Matthew 5:14-16

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." ~Matthew 5:14-16

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What I'm listening to now...

"Flower in the rain," by Jaci Velasquez

A Battle Front: Conquering Excuse-itis.

Excuses are so simple to make. They're easier than doing whatever it is that the excuse is being made for. Yet, nothing results from excuses that's beneficial in the long run. Perhaps short-term, but nothing long lasting. Nothing ever seems to get completed. The accomplishments are not there because an excuse or more (I don't know about you, but my excuses come in pairs) has hindered or stopped me from doing whatever it was that should have been done. 

Why do I am I pondering excuses? Well, lately I've been thinking a lot about my excuse-itis. It's really been attacking my time. Excuses, I've realized, aren't friends. They are certainly enemies. Especially when I use them to get out of doing important things. The prime example of my excuse-itis at work is my time alone with God. "Its hard for me to sit still, I'm a workaholic" or "I just got overwhelmed with things to do" are two of the top excuses I use. You see, the problem isn't in the words I used. The words are certainly true: I am a workaholic and because of that it has always been difficult for me to sit still. And yes, I did get overwhelmed with things to do. But questions must arise from that: When you truly love someone, how much time do you dedicate to them to show that person that you care for them? Were those things so important to do or could they have slid off to the side to make room for the far more important things? While spoken words like "I love you" and other caring words that you bestow on your loved one are meaningful and good, unspoken actions go deeper. Showing them that you love them takes the relationship past the tongue to the depths of the heart.

Last night, I was very sleepy, worn out from a hard day at work. I couldn't help but notice my Dad's work clothes and thermal attire in the laundry pile last night. They really needed a good washing up, so that in the morning, he could wear warm clean clothes. I set aside my personal wants and did a "s.h.m.i.l.y." (see how much I love you) act. I didn't have to, I certainly wasn't obligated to do that, but did it because I love my Dad. In the same light, my relationship with God should be treated with as much (and more) love as I bestow on my loved ones. Much to much of my time gets consumed by things of the simple sort: tv, reading a book, relaxing, just to name a few. Those things can certainly slide off to the side to do at a later time. My time with God is important for uncountable reasons. The most important reason is that it attests to the fact that I love Him. When I spend time with Him, it becomes obvious that I'm not just saying I love Him - I mean what I say because I'm making room for Him in my life to spend quality time with Him. Do you struggle with this issue as well?

We are in a spiritual battle. We need to be looking to the Commander for instruction and guidance. The first thing I should be doing (yes, even before grabbing that famous cup or two of coffee) is to go before the Lord in prayer and ask Him to guide my steps and provide me with His strength so that I am not walking in the flesh, but according to His will and for His glory. That is far better, I think, than anything and everything else. The next thing I should be doing is to pick up my Bible from it's place on the nightstand and do my daily devotional with Him. This sharpens my sword, preparing it for good use. It is important for the Christian to be at the ready. To defeat my excuse-itis will not be easy and I'm sure I'll stumble around a bit, but I know that just so long as I keep my eyes focused on the Lord, eventually, it will be defeated and I will establish a healthy routine of picking up the Word, donning my armor, and conversing with Him. To me, it is a critical matter. This is day one of my challenging battle. After a brief struggling in the mind, I spent time with my beloved Savior. Excuse-itis can do nothing today in that area but hope that tomorrow, I will cave in to it's busy-cry. With God's strength, I will shut out it's noise and focus on Him, the one who matters the most in my life. I desire nothing less than to show Him that I truly love Him above all else.

I hope my struggling and want to overcome this enemy brings you encouragement, and will cheer you on in your own walk to tackle the excuses that seek to hinder your relationship with Him.
God bless.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Song by Josh Wilson: "I Refuse."
I heard this song via my friend, Maize's presentation of her 3 month trip to Israel. The lyrics of this song touched me and I felt like standing up, hands over my heart with my eyes closed, singing with it. I strongly agree with the song. This is how a Christian should be. Yes, this is how I need to be! I must stop being complacent and comfortable. I should care, and not only just care, but do something about it. How much do I care for the state of the lost? the poor? the helpless? the weary? the suffering? What am I doing to show that I care?
Something to ponder deeply: What am I doing to shine God's light in this present dark world?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Healthy Spiritual Exercise = Reading your Bible.

I've mulled it over, knowing that I need a healthy routine of reading Scripture. It is like exercising your muscles: The more you exercise, the stronger you'll be. Same thing with Scripture. The more His Word is read, the stronger you will become; the more readily you will have the answers when questioned about your faith.

Because I am such a bookworm, I couldn't help but notice when my Dad's Bible was left open on the living room table, a little neat stack of paper bookmarking the section he was in. I read the papers, realizing it was informatively telling me a neat way to read through my Bible, entirely, and more than once a year. I snuck it upstairs (why was I sneaking when I had the house to myself? O.o) and copied it for my own use. My Dad got the list from my bestfriend's Dad's site: Doulos lesou Christou.

I am committed to doing this. If this routine helps me with my daily reading and increasing my knowledge of Scripture, it has all been worth it! The only thing that can stop me is my own excuses - so I must be committed to persistence and determination! I must not quit! I encourage you to dig into your Bibles even if you have to push yourself to the task, even if its hard to find time. Eventually, this very healthy habit will develop, and your hunger will increase for the Scriptures. That is what I hope to obtain: An ever-deeping hunger for the Word of God.

It's called The 10 Lists: (as you rotate through the lists, you will notice you will not read the same sequences twice, it starts weaving. Also, you may find sticky notes labeled 1 through 10 to help you keep your places.)
List one: (89 days): Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
List two: (187 days): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
List three: (78 days): Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews.
List four: (65 days): 1&2 Thessalonians,1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2&3 Johnn, Jude, Revelation.
List 5: (62 days): Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.
List 6: (150 days): Psalms.
List 7: (31 days): Proverbs.
List 8: (249 days): Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
List 9: (250 days): Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
List 10 (28 days): Acts.

Clear Evidence

I have long since completed my last challenging project back in November: Nanowrimo. I'd been studying and researching with much vigor over the subject of comas and providing for a loved one's disabled spouse. The journey to discovering out these facts have been tedious and time consuming, but well worth the effort. My nanowrimo book, "Shattered but not Destroyed: Finding Strength through Faith," centers around a young couple, the wife who goes into a coma because of a car accident, and the husband who doesn't share the faith of his wife, who must now put together the pieces of their shattered life. I've read 7 books on the amazing and special lives of disabled people. It really has opened my eyes to their unique situations and trials, and how it impacts the lives of those around them.

One of the resources I used from my local library is called, "Fighting for Dear Life," by David Gibbs.
I completed reading it and had to stop and re-read Chapter 25: Brave New World? It holds a lot of conviction about the Christian's duty to study and to know his/her Bible well, to be students of the Word. It caused me to ponder what would happen if this situation happened to me? Would I be ready to answer with a clear yes? Our reading of the Bible is evidence of our love for the Lord and a hunger for His Word. How is our testimony doing in that regard?

Ponder the chapter below and place yourself in the shoes of the witness being questioned. I hope you take the following to heart and do something about it too in your own lives. I desire that the following convicts you to examine your own Walk and encourages you to grow stronger in the Lord.
God bless. :)

Excerpt from Fighting for Dear Life, by David Gibbs. Chapter 25: Brave New World?

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government." - Thomas Jefferson.

"Imagine it's the year 2040.
A seismic shift in the American cultural landscape has occurred. As a nation, we've slipped into an era where moral relativism has completely replaced the Ten Commandments as the foundation for law. God is out, and arbitrary legislative and judicial rulings are in. American church attendance has dropped to European levels; less than 10 percent participate in weekly services. And on the political front, so called liberal blue states outnumber conservative red states two to one.

After several decades of relentless legal challenges by the ACLU, the last vestiges of our Judeo-Christian heritage have been stripped from public view. Churches and war memorials may no longer exhibit crosses visible from the road. Our historical monuments in Washington, D.C., have been sandblasted to remove their centuries-old references to God and Scripture. Likewise, the money in circulation no longer says, "In God We Trust." And Christmas has been replaced by the Winter Holiday.

In the public schools, the Christian faith of our Founding Fathers, initially noted at Plymouth Rock and in the later historic documents drafted by our founders' able hands, has been replaced by a generic nod toward a universal spirit. Even the textbooks used by private Jewish and Christian schools have been neutered from their faith-based orientation in order to meet a strict, court-mandated educational standard. Religion classes must include the exploration of all faiths- especially Islam.

For its part, the federal government has caved under intense presure to provide socialized medicine for every citizen - as well as for milions of illegal aliens. As a result, the national budget is strapped. Record deficit spending is necessary to pay for universal health care, which, in turns, threatens to stall the economy.
The solution?
A congressional subcommittee has been called to explore measures to curb spending on health-related issues. A parade of expert testimony is assembled. Ultimately, these doctors, social workers, caregivers, and economists recommend three cost-cutting, albeit controversial, measures. First, they propose emptying all the nursing homes; the elderly will be asked to fulfill their duty to the next generation by expediting their deaths. Their adult stem cells will be harvested for research.

Second, the subcommittee recommends suspending hospital treatment when the "quality of life" of a patient fails to meet a minimum standard set by a medical ethics committee. These hard luck cases will receive morphine while being deprived of food and water until nature takes its course.

Finally, the subcommittee proposes that newborns be terminated if they are diagnosed with chronic illness, show the evidence of birth defects, or if their parents are without sufficient financial means to provide for their care.

Not everybody is pleased with this proposal.
A lawsuit challenging these new laws based on the constitutional right to life is filed by the pastor of your church with the help of a dedicated Christian legal team. In spite of the anti-christian bias...

"I believe that you have to confess that you are a sinner and you must put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ." That's odd, you think. You're in open court explaining the plan of salvation when you thought you were here to explain why you believe all life is sacred. But instead of moving on to that topic, the lawyer continues to probe.
"So what happens if you don't get saved?"
You shift in your seat, unsure how much to say. "In simple terms, when we die there's a hell to avoid and a heaven to be gained based upon the choice we all make on this side of eternity."
"Are there several choices to get to heaven, as you put it?"
"No. Just one."
"Really. What's that?"
"Well, you have to believe in Jesus and what He did on the cross. When He died, He took the punishment my sins deserve."

The lawyer turns toward the defense table where your pastor is sitting and then asks you, "Did your preacher just cook all of this up? Was this some sort of a marketing campaign or perhaps a guilt trip the church leadership designed to get people to show up on Sundays?"
"No. What our pastor preaches - and what I believe - is all based on the Bible, God's Word."

The lawyer is enamored with the fact that you actually believe God wrote a book. He says, "Now, let me get this straight. You really believe that God wrote a book?"
You look at the judge for a moment. "Do you actually want me to go into all of that? I thought-"
The judge cuts you off. "Please, answer the question."
"Well, not to get too technical," you say, "but I believe God breathed His Spirit on the holy men of old - you might say He inspired them with His thoughts. They took it all down, and others have carefully preserved what they wrote over thousands of years." Suddenly, you're glad you stayed awake during the foundations of the Christian faith sermon series.

The lawyer says, "Is God going to write another book anytime soon?"
"No, the Bible even addresses that. It says that no one should add or take away from what's there. And it says that 'not one jot or title' - not one of the smallest marks in the original Hebrew text- is going to pass away. This book is going to stand for eternity. It's the Word of God." At this point, you feel your testimony is going great.
The lawyer takes a step closer and, placing a hand on his hip, says, "Have you ever read the entire Bible through even one time in your life?"
A hush falls over the courtroom. All eyes are fixed on you. "Well, I do read the Bible, if that's what you mean." You offer a weak smile.
"That's not what I asked," the lawyer says. "I asked if you ever read the entire thing through, just one time?"
You shift in your seat, wishing your pastor didn't have to hear your answer. "Well, most Christians who go to church have never read the entire Bible through."
"I'm not interested in what most people do," he says, clearly intent on securing a direct response. "Have you read it one time cover to cover?"
"Um, I don't know if I've read the whole thing, it's a pretty big book."
"I assume you own a copy. Is that correct?"
"I do."
"Several copies?"
"Yes. Three or four."
"How long have you owned these copies?"
You blink. "About ten years."
"So we could say you've owned at least one copy for the last three thousand, six hundred fifty days?"
"Sounds right." Now your heart is racing. You have no idea where this line of questioning is going or what the relevance of it is to the sanctity of life testimony you thought you were going to provide.
"How many pages are in your Bible?"
"Um, I don't know...maybe twelve hundred?"
"Alright. You've said that you haven't read God's Word through one time. You've said it's a large book. And you've owned a copy for ten years. Is that a fair summary so far?"
"Let's say you were to read just one-third of one page per day," he says, consulting his yellow legal tablet. "Mathematically speaking, at that rate you could finish reading the whole Bible in ten years, correct?"
"Yes...that sounds right."
"How long does it take you to read a page?"
At this point you have an idea of where he's going and decide to get creative. You say, "Look, I went to a very bad school. They were messing around with that whole phonics fad and I never did get to be a strong reader."
The attorney pauses for emphasis. "I think it's safe to estimate that the average person might take one minute a day to read a third of a page. Agreed?"
You nod and then whisper, "Yes."
The judge, looking down at you over the top of his glasses, says, "Please repeat that louder for the benefit of the jury."
"Yes. I could read a third of a page per day. Sure."
"According to these calculations," the lawyer says, driving home his point by ticking them off with his fingers, "You could have read the only book that God ever wrote, the source of your faith, the source of what your church believes, had you spent just sixty seconds a day over a ten-year period. Is that true or false?"
"Well, according to your math, yes. It's true."
"And I believe you already testified that you didn't."
"No sir, I didn't."
"Why didn't you?"
"Well, I...I was busy. I had a lot of things going on. I feel bad about it now. I should have had more time."
"Do you own a television?"
"Do you own more than one?"
"I do. Three to be exact."
"Do you pay money to run a cable or a satellite dish or antenna to it?"
"Doesn't everybody? We have cable."
"Do you get a lot of channels?"
"Sure, but we're not big TV viewers."
"Do you ever watch television sixty seconds in a day? What about five minutes? An hour? Two hours?"

Before you know it, you'd be grilled about how much time you spend listening to the radio, reading a newspaper, reading a magazine, or surfing the Internet. And in the end, the other side will demonstrate that you and I have all of the time we want to do what matters most to us. The judge and jury will come to see that believers ignore their God and His Word all the time. They'll conclude that we believers are not guided by the strength of our convictions after all.
You know what?
Sloppy Christian living is killing our testimony.
The vast majority of Bible-believing people neglect to faithfully study God's Word, seek His face through prayer, and make choices about life and living that reflect His priorities. This is how Paul describes the spiritual bankruptcy of his day: "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him" (Titus 1:16a). Sounds like us, doesn't it? Is it any wonder that we're not experiencing the revival that our nation needs?
America is at a crossroads. There are forces working from within, pushing a culture without God, a culture of death over life, folly over wisdom, and secularism over faith."