Friday, June 26, 2009

Heaven's Cliques

There are times for peaceful words of encouragement then there are times for a harsh rebuke. . .I just read the book of Jude; so guess what time it is.....

clique - noun - "a small, exclusive group of people; coterie; set."

I don't want to give the wrong idea here. . . I think relationships are important to God. Hebrews 13:1-3 states, "Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."

Relationships are and will remain` very important to God. He created us to have a relationship with Him first and second to have relationships with one another. The Bible even goes on to tell us that others will know whether our Christianity is true by looking at whether or not our love for each other is genuine (John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."). *Note that it does not say they will know if we are true in our faith and that we love God by all of the volunteer work that we do.

It is easy for us to love those we know. I love my family, SOME of my friends (I will let them figure out whom is loved :0)= joking), and the people I work with. But what about those who are different than myself? What if they don't look like me; praise like me; eat ketchup on their french fries; drink Pepsi instead of Coke, or (Heaven forbid) have clothes like mine?

Ideally I should have quoted all of Chapter 13 in the book of Hebrews. In it the apostle Paul gives us as Christians specific instructions as to the relationships we hold in this life. He points out that our sacrifice of service to others is directly linked God.

I bring this up because, after a long and interesting conversation with a very dear friend she explained to me why she will not attend a church and has no desire to be linked with "crack pot, fundamentalist Christians" (no offense to me - and no, I do not take offense to this. This crackpot still loves and prays for you). She talked about every time she graced the doors of a church and how she was received (or really not received). How everyone would form their own groups and, God forbid if you weren't like them... Like if you smoke or drink or if you have made mistakes. . .then they would turn their self-righteous noses up at her.

So, I hope you are reading this.... There are a couple of things I need to point out to you. First of all, there were cliques in Jesus' time. They were called Pharisees and Sadducees. The religious "elite" of the bible times. Not different from our modern day, church cliques. Actually, one and the same. They too would not associate themselves with "less than proper" people. But let me point something out to you. Jesus called them for what they were: Thieves and Vipers. People who based their salvation by works they did. Showing up wherever the crowd was in order to pray the loudest and make a show. Being most righteous when in public or around each other.

Jesus Christ was quite a bit different with whom He associated Himself. He showed love to the thief, the prostitute, and the sinner. By proving His love true, He was able to win them over. In short, Jesus had relationships. He had an earthly father and mother. He had siblings and friends. No, sweetie, His friends were not perfect...at least not when they met Him. But when they discovered how true and real His love for them was, it made them want to change. They wanted to be more like Him.

Christ true church has no cliques... no walls... no closed doors.... It was and is open to all. Most of them did not even know each other. Yet they DID love each other. They DID NOT judge each other. 3 John 1:5-8 "Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth..."

His true church welcomes the sinner, the drug addict, the liar, the thief. . .His true church wants them to see His love so that they would desire to change their ways and live in His love. To quote a popular Brit Nicole song, "That's how the lost get found." And trust me when I tell you, Heaven's cliques do NOT exist. I hope I see you there. Cheers to a clique free Heaven!

I love you and hope you see His love in me.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SEX ! ! !

Well, I am sure this is going to get a lot of hits...
I was so fortunate to be able to attend a service at a local church here in Concord, NC to hear the thoughts of the pastor there as he spoke of sex from the pulpit (talk about going where few men have gone). I took away a lot from what he said (I believe the podcast should be up on www.therefuge.net); however, I want to give you my thoughts in addition to what he so clearly pointed out.

God intends for us to have sex.... Seriously.... He invented it.

To begin with, I do believe in love. I know, it is hard to believe given my track record.... However, I do believe in love. I believe in one flesh (Genesis 2:24)...and, I believe in a man's unquenchable desire to be with his woman and she with him so much so that the absence of either in the other's life causes physical pain (Song of Songs Chapter 3).

I also believe in sex (by the way so does God). I Strongly believe in sex. I believe in the type of sex that last from dusk til dawn. Tantric sex between a man and a woman that leaves the body physically drained but wanting more (Song of Songs chapters 2 and 4). I believe sex should be fun and pleasurable for all involved (by all I mean the husband and wife).

What I don't believe in is the media's portrayal of sex and morality in today's world. I don't believe in sex with strangers, meaningless sex like that in a pornographic film = objectifying women, sex outside of the boundaries of marriage, sexual fantasies and online sex with strangers. The media states that sex is "OK" if you are "in love." Or even worse... that it has nothing to do with love.

I agree that women are responders and that a man IS to set the spiritual tone of a relationship. Furthermore, when a man looks at a woman, he is to look at her as a beautiful child of the Most High God. He should avoid looking at her with lust and should not entertain any form of sexual immorality with her (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). A man should be courteous and respectful of the woman he is dating.

A woman should never lower her standards and sleep with a man in order to keep him in a relationship with her or to gain his love. Real love does not have conditions. Keeping in mind that love has everything to do with sex, marriage, and commitment. If you are truly in love, get married. Then you can have sex....It is a pattern... man + woman + MARRAIGE = sex :).

I also believe that sex outside of the boundaries of marriage will complicate your relationship and cause inner pain. The Bible tells us that sexual sin is the one sin that will directly harm the body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body."

I BELIEVE IN ... the mercy of a loving God for all those who have made mistakes!!!!! Psalm 103:8-12 talks about His love and how He literally delights in sparing us our due punishment! So. . .I urge you, if you are having sex outside of the bounds of a married relationship... then stop. REPENT! Make a commitment with your partner to be pure until you do marry.

I remain pure. I have committed myself first to Christ. So when and if I do remarry, God's will, then I will have no regrets in my marriage. I commit to make marriage my commitment... not sex.

And true to the word, it all starts with friendship (Song of Songs 4:8-15). "Capture my heart as a friend...." the rest will be a bonus.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fire Extinguishers

One day in 1950 in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, an operator in one of the fire towers spotted smoke and called the location into the nearest ranger station. The fire ravaged thousands of miles of forest and animal habitats. A little bear cub had been caught in the path of the same fire. He had taken refuge in a tree. His climb had saved his life but left him badly burned on the paws and hind legs. Some soldiers who had been helping fight the fire removed the little bear cub from the burned tree and gave him to a local rancher who was also there helping. A New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Ranger heard about the cub when he returned to the fire camp and drove to the rancher's home to get the bear. The cub needed veterinary aid and was flown to Santa Fe where the burns were treated and bandaged. The cub healed and grew and quickly became the face of Fire Fighting. . .taking the name of his cartoon predecessor Smokey. His motto? "Only you can prevent forest fires."
This fire in New Mexico destroyed 40000 acres of forest and land. The cause? Simple negligence on the part of one man. One man destroyed property and life with just one little spark.
The book of James chapter 3:1-18 talks about these sparks. Verse 5 says "the tongue is a small part of the body but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark." I wonder how many of us (really I wonder about myself) even see these sparks? Sparks are so tiny! Repeating gossip, saying words in anger, jumping to conclusions. . . James 1 verses 19 and 20 tell us that Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring the righteous life God desires." Great advice!!! If we follow James' simple instruction we can eliminate most every spark.
But how does one put it out once the fire has started? First, there is freedom (from the fire) in truth John 8:32. Speak truthfully. But there is an additional resource. . .a few words that can put out most any flame. Consider them little fire extinguishers.
Please
Thank You
I Am Sorry
I Love You
I am praying for You

Monday, June 15, 2009

Can I Shine Your Shoes

I once read a story about a man who was killed in a traffic crash leaving behind a young wife and two kids. The young mother had never worked. Her husband had been the sole financial supporter of the household. The man was well liked and the entire community considered it a tragedy. They pulled together during the wake and the funeral offering their assistance. Days after the man was laid to rest, so was the help that had been offered. The young mother found herself daily looking through the want ads and looking for childcare. Then one day, several weeks after the funeral, there was a knock at the door. She answered only to find an old gentleman in tattered clothing looking very disheveled. He looked at her and plainly said, "let me have your shoes." Rather confused and thinking him mad she responded with, "What !?!" He pulled out an old dirty can of shoe polish and with tears in his eyes replied, "Ma'am, I ain't got much. But I want to help you. Please let me have the honor of polishing your shoes for you."
What has happened? Everyday on the news I see unemployment numbers rising. I hear of foreclosure notices hitting entire communities. Our food banks are running dry. Collectively we sit back and think about these sad situations and "wish" there was something we could do to help.
Acts 20:35
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Proverbs 19:17
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Matthew 25:35-40
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

I am not a wealthy person; however, I give. I know that giving does not always mean to give money. It could be sending a card of encouragement to someone who is hurting; visiting shut ins; taking a meal to someone sick; babysitting for the single mother who just needs a night alone. Today I challenge you. Shine some one's shoes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Redemption is Complete

Psalm 31:5, "Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth."
I want to start by pointing out exactly what redemption is. . .Websters gives the definition of redeem as to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom.
Now, I was in need of redemption. I had lost things in my life along the way. Some things were taken from me against my will; other things in my life I freely gave up. I thought I would never get back my childhood, purity, self worth; however, the Word clearly states this: The LORD redeems His servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him (Psalm 34:22). Nearly 2000 years ago, on a hill called Calvary, a ransom was paid. Galations 3:13 "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."
I am complete. In wholeness I write this to tell you that you can receive the same redemption by accepting the high price that was paid. You can be restored. You can be released.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hope for the Hurting

Is there help for the hurting? 11 years ago you could have asked me that question and really been offended by my response. Why? Because I had just buried my oldest brother. It was so painful for me. Then to make matters worse, I could not bear to see the hurt on the faces of my Mom and Dad. It was more than I should bear.
Missing him still hurts. I see him everywhere; In my memories. Some days I think I even hear his voice.
I wouldn't talk about it. No one understood. No one could. I refused to pray about it. . .Really? What did God know about my pain? What does God know about pain? He let this happen, right?
God let me think this way for a time. Blaming Him for all that is wrong with life. I should say, He was merciful enough to let me live through the hurtful things that I accused Him of. But one day, He taught me about pain. . .
2000 years ago a tiny baby was born. A beautiful child who came into this World in the most unusual of all circumstances. Humble beginnings. . . He grew into a wonderful man. A righteous and pure man full of compassion for this World and its people. People who did not share in His love. This man had a Father. A Father who loved Him dearly. Matthew 3:17 tells us that the Father loved the Son and was pleased with Him.
This Son devoted His entire life to the people of this World. . .then, one day, those people decided they no longer needed or wanted Him in their lives. They took this young man and, although He had done them no harm, tortured and beat Him. Only to murder Him in the end.
The Father of this child hurt. His Son did not deserve to die! Let alone be tortured to death. And, although He could have stopped it, the Father sat back and allowed it to happen. He allowed it so that we could have help when we hurt. The Father allowed His Son to die so that we might live. And not just live, but experience His love. So that we could once again be reunited with Him. His death, although painful, broke barriers. His death has given life. The Father's pain has become my hope.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Alphabet of My Prayer

I am reading in the book of Hebrews currently (more specifically Chapter 7:1-25). How great it feels to know that I can go to the Father with my concerns! But lately, my needs seem so many and my words are so few. I am at a loss on how to begin to lay my burdens at His feet. Today, I am giving the letters to Him. He knows my thoughts. . .I am letting Him rearrange the characters to form the words. God, give me words to speak....

A= ALL things God, I give to you.
B= Help me to understand the BEATITUDES and remember them daily
C= CHRISTLIKE... Lord make me more like you
D= Help me DIE everyday to sin
E= Help me to be ENCOURAGING to others (Romans 12:8)
F= Help me to consider it joy when I FACE trials and temptations
G= GUIDE me with your Holy Spirit that I may not sin against you
H= HONOR my parents, this is Your command
I= Let me praise your INSPIRING beauty
J= Give me JOY unspeakable and full of glory
K= Help me to show Your KINDNESS to all
L= LOVE! You are LOVE. Unconditional LOVE. Let me speak of Your LOVE forever!
M= MAKE me more like you
N= Supply my NEEDS according to Your riches in glory
o= Make my life an OFFERING, holy to you
P= PROSPER me, Your child, in love~grace~mercy~joy~patience~provisions
Q= give me the unfading beauty of a gentle and QUIET spirit~ 1 Peter 3:4
R= Give me REST in You
S= let me give thanks always for my SALVATION
T= THANK YOU, for all you have done. Always I give you THANKS
U= USE me, according to Your perfect will
V= Show me my VALUE in my Heavenly Father's eyes
W= Make me WISE in Your ways
X= XANTHATE! I am the salt of the Earth Matthew 5:13. Help me retain my saltiness.
Y= Let me be YOURS and YOURS alone
Z= Give me ZEAL always in Your presence.