Don’t Let the Passion Burn Out

IMG_20130128_142018

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

Forgive – as you would be forgiven

20130122_125304Do you ever have that one person that just annoys you? They did something one time that really ticked you off and now they just irritate you. Or maybe you were once really good friends and the other person betrayed you. You forgave but things will “never be the same”.

We have all experienced these kinds of situations and processed them the same way. I have been studying lately about what the Bible has to say about dealing with them. Jesus prayed for His disciples that they would be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:21).

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are individual but inseparable. One of them cannot do something that would cause another to leave the tri-unity of the God-head. Why do we as mere men think that we can stand above such unity and refuse to let God heal a relationship?

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” 1 John 3:14

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:16

We choose to live in death when we don’t love. It is one thing to say that you have forgiven and another thing entirely to be able to lay down your life for someone that has hurt you. I believe that for us, it isn’t just literal, but figurative. When was the last time that you did something inconvenient for you that meant a lot to someone that gets on your nerves?

This goes for coworkers, family members, people that you go to church with; take that one person that “ticks you off”, and write them a note. Tell them how much you appreciate something that they have done. You have to change the way that you think about them. You have to tell yourself that they are worth laying down your life/will for. Jesus did. Who are we to say that they aren’t worth the effort.

Every relationship is worth the effort. Pray for that person. Ask for God’s blessing over their lives. It can be hard to do at first, but it will soften your heart toward them. Jesus said that if we don’t forgive, God can’t forgive us (Matthew 18:35, 6:15).

I believe to the degree that we do or don’t forgive, God will or won’t forgive us. Do we want God to give us the cold shoulder? Do we do it to others? Do we want things to “never be the same” with our Heavenly Father? Then why do we think that way? This is not discounting the fact that sometimes the other person does not want to reconcile, but have we done everything in our power to bring peace to the relationship? Is your heart at peace with the other person? Most importantly, is your heart right with God about the situation?

I have to say in closing that I am far from perfect. This is something that we as Christians give ourselves to daily to keep our hearts from growing hard. And that as we let God deal with our hearts, He does. We want the love and forgiveness of God to flow to us, so we must let it flow through us. Forgiveness for others is born out of a heart that wants to be close to God and wants nothing to come between Him and you.

 

For the researcher’s heart:

Matthew 6:9-15 – The Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 18:21-35 – The Unforgiving Servant

1 John 3:14-18 – Loving each other

1 John 4:11-12,20-21

1 John 5:1

“Come to Me”

220px-Bullock_yokesWe have just come out of the busiest time of the year. Between family coming into town, shopping, fewer days at work, and busier days at work; it can be easy to get stressed and overwhelmed. But it is imperative that we deal with the stress in a way that pleases the Lord.

What keeps us going through the stressful times? What makes us, as Christians, different from the rest of the world? We know where to go. We know where to take our stress. We can’t afford to take it out on our coworkers or family. We have to take it to the One who takes it away.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This has to be one of the most comforting phrases in the Bible: “Come to Me.” When you are tired, come. When you are burdened, come. When you are overwhelmed, come. When you are stressed and life is crazy He still says, “Come.” Come to the maker and lover of your soul, He is gentle.

John 1 says that Jesus is the Word made flesh. So when we come to Him, we come to Him either in prayer or in the Word. I believe this is what He was talking about when He said, “Learn from Me.” We learn His ways and His principles when we read the Word. He teaches us through His Word how to live to please Him.

The Word of God is such a comfort and a steadying force when life is crazy. It is a rock when everything else is moving. And if you let it, it will change your life.

That word labor is to grow weary or tired; exhausted with toils, burdens or grief; to labor with wearisome effort; it speaks of physical labor. Wow! He knows where we are at. There is never an assumption that our lives will be perfect or easy. He just asks us to come so that He can refresh our souls.

Heavy laden is another phrase that speaks to many of us. It means to place a burden upon, to load. Sometimes we carry a heavy load; grief, condemnation, guilt, shame… the list is endless. But Jesus wants to take those away. He has relief that nothing else in this world holds.

In busy seasons of life, I always come back to this verse. “Take My yoke.” His yoke; a yoke is not usually something that you want to put on. They were big wooden harnesses used for putting oxen at the plow. That doesn’t sound fun or restful in the slightest. But it is different with Jesus. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. It is worlds better than any load you could carry.

There is a more than just a suggestion in His words, “Learn from Me.” I believe that it is a challenge for us. Take His yoke and learn how He would have you live life. He is gentle. He isn’t a harsh task-master. He is lowly in heart. That word lowly is humble. He is gentle and humble. He has grace for those willing to learn. Give yourself to it and you will never be the same.

Read it in the Amplified Translation:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.”

So when life is stressful or overwhelming; when work is hard or physically exhausting; when you are ready to give up and throw in the towel, come. Take up His yoke. Learn His way. Lay your burdens down and let Him give you rest.

New Year’s Resolutions

20130104_161652

Proverbs 22:29 “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.”

New years: a time for resolutions, weight-loss, and new beginnings…

I saw a set of pictures the other day that depicted it perfectly. The first was labeled ‘December 31st’ and was of an empty gym. The second was of the same gym packed full of people, labeled ‘January 1st’.

The start of a new year gives us the feeling of newness. But by February or March the gym will be empty again, the goals set on the shelf, and diets abandoned. And we will wait eleven months to try and start again.

My challenge this new year is to set goals that are both measurable and attainable. Along with that, I am making daily steps toward those goals. For example: say I want to improve my skill on the piano and keep my house cleaner. That is an example of a “New Year’s Resolution”, but they are not measurable so how will I know when I attain them?

My next step will be to make them measurable. Piano: I want to be able to sit down and sight-read any mid-level piece without having heard it before. This is a more measurable goal. Now, to make daily steps to meet this goal; I am making a plan to practice 3-4 times a week and to practice sight-reading specifically. Maybe I will go and purchase a new mid-level music book. I am slowly working toward the goal that I set.

The other resolution was to keep my house cleaner. How do I measure when my house is ‘cleaner’? cleaner than what? So, I start simple. This was a hard one to set a goal to, so I made daily goals. Every day I make two tasks for myself to complete before I go to bed. Depending on my work schedule, they will be easier or more difficult. This last week one day I set for myself to wash my sheets and put away all the clean laundry, another day was to complete two loads of laundry and deep clean my tile floors. This way I can look back over the last week and see what I have accomplished.

On a side note, when you set goals and tasks to work toward them, it can be very effective to have a partner in them. My husband keeps me accountable for the things that I have said that I want to improve in. It can be a spouse, a friend, a sibling, a parent, coworker… anyone that you are close to. Tell them what you are doing and ask them to help you hit your goals.

Back to the verse at the beginning of this post; I was challenged to excel in what I do. There aren’t many things that I am really good at. It is easy to get to a point and get comfortable knowing what little I do. But I want to be excellent in what I do. I want to stand before kings. I don’t want to be like the rest of America that will abandon their New Year’s Resolutions in a month or two.

Let me challenge you to stick to it. It is worth the work. Set those goals, make them measurable and attainable. Check back in May and see how far you’ve come.

Remember…

I’ve been reading in Genesis this week. And I have been so encouraged by the stories of great men and women of God. Abel’s faith in God, Abraham and Isaac, Joseph; the list goes on, but there is so much courage and faith to be taken from these stories.

Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Take Noah: he was an old man. He gets a word from God to build a boat. This could quite possibly be the first boat in history, and it’s a big one. He tells everyone that it is going to rain. Rain? What is rain? The earth had been watered by a mist up to this point (Gen. 2:5-6). It is debatable whether there had ever been any water to fall from the sky.

People thought he was crazy. But Noah was a righteous man in his generation (Gen. 7:1, 2 Peter 2:5). He kept his heart in line with the Word of God and didn’t allow popular opinion to make him question it.

Abraham was the father of faith and yet he laughed at the promise of God (Gen. 17:17). God called him blameless and he is remembered as the father of faith. Far from perfect, he had his fare share of mistakes. But he kept his eyes on the Lord.

There are so many stories like these of fallible man that an infallible God used to achieve His purposes. Be encouraged that you are not alone. It’s not the doubt and discouragement that takes you out, it’s what you do with it.

Let the Word of God build faith in you. Go and read the stories of the great men and women of faith. They are there for us to remember (Deut. 32:7). They are there for our encouragement. The people in these stories were normal people that faced incredible odds. Some of us will not face odds so large. Some of us will, but that is why we remember the stories and take courage in faith and the incredible awesomeness of our God.

Remember…

Has He Forgotten Me?

Do you ever think that God has forgotten about you? He must be busy because your gifts aren’t being used. “God, I’ve been in this place for so long!” You fill in the blank. I’ve been in school. I’ve been in this season. I’ve been… for so long.

David is one of the most famous men in the Bible. The mighty conquering king of Israel, there are many stories of him and his mighty men. But where did this ‘mighty man’ start? Tending sheep.

It would be so easy for him to think that there was nothing too special about his life. He was the youngest of eight boys. Think about that alone. The stereotype of the youngest of eight boys; he must’ve been pretty scrappy. He had to have been able to hold his own, but he probably took the brunt of his brothers.

From the description in the Bible, he most likely had red hair. The Bible doesn’t say anything about how tall he was, only that his oldest brother had very promising looks. He spent his days in the pastures tending sheep. His days were very lonely.

What did he do with those days alone? He became the best at what he did. He used his quiet times in the pasture to become an excellent marksman and musician. He was probably the best shepherd that Jesse ever had. He was willing to take a lamb out of the mouth of a lion and a bear.

Then one day, his life changed… or did it?

1Samuel 16:11-13 “And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all the young men here?’ Then he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.’ So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.”

He was anointed king, but he wouldn’t become king for several years. The Holy Spirit was on him from that day forward. But he spent time in the palace playing for the king who was crazy.

What? But God, he was ready!! His days of preparation were over, right? He spent all that time taking the back seat to his older brothers. It was his time to shine. But God sees what we cannot.

David was a man forged through the fire. He went through trials that most of us would not have the courage to face. How did he stay on course? How did he stay focused and not throw in the towel?

David was a man who knew his God. He knew that God was faithful and that His Word doesn’t fall to the ground. In his lowest times, he turned to God.

God picked David, the least likely of his family because God knew that in times of fire he would respond. God knew that in David was the heart of a champion, not because he was tall and good looking, not because he was strong. But God knew that when he was most needed, David would respond to Him.

David didn’t waste his time. He was a young man of excellence. It was the character that he chose in the pasture that made him the man that he was in the wilderness. And it was the character that he chose in the wilderness that made him the man that he was in the palace.

What is the character that you are building? Don’t take the pasture seasons for granted. God knows your name. He’s got your number. He knows when He will need you. But are you becoming the person that He can count on when He needs you?

Don’t waste the time that God has given you. Each season is preparation for the next. This lifetime is merely preparation for all eternity. How you treat today affects your tomorrow. Don’t take it for granted.

Psalms 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

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.