Thursday, December 29, 2011

It'll cost ya!

Psalm 4:5
 "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the Lord."  

Why does God call righteousness and trust in Him a sacrifice? 

In order to answer this question I started with definitions of the words.  

I love to look up words in English, Greek and Hebrew dictionaries when studying the Scriptures.  Even words that seem so obvious, like sacrifice.  It's an offering, right?  But looking further I begin to see that it is an offering that costs me something.  

So the next question: What do righteousness and trust in God cost me?  Again, I considered the words.

Righteousness--being right, doing right.  As I do what is right I am offering a sacrifice to God of my will, my way.  I choose to do it His way, not mine.  That requires a submission of my will.  God's way, not my way. 
So what does trust offer to God?  Trust implies confidence in Him and His ways.  Trust requires me to offer up control on the altar of sacrifice.  I give up the control of my life, my circumstances.  I take my hands off and allow God to grab hold of my life, my circumstances and I follow. 

Notice the number of times that "me" or "my" shows up?  It's ME that God is requesting as a sacrifice.  He says, "Give Me you, Mary."

Does giving up my way and my control cost me something?  Yup!  Does it hurt sometimes?  You bet ya!  Is it difficult?  I would say so.  

But look deeper into Psalm 4.  Consider verse 8-"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for Thou alone, O Lord, dost make me to dwell in safety."

Sacrifice cost something but the returns are so much more. 


God asks me to let Him be in charge, to give Him the reins, to offer the sacrifice of my way and my control.  And He offers peacefulness, security and a place of rest in the midst of life's chaos.  

As they say, "That's worth the price of admission!"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Falling in love

It wasn't love at first sight.  But it was love at first drive! 

We test drove a new vehicle yesterday.  I basically spent less than 30 minutes in this automobile.  I drove to Walmart and back but that was all it took for me to go from "we don't need this nice of a car" to "Oh, how I would love to drive this everyday!" I fell in love with the heated seats, the sun roof, the XM radio.  I loved the way it looked sitting in our drive way.  I loved the way I looked sitting in it.  But, alas.  We knew it was not for us and much to my surprise, when we returned it to the dealer and proceeded to look at a lesser model I teared up.  Tears?! Over a car I had known less than an hour?!  And I was even more amazed when it took the rest of the evening for me to "get over it" and "let it go".  If I had just looked at the car I may have admired it's good looks but doubt that I would have made a heart connection with it.  But touching it, driving it, sitting in it, interacting with it produced a desire for it!

Then this morning I read in Psalm 119 "I rejoice at Thy word, as one who finds great spoil." "I love Thy law." "Those who love Thy law have great peace." "I love them (Thy testimonies) exceedingly." And I made the connection between what happened with a car and what can happen with God's word.  Just looking at it from the outside may result in a passing interest or admiration.  But when I touch it, sit with it, interact with it, experience it I develop a heart connection.  I grow to love it and become awed at its "bells and whistles".  I come to realize I don't want to live without it.  I want to "drive" it everyday.  I love the way I look when I have spent time in it.  Just like a new flashy car, I fall in love with God's word when I open the door, get in and experience the drive.  

"Oh, How I love Thy law!
It is my meditation all the day."
Psalm 119:97

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Can I trust my conscience?

The apostle Paul had always interested me.  When I was a young believer I would read his comments (" imitators of me" 1 Cor. 4:16) and think "Sounds a bit arrogant to me."  But as God has increased my understanding I have come to the conclusion that he may have been arrogant before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus but once his personal relationship with the Lord began his arrogance was transformed by God to confidence because of the grace of his Lord ("by the grace of God I am what I am" 1 Cor. 15:10).  

This week the Bible Study I am involved with studied the role our own conscience plays in our lives.  My conscience is that God-given moral rudder that helps me discern between right and wrong and encourages me to do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing.  

My "friend" the apostle Paul had lots to say about the conscience.  Maybe because he knew first hand how it can fail a person.  He had ravaged the church, dragging the believers out of their homes and the synagogues, voting in favor of their death all the while thinking he was doing the right thing (Acts 26:9) His conscience had led him astray and many, many suffered the horrible consequences.  But then Jesus showed up on the road to Damascus and Paul was transformed.  After he became a follower of Jesus Paul said "I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men." (Acts 24:16)  He knew that the conscience cannot be left on autopilot.  It must be maintained.  It has to be "managed".  

The conscience can be trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). The study made me aware of the need to keep my communication with God ongoing.  I need to keep short accounts with God through confession and repentance.  The Holy Spirit must have control of me.  I need to pray for my conscience.  Honesty has to be a priority for me.  And I need to be accountable to others who will point out the wrong thinking that creeps into my thoughts. 

Training my conscience begins with baby steps.  I ask myself,  "What little choices can I make that will help me train my conscience to think like God thinks?" Just as little chips in the windshield can turn into big cracks if left unattended so can lapses in judgement turn into major messes.  But the opposite is true also.  Make a few little choices in the right direction and it will lead to better choices down the road.  

I am encouraged that Paul's conscience which was a train wreck on its own became a trusted guide under the control of God.  I am encouraged because I can become an imitator of him because he has worked through some of the same issues that I deal with.  I can imitate Paul because he purposed to imitate Jesus.