Thursday, December 27, 2007

No Room

It wasn’t a fiery sermon preached from the pulpit, but instead a verse from the precious Christmas hymn, "Away in a Manger". The words stopped in my throat…and I could only whisper them…mouth the words as tears filled my eyes.

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed”

Those words brought me up short and I realized I had gotten it all wrong. It was Christmas and I hadn’t made room for Jesus.

Oh there was time to decorate and attend Christmas festivities. I made time to make a list and check it twice…and shop for just the right gifts. I slipped in some Christmas concerts and even a party on the sparkling waters of Newport Beach.

But I didn’t make time for my Savior.

I enjoyed Christmas lights…but didn’t delight in the Light of the world.

Oh I attended church and Bible study and even prayed. But I didn’t seek special time to spend with Jesus…to thank Him for what He has done for me. In all the hustle and bustle of the season…I didn’t share the Good News of Gospel with someone who is overwhelmed or hurting or alone for the first time.

I didn’t spend time reading the story of Jesus’ most miraculous birth as God became man. He who is fully God and fully man…this One who was born to die. Willing to submit Himself unto the Father’s plan…in order to redeem me, buy me back and save me from my sin.

Everything I have…everything I am comes from Him. And I didn’t give Him the one thing I can offer…my time.

When I look at the gifts I received and the things I most treasure from this Christmas…it was time spent with friends…just chatting. Sometimes about important things…more often than not…it was just about stuff. Nothing earth shaking…but just time spent caring for one another.

If that’s what I enjoyed the most…why would I think my Lord and Savior wouldn’t love that too?

What I missed the most…was spending time with friends...talking and catching up…or getting away for a while from the hustle and bustle and demands that never end. Focusing on another…listening and carrying their burdens for a while.

Jesus gave His life so that I might live…He bore the penalty for my sins upon His body. He gave His all…and didn’t even give Him my time.

My foolish investment of time and energy made what is so precious…devoid of real meaning. If only I had focused on Christ…how might the rest of time and relationships have been during this season? Christ centered, peaceful, joyful, walking in love, mindful of the real reason behind the celebration. Walking in manner worthy of my high calling…and aiming to please my Savior…to bring Him joy.

When I really love someone…don’t I find great joy and happiness in pleasing them and making them happy? Won’t it be more so when I please Jesus?

Oh Jesus…I’m sorry I made no room for You this Christmas. Jesus I ask You, please don’t let me do this again…to walk so foolishly. May I be ever mindful of the treasure You are…and hold onto You and value You…and never let You go.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lazy Faith

On today’s faith venture in Believing God…I’m seeing a clear picture that I have lazy faith.
I thank God that He trusts me enough to reveal these things…that means He trusts me to want to change them. Now I fully admit I can’t change it on my own. But even knowing that is good…because before I thought it was a goal achieved through my own effort and self will. Now I know that I am weak and unable to do anything on my own…must less exercise faith.

I can see in the past that God, in His mercy, answered prayers of mine when I had little or no faith. He didn’t do it because I exercised great faith and trusted in Him. He did it out of mercy and because He knew I was a new Christian or young in my faith.

But I grew lazy…not wanting to strive or to pray without ceasing…but still get God to answer my prayers. I could have my proverbial cake and eat it too. When I do that…I’m acting worse then an unbeliever.

But God is not satisfied in leaving me young and immature in my faith. He wants me to grow…in faith and in my knowledge of Him. He wants me to participate. To believe Him…to keep believing…even when my circumstances would say otherwise.

I think I have been more satisfied with justifying my unbelief and lack of faith then in believing God. I’ve been more content with complaining about what I don’t have then to thank God for what I do have. Perturbed that I have to keep praying to God instead of falling down on my knees in humble adoration and gratitude that I can even come before the throne. More likely to doubt God then to know with confidence that He is more than able to accomplish what concerns me today.

God tells us in His word that we are to ask, seek and knock.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 6:7-8

This is an ongoing and continuous command…I am to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. I can keep doing that because I know with confidence that my God is able to answer my prayers and He is a good God who cares for me. When I ask, seek and knock…I must be willing to submit to His will.

Where ever did I get the notion that faith should be easy? For Pete’s sakes I’m in a spiritual battle. What enemy has ever made their opponent’s victory easy? Anything good is worth fighting for.

Shouldn’t I remember most importantly that God is prize? Yes…I can come to Him in prayer…present my requests in faith, with thanksgiving and know that He is able to handle my every need or concern with ease. But the real prize…the thing that is most important…is not that He will answer my prayers…but that He desires to have a relationship with me. God Almighty…Creator of heaven and earth…Father, Son and Holy Spirit…wants to know me.

Dear Father…I have so failed in my faith. I have missed the mark and did not comprehend that You are the prize. Jesus…help me to grow strong in my faith…by exercising my faith muscles with daily and continuous workouts. May I be mindful I am in a spiritual battle…and strive for victory no matter what the cost. I come to You in Christ alone. Amen!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Old Woman Sight Walking Faith is Dead

Not sure how much of an inkling I had at some of the ugly stuff that would be revealed as I delve into my faith…in my study of Believing God.

I never wanted to do therapy…because I figure I’ve already lived the bad stuff…I don’t want to waste even one more moment of my life dwelling on it. But I’m starting to see the importance of examining the outworking of my faith compared to what God says it should be…and what pleases Him.

Boy oh boy…am I coming up short! And folks…it ain’t pretty. As the days and weeks go by in this study…I hope to better understand why my faith is so weak. But right now all I’m seeing is my failure of faith.

God makes it very clear in His word…that He desires for us to have faith and to believe Him. He even rewards our faith. Reading Hebrews 11….the Hall of Faith…I am in awe of what these people endured and how they maintained their focus on God and His promises. They didn’t waver with doubt and unbelief…nor were they concerned on how God would accomplish what He had promised. Instead they stood steadfast and resolute in believing their God.

Faith, trust and believing God is a way to glorify and honor Him…it pleases Him. Can you imagine a child who is fearful and concerned about how her parent will provide and take care of her? That surely wouldn’t speak too well of that parent now would it? But in this instance…my lack of faith and trust…doesn’t speak well of me.

I find it kind of amazing that God delights and rewards those who believe and trust Him in faith. But when I look at a parent…don’t they delight in doing good things for their child? Don’t they take great pleasure in bringing happiness and joy to their child? How much more so God?

When I look at Abraham…I marvel at his great faith. I ask myself…if God called me to sacrifice my only child….would I obey? If I obeyed…would I be quick to do so and not question God?

Am I going to believe God…and who He says He is? Trust what He says He will do? Or am I going to believe my circumstances…and only what I can see? I’m quite adept at sight walking faith. But God wants me to walk by faith…and I’ve failed that test miserably.

It’s easy to believe what’s in front of me and what I can see. It requires effort, faith and work to know God’s word…and His character as revealed in the Bible. In a different context the Bible tells me that I am to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Jesus. Since doubt and unbelief is so ingrained in me…wouldn’t I be denying myself and following Jesus when I choose to believe Him by faith? So often…I think of denying myself in terms of denying certain pleasures…but perhaps that command encompasses even more than that.

As I look at my faith…and my poor track record…I realize that I’m not able to achieve this on my own…that God will have to give me the faith to believe Him. The Holy Spirit is going to be doing double duty…bringing to mind the scriptures I’ve studied…to help keep me walking by faith.

Sight walking faith has bigger consequences than just loosing out on blessings in this world. It also affects my prayer life. When I doubt my God…do I bring everything to Him by prayer and petition…and present my request to Him? Am I faithful to bring unbelieving friends and family before the throne of God and beseech Him for mercy and for their salvation? How many people are praying for them…for their hurts and needs? How many cry out to God for their salvation? Shouldn’t my voice be lifted up to God in heaven…that He would save their souls? What will I be feeling in heaven when the books are closed and people that I could have prayed for aren’t there?

Am I willing to deny myself…my doubt and unbelief…and trust God in faith? Am I willing to turn away from sight walking faith…and walk by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit within me?

Oh Lord…please help me. You know how I have failed, time and time again. You are going to have to give me the faith…because I am frail and weak in my faith…and unable to believe on my own. Help me to believe You and trust You. Help me to walk by faith. Thank you Jesus…that I am a new creation in You.

To quote Clarence Thomas’ grandfather Meyer Anderson, “Old Man Can’t is dead, I know, I buried him myself.”

Old Woman Sight Walking Faith is dead…I know because she was crucified with Christ. She was born again…and is now called Walking by Faith.

God…would you consider adding a verse Hebrews 11? Something like this, “By faith Susan…”

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Message

Last week I attended a Christmas dinner at church and heard a message from author, Karen Kingsbury. I thought I was going to hear a message that would help me feel the Christmas spirit…and keep my eyes focused on Jesus as so many things are vying for my attention during this busy season.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The message was more personal and specific to me and my week and the emotions that followed.

While I was sitting in church with friends and family, partaking of beautiful music and listening to a talented woman of God…my heart and mind were elsewhere.

Earlier in the week I had attend a Christmas function. In the course of the evening I found that my feelings were hurt and I felt disrespected. I hoped and prayed that it was not intentional…but even that thought didn’t take the sting out the wound.

I found myself preoccupied over the next couple of days. But when Karen started on her three point message on how make sure the Christmas seasons is a good one…I knew God was speaking to me. I think I stopped listening after her first point…because I had my assignment from God.

Karen’s first point was that you need to mend broken relationships. I know that’s true….and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed do that and can look back and see the emotional carnage that resulted when failed to forgive.

I had my marching orders to mend a relationship…but asked God…what should I do? Should I call or write…and what should I say? What if he gets mad or thinks I’m being a “you know what” or just an overly emotional girl?

“Susan…you’re not responsible for his response. I’ve called you to reach out and mend the relationship. You remember the scripture don’t you…the one where I tell you that if you have something against a brother that you are to leave and go and be reconciled. Susan…you can’t afford to wallow in hurt which will lead to unforgiveness…that’s a sin. You need to forgive…but first go and share what you are feeling. Give this man the opportunity to apologize and make things right. If it was you…would want someone to give you an opportunity to apologize? Think about it…what kind of a witness is bitterness and anger to unbelievers in your life? If you are going to act like that…how are you any different then them?”

Okay God I will…but please give the words to say.

When I got home from church…I sat down to type an email. Yeah…I know it’s probably the chicken way out…but I express myself better in writing. Since it had occurred a few days earlier…I wasn’t acting in anger…and I could take the time to not only express what I was feeling but explain why. I hope…I think it was done in love. Kind and caring…albeit direct. It was with fear and trembling that I hit the send button…and then I waited.

While I hoped for a response right away…either via email or phone call…I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t come. When tempted to be nervous because of a lack of response…I re-read the email…and honestly felt it was fair and balanced.

God then reminded me…He called me to obey Him and reach out to mend a relationship. I was not responsible for the person’s response back.

I’m grateful to God that He did use that letter to bring attention to a hurt…and that it was responded to with kindness and caring. When next we met face to face…an apology was forthcoming. I was so thankful and relieved. I was kind of scared not knowing how my email would be taken. But I also had a peace from God…knowing that I had done what He called me to do.

I pray that I will have an ear to hear God when He speaks…and the will to obey Him. Thank You Lord for continuing to grow me.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Truth Project

As a Christian, do you ever find yourself at loss for words or uncertain on how to answer questions about your faith? Does it keep you from sharing your faith and the Gospel message because you fear being asked questions that you don’t know how to answer? You just don’t want to look stupid. Do you ever get into a debate that gets a little heated…and you back down because it’s getting into territory that you are unfamiliar with?

There is an excellent tool that is put out by Focus on the Family that will help equip you in your Christian faith. It’s called the Truth Project. We at Kindred Community Church are in the process of going through this teaching series in our small groups.

It’s helping us to think Biblically and contrast it to how the world thinks…in different areas. The topics include: Veritology, Philosophy & Ethics, Anthropology, Theology, Science, History, Sociology, Unio Mystica, The State, The American Experiment, Labor, and Community & Involvement.

Do you have a child heading off to high school or college…and you’ve tired to root and ground them in the word of God…but you are concerned what havoc a very secular and godless education will do to their faith? You’ve seen it in your friend’s children…they were raised in the church all their life. They come home at Christmas during their freshman year...and are saying Christianity may be alright for you…but I don’t believe it anymore…I’ve grown past that now. Wouldn’t you like to inoculate them?

How about equipping them to better understand their own faith…and see in a very straightforward manner the attacks their faith will take. Attacks that are either veiled and subtle or blatant and unapologetic.

To see how your church or Bible study group can go through this series go to The Truth Project.

Isn’t about time you felt knowledgeable about your faith so that you step out in faith and share the Good News of the Gospel? Or have that ongoing debate with the unbeliever at work…knowing and trusting that God will bring to fruition the seeds that are being planted? Wouldn’t you like to have peek at the enemy’s game plan? Do you ever wonder how that brother-in-law of your can be so deceived and blinded to the truth of God and the word of God? Or how about dad…you’ve been praying for him for years to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t you like to better know what lies the enemy is using so you can use the word of God strategically?

It’s time to get equipped…The Truth Project.

Not Something I’m Proud Of

As a Christian…I know that God hates pride and just as Jesus was humble and submitted Himself to God the Father…He too desires the same from me.

If you were to follow me around…I’m not sure that pride is one of the first faults you would identify…but make no mistake it’s there.

Tonight as we continued in Revelation 12…we studied about the battle between God and His angles and Satan. We went back to Isaiah 14, where Satan first rose up to usurp God and put himself upon the throne.

13 You said in your heart,
"I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.

14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."

Make no mistake…God does not share His throne. If I’m trying to put myself on the throne…I’m trying to push God off.

Before God had created the earth and placed the crown of His creation, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden…Satan, a created, being thought too highly of himself.. He became prideful of his beauty, wisdom and splendor…all of which God had given him. Instead of thanking God for those gifts and seeking to please God and bring Him glory through humble submission and use of them, he instead sought to raise himself up and put himself on God’s throne.

Satan wanted God’s throne…but instead he was thrown out of heaven and banished to the earth. Ever since his chief aim has been to bring to ruin the apple of God’s eye…man. He stands before God and is the accuser of the brethren. If he can’t keep us from heaven…he seeks to make our life miserable so that we will curse and deny God. He wants to ruin our testimony and render us useless to God…as we stand before Him with our shame and failures ever before us. But thankfully we have a huge God…who is able to forgive, redeem, and cleanse us from our sins. Thankfully He is also able to use even our failures for good and for His glory and furtherance of His kingdom.

While pondering Satan and what led to his downfall…it struck me that while many of his attacks are quite obvious…his most effective tool may be to lure us to follow his path to destruction…pride. It can be subtle…who doesn’t want to take pride in their work or doing a good job? Come on…what’s wrong with that? But where does that lead? Am I mindful that God gave me that job and the gifts to perform the job well? Or am I starting to believe that it's all about me? Am I willing to obey and submit to God’s will even when it differs from my plan? Or will I scheme and manipulate to get my way? Will I seek to put others down so I can raise myself up? Am I boastful and proud? Do I seek to promote myself…or do I encourage and help others?

As one who suffered the pain of rejection early in life…and falling short in oh so many ways…there will always be a scar and pain and doubt that I will ever be good enough. Because of that I am particularly vulnerable to seeking the praise of man. Because there was pain and hurt…trusting God may require a willful act and will likely not come naturally. It will require effort to not trust my feelings…to instead believe and follow God and the truth of His word. It will require faith and trust in God…even when I may not see the fruits of that trust that God is indeed a good God.

Pride…it’s ever so tempting…but trust, obedience and submission is the key. Will I put myself first…or God first? One has eternal rewards…and the other ends in destruction.

Oh Lord…help to me not go down the path of Satan. May I be mindful that all that I have and all that I am comes from You. May I humbly obey and submit myself, my plans and my future to You and Your glory. Amen!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Heaven to Earth

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

The thing I love most about this picture is the reminder...that Jesus came here to earth.

God incarnate lay His glory aside, so that He might take my sin upon Himself, pay the penalty for my sins, so that I might be forgiven. Because He lived a sinless perfect live, His righteousness was credited to my account. My sin debt has been paid in full. I have been saved, by grace, through faith...Praise God!

Proclaim Your Love

Monday, December 10, 2007

Trustworthy Guide

Not too long ago I found myself shifting uncomfortably in my seat as a new class member in my Bible Study Fellowship group spoke. She shared that she found the lessons so challenging that she was able to answer them only when she started her lesson by praying. Praying for God to give her wisdom and guide her as she studied the passage and answered the questions.

Since I’ve been in BSF for so many years…the answers usually come easy…perhaps too easy. As a result I may fail to begin my lesson in prayer…and my first thought is not always…let me pray to God for wisdom in answering this question.

When my new classmate said that she has to begin her lesson in prayer…I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit…a nudge…a reminder. I should not be presumptuous, but instead come humbly before the Lord and ask for His guidance, wisdom and discernment.

I can tell I’m off track…when I’m completing my lesson and I come to a question that is difficult and I get frustrated. Instead of excited that God is going to show me something new…I start stressing. The frustration factor is multiplied when I’m doing my lesson late in the week, rather than daily.

Tonight I had a tough question…what does Matthew 11:11 mean?

“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” – Matthew 11:11

And I had no idea what the answer was. At first…I thought I’d go on and come back and complete it later. Soon I had to leave for church. I chatted with folks at the prayer meeting to get their consensus. I listened…but it still didn’t connect.

When I got home…a visit to Bible Gateway afforded me the opportunity to read the passage in several different versions. The snag with Bible Study Fellowship is that you can’t use commentaries to help you answer your question. You must only use the Bible. You can also look up definitions in the dictionary…but that’s it. After reading the passages…I asked God for wisdom and stepped away from the computer.

As I did so…God brought to mind the passage in Matthew 20:26 which states that if we are to be great in God’s kingdom…we are to be a servant of all. That seemed to answer most of the question…but I was still uncertain what God meant when he said we would be “great”. After all how could we greater than John the Baptist?

Will I was off to my second tool…Webster’s online dictionary to look up the word “great”. There were several definitions that seemed to fit: remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness”, “superior in character or quality”, or “used as a generalized term of approval”.

While not 100% sure of my answer...I believe that Matthew 11:11 tells us that if we serve others, consider others more valuable than ourselves and serve them…then we will be considered great in God’s kingdom. Effective in carrying out God’s work and that work will be approved by God.

Jesus himself came to serve others. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." – Mark 10:45

If Jesus…the Son of God served…how much more should I serve others?

I look forward to hearing the other woman think this passage means, as well as our leader Terri…and of course the lesson’s notes.

Even if my answer varies…I still learned a valuable lesson that when I seek to know God and His word, I need to go to Him in prayer first. For He will be faithful to answer that prayer.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Rudy…Guilty as Charged?

AHA, the evidence is over whelming against this criminal your honor. It is obvious he is guilty, he has been caught red-pawed. I suggest you throw the catnip at him.

But your honor, the video has also proven that this guilty party had an accomplice. Your honor, if you'll notice the camera followed the progression of this crime thereby suggesting that the camera operator was highly involved in aiding, abetting, and allowing this crime to take place. Rather than doing anything at all to stop this crime from taking place, the camera operator allowed it to progress. It is my contention that the camera operator was videoing this crime as a trophy, and to keep a record of this "Christmas decoration destroying gangs" exploits. Your honor, I suggest you also throw the catnip at the accomplice.

I rest my case.

The Honorable Michael Paddison presiding...making his first guest appearance on Susan's Blog

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mystery Solved!

Each night when I come home…I find an assortment of ornaments scattered too and fro. Make no mistake…I had a prime suspect in mind. But tonight….I have proof positive that little Rudy is having a holly jolly Christmas while I’m away a work.

One I’ve Never Met

How is it,
That I can miss a man I’ve never met?

How is it,
That I still dream of a lifetime spent with one I’ve never known?

How is it,
That I desire to feel the warmth of an embrace that has never come?

How is it,
That I long to hold the hand of him that I’ve never held?

How is it,
That I miss the kiss from lips that I’ve never touched?

How is it,
That I can still hope that one day I may know him?

by Susan Bunts

December 3, 2007

Deadly Target by Elizabeth Goddard – Too Many Twists and Turns, Not Believable

Deadly Target is Elizabeth Goddard’s second book in the Rocky Mountain Courage series .   I looked forward to reading it because I’ve enjo...