Monday, October 3, 2011

The Bread & Water

The main topic that God seems to be teaching our household this month is about the Holy Spirit. It seems everyone we talk to, everything we read, all our studies & gatherings with the Church all have much to do with the Holy Spirit.

Last week in my Bible Study group, we talked about the fact that the Holy Spirit would never leave a believer but that His work could be quenched - I Thes 5:19 (or grieved Eph 4:30) by us.
It has nothing to do with God's love for us changing ...but it has everything to do with choices we make that can quench, stifle, or grieve the Holy Spirit (a real being!) that dwells in each believer. Simply put, by the choices we make - we don't allow Him to "work" at full capacity in us.

I couldn't get that word, "quenched" out of my mind. Finally I realized, maybe this is something God wants me to pursue further - so I looked up the word, "quenched" and saw that it meant stifled, destroyed..... then looked further and saw that it could also mean, "to satisfy" as in to quench my thirst. Yes! That's the connection I was thinking of!

The Spirit can be quenched by us (stifled).... or it can quench us (satisfy). God has given us the free will to make choices daily in how we respond to Him.... and dependent on those choices we will be either "filled with" (which I am realizing that word really is better described as controlled by or intoxicated with) the Holy Spirit....or the opposite choices will lead us operating under our own efforts - thirsty and hungry.

Then I remembered this post on Alan Knox's blog and a comment there about eating & drinking Christ that I needed to pursue further as I thought about being thirsty & hungry. So I looked up John 4 & John 6 and just loved those passages.

Jesus speaking:
"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." - John 6:35
"I am the bread of life." - John 6:48
"Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me" - John 6:57

Jesus is our bread! Bread nourishes... and bread is something we must partake in daily - multiple times, throughout the day! (especially when pregnant I might add.... really!)

If we choose to stay "plugged in" (John 15) to Jesus throughout the day, the Word, the Bread of Life - we will captivated by His love. As we focus on Him instead of ourselves - we are filled with the Spirit!

The Spirit is always desiring to help us grow in christlikeness. And when He is not quenched or grieved - He is the one who will teach us and guide us to become more christlike when we are out living our life! There will never be a point where He has dried up. He is always working & always ready for us to be ready! He is the "SPRING of living water welling up to eternal life" - John 4:14 - not a quick afternoon shower or water from a faucet. He is a SPRING desiring to be uncovered so He can pour forth and overflow abundantly.

The question and plea we should send to God should not be to ask God for MORE of His Spirit... we have all the Spirit in us we are gonna get. The plea should be for God to help us get out of the way and be nourished by Him alone. To help us see how we are quenching Him!

We must ask God to help us realize our 'work' is not things we need to do - but our efforts all start to giving Jesus the devotion He deserves (listening, submitting, paying attention to, giving time & praise). We must ask God to help us desire to partake in the "Daily Bread" of Jesus, The Word - throughout the day - so we will not quench the Spirit but will instead be filled with Him.

When we are Spirit filled, Spirit lead - He will give us the power to follow Jesus & become more like Him. The Spirit will be the one to remind us what the Word, Jesus has taught us and who He is as our Lord & Christ. The Spirit's main role is to bring glory & honor to Jesus.

It all starts with giving Jesus our time and praise and love. It all starts with relationship with Him. So that's what it looks like - partaking in the Bread of Life daily, allowing His love to fill us so we will not quench or grieve the Spirit, so that the Spirit can then help us LIVE OUT love (bearing spiritual fruit & worshipping God all come as a result).

This is why it's so important to study His Word & spend time with Him each day.... I really get it now. Truly getting this is so powerful to me. It isn't about trying harder. It's not about setting up a daily discipline of studying His Word so that we could have more knowledge. It's about being transformed by who we are nourished by. It's about giving Him control of our lives by who we pay attention to and are nourished by.

So how should leaders get others to become more christlike? Tell them how important it is to study the Bible every day? I guess you can tell them that --- but there's no point in telling them that if they don't understand it's all about relationship. This transforming life only starts when we tell Him we are ready for a personal, real relationship with Jesus Christ and want Him as Lord & Savior.... and then give Him the time that we would give anybody who has captivated our hearts!

We can't try to get others to change by getting them disciplined in actions & their own efforts.... and focusing on those acts... that creates nothing but self-righteous followers who quench & grieve the Holy Spirit. (He is quenched when we try to do His work ourselves!!!) .... We must instead show people how much Jesus has done for us, how much He loves us and how He desires so much to be the CENTER FOCUS of our life! Help others be consumed by His love by letting them see US totally enjoying Him. God is most glorified when He is enjoyed!

HIS love changes the world. His kindness leads us to repentance. The RELATIONSHIP with Him is what changes us - not any efforts we put forth. It's all about relationship. LOVE God, LOVE others. And it all starts with giving Him the time & attention so He can fill us with HIS Love. (I John 4:10) THEN we will never be hungry or thirsty. We will be quenched and our world will see that!

"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let the one who hears say, "Come!" Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life"   Rev 22:17

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday - the Lord's Day - not the Sabbath

God was so faithful this week to give me clarification on a topic I've been asking Him about for awhile. As I studied Isaiah through a Bible study I am apart of - Chapter 58 lead me to a more indepth study of the "Sabbath". What I found out was pretty remarkable! To me, at least. God showed me that what I had grown up believing about the Sabbath was actually very un-scriptural...or maybe I should say non-scriptural.

The scripture I found on "the sabbath" made it clear to me that it was a special sign between God and Israel. It was a day for them to put aside (Saturday by the way not Sunday) to reflect on God and all He had done for them. It was a time to build up their spiritual memory as God so often tried to help them do in their journey. It feels many times in their journey God is saying, "remember, remember, wake up, remember all I've done. Stay with me, focus focus." He wanted them to set aside a day to remember their bondage in Egypt that He had rescued them from. (Deut 5:15)

For Israel, the law they lived under included honoring the sabbath. This specific command had very specific requirements even to the point of telling them they could not leave their house (so obviously those who think keeping the sabbath means "going to church" can't be right on) Ex 16:29.... they couldn't build a fire Ex 35:3.... and couldn't cause anybody else to work Deut 5:14....

Do people really try to follow the law like this today? Not that I know of! Seems to me the 'church' at some point just "changed" the idea of the Sabbath. I don't know when or how or why it happened... but Sunday became the christian sabbath.... and with it all sorts of new 'rules' and 'traditions' to check off our list to make sure we're meeting whatever standard it is we are striving for. I couldn't find a verse in scripture that was a command for christians to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was mentioned in regards to Paul as he tried to proclaim the good news to the Jews but even then scripture says, "To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law." I Cor 9:20 He wasn't going to the synagogue to be a "good christian"... he was going to reach the lost... in the synagogue aka "house of worship"....hmmm...

If a christian wants to observe a Sabbath like Israel was commanded to...then do it.. I don't know what that would look like today.... but we are not called to judge them (Romans 14:5-6). Let them offer to God whatever they desire... if this is an offering they'd like to bring to Him, wonderful. For me, Galatians 4:9-10 says enough. I don't want to live under the law. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2 I guess the only thing that 'bothers' me is that church 'leaders' 'promote' or 'teach' the Sabbath unscripturally... they use the Sabbath commands in the Bible and apply them to christians today with new modern twists on it and requirements... I don't get how teaching like that can continue on unchecked..... It's one thing for christians to want to offer a Sabbath to God out of a genuine devotion.... it's another for 'leaders' to teach doctrine of the Sabbath incorrectly...

Anyway --- all of this knowledge I found left me wondering what to do with Sunday. Seems to be a set aside time for the Lord but I didn't understand it all. I believe the early church lived life together... daily meeting, teaching, encouraging, serving... and as my husband & I seek to be the church outside of the traditional (including modern - sounds like an oxymoron) church settings I am always left with a feeling like Sunday is a unique/different day. So what should Sunday be about. Should it be different then any other day? When we have planned gatherings/fellowship it does tend to be on Sunday.... but we don't feel it has to be.... so what is Sunday all about? That's where I left off mid-week.

So this morning, I woke up confident that I was not going to have my Sunday weirdness aka battling guilt, second-guessing our direction, trying to retreat back to what I know God freed me from... I asked God to PLEASE help me figure out how to get over this and figure out "what to do" with Sundays. I knew that we didn't have any plans today for a gathering with anybody else from the church.... so it was just our immediate church... my husband & I and our 2 children. We made it our goal to find ways today to enjoy God together, as a family. That was all. and we did! And every time I started feeling that weirdness try to creep up I praised God through a song or through talking about Him to my children or husband.

At one point during the morning, I sat at the piano and starting praising God with some of my favorite old Easter time hymns. The kids listened... well let's be serious here...the kids played with Daddy and they all 'listened' as in - heard me playing. (Raymond does pipe in once in awhile which makes me cheese so big to know he has learned these words just from listening to me - like when I heard him singing "Blessed Assurance" with me - unforgettable moment for me).

I came to a song I didn't know. It was called, "the First Lord's Day".... and as soon as I read the lyrics - they popped out at me and I just *knew* God was giving me the next answer I needed. They rolled a stone before the door, as in the grave He lay; God raised Him up, our living Lord, And made the first Lord's Day. We sing for joy, we sing for joy, with loving thanks we say: "God raised Him up, our living Lord and made the first Lord's Day"

This is what makes Sunday so special!!! That is what Sunday is all about! Once again - everything everything everything is about Jesus and the beautiful news of His victory over death and sin!!! Sunday is the Lord's Day!!!! A celebration of the relationship we have with Him and the JOY and THANKFULNESS we have because of His love shown through the Death & Resurrection of our Redeemer!! It makes sense for the church to desire to come together every Sunday with a planned celebration gathering to celebrate and remember that First Lord's Day!! The most pivotal day in the history of existence!!! Sunday he arose!

Ohh God I wish our church fellowships today would gather for the same reason!! God if they are only going to gather ONE day for ONE hour every week - I pray God that it would be to focus on you and this Good News that happened on this first Lord's Day Sunday!! Jesus rose on a Sunday! the first Lord's Day. How come I never understood what "the Lord's Day" even meant? Wow how did I miss all that?!

Some scripture showing Jesus rose on a Sunday:
Matthew 28:1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
Mark 16:2
Luke 24:1
John 20:1

After the resurrection - every day was different. Everything was changed. Ev-er-y-thing in the disciple's lives was changed after that First Lord's Day! and for us too!

The law we could never live up to was set aside and there was a new covenant!! by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14. And just as every day was radically different than before that First Lord's Day... every Sunday was such a celebration for the followers of our Savior. Every Sunday sunrise would bring with it the memory of that uncontainable joy and thankfulness and restored hope that seeing the resurrected Christ brought to them on that first Resurrection Sunday. How could they NOT desire to gather with their brothers & sisters and celebrate that First Lord's day together each week?! Focusing on that day would be the fuel they would need to move them ahead as they battled against a world that didn't know, understand or want to believe the miracle they saw with their own eyes.

We remember and commemorate many days and holidays in our year so that seems like normal human nature... I bet those disciples celebrated joyously every Sunday sort of like we commemorate days! What they lived and saw is immeasurably more powerful and amazing then any day or holiday we commemorate now so of course Sunday would be special to them! I get so excited just thinking of the joy and hope and just downright jubilee they must have felt to see Jesus resurrected.

So it seems so appropriate that the church would gather on Sunday. Did it become a rule to? No.... Did it become a command to? No I don't think Hebrews 10:25 applies to Sundays only. (Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing...) Was it the only day they met? NO! I guess it was just something they fell into a habit out of sincere celebration of the good news! A Sunday couldn't pass where they wouldn't want to get with their brothers & sisters to reflect & remember together what a life changing world shattering miracle they were witness to.

I am sure the majority of the early church met daily for the same reason. I know they didn't wait til Sunday to celebrate - I am sure they reflected and encouraged each other daily in the gospel! But Sunday became the 'regular' more 'planned' day of fellowship for the church it seems... even though they lived life together daily. Acts 20:7a & I Corinthians 16:2a I believe are great examples that the church from the beginning of its beginning would make Sunday gathering a normal part of their life together
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread....
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up.....

What a beautiful example to follow. Being so captivated by the joy and hope and excitement of the good news that you desire to be with your brothers & sisters who know the same Savior and author of salvation. Not because it's a duty. Not because you're trying to please God or earn something from Him. But because the good news is your whole world, it's everything and it's worth celebrating over!

Sunday is such a special day. It's not the christian Sabbath. The only similiarity our Sunday has to Israel's Saturday is that it's a day God created... and it's a day to remember God's deliverance! Sunday is the day Christ conquered the GRAVE!!! Rising up out of the darkness and bringing light to the world. The son rose as the sun rose that day!! I don't think a Sunday morning will ever be the same for me again, either.

But when it comes down to it... I am pretty sure God wants that same joy, thankfuless and celebration to happen *every* day not just Sundays! I am excited to think that someday EVERY day will be a Sunday!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Relationship not Religion! Our real & intimate God!

Our God is a personal, real and intimate God!!!

This is truly what God has been speaking to me this week, month, year! Everything. Every book. Every whisper. Every scripture. Every conversation. Everything seems to point back to Him and the fact that this journey with Him isn't a religion or a system... it’s a relationship. I knew this... but God is truly helping me LIVE this!

It is a relationship! Which is why we go through seasons…droughts & harvests…resting and seeking. That’s also why it looks different for everybody… everybody is different so each relationship looks different. And that is ALSO why our relationship with God doesn’t look like the muslims, hindus or other religions who out of fear or ritual pray 5 times a day to a far and distant god they desire to 'get in' with. A friend in our Bible study brought up her thoughts on watching other religions and their radical devotion and that we could learn from it. I kept thinking we are soo different from them... but couldn't really describe it until I realized the key difference is that God, the one and only true God, is a personal, real Savior. Our 'radical devotion' looks so different from them. The Lord God Almighty is not a far off God demanding efforts from us to please Him. We always complicate it thinking we are not doing enough… but God has made it clear, it’s a relationship with Him not a duty.

So many times young moms & wives are at a place where it feels like everybody just NEEDS FROM them and we lump God into that category too but it’s just not true! God does not need from us – He desires to meet our needs and fill us up!

We know how to be in every other relationship – we don't always question and complicate every other relationship --- so why do we have such a hard time figuring out how to be in relationship with Him?? He doesn’t want our duty or rituals – He wants our lavish love. He desires us to find our satisfaction and our joy in HIM.

God is glorified when we enjoy Him. He is worthy of our captivated and amazed adoration of Him! He is glorified when He fills us – not when we try to bring something to offer Him. Too many times we try to offer or do more instead of emptying self and taking joy in. It’s all about what HE can do…not what we can give HIM.

Thankfulness pleases God, yes. Taking joy in Him and then sharing all HE has done pleases Him, yes… but those things are all about what HE has done in us…that’s why He is pleased with those responses! He is pleased when we are satisfied in Him and HIS work!

So for those young moms who are so bound by time, I’d say the key is to do what you’d do in a normal relationship. Take time away together. Think of Him throughout the day. If you don’t yearn to spend time with Him out of love and not duty then don’t beat yourself up… He doesn’t want you to guilt trip yourself into loving Him…(guilt actually separates us from Him)…and He certainly doesn’t want to be a check on our checklist!!! He loves us so much He doesn’t want that for us. Relationship with Him should bring peace and joy not frustration guilt and shame. I pray we can ask God to give us a lavish love for Him. Ask God to help fill us with love for Him!

Bible study IS important yes… but relationship is most important. Our most important work is choosing to take in our "daily bread"... choosing to drink from "the spring" daily. (Isaiah 44, John 7) HE is most important and taking *from* Him daily is what gives us joy and peace and satisfies us. When our souls are nourished by His daily bread… when we choose to drink from the spring of living water… THAT is what people see and THAT is what glorifies Him!

When we feel stagnant, when we are having that internal craving for something ‘new’… we must ask Him to revive us! Plead for Him to make our hearts and lives fresh and vibrant again. Everything in us will want to fix things on the outside – tighten up some rules, be tougher on ourselves or make some tougher goals (reading more, sleeping less, working out)..… but changing on the outside only changes on the outside! We need saving and lasting nourishment which is from Christ alone. He is all that satisfies!

The 'rest of everything'... the external 'things' will build out of that relational foundation. He will use many things in our relationship - Bible studies, time away with nature, serving others, learning how to take care of self & others.... but *all things* need to be in their proper place - flowing out of a life that the Holy Spirit is pouring into! Never pushed out in our own efforts to try to please God or make us feel better about us.... but instead overflowing from a heart assured in God's love & approval because of Christ and His saving grace!

The God of this entire UNIVERSE who made the earth and mankind on it... The Lord God Almighty, Holy One of Israel. HE desires a personal, intimate, daily relationship with ME... with YOU!!

MINDBLOWINGLY AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"If you seek religion you will find a system to help you. Instead you ought to seek relationship to find the Savior that will save you. We don't need a system to better ourselves to try to impress God. We need saving and God is waiting for you to ask for help!" - Max Lucado, my paraphrase