Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hot, Cold or Somewhere In Between?

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it and it will not be taken away from her.”                Luke 10:38-42

I’ve heard this story a bazillion times but as I took a deeper look at it this time around I was amazed at what I saw. 

I’ve always been sympathetic to Martha and have felt sorry that she got “picked on”.  She was serving, ambitious, active . . . she wasn’t sitting around doing nothing (like someone else we know).  Her work ethic was strong and there wasn’t an ounce of laziness in her.  

Mary on the other hand is sitting, listening to Jesus and doing NOTHING.  Was Mary always sitting around doing nothing?  Was she a lazy person at heart? – I don’t think so, in fact I think Martha was used to having Mary help her and when she looked around expecting her to be peeling potatoes or setting the table Mary was nowhere to be found – well that is until she looked in on Jesus and saw her sitting with Him.

Martha is described as being distracted - distracted with the details of having company.  She wants everything to be perfect for Jesus and his disciples.  She is so caught up in doing things for Him that she forgets to be with Him.

Where was her focus?  Was she focused on Jesus and her relationship with Him?  Was her mind dwelling on His teachings?  Where was her heart?  How would you describe her faith?  I think we could describe her faith as lukewarm, tepid and mediocre.  She loved Jesus but had allowed the details to distract her from what was truly important!  Jesus speaks of someone like her in Matthew 13:22 when he says, The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life . . .”

Think about it, she was able to see Jesus face to face!  She could watch His reaction to the questions He was asked.  She could see Him laugh at a particularly funny joke from Peter.  She could hear from His lips what God the Father was like and see the love in His eyes for her but instead she traded all of that in - to be distracted by the worries and cares of her life!

In contrast, where was Mary’s focus?  How would you describe her faith?  I would say it was blazing HOT.  She knew nothing from this world could compare with spending time with her Lord.  She took advantage of having Him face to face.  Everything paled in comparison to being with Jesus.  She would gladly choose hot dogs over a gourmet meal just so she could have more time with Him.

What kind of faith do you want – the lukewarm faith of Martha or the blazing hot faith of Mary! If you want the kind of faith that Mary had you won’t slip into it and it won’t happen by accident.  It’s a choice you have to make each day to follow Jesus and to keep your eyes fixed on Him.  Each day you must choose to follow Him or yourself, to surrender to His ways or your ways, to release your grip on this world and open your heart to Him. 

What choice will you make today, tomorrow and the next . . .? 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Our Compass

Have you ever had to use a compass to survive?  I haven’t.  I’ve fiddled around with one and used it for fun but my survival has never been dependent on one.

A friend of mine told me about a time in his life where his compass literally saved his life.  He was hunting on a remote island in the upper part of Michigan.  He was dropped off and expected to be back at the drop off point a few days later.  It was the first time in his life where he was completely alone and totally dependent on the provisions he had brought for himself.

When it was time to go back to the rendezvous point he looked at his compass to see where he needed to go but what the compass was saying and what his instincts were saying were completely opposite! Immediately an inner struggle took place within his mind.  He found that he began to argue with the compass, “It’s got to be wrong!  There’s no way that my internal compass could be that wrong.  Something must’ve happened to the compass.” 

But no matter how much he argued and disagreed with the compass, the compass did not change and so he was left with a choice – follow his own internal instinct or follow the compass.  Even though everything inside him was screaming to follow his instincts, he chose to follow the compass and he arrived at the rendezvous safe and sound.

As Christians we have a compass – the Word of God.   Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

 It is Truth that is strong and just like a compass always right but how many times do we find ourselves, just like my friend did, arguing with the Truth? 

Your boss asks you to fudge the numbers and indicate that the company is giving more than they really are.  And you rationalize that there is no way God would want you to lose your job over a few exaggerated numbers.

Or maybe it’s a conversation with your boyfriend of 5 years and you realize that he really doesn’t want to follow God like you do and you think there’s no way God would want you to break up with him – you’ve been together way too long to consider that.

Maybe you find yourself disagreeing with the truth when you’re in a difficult relationship with a family member.  God is calling you to humble yourself and reach out to them with love.  You throw all kinds of reasons at God why you shouldn’t do that – she doesn’t deserve it, he is way too arrogant, she never thinks of anyone but herself . . .

What is God calling you to do?  Is He calling you to trust your Compass and move True North.  Does He promise you won’t lose your job, your boyfriend, and your friendships?  No, but He does promise that He will travel with you and guide you safely to the Rendezvous Point.

Hebrews 13:5-6 “For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’”

Monday, January 16, 2012

What dog are you feeding?

Galatians 5:16-17 (NLV)

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.

There’s a story about an old Native American chief who came to know Jesus as His Lord and Savior through a missionary that was working with his tribe.  The missionary had been gone for a while and when he got back he went to visit his old friend.  He asked the chief how he was doing in his walk with Jesus. 

The chief answered, “It’s like I have two dogs fighting within me – a black dog and a white dog!”

The missionary replied, “Which one is winning?”

“The one I feed the most!” replied the chief.

Did you know that you have a war going on inside of you?  I don’t know about you but I’m fully aware of this struggle with my old sinful selfish desires and the Holy Spirit.  I want to do what is right but find myself doing exactly the opposite!   How do we break this cycle of rollercoaster living?

Let’s go back to what the chief said and let me ask you, which dog are you feeding? 

Are you feeding your black dog envy, discouragement and despair, disillusionment with God, doubt, and anger?  Do you spend too much time in front of the television devouring its values?  Do you have relationships that cause you to focus on the negative and turn your heart away from God?  What are you feeding your black dog?   How big is your black dog?  Does he need to go on a diet?

Or are you feeding your white dog peace, joy and delight in God, encouragement, love and trust?  Do you spend time in God’s Word getting to know your Savior, reading His promises and developing an intimate friendship with Him?  Do you have relationships that propel you to a deeper walk with Christ?  Do they encourage and challenge you?

What are you feasting on?

 Living each day in the power of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to guide and direct our lives will break the cycle of rollercoaster living and allow us to live in freedom.  But it’s a choice – sometimes that choice is easy and sometimes it’s HARD because our selfish desires clamor for attention and they don’t like to be left out or starved to death. 

Remember, we can only feed one dog at a time.  What dog are you going to choose to feed?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Our True Power Source
One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.   Luke 9:1-2 NLV

The disciples have just been sent out by Jesus to heal and cast out demons.  They have seen Jesus raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead, heal the sick and quiet the storm and yet when they are faced with the needs of 5,000 plus people their solution is to send all the people to overwhelm the nearby town.

But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick.   

Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.”  Luke 9:11-12 NLV

And even after Jesus says, “No, don’t send them away, feed them.”  They still are clueless as to what they should do.

It’s as if, all that they have seen and heard completely fades into the background and all they can think about is the problem they have at hand – how are they going to feed all of these people?  And there sits Jesus in their midst.

My neighbor got up one morning only to find that the light in his refrigerator was out.  So he jumped in his car and drove 20 minutes to Home Depot to get another bulb.  When he arrived home and exchanged the light bulb, the light still did not work!  It was then that he noticed that the clock on his microwave wasn’t on and as he looked around the kitchen he realized that the power was out in his house!

It didn’t matter what he did or how many bulbs he changed in his house.  If his house wasn’t plugged into the power source none of them would work.

In the same way the disciples chose not to look to their Power Source.  All they could see was their insurmountable problem – they didn’t see Jesus as the Answer.

Aaah, how often do we do that!

 A family member is cruel and vindictive and we immediately get on the phone to discuss our situation with a friend.  The dishwasher breaks down and since we don't have any money we drive to the bank to take out a loan.  We struggle with anger and join a self-help program to deal with the problem.  What are we doing?  Running around changing the lightbulbs in our house but not plugging into the power source.  We can turn on our switches all day long but it won't do any good unless we're plugged into the TRUE power source.

It’s not wrong to get help in a situation but why do we turn to God as a last resort, instead  of going to Him at the start?  Why do we feel that praying and taking things to God is insignificant in light of being able to DO something.  What keeps us from turning immediately to God in our time of desperation?

Because deep down inside, if we’re willing to admit it, we feel that God really won’t answer or that He isn’t big enough for our problem or that we can handle it better on our own.

And just like the disciples we choose to ignore Jesus and all that He has done to prove to us who He is and we attempt to handle things on our own. 

Fortunately for us, Jesus is a patient and loving God!  Look at how longsuffering He was with the disciples as they grew in their understanding of Him and so He is with us!!!  Praise God!

What about you?  Are you running around "changing light bulbs and turning on switches" and have neglected to plug yourself into the Power Source?  Are you hoping to "fix" your life and then come to Jesus?  He is the only TRUE fixer!  So stop running and plug yourself into the only TRUE POWER SOURCE there is - JESUS!

Heavenly Father,  teach us how to live through Your power and not in our own strength.  When we are faced with a difficult situations teach us to go to You first and seek Your way.  Keep our eyes, our hearts and our minds fixed on You, our only true source of power.  Amen