Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Don't Want to Be a Ham

I was told a lot when I was growing up, "You are such a ham!" and if I were honest I'd say I might still have a little "ham" left in me.  That's the expression people use when you like to be the center of attention - in the spotlight - the one who is up front and likes to perform.  I suppose some of us were born like that and since God now has me on a stage and on the radio, I'm glad He put it in me because I don't get as nervous since I grew up with that desire.  Now, though, I hope people see more of Him than they do me.  He can use my "hamminess" for His glory!

There's another Ham, though, that I find myself emulating on occasion that God cannot be glorified through.  It's not the kind of ham that enjoys the spotlight for his or herself, but who forces the spotlight on another Christian brother or sister's weakness or sin.  Let me explain...

Noah had three sons named Shem, Ham and Japtheth. In Genesis 9:18-29, we read about those sons.  One day, Noah drank a bunch of wine and became drunk and passed out naked in his tent.  When Ham saw that his father was naked, he went outside to tell his brothers.  One can only imagine that he was laughing at him.  Otherwise, he could have covered him up with a blanket to spare his father from embarrassment, but instead he told his brothers.  You can almost hear him, "You should see Dad!  This 'man of God' isn't acting much like a 'man of God' at all right now - he's passed out naked in there! Go see for yourself! haha"

But the other two brothers didn't make a mockery of their father along with Ham.  They put a stop to it.  Instead, they took a robe, held it over their shoulders and backed into the tent to cover their father up.  As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.  They were showing grace, mercy and respect for him in a way that Ham did not.

When Noah woke up, the bible says he learned about what Ham did and he put a curse on him.  I heard a pastor say once that Noah sinned, too - a sin of the flesh.  He should not have gotten drunk and passed out.  It was wrong and it was sinful and we are sure God and Noah had a few things to work out after that.  But when Ham sinned, it was a sin that came from a dark and uncompassionate, judgmental heart.  Those are the sins that bring curses on us even more so than the sins of the flesh that are so painful.  These "heart sins" are the ones that reveal the true condition of our heart.  Ham's heart was not filled with mercy or grace or love - his heart was filled with gossip, judgment and condemnation.  And he paid dearly for this.

I often see specific churches in the spotlight that are being raked through the coals online and in the press. They have different ways of approaching ministry, have people who've been hurt or have money being spent in places that others don't believe is appropriate. One specific church comes to mind that seems to be smacked down over and over and over again. I have even found myself judging some of the things I've heard. But as I prayed, I realized something...

I know tons of people who attend this church regularly who are very, very strong believers in Christ.  Thousands of people have come into a relationship with Christ as a result of the ministry in this church.  God is using this church in so many profound ways!  Do they do everything the way I do?  No, but that's okay with God.  He likes it when His children use their gifts and abilities in unique and diverse ways to glorify Him and He made us all different for a reason.  Is there fruit in this ministry?  Yes, it cannot be denied.  Could they do things differently in some areas?  Yeah, of course.  So could I.  Do I attend this church?  No, I do not.  Are they perfect?  No.  Am I?  Umm....absolutely not!

My point is this...I've seen news stories, blogs and social media rants about things that have happened at the church.  Many of them were written by Christians who are angry and frustrated and with good reason.  A lot of people have a lot of things to say about this church and they don't seem to have any problems doing it publicly.  I do not believe God was pleased in the least by what happened...but I believe He is also not pleased when we sin in our hearts by gossiping, judging publicly and exposing them to the world.

God is dealing with them and teaching them in many ways through this experience.  He can redeem this and they can learn from it - and so can we.  Could it be that, instead of exposing them and pointing out their faults publicly, that we should come alongside of them and show some grace?  Yes, we are to judge those inside of the church - but shouldn't that be going on inside the church, not for the world to see in public places?

How does the world perceive it when churches bicker and pick on one another because they are "different" or one church messes up and other churches are quick to judge?  I know it must grieve the heart of God.  He knows if something needs judging and He is the only One who can judge situations from a perfect perspective.  But as an unbeliever watching on...I bet it's pretty unsettling to watch all the back-biting and strong words we have for one another.  God is perfectly capable of defending Himself and actually prefers it over having us try to defend him from our limited and human perspective.

My prayer is that God will keep me from being like Ham in this and in every situation.  After all...if I mess up, I certainly wouldn't want a "Ham" exposing me!  Instead of exposing, may I show compassion and kindness in how I share with others about my brothers and sisters in Christ. And if I have a beef with someone, I pray I will not act like Ham in dealing with it. (smile)

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Starbucks Quandry

My daughter, my son and I went to the movies after a run to Starbucks awhile back.  We had not finished our coffee when we got to the theater and we knew they probably would not allow us to have outside drinks in the theater, so we were left in a quandary.  What followed was strangely psychologically intriguing as we all three reacted in ways that totally reflect our personalities...

Stephanie:  Stephanie is very cautious, never does anything to offend anyone and is super sweet.  Her personality is always "Avoid confrontation at all costs."  So....Stephanie chugged her coffee in the car before we approached the ticket counter to avoid any and all confrontation. 

Tommy:  Tommy is a rebel.  He is one who takes risks, enjoys a challenge and is always angry that the movie theaters charge more than they should for food and drink so he has no issue with bringing his own food or drink in.  So....he took the coffee and put it inside of his jacket and zipped it up.  

Me:  I've learned by life experience that "we have not because we ask not".  I did not want to chug my coffee because I knew it would make me sick, but my convictions would not allow me to hide it and I said to my kids, "You're over-reacting..let's just ask what we should do and then we will be able to make a decision."  So....I asked the lady as I purchased my tickets if it would be okay if I took my coffee into the movie theater.  She warmly replied "Sure!  No problem."

At that point, my kids looked at each other and started cracking up laughing as they realized their decisions completely reflected their personalities and mine reflected mine. Often we think we know what we are up against but honestly we don't know until we ask or take a concerted effort to find out!  My mother always told me, "The only failure is not to try!"
 
By the way, Stephanie ended up with an upset stomach after chugging her mocha and did not enjoy the movie as much as she could have.  Tommy ended up burning himself when the coffee spilled inside of his jacket and then smelled like Starbucks the rest of the day.  
 
I, however, enjoyed my coffee...one sip at a time. :)
 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

He Waits to Be Wanted

He waits to be wanted.  I read this quote yesterday morning from AW Tozer and it hurt my heart deeply.  God is so patient with us.  So faithful.  So loving.  So kind.  And yet we get so busy...so distracted...so prideful and self-absorbed that we can't see that He waits for us. Why would He love us so much that He would wait for us to want Him?

He waits to be wanted.  Why should He have to wait to be wanted?  Why don't we want Him?  What is it that we want instead of Him?  Those are the questions that keep coming to me and I don't have any good answers.  He offers peace, forgiveness, joy, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, love, gentleness and patience.  The world offers lies, hurts, unfulfilled promises, hypocrisy, hate and heartache.  It seems like there would be no competition!  And yet...we seem to chase all those "things" with reckless abandon.  All the while....

He waits to be wanted.  Would I do that?  Usually when someone rejects me, I shake the dust off my feet and move on.  I don't wait to be wanted.  Their loss, in my book.  If they don't want to be my friend, I usually just write them off.  But Jesus knows we are just being foolish when we reject Him, He knows what is best for us so He pursues us.  His identity is not wrapped up in whether we accept Him or not - He just loves us so much that He waits for us to come to our senses.  So why does He pursue us?  Because He knows without His intervention, our relationship with Him will never be restored and we will face judgment.  He does not want us to have to face that.  He loves us too much.

God must judge sin because He is Holy...perfect...and good.  Sin goes completely against God's holiness.  He must judge sin because He is good and it is in His character to be just and right- not because He is mean or unloving.  Oh, but He offers us an opportunity to receive grace instead - through Christ's sacrifice.  Can you understand this?  I want you to really get this...the God of the Universe loves you.  He wants a relationship with you and He waits to be wanted.  Not so He can be validated - He does not need our validation.  He is God and He is Holy.  He waits to be wanted because He loves us and He knows that if we reject Him, we will face His judgment.  He doesn't want that for any of us.  Period. (2 Peter 3:9; 3:15) But He will judge us if we continue to go our own way.  He is fair in doing this.  He is always right in His judgments. 

My pride is what kept me from God for so long.  I'll be honest - I didn't like having someone tell me I was a sinner.  Who were they to tell me I was a sinner?  Geez.  The nerve!  I did good things all the time.  I was a loving, caring person.  But I also did sinful things.  And even one bad thing is enough to separate me from a Holy God.  So in order to be able to restore that relationship, I had to turn from my sin to my Savior, who accepted me with open arms.  It's called "repentance" in the Bible and that word gets a bad rap, honestly.

Repentance is a gift.  It's not just saying "I'm sorry" but saying "I'm through!" and then turning away from sin toward Christ, trusting Him to give you strength to stay turned away from that sin. Oh, I admit it was not easy.  I liked my sinfulness.  I wondered if I could live a life without some of the things I enjoyed so much.  As a matter of fact, I still struggle with sin.  I mess up all the time...but I try to learn from my sins and I seek His forgiveness and grace with each one, admitting when I fail.  I allow Him to use those mistakes and grow me into a better person.  I also reap consequences when I sin - something He often allows in order to show me that I don't ever want to go there again!  He gave me a new life when I repented of and confessed my sin (agreed with God that I am a sinner) and received Jesus' sacrifice on my behalf.  He has given me new desires and a longing to be more like Him.  I could never do this without Jesus.

And thought He waits to be wanted, in Isaiah 55:6, it says, "Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near."  This tells us that there will come a time when He will not be near.  I pray you will seek Him today!  Hebrews 3:15 says, "Today when you hear His voice, don't harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled."  Today is the day of salvation.  He waits to be wanted...but He will not wait forever.  He is calling you today.

He waits to be wanted.  Is He still waiting for you?

Some scripture references that might be helpful to you if you want to hear what the Bible says about the Jesus who waits so patiently and lovingly for you:

Romans 3:10-31
Galatians 3:19-24
John 3:1-21

Need more info?  Please call 1-888-NEED HIM or visit www.needhim.org

Friday, June 10, 2011

Busy Signal

Remember the busy signal?  That annoying little "Beep...Beep...Beep..." we'd get when we called someone back in the day before call waiting?  Maybe you're reading this and you have no idea what I'm talking about...that makes me feel very old. (smile)  Anyway, I had a thought the other day about that busy signal because I felt like God was trying to "download" some things into my heart and mind and when He would try, He would hear that "busy signal".

Oh, I know I'm supposed to slow down and listen.  I know I shouldn't over-commit.  I know I should prioritize.  Heck, many of my blogs are about those very things.  You'll find in my life that most of my blogs are written because I'm dealing with some things and when I blog it helps me to sort things out, communicate what I'm learning and it gives me the added accountability of throwing it out there for the world to see (not that the world is reading my blogs...haha...but I digress...)

This morning I was trying to focus in my quiet time with the Lord but first I decided I would open my computer to check my email since I get several quality devotionals sent to my inbox each morning.  I love reading them.  The only problem is, often when I open my laptop, I get sucked into distraction and before I realize it, my "quiet time" has turned into anything but quiet time.  I mean, the room is quiet, but my mind is not.  I've checked my email, my facebook, my twitter and I've caught up with the world's news.  But that time spent, quiet in the presence of Almighty God, is absent and I feel it in my spirit.  I begin to grieve.  I've done it again.  My bible is lying right beside me, unopened.  My heart sinks.

Maybe that is why I feel like when God is ready to "download" some important truths, some foundational precepts, into my heart and mind but He keeps finding a busy signal.  My mind is busy.  So busy, in fact, that I often forget what I'm doing and go off on little rabbit trails in my mind that take me far from the presence of God.  Can you relate to this at all or am I alone in this struggle?  I have a feeling I'm not, though I may not hear from you because you're struggling with this too but maybe you're like me and don't want to admit it. (smile) 

I read this verse the other day and it sent shivers up my spine:  Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink He will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go", whether to the right or to the left.  Then you will destroy all of your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, "Good riddance!" (Isaiah 30:20-22)

So...what was it about this verse that sent shivers up my spine?  Well, it was the part that says, then you will destroy all of your silver idols...".  My MacBook Pro is silver.  And it's an idol to me when I choose to spend time with it before I spend time with my God.  Isaiah was saying that once you've experienced the presence of God and the leading of God, you will do away with those silver idols out of a pure desire to hear from Him.  Once you've tasted what it's like to be in the presence of God, nothing else can compare!  Please hear me...I'm not trying to be legalistic.  I hate legalism.  I don't believe computers are bad at all - but I do believe that when we choose to use them over spending time with God, that is wrong.  It eats my time up like a moth on cloth.  It distracts me and prevents me from experiencing true intimacy with God.  So, at times, it is my "silver idol" and it must be destroyed.

Now, please don't think this is as drastic as it sounds.  I'm not going to go blow up my MacBook Pro.  I'm not even going to get rid of it - I need it for the work I do.  But today I'm going to promise God in the presence of those who read my blog, that I will not open it until I've spent my quiet time with Him.  I can feel the difference on those days when He is first and I need that daily.  I'm deceiving myself if I think for one moment that I can do this without Him!  I need the accountability and I need the focus. 

I know He has much to show me and download into my heart and mind and until the busy signal is gone, it will evade me.  So I'm going to free up the line.  I'm going to free up my heart.  I'm going to free up my ears to hear from Him.  Once I've heard from Him, I know I can freely open my silver MacBook Pro and as I hear from the world, my facebook friends, my tweeters and the news, I will be hearing it through the filter of His Truth.

I can already hear Him saying, "I have so much more for you.  You only have to be still and listen."


So the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for His help.  (Isaiah 30:18)

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