Cause & Effect

The week didn’t start out that way…and it surely was not my intent to not complete my Bible Study Fellowship homework. But there it was…Sunday night and well after 11 pm, and the only thing I had done was read the notes. Yikes…how did that happen?

Yes, I had a busy schedule. But not more than normal…not really. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what I did that supplanted the attention that I normally devote to Bible study time. After going through a week without that personal study time…I can tell you…there is a price to be paid for not studying.

Despite the fact my lesson was blank I wanted to go to class tonight. I got there just in time for the lecture. As usual…Terri’s lecture was compelling and convicting. The images and words that Terri shared… I could not get out of my head. Terri described how two young girls hung on the words of a hymn and were in awe when learning about Jesus for the first time. They were in awe. When’s the last time I was in awe of God…or enraptured by what I was learning?

Terry contrasted that with their mom…who sat a distance away…with her arms folded. Ears hearing…but not a listening heart. Is that me? I pray not.

But God drove home the point…as I drove home. The Holy Spirit convicted me of not putting God first this week. Yes…I was in church…and at my regular Bible studies…and even attended the prayer meeting. But I didn’t read the Book. Each day…I’m eager to put in CD’s to hear great preaching…I’m drinking from an abundant well…but I’m left thirsty.

Then I realized…that by not taking the time to do my study, to read the Bible for myself…I was neglecting my personal relationship with God. There is a time and place for all the above activities. They are very good…but not when they take the place of personal Bible study time.

God brought to mind the analogy of a husband saying he was knows and is communicating with his wife…but he has no personal or direct contact with her. Instead of seeing her and talking with her face to face…or speaking directly to her on the phone…he’s satisfied with talking to her friends or family to find out how she’s doing. They may even be giving an accurate assessment of how his wife is doing…but it in no way substitutes for personal interaction. To know and see her for himself.

That’s exactly what I was doing. Listening to sermons or Bible studies is a good. But it never should replace my own personal Bible study time. Even if the Pastor is accurate and effective in preaching the word of God…I’m hearing it through someone else’s filter. I’m not hearing God speak directly to me through the study of His word.

The husband and wife analogy is an apt description. Just as husband would more inclined to start looking elsewhere and be tempted to stray when he doesn’t foster and maintain that personal relationship…so too am I vulnerable to wandering.

As the old hymn goes, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love”. But the remedy is simple, yet not easy. “Here’s my heart, Oh take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above”. That sealing…that binding takes place when I’m studying and reading His word for myself…daily.

Glorifying Conviction

“Do you glorify God with your life?”

With the above question from Elder and Teacher Dave Dunn…I found the Holy Spirit giving me not just a nudge…but a good old whack upside the head. It kind of took me by surprise.

As we’ve studied the book of Revelation…God has brought forth lessons that I need to apply to my life. At times the Holy Spirit has convicted me…reining me in as I get off course.

But now that we are deep into the book of Revelation…chapter 15 talks about upcoming judgment of unbelieving people who have utterly rejected God. They are committed to living a life of utter depravity. While it’s not the very end of the book…in the timeline of the events in Revelation…it’s in the latter part of the 7 years of the Tribulation. So I wasn’t expecting God to get my attention on sin. Oh maybe the sin of not sharing the Gospel message as much as can and should with people in my sphere of influence. But conviction of my sin that’s on par with those facing God’s condemnation and destruction…now I wasn’t expecting that.

That’s exactly where God got my attention tonight. When Dave asked, “Do you glorify God with your life?”…I don’t remember if I looked up and caught Dave’s eye or whether I felt too convicted to glance up. But I did write a note in my Bible…I wrote down Dave’s very question.

Quite obviously…the answer is no…I don’t glorify God with my life…or least not as consistently as He deserves or as much as I should.

They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the ages.
Who will not fear you, O Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
Revelation 15:2-4

Do I glorify God with how I act, what I say and do and even think? Do I sing His praises from my lips regularly? Do I have a deep abiding peace and joy within my spirit which causes people to look to my Lord and seek Him? Do I fully trust Him, knowing that He alone is good and has a good plan for me that He laid before the foundations of the world? Do I trust Him in all circumstances? Do I trust Him to bring good out of evil and wrong that was done? Do I trust Him to execute His plan and promises that He laid out in the Bible? Do I act loving…not just toward those whom I love…but even my enemy? Am I burdened to pray for their lost soul…or do I prefer to complain about what they’ve done? Do I love the un-loveable? Do I seek to do good to them? Do I choose to worry about my circumstances instead of going to God in prayer knowing that He cares for me? Do I thank Him daily for all the blessings and provisions He has given me? Do I seek Him and to know Him better each day through prayer and reading His word? Is Jesus pleased to know me? Do I cause His heart to swell with overflowing love for me? Or am I like the family member that is put up with…because after all…they are family? Am I pleased to know Jesus? How, where and with whom do I share about my love for my great and magnificent God, Lord and Savior?

I’ve been a Christian for sixteen years now. While I came to Christ late in my life…I’ve had the privilege to sit under some wonderful Bible study teachers who teach the full counsel of God’s word. I am most blessed by God to attend a church I am most unworthy of, Kindred Community Church. I have fellow Christians which show me great mercy and love…and what it truly means to be a Christian. When I see them…I see a little bit of Jesus. I listen to God’s word daily through Bible study CD’s and sermons. I attend Bible Study and read God’s word regularly. Most of the music I listen to is Christian music. And yet…I can honestly say…that I don’t consistently glorify God with my life.

No better example of that…than my reaction this week as I heard of the unjust and mean treatment of an alcoholic towards his wife and family. My first response was a desire to beat him up. Next I thought how great it would be to dish back to him some of the demeaning and humiliating remarks he so easily delivers in his drunken state.

I didn’t think right off the bat we need to pray for this man’s salvation and for God to deliver him from alcoholism. My first reaction was not to lift up the wife in prayer and ask that God would give her wisdom and discernment on what to do.

I wanted to act in the flesh…and use my tongue to tear down and hurt a person…not lift them up in prayer.

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” – Romans 7:24-25

As I read God’s word, study the Bible and pray…the closer I draw to God. As I draw closer…I see all the more clearly my sin and unworthiness. Thankfully…my salvation is not dependent upon my good works…but on Jesus blood shed on the cross. Not just to cover my sins…but to take them away completely. In Him…I am white as snow. As a bonus…He has given me His Holy Spirit to dwell within me…to guide me and correct me.

Good gracious…the Holy Spirit has boat load of work left to do in this here unworthy sinner…saved by grace alone, through Christ alone. He should be getting some serious overtime pay for the work He has to do in me!

9/19/07 At the End of the Day…Reining In of the Holy Spirit

Today I experienced the unmistakable reining in of the Holy Spirit.

After a few days of inconvenience caused by someone who erred…I was tempted to dwell upon it and perhaps drop a well timed clever put down for the audience at hand. Thankfully that good old conviction of the Holy Spirit stopped me short of being mean spirited and speaking in a gossipy rude manner. Thank you Jesus!

Being that I fully understand when Paul said that “nothing good dwells in me”…the temptation to speak rudely did not go away entirely.

But when driving this morning…as my mind started to dwell on the situation…God reined me. Not only about not speaking poorly about someone…but He convicted me for even choosing think along those lines. He challenged me, “Susan…before you so easily complain, have you thought about praying for this person? Praying for the situation to be resolved? Offered to help make it better? What they did was not done intentionally and it went from bad to worse. Susan you’ve been there, done that…and you want to put this person down…for what? Don’t you think they are already getting hassled and snippy comments coming there way? I’d bank on it.”

With the Holy Spirit’s help…the desire to complain stopped and I knew that I had chosen what God would have me to do.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

Complaining…while perhaps even justified or understandable…is very destructive, for both the hearer and the speaker. It’s lazy and prideful.

There is nothing good that comes out of that type of complaining. There is room to address genuine issues. However that really needs to be done in a one on one basis and in a straightforward manner. That’s a healthy way to address situations. But it requires thought, patience and restraint when it may feel better initially to verbally or emotionally hit back after being hurt.

Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest or may not feel the best…at that time. But in the end…when I choose to do the right thing…I have peace with God and with people. I’m not left feeling guilty for saying the wrong thing and I’m not being kept up late at night wishing I could take back what I have done.

Today the Holy Spirit reined me in. My question is…does Jesus Christ reign in me? If not, why? What will it take for me to surrender to His power, guidance and direction in my life?

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:3-12