God Knows Your Name

Have you ever heard someone say “I’m my own worst enemy?”  I have, and I’ve even said it myself on more than a few occasions. I confess that at times I’ve had things go wrong-I’ve made dumb decisions that cost me and others a lot unfortunately- but who hasn’t, right? And who hasn’t, at one time or another, felt like the decisions he or she has made brought God’s judgment down in their life?

Well, I was wrong to believe this. I’ve come to realize that I am not the enemy. No matter how many dumb things I’ve done, no matter what the consequences may have been, I am not my own enemy. The truth of the matter is, we only have one enemy. He’s called “the accuser of the brethren” and he’s earned that name. He owns it, and he’s proud of it. But he’s a liar. The Bible calls him ‘THE FATHER OF LIES’ and he’s earned that name too. So the one who accuses you of being your own enemy is lying. The truth is not in him.

So many Christians these days are still laboring under the false impression that, “God is angry with me and is punishing me for the things I’ve done.” Or “God is using this time of trouble to test me, and to test my faith.” Well, I just can’t find evidence of that in the Bible anywhere. A preacher that I listen to said recently, “If you’re wondering what God is really like, look at Jesus.” Jesus WAS God, walking among us. Jesus himself said “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” So show me a time in the New Testament when Jesus tempted anyone as a test, or put anyone to a “faith trial,” or punished someone for their bad acts.

No, Jesus was saddened by the actions of some, provoked to straighten things out (like He did when he “encouraged” the moneylenders to take their business outside the temple) and He even cried over Jerusalem. But Jesus never acted out of spite, or tried to provoke fear in anyone. Jesus never even talked down to anyone. All Jesus ever said to those who came to Him were words of encouragement, peace and reconciliation.

The enemy, on the other hand, is a coward, like most bullies. Rather than come out into the open so you can see who he is and what he’s doing, he’ll hide and take shots at you. He’ll try to make you think that person you work with, or work for, is your enemy… that they’re out to get you, and you have to defend yourself before they bring you down. The devil is such a coward that he’ll even try to make you think YOU’RE YOUR OWN ENEMY. He wants you to think that in the battle of life, you don’t have any hope. You’re just doomed, so you might as well give up.

That’s a lie… one of Satan’s best. Let’s say you’re living with the consequences of something you did (and welcome to the club, I might add…). Do you know that God has already forgiven you for that sin or hurtful action? That He has not only forgiven you, but He doesn’t even remember it? If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, you’re clean. It’s gone. It’s over. It never happened, as far as God is concerned. He keeps no record on you of any offenses, mistakes or sins. That was the point of Jesus going to the cross… your entire life record-past, present and future- has been expunged. When anyone goes to the big file cabinet in Heaven and looks up your file, all they’ll find is a picture of Jesus who paid the price so you could go free.

God wants you to know that your “old (sinful) nature” was crucified with Christ and in Him you are now a new creation.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have joined forces to work on growing you up in your new identity as a joint heir with Jesus.  They want you to join them and focus only on becoming Christlike.  That’s it, that’s all.  We, just as the apostle Paul, need to forget what lies behind and with our eyes on the goal press on to the high calling we have in Jesus.

So the big question is- are you still hanging onto the past sins and failures of your life? Are you staking your life on God’s love, favor and grace, and Jesus’ payment for the sins of the world, or on all the ugly memories of stuff that, thanks to Jesus, God no longer remembers? Are you keeping alive inside yourself your worst times, or have you laid them on God’s altar, so that he can help you forget them once and for all? Or, as a man of God once said to me, “What’s playing on the screen of your mind?”

No, the enemy isn’t going to quit. His voice is loud and shrill and hard to ignore as opposed to the “still small voice” of our Lord, which speaks always in love, and never in condemnation or accusation. It’s up to you to choose which voice you want to hear, which channel you want to be tuned to and what motion picture you want playing on the screen of your mind.

There’s a great saying that goes “The enemy knows your name and calls you by your sin. God knows your sin no more, and calls you by your name.” Let that sit on your heart awhile.

Reclaiming Prosperity

The devil has certainly had fun with the “prosperity gospel.”  With some clever tweaks and twists he has led many to believe that a quick profession of Jesus Christ as Lord qualifies the confessor to treat God as some kind of personal Santa Claus.  This line of deception is doing far reaching damage to God’s Word in three camps: fear-based followers, baby believers, and blessing chasers. The first group has fallen prey to fear at such a deep level that they won’t claim the promises God has provided for them and even feel obligated to harshly judge those who do.  The second group is suffering serious damage to their faith and understanding of God’s true nature. And the third group has been led into increased self-centeredness, greed and idolatry.  It’s not every day when a single demonic tactic can cause so much collateral damage, including division in the Body of Christ!

First, I want to call out the damage being inflicted on, and by, fear-based followers.  God didn’t command us to “Fear not!” and to “Let not our hearts be troubled” to be ignored.  Fear in any form is a device of the devil. In direct disobedience to this instruction, believers are allowing themselves to become so afraid that they might fall into the “prosperity-gospel trap” that they aren’t willing to pursue an understanding of God’s promises any more.  Believers are actually judging other believers, with no knowledge of their hearts or motives,  for simply speaking the so-called “prosperity scriptures” and for trusting in what God has said.  How amazing and clever that the devil now has believers doing His work—attacking their brethren who speak about the goodness of God!  Plain and simple, we cannot allow God’s Word be censored in response to fear. Let’s read the whole New Testament covenant and accept it.  Trust God to bring correction as He will and believe the best about fellow Christians. At the same time, be willing and able to declare the truth and reliability of scriptures like this one:  “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”  This scripture does NOT promise a hundred-fold return to everyone who has suffered the loss of family or possessions.  Nor does it promise that acceptance of the saving grace of Jesus is an automatic sign-up for a hundredfold return for every loss in life, no matter what. We can’t command God to deliver personal enrichment nor does this promise come except with persecutions accompanying God given assignments to further His Kingdom. At the same time, anyone who hears the Word of the Lord  and, in faith does as commanded, is promised a return one hundred times greater than the losses suffered– in this present life as well as eternal life to come. The hundredfold return doesn’t come to those who seek it for their personal gain…but it certainly comes, in this life, to people who have obediently done what they are told to do by Jesus. Make no mistake about it God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (as in, every moment of every day as their very top priority). Let’s not let the enemy rob us of God’s wonderful truth!

The second group, undiscipled baby believers, is easy prey for the devil too.  Scriptures taken in part and out-of-context can be very effective in causing new believers to fall into condemnation—of themselves and of God.  They step out onto choppy water with the promises “You shall ask whatsoever you will and you shall have it” and “Ask anything in my name, and you will receive it” and immediately find themselves—faith and all– going under. The promises didn’t fail and God didn’t fail. They got “soaked” because they didn’t know that they needed to wait for Jesus to tell them when to step out! Too little understanding of the whole counsel and character of God gives the devil many opportunities to bring accusations against the Lord and cripple His children.  We must start discipling immature believers. Point out that Jesus did “only what He saw the Father do and said only what the Father said.”  Let’s focus them on the phrase “without me you can do nothing” and His statement that our prayers are fulfilled to “bring glory to God.”  This is NOT to say that God won’t delight His children with love gifts and special blessings because He does. But for our part, let’s teach new believers to lift their prayers to the highest level, to ask God for His will and how He wants us to pray, and to trust Him to answer in perfect timing with every provision needed.

And finally, there are the blessing-chasers who have been indoctrinated with a heavy dose of new age and secular thinking. Unfortunately some of these folks are in churches, actively trying to bring in these secular viewpoints to improve upon God’s word. Following after the peddlers of the “Law of Attraction” and various gurus of positive thought, they are drinking from a dirty river far down stream of the actual source. They think they’ve discovered something God isn’t telling His children! The truth is that God, who created this planet, filled it with abundance, established the law of sowing and reaping, and continues to cover it with His generosity. So, by God’s design generous people will reap generosity and random acts of kindness will produce a return of kindness from surprising source, for believers and unbelievers alike. But, blessing-chasers seeking after self-gain, comfort and pleasures will reap the consequences of idol worship (for that is what self-centeredness is!) because the devil “rewards” people too. That’s why lottery winners frequently become destitute; windfalls of money lead to drug addictions and marital infidelity; and wealthy people often end up alone, depressed and empty. The source of the problem is NOT prosperity— it’s a lack of character and obedience to God. These are the prerequisites human beings need in order to be equipped to handle wealth and prosperity successfully. It is only “The blessing of the Lord makes rich and He adds no sorrow to it.”(Proverbs 10:22) The world has nothing that compares to the prosperity that God delights in for His servants …not even close!

Bottom line, it’s time to stop cooperating with the devil and reclaim God’s promises related to His generous nature.  Let’s drive fear and judgment about prosperity out of the Body of Christ, train up new believers in the whole counsel of God, and confront the blessing-chasers with the requirements of self-surrender and obedience. Let’s make sure that anyone who comes to Jesus expecting just to “take and profit” is introduced to the real gospel message. They need to know that accepting Jesus as Savior means accepting Him as Lord too.  This is not a cheap prize we’re talking about; it’s the pearl of great price that requires the surrender of all we’ve got for the rest of our lives in exchange for all He is!

Ripples in the Pond by Stan Rarden

A man stands on one side of a large pond, skipping rocks on its surface. He does this for a few moments, counting how many times they skip, trying to beat his personal best.  At last he’s out of smooth stones, the kind suitable for skipping, and turns to leave.  Before he does, though, he sees a large, craggy rock at his feet.  Just for fun, he heaves the rock as far into the pond as he can, enjoying the big splash it makes when it hits.  Then he goes, having had his moment of play, forgetting all that he’s done there.

 

On the other side of the same pond, at the same time, a boy is sailing his toy boat on the glassy surface of the pond.  There’s a hint of a breeze.  The boat’s sails fill with the wind, propelling it out into the deep water, where the boy can’t retrieve it.  As the boy watches hopelessly, his beautiful boat sails away from him, lost forever.

 

But suddenly there are ripples on the surface of the water.  Something has disturbed the smooth pond, and large ripples – waves, almost – are coming toward the boat.  The boat is caught up in the motion of the ripples and is turned away from the wind, toward the shore and the overjoyed little boy.  He reaches down and retrieves his sailboat from the water and runs home, his fear gone, remembering only the great pleasure of sailing his boat on that fine pond today.

 

Many times in our lives we’ve performed an act of random kindness, or even spoken a kind word, and thought that was as far as it went.  We’ve also acted foolishly, or spoken carelessly at times.  But we need to be aware of the likelihood that our acts or words… the rock we threw into the pond… had an unseen effect.

 

Can it be that God places us in situations where we act, then go away, and our actions affect somebody else profoundly?  Of course.  Can the things we do on our side of the pond make a difference for someone else on the other side, even though we didn’t even know the person was there? Without a doubt.  If we’re “fitly joined together,” as the Word says we are, then it must be that many of the things we do (seemingly at random) are coordinated to fulfill a purpose of God, maybe far away, maybe far into the future, maybe to serve people we’ll never meet, and maybe we’ll never witness the effect of our actions. 

 

If this is true then, does this call us to make every effort to act in love and speak in love, as a rule in our lives?  If our actions and words are having effects far beyond our ability to see them, then shouldn’t we speak and act with the intent to set good things in motion?  Hopefully none of us intends that our random acts should do harm, of course, but the intent to do God’s will with every act and word might just make a difference in this world… perhaps a much larger difference than we can ever imagine.

Change Your Mind

We are promised a transformed life as the result of a renewed mind.  Sometimes we forget how very different God’s way is from the accepted perspectives of the world.  Thought I would just pull this excerpt from the Employed for Life Devotional as a reminder that we are not of this world.  We need to keep Heaven’s point of view at all times, and live it out every day.

Holding Kingdom Perspectives

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”  Matthew 11:18-20

Time will indeed tell which Kingdom will rule on Earth for all eternity.  All mankind will witness the “proving right” of the Word and wisdom of God at the triumphant return of the Lord.  Jesus makes the point time and time again that empty words  and superficial actions count for nothing. The works of believers and non-believers will be judged for fruitfulness by His Kingdom standards. True fruitfulness will be an outward demonstration of a root system firmly anchored in obedience to God’s will and the Kingdom of God. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit… A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”  It should be the primary goal of every believer to walk in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, imitating Him in love, peace and joy and manifesting the fruits of the spirit in all we do.

The Kingdom of God is nothing like the kingdom of the world; in every way God’s Kingdom reveals God’s true intention and the world offers its version of a convincing counterfeit. We’ll look at some very powerful workplace concepts and discover how far the worldview has strayed from the truth in every case.

  • Power was never intended to be used as a force for dominion over others. In God’s economy it is the ability to get results, to produce fruit.  It belongs to God and works through us to accomplish His purposes. The enormity of His power is beyond our ability to conceive but the apostle Paul stated it in this way: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Ephesians 3:20)
  • Wealth isn’t an accumulation of money or material possessions. True prosperity is wholeness, shalom which means “nothing missing, nothing broken.”
  • Purpose has little to do with vocational interests, profession, or skill sets. We were not designed to find our identity or life purpose in work pursuits, but rather in relationships—first with God and then, with His children.
  • Stewardship describes our relationship to everything God has created.  We are not owners, nothing belongs to us and nothing will go with us when we leave this life. Knowing that we are simply caring for this world on behalf of the true owner and master makes a huge difference in our behavior and priorities.
  • Promotion is not the outward indication of our talent, ability, cleverness or influence. It isn’t to be sought after for self-satisfaction nor viewed as a goal in itself. God promotes and establishes who will assume leadership roles. In His Kingdom it is a promotion to go into dark places and bring the gospel to the lost. While the world strives to get to the top, to be at the front, our Master had this to say: Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:26-28)

If you desire to live as His ambassador, speak it out:

  • I am not moved by what I see or feel.  I am moved only by the Word of God.
  • By faith I represent God’s eternal perspective in today’s chaotic workplace.  I am salt and light.
  • My loyalty is not divided. I serve the true, three-person God— the Father, His Son, and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Open Your Hands

It is amazing how things can creep into our hearts and grow in importance…until they eclipse what really matters and hide what God is doing in our lives.  I hope you will be touched by the simple and powerful message in this blog written by my husband, Stan.

We’re married 22 years now, thanks be to God, and if I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a bazillion times from my loving wife… “Hold everything with an open hand.”  When we first met I thought she was just recycling some ancient hippie dogma, along the lines of “If you love someone let them go,” or some other heady little phrase we long-haired (and often anethsetized) ‘60s love children were known to babble.

But I wasn’t raised that way.  No, during my growing-up years the dictum in my house was, “Guard this with your life, because it’s the only one you’ll ever get.”  It didn’t matter if it was a bicycle or a piece of clothing or a Clark bar.  Lose it and that’s it.  There was no hope of getting another one.

In my world you paid for losing things, and it really didn’t matter why they got lost.   Whether you mislaid it, broke it, had it stolen from you, or it just plain wore out from old age, it was gone and somehow you were to blame.  The price of losing something was much higher than just not having it any more.  There was the shame of having squandered, through carelessness and irresponsibility… no, disrespect… an item of value, a thing purchased not so much with money, but with the blood, sweat and tears of my poor parents, who could barely afford to keep a roof over our heads, much less spend vital life-support funds on something nice and non-essential for me.  Their looks said it all… I didn’t care enough about it to take care of it, therefore I didn’t care how hard they had to work to get it for me.  Bad, ungrateful child.

As you can probably tell, in our household there was more than a little strife over material goods.  Stuff, possessions, gifts, trinkets, goodies, were wonderful to receive, and horrible to lose.  So I developed a militantly defensive attitude towards “things.”  A stint in the Navy, which placed extra emphasis on taking care of and accounting for things threw a little more gas on this fire, so by the time I got married this state of mind had morphed from an attitude into a holy mission.

Before Barb and I were married I was a bachelor living all alone in a 3-bedroom house with a two-car garage.  Every room in the house was filled with stuff, and I couldn’t possibly part with any of it.  I had magazines from the 60s that were sacred, inventorized and not to be touched.  I still had every paperback book I’d read in the past 15 years.  I had a garage full of parts for cars I’d sold over ten years ago. I was even storing half the contents of my mother’s house, who had died five years earlier.  If I watched over my own stuff like a hawk, can you imagine how obsessive I was with her things?

Into this maelstrom of possessions-induced OCD rode the fearless Barb, opining that we could certainly do without several truckloads of this old stuff.  I looked at her like she had one large eye gleaming in the center of her forehead.  The more she talked about my stuff like it was just… well, stuff… the more I started to worry that I had made a terrible marital mistake.  What? Throw away Hot Rod Magazines from 1967 with Don Garlits on the cover?  What planet are you from, woman?

Then it got worse.  I met her kids.  They were beautiful, well-spoken, funny, engaging, loving and fun to be around.  They were also, I determined in short order, the two most irresponsible urchins ever to draw breath.  Example:  In eight years of business travel I had collected about five bathroom drawers full of little soaps, shampoos and other hotel amenities.  My mother would have been proud, and I’m sure that she, sitting up in Heaven, saw me amassing this hoard, saying “Good Boy… one day you’ll run out of soap and shampoo and you’ll have this to fall back on.”  Ten-year-old Amy found this stash one night and I told her she could use some of it in her bath.  She was tickled.  In three days she had run through all of it.  She used it a dozen bottles at a time.  What she didn’t wash herself with she spilled all over the bathroom floor, or left in the tub for her mother to clean up.  When I, in one of my milder blind rages, confronted Barb with this wholesale squander of a precious resource, Barb actually said “What?” 

“What do you mean, ‘What?’ Are you nuts?  Eight years of little soaps and shampoos gone in three days?  You’re okay with this?”

Barb said, “Who cares?  She had fun with them. You didn’t pay for them. What’s the problem?”

I felt like my head was imploding.  I couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting to severely punish a kid for such profligate behavior.

It got no better.  From lost overcoats and shoes, to wrecked cars, to broken dishes (all family heirlooms, to be sure, even the Corelle dinnerware at $3.00 a plate), the steady depletion of stuff from my house (without a doubt all due to carelessness), was alarming.  I bemoaned every single thing I had to throw away, even thirty-five year old hand tools that had worn out.  Every time something went in the trash can, or worse, went missing, I felt that oh-so-familiar parental damnation…  “You’ll never have anything nice as long as you don’t take care of the stuff you have.”  I finally resigned myself to this fate.

And that’s where this story starts.

I’ve mentioned before that when God wants to talk to me… I mean really talk so that I’ll listen… he gets me out in the yard.  So today God says to me, “Stan, what’s say we take a little walk in the garden.  There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk over with you.”  He led me to the part of the garden that had been hit hard by freezing weather this winter.  Most of our garden came through this freeze unharmed, but a few hibiscus that I had planted years ago, of which I was very proud and possessive, looked like they wouldn’t survive.  But I refused to believe this.  I pruned them, prayed over them, laid hands on them and invoked every promise about “restoring the garden” I could find in God’s Word to bring them back.  To me, losing these plants was just like losing my bicycle in the 6th grade.  As they turned brown and withered, I suffered the same old recriminations… “Why didn’t you cover these plants better?  How could you let such nice plants die?”  Finally, I accepted the fact that they weren’t coming back, no matter what I did.  So today, appropriately ashamed, I got out the loppers and started cutting them down.

As I did so, God came to me and said, “Take a look at what’s underneath all this dead stuff that’s never coming back.”  It was new growth, from a plant that I had planted several years ago, before I had ever put in these big hibiscus plants.  It was Mexican Petunia.  My wife loves this plant.  It grows fast and produces massive amounts of pretty purple blossoms that fall in the evening, renewing itself again each morning.  Barb actually finds something of a Kingdom message in the behavior of this plant.  Underneath the old hibiscus you couldn’t even see it, yet here it was, already starting to thrive under the dead limbs of the old plants.

As I looked at this new growth, God said, “Do you see how there’s a new blessing hidden behind the old one?  Can you see how when one blessing runs its course, I already have another one ready to blossom?  All it takes is for you to reveal it, and accept it, by letting go of the old one.” 

He continued.  “It’s that way with everything.  Some of my blessings are eternal.  Some are for a season.  But the act of my blessing you is continuous, and will follow you to the end of your life and beyond.  What did you have in this place before? Nothing but grass.  Then I gave you the hibiscus, and you were blessed.  Now I’m giving you another blessing, and it pleases me to do that.  You see, unlike your earthly father and mother, who were afraid and didn’t understand so well about my provisions for them, I have plenty to make sure that you stay blessed.  I hurt for your mother and father, because their burden was so heavy.  They never asked for my help, or trusted My Word to be true.  I doubt if they even knew the part where I said “Prove Me, and see if I won’t pour out a blessing so big you won’t be able to contain it.”

“Stan, I’m sorry you had to grow up believing their message of lack, and I’m doubly sorry that you made it your message for so much of your life, but I think now you can hear this:  THERE IS NO LACK IN ME.  THERE IS NO HUNGER, OR HURT, OR CONDEMNATION IN ME.  THERE IS ONLY LOVE, AND BLESSING AND JOY AND COMFORT.  And if it ever looks to you like I’m taking away a blessing, just look underneath it for the one I have already brought to replace it.  It will be even bigger and better than the one you have been enjoying.” 

“Remember,” God said as I put away my tools,  “when you’re working in My garden, expect blessings to flow.  Be faithful in your work, listen for My voice, don’t forget that the first part of everything is Mine, and rely on Me for the rest.  Got it?”

“Yes, Father,” I said.  “But just one more thing… what about my Mom and Dad?”

“They’re fine,” God said.   “They get it now.  And your Mom says she’s okay with whatever you want to do with her stuff.  Actually, she recommends you bless other people as much as you can with it, because she knows what I have in the pipeline coming to you.”

Stan Rarden

 

Remember the Sabbath?

What has caused believers everywhere to think that honoring the Sabbath is now optional?  Somehow, for many of us “commandment” has become “suggestion” and that really only if you feel like it.  Jesus honored the Sabbath so if our intention is to imitate Him (and it should be!) we would  still set aside one full day out of every seven as the Lord’s Day. For twenty four hours we would put our focus, energy, and attention on God and Him alone.  (And let’s not get distracted by whether that day should be Saturday or Sunday—chances are the ones having that argument aren’t honoring either day so what are they squabbling about!)  The point is that God directed His followers to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy unto Him and He has never announced any change in that instruction since He first uttered it.

Let’s take a look at this commandment as it has been handed down to us.  You can check it for loop-holes if you’d like but you will find none.

Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:9-11

An interesting pattern emerges—in the first book of the Bible God rests on the seventh day and in the next four books, He clearly states that He expects His followers to do the same. He even gives instructions for extending a Sabbath rest to the land; to fields and fruit bearing trees.  It certainly appears as if God is serious about this.  The question remains—why aren’t we?

My guess is that we have been duped by the enemy AGAIN!  You see, most people are completely unaware of the truth that God only commands when He intends it to be a blessing. His instructions provide a shield of protection. The devil knows this and so he creates a strategy of deception to pull people away from the blessing…just as he did with Eve in the Garden of Eden. 

Imagine a scenario where I command you to come to my house once a week on a specified day to pick up a wrapped brick and take it to your home.  Immediately the thoughts are likely to come to you: “Why do I have to come to her?  Who does she think she is to be giving me direction? And who needs these heavy brick things anyway? It’s probably just a trick to get me to carry heavy stuff for her. And doesn’t she know that I only have that one day off for my own recreation? Why should I give up my one day off for her?”  So very negative! But because you don’t really know me, you’re likely to assume the worst.  Now imagine your remorse when you discover those bricks I told you to take home are gold bullion and that I had wrapped them to keep you from being robbed.  What will you feel like when you recall all the days you never came to pick up the gold because you were too busy having your fun? You missed the blessing because you bought the lies. Unfortunately this is just the way we think about God (with some prompting from the devil, if necessary.) Because we don’t know Him personally, it’s easy to assume the worst about Him.

That’s the problem.  We have believed the lie that God just wants us to bow down to Him and do as He says because He’s power-hungry. We’ve fallen for the foolish belief that our time is best spent as we desire because we know what’s best for us. We never even consider that the One who created us just might have something so wonderful in store that He felt it was worth a command to make sure we wouldn’t miss it.

The spirit and heart of the Sabbath is that God wants us to rest and be renewed.  He desires our fellowship so He can share in an intimate and loving relationship with each one of us. A day in His presence will shift our perspective; gazing on Him will produce perfect peace.  In this hectic, frenzied world, our Good Shepherd is offering a lush, green oasis of joy and refreshment. Whatever it takes to enter into His rest…do it!

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalm 84:10-11

Practicing Your Serve

Do you know that whenever you show up to work in the church or to volunteer for a service assignment you are really showing up for Disciple’s Boot Camp? You might think that you found some extra time and wanted to put it to good use, or that you’d like to “give back” in appreciation for all you’ve received. Perhaps you are concerned about the current state of the world or your community and you want to change things and make a difference. Be that as it may, no matter what motivation brought you to this point, it’s really God who is drawing you in.
Not only that, but you might be surprised to discover that God is first and foremost interested in changing you, not in putting you to work. Yes, you are called to be salt and light in the world but that can’t happen right away. First, God wants to start molding you into the image and likeness of Jesus and to teach you how to hear His voice. Then you’ll be able to be of real service to others. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a misguided “good deed” (“You will let me do this to you and you will like it!) you can understand why God does things from the inside out. There’s a big difference between “doing good” and “doing God’s will” and it takes training to learn the difference.
There is no question about it, you have gifts and talents that the Lord gave you for the benefit of His Kingdom and the service of others. But don’t rush out thinking you know what to do or how to serve until you check in with Him. Allow God to place in in challenging assignments so you can practice the fruits of the spirit–you know, love, peace, joy, kindness, gentleness, goodness, patience, humility and self-control. Demonstrate those characteristics in every situation and you’ll bring the light and love of Jesus wherever you go!