Sunday, March 17, 2013

I Got the Power

If you were a child of the 90’s then you are familiar with technetronic music.  You know…it’s kind of like house music that tends to go over well at the skating rink or the dance floor and really gets stuck in your head.   If nothing comes to mind for you, I’ll list a few of the ones that stuck in my head so you can Google them:  Groove is the Heart by Deee-Lite; Things that Make You Go Hmmmm by C & C Music Factory; I Got the Power by Snap. 

That is good stuff people! Now, granted, some of the songs didn’t make any sense to me just by the lyrics but….look at the hook lines: “Groove is in the Heart”; “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm”; and “I Got the POWER”.  If you don’t Google any others….Google I Got the Power.  I can’t remember a single other word to that song but, that hook line really does catch you! Music is a very powerful thing.  It moves us like few other things can.  Emotionally for sure but it can even make your body want to get up and move.  If you listen to I Got the Power and hear that line over and over again set to the backdrop and timing of technetronic music….well, you really do feel like you “got the power”!  I guess the only trouble with the power of music would be the flip side….it’s ability to make us wallow in despair, too! J

Today, though, we’re going to look beyond the music and get that hook line in our head, “ I Got the Power”.  Now, don’t worry….I’m not going to try to put the words of Snap in your head.  (I don’t even understand most of that song).  However, I am going to steal their line for us today.  Only, I want to use the Word of God to “hook” us. 


Confession Time!

Now, I have to take a minute to do a little confessing before I can go on so you’ll know where all this is coming from:  I have a real problem with persecution of Christians, being as I am a Christian and it’s just so hypocritical to do so in this country.  First, I’ll just say that, of course, I think the intolerable way believers are treated these days is an oxymoron in a self-proclaimed “tolerant” society.   Fingers are constantly pointed at Christians, judgments made, and anger stirred over stands that we take or mistakes we make.  We tolerate every other group’s beliefs and actions, but Christians have increasingly less room to share the truths we hold dear and we certainly don’t have any room to make mistakes.  It’s like we have our own paparazzi following us around, just waiting to catch us in the wrong and everyone is quick to jump on it.

Secondly : I have a major pet peeve (putting it mildly) with people being quick to point out faults and everything that is wrong with others without bothering to see what they might be missing from the big picture and without offering any encouragement to address it…..just accusing and judging.  I have to tell you, I have a major problem though, when those judging, pointing fingers come from other professing believers.  Christians persecuting Christians?  (Things that make you go hmmmmm).  Please do not misunderstand me to say that Christians shouldn’t help each other stay accountable to God.  No one likes that job, but we all have that responsibility.  I had that reaffirmed for me just this morning in an entire sermon on that very issue of admonishment.  Addressing sin, out of love and concern for the well-being of a person, is very much a biblical concept and was not meant to be an option.  No….what I am saying is that anger toward the person, malice in gossiping about the person, or total rejection of the person is not the biblical way Christians are to handle fellow believers.  So, this must be said….. If you can’t offer some encouragement or even loving admonishment in Christ along with some biblical tools to help them, then……how can I put this graciously?.....It’s best to stay quiet and let someone else better equipped deal with it.  

Therefore, this is one time when I feel there’s a real need of admonishment.  The kind that points out where some part of our walk doesn’t match up with scripture and gently reminds us and rewires our thinking.  Hopefully.  Gentle isn’t always my strong suit. 


At times it’s frustrating and at times it’s just down right sad to me that the lives of believers, mine included, don’t look any different or any more like Jesus than the rest of the world waiting on us to mess up. We don't talk any different; give any more; treat others any better; and here's the thing....we don't respond to trials any different than a non-believer who doesn't personally know the power of God and the resurrected Christ.  No wonder so much of the world thinks our God is a myth.  Or worse, a joke.  It’s not our sin that keeps them thinking that.  It’s our powerlessness.  That’s precisely what I want us to focus on today…..How easily we throw around the word “impossible”.  If not the word itself, we say it with our actions and attitudes.  I have to ask this question: Are we even reading the same bible? 

Whether it’s power to stop smoking, stop spending, stop eating, stop obsessing,  end a relationship, start a relationship, start exercising, start learning, start speaking, start serving, etc., etc., and on and on, we all too often feel defeated before we even start, don’t we?   That’s why a line like, “I’ve got the power”, captures our attention.   Everyone knows what it feels like to be powerless……and we hate that feeling.  The new-found power infused by Snap lasts about 3-4 minutes and though we may feel better for a while after it goes off, as soon as the music quits, we automatically start to deflate….we’re not quite so larger than life like we were a minute ago.  That’s precisely the problem with thinking that an hour long worship service on Sunday is all the time we need for the week…..or all we have time for.  We feel great when we leave church, then life happens.  Sometimes before you even leave the church parking lot.  Sometimes it comes on Monday morning, sometimes later in the week.   We get sidetracked and overwhelmed and we end up relying on our own strength.  And we truly are powerless there.  What I have come to realize is that daily prayer and time with Him in His Word are essential.   And let me tell you, power is available. 

Whatever you are dealing with, quit listening to the world around you.  Quit listening to the voices in your head telling you it’s impossible.  Quit looking at yourself saying, “I’ll never change.”  Quit looking at others and saying, “they’ll never change.”  Quit looking at your circumstances and declaring, “Nothing will ever change.”  Whether you’re struggling to break a habit or begin a new, healthy one….frustrated in a job or desperate in a relationship….. worried over finances or terrified of recent news; Here are a few scriptures to remind you that of all the rights a Christian possesses, using the word, “impossible” isn’t one of them:


His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.  ~ 2 Peter 1:3

Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:15-18

“And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”  And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”  And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”  ~ Matthew 17:16-20

No, in our own power, there is a lot we simply can't do and a lot we will never be, no matter how badly we want it.  But, His Word tells us over and over again just how indescribable of a gift the Holy Spirit is. Because, in the Spirit, there is power to do what we never thought possible.   There is no other way to walk in the Spirit than to pray and read His Word.  Let me just tell you, there is power like no other in those moments with Him.  You begin to see Him at work in you…..and around you and, over time, ‘impossible’ loses all meaning on you.  That is power. That is faith.

If you want to be able experience Him and to see His hand moving in your life or the lives of others, you have to talk to Him….. and listen to Him.  Have you ever tried to teach someone how to do something that wouldn’t listen?  Talk about impossible!  Furthermore, taking the easy route doesn’t really give Him an avenue for Him to display His might in your life or for His Spirit to empower you to deal with your impossible.  It doesn’t require faith.  See….It takes faith to step out into the uncomfortable.   It takes faith to give up life-long habits.  It takes faith to stick with the hard thing. That kind of faith doesn’t happen overnight.   So, how???  First, you have to be aware that you are lacking in power because, like the disciples who couldn’t cast out demons, you are lacking in faith and relying on your own very limited power and understanding.  Second, you have to make a conscious decision to remedy that tendency toward self-reliance and seek Him…..hard!!  Third, to experience Him and His power, we must do what He says.  It’s not always the most logical route and definitely not what we’d naturally choose.  Therefore, that road may be narrow….but it’s filled with His power.  No, a life of powerlessness is the direct opposite of the life He has planned for those who love Him. 

This is why I have come to totally understand Moses when He told God, “If Your presence does not go with us, then don’t send us!!”  He knew where his power came from and wasn’t willing to give it up.  Neither am I.  It pains me that so many believers don’t experience Him.  So, let me just encourage you to set aside the word “impossible” for a while, make a point to spend time with Him every single day (it’s hard…I know…just try….start somewhere).  Then, try the whole “praying and obeying” thing for a time and see just what He can do with our little bit of effort…our mustard seed of faith.  I could go on and on with scriptures on faith and power.  But, if you are one who is feeling powerless these days, maybe that’s a good place for you to start in your time with Him.  If you are one about to give up, give in, etc., remember that if you are a believer, the Spirit of Almighty God is within you and as Peter boldly says, He has already given us all we will ever need for a life of godliness.   So sista girl….whatever your struggle today, remember…..You got the power!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Great Expectations

It’s been a long week and a busy weekend.  Sunday afternoon comes and you just want to lie on the couch, read, chat with your husband, watch a movie, etc.  You know….unplug.  After all, Sunday is a day of rest, right? Just such a Sunday came about last weekend.  After church, we had a late lunch and I got everything cleaned up and was enjoying lounging on the couch by 5 pm.  I have only recently embraced this idea of actual rest on Sunday.  I think I even posted my joy over the matter on Facebook that evening.  Only, less than an hour into my lounging….to my unpleasant surprise….. my son remembered a project was due the next day.  Livid.   I was livid.  Did I mention I was livid?  It was partially because I have repeatedly warned them about putting things off to the last minute; partially at myself because the project was assigned 2 weeks ago and though I check assignments for the week every Monday, I didn’t remember this project; and a little more than partially over the fact that my plans for a lovely, unplugged Sunday evening just vanished into thin air. 

At the root of it all......Great expectations.  That’s one of the things I’ve been convicted of lately.  As a matter of fact, I shared with my husband not long ago how I’ve now realized that when I get crabby or huffy, especially over the weekend when I should really be happy and at my best, it’s normally because things didn’t go the way I had pictured them in my head.  Thoughts I had for how the weekend was going to play out and the reality of it don’t match up at all and I’m disappointed.  What I’ve come to realize is that I place an awful lot of expectations on other people.  Who knew my husband and 12 year old boys wouldn’t be mind readers? Do they live in their own world or what? Well, yes, they do.  But, my point is, what do I expect?? They’re boys! Even the one who is turning 45 this month! They don’t think like I do.  So, when I was telling my husband about this, it was in the form of an apology for my foul mood over things that he had no clue about.  Now, what I realize is that it’s something that happens all the time, not just when I have certain plans in my head for the weekend, but over expectations not being met. 

We expect a lot out of people, don’t we?  Even kids.  We expect people to know what we want and we expect them to DO what we want.  When they don’t……heaven help them.  Now, I’m not saying we walk around in a rage all the time or whining all the time, either.  But, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of us, me included, allow that to happen all too often.  We also allow a lot of our mood and overall sense of happiness to be affected by things that are simply out of our control.  Namely….other people.   It’s not that children and husbands shouldn’t know and do what is expected, it’s just that….well, they’re human.   Not everyone can be as perfect as we are, right?

Hah! Lightning may strike. 

 It’s true everywhere we go, with everyone we interact with….. on any level.  Every person we interact with is human.  Why should we even have to remind ourselves of that obvious fact?  Because….we have expectations.   We expect the checker at the counter to always keep a happy face regardless of the day she’s had; We expect  co-workers to go the extra mile; We expect our boss to see and appreciate how hard we work;   We expect others to know what’s important to us and, at times, deem those things more important than whatever they have going on;( Speaking the truth here?)  We go out of our way to help others, but we expect that somewhere that favor will be returned.  When  it’s not…..we secretly vow to remember their failures the next time they need us;  We expect our pastor and fellow church members to behave and respond in a good, Christian manner that’s worthy of our faithfulness; and we certainly expect our own husband and children to know what is expected of them and well….do it!   Well, la-di-da. 


There’s a simple little word that has somehow become lost on me.  Grace.
The Greek word used in the New Testament is charis.  Strong’s gives the definition of charis to mean:

“Manner or act: Whether abstract or concrete, literal or figurative, spiritual; Especially the divine influence on the heart, and its reflection in the life. (Ouch!)

It goes on to say, “Grace indicates favor on the part of the giver, thanks on the part of the receiver; Although charis is related to sins and is the attribute of God that they evoke, God’s eleos (compassion) – the free gift for the forgiveness of sins, is related to the misery that sin brings. God’s tender sense of our misery displays itself in his efforts to lessen and entirely remove it – efforts that are hindered and defeated only by man’s continued perverseness.  Grace removes guilt.  Mercy removes misery.”

I thought good ole Webster’s definition of grace was well worthy of sharing, too:

1.        Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. (A virtue coming from God.)

2.       Approval, favor; Mercy/pardon; a special favor; act of kindness, courtesy, or clemency; reprieve.

(Side note - I was glad to find that Webster’s listed the biblical definition of grace first!)

 This Sunday, our pastor spoke on Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love…serve one another.”  He was talking about how our freedom we so cherish in this country to just go and do what we want, when we want, regardless of others…. isn’t really freedom.  Because, when we pursue things with our freedom that aren’t godly, we say, “well….there’s grace….I’m forgiven…, I’m free to do as I choose.”  He went on to say that when we do this, we usually find that thing doesn’t provide the happiness we thought it would because in the end, it takes us further away from God and we feel still unfulfilled.  It’s a vicious, enslaving cycle.   He also pointed out that if we ourselves aren’t enslaved to this “freedom” of ours, we often still enslave others with our expectations of them and then they aren’t free. It’s miserable….for everyone! His overall point was that Christ is the only real freedom.  Being able to love other people with an unmerited love and serve them without expecting to receive favors, esteem, or anything else from them….is freedom like no other.  We can experience this freedom and release others from the bars we’ve placed around them with our expectations……because we ourselves have received complete and unmerited grace.  And as he said, “If you find that over and over again, you have a very hard time extending grace to others… may need to ask yourself if you’ve really received it yourself at all.”  (Ouchy-wow-wow – I didn’t need that big toe anyway, Pastor Shawn.) 

Note, though, this miserable cycle he describes and take a minute to re-read and compare it to Strong’s definition and further explanation of the Greek, charis.

 God knows the misery that accompanies sin as it pushes us further and further from him and from the person he created us to be.  So, out of His compassion, He offers a reprieve to the most grievous of sinners that are humble enough to ask His pardon. When you have come to a place where you realize your own depravity and imperfection and receive the grace that lifts that heavy, miserable load off of your should be willing to lighten the loads of others…..or at least stop adding to their load with your expectations of perfection.

 Apparently, I have been out of practice myself.  Example:  Monday night after batting practice, we were eating supper.  I was looking at Peter with an irritated look because lately he has forgotten his table manners and I have to keep repeating myself.  I hate repeating myself and I expect my 12 yr. old son to remember his manners without being told  repeatedly.  Anyway, Peter said, “Why are you always looking at me like that??” I said, “I’m looking at you like this right now because you have regressed in your table manners and I’m having to repeat myself every night.  But, I don’t always look at you like this!” Peter said, “Yes you do… you were looking at me like that tonight in the batting cages.” 

 The thing about it was, I was watching him….but…..I had my sunglasses on.  He had no idea how I was looking at him or if I was even looking directly at him.  He just thought if I was looking his direction, it was with a critical eye.  He didn’t say it and may not even be able to pinpoint it, but I did.  Apparently, he feels like bars of expectation are around him all the time.  It’s not our intent, but that’s what our expectant selves do to people.  I’ve been aware lately that constantly telling the boys how they can do things better is really being critical.   Sure, there are times when we can’t let things go and they need correction.  But, critiquing every word and every action is just putting up a bar of expectation they’ll never reach and placing bars around them that make them feel enslaved.  Now, I’m a mom…..sometimes that means being seen as a “meany”, and I’m ok with that.  But, I can see where there are plenty of times I am lacking on the whole “grace” thing and I am NOT ok with that. 

 Kids need to know what is expected and certain expectation should be put forth.  It's bad parenting and a failure on our parts not to do so.  I expect my son to keep up with his homework assignments.  I expect my other son to listen to me and not make me repeat myself.  But, thankfully, my Heavenly Father has been patient with me when I was far from meeting the expectations His Word sets forth.  2 things He asks of us: 1) To turn from our old ways and seek to live lives that place loving Him above anything or anyone else and 2) To love each other….. through the good and bad. He’s had to repeat Himself to me on more than one occasion and readily dished out grace at the slightest of bit of obedience on my part.
Am I making any sense here? Because I am that grateful leper, so thankful and completely aware of the misery from which I was saved and the greatness of the grace given me, I must be aware and intentional with the grace I offer to those around me and be more realistic with my great expectations. Anyone who claims to have received the grace of Christ should feel free to extend grace....whether to our spouse, our children, our co-worker, our friend, or the check out person at the grocery. If I want other to see Jesus in me, they must see grace.

Unmerited Grace Upon Grace: John 1:10-14; 16- 18

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Life's Breath, I was doing a word study on the word "breath" recently and well....:it took on a life of its own, so to speak, and painted a very disturbing picture. Don't get me wrong, there are dozens of beautiful passages on the breath of life.  However, the 4 that stood out to me aren't beautiful.  This is not the most pleasant blog you'll ever read, but, they are very much meant to be words of life.  I'm not going to do a lot of commentary on this inner Ellie Mae that sometimes comes out in my posts was flat silenced on this topic. No way to sugar coat this one, I guess.  I simply want to list 4 passages in the order they are in the bible and see if they strike you the same way they did me, as.... in all honesty.... the message I received in their imagery nearly took my breath away.
Isaiah 57:11-13
Whom have you so dreaded and feared
that you have not been true to me,
and have neither remembered me
nor taken this to heart?
Is it not because I have long been silent
that you do not fear me?
I will expose your righteousness and your works,
and they will not benefit you.
When you cry out for help,
let your collection of idols save you!
The wind will carry all of them off,
a mere breath will blow them away.
But whoever takes refuge in me
will inherit the land
and possess my holy mountain.”
Jeremiah 10:14-16
Everyone is senseless and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is shamed by his idols.
The images he makes are a fraud;
they have no breath in them.
They are worthless, the objects of mockery;
when their judgment comes, they will perish.
He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these,
for he is the Maker of all things,
including Israel, the people of his inheritance —
the Lord Almighty is his name.
Habakkuk 2:18-19
“Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman?
Or an image that teaches lies?
For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation;
he makes idols that cannot speak.
Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life! ’
Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up! ’
Can it give guidance?
It is covered with gold and silver;
there is no breath in it.”
Revelation 13:13-15
And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.

A little self dialogue that should follow after reading each of these passages from the Word of God: (in order with the passages)
1. Who or what do I fear....more than I long to be true to my Creator?
It occurred to me that it's easy to see why we cave or compromise on issues when we are understandably afraid of someone.  It's also obvious when we just flat out want something and don't care what we have to do to get it.  That, of course, is an idol.  Where it gets more difficult to understand, or even see, is when we are afraid of something. Because, often these "things" are ideas, more specifically...."what-ifs":
What if......I lose this job? Or, this house or that friend?
What if.....they don't like me? Or, they really see me?
What if.....My children don't get "the best"? Best clothes, school, training, friends, etc?
What if.....he leaves, they move, things change, etc? What if I end up alone?
How often do we forget our God and lose ourselves in the fear of what ifs? Too often. And this , my friends, is its own form of idol worship.
2. Am I already being deceived by my own idol right now?
When we compromise our fear of the Lord in favor of our idol, we often will find (though may not admit it or even realize it right away), that we are still woefully unsteady, unfulfilled, and still living in fear. Turns out to not be all it was cracked up to be and really a different form of bondage.
3. Am I in the process of giving life and breath to an idol in my life right now?
This is a chance to stop and examine ourselves to make sure nothing is exalting itself in our lives above our knowledge of God. Not our husbands, our kids, our job, our status, our ministry, our money, our future, or even our children's' futures. Because as far as futures go, obedience to Christ is the only sure thing that won't deceive.....and won't come back to bite us. Ever.
4. Could any pain or frustration I feel right now, come from exalting someone or something above my fear and knowledge of or love for the Lord?

Sometimes when we choose the path of idols, they take on a life of their own and end up doing more damage than the thing we feared when we began turning to them.
It is a disturbing thing to ponder, let alone confront.....this concept of idol worship.  I fully believe that the scene that John depicts in Revelation will come to pass.  However, I think we could learn from it today, if we could see the beasts for what they are....deceptive.  These images we've conjured up of the perfect life....the perfect husband....the perfect child....the perfect house.....the perfect future....whatever it may be.... that cause us to forget our God, often leave Him with no choice but to back off sometimes and say, "If that's what you want.....ok..  Let's see if it can save you."  And it's allowed to take on a life of it's own.  

It's not what He wants.  It's not even what we want.


Ezekial 33:8-11:
"Son of man, say to the Israelites, "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! Why will you die, people of Israel'?"
I'd be curious to know if after reading just the passages, if any of me...felt a little sick to your stomach.  Feel free to leave a comment here or on facebook and tell me how they struck you when you read them.