Saturday, March 28, 2009

Have You Died Today?

Thank you for the responses from last week's blog. It's so encouraging to hear from you. It sounds like so many of you are truly abiding in the Vine.

There's nothing like a little dose of illness in our physical bodies to remind us of how fragile we really are. Call me a baby, but almost every single time I get the flu, I wonder inside, "Am I going to make it, Lord?" Well, this past week, I, along with my three children, were stricken with a good old-fashioned case of the flu. The vile bug caused havok on all of us, and my prayers seemed to hit the ceiling, at least for several days anyway. As the fog clears, I am so very thankful for my health and for the health of my children--and yes, the not so gentle reminder that I should be ever so grateful for it each day.

I'm digressing a bit, but I think of all the people in the world suffering in their physical bodies, who can only pray that they'd only have something like the flu to tussle with--they're afflictions sometimes painfully cruel and often terminal. I pray that the Lord will supernaturally touch all those who desperately need the Lord's healing and deliverance.

Anyway, the fragility of our bodies should be a constant reminder to us that we will all physically experience death (unless the Lord returns). In a way, this physical death parallels our spiritual lives. Our flesh must die if we are to glorify the Lord and access eternal life.

In John 12:24, Jesus explains the necessity of his impending death. He says, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." So, unless a grain of wheat is buried, it cannot produce grain. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and to exemplify His power over death. Isn't it incredible that through His death, we all have access to eternal life--just like that one seed produces many grains.

Similarly, when we let go of our selfish desires and self-centered ways (our flesh) and glorify God, we are released from the bondage of sin and death--they have no hold on us. We are free to worship, glorify, and serve the Lord with all of our beings, which is by the way, the reason we are here. Moreover, when we die to self and serve the Lord, we will draw others to Him, producing "much fruit."

We live fruitless lives when we live for ourselves only. All around we can see others consumed with attaining power, finding security, seeking pleasure, and making material wealth. Just like that corn of wheat that falls on the ground, abides alone
and dies, we will have a barren and desolate life without complete and utter reliance on the vine.

So, as awful as sickness is, it can be a reminder to us that we are not in control of our own lives. It doesn't matter how we can sometimes deceive ourselves into thinking that we "call the shots." Whether we're as strong as an ox or faced with the heavy weight of suffering a physical illness, our trust and reliance must be in Him.

So, how about out you? Have you died to self lately? Drop me a line. . .

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"How Self-controlled Are You?" Temperance, a Fruit of the Spirit

Remember when "The Jerry Springer Show" was the talk of the town? Most of us probably hadn't seen much like it. Now, however, whether flipping through channels on television, surfing on the Internet, or taking a shopping trip tn the mall, it's commonplace to hear or see an embarrassing lack of self-control in people sometimes. So many people, say, write, or do what they feel with no regard for the consequences. I can't even count the number of times I've heard, "That's just the way I am." I might as well admit it, I have been guilty of saying this very thing and more than once!

However, our lives should reflect the image of Christ, so how we really should be must be aligned with Him and His Word. Temperance or self-control is the last fruit of the Spirit, one that is not really valued much in society today, but of great value in the kingdom of God.

I often think of Moses and what a great man of God he was. Still, he had a problem with self-control. After 37 years in the wilderness, the Israelites had experienced God's goodness and provision over and over again. Still, they complained and rebelled against their leader, Moses. Without water and food, the Israelites complained that God had surely left them to die. (See Numbers 20)

When Moses and Aaron went to seek God at the door of the tabernacle, the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses, telling him to take his rod before the people and simply to speak to the rock so that water would come forth. We know the story, Moses struck the rock out of anger not only once, but twice. The interesting thing about this is that Moses probably felt justified in his anger. The people's lack of belief apparently frustrated him immeasurably. Still, he was severly punished by God for his disobedience to God's explicit instructions. He was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land for a moment of anger and lack of self-control.

It can be disconcerting for us to think about the consequences for not exercising self-control, but it is a reality. As Christians, we are models for others, and when we give in to our emotions and react in a way that's displeasing to God, even for a moment, we can reap devastating results.

Reading the Word and praying daily is imperative to keep the flesh under submission. I can tell you that my nature is to be highly sensitive and highly emotional, which has it's positive points, but also has tons of negatives. To keep myself centered and grounded, I have to be in relationship with the Lord at all times. I can admit that I don't always succeed, but even in this, I repent and do better, always pressing towards the mark.

We're in a very serious spiritual battle, and Satan wants to deceive us into thinking that there are no consequences for disobedience and the lack of self-control. However, we can't go through life saying and doing whatever we feel. We are called to a higher place. Our direction must come from the living God, and the words we speak and actions we take should be out of obedience to Him and His Word.

Like all of the fruits of the Spirit, temperance is accessible to us as a gift of God's Holy Spirit. We can work to try to control ourselves, but only a supernatural indwelling can equip us with the ability to attain this mighty gift of God.

So, how about you? How's your self-control lately? Drop me a line. . .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are You "Blinging" on the Inside? Meekness, a Fruit of the Spirit

I have to admit it, I love bling. Rhinestones and chunky jewelry make me smile. I have a pretty pink leather suit laden with sequins, and my quest for the perfect shoes brings me sheer joy. I'm what some people call, a "girly girl," in spite of my rather mature age (smile). Yet, there is much more to me than the outward shell.

In Peter's instructions to wives in I Peter 3, he tells us, "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."

There are many interpretations of what I Peter 3:3-4 means, but one thing is crystal clear. Inner beauty is of much greater value than anything we can do to adorn ourselves on the outside. A meek and quiet spirit is worth a "great price." What I want to emphasize is that the scripture says a "meek and quiet spirit." I believe that meekness is nearly synonymous with humility, modesty, and gentleness. Sometimes coming across women with traits like these are quite frankly, like finding a needle in a haystack.

Hope this doesn't offend anyone, but I've been acquainted with a few dry-faced, quiet women in the church who carry a spirit of heaviness that can cover all they come in contact with like a wet blanket. They are just downright mean. With just a look, they can make you tremble (ha!). Okay, you get the picture. . .

The thing is, the transformation has to be from within first. When your spirit is in alignment with the Lord's, you will dress the outside appropriately. Whether you believe that makeup is out for you or not is so NOT the issue. Do whatever the Lord instructs you to do. You won't need to feel your worth based on how much your clothes cost or what designer you wear. You won't need to get plastic surgery to make yourself feel worthy. On the flip side, you won't feel superior to others because you "look holy." When you are meek and humble in spirit, I believe you attempt to see the heart, the goodness, and the value in others.

You can like nice things, but you're never a slave to them. Whether it's clothes, your physique, car, or home, there is balance. You have a life that's in submission to God, and because of that, you don't weigh superficial things above the things that matter most.

We're bombarded with images, especially from the media, that are point blank diametrically opposed to women having meek spirits. Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit that is almost equivalent in the world to being a doormat. However, we know that true meekness isn't being a doormat. When a woman is meek, there's true humility and a graciousness that only comes from being saved. As in all the fruits of the Spirit, this too is possible with relationship with the true and living God, reading the Word, and prayer.

So, ladies, let's make sure that while we're trying to find shoes to go with that suit, that we are "blinging" on the inside and radiating the love of Christ to all that we touch with the femininity, gentleness, and quiet strength that the Lord has given to each of us.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How To Build Your Faith (Faith, a Fruit of the Spirit)

I've meditated on this fruit of the Spirit for a long time. After all, who doesn't know that faith in God is complete and total trust in Him? I would venture to say that we know what it is. However, if you're like me, you may struggle with exercising your faith at times.

On Tuesday when the doctor diagnosed all three of my sons with ear infections, my knee-jerk reaction was to become stressed and worried, which of course is an antithesis to having faith in God. We are bombarded nearly everyday with situations where we can either exercise our faith or react in the flesh. So, the question is, how can we make our instant response to a potentially stressful situation, one of faith?

Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." So, we can't see the outcome in the natural, but we must BELIEVE and ACT as if we do. (If you haven't read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews lately, I would encourage you to reacquaint yourself as I have--just a goldmine of faith-filled passages.)

Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." From this verse, it is apparent that the first step in the faith building process is an obvious one: you have to believe that He is. The other part is that you have diligently seek Him. Seek Him daily by reading the Word and praying.

Another key element to building faith is found in Romans 10:17. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Many want to squabble about the importance of attending and being a member of a good local church, but it's in the Word. The second part of Romans 10:14-15 reads, "and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" As painful as it may be to some, building your faith is something that requires obedience in the Word and attending church to hear good, sound doctrine from a preacher. It is crucial.

So, those of you who can get a prayer through, pray that the Lord leads my family to the right church home. We have made a big move recently, and it's been pretty challenging visiting different churches. Nevertheless, my family is encouraged and determined to find the place where the Lord wants us to be.

What about you? Are you searching for a church home? Are you faithful to the one you belong to? Regardless of what the "world" says, it does take ALL THAT to help build our faith so that we can move the mountains in our lives!

Let me hear from you. . .