Saturday, April 19, 2014

I Don't Wanna 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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Wedding Made in Heaven

Butterflies of excitement are what usually accompany a Bride on her wedding day!  We dream of this special day as little girls. Our beautiful white dress, the flowers, the meticulous details and colors, our family and friends on both sides, our handsome husband-to-be at the end of the isle waiting...I get butterflies just thinking about it and my husband and I will celebrate 25 years next month! Truly, it's a day worth remembering forever.

If I were honest, I'd say one of my favorite parts of a wedding is not only when the Bride bursts through looking radiant and beautiful before walking down the isle, but also the look on the Groom's face as he sees her for the first time. She's worked hard, had her hair done, makeup perfect and looks radiant as she walks down the aisle, locking eyes with him - the one for whom she's been doing all the
work to prepare! This is the woman he has chosen to spend the rest of his life with and he's usually overwhelmed with tears (or in a desperate fight to keep those tears from coming!). It's just beautiful!

Imagine this, though...

The Groom is standing at the end of the isle as the music plays, knowing his Bride will be bursting through those doors at any minute. He is literally fighting back the tears as he thinks of how beautiful she is, how much he loves her and how she's going to take his breath away. She's probably spent the entire day preparing for this moment! After all, she loves him as much as he loves her. This marriage was literally made in heaven!

As the music plays and the doors swing open, the Bride is standing there her wrinkled and stained pajamas, with bed-head, looking confused, like she just woke up.  She almost looks in shock. She blurts out, "Oh, is it TODAY? I had no idea! I knew it was coming but I wasn't really thinking it would be so soon!" The Bride walks timid and embarrassed down the isle, totally unprepared for what should have been the most exciting day of her life. She can never re-live this moment.

I bring this up because just like when Spring comes and we begin to see weddings popping up everywhere, I believe Spring is upon us as Christians and our Groom is standing at the front of the aisle, ready for us. I think it is just a matter of time before those doors swing open and our procession begins! Are we ready? Do we really believe He's coming for us? Do we believe the promise that Jesus gave that He is coming back for us?

I was reading this in Ephesians today and it struck me for several reasons:

Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 
Ephesians 5:25-27

Christ loves us so much that He gave Himself up for us, friends. It's clear in this passage of Scripture that He did this so that He might present us to Himself, not wrinkled and stained and disheveled, but without spot, wrinkle or any such thing!  He knows we could never present ourselves without spot or wrinkle in our own strength. We are incapable, so He gives us what we need in order to do this. He gives us His holiness. He gives us His desires. He gives us His righteousness. Our job is to allow Him to do that. To remember that our special day is coming - and our Groom will be waiting for us. Will we be ready?

Revelation 19:7-9
Let us be glad and rejoice and let us give honor to Him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and His Bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear." For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God's holy people. And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb." And he added, "These are the true words that come from God."

So many of us live like this promised day is just a fantasy. Or like maybe it's just not going to happen - maybe He didn't mean He was going to literally come back for us. But God is not a liar. He wouldn't tell us it was going to happen if it wasn't true. So the question isn't whether or not our Groom will come for us; instead, the question becomes, "Will we be ready when He does come?".
It's time to get ready, friends. Imagine the look on our Groom's face when those doors swing open and we are ready and waiting. He will fight back the tears as He sees His beautiful bride walking toward Him. The Bride He gave Himself up for, the Bride He loves. The Bride He will spend eternity loving.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, He will surely do it. 
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Got Questions?