. I feel too like that was God saying I gave you the lesson but I will not give you the ladies, get yourself in check girl. So the one lady and I chatted for an hour about some good stuff and we left for home. It was a nice evening but I would have certainly rather have been teaching our regulars. Well, He got my attention and I think I received my spanking with some dignity although I did kick and scream a bit a the beginning. I will be teaching the lesson this next Thursday Oct. 28 instead.

One thing I had reinforced for sure in the last 8 days is that God is not kidding around. He means what His Word says! Can I share this with you? Of all the scriptures I've read this one has impacted me the most from Genesis 17:1 "walk before me and be blameless." Now more than ever I feel this requirement weighing in on me. Goodness, Lord, I will do my best to walk before you in a blameless manor. 'Cause I also really don't like those spiritual spankings, ahem.

Love y'all,


Monday, October 4, 2010

John 13:34 A Study on Love. Commentary & Teaching Notes

Be of Good Cheer & Love Study John 16:33. My Teaching Notes.......

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

1.Love is one of the key terms in chapters 13--17 in the book of John, occurring thirty-one times in these five chapters as compared to only six times in chapters 1--12.

2. Be of good cheer/courage derives from the Greek word Tharseo. It means to be of both good cheer and good courage. This is why some translations say cheer and some say courage. Really it means to be courageous and cheerful at the same time.

Let’s get to the heart of the lesson: John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13, 14, & 15 is focusing on loving and serving as Jesus did.

Why is this important? We find out in the very next verse. Verse 35: By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

3. Let’s also take a look at why this command is so important to us. (Aside from having a personal relationship with the Lord, what is our main objective as a Church body? To go out and share the gospel with others & to build up, teach and edify each other right?) Let me share with you some comments from the website (they just changed their website since I put the study together and I can't locate the list now at a quick glance.) on why people do not believe the gospel. 15. If there is an infinite almighty all loving Creator who has one single, simple message to impart to us, why is he so spectacularly ineffective at doing so? 3. Christians are NOT different from non-Christians. 4. Church disunity. You see, Jesus knew we were going to need credibility to be able to effectively preach the gospel. He knew people were going to want to see Christians different from non Christians because our gospel says we will be different. He knew we would need to be unified by love and reflecting Christ's love through us so that all men would be able to recognize we were followers of Christ. Kind of makes this command a little more weighty to know that the salvation of souls lay in our reflecting Christ's love, doesn't it?

Scripturally, let's look at the importance of this command also.
John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. In John 13 & 14 the only command Jesus is talking about is to love others as he has loved us. Sounds like this command is pretty important to Jesus to me! It also effects our personal relationship too!

Imagine for a moment how this might play out. Imagine how it would affect you if just about everyone you came into contact with loved you like Jesus would love you. Imagine how you would be positively changed if the people in your home loved you like Jesus would love you. Can you imagine how much more positive and loving we would then become and how different things could be? Imagine how the world would change if all Christians were to immediately commit to living a Christ like love and how that would impact non Christians and how they view us and the gospel we preach. Imagine the millions of lives that could be saved just by seeing Christ’s love play out so richly in our lives.

Can we understand the real impact of what Jesus is saying here? Do we really understand how important it is to obey what Jesus is saying?

In speaking about the Holy Spirit who was yet to come Jesus says: John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Jesus in chapter 15 is speaking about the Holy Spirit and coming persecution. This is crucial too because to receive this peace we must remain in Him. To remain in Him we must do what?

John 15: 9 "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” What is the sum of the commandments given? Just what commandments is Jesus talking about? So far, the only thing Jesus is talking about in the chapters is the command to love. But, lest someone say Jesus is referring to the 10 commandments also, let's look at what Jesus says the sum of the 10 commandments are.

4. Matthew 22: 37-40 37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." So, even if we want to argue that when Jesus says we are to keep His commandments to abide in His love that this is not just the command in John 13:34 to love others as He has loved us but also the 10 commandments we can see now that even those are summed up by loving. Loving God and loving others.......We cannot escape the fact that Jesus is talking about loving others as He has loved us being key to abiding in Jesus's love. I love this verse in Galations 5:6 The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. LOVE it! pun intended.

It is critical to note that we are not to love as we see fit or as by what we know love to be, but we are to love as Christ loved us. So what is Love anyway as defined by the Bible? Let’s take a look.

1 Corinthians 13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The Commandment begins in John 13:34 and still in John 15 Jesus continues to repeat it again and again throughout the 3 chapters! This is the last lesson he taught the disciples before he was betrayed by Judas and it seems to me that Jesus took the time to really let us know how much this command meant to Him.

John 15: 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
John 15: 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
John 15: 17 These things
I command you, that you love one another.

So now we know what the Bible defines love to be we need look at how Jesus displayed these traits toward us. Let’s look at how we can display a Christ like love by looking at how Jesus loved us. What would Jesus really do? I highly encourage you to read all four gospels specifically from the starting point where Jesus begins His ministry and ask God to show you all the ways Jesus showed His love for us as you read.

So, What Would Jesus Do?
Wife Swap Scenario: If Jesus and I swapped places for a period of time and Jesus took my place within my family how might Jesus do things differently? How would Jesus love/interact with my husband? Would Jesus change anything about my routine so that I could love not only Him better but also my family? And, if needed and Jesus had to gently “encourage” my husband to do his fair share around the home would my husband accuse even Jesus of nagging? (hee hee) How would Jesus love/interact with my children? How would Jesus love/interact with my parents/siblings? Would he fight with them? ‘Cause you know how annoying family can be. Would my family get on Jesus’ nerves and cause him to have mini meltdowns? What might Jesus do in my home differently as He displayed His Christ like love? And, if I displayed this Christ like love do I think it would catch on? How would my life be impacted by receiving Christ like love from my family members?

Let’s look at these same thoughts for work & places we spend a good deal of time at like Church. How would Jesus conduct himself if He took my place at these other places also?

I just want to share what the Life Application Bible says about Joy. “Joy is a common theme in Christ’s teachings- he wants us to be joyful (see John 15:11; John 16:24, John 16:33). The key to immeasurable joy is living in intimate contact with Christ, the source of all joy. When we do, we will experience God’s special care and protection and see the victory God brings even when defeat seems certain.” We can learn from this lesson that one of the keys to abiding in Christ’s love is to display that love to everyone around us.

I had a really great time putting this study together. It really made me understand the full weight of the command Jesus gives in John 13:34 and it has made me really look at how I interact with others, especially my family. We will say things to our family members that we would not dream of saying to others, right? I feel highly encouraged that we as Christians can be obedient to this command and oh my, what a wonderful world this would be if we all committed to doing it!

Love y'all,