Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Undeserving

Many of my posts to this journal have focused on the hurting and the needy. Sometimes focusing on my neighbor next door. Sometimes focusing on my neighbor half a world away. It is of the latter that my heart is turned at this entry. I've been pondering my involvement with the organizations I support and asking myself is it enough. It will never be enough, but has my heart become content with my efforts. I fear in recent months it has as we have turned our focus inward toward our own adoption challenges.

Through this introspective reflection, I have been poignantly made aware of the vicious and demonic presence still at large in the lands that I support works of relief and hope. This week I learned of a seven year old child that was murdered by a family member who then committed suicide. No good reasoning was given. This little boy was dear to the workers at the carepoint who regularly fed and cared for him, even becoming one of their "favorite" children. The entire carepoint is devastated. The other children all knew him, played with him. A beautiful smile, a beautiful life, extinguished. Even half a world away I struggle to understand why. I desire to help.

God dropped this into my spirit as I reflected on these events. Supposing, I in all of my American affluence did help. I, having more privilege, more freedom, and more material blessing than most people on this earth will ever know in their natural lives, pooled my resources and I was able to put forth a relief effort of some magnitude. Sounds good doesn't it? Doesn't sound unrealistic - one of the ministries I support is doing just that, sending a team in a matter of weeks to Swaziland. Now suppose that rather than go myself, I send my son. For this illustration's sake, he is grown. Now I can honestly tell you that I have never seen a boy with a bigger heart for others than my son. I am astounded at his compassion and love for others and he is only nine years of age. My pride in him swells my heart and my love for him moves me very nearly to tears. He is truly the apple of my eye and I am honored to be his father, honored to have a part in his upbringing, and I know I will be proud of the man he will become.

Now my son, endowed with the good will and the considerable resources our culture and fund raising efforts, heads to these far off lands to minister. He brings clothing, he brings supplies, he brings desperately needed food, he brings equipment for building water purification wells - something desperately needed throughout east/central Africa. He brings coloring books and crayons for the kids, backpacks, shoes and schools supplies. He brings funds to put kids in school, which is for most their only way out of poverty and death. My son brings life, he brings hope, he brings a future. It would stand to reason that my son would be well received, wouldn't? It would make sense that every place his feet touched down, life and freedom would follow.

What if instead, when he arrived, he was brutally murdered - his body left in the bush for the animals to devour. The resources and goods brought with him stolen and scattered with only a fraction of the intended recipients actually benefitting from our months of hard work stateside. How would his mother and I cope with the loss, the devastation? Would I be justified to never consider those barbaric people again, to harbor them ill will for the rest of my natural days? To never send another cent in support of the people that did this to my child - my first born son? What if this were your child? How would your world unravel?

Consider that God sent his Son, the very apple of His eye, from royalty and unimaginable glory, to an impoverished and dying earth, to a people in deperation. He sent him to bring life, hope, and a future, and they killed him. Their sin killed him, my sin killed him, your sin killed him, we all killed him. This is why we are admonished in the Word to "judge not". There is not one of us who has the slightest minuscule right to look down our noses and judge another person, judge their heart, or their motives. Only God knows the heart. Certainly we will know people by the fruit of their lives, but love is to be the over riding motivation in everything we do. We have no recourse to judge, for when we start down this path, we are on shaky ground, we who like the one we are judging, put our savior on the cross with our own sin.

The good news is, we are not undeserving wretches, cowering before an angry God still enraged that his Son was nailed to a cross for our sakes. Because of this willful sacrifice of ultimate love, we are now all of us adopted sons and daughters, joint heirs with our risen Savior if we'll have him as Lord in our lives. We are no longer the undeserving, we are the favored children of the King. As children, we are emulate his character and foremost in his character is love, grace, and mercy towards the undeserving.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Your Heart Determines Your Reality

“For as he (a man) thinks in his heart, so he is…” Proverbs 23:7 AMP

The Hebrew here literally means as a man reasons and calculates, those things that he spends time pondering and thinking about, meditating and even worrying about – it is those things that will consume him, it is those things that will overtake and devour his life – become the reality of his existence. This has both positive and negative potential application and we need to be cognizant of both sides of this spiritual law in our lives because we are the ones in control of whether we will walk in God’s blessings or destroy ourselves through unbelief and disobedience.

I am right now in a spiritual conflict in which, I will admit, the enemy has been putting me on my back repeatedly. Attitudes, turmoil, and strife - all of these have been surfacing regularly and I can’t seem to get the upper hand no matter how hard I try. I’ve been feeling the old axiom “one step forward two steps back” for some time now and it hasn’t been the “I’m a little off today” kind of conflict. It’s affecting my relationships, my family, my walk with my Father, my demeanor. Others are noticing and people are commenting. Frankly, I’m embarrassed. I’m supposed to be “Christian-guy” ; “On-fire-for-the-Lord-Fella” ; “Model-Husband” ; “Good-Father” ; “Man-with-God’s-vision-for-his-life”. Right now that vision is murky, I’ve been everything but model for some time, and most days I don’t even want to be around other people.

What happened? Did I “burn out”? Admittedly, there have been amazing changes in our lives in the past 8 months. You don’t initiate the adoption of a “special needs” four-year old with a history of severe abuse and neglect and not have it alter your life in some way. Yes, my job has intensified in pressure and demands fairly significantly in recent months. Yes the economy is going down the toilet and costs are rising affecting our home budget. Oddly (of course) family interactions have been resurfacing in hurtful ways as well. But these are all exterior things. Was my walk with my Lord so shaky that I faltered so quickly? “For as a man thinks in his heart, so he is…”

My problem has never been that of a lack of effort. I have been putting out more effort in more directions than I’ve ever considered possible by myself or most humans, and now, I sit here some months later an exhausted shell, numb and desiring to withdraw. No, my problem is a lack of focus, a lack of wisdom – of putting first things first.

When we fill our hearts/minds with the problems of our lives and this becomes the sum total of what we are acting on, then we’ve already lost the game called life. And the enemy will insure that there is more than enough to fill and even overflow our minds to the point of creating a dizzying array of issues that keep us leaping from one fire to the next trying to play “catch-up” as we endeavor to control all of the issues in our lives. When we enter this arena – we are lost because this is his territory, his chaos, his game and he masterfully manipulates the outcome to his advantage and victory every time because it is our limited flesh and intellect against his timeless spirit and knowledge of the ages.

However, when we do as the Lord tells us further down in this same chapter – the game changes to a whole new venue with a whole new set of rules.

Verse 12 “Commit yourself to instruction, listen carefully to words of knowledge”

Verse 17 “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord all the day long.”

Consider also Psalm 119:11

“I have hidden your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you.”

In this arena, the enemy is defeated. In this arena, regardless of exterior circumstance and external attack, we draw upon a wellspring of strength that is mightier than everything Hell has in its combined arsenal. But this arena begins by what is pondered and meditated upon in the mind and heart. For we know that what ever is dominant in the heart is that which will come forth from the mouth and it is with the mouth that we speak the Word of Faith. Our tongues are always speaking faith – it is constantly rolling from our lips in one of two forms; that which produces life, or that which destroys it. This is why James goes to great lengths to warn us of the tongue’s potential for destruction in James 3.

Where I fail to focus, to meditate, on what God’s Word says about my circumstance instead of what the enemy has convinced me about it, this is when I lose power, lose victory over the circumstance, disengage the power of God to work supernaturally in my circumstance to bless me and make a show of the enemy. You can’t sow doubt, discouragement, and unbelief into the circumstances of your life and expect to harvest a victory. This doesn’t mean you deny the existence of your circumstance. But we DO deny our circumstances’ right to rule and proclaim the Word over them.

For me, and for all of us, it’s a heart condition – the Word has to be in my heart. The Word has to be active and alive in my heart, discerning the thoughts and intents as stated in Hebrews 4:12. For my heart, not my exterior circumstances, determine my quality of life, my relationships, my capacity to love like God loves and fulfill his plans and will for my life. My heart determines my reality.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Performing to the Extreme

Just a quick entry, but something that was a blessing to me. Was reading in Philippians today, the first chapter and hit verse six which says:
"And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ, right up to the time of His return, developing that good work and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you." (Phil 1:6 AMP)

These are familiar words to me and probably to most that regularly read the Word or have heard many sermons, but as I'm prone to do, I was pulling the words apart in my concordance when one word stopped me...the word "until". Now this scripture is one that many, including me, rely on regularly to remind ourselves that we are works in progress. We will never see the end product of what God is doing with us while we walk this mortal terrestrial soil as it currently resides in its sin-laden state. We'll never see the end result of God's plan unfolded while we walk in this physical unregenerate flesh. It's a fact. As a matter-of-fact, this flesh and this sin-laden world are the only tools the enemy has left to try to pull us out of God's destiny for us, his only remaining options to trip us up - and they are truly weak options when we really grasp hold of the power of the Word and Victory achieved at the Cross.

Like I stated, I tend to look to this scripture, among others, to remind that regardless of the guilt that inevitably floods forth with my failings, I cannot mess up God's designs or plans for me to the point of being unuseful in the manner He planned. But where the word "until" strikes is in its true and full meaning from translation. The Greek word is "achri" and is derivative of another word "akron" which means "to the furthest point, to the highest extreme of a.) heaven and b.) earth ". It is also related to another word "akmēn" which means "extremity, climax, highest degree".

This should really impact the knowledge of the lengths and depths of our redemption and the ongoing work that God is doing within us. Have you ever thought of yourself as a work in progress "to the extreme of heaven AND earth"? Have you ever considered yourself something the Creator of all that exists was continually perfecting to the "highest degree"?

So you swore today. Repent, put it under the blood, walk the opposite way and don't do it again. You hurt someone. Go make it right, put it under the blood together, and don't do it again. You fell into the old sin habit - find a brother/sister to confide in that you know you can trust to pray/agree with you and put it under the blood and WALK AWAY FROM IT! Sin no longer has victory - Jesus took it, forcibly, at the Cross. Overpaid for everyone's once for all time. Stop buying the lie of the enemy that you are somehow still subjugate to it.

Does this nullify the consequences of wrong and sinful choices? NO! Should this trivialize sin to permit increased frequency? NO! It is still the snaking, coiling, deadly tool of the enemy that nailed my Savior to an instrument of criminal execution. It is still deadly to an entire world that has rejected that Savior. It has still and is still sending millions to an eternity filled with Godless anguish and torment. But to a truly repentant heart, sin holds no power. To those who call upon and know their position in Christ, sin is something to be stepped on and stepped over. And when we find ourselves entangled and tripped we have this peace outlined in Philippians 1:6.  God is working and will continue to work in us to bring about the absolute best product, to perform to the highest extreme in heaven and earth.