Saturday, November 28, 2009

Appreciating Our Differences

I really enjoy the fact that God has made every one of us unique. I think sometimes people don’t really appreciate that. We mistakenly think that our passions and desires should be the same for everyone else. If we aren’t jumping on their bandwagon, then something must be wrong with us.

Think about the fact that God has created each and every one of us. Adam and Eve weren’t some sort of cookie cutter mold to be copied over and over again. They were made for a purpose and a plan that was unique to them. The same is true for us. Not only do we sometimes not appreciate that individuality in others, we don’t even appreciate it in ourselves.

For many years I didn’t like a certain aspect of my personality. I thought I needed a lot of softening in my character and granted, to some degree that has definitely been true. But I was never meant to be someone else. I have learned that God can take the fiery side of me and use it for His good and His glory. Can it also be used for the opposite? If I don’t watch it, then definitely! You may have even been a victim of it at one time or another. But my point is that I needed to learn how to appreciate the traits and bents that were placed in me and learn how to use them in a way that is honoring to God.

Part of the tenacity that I have has helped me in many ways. It gave me the drive to begin a college education just about four years ago, at the ripe “old” (just using a cliché, don’t mean it literally) age of 37. It also helped me break into some new fields of work after being a stay-at-home-mom for many years. Lately it has been giving me the drive to plug ahead and pursue that writing career that has been a dream of mine for almost 20 years!

Sometimes you literally have to dig to find the good in yourself. But there is good to be found! You can pick yourself apart and only see the negative things, the things that you feel need to be changed. But guess what? God sees beyond that. He sees the potential and He sees the person He has created you to be…who you are meant to be. I have quoted this often (probably because it’s one of my favorite statements) but our music pastor has said that the world is desperate for us to be who God created us to be. You see, who we are meant to be is not just for our benefit—it’s for the world around us, for those we connect with, those who we sometimes just “happen” to run into.

Through Facebook I have gotten to know quite a few people. It is amazing what you can learn about others through this ingenious social network. Granted, I don’t know most of them intimately but I am allowed a peak into their world that I would not otherwise have. You learn how different others are, what their desires and passions are…what makes them tick.

Some things may surprise you—in fact; some might be surprised to know that I am very much into politics. Probably the only people to really know this about me are my family. They know my passion to watch Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, to read their books and other books that speak about the country and how we were founded. They hear me talk about politics. I believe very strongly in some things about our country and how it is going. This is one of my passions.

Others have passions that are just as meaningful to them. A wonderful dear Facebook friend of mine caters some of the most delicious meals you could ever have. She has a passion for food! Me…sometimes my family is lucky if I throw in a frozen pizza. Is my passion for politics better than her passion for food or vice versa? God put those desires and passions inside each of us. I have another Facebook friend whose statuses are almost always about professional ice skating. I think I have skated one time in my life and I will never do it again—have absolutely no coordination!

Just to throw some other interesting tidbits out there, here are some other passions/desires I have learned through various Facebook friends—you might recognize yourself in one of these descriptions (smile). I have Facebook friends (keep in mind I use the term “friends” loosely as again, Facebook is not about intimately connecting with everyone) who have these passions/desires:

• Sewing
• Knits/Crochets hats and hair accessories
• Reaching Muslims for Christ
• Dog/Puppy Training/Obedience
• Writing
• Politics
• Sharing scripture
• Singing
• Grandchildren
• Farmville (okay, just had to throw that one in there—Facebook people will know what I mean)
• Organic/Home-cooked meals
• Homeschooling
• Painting

My point in sharing this list is to simply show you a small picture of a much bigger one. God created a big world with a lot of little people to fill it. That means each of us may play a small—but an important role—in making up this world. As I look over this list, most of them don’t apply to me at all. I can’t sew a button. The closest to knitting or crocheting I have ever come is cross-stitching. I have only been in contact with one Muslim person. My Golden Retriever failed puppy kindergarten. I can’t carry a tune to save my life. Thankfully I don’t have any grandchildren! I have yet to get addicted to Farmville. I will probably never cook a “real” home-cooked meal. I have no desire to ever homeschool again and I would be lucky to do well at a paint-by-number set. But instead of just dismissing them, instead of just casting them to the side and saying, “Well it’s not my passion or desire,” I need to appreciate the unique role that these individuals play.

I kind of compare this to the scripture verse found in 2 Timothy 2:20: In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. Whether you are gold or silver, wood or clay, there is a purpose—no matter how big or small—learn to appreciate it in others and learn to appreciate it in yourself!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give Thanks

Psalm 107 tells us five times to give thanks to the Lord. Throughout other portions of God’s Word we are told again to give thanks to the Lord. Some of the reasons cited to give Him thanks include:

• He is good
• His love endures forever
• His righteousness
• His Name is near
• His unfailing love
• His wonderful deeds

Notice that the focus is solely on Him. It has absolutely nothing to do with us. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the circumstances and situations in our lives. It is so easy to become so focused on our problems that we lose sight of God. Even if God never does another thing for us, He still deserves our thanks.

I Thessalonians 5:18 is a good reminder of this: …give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. The focus needs to be on the word ALL. In ALL circumstances—poor health, death, loss of a job, financial struggles, relationship problems—it does not matter…His will is that even in the most difficult circumstances of life, we give Him thanks.

Does this make your problems go away? Does this change anything? Chances are that you can spend the next five minutes praising and thanking God but when it’s done, your circumstances will remain the same. Giving God thanks is not about changing your circumstances. It is about glorifying Him through those circumstances. Oftentimes you will find a new inner peace, a deep appreciation for all the good things in your life, or a new perspective on things.

Take time today to give Him thanks. However, this should not be a once-a-year event, where Thanksgiving we spend more time than usual focusing on Him. We need to daily give Him thanks. Part of my prayer time each day is giving Him thanks…even if I have been hit hard by sour moments in life, there is always something to thank Him for. Life may not always be good, but God always is!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Authority In His Name

“Can I tell Jacob that you said to go away?” My daughter asked me these words one day when she had been outside on the swing, listening to her IPod. Apparently her younger brother was nearby in the hammock but he was “annoying” her because he was staring at her.

It was a seemingly insignificant conversation yet it caught my attention. She had come to me with a request. But more than that, she knew that there was authority in using my name. It wouldn’t have been enough to say to Jacob, “Go away!” No, she would need to interject my name in this…”MOM said!” The command would mean nothing unless there was some authority in it. If mom said it, then it must be done (or at least that’s what one would hope for…smile).

It reminded me of the authority we have in the name of Christ. There is power in the name of Jesus. In fact, evil spirits know of the name of Jesus. They even know the authority we hold in Jesus as believers. In Acts 19 there is the story of some Jews who were going around trying to drive out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t have the power to rid those spirits but those evil spirits recognized that those attempting to drive them out had no authority. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).

Have you ever been embarrassed to call out someone’s name that you thought you knew or go up to someone and begin to have a conversation and it turns out that you don’t know the person? It’s a little embarrassing. Well it is more than embarrassing for an evil spirit to not know who you are because you have no authority to use the authority of Jesus’ name. It is spiritually dangerous.

Jesus’ authority extends too many things. He has authority over:

• His teaching (Matt. 7:29)
• Forgiveness of sins (Matt. 9:6)
• Healing (Matt. 9:4-8)
• Calling of disciples (Matt. 10:1)
• Heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18)
• Overcoming the evil one (Luke 10:19)
• Judgment (John 5:27)

The ultimate authority He demonstrated was when He went to the cross. No one takes it [life] from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again (John 10:18). He had and has all authority. Of His own accord He laid down His life for us. Now that is power!

One of my favorite songs we sing in church is “Overcome.” The chorus sings out:

All authority, every victory is Yours
All authority, every victory is Yours

I could sing those words over and over again. It builds up my faith in the power of His name. It is a reminder that He holds ALL authority. And through that authority, every victory belongs to Him. There is another verse in this song that I really like:

Savior, worthy of honor and glory
Worthy of all Your praise, You overcame
Jesus, awesome in power forever
Awesome and great is Your name, You overcame

This song speaks so much about the authority and power found in the name of Jesus Christ. And because there is so much power in the name of Jesus, we need to take special care when we use that name. We must never become careless in the use of His name. It’s not just a name to throw around, to impress someone. It’s not just a name we should use to get what we want (like my daughter was going for when she wanted to use my name).

The name of Jesus truly is powerful but as believers we need to use that authority in the right manner. Truly the greatest day to come in using His name is when at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:10).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Proof Is Found In the Way We Live!

I recently finished reading a book that someone had recommended to me. It was interesting and about a topic I had never heard of. It was about a journalist who covers the story of a snake-handling preacher accused of attempted murder. At gun point he forced his wife to stick her arm in a box filled with rattlesnakes. As this journalist covers the story, he finds himself immersed in a whole new world…believers in Christ who not only handle poisonous snakes but who drink strychnine, which is a toxic alkaloid.

Snake handling is a real thing. It’s a ritual performed amongst a small number of Pentecostal churches in the United States. As I read this book, the thought that kept nagging at me was “Why?” What was the point? Sure, they quoted scripture to try and back up their reasoning: And these signs should follow them that believe: In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover (Mark 16:17-18). However, what was the motivation behind it?

Throughout this story as you read about their gatherings at church, it sounded more and more like it was nothing more than a show. It was a dangerous ritual obviously and many have lost their lives to it. In fact, this journalist finds himself so caught up in it that he ends up handling a snake in the midst of a pretty wild church service. Toward the end of the book, although the journalist has become friends with many of the snake-handlers, he begins to also question their reasons for doing what they do. They claim it is to confirm the Word. In fact, they say that someone has to do it or the Word is found to be a lie.

This journalist also began to question why he took up a snake. He examined his own heart and discovered that it was about partaking in “ecstatic worship.” It was all about the experience and the addiction to danger. In the end, he leaves that world behind, discovering his own faith. So here’s the question that probes my mind as I think about this story. Is what we do in the name of the Lord for a show, something we do just for an experience?

Any time we are at the altar, during a moment in prayer, or any time we are before God should be more than just an experience. It should cause something in us to change or grow. Experience with God is not just for the sake of experience…its not to make us feel good or to get something out of it. Anytime we meet with God in any way, it should cause a change inside us.

These changes are not for our own good. They should always affect those around us. Anything within you that changes, will impact the lives of those around you…unless you are a hermit or something. Maybe God is working in you to grow the fruit of the Spirit or maybe He shows you something in your life that needs to end. It may be time to work on a nasty habit you have had or it could be to increase your faith. No matter what it is, time spent with God, an experience with God doesn’t end there. It reaches out and impacts others! And if it doesn’t, then maybe we need to examine our motives and reasons behind what we do.

The other thing I was thinking about after reading this book was how the snake-handlers thought that if they didn’t handle the snakes and drink the poison it would make the Word to be a lie. Do we as believers really have to go around proving the Word to be true? I don’t think so. In fact, I think others will see the Word is truth by the way we live our lives. We can prove the Word through our lifestyle, our choices, our words and our actions. If we claim to know Christ, I guarantee you that you are being watched! Some are watching just to see you slip and fall. They want to show that you are not who you say you are. They want your imperfections to come shining through. But others are watching because they want to see what it is that you have that makes you so different.

We don’t have to prove the Word. All the proof needed is in the world around us. God’s creation is proof. Our job is to live our lives in such a way that others can see Him through us. So you want to prove that God exists? Let Him be revealed through everything you say and do!