Monday, December 22, 2008

Our Creator

I have been pondering this post for a while, and trying to find the time to write it down. A few weeks ago, we began to have snowfall that stuck. Returning from Thanksgiving vacation in Ariziona to a snowy wonderland, sure made it feel like Christmas. It was almost magical, a sense of peace and serenity in the stillness of winter. Immediately the verse: "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1) came to mind. Ususally, when I think of that scripture I remember it as a proof that God exists. In my mind, I pair it with Romans 1:20 "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." This verse argues that we cannot deny that God exists, because it is clearly seen in creation all around us. I still agree with this original use of these scriptures, but I found myself wandering to another understanding.

This time, God seemed to plant on my heart, that the "glory of God" described in the Psalms not only has to do with the fact that He exists and created everything, but that Creation itself reflects the very nature of God. As I meditated on this perspective, I found the following applications delightfully revealing, and they cause me to stare in amazement at our creation in a new way. These are not new attributes to God. In fact, they are the common ones you may hear many times throughout the year. The actual attributes are not what encouraged me, but the fact that Creation reveals to us that they are true. Here are a few examples of the nature of God as described through Creation:

1. God enjoys creativity - one only has to look around to see that God is creative. He could have had one season but he chose four. Wouldn't one type of grass been sufficient? How about one type of beetle or worm? No, God wanted variety. He wanted to be creative. Thus, His Creation demonstrates his creativity. Is it any wonder that man, who is made in the image of God enjoys variety and creativity?

2. God holds all wisdom and knowledge - It would be impossible for Bill Gates to make a computer accomplish a task that he did not instruct it to do. The computer (or the creation) cannot hold attributes that it's creator does not possess. Obviously, even the most astute wisdom and deep knowledge cannot be greater than that of God's, for He created us. All of the scientific discoveries we have yet to make are known deeply by God. As humans, we have the tendency to think we are smarter than God. We think that we understand things better than He may. We decide that our method to resolve an issue makes more semse than His way. But we forget that our Lord knows everything, He possesses unlimited knowledge and wisdom. Relinquishing to his will is not surrendering to a weaker body, but allowing His wisdom and Grace to get it right the first time, without us getting in the way.

3. God is systematic, organized, disciplined - Look at nature around you! The various systems and processes are unbelieveable! Photosynthesis, seasons, tides, digestion, reproduction, muscular, erosion, volcanic, techtonics, weather patterns, solar systems, pollination, etc. These just name a few! God gave us the moon and sun, which follows a simple pattern that allows us to understand time. Can you imagine if this was an erratic event? What if we were not sure when it would be light again, or when it may be night? The systems He produced tell us that He is systematic! That he values consistency and order. "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace" (I Corinthians 14:33). In fact, disorder is associated with evil! "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (James 3:16).

4. God experiences every emotion we can imagine - I could not create a painting unless I had possesion of the paint and paintbrush to apply to the canvas. In the same way, God has to be able to experience every emotion we ourselves posses. How could God give us the feeling of frustration if He himself had no idea what that was? No, God must possess those things which He has created in us. Although, we do need to remember that God gave us free will, as He has free will. However, he chooses righteousness and grace, and we choose sin. The sin in us is not the result of humans demonstrating the nature of God, but rather opposing and turning away from His nature, to the nature of evil. This comes from the Devil. We can rejoice though, for Christ has overcome this sinful nature! "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you."(Romans 8:8-9)

5. God has power over life and death - When a flower blooms and dies, the life and death process itself must be contained within the power of God Himself. For how could God create life which dies unless He also could shut down life at his discretion. The systems that he creates such as the life systems demand that He holds the power over every step in that process. Therefore, He must have power over all life to bring living creatures and plants to life, but He must also have power over death to determine their lifespan. How much more can we believe in Christ's power over the cross, since it is confirmed daily, hourly, by the second in creation all around us??

So you see, Romans 1:19-20 "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" takes on a whole new meaning too. Of course there is no excuse if we see the very nature of God all around us, in the simplest considerations of the creation! If we deny the Glory of God, His very attributes, revealed in this creation, how can we have any excuses? It is PLAIN to us! I am so glad that God made it plain to me, how everything around us shows how clearly we are created by our spiritual father, in the image of Him, with attributes granted through His power alone. How refreshing is the confidence and revealing truth God gave us, demonstrated through His creation. May you be mystified by the very nature of God revealed in creation. Love in Christ, Karen

Friday, November 14, 2008

Testing our Hearts

As people, don't we have the tendency to for get things? Especially positive things. I can think back to a few one-sentence comments from my dad when I was little that hurt my feelings and quote them to you. But I can't really quote any positive statements from him. Not because they weren't said, but because I didn't internalize them as much. There are a number of times in the Bible (especially in the Old Testament) where God tells us to "remember" all he has done for us. There are also other instances in the New Testament where the reader is reminded by the author of all the reighteous servants of God that have come before us, and how God's will has been accomplished from the beginning. God tells us this because He knows how quickly we forget the ways he has blessed us and kept his promises, but tend to "hang" on the times when we feel slighted or even ignored by God. Our hearts want to hold on to the negative, because we can blame someone else for the way things are going. We tend to absorb these ideas more readily because they offer us a way to slide out from responsibility - an excuse for our behavior, and for the sin we carry in the depths of our heart, longing to gain a foothold. In Genesis chapter 3, at the beginning of God's relationship with man, this foundational situation of our heart is revealed when the serpent enters the scene.....

Genesis 3:1-
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

Wow! The first thing Eve is enticed with is "Did God really say?". He questions Eve's memory. Did she hear God right when He told her not to eat of the fruit? Did she understand what God was really saying? Is it possible that God was not looking out for her best interests? The Serpent didn't come right out and face off with Eve, telling her that God was wrong and that she could eat the fruit - instead, he subtly had Eve questions who God is. I know that my personality may have reaceted the same way. When someone directly confronts me, I tend to get defensive and dig in my heels a bit. But if someone poses a question or a situation, I may ponder it, and it may have the ability to change my thoughts, which in turn determines my behavior.

Genesis 3:2-6
The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.

The second thing the serpent poses to Eve consists of a question regarding God's intention. Did God design the garden to protect Adam and Eve, to provide for them, or to control them? the serpent suggests that it was the latter. Eve, most likely following what was in her heart and lacking true discernment, chooses herself. She chooses to believe the serpent, who has offered her to become like God. She chooses power, knowledge, and ultimately, the lie.

When we have not laid a solid foundation of Truth under us, we are suceptible to any which way the wind blows. All types of false claims, lies, teachings. We become defenseless against anyone wishing to change our points of view. The serpent in this story was not just going about his life, and happened to impact Eve's decisions just from being in the same environment. No, he had evil intentions for her. He sought her out, and wanted to change her. He purposed in himself to try to cause harm to God by removing his child from him.

We still face that same enemy today. He may choose different mediums to reach us - instead of a serpent, a close friend; instead of an apple, materialism. But either way, he questions us the same way - "Did God really say?" "You will not surely die!" If we are not aware of this enemy, we may not recognize the true desires of his heart that are not meant for our good. We need to lay a foundation of truth to which we can test these evil spirits against, and we need to remember the truth of God's love for us, and his perfect will that has been accomplished since the beginning. Remember my children! Remember the Lord your God!

Lord, help me to compare all truth claims I face to your word and your very nature. Give me discernment when facing trials and temptation. Help me to hold fast to your word, believing that you are who you say you are, you can do what you say you can do, I am who you say that I am , I can do all things through your strength, and that your written Word is alive and active in me.

Monday, November 3, 2008


A few months ago, I began to start a list of resolutions - similar to what Johnathan Edwards had done (In fact, I borrowed a few of them). I post it here, as a reminder for me to uphold them. I probably fail on at least one of them daily, but transformation does not happen overnight, otherwise Paul wouldn't have used the term "renewing of your minds" but rather a "changed" mind. The term "renewing" alone seems to suggest more of a process than an event. It is the continual adaptation of our minds to the will of the Father. The list below is ever changing. Just as the brook follows the path set out for it, and tumbles over boulders to keep it's pace, so my journey of transformation seems to quicken at times and slow at times, falling and tripping over life's rocky points and boulders.

The Resolutions of Karen Gill
Knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and that no good comes from me, but from the Spirit, I humbly present the following resolutions in order to guide myself through discipline into that behavior which reflects the grace of God and brings others closer to Him.

1. I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind
2. I will pursue a relationship with God above all other things in life
3. I will spend time reading or hearing God’s word daily
4. I will pray throughout each day
5. I will end each day reflecting on what was good and what was bad, repenting of any sin or behavior which does not reflect the fruit of the spirit.
6. I will exhibit the fruit of the spirit
7. I will speak highly of my children and husband
8. I will speak highly of others, and remain silent if no good comments can be made
9. I will raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord
10. I will instruct my children with reality discipline and encouragement
11. I will serve others who need my service, joyfully, without personal gain
12. I will do things for the glory of God, and not for prideful ambition
13. I will be honest with myself and with others
14. When tempted to judge others, I will think of my own sinful state, and remember that I am a foul sinner, but by the Grace of God.
15. I will joyfully acknowledge God before others, and encourage them to assess the state of their soul, so they may share in my inheritance, and redeem themselves from judgment.
16. I will live each moment as if I may be facing judgment in front of God in the next hour
17. I will do what is right in the eyes of God, even when it may not be favorable in the eyes of man
18. I will maintain the strictest temperance in regards to eating and drinking
19. I will use the resources God has given me, such as money, abilities, time, etc. through good stewardship, knowing that they belong to the Lord, and I am just a watchman.
20. I will treat my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. I will not speak poorly of that which God has created, but endeavor to use my body for God’s glory. I will pursue those behaviors which respect the body as God’s possession, building it up for longevity and enabling it to physically serve God’s mission even to old age.
21. I will stop complaining, and instead praise God.
22. I will memorize at least one new verse every week.

May God grant me the strength, endurance and wisdom to faithfully follow Him in righteousness. ~ Karen

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Knowing God

Have you ever noticed that we tend to put God in a box? We develop an understanding of who we think God is, and then base our evaluations of Christianity against that perception. However, many times, the God we end up serving may not exactly be the God of the Bible. When the Bible says that God is Jealous, do we discard that description of him because we do not understand it? Do we cast away thoughts of a God who showed judgement in the Old Testament because we want to believe in a loving and forgiving God alone? Is it hard for us to reconcile a loving God with a God who demands Justice? I think sometimes as Christians, we fall into that trap, where we evaluate things based on experience, or on what we want to believe rather than what is. The Bible clearly shows us who God is. I know that since I began to try to discover the truth of the scripture regarding who God is, I have been surprised. In fact, at times I have even had to stop and "chew" on some descriptions or glimpses into the nature of God so that I could truly understand them. At times, I have found myself thinking, "no, that can't be right, that doesn't sound like the God I serve." Then God gently prompts my heart and says, "Know me, Karen". "I am who I say I am, not who you say that I am.

In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus was talking to his disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi. It sounds like Jesus was concerned about the very thing I describe above - our perceptions and understanding of God according to our own understanding, not that of scripture or truth, even among His own disciples. It must be something that is easy for believers to fall into - believing God is who we decide He is going to be, rather than who his Word has revealed Him to be.

(Matthew 16:13-17) "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."

Notice Jesus first asked, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?". Well, I know that I have heard people tell me all sorts of things about "God" that do not seem to be concurrent with scripture. I have also heard unbelievers describe the God of scripture as a mean and angry God, or others who decide that God is somewhere out there, and can take any form depending on what feels good to that individual. Is our perception of God influenced by what others describe him to be? Even from a trusted pastor, is that our only source of discovery when we search for the character of God? If we are to grow as Christians, it must not be this way. The truth of scripture must be written on our hearts. We cannot listen to what others describe God to be, we instead must discover that for ourselves, through the truth of scripture.

The second question Jesus asks, is just as important - "Who do you say that I am?" Are there aspects of God's nature you would rather not face? Have you discarded the complicated or unbecoming characteristics of God and traded them in for the ones that feel good, that reassure you? God calls us to know him in his entirety. This comes in a mature relationship with Him. I remember when I first met Brock, and I thought all of his characteristics were such blessings. As I grew in relationship with him, I learned more about him, and discovered additional things about his character. Some of these were hard for me to understand. They may not have been the way that I looked at things, the way that I thought things should be done, the "right" way to accomplish something in my opinion. I now see all of Brock's character - the things that are easy to understand and love, and the things that take more time and patience to fathom. It is similar with God. The more we build a relationship with Him , the more characteristics we become exposed to. The easy characteristics - God is loving, forgiving, full of mercy, get re-emphasized over time with harder characteristics, like God is Just, Jealous, and Gracious. These may be harder to understand, and they may even require some work, but they also reveal some of the greatest blessings on the character of God, if we take the time to believe that God is who he says he is, not who we say he is.

Jesus responds to Peter's accurate description of him by stating, "Blessed are you, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my father in heaven." Should it surprise us that when we seek answers to who God is from man, that we get conflicting views? Jesus said that his Father revealed it to Peter. Where do we find the revelation of God today? In scripture, and through the Holy Spirit who instructs us (John 14:26). We must commit to the reading of scripture and to seeking His face, on a personal basis. If we serve the God of the universe, the God of the Bible, then we must learn to accept all that God says that he is in his Word, regardless of our own personal views. In fact, when our old views are challenged through a new discovery of God's nature in the Bible, we should trace our resistance to that characteristic of God right back down to the rooted lie which has implanted itself into our hearts, so that we cannot fully understand who God is. We need to sweep out our old perceptions, and allow the true character of God to be revealed. It is not an easy process. Sometimes it requires a mind-decision over a heart one. Our heart may not want to accept certain facts about God, but we must ask ourselves if we are trying to serve a God of our design, or our true Savior. Let me choose the God of Truth every time!

I pray that as I discover who God truly is, and grow to know Him more, that He opens up my heart to fully fathom the depths of his character. May this knowledge bring only more glory to Him, and help to show others His saving grace. May I appreciate the miracle of his Word that He has given us by careful study of the scripture, and commitment to my heart. May the Lord bless any readers of this text, that they also may truly know Him. ~Karen

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Generations

The book of 2 Chronicles, was meant to "chronicle" the journey of God's chosen people from the establishment of Israel, it's separation, the turmoil in Israel & Judah, their ultimate destruction and exile, and how God brought them back to their land. It is a book written for the generations that came after to remind them of both their spiritual and physical heritage.

I have found this a fascinating story. Of course, some can look at it simply as a re-telling of the books of the bible that came before it. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed re-examining these facts knowing that this was speaking to those later generations. It makes me wonder, "What is my story to my children?" If someone wrote a book chronicling the generations that I fall into, what sort of things would be written? It makes me more interested in the story about the generations before me, and also inspires me to "leave a legacy" for my children that encourages them to follow Christ. The interesting thing, is that no matter what legacy we hand down, we can never be sure how this "torch" will be taken, and the race that will be run using it.

I turn to numerous examples of this from the book of 2 Chronicles. Beginning in chapter 28, we learn about a string of Kings in Judah, through a brief summary of their reign. The first King introduced in this chapter is King Ahaz, of Judah who "unlike David his father, he did not do right in the eyes of the Lord." His son Hezekiah succeeded him at age 25, and "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just like his father David had done." He took back the sanctuary, making it holy again, he called his people out of their idolatry, and called them back into sacrificial offerings. Hezekiah honored God, and so God blessed him. In fact, at the end of chapter 29, it states that "Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly." What a substantial change that was for the nation of Judah between Hezekiah and his father Ahaz. This reminds me that no matter what things we bear from our past decisions, hurts, or environment, we can become different when we truly serve God!

Through chapters 30 & 32, 2 Chronicles goes on to tell the story about all Hezekiah did to restore the land and people to the Lord. However, after a long life of serving God, at the end of chapter 32, Hezekiah become proud of all "He" had accomplished, and the Lord's wrath was on him. He repented of his pride, and God took away his wrath. Even after serving the Lord faithfully for so many years, Hezekiah fell in the eyes of the Lord. However, it is not the fact that he fell, but that Hezekiah recognized his failure and repented of it to the Lord. It is refreshing to know that if we fall, we can acknowledge our sin and repent to the Lord, who forgives us.

After Hezekiah, his son Menasseh becomes King. Talk about stark contrast, Menasseh does evil in the eyes of the Lord following all sorts of detestable practices. How can a child reared with a father figure like Hezekiah immediately change the entire course of the kingdom to evil? He had a great role model, who seemed to "talk the talk and walk the walk", and yet still, Menasseh was unfaithful to the Lord. This question haunts me. If I train my children faithfully to know God, there is no assurance that they won't behave like Menasseh. How frustrating this must be as a parent! I can't imagine what Hezekiah would have thought. Everything he had worked hard to change from his predeccessor Ahaz, was being reverted right back to evil by his son! When the Lord called to him at first, neither him or his people would listen. So the Lord brought destruction upon him, and in his distress, Menasseh sought the favor of the Lord, and humbled himself before him. Isn't that just the case? We go about doing what we want to do thinking that we are in control, in authority. Then calamity strikes and we seek to find power in something bigger than ourselves. We realize we don't have it all under our control. It is refreshing that Menasseh, having fallen away from his Christian upbringing, eventually turns to God. Perhaps those parents who have children who have wandered can find comfort in the story of Menasseh. Perhaps it is their example along that teaches that child where to turn once the calamity strikes that brings them close to the Lord.

Amon, Menasseh's son succeeded him for 2 years and did evil, refusing to humble himself to the Lord. His own people conspired against him and killed him, and Josiah, Amon's son succeeded him. Josiah became king at eight years old. "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left." I really like the story of Josiah, and how he faithfully served the Lord. You can find his story in 2 Chronicles chapters 34 & 35.

2 Chronicles interests me because it shows repeatedly how generation after generation serves and turns away from God. We have much to learn from this book of the Bible. What kind of leader in God's kingdom will you be? Who will you offer service to? In whom will you palce your trust? If you were given power and authority, would you yeild it to your creator? Or would the power and prestige end up going to your head and overthrow you? Do we pridefully call our successes our own? When we do, do we repent immediately like Hezekiah?

Lord I pray that my life on earth bring glory to you. I pray that all I accomplish be done in your name alone, and that any and all sin that I may have be revealed and repented of. I ask for your help in opening my eyes to see what is not favorable to you Lord. Some of the kings above served you, but left the hgih places in tact, or didn't remove idols from the people. Help me to live out your precious will in all areas of my life, and to expect others to be accountable to you alone, regardless of the personal persecution that may befall me from such a stance.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


In 2 Chronicles chapter 6, King Solomon offers up a prayer of dedication for the temple he has built for the Lord. Below is a section of verses selected from that prayer:

2 Chronicles 6:36-39 "When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly'; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you."

Solomon definitely had a heart for his people, and an understanding of them. He notes that there is no one who does not sin, and asks the Lord to forgive them. These verses struck me today as I thought about people today. Re-read the passage above, and think of it applying to someone today, even to a believer. Do you know anyone that had an understanding of the Lord and yet the enemy has taken them captive? I know I do. In this prayer, the enemy was most likely other nations that would eventually conquer the future Israel and Judah territory. However, today we still face enemies. You might specifically identify this enemy as satan, who plots to draw people out of Christ, and into the world. It may be that the enemy that takes us captive is actually greed, fame, notoriety, or any distraction of this world. Colossians 2:8 reads "See to it, that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophies that depend on human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Have we been taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies? Evolution, materialism, self-sufficiency, the "it's all about me" mindset that is prevalent throughout our culture right now, - have any of these taken you captive? What about financial burdens? I can think of so many things that are part of this world that might take someone - including Christians - captive. We should ask ourselves, am I in captivity to anything or anyone?

In the section of Solomons prayer that I have identified above, he prays for people taken captive. One interesting thing to note, is that he first addresses who this captive might be. He uses the word "when" we sin against God. Not "if", not "those who sin", but "when" we sin. He goes on to say that this clearly applies to all humans, as there are none who do not sin. Solomon mentions that the Lord becomes angry when we sin (it appears he is addressing sin without remorse, even possibly habitual sin). The result of this anger is that God lets the enemy draw them in. Now, first we must address that the Lord is not the enemy. He is not making them be taken captive, he instead allows it to happen. Personally, I know I can do a pretty good job of getting myself into trouble, and praise the Lord that he protects me from some of my own undoing. When we choose to sin against God, he may remove the blessings he has given us, and allow us to be taken captive by those things we pursue. Remember that Solomon is talking about the captivity of EVERY believer and unbeliever. While the fact that we all might be captives at some point might be a tough pill to swallow, Solomon's prayer also offers some hope.

His prayer asks for the Lord to show mercy to those who are taken captive, and to forgive them, but it also outlines major steps on the part of the captive. So what are these conditions? Solomon outlines them as follows:
- have a change of heart
- repent and plead with the Lord
- Say, 'I have sinned, I have done wrong and acted wickedly'
- Turn back to the Lord with all your heart and soul
- pray to the Lord

And the promise which comes as a result of the above? Verse 39 states (paraphrased), "Then from heaven, his dwelling place, the Lord will hear your prayer and your pleas, and uphold your cause. And forgive His people, who have sinned against Him."

What a blessing that is! My friend, know that in the depths of captivity, the Lord is there! We must only turn to him, and away from our captors! But how do we do this? First of all, it is crucial that we recognize what and who it is that has taken us captive. We need to wage war against this enemy. However, this is a spiritual battle, not a physical one. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Isn't it refreshing to know that our spiritual weapons through Christ and the Hold Spirit have divine power? THEY can demolish those strongholds, THEY can battle through the cultural lies we have bought into that are affecting our success in the Lord. However, that doesn't mean that we ask the Holy SPirit to get to work, and then run away from those sins. In greade school, we learn that running away only leads to a chase. No, leaving beihind those sins will not free you from them, for you may find yourself back as a captive to them down the road. Instead, Paul goes on to urge us by stating, that WE take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. See, we must turn around and face our captors. Face the lies that we have bought into, face the deception from the Devil, and bind them up! We must overcome our enemy by leaning on our strength from the Holy Spirit, who offers a defense for us. You see, our freedom in Christ includes not only freedom from the captivity and the sin we struggle with, but protection from the captor!

Lord, help me to identify any areas of my life that have been taken captive. Awaken me to the lies I have bought from our culture and from Satan, and give me the power to overcome them through your Holy Spirit. Father, I ask for your blessings on other believers, those who may have heard the gospel, but have fallen away. I pray that you may reach them in the depths of despair and struggle, in their dungeon of captivity, and call them home to you. May their hearts repent and pray to you, knowing that true freedom can only be found in Christ. Amen.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Begin the Work!

An earlier post entitled "Humility" began the discussion about King David. I mentioned how he had wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but the Lord told him that his son Solomon would build the temple. After David gathers much of the materials for the temple, he calls his son aside, and gives him the following speech:

1 Chronicles 22:11-13 "Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would. May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged."

What a wonderful blessing and prayer David bestows on his son Solomon. He addresses his own desire that the building of the temple be successful. He asks Solomon to stay committed to God, and ends his blessing in love, with true concern for his son. I believe God is telling us the same thing as believers. After our conversion, the Holy Spirit works within us to prepare us for a great task - the challenge of accomplishing God's will in our lives. He tells us, "I am with you, may you have success in the task I have given you. May you look to me for discretion and understanding so that you may keep my commandments. Then you will have success. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or discouraged." What an amazing blessing God's love and compassion is for us! Let us take hold of it!

David continues his speech to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 21:14-16. He states, "I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the LORD a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. You have many workmen: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as men skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron—craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the LORD be with you."

David reminds Solomon that he has gathered all of the materials and resources that Solomon needs to accomplish his task. He then encourages him to GET BUILDING! Guess what? The Lord tells us the same thing. He reminds us that he has given us the gifts and resources that we need to accomplish the task that He has given us. He wants us to remember that he will provide everything that we need, if we stay focus on Him, and on the mission he has given us. The Lord then says, "OK, you are prepared, I have given you my Holy Spirit, I have equipped you with the knowledge of me, NOW GET TO WORK!" How many times is our response like that of a child (although Solomon took hold of the great task and accomplished it well.) We argue, I am not ready yet. I need more time, more money, more resources. I need more direction. I will wait until I have read through the Bible. I will wait until the kids are in school. Once my job slows down......once I get my bills caught up......once I..... and on, and on, and on. We all have excuses. They might not even feel like excuses. They might be the result of fear. Fear of failure, lack of self-confidence, lack of complete trust in God. Whatever it is that is holding us back, we should cast it off! God has given us all that we need. He awaits for us to begin the work!

1 Chronicles 21:17-19.... Then David ordered all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon. He said to them, "Is not the LORD your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? For he has handed the inhabitants of the land over to me, and the land is subject to the LORD and to his people. Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD."

David reminds the people of God's faithfulness in the past. He opens their eyes to the works that God promised and accomplished for them, then asks them to return the favor, so to speak, by trusting in God. Like David, God says, "remember the promises I gave to your people? Remember how I delivered what I promised? Remember how I called you out of ruin? Remember how I have granted you blessings in this life? Do you understand that all good things come from me? Then have no fear! Devote your heart and soul to seeking me! Do not be afraid to let go of control, and let the Holy Spirit accomplish his work! Set your minds to accomplish the mission God has called you to. Begin the work! Start now, do not delay, for I am with you!

Lord, help me to let go of any fear or excuses that hold me back from accomplishing your will. Let me remove any man-made obstacles I have in my life that prevent me from moving towards this goal. Develop in me the desire to follow you no matter what, to ignore the complications and distractions of this world. Grant me wisdom to understand those things that are meant for good in my life, and those things that keep me from fulfilling my purpose. Lord, let me have a heart like David. Help me to listen to the words of wisdom he gave his son Solomon, and hear your voice through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Loving your Neighbor

We have all heard the verse where Christ says we should love our neighbor as ourselves. This weekend, that really struck me. I started to think, who would qualify as my neighbor? The people next door? Yes. The people living in our town? Yes. The people living in our state? Yes. How about people in the U.S.? Yes. And all over the world? Yes. Ok, so some tougher questions - what about the person at work that gets on your nerves? Yes. And how about that family member that is just so hard to love? Yes!

So we have defined who my neighbor is - everyone but me! But what exactly does loving them like myself mean? When I have a disagreement with someone I care about, am I loving them as myself? What about if we really disagree on major issues? Does it mean I have to let their side "win" so to speak? No, I don't think that would be true. Does it mean that no matter how many times I am hurt by someone, that I should continue to strive to build that relationship? Probably. But how do you do this, knowing that they will probably hurt you down the road again by saying something behind your back, manipulating those around you, or turning their back on you? I don't really have the answers. But now that I think of it, I haven't been a very good "neighbor" myself. I am probably not that easy to love when I think I am right (which now that I think about it, is most of the time). I am probably not easy to show compassion towards when I am focused on the challenges of my life, and don't take time to listen to others. In fact, others may put me on their list of difficult people to love. OUCH!

If I faced the judgment that the Bible talks about at the end of the age, when God separates the wheat from the chaff, how much of my life would "burn" with the chaff? I am starting to think it will be more than I think. My compassion for others should be obvious. It should be overflowing. That means it spills into others lives.

I wouldn't use those descriptions to talk about my life right now. I think this is an area God must be telling me I need to work on. No, I struggle to love some people, and get frustrated when they don't respond the way I want them to. I avoid others that I find difficult to love - people whose lives are so different from my own, that it makes me uncomfortable just trying to come up with something to say. So if the very nature of God calls us to love one another, then whose nature is it that calls us to be an adversary? I hesitate to answer Satan, but let's call him who he really is. And that would be someone I want nothing to do with. So Lord, give me eyes to see others they way that you see them. To find value in everyone because they are your creation, and to give each person I encounter a glimpse of your glorified light through me.

What a daunting task, accomplished only by resting in God's grace, which is exactly what I struggle with most of the time. Rest. Resting in God's grace. It sounds so easy, so why do I struggle with this? Why do I continue to try to work towards "achieving" those virtues the Bible speaks of, instead of resting in Christ and letting the Holy Spirit do the work? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, humility, - the fruit of the Spirit is within me, not a target to be reached! It can only be revealed when the fruit of humanity is laid aside - strife, ambition, pain, animosity, mistrust, slander, selfishness, etc. Lord, as I learn to lay these down, fill these empty spaces with the fruit of your everlasting spirit. Help them to abound in me so that they overflow into others lives. Help me to love my neighbor as myself. Teach me to know what this means, and to be the person you have called me and other believers to be.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ~ John 13:34

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." ~ John 13:35

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” ~ Romans 12:10

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” ~ Romans 13:8

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” ~ Galatians 5:13

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~ Ephesians 4:2

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” ~ Hebrews 10:24

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” ~ 1 Peter 1:22

"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and be humble" ~ 1 Peter 3:8

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Returning to the same old thing

The book of John describes the scenes occurring after Jesus had died on the cross and was appearing to the disciples. We find the disciples back at the Sea of Tiberius. I can imagine what was going through their heads - "I thought this was the Messiah." ; "Could we have been wrong?". Jesus had already appeared to the disciples and showed him his scars, proving his resurrection. I imaging they were confused by what they saw, after all, it had to be nearly unbelievable. More than that, they probably wondered, "OK, so now what?" "What do we do now that Jesus is not with us in physical form? How do our lives change and what message do we preach when our leader isn't around?" One member of the group, Simon Peter, stands up and boldly announces, "I am going out to fish." (John 21:3). In their uncertainty, the other disciples say, "We'll go with you".

So here we are, looking in on the scene as the disciples decided what to do next. The confusion, the frustration, the resentment, the sorrow, the disappointment, all boiling down to the loss of both their teacher, their chosen "redeemer" and friend. How much their hearts must have ached! Their lives had been changed, everything they thought was going to happen, would no longer be true. The plans they might have made, the assumptions they had that they would serve with Christ when he saves his people, all of those plans and wonderings now a fleeting thought, as they adjusted to the fact that everything was different now. I imagine they were as captured in the moment as I would have been. Lost in despair and self-doubt, they turn to the one thing they knew - fishing. Consistency. They at least know how to fish. They can go back to that. It is something they do have control over, it is something they understand.

While the response of the disciples intrigues me, knowing that I would probably respond the same way, it is another fact that I am pondering over today. You see, here were the people chosen by Jesus himself to follow Him. Here were the men who saw the miracles with their own eyes. Who witnessed Jesus' Truth firsthand. These were the guys who tied his sandals, who ate dinner with him, who gave up everything to follow Him because they knew without a doubt, that He was the "one". And yet, days after Jesus' death, are they still proclaiming his truth? Are they fighting those authorities who unjustly crucified their savior? No. They are hanging their heads, they go on home. They go fishing. They immediately return to the life they lived before Jesus. Where are their changed lives?

Do we do the same thing as believers that the disciples did? Do we begin to question our salvation and the the one we entrusted it to, when it feels like He isn't around? Do we end up doing the same old things we did before we got saved, not realizing that our lives should have been different after our experience with our Lord? Do we return to the things we are comfortable with, the things that are easy? Do we recognize our shift back to the culture, back to our old way of life? Do we follow Peter, like the disciples did? Do we let others influence the way we walk in the Lord?

While I think the answers to the above questions are "yes", they don't have to be the end. We can continue returning to Christ, we are renewed, refreshed, and reminded about our Savior's grace and the salvation he has given us. Would it be easier on our lives if we would do it the right way, turning to him for everything after our conversion, and viewing all of the world through the eyes of Truth provided by Christ? IT CERTAINLY WOULD! But we make it difficult, we fight with our flesh to overcome worldy desires and value, losing battles here and there, struggling with the same old burdens we had before.

When the disciples go out to fish, they catch nothing. Isn't that how it truly is? We return to what we think will make us happy, and fall back into old routines we think will bring comfort, only to find them empty and full of disappointment as well!

So let's remember what happens next in the story of our dear disciples. After they "fall away" from the truth and grace they found through their relationship with Christ, and begin to give-in to the uncertainty and self-doubt, someone arrives on the scene - CHRIST! He doesn't announce his presence and demand an answer for their faithlessness and lack of understanding. He shouts out, "Friends, haven't you caught any fish?" I feel like this is a rhetorical question. He seems to be telling them, "brothers, you cannot get fulfillment out of the old way of life, don't you understand this yet?" He tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, and of course, they catch so many fish, they are unable to bring them into the boat. They drag them back to shore, the nets still in the water. When they get to shore, there is a small fire where Christ has prepared a small meal of bread and fish. He invites them to share in the meal with him. You see, in the midst of our confusion, or our rebellion, or even our lack of direction, He calls to us. And when we listen and move towards Him, he invites us into fellowship with Him. It is his gracious mercy that redeems us. What a blessing it is to hear Him call me his friend, to invite me to satisfy my soul's desires at His table! Lord, help me to continue faithfully, dwelling only on your grace, mercy and will for my life. Give me the courage and the strength to continue a steadfast journey until I dwell with you. Help me to cast off the self-doubt, the disappointments, the inconsistency and the weakness of falling back into the same old way of dealing with life's problems. Help me to look only to you.

Matthew 17:8 "When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus"

Friday, September 12, 2008


Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: "Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men, O LORD God. What more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant, O LORD. For the sake of your servant and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made known all these great promises. There is no one like you, O LORD, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears." ~ 1 Chronicles 17:16-20

I was listening to 1 Chronicles on my way to work this morning. King David was such an interesting person. I wish I had the opportunity to know him. David's own house (palace) was built with the finest things, while the ark of the covenant was sitting under a tent. So David desires in his heart to build the Lord a temple. However, the Lord tells him that he will not have David build him a temple, but instead David's son Solomon will carry out that task. Rather than getting frustrated over the reason why he could not build the temple, or dissapointed that he would not see the Lord's temple, David offers up the verses at the top of this post, and humbles himself before God. His response of humility challenges me to respond the same when situations do not work out the way I would have wanted, even though I feel that they are the way God would want them.

Humility is a funny thing, a balance of trust and faith, a struggle with confidence during times of powerlessness. It asks us to look outside ourselves, to let go of the "I did it" mentality, and move towards the mindset that says, "I am only a servant, and the Lord enables me to do all things". Humility includes acceptance of the fact that you can not accomplish things on your own, and that those things that we do accomplish only have value in the sight of God. Without His divine value, all things shall pass away, even our greatest successes.

The great thing is, that while having our greatest successes "pass away" may seem like a loss, our biggest failures are also a part of what will pass away. You see, trusting in the Lord does not mean relinquishing your personality and becoming a "Christian clone" who murmurs recited prayers and practices verbal humility while feeling desperate inside to be "real". No, trusting in the Lord gives you great freedom! This means freedom from guilt, despair, remorse, failure, and yes, even the internal need to perform, or find value in what you accomplish! Our freedom in Christ allows us to cast away the crutches of insecurity and humbly acknowledge that your life is not your own. It allows us to be honest with ourselves and others. And let's face it, true honesty has to come with some humility!!

So I will take my slice of "humble pie" today, and eat it slowly, savoring the freedom that it brings in Christ. Would you like that "a la mode"? ~Karen

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Memories of 9/11

This morning on the way to work I was listening to Focus on the Family and they had a guest speaker who was in the 2nd tower of the World Trade Center. A wing of the plane actually stuck into his exit door. As he recounted his miraculous escape to freedom, and how God had delivered him by using another man to help him, I couldn't help but think of all the others who may have prayed the same prayer for deliverance from the situation, but met their death instead. We will never know their stories or the peace that filled their hearts as they faced a certain death, the joy of knowing that today would be the day they met their Savior, or the gracious way many gave up their lives for their friend, showing what Christian brotherhood is all about. We also won't know about those who begged to understand why God was not answering their prayer for deliverance, those who did not find peace in that moment, and those who were in fear until the end. I would guess that even Christians fell into both of those categories. So what separated those who fell into the first group from those in the second? Was it their reliance and trust in our Father? Is it fair to say that those who fell into the second group had less faith? Was their faith overshadowed by the burdens of the moment, so much that the Grace of God could not be revealed to them?

This makes me think of my own life. When I am faced with trials, can I hear the Father calling me? Do I rest in the peace of His perfect will, or do I frantically try to find a solution on my own, which leads only to despair. I hate to admit that too often I fall into the latter group, why is that? I have faith, and I believe, but sometimes it is so hard to let go. Sometimes it is hard to understand that our Father has a love for me that surpasses understanding. In this love, he protects me from harm. That doesn't mean He "shelters" me, helping me to avoid any sort of trials in my life. It doesn't mean that the more I trust in Him, the easier life is, and the less troubles I will face. No, that type of understanding only leads to dissapointment, for it puts my fate back into my own hands......if I only tried harder, if I only spent more time in devotions or prayer. No, He is not a shelter to avoid the storm. But "GOD IS OUR REFUGE". In the midst of the storm, He provides a place of peace, a place of rest. Many times, we have to travel through the storm to get to the refuge, and after we are rested and filled, He encourages us to step back out into the storm. My God does not cause me to escape trials. Instead, He holds me through them, teaching me that if I can completely surrender, it is in His arms alone that I will find rest.

"Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long. And the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders." ~ Deuteronomy 33:12

Beloved, may we rest in the grace and peace of God today. Amen

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Psalm 62

Traveling back from small group last night, I decided to start this blog which I have titled "A Heart Renewed". I will be tracking my reflections over my devotionals, bible readings, verse meditations, and fellowship with our Father here. There will also be heartfelt moments of "naked honesty" about my life, and the struggles and triumphs we all might face.

There is something enticing about a blog - the feeling that someone out there is listening, and cares about what you have to say. It is freeing to pour your heart out and feel like there is someone on the recieving end. Then it struck me, "Isn't that what prayer is all about?". We pour out our hearts to God, like Habbakuk, questioning why things have to be the way they are, asking for different answers, and praising his ultimate plan and will over our lives. We lay it all on the line, exposing the deepest parts of our innermost beings, without shame or remorse, but with the hope of restoration and peace. Prayer works so well, because the Father that we serve does not use this information about us to load us with guilt or to burden us with failure, but he lifts us up, wipes our tears, cleans our wounds, and helps us on our way. All the while, he calls us into a deeper relationship with Him, exposing the truth of Christ to us ever so slowly, revealing his grace ever so gently, and filling us with a hope that abounds. Isn't it wonderful to call Jesus our Lord, to know the sacrifice he went through for our relationship, and to know that we can turn to him with complete trust in prayer? Lord, help me to remember that this week.

"Trust in Him at all times, O People. Pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge." Psalm 62:8