May 1, 2015

Finding Inspiration

It is a blessed Friday. I am sitting at my desk thinking about my "to do" list for the day, and I cannot help but wonder how it is possible that I have made it, once again, to the end of a semester! I should add, a successful semester, because no doubt this semester will prove successful once my Regent grades are posted. I am hopeful, always hopeful, that my grades will reflect my hard work and effort. I worked very hard this time around, and I struggled for much of the semester to keep my balance and not fall over! The Lord sustained me, of course, and in the end, He brought me through with a cry of victory (shouting "It is over!") I am glad to be done with these two core courses. I have refrained from taking double-core classes up to this point, simply because the stress of core coursework is heavier than if I take a core-master sequence. I have done this the past couple of semesters and it is has worked out well for me. But, alas, I have known that at the end of my road at Regent, I would be stuck with double-cores, and that there was no other way round them, but to go through them. Yes, I came to the mountain and there was no other way, but to go up and over it. I did it, and hurrah, I am on the other side. Of course, I have a nice valley to walk through this summer before I tackle the final mountain in the fall. This last sequence of classes will be the most challenging because I will be completing three cores and teaching a full load of courses. I am not afraid (at this point) though I do worry a bit about my sanity right now. The Lord is my ROCK and my REFUGE, and it is in Him that I place my trust. I can only hope that He knows what He is doing (right!), and that He will lead me through these final courses with continued success. He is my KING, my REDEEMER, and my SAVIOR, and it is in His Name that I place my faith and trust. Amen, selah!

The Word of the Lord is True

Psalm 119:160 says, "The entirety of Your word is truth,And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever." I love this psalm, even though it is a bear to read through in one sitting (what was David thinking?) I love the words, the reminder, that the Lord's word is truth (John 17:17), and that in part and in total, His Word is righteous, holy, and redeemable. Nothing the Lord says returns void (Isaiah 55:11), and as we trust in His Holiness and in His Holy Word, we can take assurance that as He speaks to us, His Word is true. I love this reminder because often I feel lost when it comes to understanding the Word of the Lord. I mean, I read the Scriptures, and I study the context of each passage, yet still sometimes I find that I don't grasp the value for my life today.

There are some people who believe the Word is not for us today, but rather is a historic record of the Lord's dealings with Israel and the first Christians. We are to read the Word for knowledge, but not for security, comfort or blessing. It is valued for its place in Biblical history, but it is not a living or active tool available to contemporary believers. Of course, this is heresy because the Word in Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." Yes, the word, the WORD of the Lord is alive and powerful. Now granted, we have both the word (logos) and the WORD (Jesus Christ), but in context this verse is saying that the actual word of the Lord is alive and it is powerful to convict us of sin. Verse 13 says, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable," which leads us to believe this verse is speaking of the power of the word for illumination and examination. Verses 14-16 affirm the calling of the Lord Jesus Christ as High Priest, thus suggesting that as the word examines our hearts and minds, we are prompted to confess our weaknesses to the Lord. In return, the Lord, our High Priest, hears our confession and makes intercession with the Father on our behalf. Verse 15 reminds us that Jesus understands our weaknesses because he knew the same trials and testings. What great comfort it is to know that the Lord understand our sorrows, our suffering, and our sacrifice as we strive to follow after Him. He knows us well, and He understands our deepest and most difficult needs. He is good, so very good to us!

Speaking and Doing

Today is a good day to remember the fact that the Lord promises to never leave us. I know that many people say that as a salve to bind up a wound. For the person who is bleeding, these words do not bring comfort because while they are mentally reassuring, they are not physically meeting the need for a bandage or sutures to stop the bleeding. Often our words seem trite even though we intended them to bring reassurance. I think this is why we must remember that "actions speak louder than words," so while the Word of the Lord is alive and powerful, it is part of the whole package of ministering to those in need. We must do more than speak the words; we must seek to do the work necessary to bring comfort, relief, and joy into the lives of those who are in desperate need.

I am convicted of this point regularly because I am one of those people who seems to find the words to speak, but who often fails to act on them. I may speak words that I hope will be comforting, when in reality, what is needed is a good hug. I must remember that words have great power, and they are valuable in God's work (as in spreading the Gospel message). They are not the end-all-and-be-all however and that is something that has been on my heart this day. Actions are necessary some times, actual handwork, face work, and participatory living are critical to helping victims -- the lost, the lonely or the isolated -- to find comfort. I believe that we are called to "go" minister to people, not to "speak" ministry to people, if you get my drift. How often do we think of the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20,

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'"

and we believe it is the same thing or synonymous with the command given in Mark 16:15-16,

"And then he told them, 'Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.'"

Both verses begin with the word "go," but the process seems confused. In Matthew, the disciples are told to go and "make" disciples. In Mark, the disciples are told to go and "preach the Good News." Clearly, the two commands are related. The problem, I think is that we think about going and doing the Lord's work as only "going and preaching the Gospel." This seems to be a component of the Lord's command. The "making disciples" is a big deal for Christians because this command is the last given to the disciples by the Lord himself. Therefore, making disciples is something of great value to the Lord.

I know I am parsing words, I normally do that, but I cannot help but think that while preaching is a vital component for the Church, making disciples is even more critical. Making disciples means creating converts to Christianity, helping people come to faith in Jesus Christ and then teaching them how to live the Christian life. I don't think we (the church) have done such an awesome job when it comes to making disciples. We may have preached the Good News, but then we dropped the ball, and never raised up strong disciples. We simply allowed many new converts to remain new converts. I think this is why the church is filled with such dissension, disharmony, disunity, and frankly, heresy (false truth). We must take back the church, in my opinion, and salvage it for the Lord's sake. We must teach truth once again, building up the members of the body, so they grow strong and become steady and unwavering disciples. We must do this through Biblical application, strong Bible teaching, and demonstrated Godly living. We must live our lives as the Word instructs so that weaker brothers and sisters in Christ have a role-model to follow. We follow the Lord in all things, and they follow us (it is the pattern set by Paul in the New Testament). If we do not do our job as Christ-followers, then we have no one to blame but ourselves, if the church seeks to follow role models who do not reflect Jesus Christ. We have hidden our light under a bushel, and refused to be salt to a tasteless world. We have done exactly what the Word said would happen -- we have allowed "leaven" to creep into the bread, and it has ruined the whole batch.

A Living Sacrifice

My life is to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), yet if I do not sacrifice my life, put down the idols I worship, and follow after the One who is my Lord, then my sacrifice is for naught. It accomplishes nothing, and it will not lead others to Him. My life will lead others away, and for that, I will be judged by the One who is coming. I do not wish for this to be the case, therefore, with all my strength, determination, and dedication, I seek to do the work of the Lord in this life (His calling on my life, in specific). As I think about this today, I am confirmed in my calling, in my approach to living, and in the way in which the Lord desires me to "go." For so long, I believed that His command to me to "go" was given in order to get me to move (physically move) to another place. While I still believe that is a component at this point in time, I understand today that His calling me to "go" was merely a way to get me to realize my calling is active and alive, just as the Word is alive. My calling is "turned on" so to speak, like a switch that has been flipped. It is not about physically going anywhere in particular, but rather it is about "making disciples" and doing the work here and now. It is about teaching students, being a Mom, serving children, loving people -- all the things I do normally -- but now I do these things with purpose and intentionality. I am to live my life as a living sacrifice to Him, to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to focus on His work 100% of the time. Whether I teach or I do not teach is immaterial. It is about the 'way' I live my life today, and the words I speak as well as the moments I engage with others. It is all about letting the Lord live through me, work through me, speak through me. It is about letting Him live His life in me today.

I understand this fact after much heartache and difficulty, where my heart was saddened and my path made difficult. Yet, I now see the purpose in what He is doing in my life. He is molding me and shaping me -- conforming me -- to His blessed presence. I am being made new, daily, in order to live my life as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him. I am not perfect by any means, and I do make mistakes. However, the moment I lay myself down, and allow Him to inhabit me through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, is the moment when He comes alive and begins to do His work in me and through me. He is always present, don't get me wrong, but what I mean is that my sacrifice is voluntarily given so there are times when I pick myself back up, and choose instead to go back to worshiping the foreign gods and idols of my former life. These gods and idols are all around me because they are part of the culture I live in, and they include things such as money, possessions, power, prestige. I prostrate myself before them thinking that they are the gods I should worship, even when I know they will rot and not survive the trial by fire. No, the only God I worship is the Lord Jesus Christ, yet I still will forsake Him in favor of these other things, especially when I am stressed, pressed, and pressured by worry, doubt, and fear. Oh Lord, may I never do this, may I not forsake my first love! Yet, still I do, but my prayer now is that the amount of times I do this will become less and less as I journey onward with my Lord.

It is a difficult thing to process when you know that your path is set and fixed by the Lord. There is no guesswork because the Lord has determined the way you are to go. However, the Lord doesn't always reveal every step of His plan, and that is where faith rests, and where I get messed up most often. I think I have it all figured out, but in truth, I don't. I guess a lot of the time, and when I do, I guess wrong. I make choices that I believe are in His will, when in reality, they are not. I go a certain way, only to find that the way is not the "best way" for me to go. I don't want to cause hurt or harm to anyone so I try my best to avoid pain. I am good at avoiding the pain, but sometimes I choose rashly, act quickly, or miss "signposts" that are important hints. Yes, I am often blindsided by the way, and when that happens I lose my traction, and I find myself confused about my life, my purpose, and my way.

Thanks be to God, though, for His grace and His mercy. He helps me, and He never leaves me alone. I struggle at times to grasp the magnitude of His mercy in my life, and I fall on my face before Him to thank Him for what He is doing through me. I wonder at the end, where I will end up, and I think that there must be some grand scheme, some perfect way for me to go. Still, I know that no matter which way I go, the "going" is up to Him. I wait for Him to lead me on, and then I rest when He tells me to rest. It is good that way, it takes the pressure off of me so that I don't have to struggle so much. I am able to let go and let Him lead me. He is good to lead me, and He never leaves me, and He never lets me figure things out on my own. Thank God for that blessing! I don't want to figure this life out, and I don't want to be responsible for making all the choices. I like it when the Lord decides on the job, the house, the living. It lets me let go of the pressure, and I can relax and enjoy the blessings of His presence. I pray today that I can experience that joy once again in my life. It has been missing for many months as I struggled to figure it all out. I lost my joy in the process, and that was the most difficult part about the path I have been on. I was miserable, for the most part, hunkering down while trying to stay out of the battle fray. Now, I am walking in the clear again, feeling light and happy and free. I am letting Him lead me again, and praise be to God, it feels so good, so very good. I thank Him today, and I give Him all praise, all honor, and all glory, for He is so good to me. He is so very good to me this day! Selah!

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