Friday, June 20, 2014

Chew the Cud

When I say the word memories are you filled with joy, or are you filled with regret? Did you know the Scriptures command us time and time again to remember? But God didn't just tell us to remember. He told us WHAT to remember. We are to remember His faithfulness, His goodness, His mercies, His lovingkindness, His commandments, His ways, His presence, His character, His forgiveness, etc. You see, God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us the ability to CHOOSE what we remember. We can choose what we dwell on. Like many of you, I have a lot of terrible memories. I used to let those memories consume me. They would awaken me in the middle of the night filled with terror.  I would find myself so distraught, sometimes to the point of not even wanting to function for the day. After a lot of wasted hours, I realized that the Lord desires for us to deal with our past and its memories and move on. Why revisit it over and over again? Why dwell on the injustice of it all? Why wonder why abusers go unpunished? What does it profit you? Does dwelling on these things bring justice or relief? Quite the contrary.
One of my very favorite portions of Scripture is Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, THINK ON THESE THINGS  (and weigh and take account these things [fix your minds on them]) ."
The human mind is so powerful. It can simply imagine a scenario and cause the feelings related to that scenario to arise within us. For example, if I am thinking of relaxing on the beach, reading a great book, I can sense the peace that would accompany that experience without even actually participating in it. The things we choose to meditate on take root in our hearts. This is why we are encouraged in the book of Philippians to think on good things, on Godly things. We can be filled with Godly emotions and His characteristics can fill us and flow out of us as we meditate on Him. You know the old saying, "Don't be so heavenly minded, you're no earthly good."?  Well, I encourage you to be so Heavenly minded (Godly minded) that you are of great earthly good. The Bible promises us in Isaiah 26:3 that He will keep us in perfect peace as our thoughts rest on Him. In other words, when you meditate on Godly things, He rewards you with peace.

To meditate means to ponder, regurgitate, think aloud, consider continuously and utter something over and over again. You've heard the phrase "chew the cud" referring to meditation. Well, chew the cud is referring to the process a cow uses to digest its food. It will chew it's food, swallow it, digest it and bring it back up again to re-chew, re-swallow, and re-digest. In this way the cow can extract ALL the nutrients and benefits from what they are eating.  I know this sounds disgusting but you can see a very important spiritual application here. When we meditate on the Word of God and the things of the Lord, we are chewing them, swallowing them and digesting them as spiritual food. And throughout our lives we bring back up those things that we have learned and we apply them repeatedly to our lives and thus extract all the great benefits and rewards of living a Godly life.

I challenge you today dear sister, dear brother, take authority over your thoughts, over your memories. Align them with Scripture and walk in newness of life.

Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. "

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sacred Scars

I often wish the scar on my abdomen were not so unattractive. My youngest son, Seth was 10 lbs 11 oz and had to be taken cesarean section. Because of his size the incision was vertical rather than horizontal. Many years later due to a benign tumor, that same incision would be reopened. It is a significant scar but I’ve come to the realization that everything we face in life and all of our experiences are framed with perspective.  I can choose to focus on how unattractive this scar is and feel ashamed or I can choose to focus on the fact that this scar resulted in producing the life of an amazing young man that I adore.  This same scar reminds me that God was faithful at a very scary time in my life when doctors were certain something terrible would be found in my body.  In addition, I have another scar on my neck that is a result of my battle with cancer. These scars share a common thread, they all tell a story and they are all framed by the way I choose to view them. They tell a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness and His promise to never leave nor forsake me.  Everything we face in life has the potential to serve as a memorial of God’s faithfulness or our resignation to defeat.
Two thousand years ago scars were formed that would reshape all of humanity. These scars would be suffered unjustly and change the world forever. The scars Jesus bore serve as a beautiful reminder of His unfailing love and His selfless sacrifice. The scandalous cross with all of its violence and gore is framed with a beautiful picture of redemption. When we remember His suffering we cannot help but feel overwhelmed with gratefulness that He was the propitiation for our sin. The spotless, perfect Lamb of God left all of the comfort and splendor of heaven to suffer a scandalous, violent death as the single greatest act of love ever to be performed on Earth. Do we think of the gore and the violence? Do we focus on the wounds on His Hands, His Feet? No. We focus on the beautiful result of His sacrifice. The gore, the violence, the scandal yielded a beautiful love story. We frame the shame of the cross with the beauty of redemption and reconciliation. We frame the injustice of it all with the realization that there was no greater love than this. We frame the sufferings of Christ with the victory of His resurrection and the promise of His return. We choose to remember these scars, the shame of His nakedness on the cross, and the injustice of it all can be framed by continual awareness that God so loved us that He gave. He gave His all because His greatest desire is to have relationship with us. Oh, what a Savior!!! I am eternally grateful for His sacred scars.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Holiness

Before receiving Christ and committing my life to Him, I had a sense of emptiness. Even when I felt happy, there seemed to be something missing. I always felt there had to be a greater purpose in life. Satisfaction and contentment seemed to elude me. In the bad times the hopelessness seemed almost too much to bear and the sense of aloneness overwhelming. I look back now and realize how thirsty my soul was for a relationship with its Creator. I believed in the existence of God. I believed in the existence of Jesus and even in the existence of the Holy Spirit. But I realize that even the demons believe and they tremble. If I am drowning and someone throws me a life preserver, I have to know how to utilize that life preserver to save my life. If I don't go beyond knowing God exists and arrive at a relationship with Him, I will never fill the emptiness in my heart. The age old question, "What is the meaning of life" is easily answered in the Word of God. We were created for Him!! It's that plain and that simple. We were created for His purposes, His pleasure, His glory. Am I always "happy" now that I have a great relationship with the Lord? No. But I am always filled with joy and more importantly the assurance that even in the not-so-good times I have a Savior that has promised to never leave me alone and a resolve within my heart that He is working all things together for good. However, that "good" He is working is not necessarily my definition of "good". God sees all, knows all and has the wisdom required to use my life for HIS purposes and I trust Him because I know His character and that He loves me.
The world will tell you that Christianity is a set of rules and regulations and that entering a relationship with Jesus means giving up everything and anything that is "fun". This couldn't be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, entering a relationship with Jesus sets you free to choose a life of holiness. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 "We are allowed to do all things, but not all things are good for us to do. We are allowed to do all things, but not all things help others grow stronger.  Do not look out only for yourselves. Look out for the good of others also." So, in essence, a life without Christ is a life of bondage where we are giving in to our own desires rather than being free by the Spirit of God to honor the One that created us. Without the Lord in our lives, we are destined to carry the burdens of life ourselves. God never intended for it to be that way. He lifts our burdens and we are able to rest in the fact that He sustains us and gives us exactly what we need each day to make it thorough victoriously. So, you see dear friends, after we commit our lives to Christ, He gives us liberty and freedom to walk out the rest of our days honoring Him.
Once we develop our relationship with Christ and realize the unbelievable price He paid for us and how He set us free, we can't help but desire to give our lives back to Him. It's not about "buying" our salvation, rather a reasonable act of worship to say, "Lord, I am so grateful for all You have done for me and I love You so much but I recognize I have nothing to offer you. Nothing that would even come close to commensurate the sacrifice you made. So, I offer you my life, a living sacrifice. Have Your way in me. Mold me and make me and remake me into the person You desire me to be. Use me to glorify You. This kind of surrender pleases the Lord and releases our burdens. We trade the stress of making our lives count in the way we think they should in exchange for His will, purposes and plans for us. We no longer live for self but dedicate our days to honoring Him and our fellow man. This pursuit for Holiness reminds us that only the Lord in us can cause us to walk in victory and in ways that would draw others to Him.  

Hebrews 12:14 "Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, since no one will see God without it."