Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Great Expectations

When we choose to walk with God, we make the decision to honor Him in our daily lives.  His love is unconditional for us, and thank goodness it is because if His love was dependent on my behavior, I would be in trouble.  However, the Bible does mention some things that we can “do” that please Him, and if we love Him then we should want to please Him.

In Micah 6, the Israelites had been rebelling against God and had unthankful attitudes.  God wants to reconcile with them, and they choose to try and appease Him with sacrifices, but God tells them that He wants them to live lives full of fairness, justice, mercy and humility.  The evidence of their devotion to Him will be through their changed lives.

So, what can we learn from this?  How do these expectations look for us today?

  • Examine carefully and choose to do the right thing.
Yes, as Christians, we should want to do the “right” things, but as human beings we are frequently being tempted in many ways.  What might be a weak area of temptation for me might be an area of strength for someone else.  God knows our hearts.  He created us.  He knows our strengths and our weaknesses, but we can overcome those weaknesses through Jesus Christ.

We need to know that God is able to help us overcome these weaknesses, and understand that through Jesus, He has made us able.  If you commit to tracing God’s hand during your day (the people we encounter, the situations we face), you will see Him guiding you to the right choices.  More often than not, we know when we are making a wrong choice (and sometimes we do it anyway), but that choice will not resonate in your spirit.  

It’s not always easy, but take a step back, examine the situation and do what is right in the eyes of God.

  • Exalt Kindness and Mercy
God wants us to love mercy.  What is mercy?  It can be seen as the sister to grace.  It is the spirit of pardoning and forgiving and giving to others that are in need.  We were given this gift when our debt was nailed to the Cross and we gained this “undeserved favor” through Jesus’ sacrifice.

This takes effort and focus at times.  Our spirit needs to rule over our feelings, instead of our feelings ruling over our spirit..  Feelings can’t have rest, and if we aren’t careful and actively promoting loving kindness and mercy, spiritual apathy can set in.  

Instead of being calloused toward those who need help or a little extra forgiveness, rejoice in the fact that you have been called to help them and remain thankful that you receive this from our Father.

  • Exercise Humility
We live in a very self-centered world.  It is easy to get caught up in what WE wants for ourselves, rather than what God wants for us.  Remembering that we are able to do things because of the gifts God gave us will help us remain humble and thankful for those gifts.  

Is it possible to live in a loving, caring and selfless way as Jesus did? Of course it is, but it isn’t as simple as it sounds.  Are you willing to set everything aside to help, love, and lead someone in the image of Jesus?  

These three commandants are like a cord.  Yes, we can do each of them separately, but they fit beautifully into one strand.  As if by committing to one requirement, the other two will more easily flow.  For instance, if we do what is right in God’s eyes, we are being merciful and are walking humbly with Him.  We are also walking humbly by putting others’ needs in front of our selfish desires to get revenge or be better than someone else.  If we walk humbly with God, we will be in tune with what it means to do right.

All three of these external behaviors must emanate from internal motivation.  The Holy Spirit lives in each of us that have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, and He can help us be strong in any area of weakness.  It isn’t a permanent condition in most cases, the need to constantly ask for humility, and a love for mercy as well as making the right choices is an ongoing battle as we navigate our way through this world hoping to honor God with our lives.

Don’t give up.  God isn’t going anywhere, and He will help us grow toward Him if we seek His will with our whole hearts.  Our salvation is not based on our behavior, but God desires for us to have changed lives in order to show His love to the world.

Passages to Ponder:

Micah 6:8- No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you; to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

I Peter 5:6- So humble yourselves under the mighty power of  God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.

Matthew 9: 13- Then He added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Kathy Derda, Susan Haynes, Kim McClure and Kristy Tolley

Sunday, September 14, 2014

God Doesn't Play Favorites

Success is something that we all strive for.  It is something that we hope that our children and those that we love will achieve.  Of course, because we are all individuals we probably define being successful differently.

To much of the world, success is defined by the amount in your bank account and how it got there.  If God defined it that way, why would He have His son born into poverty?

Paul warns us in Colossians to be wary of empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking rather than from Christ.  It is common to hear people talk about a particular philosophy that teaches that God blesses those that He favors the most with material wealth.  

God doesn’t play favorites.  I have sat in church and listened to a family praise God and testify that He healed their child of cancer, while a family sat near me weeping because their family member wasn’t healed.  A friend who knew that family told me that they felt that God didn’t love them enough and that they must not have been good enough for their prayer to be answered.  We don’t know why God chooses to physically heal some and not others, but it has nothing to do with being good enough.  His love for you doesn’t stop because you aren’t behaving well enough.

That same logic applies to our material wealth.  Just because someone has more money than you, does not mean that God loves them more than He loves you.  A focus on being rich on Earth as a primary goal of faithful living just doesn’t connect with what Scripture tells us.  Jesus was born poor, and he died poor. While He was here, He  spoke time and again about the importance of spiritual wealth and health, but when he talked about material wealth, it was usually peppered with warning us to be cautious.

Some of the people that are teaching this philosophy are just good, charismatic public speakers.  Some also have good back stories that appeal to our emotions and draw us in.  We, as followers of Christ, need to have discernment and throw out anything that doesn’t line up with what the word of God tells us.  It is important that you read the Word for yourself instead of depending on someone else to interpret if for you.

I pray for the strength and courage to love rather than judge. And I can only fully call into account my own thinking as it is translated into behavior. No one else is held accountable for my behavior..just me. I don’t know the hearts of the folks that teach this philosophy, and it is not my place to judge them, but please don’t believe that God loves others more than He loves you and has blessed them more materially because of this.  

His love is unconditional for anyone who will accept it.  He loves us even though He knows the truth about each and every one of us.  It isn’t a sin to be successful or wealthy.  We can honor God with our success and with our material wealth along with the gifts He has given each of us by serving others and reflecting the light of Christ to those who need Him.

Focus on the word of God and find your answers there.  Spiritual leaders are only human, and all humans will fall short of the glory of God in some way or another every. single. day.  Build the foundation of your faith upon God, what He says, and His unending, unconditional love for YOU!

Passages to Ponder:

Colossians 2:8 Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

Ephesians 3: 18 And may you have the power to understand as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.  

Matthew 5:44-45 “But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.  For He gives sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

Karen Bromby, Michele Killion and Kim McClure