Sunday, December 31, 2006

Do You Live by the Word or by the World?

“Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God – what is good and is pleasing to Him and is perfect.” (Romans 12:2.)

When consumed by the world and by the flesh, how are we supposed to be able to live by the word? Each time I am faced with a difficult decision or feeling I ask myself this question and always come up with the same answer: to be in God’s word everyday. I even try to raise my children in my Father’s word by reading to them from the bible daily.

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26.)

Unbelievers talk in my ear and tell me what they feel I should do and how I should live, but would I listen to an enemy of Christ? No, and I should not listen to anyone or anything other than my Father. Oh to betray my Father breaks my heart; He who loves me more than anyone else ever could.

It is interesting to me how the mind changes and the priorities shift. What was once important by worldly standards gives way to a faith based or heavenly focused way of thinking. I suppose it makes sense on a couple different levels. I feel that when God and/or Christ calls we hear and obey our Father’s voice. Just as we shepherd our own children and do not allow them to stray too far, our Father too guides us and we recognize His voice when he speaks. In support of this statement I am drawn to John 10: 7-21 which tells about “Jesus the Good Shepherd”. (As I do not wish to write out the entire text I will give you the highlights.)

“So Jesus said again, ‘I am telling you the truth: I am the gate for the sheep. All others who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever comes in by me will be saved; he will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness.” (John 10:7-10.)

“‘I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep. When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away; so the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me. And I am willing to die for them. There are other sheep which belong to me that are not in this sheep pen. I must bring them, too; they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd.’” (John 10:11-16.)

My heart rejoices in that Christ knows me and I know Him and that I will listen to His voice and become one “flock” with Him as my shepherd.

I am told only 20% of those who say they are Christians read the bible and live by it on a daily basis. Why is it so hard for us to do what God asks of us yet the pleasures of sin come so easily? I talk about my biological father on a regular basis yet I find it difficult to talk openly about my heavenly Father. Could it be because we live in a society where that is no longer socially acceptable? When I recently asked my teenager why she did not want to go to church with me anymore as a “family” thing she said, “because this is religion”. I was confused as to why a once open, family event had become something segregated and private; “To each his own” in a manner of speaking. Why must our faith be unspoken? Has the world put restrictions on God’s precious word?

“The people preach at me and say, ‘Don’t preach at us. Don’t preach about all that. God is not going to disgrace us. Do you think the people of Israel are under a curse? Has the Lord lost His patience? Would he really do such things? Doesn’t he speak kindly to those who do right? (Micah 2:6 & 7.)

“The Lord replies, ‘You attack my people like enemies. Your sins have doomed this place to destruction. (Micah 2:8 & 10.)

“‘These people want the kind of prophet who goes around full of lies and deceit…(Micah 2:11.)

“‘But I will gather you together, all you people of Israel that are left. I will bring you together like sheep returning to the fold. Like a pasture full of sheep, your land will once again be filled with many people.’ (Micah 2:12.)

“‘Listen, you rulers of Israel! You are supposed to be concerned about justice, yet you hate what is good and love what is evil. You skin my people alive and tear the flesh off their bones. You eat my people up. You strip off their skin, break their bones, and chop them up like meat for the pot. The time is coming when you will cry out to the Lord but He will not listen to your prayers, for you have done evil.’” (Micah 3:1-4.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Where Does Christ Stand When it Comes to Children?

“Some people brought their babies to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them. The disciples saw them and scolded them for doing so, but Jesus called the children to Him and said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Remember this! Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17.)

I feel Christ is very clear here when he says we should not keep our children from Him but rather teach them and encourage them to seek Him. It saddens me when I see unbelieving parents teaching their children to deny Christ and to find comfort and a future within themselves and the world.

“They came to Capernaum, and after going indoors Jesus asked his disciples, 'What were you arguing about on the road?'

“But they would not answer Him because on the road they had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all.” Then He took a child and had him stand in front of them. He put His arms around him and said to them, “Whoever welcomes in my name one of these children, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not only me but also the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:33-37.)

So Jesus is telling us to “be the servant of all”, mainly children, and to keep our focus on God while in service to Him. But I cannot help but wonder why He has asked us to serve the children most of all. I believe it is for the same reason we are told, “But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. Then it will be a private matter. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3 & 4.) When we serve, we do it to glorify God not ourselves. It should not be an act for personal gain as the world encourages us to do. Take for example the lists distributed each year containing “The World’s Richest” and “The Largest Charities”. The world makes it a competition as to who is the best based on money and giving. When we serve children, they neither think like adults, nor do they act as adults. They take what we give to them and the recognition stops there. They do not announce it to everyone and our status in society remains as is. Hence, the focus stays on God just as it should.

I am reminded of what Christ teaches us about our children when I work with abused and neglected children within the court system; a system dependant on the honesty of man. Man who lies and manipulates the system for personal gain. But what we might forget is that nothing gets past God and Christ. They see all and know all, even the things we do in private. The world might not be able to hold us accountable for the things it does not know and cannot see but you can rest assured God will hold us accountable.

“So then, my brothers, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God – what is good and is pleasing to Him and is perfect.” (Romans 12: 1 & 2.)

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