Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Be You Holy

"But, as he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of life, 
because it is written, "Be you holy; for I am holy.'"

I Peter 1:15-16

Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you read a verse like the one above? I do. God is so holy and we so aren't. Paul's writings made it clear that we are holy because of Christ's payment for our sin and our position being in Him. The above verse tells us we are commanded to live out that holiness. Yet, I find myself often struggling with living up to the holiness of God, which is hard to wrap my mind around. Paul's writings in Romans 7:14-19 normalize my struggle as the passage describes his own struggle with holiness. He says that he finds himself not doing the good he desires to do and finds himself doing the evil that he desires not to do. There are a few practical principles that can help us grow in holiness.
First, we are called to a life of holiness that is patterned after the Lord's – not the world's view of holiness. Holiness is not relative to the various situations we find ourselves in, but it is according to God's word. We must realize the world taints our view of holiness or we become desensitized to sin. We would do well to ask the Lord to give us His perspective of holiness and sin. We can even ask Him to give us sensitive consciences. It’s important to realize we will automatically grow in Holiness as we develop our relationship with the Lord. The more we learn to love Him the more we will desire to obey Him and to turn away from all that hurts our relationship with Him. 
Secondly, we need to remember God has given us everything we need in the scripture that enables us to live holy lives. (2 Peter 1:3) That includes instruction, reproof, correction, exhortation, and encouragement. He also has told us He will not give us more than we can handle, but with temptation He will give us a way of escape. (1 Corinthians 1:13) These truths indicate living a life of holiness requires faith that God has provided what we need to grow and will provide strength in the face of each temptation. Every temptation is an opportunity to see God work in our lives.
Next, a very important part of the process of growing in holiness is reaching a point we are in tune enough with God’s Word we actually consistently call evil evil and good good. It is God’s desire we learn to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates. (Romans 12:9) If we are neutral about evil and don't hate it, we have the potential to move in the direction of it. This doesn't mean hating people – just the evil they do. 
There are several reasons to hate evil. First, it doesn’t reflect our Creator. Second, evil damages the person who is acting evilly and it damages those around him. For example, premarital sex has spread painful horrible diseases that kill. It also has done tremendous emotional damage to the people involved in it. Pornography does not just affect those who look at it. Several years ago a county in Florida took all pornography out of it and the number of rapes and childhood perpetration decreased significantly. Sin has its roots in pride and self-centeredness and it results in pain and broken relationships. The scripture uses strong words to describe sin. It is not a disorder, nor is it a developmental issue; it is sin. Sin is serious because it separated us from God and made us His enemies. It helps us to abhor evil if we look at sin as God does in the Scripture, calling sin sin. 
As we learn to hate evil we will be driven with the desire to replace wrong behavior with righteous behavior. Romans 6:13 says, "Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." To overcome sin we need to do something that is incompatible with what we are trying to overcome. If we have struggled with hatred, we need to do something loving. If we have been lying we need to practice telling the truth. If we have stolen, we need to find a way to give. If we have been disrespectful to authority figures, we need to look for ways to honor them. 
Lastly, our motives for trying to be holy need to be loving and honoring God – not just hiding our faults, getting other people to look up to us, or making us feel better about ourselves. It is simply to show God love and to return to the place that we bearer his image as He originally designed us to do. We would do well to remember that sometimes all an unbeliever knows about our great God and Savior is what they see in us.

Prayer: Father, we praise You because You are Holy. We thank You that You have declared us righteous because of Christ's death. We ask that you help us to hate evil and to cling to what is good. We also ask that You help us to recognize temptation in its earliest stages and that You will help us make choices that will replace sinful habits with Godly behavior. Amen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bearing Burdens

"Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…
For every man shall bear his own burden."

Galatians 6:2, 5

Sometimes the Lord is gracious to bring the truth of His word alive to us through life examples. I was fortunate to see one of those life lessons unfold during a youth retreat. I had the privilege of watched Chris Riser, the speaker, interact with his six-year-old son as they did activities together. The biggest lesson came as I watched them climb a rock wall. I was near tears when they finished. The scene of them together reminded me of the above verses as well as the relationship we have with our Abba Father.
Josiah began climbing on the easy part of the wall while his father began climbing on the level next to him. At first, they were even and then the dad slowed down a little and let his son get a little above him. Just as Josiah got too high for the spotters to reach him, Chris scooted over vertically and was just underneath his son. He spoke calmly, gently encouraging his son to reach for the next stone, suggesting which stones to step on and which ones to reach for. With his experience and guidance Josiah was able to successfully climb up the wall. At one point there was a really big stretch for the little guy. His dad stretched his arm to the next rock and told him to step on his arm and reach for the next rock up with his hand. For a brief moment the dad bore the total weight of his child. The rest of the way Josiah did well and was able to pull his own weight in the climb. For a few moments the lower part of Josiah's legs were totally hidden by his dad and it was like they were one unit working together. 
Josiah totally began the climb on his own with just the instruction he was receiving and spotters. He was fully carrying his own weight. Then his dad became his teacher even though Josiah pretty much did most of the work. When he reached the spot that he could not have gotten past, his dad became his strength and even his rock. After that point, he was off and climbing again. That is the way we are to be in the church. We are each responsible for loving and serving other people and bearing our own responsibilities. There are times, however, when we become weak, hurt, or lack the experience we need to handle things and we need someone to come alongside and help us. It may be our friends, a pastor, a mentor, our church, or a Christian counselor. I have realized that if I am doing my "job" as a youth worker correctly, there will comes a time I am no longer needed. Chris only gave Josiah what was needed so he would gain experience and become stronger and more independent in rock climbing. Sometimes he was quiet, sometimes instructing, and sometimes he was Josiah's strength. He didn't baby him, nor did he leave him to fail. 
The other picture I saw in Chris and Josiah's relationship is that he learned a lot about God from His dad. Chris loves rock climbing and does it well. He invited Josiah to start learning it and Josiah took him up on it. Watching Chris on the wall, I realized he had a perspective of the whole wall that Josiah did not have at six years old. He was very calm and would lean back a little and scan the wall and convey to Josiah what he needed to do. He also knew his son and knew what his strengths and weaknesses were and he encouraged him without making him feel like a "loser." If he lost his footing, he guided him so his foot was back on course. The amazing thing was that Josiah listened carefully, trusted his father's advice, and obeyed his instructions. Their relationship is a picture of the way God relates to us and it is a picture of how we should we should respond to God. He has a complete perspective of our lives while we only see the little "rocks" or lack of “rocks” ahead of us. Through His word and His Spirit He guides us through life if we listen like Josiah did. We,too,  will be safe if we choose to obey God's voice. When we are weak, He offers us His strength.
Through the community of the church He provides people who help bear burdens that are too heavy for us. We need to listen and obey God like Josiah did. We may need to allow others in on our struggles and let them come along side of us and encourage us with God's truth. When we can admit our fear and our need for guidance, others can impart their courage and wisdom into our hearts. When we are struggling we need to let them hold us accountable. We also need to listen to godly people who speak His truth with open hearts. God is like Chris in that He is upholding us in this life and is our rock when there is nothing to stand on. Even more evident in Chris and Josiah's relationship was love and the fruit that is found in consistent parenting. Several students told me they heard Josiah tell his dad when he thought his dad did a good job on an activity. Josiah had already begun to reflect the loving and encouraging heart of his father. In the same way we should be reflecting our Abba to others by emulating Christ’s example. 
Our heavenly Father loves us and is instructing us -- are we, listening intently? He is our rock -- are we standing on HIM? 

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving us real life examples of your truths. Your word should be our delight and our instruction, please give us ears to hear and hearts to obey. Thank you for your faithfulness to uphold us and keep us from falling. Help us to become people who seek to bless your heart. Amen.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!