July 1, 2010

Raining on the Inside

Have you ever felt like it was raining on your insides? That is how I feel today. A good friend of mine has become homeless, and I am heart sick over it. She lives in another town and state, so I cannot take her in right now. I have never been in that position before, and have never known anyone personally who is in this same situation. This friend works several jobs and goes to school -- she is trying so hard to better her life -- to make it count for something -- and to provide a better life for herself and her family. How can these things happen? How can God allow this to happen to a dear sister in Christ?

I am reminded of this fact, that often God does not prevent circumstances in our lives, and that Christians, do and will continue to suffer as a result of choices we or other people make. It is hard to wrap your brain around this truth, that a loving God would allow His children to actually suffer, to be homeless, and to lose everything materially. I am not God, and I don't know the ins and outs of every situation. I am not an oracle, who can fortell the future or point out the specifics of such and such an event. I can only read the outward signs, and often, these are misleading. What may look obvious on the outside, can often be completely wrong on the inside.

The same is true for people we meet. We can meet people who appear at certain way on the outside, but inside they are dreadfully wicked. Some people are really good at putting on a "show" for us. Some people are woefully opposite -- the "what you see is what you get" kind of people. I have met both kinds, the kind who drip with honey, only to be all vinegar; and the kind who are sticky and prickly, and make no bones about being that way. It is important for Christians to be able to see people as they are, and to also keep in mind, that God knows the truth about what is in the heart and mind of man. What we may think is one thing, might very well turn out to be another all together.

Our judgment of people, whether they are good friends or not, is critical to our success in life. We need to surround ourselves with people who will edify and build us up, and not tear us down. Unfortunately, often we choose to befriend people who are not this type at all. We may even fall in love with someone who looks good on the outside, but has major issues on the inside. This person may initially be the love of our life, but overtime will poison everyone, including us with their dispicable behavior. We need to make sure that we "think" before we act, and then take extra time to really evaluate a person before we make any committment to them.

The Bible tells us that God sends us into the world to minister to those who are lost. These are people who are sick and dying, and in need of the Gospel of Truth. We are not to be like these people, because we formerly were like them, but have been changed by the Truth. We are different now, and that means that we are able to help, to offer healing and restoration, through the message of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Often believers think that we are to be immersed in the world and the world's ways as a means of ministering to others; but, a careful reading of the Word shows a very different story.

If you study the first church, the church described and detailed by Luke in the Book of Acts, you will see that there are two organisms at work simultaneously. There was the church, which consisted of believers in Christ Jesus, and then there was everything else or the "world" as the Word calls it. The church was made up of people who left their former ways, be that Jew or Greek, slave or free, and joined the body of Jesus Christ (to become united with Him in faith and in His ongoing work). They left the world behind to do this, and they suffered persecution often attempting to do that very thing. Their ministry was two-fold: one, they ministered to each other by supporting one another, caring for one another, and upholding one another (sometimes in rebuke, sometimes in casting people out who were not living as born again believers); and two, they were sent out to minister at large to their surrounding community. The church had two jobs -- one on the inside and one on the outside. The point being that each member of the church was required to do two things: attend to the family, and then attend to the world. Everyone was to look after his or her own family, physically and spiritually (consisting of blood relations and those of the church of God). Everyone was to do what they could to help their family sustain their lives -- meaning food, clothing, shelter, etc. Then they were to consider the needs of the poor and the homeless and the orphan and the widow. Family first; world second.

I think many Christians make the mistake of switching the two around. They often are seen tithing at church (which is a good thing, BTW), while their children lack clothing or shoes. Or perhaps they are giving to some local ministry when they don't have enough to feed their family dinner. Now, there is nothing wrong with giving away material possessions, but we do need to make sure that we are caring for our families first. This was how God intended us to live -- His family and our family first; the rest second.

Moreover, the problem arises when we marry people who are not of the same faith as ourselves. Perhaps we marry for love or lust, and the person we commit to live with professes faith, but doesn't actually live it out. We hook ourselves to someone whose priorities are not the same as ours, and who may not consider God's priorities at all. In doing so, we set ourselves up for a very long and difficult relationship, one where we are constantly battling against the world, rather than going in and out of it as the Lord commands. We find ourselves serving two masters, God and Man. In our heart, we may be fixed on serving the Lord, but our partner is fixed on serving Man; therefore, there is a disconnect, a disunity, and a disharmony in not only pursuits, but also in purpose.

The Lord via Paul says that we are to remain as we were called, and to many that means being married to an unbelieving spouse. However, we are never told to compromise or change our ways to accomodate that person. Instead, we are encouraged to demonstrate His Grace in our lives, and by doing so, have the chance to win that spouse over to the Lord Himself. We must be consistent and diligent to live out the change that occured within us at the Cross, and not become like our spouse or the world he or she serves.

This is far more difficult than it seems, and many believers live watered-down lives whereby they are serving neither God or man. They are living in quasi-spiritual land, always trying to temper themselves one way or another. The Lord calls these people "lukewarm" because they are neither hot nor cold. We need to be careful to remember who it is we serve, and to acknowledge that the Lord is able to shower His Grace on us, and enable us to live God honoring lives that worship Him, all the while respecting our unbelieving spouse.

I am not sure why I am writing about this today, other than it is something on my heart and in my mind. I see so many Christians living defeated lives, and then wondering why they suffer so much hardship. Not all are married to unbelievers, no certainly not. Some are living out the consequences of their own sinful choices. Some are victims of another person's sinful choice. And, some are ignorant of the Truth of God's Word, and are living foolishly because they either were told something that is not true or they concluded some truth that was actually built on falsehood and lies.

My encouragement today is to for all of us (myself included) to take stock of our faith, to do a thorough inventory, and to evaluate where we are spiritually speaking. How is your faith today? How is your knowledge of the Word? Are you living in alignment with His Word? Are you keeping His Commands? Or are you living in that "I am trying to do what is best" mode, which often is a weak excuse for not doing what God's Word commands. It is not that God doesn't know you are trying, dear friend; it is just that trying is not what cuts it. You see, Jesus didn't try to save you -- He saved you. Jesus didn't try to overcome sin and temptation -- He overcame sin and temptation. Jesus didn't try to sit down at the right hand of God the Father -- HE IS SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD THE FATHER. There is no try in God's economy, there is only DO. The problem is that as long as you are trying, you are not doing what needs to be done. The only way to do what God asks of you, is to ask Him for the Grace to do it. You cannot do it alone, you cannot overcome on your own, and you cannot expect to change your circumstance without relying on His Grace to enable you to do it. It all is a matter of Grace, and it all is a matter of believing that His Grace is sufficient for you.

I know how to try because I spent years doing just that -- and never feeling satisfied that I ever really accomplished anything. It was like I spent all that time climbing up a very high mountain, only to find myself slipping over and over and over again. I never really got anywhere close to the summit, I just kept taking one step forward, and sliding down two or three backwards. It wasn't until I grasped the completeness of God's Grace at work in my life that I realized (and understood), that I was attempting to do what God had already done for me. I was trying to duplicate His steps -- and that was not what I was called to do. I wasn't called to be Jesus -- I was called to be like Him. I wasn't called to whitewash myself, to clean myself up -- No -- I was called to be cleaned and whitewashed by Him. I wasn't called to do anything other than worship Him, and in doing so, He would do everything necessary in my life. And, worshipping Him didn't mean on Sundays or when I felt like it -- No, not at all. Worshipping the Lord means living, breathing, and standing in total awe of Him, 100% of the time, all the time.

You may say that this is not possible, that you have tried to do that, and that it couldn't be done. You were too distracted, too consumed by other pursuits, etc. I would just say that the reason you couldn't do it was because you were serving two masters: God and yourself. Whoa! Yes, yourself, dear friend. We either serve God or we serve US. Do you have two throne rooms in your heart, the one that you visit on weekends or whenever the mood strikes; and, the one you visit most often, the one closest to your own heart and mind? Yes, and Yes again. I know -- I did that too -- for a long time (30 some years!) And, to make matters worse -- I actually believed it was OK to do that (a lie of Satan perpetuated through the church -- "Oh, we all do that. Oh, we shouldn't do that, but what can we do?")

What made the difference for me was confessing Jesus as Lord. I had confessed Him as Savior when I was a child, a young teenager; but, I didn't confess Him as Lord until I was 44 years old. I lived like a two-headed monster for all those years in between, whitewashed on the outside, but pretty dirty on the inside. I said I loved the Lord, but my life didn't really demonstrate that at all. I did the do -- I served in church, in ministry, and when the mood struck me to do it. I pretty much spent the rest of my time trying to please myself and others. I was 90% me and 10% the Lord. The summation of my life was this: I could talk a good talk, and I could walk the walk. I just didn't live what I said I believed. I was a hypocrite, a nice clean and presentable hypocrite.

Now all that has changed. My life is centered on one thing and one thing only: worshipping the Lord. My priorities have shifted, and my views are narrowed. I seek His Kingdom first, and in doing so, He has changed my life around. He didn't set about to fix the outside first; No, He spent a great deal of time on the inside. The outside is the easy fix for God -- it is the heart and the mind that require a great deal of diligence and time.

My prayer today is that I never ever inhabit that hypocrite again. I don't want to be anything but a slave to Jesus Christ. I want to demonstrate my faithfulness, my steadfastness, and my love for Him daily. I do this by putting Him first in all things, in all matters, and in all decisions. I trust the Word, and I do what it says (remembering that it is His Grace doing the work through me, and not me attempting to do it). I want to give Him all the Glory and Praise and Honor, and to do that means that I must humbly sit at His feet, and humbly must pick up my cross each day and follow after Him. I must follow after Him, and not expect Him to follow after me. In doing so, He has and will continue to bless me with all imaginable riches in Christ Jesus. I am rich, I am filled, and I lack nothing -- so long as I seek Him as my all and my sufficiency.

To God be the Glory forever and ever. Amen.

Update: Later today

I am adding a short update because today has just been a 'bear of a day.' I think it is the heat, for certain, and then the fact that I am really tired (weary); but suffice it to say, it just hasn't been that great of day since I wrote this blog post this morning. I just got back in from the grocery store, and I am dripping wet (it is like 113 here in Phoenix), and really do not want to even think about making something for dinner. My eyes are tired, and I feel like I could just fall asleep right now (hey, what a really good idea!) Perhaps a nice cold glass of water would perk me up? I will be right back. Ok, that helped. I must be dehydrated right now as well as feeling sort of blue.

My update really isn't about how I feel, well not really. It is more about why I feel the way I do. I do feel worn out, and I am pretty hot and bothered (by the weather, nothing else). I am struggling to come to terms with some things right now, and I don't want to believe them. I would rather believe that somehow I am at fault or mistaken or off the mark; then to actually accept the truth that says "this is so." Drats! I know that if I blog that truth -- those words -- then usually I mean what I say. I mean to say really:

I know this is the truth, and I just am not happy about accepting it. Fineto - kaput. It is truth.

So what do I do? Well, having learned often now that running from the truth only gets you a farther walk back; I don't want to do that again. I need to accept this as truth, and then let it be. This is the key to acceptance, at the least, that is how I have found it to be. Often, we say we accept something without ever letting it be, letting it go. We say "Yes, I agree; but..." That is not how we are to accept things, not at all. It is far better to say, "I may not like it, but I accept it as truth. And, as truth, I am taking it on face value and letting it stand. It is truth." So be it, Amen.

Yes, I need to listen to my own words of advice some time -- I think that is why the Lord sends me to my blog to write about my feelings. He knows that I pay far more attention to what I read, than to what I hear Him say to me. So if I write it out, I not only think it (once), but hear it in my head (twice - I am one of those people who reads every word silently to themselves), and then I read it for consistency (three times), and finally check it for spelling (four times). At the end, I typically read it over one more time (so five times through) just to make sure I understand it, and it makes sense to me (and therefore, will make sense to you.) There, you see, God knows that if I blog about some matter, I will listen figuratively to Him at least five times more closely than if He just said it to me plainly and matter of factly. He also knows that I will return to my blog, so the chance is good, that I will see it one or more times again in the near future. He is really Good like that, and I am glad of it.

Therefore, the long and short of it is this: I have accepted this truth (now), and am letting it be, letting it go, and leaving it alone. It is done, it is truth, so be it. Amen.

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