“be good faith”

“Find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10).

Let’s not confuse this instruction with, “Do the right things before man in order to please man and gain approval.”  No, this Spirit-breathed truth states, “find out what pleases the LORD.”

As a leader in student ministry, my heart breaks for young people who are solely focused on their outward behavior.  They keep mom and dad happy by “being good,” and really, that is the desired goal of many Christian parents.  What’s wrong with that?

It’s easy to abandon a faith that has everything to do with measurable, external factors and nothing to do with the heart.  It’s merely a change in behavior, no different from a change of eating habits or favorite hang-out spots.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 15:7).

What is in the heart of the “be good” faithful?  They are lovers of self and lovers of the world.  There is no quickening to the Holy Spirit’s leading.   The One who seeks to equip them to avoid the trappings of worldly desires is simply unknown.  Sensitivity to the voice of God was lost long ago due to their focus on producing measurable and good results of good behavior.

What’s the remedy?  Oh, that their hearts would hunger and thirst for the Living God!  That they would seek Him with all the fervor that they seek acceptance of a friend or a lover.  That they would surrender their lives as they humbly kneel in acknowledgement of His faithful love and care.  Singer Kim Walker says if you’ve encountered the love of God, you would know, because you are never the same.

Remedy. Not religion. Relationship- with the lover of your soul.

3 very important things my grandparents taught me

My grandparents, John and Dorothy Jonas, were two of the most God-fearing people I knew as a child.  They loved the Lord Jesus Christ, they loved His Church, and they loved seeing souls saved.  After they retired, they travelled and shared God’s love all over the U.S.  Of course, they made sure that each of their grandkids had the opportunity to meet Jesus and proclaim Him Savior.  This leads me to the number one thing I learned from my grandparents:

  1. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.  I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was just a child, camping with Grandma and Grandpa at a church retreat.
  2. Jesus is the glue that holds a marriage together.    Shortly before Jon and I married, Grandpa asked me if I wanted the marriage to last…  I really had no idea how that would happen, so I said, “Of course, Grandpa!”  He simply said for me to keep Christ centered in my life, and He will put everything else in place.  Best advice ever.
  3. Time not spent with children during their growing years is time lost and leads to regret.   This one was  difficult to hear them talk about because it involved my mother, and she expressed the challenge she had throughout childhood and on into adulthood resulting from this truth.  My mom often said that she had beautiful clothes and other things, but she rather would have enjoyed time with her parents.  This message is critical for my generation.  We assess our parenting ability by what we can buy for our children, and the truth is that there is no material thing that replaces the value children feel when parents simply want to spend time with them.  Hearing my grandparents express their regret 40 years too late was a pivotal moment for me.  I knew that I could choose to learn from their mistake.

Grandma and Grandpa,  thank you for leading me to Jesus.  I carry the mantel of declaring His love in all the world.  I look forward to running my race to the finish and then celebrating around the throne with all of our family in Christ Jesus!

overflow

This morning I hit my favorite wooded trail for a run and an opportunity to hear the Holy Spirit speak as I sort through what I am feeling right now.  Jesus went up on the mountainside to pray and to have time alone with God.  I go deep into the woods and climb hills!

The trail was a mess today… well, maybe not a mess.  But, it was definitely changed.  We had a tremendous downpour earlier this week, and I can only imagine the temporary rivers that were flowing across the trail and down the steep hills.  The evidence of the overflow was seen in the piles of forest-generated debris in low-lying areas.  There was obvious wash-out under some of the steps cut into the steep hills.  And an already heavily rooted trail now has even more root exposure.

The Holy Spirit taught me, “This is what happens when I am invited to overflow in the lives of believers:  the landscape changes!   You know when I have moved upon the lives of a believers.  People have to deal with the debris that surfaces.  Roots are exposed so that the source of sin can be extracted.  I want there to be a wash-out of sin.  There’s no more opportunity to merely step over it and pretend it’s not there.”

I pray, “Father, this is why I come to You today.  I know Your Word is like a two-edged sword that penetrates to divide soul and spirit, joint and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  I desire to be moved in my spirit by Your truth.  I want Your life to be the source of my actions.  Forgive me for my sin so that I may be blameless and walk steadfastly before You.”

The overflow of God’s Spirit that I experienced this morning has definitely settled my soul.  In the final mile of the run, as I went alongside the shore of a lake, I said, “You lead me beside still waters; You restore my soul.”  Can I encourage you to seek out time in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit?  Earlier this year, I heard a pastor say it’s the “Power of an Hour.”  Besides, if the Son of God needed time alone with the Father in order for the Spirit’s overflow to work in and through His life, do we need anything less?  I don’t know about you, but I am ready for this day!  There are many lives that I am about to intersect, and I’m expecting God to do the unexpected!

run the race

It’s been a little over 3 years, but in one week, I  will re-enter the road race scene.  I’m not a serious competitor; I simply try to outdo myself, and that is the beauty of the sport of running.

I have recently attended several track meets that my son competed in, and I am amazed at the athleticism that I witness on the track and in the field.  There are some athletes who obviously “beat their bodies into submission!”  I am often astounded by the speed and strength of the runners who whiz by me as I stand trackside offering up shouts of encouragement to them and my son.

I’m wondering what kinds of things you do when witnessing a sporting event on tv or in person?  Do you yell at the players as though they can hear you?  Do you wear your team colors and decorate your vehicle with the team logo?  Have you ever worn an afro wig or body paint in team colors?  Can you be found dancing when there’s a touchdown scored in the Superbowl?

I find it crazy the way we onlookers identify ourselves with a team to such a degree as saying, “we won!”  We didn’t win.  The players who sweated out every advancement in the game did the winning.  We did the watching, the witnessing.

To witness is to see something happening.  The Bible offers a cool perspective on the multitudes who are currently witnessing our run in the race of life:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The great cloud of witnesses is explained in Hebrews chapter 11, also known as the Hall of Faith.  There, in the sacred text, are listed the names and accounts of those who have already completed the amazing race of faith.  Names such as Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Rahab are among others who remain nameless but their feats done in faith are forever remembered.

Here’s my question:  what are these champions of the faith doing right now?  Do they see us in the race of life?  Are they shouting at us to run strong even though they know we cannot hear them?  Are they encouraging us with all that is within them because they know that Jesus is our very great reward, and now that they see Him in all of His glory, they want us to run hard after the goal?

I only ask because I once was granted access in the spirit to see a stadium-like setting in heaven.  I couldn’t see a throne, but I could hear the loudest roar imaginable.  You know how it sounds when tens of thousands are shouting at one time?  It was like that.  I knew that it was a heavenly sound, but I am unsure of the source.  Was it the roar of the Lion of Judah?  Maybe.  But since I saw the faceless multitudes in the stadium, I have to believe that they were the producers of the noise.  It was loud, and it was exciting!  You know what I think was happening?  I think it was the great cloud of witnesses cheering wildly.  If individual voices could have been detected, I may have heard things like, “Run, Renee!  You can do it!”  “Go!  Jesus is so worth it!  Waste all that you have on HIM!  Goooo!”  “Run, Run, Run!   Go faster!  Your reward awaits you at the finish line!”

I may one day have greater understanding about the vision I experienced years ago.  But for now, I am allowing the truth of God’s Word and the sound that remains in my memory to motivate me.  We truly are in the amazing race of faith.  Finish strong, my friend.  Like the track coach says, don’t leave anything left over for when you cross the finish line.  Give it all that you have!

“be careful; the snakes are out”

Yesterday, I hit a trail to do some running, and as I passed by a couple of ladies who stopped to greet one another, they warned me  to keep a look out for snakes.  The alert did not shock me; regular visitors to this park are well aware of the presence of canebrake rattlesnakes.  I had just been thinking about the snake population, wondering if I would see any on this run.  It’s not my favorite encounter when I’m alone on a trail…  I do some fancy, high-stepping strides in an effort to get my feet off the ground!

I continued on and planned to take the open trails that offer plenty of visibility.  I saw no snakes at all; however,  I did see their slithery markings in the dusty path.  That is enough evidence for me; indeed, the snakes are out.

All of my senses were alert, but I also engaged my spirit.  I reminded myself of the truth of God’s Word concerning the order He assigned in His creation.  Man was given dominion over everything else created in the earth, even those creatures that “move along the ground” (Gen. 1:26).  At that moment Jon called me on the phone, and I shared with Him my current focus while trying to run.  He too is aware of the snake population, and the truth of God’s Word and said, “Don’t be afraid to handle any snakes you see!”  We both laughed knowing I had no intention of getting that close.

Today, I finished up the Gospel of Mark in my Bible reading, and do you know that it mentions the handling of snakes?  Mark, quoting Jesus, wrote that the following signs will accompany those who believe:  “In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16: 18).

Well, there you have it!  These signs will mark us as believers, and I believe it whole-heartedly.  However, I pray that all of my snake encounters do not require use of my hands!

Read about the divine protection from a poisonous snake in the account of Paul shipwrecked on the island of Malta in Acts 28.

100 years ago this week

100 years ago, the Titanic sank.  The “ship that even God Himself could not sink” went down into the Atlantic on April 14, 1912.  The hugeness of the Titanic and its failure points vividly to the smallness of man before God Almighty.

I’ve been on a few cruise ships, 7 to be exact.  Each one seemed like a floating city.  And why do we cruisers choose a vacation at sea?  The biggest selling point is the ease of one-stop shopping.  With a single reservation you get a variety of destinations, hotel, meals and entertainment.  There’s also the element of adventure that excites the traveler.

The Titanic probably did not draw its passengers in the same way.  For many, it was merely a means of passage across the Atlantic.  For the privileged, it was first-class treatment with the promise of luxury, fine foods and exceptional company.

Many of God’s people are cruising through life with a “no luxury is denied me” mind-set.  We seek the thrill of living through entertainment and other experiences that only money can buy.  We thirst, therefore, we seek to get satisfied with worldly treasures, but this is what the Lord sees…

“My people have forsaken Me, the spring of living water”  Jeremiah 2:13.

He also notes that the cisterns we dig cannot hold water because they are broken.

What does it mean when God says that our cisterns are broken?

God wants us to know that what we build in attempt to bring satisfaction in our lives is useless.  Only that which is built upon the Lord Jesus Christ lasts, for He alone satisfies the soul’s thirst.

Keep an eye out for the Titanic in your life.  You’ll see it tipping high in the night sky when you realize that your thirst in life is not satisfied by possessions.  What you and I really thirst for is the Living Water.  The unsinkable Titanic?  There is a problem with such a vessel.  It cannot hold water.

resurrection hope

I have been anticipating a Resurrection Sunday celebration that is unmatched.  I am full of hope and expectation even though I am walking through a season of not seeing things clearly.  But that is the story of Jesus’ resurrection, the hope in the hours of waiting to see what is to come…   Even though the darkness of Friday is tangible, look up, because Sunday is coming!

This is the excitement of Easter for believers:  although we all will face difficult circumstances in this world, we can take heart- Christ has overcome the world!  It does not matter how impossible the situation appears to be.  For those who are in Christ, there is a plan at work behind the scenes to turn that situation around!  In short, God doesn’t lead His children down dead-end roads!

I went to my parents’ house yesterday, and honestly, it hurt my heart to experience its vacancy.  It was not so long ago that those very rooms were filled with cooking, laughter, game-playing, and tv watching.  I got into my car to head home and the songs on the radio spoke healing to the aching inside of me.  There is resurrection hope, and I will see my parents again when I join them in heaven.  There is also the hope of morning light dispelling the darkness.  So whatever the situation, you and I can know with certainty that although we lack understanding or direction at this moment, there is ALWAYS a Sunday for those who are in Christ!