Musings of Seasons

seasonsHere we are. Fall is fully upon us. A change of seasons means a change of focus. School is in full swing bringing with it the consistency and craze of its schedule all at once.

We often talk of the change of seasons. The change of high-school to college life. The change from single fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants to marriage and sudden responsibility. The change of a loved one passing away. The change of a close friend moving to another city, or perhaps you yourself moving. Seasons come and go. The only thing consistent with seasons is that you know that they will change.

No one says it as well as King Solomon:
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (emphasis added).

He goes on to give examples of what there is a certain time for; living, dying, laughing, weeping, the list goes on. However we might wish it, we cannot hold on to a season forever. No matter how much we may love spring, it will always turn to summer. Children love the Christmas season and are always sad to see it pass so quickly.

In these musings I turn to the Scriptures. One might ponder on the lives of some of the heroes of our faith such as Joseph, Paul, Moses, Elijah, Daniel; even some of those less well beloved but that can be learned from: Saul, Samson, Aaron, too many to list here. Every character that we have enough information to study more than merely basic details of their lives have recorded of them different seasons of life. These include good and bad, easy and hard, trial and temptation, victory and joy.

You will notice with me the lack of one thing in these accounts of our heroes. The season is not exalted. The time that they go through is not highlighted so much as their response in them. It is shown recorded for us on many accounts a) how they heard the voice of the Lord and b) how they responded to it. In the instances that God did not speak directly to them, we are only given their response to what they know to be right. What made them either a champion to us or an example of what not to do was how they responded in the season they were in.

Solomon responded well in the hard time. His father was dead. He was given one of the greatest kingdoms of all times to rule. God came and spoke with him. All he wanted was to rule his people well. But by the end of his life, when things were perhaps a little too easy, he turned from his God. His response was less than desirable and he is one that is said to have not “finished well”, to use a Christian colloquialism. (1 Kings 3,11)

Daniel is one of our great champions. As a young man he is dragged from his home. Quite possibly, his family was killed before his eyes. He is taken as a captive and put in the palace of a foreign ruler, his fate yet to be decided. What does he do? He holds to the high standards of Judaism that he was so carefully taught even within his own corrupt society. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Daniel 1:8 (emphasis added) It would have been SO easy for him to have put his head down and done whatever was told him, but he refused.
Later in his life when confronted with death or a mere change of daily habit (prayer). He chose the former. Why? Because to him  his response to the Lord in a season of hardship was of far greater weight than anything man could do to him. (Daniel 6)

We spend so much of our time talking about the season of life that we are in. We make excuses for ourselves and allow other to do it for us as well. Could you imagine if Daniel had made an excuse for himself? “I just lost my family.” “I don’t know the customs of Babylon.” “I’m just emotional.” That last one makes us smile to ourselves. Yes, our greatest champions of our faith were human just as we are. A thousand emotions barraged them in their darkest hour. Doubt, condemnation, discouragement, even hopelessness is recorded on more than one occasion. But what was their ultimate response?

David turned to his great Shepherd and sang (Psalm 57:1). Daniel turned to his King and prayed (Daniel 6:10). Elijah turned to his God and requested fire and rain (1 Kings 18). Paul got up from the pile of stones and went back into the city (Acts 14:19-20).

What will your response be in this season? Not to your pastor. Not to your spouse or children or roommate. Not in your wishful thinking. But in your heart of hearts to your God. What will your resolve be? How will you choose to respond in the hard seasons? The good? Some of us know how to respond when its hard but as soon as the pressure lightens, we go our own way. Some of us do really well as long as it is smooth sailing, but when the storm blows we sink.

Choose to respond to the Lord. Choose to finish well. Don’t long for another season. We have no guarantee of tomorrow. What if tonight you stood before your Lord and Maker? How would you give account of the life you have lived? Would you hear the coveted words, “Well done!” or instead, “I never knew you.” Hear the call of your Lord. Run to win! Run to finish well. Don’t let there be dark seasons that you don’t want to give account for. Turn your eyes to Him and give Him your heart.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” I Corinthians 9:24

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

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Don’t Let the Passion Burn Out

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We are Christians, called by His name. He has saved us from a horrible fate and given us, not just life, but abundant life.

But do you ever find yourself growing hard? It becomes a burden to go to the extra prayer service. You don’t want to go to church today. It becomes more of a duty than a joy. You forget to pray more than you remember to. The Bible doesn’t hold the same charm that it used to.

I was reading in Hebrews this morning and it brought some light:

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:12-13

I see a progression in this passage. It starts with unbelief and goes to a hard heart. The very next passage talks about rebellion toward God which is the next step. You don’t start out with a hard or rebellious heart toward God, but maybe you don’t believe Him like you used to. Maybe you’ve had things that you have held onto for so long without seeing results that you have finally let go. This can cause a hard heart.

It also talks about being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Sin is deceptive. Why? Because the enemy of your soul would have you believe that it is never really as bad as it seems. It wants to hold on and not be dealt with, just shoved under the rug. Sin always wants to lessen the consequences. That is where it is deceptive. “It’s not that bad. Don’t worry about it.” But sin will separate you from God and it will never tell you that. Deal with sin and don’t let it deceive you.

Then there is unbelief. What are the things that are hard to believe God for? Where is it hard to give Him reign in your life? Build your faith in those areas. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17) Find scriptures on those areas. Read them over and over. Post them on your bathroom mirror. Say them out loud.

Don’t let sin or unbelief dampen your passion for God. Take God at His word. Find Scriptures for your life and pray them over your life. Let nothing separate you from God. Don’t let your heart grow hard in unbelief, but keep your faith alive through the Word of God.

“So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:19

Seventy Times Seven

Matthew 18:21-35 “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.’”

Long passage, but it has been on my mind today. It will really rock your world if you let it. Too often as Christians, we let things bug us. People get on our nerves or flat out offend us. Sometimes they legitimately hurt us. But what is our response? It can make the difference in eternity.

So first, the servant is brought before the king with an insurmountable debt. He begs for mercy and is forgiven a debt that he never could have paid. He promptly goes and finds a fellow servant and demands a few dollars from him and shows no mercy. You can imagine why the king responded the way he did.

Let’s put this in real life. We hold a debt to God that we can never pay. He has forgiven us for things that we could never make up for. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. The payment for the wrong that we have done is death. But instead we have been forgiven and given life.

And in return, we find someone that we feel owes us and won’t forgive them. Why? What makes us feel that we have the right? I think more often than not, we forget the debt that we have been forgiven. Then when we hold something against another person, we put ourselves in a place of torment. Verse 34 says torturers, other versions say tormentors. We never really hurt the person that we don’t forgive, we really only ever hurt ourselves. The torment in your mind is unbearable.

The other thing that unforgiveness does is that it separates us from God. We can’t hear His voice anymore. It makes it so that the only thing that we can think about it is what we think is owed us. And because we can’t hear His voice, we aren’t walking in obedience to Him.

The last thing that unforgiveness and bitterness does is that it drives people away from you. Your closest friends and family will begin to get distant. The only time they stay close is when they themselves are harboring unforgiveness. Then it becomes misery and company. But those that don’t will subconsciously step away because of the things that you allow in through the unforgiveness and the torment.

Legitimately, there are times when it hurts deeply. People do things that are wrong to us: physically, mentally or emotionally. Forgiving them isn’t saying that what they did was right. Forgiving them is moving on and not letting it hold on to you. It is trusting in God and looking to Him instead of to the circumstance. Forgiveness is moving forward and keeping your heart right with God.

Let God shape the way you think. Remember that it is seventy times seven, not so that we keep account, but so that we don’t live in torment. Forgive so that your Father can forgive you. It’s like a faucet. You can’t turn it off to those around you and expect that it is still going to flow from above. Forgiveness is the only option in light of eternity.

Love The Light

I must confess: October is one of my least favorite times of the year. I love fall. I love red, yellow, and orange leaves. I love frost and pumpkin pie and wind. But I really dislike Halloween. I don’t like to drive through my neighborhood and see skeletons hanging everywhere. It hurts my heart to see ten year olds dressed like ghosts and zombies.

I know. I can hear it coming. “What is wrong with Halloween?” “Are you one of those mean neighbors that refuse to give kids candy because it’s evil?”

Well, here it is. Halloween was originally a pagan holiday. There is nothing godly about it. It was a ritual night of live sacrifices and evil spells. Yes, I do give candy to kids at my door. But I take no part in celebrating this day of darkness.

1 John 1:5-6 “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

In context, this verse is talking about not living in the darkness of deception. Don’t be deceived. Don’t let something that is culturally acceptable make you look like the darkness.

I can’t tell you how to believe, or how to behave. But I pray that you would research and decide for yourself how you will live. We don’t celebrate death and evil. We celebrate life and life more abundantly.

Here is a link to some very well put together research done by a Christian on Halloween and what it really is all about. i would urge you to please take a couple minutes to read it. And maybe think a little differently about this ‘Day of the Dead’.

http://theartofpursuit.com/2012/10/01/halloween-whats-the-big-deal-2/

What Does He Want of Me?

Do you ever have friends that share verses with you? I do, and I love it when they do! A friend shared this yesterday and I haven’t been able to get away from it:

Psalm 40:6-8 “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.’”

Wait. So God doesn’t want sacrifice or offering? He doesn’t require the burnt offerings and sin offerings that the Old Testament is full of? The Law of Moses was full of details of such offerings and sacrifices. It had every detail, how often they were required, how they were to be divided. It was very thorough.

So if God doesn’t desire or require these anymore what does He desire? I believe that God doesn’t want things that are ‘required’, what He really desires is our decision to follow Him. Our obedience out of love and not duty is what He is really looking for.

Psalm 51:16-17 “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart–these, O God, You will not despise.”

What He really wants is a broken and a contrite heart. It doesn’t seem very fun at first, but think of a stallion. A wild stallion isn’t good for anyone until it has been broken. Once he has been broken and submits willingly to the handler’s prompting, he is one of the most useful and beautiful animals. Who wants a horse that pulls at every turn and will buck you off if you give him half of a chance?

He wants us to come to that place of brokenness where we look to Him for where to go and what to do next. A well trained horse will not move until prompted. He wants a people that will do His will, who will move at His prompting and not without.

Going back to Psalm 40, verse eight says, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” He wants a people that delight in His will. How? by putting His Word in our hearts. When we love His Word and let it live within our hearts, we will know and love His will. We will get used to hearing His voice because it will have the same tone as the Word.

Let’s love His Word and give Him the sacrifice He desires. Let’s delight in His will and learn to hear His voice. And lastly, let’s obey willingly when we feel the gentle nudge of the Spirit.

It’s The Little Things

1 Chronicles 16:8 “Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!”
Just thinking about this verse this  evening. What  am I thankful for? What has the Lord done for me?
It can be so easy to go about our lives and take things for granted. Let’s start with the little things… Electricity. Heat or AC. Slippers. A car. Family. Friends. A bed.
Think if we took two minutes every fast to stop and thank the Lord for His goodness. He hasn’t given us what we deserve.  Some of us He has preserved our lives. He gives us breath every day. He doesn’t withhold any good thing.
Share it with a friend. This verse says to make His deeds known among the people.  Tell someone, “You know, I am so thankful for…” And make that a habit. “Do you know what God has done for me?” It is so fun to do, and it encourages both of you.
What are you thankful for today? I would love to hear from you. But even more so, I would like to challenge you to take a minute every day and turn your heart to the Lord and thank Him for what He had done. It does wonders for the soul.

Living Temples

ImageSolomon’s temple is one of the most incredible structures of ancient times. Layered with gold, the finest craftsmen were employed to build it. It wasn’t overly large. But the temple and the articles insider were so extraordinary that when Jerusalem fell, the Babylonians took everything of value from it and set fire to it, leaving behind a pile of rubble (2 Chronicles 25).

A temple is considered a holy place. One would never run and shout in them. They are consecrated for worship. They are usually splendid places full of relics and beautiful tapestries. The worshipers take better care of their temple than they would their own home. If a foreigner were to enter the temple of another culture, they must be very careful not to cause offense.

1Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Putting this very literally, you are a temple. Your physical body is a place for the Holy Spirit to live. It is meant to worship and glorify God. It makes one think a little differently.

We were bought with a price. The blood of Jesus Christ paid the price for us that we ourselves could not pay. In light of this why would we not choose to glorify Him with our bodies?

In context, this verse is talking about sexual immorality, but I believe this applies to many areas, physically and otherwise. How am I taking care of this ‘temple’? Do I eat whatever I want? Or do I consider that God might care how I take care of this temple and how long it will last? Do I exercise? I don’t believe that it should consume anyone, but it is a useful tool in taking good care of ourselves.

There are many more areas. I’m not going to delve into them, only to bring them up and let you decide: sleep, how much you do or don’t get; books and magazines, what you read; TV and video games, what you watch; tattoos and piercings, who do they glorify? What you say…

Keep it in the perspective of a temple. You are a temple. The Holy Spirit of God lives inside of you. What does that temple look like to those outside? If anyone were to observe you without knowing your beliefs, would they be able to tell who or what is worshiped in your temple? Or do we look to much like the temples of the world?