Monday, September 28, 2009

Exposed by the Light!

On Saturday night, my friend Linda and I were about to go to bed and were chatting in our room at a retreat center where we were sharing with some amazing ladies from Weddington Church.  I began to fluff my pillow to make it a little more "comfy" and as I pounded it, apparently Linda could see dust everywhere around me!  She said "Stop!  You're completely surrounded by dust!" I asked her if it was gone yet and she said "No.  But here, I'll just turn out the light so I don't have to see it."  She reached over, flipped off the light and said "Oh, yeah, that's better."

We both cracked up as we realized that the dust wasn't really gone, but as long as we couldn't see it, we felt better about it.  As I was speaking to the ladies the next morning at the retreat, I was reading from John 3:19 where Jesus says "God's light came into the world but people loved the darkness more than the light for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear that their sins will be exposed.  But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God really wants." 

The night before in our room flashed through my head and I began to relay the story of the dusty pillow and how we had turned off the light so we wouldn't have to see it.  It didn't make it go away, but it sure made us feel better! But the dust was still there doing damage we couldn't even discern. 

Just because we would rather live in darkness and pretend the sin isn't an issue doesn't mean it's gone away. It's still there.  I think we often believe that ignorance is bliss and as long as we are ignoring the sin in our lives, it will go away.  But it can only go away when the Light of Christ exposes it and we confess it, deal with it and allow Him to clean us up.  Without the Light, how would we know?  How gracious He is to shine His beautiful Light on the dusty, dirty sin in our lives! 

Here's what Jesus said in John 12:35-36 "My Light will shine for you just a little longer.  Walk in the Light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you.  Those who walk in darkness cannot see where they are going.  Put your trust in the Light while there is still time; then you will become children of the Light."

Please don't believe that lie that says ignorance is bliss.  Ignorance is just plain ignorance!  Jesus said His Light will only shine for a little while longer.  That means eventually, that Light will not be available to us to help us deal with the sin that separates us from a Holy God.  Today, I pray you will not be offended by the Light of Christ that shows you the sin in your life.  I pray you will recieve it, accept it and allow the Light of Jesus to expose the parts of your life that need cleaning up and then ask Him to clean it up for you.  He would like nothing more than to do that for you.  We are not capable of cleaning up anything in the darkness ourselves and He graciously exposes and then purifies us so we can walk in the Light with Him forever.

John 3:16 For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

(Photo courtesy of Tommy Nease )

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Avenger!

Her name was Mary Beth.  I remember it like yesterday, even though it happened in fourth grade.  She was so mean to me.  She made fun of me, stole my friends and even convinced the boy I liked that I had cooties so he ran away from me.  That was my first taste of pure dislike (probably more like hate) of someone.  But it wasn't my last.

Unfortunately, there are people in our lives that just irritate us, berate us or make us feel like we are not loveable.  These people are easy to hate.  But they are hard to love.  And yet, Jesus tells us clearly that we are to "love our enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:44-45).  I remember thinking that was impossible the first time I read it.  But it is true - when we pray for our enemies, the Lord does something very miraculous in our heart - He changes it and gives us a love for people that we never thought we could love.

This morning, I read another verse that blew me away about this subject.  See, I never took revenge on Mary Beth, mostly because I was inexperienced, but in my life I have tried taking matters into my own hands with people who were ugly to me and it was never a favorable outcome.  Now I think I see why...

"Don't rejoice when your enemies fall; don't be happy when they stumble.  For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn His anger away from them."  Proverbs 24:17-18

I know I've read this verse before but for some reason it just screamed at me this morning.  The part that got me was where it says that when I find sadistic joy in someone who I don't like falling (or failing) that God actually turns His anger from them and is displeased with me.  It's like this invisible force-field of protection that I put up around my enemy!  How crazy is that?

I know it's tempting to want to get even.  I know people can be downright difficult to live with.  I know there are times when it seems appropriate to be the avenger.  But the next time I feel like I need to get even, I need to remember that when I try to do it myself, I'm in essence telling God "No thanks, I got this one." and He then protects that person from me. question for you is Who are you praying for today? I know the list is probably a long one of the people you love, the people on your prayer list from church or bible study.  But what about those who are under your skin, irritating you to the point of frustration?  What about those who laugh when you fail?  Or try to take your job?  Or make fun of the way you look?  Or talk behind your back?  Or maybe this person broke your heart? 
The challenge for today is to pray for someone you don't necessarily feel like loving.  I know that God can change your heart for this person because His Word says so.  And I know it because He's done it for me.

Matthew 5:38-39 You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But I say, do not resist an evil person!  If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Politics and Religion (Did I Get Your Attention?)

I don't talk politics much. If I were completely honest, I'd say I don't talk about them because I don't understand a lot of it. I know the gist of it all and I do my best to stay informed. But it doesn't consume me. I'm not an activist in the political arena but I take my responsibilities as a voting American very seriously and do my very best as a busy wife and mother to make informed choices and vote according to my morals and values. But talking politics has never been one of my favorite pastimes and usually I avoid the subject out of a desire to keep unity.

That said, I have something that has been brewing in my heart that I feel I must say. Lately, since President Obama has taken office, I have been overwhelmed with something that initially I wasn't sure what to make of. I get emails that degrade him, see posts of disrespect and jabbings at him on social networking sites and even hear people put him down, roll their eyes and become very judgmental of what he is doing in social settings. I found the notes humorous at first, but then as time went by, I would read scriptures that would tell me that was not right (you'll see some of those below).
I almost kept my children out of school the day the President gave a speech because of emails and warnings I'd heard that told me that he was going to brainwash them. (On a side note, it was a wonderful speech and if the president "brainwashed" my kids into staying in school, taking personal responsibility and working hard, I'm thrilled). I did my due diligence and read the speech on Monday before he gave it, and found it to be very encouraging and something I believe my children needed to hear from a leader in our country.

I think that there is a feeling in the air that if you are an "Evangelical", you have to slander President Obama and put him down. I've even heard rumors in circles that he could be the Anti-Christ. Could we honestly be more disrespectful that we are? I mean, I don't agree with a lot of what he's doing, but he is the President. He's a human being who God created and appointed to lead our country at the present time.

I read what the Bible, our life-giving, truth-giving, personal letter from our Father in Heaven had to say about the subject. Please, take time to read this and let it sink into your hearts, asking the Lord to break down any prejudice, agendas or preconceived notions....

Romans 13:1-2 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and will be punished.

Titus 3:1-2 Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

1 Peter 2:13-14 For the LORD's sake, respect all human authority - whether the king as head of state, or the officers he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

1 Timothy 2:1-3 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

I will stop there, but want to express, also that if you look at the stories of the great leaders of the Bible - Joseph, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, will find that every single one of them respected and submitted to the authority that was above them. Because of their submission and humble attitude, they found favor in the sight of not only the kings and leaders, but in the sight of God and all without compromising their values and morals.

All this does not mean that we are to disobey God in situations where the law of man may conflict with the law of God (Acts 4:18-20; 5:40) but we are told to continue to respect government authority—even when those in positions of authority have abused their offices.

Could it be that we have it all wrong? Can we take a minute and examine ourselves? Please? For the sake of unity not only in our churches but in our communities and our country? Our hate and unloving jabs at our government are doing us more harm than good. It seems very divisive and contradictory to what we, as believers, are about.

We cannot ever forget that Jesus had His harshest words for the Pharisees (Religious people), not the "sinners". For instance, He tells the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 "What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens but you ignore the more important aspects of the law - justice, mercy and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things."

Could it be that in our quest to do the right thing, we have sidestepped an even more important thing? Are we showing mercy to those we oppose? Are we being loving in our approach? Gentle? Humble? Patient? Why are we so surprised when people sin and make wrong choices? Doesn't Jesus tell us specifically in Matthew 15:19 that "from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander."? Maybe instead of putting people down and being angry, we could show mercy and faith in our God and pray for them so that justice will be served? We cannot forget who our battle is against (Ephesians 6) here - and it's not these people in leadership!

Honestly, I believe we tend to focus so much on what others are doing wrong and don't spend enough time and energy focusing on and living out what we know is right. We spend so much time fighting with people and instead, maybe we should be fighting for them, on our knees in prayer?

I pray God will forgive me for my attitude toward my leaders. I thank Him for showing me the scriptures and setting me straight. I pray He will forgive us all as we march forward in complete confidence that He sees everything and that He is in control. Of course, we need to be responsible and vote for what we know is right and stand up for Truth. But I urge you from the bottom of my heart - let's all respect and submit to our government and pray for our leaders, not put them down and disrespect them - for the LORD's sake.

Now maybe you can see why I don't talk politics much. (smile)

Daniel 4:32.....The Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone He chooses.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11, 2001

I often recall the feeling as I sat in my car
On that bright, sunny day in September
It’s a day that I wish that I could forget
But I’m sure I will always remember

I was in my car, with my baby in the back seat
As the morning radio DJ’s rehashed
They seemed confused and a little perplexed
About a plane in New York that had crashed

Was this some sort of accident? Was it a freak thing?
Or was it the pilot’s fatal error?
The DJs were bantering back and forth now
About the possibility of some sort of terror.

Instead of the place I was on my way to,
I decided to go on back home.
I wanted to know what was going on now
I needed to be all alone.

My television channels were all fixed in New York
Was this flight just simply botched?
Then I watched with great horror as another plane hit
While all of us helplessly watched.

I remember seeing it coming and thinking it was a dream
"How could this be happening?", I thought.
Then without a moment’s notice, the plane made impact
And then we knew that terror had been wrought.

I picked up the phone and called my best friend
We cried together and we both felt ill
When the first tower collapsed, then the second one did
We knew thousands of people had been killed.

I tried to make sense of such a senseless act
As I walked numbly through my day
I was praying for peace, I was praying for help
I was praying for it all to go away.

I was a woman who knew truth but never received it
I was not living the way that I should
This tragedy was a wake up call for me and for others
Out of this terror, God was showing some good.

As the days and weeks passed after the tragedy of that day
There was a feeling of “In God We Trust”
There was patriotism like my eyes have never seen!
And a cry against all that was unjust.

We all bonded together as we provided for the families
Of those who were lost on that day.
There were bumper stickers, flags flying and people were bolder
As our nation began to earnestly pray.

But now it’s years later and we have really lost sight
Of the lesson we learned on 9/11
I hope that He doesn’t turn His back on us now
As we forget all of our blessings from heaven

So today as I remember that Morning in September
Eight years ago, today
I will fly my flag proudly, I will pray to our God
And I will ask Him humbly to stay.

If My people, who are called by my name
Would humble themselves and pray
And seek my face
And turn from their wicked ways
Then will I hear from heaven
And will forgive their sins
And will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

Leslie Nease

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Living in the Shadow of a Stereotype

I've always been fascinated by how Christians can be perceived by the world sometimes. We are often judged by others before we even open our mouths to say anything. Once some people find out what we believe, they already make up their minds that they are not going to like us and it doesn't matter what we say or do, there's no changing their minds.

I've thought about this a lot because true, biblical Christianity is very loving, genuine, and forgiving. Why wouldn't people want to be around people who are promoting these values? Sure, we don't like sin (although we still do it and hate that we do it) but we are told to love those who sin, regardless, remembering that we, too, are sinners. We are able to do that because we are not the Judge, God is. We have been forgiven of our sin not because we've earned it or impressed God with our own "righteousness" but because we put our faith completely Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins.

Followers of Jesus have a strong desire to share their faith only because they want others to understand the freedom and life-giving truth they have been shown, not because they are trying to push an agenda or get some spiritual commission. We are motivated by our love for people. Our beliefs are based on Scripture, not our own opinions. Our opinions are worthless unless they line up with Scripture. True Christianity is serving and loving, not judging and yelling! But the stereotype is out there - and the loud-mouthed, opinionated, angry ones are usually the ones who get the media attention.

I got a glimpse into a possible reason why people judge Christians when I was reading the book Survivor written by Mark Burnett, the producer of the series. He was talking about Dirk Been, the Christian guy on season one of the series. I'm not sure where Mr. Burnett stands with his faith (I'm certainly not qualified to judge his heart!) but he sure does offer some pretty intense insight to this subject in this paragraph from page 59....

Dirk's demise was probably a few Tribal Councils off. But it was sure to come for he was beginning to annoy Tagi. The reason was his Christianity. There seems to be something threatening about a devout person of any faith to non-believers. It's as though a mirror is being held up to their faults. They feel judged. Whenever an individual closer to life's idea state comes in contact with those drifting farther away - a physically fit person in a room of smokers, a mentally balanced person speaking with someone fragmented and dysfunctional - that person is quietly scorned as a reminder of imperfection. Thus the universal dislike for those seeking a higher plane. Mankind, by its very nature, is an imperfect animal. It's easier to revel in imperfection and mock those taking the bold step towards improvement than to actually attempt the step. On an island that mockery can translate into an easy vote.

I remember reading this before I was ever cast on the show Survivor China. I highlighted it because I thought it was pretty clear that if I were to compete on the show and live my faith out loud, I would not last long according to this insight. That's why when I started the show, my plan was to not talk about my faith initially unless asked. If you watched the show, you know my plan to be stealth-like in my faith didn't work out so well (haha) but I have no regrets. I knew once my faith was made public that I had an opportunity to prove the stereotype wrong. That became my biggest challenge on the show.

If you are being judged, scorned or persecuted for being a Christian, you are not alone. You will probably be made fun of. You will more than likely have to live in the shadow of a stereotype. In a sense, you may even be voted out! Try not to take this personally. We can fight against the stereotype by living the way Jesus told us to - by loving and serving others, no matter what. Persecution seems to be something that happens to anyone who takes a stand for something. However, I've found that if we don't stand for something, we will fall for anything. Anything worth believing in is worth the risk!

I'll leave you with this encouragement from 1 Peter 2:19-20...

God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Way to Go, Peyton!

Here's a snippet from Peyton's fourth grade teacher in the class newsletter this week...

I would like to congratulate Peyton Nease for being selected as our Character to the Core student for next week. She was commended for her kindness and her cooperative nature! Students spoke of how she is always willing to help out and told of how she tries to make sure that everyone in her group is involed. Way to go, Peyton!

I'm one proud Mommy. Love you, girl! Sounds like she "bends over backwards" to help her friends out at school! haha :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Weapon of Offense

I've heard it said that the enemy's greatest weapon against believers is offense. Think about it. Who in your life has offended you? How are you handling it? Do they even realize they have offended you?  I hate to think there is anyone out there who I have inadvertently hurt who is harboring resentment and anger toward me and I don't even realize it.

We can easily get offended and rather than confront the person with gentleness and a sincere desire for reconciliation, we harbor it, nurse it, talk to others about it and eventually it creates division and dissension. I shudder to think of how Satan must get so much perverted pleasure out of watching us do this to ourselves.  Our resentment and bitterness grows like a well-fertilized weed and it slowly chokes the life out of us.

Recently, I asked someone who deeply offended me to explain the situation from their perspective. Mind you, this is something that happened over a year ago...I've had it sitting in the back of my mind and on my heart for all that time only assuming things that may or may not be true. Instead of confronting the issue, I took my assumptions as truth. I made a huge mistake!

This person had no idea what they had done. None whatsoever. We chatted about it and this person said they completely understood how I could have perceived it to be the way I thought it was, but once I understood their perspective, I realized I was way off the mark. I've since asked forgiveness and we have reconciled but along the road of the past year or so I've been hurt, angry and resentful and all for no reason whatsoever.

Maybe that's why Satan enjoys this weapon so much? It's something that can destroy relationships, hurt feelings and corrode our love all with one fell swoop! It's like killing three birds with one stone. And unfortunately, it we fall for this trap very often.

If there is someone in your life who has offended you, ask yourself a couple of questions:

1) Do they even know they have offended you?  Usually, the person who has done the offending has no idea that they have done so, all the while, your anger and resentment are eating you alive. 

2) Have you repeated the offense to anyone else? (Proverbs 17:9 tell us that he who covers an offense promotes love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.)

3) Have you prayed about confronting the person in the spirit of love and reconciliation?

4) If you have confronted and are still offended, or you do not feel confrontation is necessary, could you consider overlooking the offense for the sake of love? 

It's time to get serious about this and stop this weapon of mass destruction from destroying our witness and creating division among us!

The Bible tells us that people will know we are Christians by our love. But it really does seem that the enemy is gaining ground in the church by using this dirty, under-handed weapon of offense.  After all, weren't we extended grace, though we were offensive to God? Romans 5:8 reminds us, "But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."

Since we have be shown grace, can't we show it to others? Will they know we are Christians by our love?

Got Questions?