Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Control Freak Part 4: Armor Up!


This really gets me pumped up! Nothing says control more than preparing for war. Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us explicit details on how to be ready for combat. Don't kid yourself - there IS a war that happens on a daily basis and every believer in Christ needs to be not only aware of it, but ready to fight against it.

I'm only going to discuss verses 10-11 for right now because these verses are packed!

Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. (NIV)

1. "be strong" (or "be empowered" in KJV) Greek - endunamoo' means I fill with power, strengthen, make strong; enable, increase in (to empower). I really like the English word-for-word translation of this, which is, "Henceforth, be empowered in [the] Lord, and in the strength of the might of him."

2. "put on" Greek - enduo means I put on, clothe, array. It is from en and duno (in the sense of sinking into a garment); to invest with clothing (literally or figuratively).

I visualize here "sinking into a garment" so that it feels so naturally fitted that it becomes a part of me.

3. "full armor" (or "complete armor" in KJV) Greek - panoplia means complete armor, panoply - properly means a complete set of defensive and offensive armor (weapons), i.e. everything needed to wage successful warfare; (figuratively) the full resources the Lord gives to the believer so they can successfully wage spiritual warfare. In this way they do not fight for victory - but from His victory!

Now that is so exciting to me! God does not leave me defenseless. He IS my defense!

(chasing a rabbit here. We have a annually an art festival called Panoply of the Arts. I find that title even more strange now that I know panoply means armor). Anyway...


...now on to the rest...

4a. "so that" the English word-for-word translation is "for, *to be able (see below)". The Greek word for "for" is pros. I almost didn't even look at this word because it is a preposition and I honestly didn't think it would have much of a definition. Boy, was I wrong! Pros means to, towards, with - properly a motion towards, to "interface with" (literally moving toward a goal or destination). It indicates "extension toward a goal, with implied interaction or reciprocity, with "presumed contact and reaction", naturally suggests the cycle of initiation and response.

While reading that definition I could not help but picture a battle. I could hear the clanging of swords and feel the air being cut with the swinging of blades. I pictured myself moving forward, making headway with the power of God enabling me to press on! WHEW! It's tiring, yet exhilarating!

4b. "so that", "to be able" (I'm breaking this up into two parts because it is how I understand it) The Greek for this part is dunamai. It means, I am powerful, am able, have (the) power; I am able, I can, to show ability; able (enabled by God), empowered.

5. "take your stand" Greek - histe'mi I cause to stand, I make to stand, place, set up, establish, appoint.

6. "schemes" (or "wiles" in KJV) Greek - methodeia (from where we get our English word "method"). The definition is simply scheming, craftiness, deceit, trickery (also means lie in wait).

Satan is waging war against the saints of God, there is no doubt about it. And even though we are often referred to as sheep, we are by no means helpless. That is, as long as we put on our full armor and take our stand!! The battle we are in is not a typical battle. This battle is for our mind. Satan schemes to deceive us into choosing our own way instead of God's way. He is out to have us question the sincerity of God, put doubts in our minds and sway us to disbelief.

I will later discuss verses 12-18, which describe our armor piece by piece. I urge you to read and study this passage thoroughly for yourself, even if you have done so before. It might be time for you to read it over again. Put a new shine on your armor! We want it to reflect the light so much so that our enemy is blinded even before he gets near enough to take a swing!






Saturday, December 10, 2011

Control Freak Part 3: See to it


This morning I was reading in Hebrews chapter 12, and verses 25-29 really stood out to me:

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
The words "see to it" (or "take heed" in the KJV) mean I look, see, perceive, discern; to see, be observant (watchful). It suggests "to see something physical with spiritual results (perception)." That is, it carries what is seen into the non-physical (immaterial) realm so a person can take the needed action (respond, beware, be alert).
The word "refuse" means, I make excuse, refuse, reject, I beg off, deprecate, decline, shun, avoid, have nothing to do with.
The words "turn away" mean I turn away, pervert, remove; i.e. depart (separate) from the previous point; incites rebellion
The writer of Hebrews is making it painfully clear that those who are children of God are to make certain (see to it) that we obey Him when He speaks to us! Again, let me remind you that this is something we choose to do or not. God is not going to force us to obey. He will discipline us, as any loving father would do (read Hebrews 12:6-8), but ultimately our decisions are ours. We will always, without fail, live with the consequences of our decisions, however. So it is extremely important to obey God's voice if we want to live a life of peace (inner peace) and rest (spiritual rest). I differentiate peace as "inner peace" and rest as "spiritual rest" because we are not promised life here on earth to be easy breezy.

While reading these verses, I was reminded of times in my past when I refused to listen to God, making excuse after excuse. Those were without fail the times when I struggled the most. I wish I could say that I quickly learned my lesson, but that wasn't the case. I still wrestle with doing things my way. Although, I do think that I'm much closer to "getting it" than I have ever been. The only way I will truly and fully understand what pleases God, is to be in the Word on a consistent basis, and to be in prayer continually. Prayer is probably THE biggest thing that God is teaching me right now. I will try to talk more about it in the future.
I also want to point out how we are to "worship God with reverence and fear". This is something else that God is helping me to better understand. I used to think that worship was merely singing songs about God to God. That is simply too simple! My LIFE is to be a life of worship. In other words, everything I say and do should be perceived by God as a deliberate act of worship of Him (see Romans 12). You know, I think this subject deserves a post of it's own!





Friday, December 2, 2011

Control Freak Part 2: Letting Go

For a control freak like myself, the thought of letting go of anything is a bit unnerving. However, God has instructed His children to do just that. In Psalm 46:10a it says, "Be still and know that I am God". Or, as the New American Standard Bible puts it, "Cease, and know that I am God".

The Hebrew word for cease is raphah. It means sink, relax. The Hebrew word for know is yada, which means acknowledge, acquainted with, advise, answer, appoint, assuredly, be aware (bold mine).

After reading a few commentaries on this passage, I decided that there was no way I could better explain it, so here is what the Barnes' Notes on the Bible has to say (again I will bold the words that stand out to me, which is pretty much the entire commentary):

Be still - The word used here - from רפה râphâh - means properly to cast down; to let fall; to let hang down; then, to be relaxed, slackened, especially the hands: It is also employed in the sense of not making an effort; not putting forth exertion; and then would express the idea of leaving matters with God, or of being without anxiety about the issue. Compare Exodus 14:13, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God." In this place the word seems to be used as meaning that there was to be no anxiety; that there was to be a calm, confiding, trustful state of mind in view of the displays of the divine presence and power. The mind was to be calm, in view of the fact that God had interposed, and had shown that he was able to defend his people when surrounded by dangers. If this the divine interposition when Jerusalem was threatened by the armies of the Assyrians under Sennacherib, the force and beauty of the expression will be most clearly seen.

And know that I am God - See, in what I have done, the evidence that I am God. See a work accomplished which none "but" God could effect. Compare Isaiah 37:36.

Now, I do not speak for all control freaks (I don't think they would appreciate that anyway), but personally I do occasionally appreciate it when someone else wants to take over and handle things. It is typically after I have tried everything I know to do and am failing miserably, so this verse is especially applicable to me. Although, I am learning to cease on a more consistent basis and let God be in control in the first place. There's the thing - I let God be in control. You see, He is not going to force me to do anything. Even though He knows that HE KNOWS better and can work things out for me far above what I ever imagined, He is not going to force His will on me, or anyone, for that matter. The God of the universe wants me to WANT HIM, and He, being the eternal God that He is, waits patiently for me to figure that out.


Here is Psalm 46 in its entirety (click on the link and listen):

Link

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Control Freak Part 1

Off and on throughout the years of my Christian walk, I have often wondered what it is that God wants me to do. You see, I'm a bit of a control freak. I like being in control. There - I admit it! The term "control freak" is generally considered a derogatory term. However, I have asked God to help me turn this around in my life in such a way that it is actually a positive thing. God is faithful, and He is continually showing me ways to do just that. I will be sharing these ways in a series of posts. I hope you will be encouraged and empowered as you see how God reveals to us how to be in control!

Let me begin the series with Hebrews 3:1

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. (NIV)

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, (ESV)

Notice that the NIV uses "fix your thoughts on Jesus", and the ESV uses "consider Jesus". I did a word search on the term "consider" (because it is also what the KJV uses, and most word studies use the KJV). Here is what I learned:

The Greek word for "consider" is katanoeo. This comes from two other Greek words: katah, which denotes intensity, and noieo, which means to exercise the mind; to think from up to down, to a conclusion. The full definition of katanoeo means to observe fully: - behold, consider, discover, perceive. (source: http://www.e-sword.net/)

I then looked up the definitions to behold, consider, discover and perceive, and it gave me a better understanding and appreciation for the Greek definition of katanoeo.

  • behold - to perceive by the visual faculty; see. To perceive through use of the mental faculty; comprehend.
  • consider - to think about carefully... to look at thoughtfully.
  • discover - to notice or learn, especially by making an effort.
  • perceive - to become aware of directly through any of the senses, especially sight or hearing. To achieve understanding of, apprehend.
(source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/)

So, in order to be in control, I need to perceive through my mental faculty, think about carefully, especially by making an effort to achieve understanding of Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us that we (believers in Christ) have the mind of Christ. This passage in Hebrews has a lot of meaning to me in that it encourages me (and all followers of Christ) to use our brains! We are not mindless robots, but we are "holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling", and we are to "fix our thoughts on Jesus". Controlling our minds is vital to a victorious spiritual life. There are multiple Scriptures that point to this truth, however, I will stop here for now.

So, my fellow control freaks, take heart! We are called to be in control - of our minds. Consider Jesus today, all day, and in the days to come.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why does lettuce remind me of the Body of Christ?

Lettuce*
Lettuce "bolting"*

Lettuce going to seed*
Lettuce seed*


The above pictures show you what lettuce looks like when it is allowed to bolt and go to seed. I don't know if you can tell, but in the third photo the plant has many branches that are holding multiple flowers containing several seeds.

The other day I was outside working with some of the branches that I had cut off earlier this year. I was shaking out the branches to let the seeds fall out. I started thinking about how awesome it is that one plant produces so many seeds. Then it occurred to me that the Body of Christ is similar. We are ONE body with MANY members, just as the lettuce plant is ONE plant with MANY seeds. One plant has multiple stems branching out in different directions, all containing seeds. The Body of Christ has members branching out in different directions and hopefully not only containing the seed of the Gospel, but actually spreading that seed. Now, some of the seeds will fall onto good soil and grow into their own strong, healthy plant ready to produce more seed, and some seeds will, unfortunately, fall onto poor soil never to be seen from again. We can't always tell whether or not the soil is good, so we just need to go ahead and spread that seed anyway.

I don't know from year to year whether or not the seeds I plant in my garden will produce a bountiful harvest for my family, but it doesn't keep me from planting. Of course after planting, it's vital that I watch over the garden and tend to it so that it will flourish. I have to be diligent in keeping the pests away. I have to feed it with additional fertilizers (compost) so that it will grow strong and healthy. I have to pull out the weeds that want to take over and choke out the good stuff. I also have to water it faithfully and make sure it gets plenty of sun.

The spiritual analogies that I see simply from having a garden continually bless me! God is so good in His provision and His creation is beyond awesome. I only pray that I will take the things He shows me and put them into action. He has definitely been working on me in that area. It's not enough to be aware of God's truth, it must be acted upon!


*not my photos

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

hypocrisy drives me nuts

I can no longer sit here and listen to protests against Wall Street, Banks, and the rich in general. Many celebrities and leaders in Washington who are supporting the "Occupy Wall Street" and other protests across the nation ARE the rich! It is preposterous to me for them to speak out against themselves. Why are so many average Americans buying into this insanity?! How can you in one breath say that the stock market and banks are evil and then with another breath tell your broker to buy more shares of GE? The hypocrisy is driving me crazy! I can NOT stand double standards, especially one as huge as this one. OWS is NOT the same as the Tea Party. OWS protesters want to destroy America's economic system while the Tea Party wants to build it back up. There is simply no comparison.

Just in case you would like to know how much our leaders in Washington are "worth" and how much some celebrities are "worth", here are just a few links that I came across rather quickly. Of course, I'm assuming the information is accurate, but I suppose the only way to be certain would be to see the actual financial statements of each person. Oh, and I find it a bit too convenient that the push for higher taxes is focusing on those who have more than 100 million dollars. (By the way, I only listed Democratic leaders because they are the "rich should pay their fare share" bandwagon)

Washington:

Barack Obama has an estimated net worth of $10.5 million dollars.

Harry Reid has a net worth of $5 million

Nancy Pelosi has a net worth of $35.2 million


http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/overview.php


http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/jul2003/sen-j07.shtml


http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2011/06/16/2011-06-16_house_minority_leader_nancy_pelosis_wealth_grows_62_to_352m_boehner_reids_worth_.html

http://dailycaller.com/2011/10/10/obama-attacks-banks-while-raking-in-wall-street-dough/

Celebrities:

Susan Sarandon has a net worth of $50 million.

Michael Moore has a net worth of $50 million.

Harry Belafonte has a net worth of $28 million.

Matt Damon $65 million

George Clooney has a net worth of $160 million

Danny Glover has a net worth of $15 million


http://www.celebritynetworth.com

http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/03/celebs-support-wall-street-protestors/

http://www.businessinsider.com/occupy-wall-street-celebrities-2011-10?op=1

http://michellemalkin.com/2011/10/05/celebs-wall-street-protesters/

My head is about to explode!



Friday, July 1, 2011

The Backside of Sin & How the Bible is Like a Cucumber Plant

The main reason I'm thankful God gave me a desire to plant a garden is because of the several different spiritual truths He has shown me through the process of preparing, harvesting and maintaining it. God has also blessed us with a blackberry bush that grows wild in our backyard. We discovered it just three years ago. We have been living in this same location for 17 years, so the recent discovery was quite the surprise!

While picking blackberries earlier today, God showed me another awesome spiritual analogy that I would like to share. When you look at a blackberry bush you see beautiful green leaves surrounding the fruit. The leaves are quite attractive and appear harmless. However, once you reach in to grab hold of the fruit, you realize that on the back side of these leaves there are several thorns! If one gets attached to your hand and/or arm, you know it! These tiny little thorns hurt a great deal. Sometimes they break off and stick into your skin causing it to swell up and redden. So as I was precariously picking berries today I realized how the leaves can represent sin. Sin always look so attractive to us. It's only after we dive in do we realize there are always thorns on the back side that dig in and give us pain.

Now for the cucumber plant analogy. I'm trying my hand at pickling this year, so I need to daily check the cucumber plants for small cucumbers (about 4" in size in case you're wondering). After glancing through the vines and spotting a few cucumbers, I always go back for a second, more thorough look. You see, the cucumbers blend in with the vines (especially when they are small), so I don't always see everything that is there right away. As I was gently picking up the vines and lifting the leaves in order to find more cucumbers, I thought of how it is with the Bible. Many times I will look through familiar passages thinking there is nothing left to "see". However, when I take the time to look deeper and more thoroughly, I always find something new!

God is amazing, isn't He? His creation is not only for our benefit in that it provides physical nutrients; if we really think about things - that is, meditate on Him - we will be delighted to find that He also provides spiritual nutrition to us through His creation as well!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ripple Effect


It pains me beyond description that I feel the need to even address the issue of sin. However, since it has been a problem since the beginning of time, it's silly of me, actually, to be so alarmed when I see it happening, even within the church body. What I don't get is this mind-set that so many of us have that our sins are simply our sins. This is a huge deception!

When I sin, I hurt God, I hurt myself, but it goes beyond even that - WAY BEYOND! There have been times in my past when I deliberately disobeyed God and the repercussions significantly damaged others besides myself. Friends, family, the name of Christ - all hurt because of decisions made based on selfish desires.

An illustration could be tossing a pebble into a pond. You see the initial plunge and then... the ripples, which start at the center, but then continue to go outward in all directions. Now I know that was a very elementary explanation. Sadly, we all need simple reminders. We are not alone in this world. Our decisions go way beyond us. There are multitudes of people who will feel the effects of our day-t0-day decisions and choices.

Exodus 20:4-7
You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.





When we choose to sin, we are choosing to bring pain not only into our lives, but into many innocent bystanders (for lack of a better word). We are essentially saying that OUR wants are more important than anything or anyone else.

Thankfully, mercifully, there is always an opportunity for redemption! Jesus tells us over and over again that if we will confess our sins and repent (turn away from), we will be forgiven. However, we need to remember that the repercussions don't magically vanish; we will most likely still suffer the consequences. But we can rest in the assurance that God can and will grow us, even improve us - if we are willing to surrender.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Talking Things Through

It's difficult to know how much to "talk through" on such a public space as a blog. Especially when it concerns the body of Christ. I would never want to say or do anything that hurts the body of Christ. It's just that what I've been seeing lately bothers me a great deal.

There are believers who are content to continue in the traditional way of things; meaning that they are happy to keep on doing things because it's "always been done that way" or that's the way they were taught and so on. I can understand that mentality to a certain extent. I mean, honestly, it's just easier to do things that way or believe like that. Change requires work and inner reflection. Most of us, myself included, don't really like change. However, our relationship with Jesus Christ needs to be one that is constantly changing - for the better.

When we were born physically, we were small and defenseless. We had no other choice but to depend on the knowledge and skills of those in charge of our care. However, the older we got, we were expected to take on more and more responsibilities for our own care. It's the same thing with our spiritual lives. God doesn't want us to remain in infancy. We are to gradually take responsibility for our own personal growth and begin reaching out to others who are young in the faith and help nurture them into spiritual adulthood. This is a challenging thing to do when so many people who should be spiritual mentors, still require mentors themselves, and see no problem with that.

Doing things because they've "always been done that way" might be the easy thing to do, but is it the Biblical thing to do? If we're not even willing to look to Scripture for the answer to that, then our growth will be stunted.

I mentioned that spiritual change and growth requires work and inner reflection. Inner reflection, I think, is too threatening to most. Those of us who have received Christ as our Lord and Savior, although redeemed, are not completely sanctified at the moment of our spiritual birth. Sanctification is something we have to move toward. In Psalm 139:23, the psalmist says, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts". We need to look inside our hearts and ask God to do the same. We need to be willing to recognize any sin that might be lingering there. If we're not willing to do that, our growth will be stunted.

There are other things going through my mind that I am not yet able to put into words. I will try, however, to talk through the mumbled mess in my head. The term "body" that Paul uses so often to describe believers in Christ continues to stand out to me.

There is something about pain in our physical bodies that we do not like, but it is a necessity. If we don't feel pain, we won't know there is potentially a problem. However, if we do feel pain but constantly take pain killers to numb the pain, we might be ignoring THE symptom that our body is trying to get us to notice that there IS a problem (I know I probably could have worded that better, but that is the best I have right now). I believe Paul said that if one member of the body is hurting, then the entire body will hurt. Well, I am a member of the body of Christ, and I'm hurting. I feel more like an artificial limb than an actual body part. That might not be the best description, because it's not that I don't feel like a legitimate member of Christ's body, I know without a doubt that I am. Like I said, I'm not quite able to put my thoughts into words right now. I'm still talking things through.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How much is enough?

LOTS on my mind these days. A few days ago I completed a Bible study called "Living Like You Belong to God", a Precept Ministries study. There were some hard things for me to swallow in this one. Overall it's a study on how we, as believers in Jesus Christ, are to be holy. The things I am trying to sort out are: 1) concerning the foods we eat, and 2) recognizing/respecting government authority. There was more to the study, but these two issues are the ones I don't feel I have completely or accurately embraced. I'm not even sure how to fully explain my thought process on these issues - I am that torn. I trust the Holy Spirit to reveal to me at the proper time exactly what He wants me to understand WHEN He wants me to understand it. My salvation is secure regardless of whether or not I choose to continue to eat pork, however, I sincerely want to be holy for God is holy.

As far as government authority is concerned, I am torn in how far my respect for my leaders is expected to go. I mean there are not very many political leaders worthy of respect these days. The decisions being made supposedly on our behalf go against my principles! Is it wrong for me to desire and even demand that the people I vote for stand up for what is right? Is it wrong for me to stand up for what is right? I honestly don't know how much is enough.

To add to those thoughts concerning government participation, are the concerns I have regarding the stability of our nation and even the globe. It appears that this supposed "New World Order" is closer than ever before. George Soros is a man who is promoting this agenda more and more. There are university professors and community organizers encouraging "revolution", even specifying "striking", "blocking streets", "closing down schools", etc. There are even radical ideas concerning "population reduction", which I believe goes beyond the abhorrent Planned Parenthood.

So why do these things concern me? The dilemma, in my mind, is how much involvement is enough? It seems to be that all of these things are happening because we are in the end times. So I wonder if I am just to sit back and watch it all happen, or am I supposed to step up and speak up? Anyone following me? Like I said, my thoughts go around and around so much on these issues that I get frustrated.

To those close to me, you know how passionate I am about being informed, being educated, being aware of what's going on. BUT IS THAT ENOUGH?!