Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Living Sacrifices

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship."
Romans 12:1

Sometimes we realize we’ve grown cold or have strayed from our walk with the Lord. We find ourselves wanting to recommit our lives to the Lord and to gain back a sense of intimacy and belonging we have had with Him. There is nothing wrong with this desire, but we need to remember that recommitments don’t get us more love or forgiveness from the Lord. In fact, it is because of God's mercy that Paul encouraged the Romans to offer their bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God. We want to understand what a holy and pleasing sacrifice is. 
First, we are called to be holy because God is holy. We were created in His image and restored to a right relationship with God when we accepted Christ. That is positional holiness. With that restoration comes a responsibility to grow in personal holiness. For some, that means we need to repent from outward obvious sin and replace the sin with godly behavior. For some of us it may mean we need to repent of sin that is internal—like ungodly thoughts, self-centered attitudes, or pride. Simply put, sin is anything we do or think that's contrary to the character of God. The way to become more like Him so we reflect His character is to spend time with Him. We can ask the Lord to examine our hearts because we have the tendency to deceive ourselves. We’ll never be perfect, but in the relationship we have with God, we have the ability and the power through faith to walk in obedience. As believers, we have the ability through our relationship with God to reflect His character. It may take a lot of prayer, accountability, and faith to overcome sinful patterns, but it’s possible.
There are several ways we can offer sacrifices to the Lord with our bodies. With our mouth we can offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. We can offer eternal life to those we know by sharing the gospel with them. We can offer prayers for others. With our ears we can offer a sacrifice of listening to God and others. With our hands we can offer service to others and meet their needs for the Lord, which in God’s economy is the same as doing it for Jesus. With our bodies we can work so we can help to meet the needs of those who can’t work. With our bodies we can offer friendships that are centered on the Lord by giving our time, energy and our hearts to those in need of relationship.
I think the most important part for us to give is our heart. Christ has called us to love God with all of our heart, mind, strength, and soul and to love others as He has loved us. It is a command, not a suggestion. In James, God talks about loving without hypocrisy and Paul echoes the same sentiment when he tells us that we should love sincerely. When my husband and I were in college we knew each other because we hung out in the same circle of friends. At first I mostly felt neutral about him and tolerated him, After we talked in-depth, I remember thinking I would never want to date him, much less marry him. Then one day we were at his fraternity house throwing a party for some orphans and one of the orphans was severely handicapped. All of a sudden, he grabbed on to his private parts and started dancing in a circle because he needed to use the restroom. All of the guys, except my husband, turned away and pretended they had not noticed. My husband went over to the kid, picked him up, and took him to the bathroom. When they came out he had not only washed his hands, but his face as well. He had even taken the time to comb his hair and tuck in the little guys shirt. He looked totally different. I realized that day my husband had character that the others did not. He had reflected God's character by loving the little guy who was needy, not self-sufficient, and different. I believe that is the kind of love the Lord has for people. He loved the lame, the blind, and the deaf. He hung out with the poor, the sinful, and the unimportant ones. He cared for those who were being tortured by demons or struggling with health issues everyone else ignored.  
When we read the gospels, we see His disciples would have even been difficult to be around at times. They had doubts. They argued like little children. They judged others harshly. They were put off by children coming around Jesus. They fell asleep in the middle of prayer meetings. They denied knowing Him. They lied when others asked about their relationships with Him. They ran when the going got tough! One even betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Yet, He chose to wash their feet, an intimate act of service that expressed His honor for them.
Some good question to ask ourselves at the end of the day are: “Who have I loved in Jesus’ name today?” “How did I demonstrate that love?” “Did I trust Jesus with all areas of my l8ife today?” “Am I being honest with Him about my struggle to be like Him?” “Would I be comfortable asking Him to examine my heart right now?” “Is my life an act of worship?”

Prayer: Father, we thank You for Your word and for Your love. Thank You for Your mercy. Help us to understand what it really means to be a living sacrifice for You. May we honor you in all that we do, , or think! May your character be imprinted on our lives today. Amen. 

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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!