Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making Amends

"Esaus ran to meet Jacob and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept." (Genesis 33:4)

Jacob was meeting his powerful estranged brother. He feared for his life and that of his family. He struggled with God prior to meeting his brother face to face and asked for a blessing over this situation. Esaus was truly delighted to see this brother that he had claimed a birthright from and resulted in Jacob living a difficult life. They embraced and treated each other in grace and delight for being reunited.

Has a misunderstanding or event estranged you from a relative or friend?  Especially one that prevailed for many years? Then the time came when you had to see them? Did you approach with fear and trembling? I did when I was going to attend a High School reunion and be in the company of my "arch enemy."

Like Jacob, I prayed about it and the meeting went well. I couldn't even remember what our "fight" was all about and neither of us brought it up. The years had helped heal the wounds. We actually found some things we had in common and enjoyed visiting with each other.

Being right with each other is very important to God and our own forgiveness.   Making amends  doesn't always require a long confession of wrongs and asking forgiveness.  Being kind and demonstrating genuine concern and delight in being with the person can create a lot of warmth and acceptance.  Right relationships with others definitely helps us avoid counting sheep all night long.

"Right actions in the future are the best apologies for past bad behavior." (Tyron Edwards)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Self Reliance...True or False?

"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson's essay on self-reliance is oft quoted, especially in motivational literature and speeches. He was a trancendental philosopher and essayist of the mid 1800's. What does he mean by "divine providence" is his quotes? If we leave that out, or do not read "divine providence" as meaning God, then it sounds like it's all up to us. But let's look a little closer.

Transcendentalism was a school of thought prevalent in literature in the 19th Century and a theme of famous scholars of that time. It emphasizes the intuitive and spiritual thought above emperical or scientific evidence. Anti-conformity, individualism and being yourself are core beliefs. It continues to have prevalence today in a lot of philosophical and psychological literature and has deep roots in "New Age" spirituality.

As Christians, we have named "divine providence" God and recognize the three persons of the God trinity, with the Holy Spirit the one who speaks to us and through us. Those special thoughts that enter our consciousness and call us to action, while sitting still in God's silence, come from the Holy Spirit. We are given access to "divine providence," wisdom and knowledge through the Holy Spirit. Think of your divine appointments that have connected the special events in your life. Is your spirituality transcendental through "divine guidence" or firmly rooted in the God of the Bible? So, are you relying on yourself, or on God, to direct your life? 

"But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me."  (PS 31:14-15 NIV)

"And He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and fear (revere and worship) and put their trust and confident reliance in the Lord." (Psalm 40:1-3)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The First of the 3 P's

There are 3 P's that have immobilized me a great deal of my life. For the next 3 days, we'll take a look at these because I'm sure others have dealt with them. What are they? Mr. Procrastination, Ms Pride and Ms Perfectionism.

I believe the root of evil thought is Ms. Pride. She literally locks us up inside of ourselves and keeps that ME focus alive. We become totally self involved. We can not admit our failures, although we are well aware of them. We have to give the impression of being better than we are. We must keep tight control over ourselves and our environment. Our life is steeped in secrets and fear of being found out.

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud." (Proverbs 16:18-19)

Growing up under the shadow of an alcoholic father, I felt very inadequate, less of a person than my friends. I was indeed different. I locked lots of family secrets deep inside, including the real me. I wore my mask very well. How different my life would have been if I had unlocked that door and let my real self out much earlier.

It took me a long time to grasp the concept that I was made in my Heavenly Father's image and not my earthly father's. I had spent most of my life trying to please my parents and make them proud of me. Grace! What a concept. I kept looking for something that would merit it and finally realized it was Christ on the Cross, not anything I could possibly do accept humbly accept Him as my Lord and Savior.

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)

Christ willingly took that painful walk up to Calvary for me so I could be washed of my sin. Pride could not do that for me. It kept me from recognizing my sin. I was finally freed when I went down on my knees in total humility and submission. He didn't care if my hair was backcombed, red or white. I didn't have on makeup or the latest fashion. He just wants us to come just as we are, leaving our past behind and taking His hand into our future.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossions 3:12)

With His help and a lot of encouragement from friends, pastors, Godly women who mentored me, and Christian writers, I have learned to walk in His spirit. Walking humbly before Him is so much easier than walking on eggs, hauling that sack of pride on my back, burdened down with self-pity, strivings, and all the other lies we live in pride.

"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." (Galatians 5:25-26)

Now, I don't have to hide behind the mask of pride, running from a lot of family garbage.
I am proud to proclaim that I am a grateful child of God, sister to The King of Kings, and member of the best family ever, the family of God. I am never unemployed as a humble servant of the Lord's. There is always lots for me to do and it keeps my mind off of self. For these things, I am proud.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8 )


Monday, September 6, 2010

What Are We Laboring For

Today is Labor Day. Traditionally businesses were closed so the laborers could have a day off to spend with their families. Today, many who have the day off are at the beach, on the lake or in the backyard barbecuing. Yet, many do not have the day off and are working in retail stores to offer sales and shopping time for those who prefer using their time off for that purpose.

The Bible is filled with scriptures regarding labor. Ecclesiastes 2, 4, 5, 8 and 9 are filled with examples. "What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiates 2:22-23 NIV)

How depressing! Has my work been meaningless? Is this all there is? Heaven forbid! But Solomon does bring up great points regarding what we strive for through our labor. Yes, we must earn a living for our families to provide shelter, clothing and food. But is this all our labor is about?

I think the wise old ruler is merely questioning our motives and attitudes regarding our work. Are we working for the right reasons? Are we working to "keep up with the Jones"? Could this be covetousness? Are we working just for success or to prove something? If we work to leave a fortune to our children,  are we sacrificing valuable time with them now and not helping them to learn to work and manage finances? Are we not using our full potential and cheating God and ourselves of all we can be? Are we using our gifts and talents in evil ways that turn others from God?

"But I said, 'I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God'." (Isaiah 49:4)

As we celebrate Labor Day, we must give thanks to God for the gifts and talents he has given us and the work he has provided for us. I've never gotten a job that I did not pray for and so often it was not the job I had in mind, but because it came from God it was best for me. If we see our work as for the Lord, our whole attitude toward it changes and we can overcome the obstacles along our road to fullfillment.

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1Corinthians 15:58)

What the Bible continues to emphasize is to depend on his guidance, wisdom and understanding. Our labor should always reflect God in our lives  and be giving Him the glory, whether we are cleaning someone's home or the CEO of a fortune 500 company or serving on the mission field in the jungles of Africa.

"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sailing in Stormy Seas

The seas are angry. Winds are swirling. A tropical storm is brewing in the Atlantic. Will it reach hurricane proportions? What direction is it moving? Is it gaining strength? Where will it land?

Every summer, the alerts go out. The storm is coming! We have decisions to make. Will we stay and guard our property or will we evacuate to safety as we've been urged to do? But no matter which path we take, we are going to experience damage. It may be just a few limbs knocked down or whole communities wiped out.

With or without warning we sail in stormy seas. Various storms are going to come into our lives. Some may be mild while others devastating. They come in the form of divorces, job loss, misunderstandings, illness, accidents, death of friends and family, churches splitting, financial difficulties and bankruptcy. Are we prepared?

Remember the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in the storm. As long as Jesus was with them, they had no fear. He brought peace to the raging wind and surging waves. We, too, know that He is there in our storms as well. We need to batten down the hatches in our lives, pray and listen for God's answer to how we should proceed. In  him we have faith and hope, a lighthouse in a safe harbor as the storms approach.

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." (Psalm 9:9-10)

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  (Isaiah 41:10)