Saturday, July 24, 2010

His Ways Are Not Our Ways

This morning I read about the Watchman in Ezekiel 33. Some of you may know it well, some not at all. As thoughts formulated for this blog I was torn with what to title it because shortly after reading the passage in Ezekiel, the Holy Spirit led me on showing me how the "First will be last and the last will be first."

At the end of my study this morning all I could say in my heart was, "His ways are not our ways." I'm sure that by the end of this blog you will agree with me, that even though we'll look a lot at God's principle that the many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first, that the title heading I chose best describes this morning's venture. "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Is.55:8-9)

Let me begin with what God says to Ezekiel in chapter 33, if you will. He says, "Son of man, say to the house of Israel, 'This is what you are saying: "Our offenses and sins weigh us down and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?"' "Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!'"

Now this is what really stood out to me, "Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, 'The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his FORMER righteousness. If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. He will die for the evil he has done. And if I say to the wicked man, 'You will surely die,' but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right - if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that gives life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live."

He continues, "Yet your countrymen say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' But it is their way that is not just. If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so. Yet, O house of Israel, you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' But I will judge each of you according to his own ways." (Forgive the punctuation errors.)

Powerful isn't it? So what came to mind next were a few NT (New Testament) passages that I've always wondered about such as Matthew 19:30 which says, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." Then in Matthew chapter 20, Jesus told a parable about workers in a vineyard following this statement. The parable talks about how "...the Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard..." As Jesus continues in the parable he tells how the landowner went out again at the 6th hour and again at the 9th hour of the day and did the same thing. Finally, he went out at the 11th hour and there were still men standing around who had not found work that day. So the landowner hired them as well and promised them the same pay.

At the end of the work day, the landowner called his foreman and told him to pay the workers beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first. The foreman paid the workers who started at the 11th hour a denarius each and so on right down to those who started early. However, when he got to those who had started working first, they expected to receive more. "But each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner..."

But the landowner said, "Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?" He closes the parable out by saying, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Stay with me here okay, I know this is a bit lengthy, but I think this is a very important principle. If the above parable wasn't enough, two further passages came to mind: The parable of the Prodigal or Lost Son and Jonah! At the end of the parable of the prodigal son, the elder brother who had remained with his father and had been the faithful, good son was angry and refused to celebrate with his family that the younger son that was lost had finally come home. In fact he says, "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!" He was furious, maybe even jealous?

But his dad saw it differently. He said, "My son..., you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." Hear the heart of the Father?

Then again, back well over four hundreds years prior in the story of Jonah, hear the heart of the Father again. The wickedness of the "great city of Nineveh" was so much so that God's judgement was coming against it. However he wanted to warn them and give them a chance to turn around and escape judgement. So he sent Jonah to go and preach to them about what was about to happen to them. However, Jonah, according to his justice system, felt that they deserved to be destroyed and ran the opposite direction. (Seeing that Jonah was so righteous after all.) But Jonah now himself is in disobedience as he runs away and in so doing not only could have caused the entire city of Nineveh to perish, but the lives of the sailors on the ship he got on and all their cargo was about to perish with Jonah for his disobedience as well. Thankfully, God in his mercy, spared their lives. He saved Jonah and gave him a second chance to go and preach to Nineveh. (What irony.)

As the story continues, Jonah obeys this time and the entire city of Nineveh, from the king on down, goes into fasting, prayer and repents hoping God would have mercy on them! "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring up0on them the destruction he had threatened." Isn't that wonderful? However, Jonah felt otherwise. He gets angry, like the elder brother in the story of the prodigal son and grumbles against his Father-God and God had to break it down to him that it's because of His mercy to Jonah as well that he was in a position of blessing.

Many who are first are going to be last, and many who are last are going to be first. Rejoice with God. Make a conscious decision to agree with God even when you don't understand His ways - His system. As the heavens are higher than our ways and our thoughts, so are his ways and thoughts leap years higher and not to be compared with ours.

I hope this was as helpful to you as it was to me. I'd love to hear your comments.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What Matters Most to You? (Part II)

"His divine power has given us EVERYTHING
THROUGH our knowledge of him who called
us by his own glory and goodness."
- 2 Peter 1:2-4

The first question that came to my mind was, "What do we need for life and godliness?" We need food and water, clothing and a roof over our heads to meet our physical needs. Then we need the Holy Spirit and fellowship for our spiritual sustenance. Those are the basic NEEDS for survival both physically and spiritually.

Then I remembered Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34, "...Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they...? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lillies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin...if this is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"

Bear with me here as I complete the passage, "So do not worry, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well."

We put so much importance, so much money, so much time and energy into obtaining things of little value or things that God already knows we need and have provided for. He said His divine power has given us EVERYTHING we NEED for life and godliness..., but the kicker or condition is that it's THROUGH our knowledge of Him who called us...!

So, How is your knowledge of Him?
What do you know about Him?
Do you even know Him?
Do you believe in HIm?
What do you believe about Him?
Do you believe in His divine power?
Do you believe that He is your Father?
Do you believe that He is good?

I have to go back to Jesus' words. He said in Matt. 7:7-11:
"Which of you if his son asks for bread will give him a stone?
Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you
are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much
more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to them who ask him!"

What matters most to you, getting the things of this world or getting to know the Father who can give you the things in this world? He said to seek Him first, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Matters Most to You?

"Do not love the world or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world,
the love of the Father is not in him..
For everything in the world-
the cravings of sinful man,
the lust of his eyes and
the boasting of what he has and does-
comes not from the Father but from the world."
- 1 John 2:15,16 (NIV)

The Christian walk is pretty radical. If we were to honestly exam ourselves in light of the above passage, what would our children, our friends, our God say matters most to us? What are our conversations filled with? What do we have our heart set on? What do we crave?

What do you hold onto so tightly? How would you feel or what would you do if God said, "Give it up" or "Let it go"? Think of Abraham. As crazy as it sounded, God told Abraham to give up - sacrifice to God, the son that God himself gave him and Sarah in their old age. It simply didn't make any earthly sense! It didn't make sense from any perspective I supposed except from God's. It didn't even sound like God himself who opposed human sacrifices! But Abraham obeyed the incongruous command of God. We who know the end of the story accept the outcome. However, it was credited as righteousness to Abraham because he believed and obeyed. He "saw" the outcome in his heart and mind - though he didn't have any evidence that it would turn out the way it did. He was being tested. His belief and faith in God was being tested. What mattered most to Abraham was his son, Isaac, and he was willing to give him up, sacrifice him for God.

Jesus said it this way, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matt. 10:37-39 (NIV)

Please don't misunderstand. We are expected to love and honor our parents and family or in 1 Tim. 5:8, Paul wouldn't have said, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Or tell children in Eph. 6:1,2 to Honor your mother and father." We just aren't to love or honor them above God or in place of God.

The references to Abraham and Jesus' instruction were on the extreme or more radical end of the pole. The passage and thought at the beginning of the blog, however, connotes something slightly different, I believe. "Do not love the world or anything in the world..." correlates with Paul's instruction in Romans 12, "Don't be conformed to the pattern of this world..."

Our passions, should not be for the things this world is passionate about. Our expectations, our vision, our mindset, our energy shouldn't be consumed by a lust for the things this world or those who don't know Christ, pursue and value above God. I think the key word is "Love," not that we can't enjoy all of the good things of this world, since God has given us senses, taste buds, desires to be able to enjoy the things of this world. (He even gave us dominion over the things of the world, to conquer, master, rule over it.) However, we must put the things of the world in their proper place and that's in subjection to Christ. Nothing should have such a hold on us more than our passion for Christ and to wins souls for Christ -Nothing.

Our pursuit of degrees, our pursuit of a career, our pursuit of a mate, our pursuit of recreation, our hobbies, whatever gives us pleasure and a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment should pale in comparison to our being in Christ. As Paul said, he counted everything before Christ as dung, rubbish (Phil. 3:8). Church, it's time to get radical. It's time to get real. It's time we looked more like Christ and less like the world. It won't be popular either, but then, we're not called to be popular, we're called to be holy - set apart.

Write down what matters most to you and compare it to your love for Christ. Which matters more?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

So Heavenly Minded...

Do you ever wonder how some phrases came about and how they become like daggers or darts, to be pulled out and used when offended or disgruntled about something?

Years ago, I went to an older friend of mine for counsel when I was accused of being, "So heavenly minded that I was no earthly good." I so appreciate his counsel still today. He said, "Beverly, if you are truly heavenly minded, you will be all earthly good." I think someone just didn't like something I said or had come under conviction about something I said and wanted to get back at me so they jabbed me with that phrase, because anyone who knows me, know that I'm all about helping others.

Now I don't know the origin of that phrase, but I am reminded of James Chapter 2:26 which says "...Faith without deeds is dead." In today's terms I would put it this way, faith and "having church" without living it practically, is worthless. James had written this letter to the church, for instruction, edification and correction.

We have a lot of church goers, but not enough Word doers. We have a lot of people who talk about faith, but don't walk in faith. We have a lot of people who know the Word of God, but don't live the Word of God. We have a lot of constant church goers who speak the Word, but don't apply it.

James said, "What good is it brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead."

On the other hand, Paul instructs us in Col. 3:1-2, to set our hearts and minds on things above and not on earthly things. Can this be a passage that some may use to support so much heavenly mindedness that they ignore its practical application? If so, then they take the passage out of context and failed to read the rest of the passage. Read it for yourself. It talks all about how to apply that heavenly mindset right here on earth, ending on a note that says, "And whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

So then my friend was right. If you are truly heavenly minded, you will be earthly good. Be heavenly minded friends, but be willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work, not just inside the church walls as so many limit themselves to, but outside the walls of the church- on your job, in your home, in your community, even overseas. You preach the good news with how you live. Go and be of earthly good too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Men, Please Speak Up

In 1990 I registered as a freshman at a small Christian College in the mid-west. On day 1, registration day, I witnessed something that made me wonder. (I'm sure it made others wonder as well.) As we stood there in line waiting our turn, some decided to sit on the floor as we waited our turn to register. One attractive young lady across from me had on a pair of short boxer shorts and sat down with one knee in a yoga position and the other knee raised. In doing so she exposed her butt cheek and inner thigh, very close to her vagina area. She was either unawares or didn't care. I could tell she wasn't trying to be sexy, but I'm sure the guys in view of the display might have had a hard time turning their heads away.

During lunch one day, about a month into my freshman year at that college, I sat down at a table with all male friends. As we were conversing, one of the guys said in frustration, "I wish the ladies could help us out a little and not dress so provocatively! It's difficult already as it it."

Over the years I've heard variations of these pleas and conversations. I wonder however, how many have actually said something in an appropriate manner to some of the women they see creating such temptation? If I were a betting woman, I would bet too few. I've known a few and I'm glad for their courage and concern, but note men, that many Christian women need you to speak up in this area.

A few years back I had a series of incidents that drove home the point to me and I've always dressed modestly all my adult life. But I've learned there are degrees of modesty. For example, I was on my way to volunteer to feed the homeless one winter morning and put on what I thought was a modest, orange turtle neck jersey and jeans. My fiance at the time asked me if I could put a sweater on over the turtle neck? I guess he felt that my breasts were to prominently displayed in the turtle neck and most of the homeless people at the shelter were going to be men. (No cleavage, no skin showing, but my size 6 figure was attractively outlined and he wanted to protect me from gaping men.)

Another time shortly after, but during the summer, I had on a short sleeve, summer knit dress, again, no cleavage showing and the dress was ankle length. However, because it was knit and I was a curvy size 6, I kept having to block my fiance's roaming hands. He got frustrated and said, "How in the *!?* do you expect me to keep my hands off you in that dress?!" Now I know I was dressed modestly. You couldn't have convince me otherwise. However, because it showed off my figure attractively, it presented an irresistable temptation to him. Shortly thereafter, my pastor's wife said to me one day as I was visiting her, "You know Beverly, you have a very attractive figure and I don't know how long you plan on prolonging your engagement. But make it easier on the guy by wearing clothing a little bigger than your size if you plan on winning the battle to remain pure until your wedding."

Her advice came at just the right time. I listened to both my fiance's fustration and heeded my pator's advice. It didn't alleviate all the struggles, but it sure cut down on the number of them. We didn't get married, so I'm very glad for the lessons I learned at that time, but more brothers need to speak up and help us, help them.

Just last week I heard the old familiar complaint again, "Why do some sisters in the church dress they way they do? They make it so difficult on us." Maybe because they don't know better and some maybe do want to attract your attention and maybe going about it the wrong way. Why don't you speak up?

***Let's start the dialogue about this subject. Please make all comments directly on the blog page. Do not send me emails about it. Also I think it would be helpful if you stated if you're single or married, Christian or non-Christian in your comments. Thanks

Friday, July 9, 2010


"Time is more valuable than money, spend it wisely." B. Niles

The above quote was inspired recently by Ephesians 5:15 and a 40 day corporate fast and prayer journey. It's amazing what God will do when you take the time to earnestly seek him.

God did indeed move. It was an awesome time for me, unlike any other time of fasting and prayer in my life. Every day as I prayed, fasted and obeyed, God revealed a little bit more of himself and his plan for the next season of my life.

As I obeyed and took steps of faith, he strengthened me, he refreshed my spirit and redeemed my time. More was accomplished in less time. You know that credit card commercial that talks about what things cost and what's priceless, e.g.: "2 Shirts and a Dress- $25; Trip to the spa - $75; Gas - $45; Helping your dad become a better man, Priceless"? Well time with God is priceless, invaluable. He shows you things, prepares you for things, gives you counsel no one else can, because he knows the beginning and the end. He knows your course and the plans he has for you. Getting with him in the morning, consulting with him, listening to him, fellowshipping with him, worshiping him adds time and value to your day; directs your steps and saves you time.

More time with God gives you a different perspective on everything - a higher perspective. He sees what we cannot. We see the trees in the forest and a few get high enough to see the whole forest. However, God sees not only the trees and the forest, but he sees what it was, what it is and what it will be in one glance. For he says in Isaiah 55:9, "...As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Just as he said to Jeremiah even before he formed him in the womb, he knew him, so God knew you too.

So what earthly mentor can compare? What fortune teller or palm reader can foretell your life story, your purpose? But rather go to God early. Seek him, sit at his feet and eat of his bread. Take the time to get filled, to get direction, to gain strength. It's priceless!

Time is more valuable than money. Spend it, invest it wisely.