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Entries in Faith (18)

Thursday
Oct052017

Don't look now...

Don't look now but it appears certain persons have crept in unnoticed. Yikes! It's a bit unnerving to think of people creeping around trying to blend in and go unnoticed. They appear good but are up to no good. We hear about such people all the time on the nightly news. Friends and family shocked when they find out what the "creepers" been up to. 

Recently, we traveled to small-town Illinois to go to the fair and attend some dirt track races. As we walked up and down the midway, it was such a blessing to see so many families out enjoying the food, rides, races, and near-perfect weather. Children were running ahead of and lagging behind their parents. Groups of teens were enjoying not being with their parents.

Oddly, I kept thinking these children and teens were easy prey.  These same thoughts flooded my mind this weekend as we gathered in with other families to watch sprint car races in central Pennsylvania. Adults fixed on the races while kids were running around and teens enjoyed a night out together.  Easy prey.

One evening after a late night of racing, my husband and I decided to go for a middle of the night breakfast! Something we used to do all the time in our younger days. Sitting in a diner at 2 AM we wondered who we were and why in the world we were eating breakfast rather than sleeping when I noticed several groups of teens sitting in the diner with us. It appeared they had been to a dance or function as they were all dressed up and had corsages. The majority of the teens were girls, but there were a couple of guys. So cute, young and possibly unaware of the dangers that could be facing them at 2 AM. Easy prey.

I normally don't walk around with this mindset. I'm usually in the moment and unaware of my own surroundings. I don't look for or expect to find "creepy" people lurking around. That's exactly my point in writing this blog. Furthermore, I certainly don't expect to find "creepers" in church or among those who call themselves Christians. Until I started reading the book of Jude.

Y'all...certain persons have crept into the church and into Christian circles unnoticed. These are bad, bad people. How is this possible? Well, they talk the talk, but they don't actually walk the talk. In fact, according to the book of Jude, they aren't Christians at all but, because they can talk the talk, they fit right in - unnoticed. And guess what? They don't look creepy. How concerning is that?

Here is how Jude describes them and how we can recognize them:

  • They use the grace of God as a license to sin.  Especially when it comes to sex and money.
  • They are like
    • Clouds without water carried along by winds or like autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead.
    • Wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam.
    • Wandering stars for whom shameless darkness has been reserved forever
  • They are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts, speak arrogantly, flattering people to gain an advantage, cause divisions, are worldly-minded.
  • They are devoid of the Spirit.
  • These people deny Jesus as Lord and want others to do the same.

Here's the thing...don't expect them to verbally deny Jesus as Lord. No, they won't do that and they won't get others to do that. What they do and encourage others to do is to deny Jesus by their behavior. They deny God's word especially when it comes to sex and money. They encourage others to do the same. How many churches do you think have been divided over issues regarding sex and money?  Far too many. Here's another thing...if you and I don't know what God says in His word for ourselves we are at great risk. Our faith is at great risk. The faith of the next generation is at risk.

Remember, they have crept in unnoticed. Why they could be excellent communicators, charming, funny, smart, a leader followed by many, relatable, helpful, look good, and by all outward appearances be an awesome spiritual mentor. But, they are devoid of the Spirit.  

Okay, now look.  Do you see them? Can you identify them? 

If you and I do not know God's Word, we cannot earnestly contend for the faith. Plus, these "certain persons" are believable and have the influence and potential to cause doubt, division and many will stumble and will be in need of being snatched from the fire. They do this by picking and choosing what in God's word is truth and what was is no longer relevant for today - especially when it comes to sex and money. This is called relativism and its crept into the church unnoticed. How is the possible? As I sit this morning and ponder all this, there can only be two explanations:

1.  We don't know what God's word says for ourselves, so we don't know the difference. 

2.  Or, we know the difference and yet choose not to contend earnestly for the faith (conviction of truth).

I don't mean to sound harsh, but there is no way that we could have gone from a Christian society to a post-Christian society if we'd all been fighting earnestly for the faith (conviction of truth). 

So, does this mean we are to roll up our sleeves and duke it out with those in our churches who preach another gospel or use grace as a license to sin - especially when it comes to sex and money?  Are we to scream and holler during church business meetings?  Are we to call out on social media all those we believe have crept into the church?  Actually, here's what Jude says we are to do:

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

If ever there were a time for us to be getting serious about knowing God's word for ourselves it is certainly now.  May we build ourselves up in our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit and keeping ourselves in the love of God. If we do these things, contending earnestly for the faith will the natural outcome.  We will be merciful, loving, joyful and passionate contenders that might look like Faith and Football

If you want to learn how to dig out truths from God's word for yourself, message me. I'd be happy to help you. I can also pass along two books that you might want to add to your library.  Pray asking the Lord to give you desire and hunger to know Him and His ways through His word and keep praying.  He will answer that prayer, and soon, you'll be able to contend earnestly for the faith!

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins

Living by the Book, The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard G. Hendricks and Willaim D. Hendricks

 

 

 

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Saturday
Sep232017

Football and faith

I bet without hesitation you can name your favorite football team, start singing the fight song from memory and have at least one jersey you could pull out on game day.  Am I right?

I love the passion and conviction of college football fans. Fans scream, yell, point big foam #1 fingers in the air, paint their faces and some their bodies. Fans high five, chest bump and can't sit still.  Their team colors are displayed in endless pieces of clothing and accessories. Even babies are dressed for game day. (They recruit them young!)  If attending the game and in anticipation, they arrive early, watch their team warm up and start singing and keep on singing their team's fight song. The energy and the sound level are high.  It's intense and electrifying.

During a college football game, there is no way you can be a passive observer.  Eventually, you'll be drawn in by the passion and conviction of the fans. Before you know it, you'll be jumping up and down, screaming, giving high fives and singing the fight song.  Oh, you'll pick sides alright.  And, if you aren't careful, fans might win you over to the other side.  Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.

I'll never forget attending the Oklahoma vs. Tennessee game in Knoxville in 2015.  I think they said that event set an all-time sound decimal record.  We went to the game with Oklahoma fans and were seated in a sea of Tennessee orange and white.  Me, I'm not so much into football, but I love the social aspect of being with my husband and friends.  In other words, I go for the fun and not so much the football!  But, this event was beyond fun.  It was intense and electrifying. I jumped and screamed for OU and wished I had a big foam #1 finger.

The coaches and teams fought hard to win!  The teams, bands, cheerleaders, and fans were all in!  They shared the common goal:  Victory!  Bands played their fight songs over and over and over again.The cheerleaders and band kept rallying the fans, and in response, the fans sang louder, chanted more, swayed and fought hard to cheer their team on to victory.  

Oh, did I mention that Tennessee played "Rocky Top" a bazillion times?  The first few times, a yeah, alright, okay - we hear you kind of experience.  A catchy tune but somewhat intimidating as it reminded us that we were in their territory.  Then, it got irritating.  Enough already.  Of course, they didn't stop, so the song continued and continued to be played. At one point, we looked over to find one of our die-hard, season ticket OU fans standing in his seat singing Tennessee's "Rocky Top."  What?  How is this possible?  I remember my husband and the others giving him a really hard time about it and yelling so he could hear them over the music. "What are you doing singing 'Rocky Top'?  Get down." While he wasn't won over or converted into a Tennessee fan, he was caught up in the moment and drawn into the passion of the people in orange and white. What possible harm could there be in singing the opposing team's fight song?  Uh...like I said, he was caught up in the moment and forgot himself.

College football is one of those places where being passionate and convicted is expected and acceptable. As obnoxious as it all can be at times, football fans show each other a lot of grace. I love it because their passion and conviction are very appealing and in many ways makes an appeal to me and to you to join in.  Football fans love to invite people to come watch the game, hang out, bring and eat food.  They recruit. Hanging out with them and it won't be long before you are wearing their team's colors, singing their fight song and filled with the same passion and conviction as those around you. Yep, they recruit young and they recruit hard!

In a way, football fans "contend earnestly" for their team! Their team is THE best. Even if their team is having a bad season, they are still the best. Team fans might talk among themselves about not being happy with the team, a player or coach performance.  Sometimes they'll fight among themselves about such things.  This is all normal and acceptable.  But, if someone on another team starts talking negatively about their team, player or coach - watch out. It might not be a fight song that breaks out. Let me say it again.  Football fans are a passionate and convicted group of folks.

Okay, so you know this preaches, right?

I started writing out the book of Jude this week.  I've only written out the first 3 verses because I can't get past verse 3.  It's grabbed my heart and mind.  I've read the verses that follow, so I know where Jude is going with this, but still, I'm stuck in verse three.  Let me share it with you and explain why.  "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints."  

Contend earnestly for the faith.  Jude feels it necessary to appeal to us to contend earnestly or fight with sincere and intense conviction for the faith (conviction of truth).  And the picture I have painted above is what comes to my mind.  It's time to put on our game faces, dress the part and get out our big foam finger that points to Jesus.  With passion and conviction, we fight for our faith. When those on the front lines fight their way up the field, all stand to their feet, wave with all we have and cheer them on to victory. The preacher preaches, the choir sings, the band plays, and the faithful sway!  Every inch of ground gained is a victory in Jesus.  Sure, we get pushed back, fumble the ball, miss the kick and even get intercepted.  But, we keep cheering, trying and believing.  We keep contending for our faith.  We sing fight songs!  The chorus of one goes like this:

OH, VICTORY IN JESUS,
MY SAVIOUR FOREVER
HE SOUGHT ME
AND HE BOUGHT ME
WITH HIS REDEEMING BLOOD

And, if we see one of us standing in their seat getting drawn into the passion and conviction of the other side, what do we do?  We contend earnestly for the faith.  With passion and conviction and over the noise of the opposition, we yell "what are you doing"?

Okay, so when I think of contending earnestly, you know what visually comes to my mind.  So, if you see me with a cross painted on my cheek, pom-poms in my hand or a big foam finger pointing toward Jesus and I'm singing about victory in Jesus, you'll show me some grace and remember I'm passionate about Jesus, my faith, and the truth!  You can expect that I might dance a little jig, jump up out of my seat or shout, post, and tweet over and about truth.  Oh, and I probably need to warn you, if I see you acting like you are getting caught up in the passion and conviction of the world and talking anything other than the truth, I will ask you "what are you doing?"

Friday
Dec112015

Christmas, Cardinals & Prayer

Have you ever had a time when you had a decision to make and just didn't know what to do? I'm talking decisions like buying a house, accepting another job, changing careers, how or if to spend money, even making a donation. You could go with your "gut" and make a decision but earnestly wanted to do only what God wanted for you in that particular decision. So, you prayed, you waited but seemingly no clear direction or answer. Lord, should I or should I not?  You then prayed, fasted and waited some more.  Finally, you asked for a sign!

Years ago a very dear friend of mine and I were praying about a financial decision.  It was a big decision, so we prayed and waited and prayed some more.  Finally, not knowing what do to we asked God for a sign.  Here's the story...

It was early December so the weather was cold, the days short, and the trees bare.  Even with the bird feeders full, there always seemed a shortage of Cardinals that time of the year in that particular part of the US. When you did spot a male Cardinal in a bare tree or against the snow it would take your breath away.  So, our earnest prayer went something like this:  

"Lord, if you want us to proceed forward and do it, then show us both a cardinal on this particular day."  

Okay, so just in case you are laughing or shaking your head, my God is certainly able and truly, the possibility of us both seeing a cardinal on that particular day would certainly be "of God."  This was not an impossible sign and the heart of the request was to do what would be right and pleasing to Him.  So, don't judge!

That particular day came and there were no cardinal sightings by either one of us by mid morning.  None by mid-day.  Still none when the sun went down.  Thank you, Lord.  We had our answer.  We will not go in that direction! That particular day also happened to be the day my dear husband was taking me to Longwood Gardens to experience A Longwood Christmas. Oh, it was so beautiful!  Toward the end of the evening tour, we entered one of the buildings that had a few different rooms with various wreath displays. As I entered one of the rooms, my breath was taken way.  Every wreath in the room had one or more Cardinals on it made from a variety of materials.  I literally started laughing out loud.  I called my friend to see if fake Cardinals counted and if she had seen any!  We reckoned fake could be a sign, but she had not seen any fake Cardinals either.  Now we were both laughing!

Through this experience, the Lord encouraged me in two ways:

  1. Fervently and with great expectation, take any and all requests to the Lord.  Keep praying!
  2. Before praying, stop and ask His Spirit to lead me and show me how to pray - specifically!

I will never forget that experience and the laughs that my friend and I had over it but also the fun moment it was with the Lord.  You see, before He ever spoke  the world into existence He thought of  and planned for me and my friend.  He knew exactly what we would be seeking from Him and on what day.  He also knew that on that day I would be walking into a room filled with fake Cardinals. The word from the Lord spoken into my heart that day? No go girls but I heard the cry of your hearts so surprise!

In sharing this experience, I am praying (specifically) that you too will be encouraged in these ways. Fervently and in great faith, take all your requests to the Lord.  Keep praying!  Before praying, stop and ask his Spirit to lead you and show you how to pray - specifically!  Since the time of this story, I've tried to stop and ask myself what I really want to ask the Lord to do in each situation and for His Spirit to show me how to pray - specifically!  These two things are not necessary to being heard or having my prayers answered.  But, I love it and I love Him all the more for leading me by His Spirit to pray specifically!  I love, love, love when I pray specifically and He answers specifically.  It's thrilling.  It's amazing.  It's a wonder.  He's a wonder!

Saturday
Aug252012

Who me?

 

The first place you go when you join the Army is off to boot camp! I’ve never been but I hear it’s really hard and it either makes you or breaks you! You are told when to get up, what to do and when to do it, how to dress, and how to behave. The Army owns you. You obviously need tough people if you are going to win a war, but is there a goal or purpose in boot camp?

 

Here’s what I found at www.todaysmilitary.com.  I'm telling you - this will preach!

Basic Training - officially called Initial-entry Training—prepares recruits for all elements of service: physical, mental, and emotional. It gives service people the basic tools necessary to perform the roles that will be asked of them for the duration of their tour. 


Army Basic Combat Training - More than just pushups and mess halls, the Army's basic training is a nine-week-long journey of self-discovery. Follow six recruits as they go through Basic Training, discovering their inner strength and learning valuable skills that will help them succeed as Soldiers in the Army and in life.”

 

It occurs to me that God is using the circumstances and situations of our lives to "prepare us for elements of service: physical, mental and emotional" - amen? He's given us the "basic tools necessary to perform" and boy oh boy it's definitely been a "journey of self discovery"! Yep...each trial and testing is also a discovery of "inner strength" and "teaches me valuable skills that help me succeed as a soldier" in God's Army and in life.

Truth is, like it or not, I am in God's Army. As Christ followers, we are in God’s Army which means boot camp (basic and combat training) is absolutely necessary. Honestly, I haven't always been happy about the boot camp/army lifestyle. I've whined, complained, and convinced myself that I'd joined the wrong army!  How about you?  This excerpt from the movie “Private Benjamin” makes me laugh while at the same time proving a point that pricks my heart.

Basic and combat training is designed to make us AND break us! It’s all about learning to submit to God, relying on His strength and power and developing godly character. So, what is God really asking us to do? What will our lives really look like?  The truth is not for sissies or the fainthearted! But, We can do it!  Are you in?

 

 

 

Saturday
Jul142012

Fish Vomit

In your faith walk, have you ever found yourself fish vomit?  Before you think me totally mad, hear me out.

God really strengthened my heart recently.  I've been listening my way through the Bible this year - chronologically!  Sometimes it's easy to zone out when you get to those familiar places in the Bible.  You know the ones where you've heard the stories since childhood and at least a couple of dozen sermons on the subject?  So, as I started hearing Jonah, my thought was:"I know this"!  But - boy oh boy did the Lord have some new insights for me to learn!  As I listened and continued throughout the day to reflect on what I heard, here is what I gleaned:

· God reminded me and thus encouraged me that He appoints work for me to do on His behalf.  Wow.

· I can say no to God's work and run in the other direction but He pursues me.  Isn't that amazing?

· When I say no to God and go in my own direction, it always impacts others in a negative way.  Sad but true.

· By the time my rebellion is all over, I look and feel like I've been in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights and am laying in fish vomit.  So not pretty.

· Even when I don't want to do what God asks of me and I get attitude, He still allows me to do the work. Now, that's mind blogging.

· Though I am rebellious and have attitude, I am still God's and He still takes time to talk to me, teach me, use me.  But, why?  This truth melts my heart.

You really should listen to it:  July 7, 2012 Podcast