“The Why? in Suffering”

cloud-of-missoryMy Sunday school class is currently studying, the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7.  As a matter of fact, my pastor-husband Earl, is doing a 4-part sermon series at Charlestons Presbyterian Church on the Sermon on the Mount, as well. As many know, the beginning of the sermon starts with what are referred to as the Beatitudes, which means “exalted happiness.”  Declared as blessed are the poor in spirit, those who  mourn, the gentle, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who have been persecuted – those that have been insulted and accused falsely.

But here are listed human frailties as well – people who are suffering in one form or another.  This crowd of people, who because of their gentleness or humbleness, those who were merciful toward others, those who tried to stay pure and make peace, could also be ridiculed and thought less valuable by many people.

Recently, a fellow employee at the company in which I work asked me why there is suffering.  She was watching the death of someone she cared about and could not fathom why he must suffer and why family and friends had to endure the suffering of someone they loved so deeply.  Upon his death, she told me she was asked to give the eulogy. She was wondering what she could possibly say. aged-woman

The question of suffering is not a new one.  It has been pondered by humans in every generation.  But I did offer her an answer that has allowed me to somewhat better accept the suffering of my fellow man and lay all my hope in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I tried to offer her a little of God’s comforting presence by allowing her to see God’s promises through His Word.  I told her that her faith in knowing Him would allow Him to help her become closer to Him and to understand suffering.

According to Genesis, we came into being because God created us.  “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).  In knowing this, I know that my soul (the living being within me, that makes me animate), living in this shell called a body, belongs to God.  And God has every right to have us returned to Him.

I’ve learned in my sorrows, and that without them, I would be less than human, not more.  Without human sorrows, we haven’t loved enough, felt compassion enough or been in a relationship with other God-breathed sisters and brothers.  Without sorrow, I wouldn’t be like Christ, Who wept at the death of Lazarus, (John 11: 1-36).  And Jesus promised Martha concerning Lazarus, “your brother shall rise again.” John 11:23.

In our seeking out God due to the suffering we face, we are calling out to the Great Comforter.  We are mourning the loss of someone we love.  We are showing to others our compassionate spirit and that God dwells within us.  We show that we have feelings and that we are not apathetic or stoic or spiritually dead on the inside.

Praise God that He uses our suffering to offer others the extreme privilege of showing compassion to others.  Without suffering, we would never know deepest love and compassion.  If no one ever suffered, no one would ever learn to help those who are less fortunate or in need.  Jesus was surrounded by those who suffered, and He showed them all God’s compassion.  We are to be like Him.

crosses-of-golgathaJesus suffered immensely on the cross even while His mother suffered at the foot of the cross.  But Mary knew Who Jesus was and knew His suffering was for the good of all mankind.  Suffering can bring Christ to His lost sheep – touching the very souls of those who are afflicted by turning them to Jesus Christ Who had compassion and love for all people, and Who died that they might all be saved and be granted eternal blessedness.

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Come, Entertain Me

 

CPC Flower ArrangementThe word come, when read in the Bible about Christ’s enjoining His disciples to follow Him, became their first step in living the Christian life. It is a disciple of Jesus’ first step. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” In Mark 1:17-18 “And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men. And they immediately left their nets and followed Him.” We do not walk with Christ without following His teachings and direction.
I anticipate worship in a Christian church to be of my Lord Jesus Christ, to ask for forgiveness of my sins, and to take in the whole Word of God. And as I leave the church doors, I fully expect the Holy Spirit to go with me and keep me strong in the faith and use what I heard and learned to navigate through the channels in life. I expect that when I am in fellowship with other believers, I will be comforted, heard, even advised and disciplined by those who know and live the Word of God. I expect that other Christians will use their experiences based upon God’s Word to uplift me and help to direct my life. I pray that I will do the same for them. I pray that I will always comfort others, listen to others, advise and help direct others based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
In a conversation with an individual a year or so ago, after a Sunday service, a comment was made to me that went something like this:
- I know I am a very quiet and non-social person, and I have been coming here for years, but I look around and always feel there are clicks/groups and there is no sense of desire by those clicks/groups to be changed by adding another person to them.-
I wonder how church can sometimes feel like another social gathering or social club. Can we come to be entertained rather than to be taught? Do we turn away from following Christ when we don’t like something we hear from the Scriptures because it is contrary to what our culture teaches us? Doesn’t everyone ask, “Is God trying to speak to me here?” “Don’t I have something to learn if I am following Jesus?” “Could I be mistaken in my beliefs?”
When we are following Christ in church we should react like those who first heard Jesus, “And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” We should come to church to obey Jesus Christ, learn His truths, His ways and how to live His life. To follow Jesus is to get closer to Him, advance towards His will, and to draw near to His holiness and goodness. In doing so, we are changed and Christ changes the world through us. We come to church to worship God and to follow Him, not to be entertained or just because we have friends or family there.
I was reading an article (Entertained to Death? Is seeker-driven entertainment a viable option for Growing your Church? By Eric Barger) about how many;
“compromising leaders help propagate lukewarm “religious” followers with no sense of Godly Biblical standards who miss the awe, reverence and supernatural power of God”. “Perhaps due to shrinking attendance and growing expenses, some evangelicals have slowly adopted the notion of “giving the people what they want” as their church plan. Now seen as “old fashioned”, “outdated” and “negative” are the Biblical ideals of discipleship, doctrine, righteousness, victory over evil and the conquering of sin. At any rate, this is the underlying rational being forwarded by a number of today’s popular growth gurus. Those whose books and teaching have lead the Church away from Biblical thinking have probably done so without overtly malicious intent. Nevertheless, the popularizations of the so-called “positive gospels” have come from a non-historical basis, a mix of bad theology and a “change or die” church growth mentality.”
I have been listening and learning from my husband Earl, a God-fearing man for over 16 years. Earl & Bob BeanHe has been preaching for 29 years. Every time he steps behind the pulpit I expect to hear God speaking to me. And every time for 16 years, I hear this man being used as a vessel by God to bring His Word to me. When I come to church, I expect the music, Bible verses, confessions and offerings all to be about worshiping God, not entertaining me. I’ve delved into the Bible for years. I read it annually and continue to study it in depth. I am given great insight by God in those Words and revelations as He determines. I would be aghast if Earl were to ever “compromise” Scriptures just to satisfy some political base in the pews.
If we watch the clock or are like those participants that “didn’t get anything out of that one, preacher,” perhaps we need to seek God more than we do our lunch. Perhaps that twelve noon kickoff tailgate party with friends was going through our minds, and we missed what was meant for us. Perhaps what was preached was from God to us, but we just didn’t agree with it or like the way it was presented. Jesus never said, “Come and be entertained.” He didn’t say, “If you agree with Me, then you might want to try it.”  Psalm 95 is powerful, and I commend it for reading and devotional study – but in particular verses 6-8; “come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God. And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah.”
Come to the house of The Lord. Come and hear His voice. Come and hear the uncompromised Word of God. Come and bow down to Jesus. Come to Him and expect no entertainment in return. But do expect forgiveness, eternal life, and a new and abundant life in Christ.

God’s Review of My Spiritual Performance 2013-2014

JIPC Welcome Center

JIPC Welcome Center

I sit here on vacation, on New Year’s Eve 2013, reviewing the life I have led this past year.

Recently, I put in a request for a review of my work as a Controller of a company of which I have been employed for the past 14 years.  It had been three years since my last performance and salary review.  I put together a summation of some of the important issues that I have handled including expense cuts, employee relations, business deals, and the monetary gains that I have accomplished for them.  I highlighted all the good that I felt I had done and the plans that I have for the future.  Needless to say, I did NOT include anything that I felt was a underachievement or loss experienced by the company due to my performance.

The purpose of a review is usually to give some feedback and to plan for what training one might need, what skill areas to develop further, and how one might be better utilized in the workplace.  It is also to evaluate how one’s relationships with the supervisor/boss and fellow employees are going.

Not only do we expect to be rewarded in our work by salary consideration, but we’ve had reviews and expected rewards throughout our entire lives.  Look back to your education, report cards and graduation achievements as well as sports banquets and trophies.

Yet how often do we review how we’ve performed in the past in our Christian life and what goals we have for the future in our spiritual life?

Jesus stated:  “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak”(Matthew 12:36, NLT).

Paul stated: “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NLT).

And Jeremiah stated: “But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10, NLT).

So what kind of relationship do I have with THE BOSS?  How am I doing with the plans that God has for me?  Have I met the goals that He has set for me over the past year?  Is there additional training that I need to go through in 2014?  Have I earned any other praise or rewards from God in addition to the free gift of eternal life?

I pretty much deserved what I received in my work performance review this year.  I did receive a raise! But in my Christian life, I believe that I have failed far more than I should have in the work the Lord gave me to do.  I succeeded in my career BECAUSE I put that first over the past six months due to circumstances.  But in so doing, I have put some of God’s work on a back-burner.  I feel like I haven’t put forth enough effort in personal relationships with my fellow parishioners that I normally do.  And I have felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit within me – knowing I have failed in fully utilizing the gift of hospitality, which God has given me.  I have grieved the Holy Spirit; I feel it in my poor soul.

And yet, I have accomplished some things in my 2013 Christian walk.  I have read His Word daily and read the Bible in its entirety.  I have participated in small group Bible study and Christian fellowship.  I have ministered to Earl as my husband and my pastor as well as to those within the church who have had pastoral needs.  I have visited those hospitalized and in hospice.  I have fed the hungry at the Charleston Shelter and volunteered my time at the James Island Outreach Food Bank and remained a board member.  I became the liaison on the Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery Presbyterian Women’s  Team.

Yesterday, I went with Earl to visit a woman named Libba whom we dearly love from our previous church.  Her husband Floyd passed away in recent weeks.  He was one of the members of the pastor nominating committee that brought Earl to that church in 2006.  He was a dear man, full of the Spirit and a determined follower of the Lord.  Our visit with Libba brought tears to both Earl’s and my eyes.  These are the kind of ministries that I know God wants me to do more.  These personal visits with the elderly are what bring a smile to my soul and bring joy deep within me from the Holy Spirit.

Visiting Parishioners

Visiting Parishioners

I have reviewed my Christian performance for 2013, and I have made plans for 2014.  The elderly are my passion.  Spending more time with people and offering them the love of Jesus is my New Year’s resolution.  I believe my relationship with God will grow a little deeper and a lot stronger as I bend my will even more to His will.  And on that glorious judgment day, I pray that I will hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”To each of you –  Happy New Year and may your life be full of the work of the Holy Spirit and the blessings from our God on High!

And He was Grieved by Their Misery

I hope you are experiencing a year of Bible study with daily devotions or a one-year Bible reading program.  As I’ve previously quoted in Be the One in Ten Christians That Have , only 1-3 in 10 Christians have ever read their Bible in it’s entirity. 

Everytime I read the Bible, important messages pop out at me and some I’ve never heard.  It’s like listening to Earl’s sermons every Sunday twice, (I stay for both services).  Sometimes I completely miss something the first go-round and pick up on it the second pass.  I used to just think that I was at fault in some way – was I not paying attention?  But no, that is not so.  Let me share with you how God works through the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, and even when we need to hear it!

God the Father created, Jesus saved, The Holy Spirit enlightens, directs and guides.

Mother's Day 2013

Mother’s Day 2013

On May 12, 2013, Earl preached the sermon, How to Recognize the Holy Spirit .  I wanted to share that sermon with you via the link, because I believe it will enlighten all who read it about the exact relationship The Holy Spirit has with us – if only we would listen and be led by Him.

Part of The Holy Spirit’s obligation to us is to help us know God better.  The Holy Spirit came after Jesus ascended into heaven and as promised by Christ, The Holy Spirit came to remind the desciples of all that Jesus had done and said and this is where we get the words of the New Testament.  When reading the Bible, The Holy Spirit will reveal or enlighten us to what we are supposed to hear at that time in our life.  He guides us in our learning of our Creator and our Savior.

So getting back to my daily Bible reading….long way around, I have experienced sadness and grief over the illnesses of folks in our church and the passing of some very young people that the loss is far too hard to comprehend.  I have had conversations with people who blame God, other folks that cannot comprehend how a loving God could possibly allow such things to happen.  They are angry, and some individuals that I know have even turned their backs on God. 

While praying and asking God for help in these extremely difficult cases, I asked God for guidance in how to bring His peace to grieving people.  Was there anything that I could say or would I make it worse?

My God, who created me, also gave me a Savior in Jesus Christ, so that I don’t have to pay for my sins.  God then gave me His Spirit to help me as I traverse along this life on earth with all His other created beings.  But we all have choices to make about where we go, who we have as friends and what we do – and a myriad of other choices.  All these free choices can sometimes bring us friends or enemies, peace or consternation, wellness or illness, good or evil.  And the entire fall of creation brings with it dire consequences even when we are obeying God.  Jesus said we would always have the poor and hungry among us – that there would always be wars and natural disasters.  Even Jesus being perfect, suffered hunger and terrible storms in His life due to the sin of the world.

But as I was reading Judges 10:15-16, I found a message that the Holy Spirit used to speak to me. “But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said, “We have sinned.  Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” “Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery.”   Not only is God with us in all that we go through in this life, but when we admit our sinfulness and repent, God grieves for us.  He may even step in and remove the consequences, but even if He chooses not to do so, He will help us through it.  He will lead us to where we have to go to do our Father’s work.  We can be strong and courageous in this life when we rely on His presence to pull us through the seemingly inpossible.  We can give Him praise and glory for the pit we’ve found ourselves in, not just resentment, anger and dismissal of His love and will for us.

So as I pray for people who find themselves in such difficult times, and as the Holy Spirit gives me opportunity, I will remind them that God grieves with us in our misery.  Maybe they will feel the presence of God surrounding them, uplifting them and holding on to them.  I pray that they will feel Him pulling them through the hardships with all the tenderness of His tears and the strength of His love, leading them and guiding them to a fuller and stronger life in Christ.

Dying Is Not Just an Ending But a Beginning

Glimpses of Heaven by Trudy Harris, RN.  I have just finished reading this amazing journal of the experiences of a faith-filled Christian who has served in Hospice care.  Trudy Harris heard her call from God and took the gifts He offered her and went to work as His servant.

The final paragraph of the book reads, “Dying is a very natural part of living.  It is not an ending, but a beginning.”  She shows death to be a transition into the life God has promised to all of His children.  He wants us to eventually come home to be with Him after we finish the work that He has created us to do.  “He loves us-believe it.” 

Dying can be very scary, especially for those who do not know God our Creator, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit, our Director.  But Trudy Harris witnessed of God to all those with whom she came in contact.  Many came to faith in God through her conversation, care and prayers.  Trudy Harris reflects Christ.  You can feel it in the stories.  You are in awe of her and pray to God to be more like her.

My mother Diana, is also an RN.  Long retired, but she still renews her license.  My mother worked in emergency rooms, operating rooms and on the floors of  hospitals and private doctors’ offices.  My mother is the first person that I call when I am given a diagnosis by my doctor.  She researches, questions and gets answers.  She comforts and loves those that come to her.  Every family member counts on her medical knowledge and insight.  I see Christ reflected in her.  I also hear hope.

My husband Earl, Senior Pastor at James Island Presbyterian Church, recently gave a sermon entitled, “The Roman Road.”  One section of the sermon hit me at the time that he stated it, and I was reminded of it again as I read this book.  He said, speaking of the church, “We are a hospital for sinners – not a Hospice for sinners.  As much as Hospice did for my personal family – and I love the work of Hospice – and not everyone who enters Hospice also dies in Hospice… But by simple analogy, a church is not a place for sinners who have no cure and are made to feel comfortable until they die.  The church is a hospital where patients are made better by the Great Physician and live eternally.”

The church is for healing and recovery.  A place where all sinners go to be made well.  We come to be cleansed by the Spirit of God through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.  In the church, I also see hope.

Trudy’s book offers the reader a glimpse into the final days, hours and moments of those who are ready to leave this earth and transition into life eternal.  To read about those visions comforts the reader and gives knowledge to the believer that when God calls us home, He blesses us by His Holy presence.  When God calls us home to begin a new life with Him, it is not frightening.  It is more than we can possibly imagine.  And that is why I believe in God’s living hope.

“And how shall they preach unless they are sent?  Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!”  Romans 10:15

Pastors, Dogs & Motorcycles….

As a pastor’s wife, I see, hear and feel the stresses of my pastor husband.  Look on line, the internet highway is inundated with information about pastors and all the stress and pressure with which they have to deal.

Pastors tend to hold on to all the church burdens as if they were caretakers of the pain of their people.  They are concerned about every little nuance that is taking place within the church.  They just don’t seem to be able to let it go.  But I learned a long time ago, a pastor may have to deal with church issues, but he/she can certainly help to alleviate the build-up of stress.  

In Acts 20:28 Paul states “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

To “be on guard for yourselves” means also to take care of self.  So we not only guard the flock, but we also guard ourselves.  Jesus paid the price for His Church.  He has placed us here as stewards of His ministry. But if we don’t guard ourselves, how can we guard the flock? 

When I first met Earl, I quickly came to realize that he rarely if ever slowed down in his church work.  He even dragged his children to the hospital on visitations when he was a single dad.  Well, luckily I came along!  It was time for him to loosen up a little and relax a bit. 20 string trio feb 2012 family shelter

Earl is a man of so many interests that it is difficult to recall them all.  As time goes by, his interests just keep adding up.  Years ago, I knew of only one main interest he had – music.  Earl is a composer and a singer.  He actually has studio recorded CDs.  He has boxes and boxes of music that he has composed since his teenage years.  He has written serious classical music and Christian music, but he can also rock! He plays guitar with a group at the church called, “The 20 String Trio.”

He is an amateur astronomer, and an art collector.  He can repair some electronics and repair almost anything around the house.  He likes boating and airplanes, and he is even taking pilot lessons.  He used to run 5Ks regularly in Georgia.  He also water-skis and snow-skis.

   Earl Motorcycle Jan 2013 2Earl also took up motorcycling about 5 years ago.  From time to time, we take the bike out for rides and have even taken one out for a vacation – just driving through God’s country and enjoying the beauty all around us.  We spent New Year’s Day 2013 on our bike, island hoping.  Some of the prettiest roads we’ve ever been on are the oak-canopied roads right here on James Island and Johns Island.  Earl has compiled quite a bit of garage jewelry with his motorcycles and the old automobiles that he has acquired over the years of our marriage.    He does his own maintenance on his toys and his own repairs, which does save us quite a bit of money.    He is not afraid to get down and swim in the oil to fix his own cars or those of his children.  It’s a physical and mental exercise that when completed, grants him a sense of accomplishment.

When he isn’t riding bikes, Earl and Maggie, our dog, play chasing games.  Tug of war is also a favorite.  Earl laughs and laughs at Maggie’s antics.  What a simple way to reduce all the toxic anxieties of stress.  Like they say, “laughter is the best medicine.”

Maggie & Earl Folly Beach Jan 1 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But my favorite stress reliever is taking Earl away from his local ministry field.  I make sure that every year, we plan a two week vacation mid-year to take him completely away from his church work.  And we make sure that he takes a week off after Christmas. 

Earl - Israel ruins 2010

Earl – Israel ruins 2010

Without this time away, Satan can wear a pastor down so that he ends up being a useless servant to the Lord.  And that just is not what God expects of His shepherd whom the Holy Spirit has made an overseer of His church.

So what have you done lately to help your pastor be the best pastor he can be?  He may not be able to see that he needs a reprieve.  So I ask pastors’ wives and congregations to make sure your pastor is in the best shape physically, mentally and emotionally.  We all want God to continue to use him/her to help us see Christ and to grow as His disciples.

Friends, To Have and to Hold…..!

I recently read the book, Desperate Pastors’ Wives by Ginger Kolbaba & Christy Scannell.  I found out about the book while browsing a website I joined specifically for pastors’ wives.  It had some very positive reviews by women who are in the ministry, and I felt that perhaps I might glean some insight into whether my experiences were the same as my comrades.

The book begins by enlightening the reader that pastors’ wives (a.k.a. PWs) are many times without real friends.  Then we meet four PWs who put their trust in one another over a long period of time and eventually there is created a deep and wonderfully honest friendship. PWs can relate to each other.  PWs know and understand the difficulties of the ministry.

The focus of this book has described my life for the past thirteen years.  I have struggled with befriending anyone since becoming a PW.  I have begged God to bless me with a true Christian friend for all of these years. 

Prior to becoming a pastor’s wife, I had close friends.  I still have my oldest friend Valerie (we’ve known each other for 44 years) and my friend Beverly (we’ve known each other for 22 years).  But these friends are not near in proximity nor do we share our everyday lives any longer.  We talk or email every few months, catching up, but none of the depth of our lives is expressed in such short periods of time.  And now, as the wife of a pastor, with my own ministry, I tend not to think that they want to hear about everything that is going on in my life because of the uniqueness of being a PW.

I reconciled myself to the fact that Earl was just going to have to do as my best friend.  And actually, for all intents and purposes, Earl really is my best friend.  He knows all about me and certainly listens and shares with me on an everyday basis and deals with all my annoying habits and many faults.  But right now, I’m talking GIRLFRIEND! 

Once I became a PW, I noticed people to be more reserved about themselves around me.  Everybody is truly pleasant and certainly may be inquiring about me, but very few bring you into their lives and share who they are in such a way as to develop a close relationship.  However more recently, I have met a couple of women who seem to want to maintain a closer relationship with an alien PW like me.

Carol is a friend from our Morrow Church pastorate. It took six years at that ministry before we actually met.  Although I don’t get to see Carol but a couple times a year, we do have dinner and try to catch up.  We laugh and we usually cry in just a mere 2 hour time frame, but we are uplifted by each other’s company and God’s Holy Spirit.  God is the One Who has brought us together – not the call of being a PW.  We met when our kids started dating and our daughter invited Carol & her husband to church.  God answered that prayer for me.  Within six months of meeting Carol, Earl and I were called to our next ministry.  Since Carol, we’ve had two more pastorates. 

It wasn’t until we came to James Island Presbyterian, that I met a wonderful woman named Kristi.  Kristi is real.  Kristi is true and honest. Kristi speaks her mind!  The first time we met, she and her husband took Earl and me out for dinner and the first thing she said to me was “It’s been a heck of a day; I’m having a glass of wine, how about you?”….We hit it off immediately.  Kristi is in the ministry too.  Her husband is the Associate in Ministry at our church.  Kristi knows….and understands!  Kristi is yet again, a God answered prayer. 

If we have patience and trust in God, I believe that He will bring into our lives the people who will help us traverse through God’s difficult ministry trails.  I give God my thanks for giving me the patience to wait on Him and for giving me the friends that He has chosen for me…. in His perfect time.

John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Message of the Beatitudes – Six – Pure in Heart

Jesus said the pure in heart are blessed because they will see God.  Matthew 5:8

Our fellowship with God and knowledge of His ways depends on our purity of heart.  Jesus is saying that to receive the blessing of seeing God, we must become like God.  But how does that happen?

It’s possible to be passionate about God, spend time with Him regularly and still sin.  To become more pure in heart requires a thorough inspection of all of our faults and sinful ways and then asking God to do what is necessary in our lives to cleanse our souls.  No, we cannot cleanse ourselves of our sinful nature, but we can take steps by identifying the problem(s) by His Holy Spirit and then asking God to remove them.

This may be a stretch as an analogy, but when I think about cleansing my soul in order to see God, I keep thinking of what it takes in order to prepare for and endure a colonoscopy.  YUCK!!  Ok, let me tell you how my mind works!  We first acknowledge that we may have a sin problem, we seek the advice of a Doctor (The Great Physician, God), Who then recommends that we go through a procedure of cleansing by His Holy Spirit.  It involves filling us up with His Spiritual presence and allowing Him to purge us.

1)      Sometimes we have trouble acknowledging that we have any problem at all and we continue to feel the results of the imperfections of sins that are affecting our life – not seeking any advice from the Great Physician at all.

2)      Other times we acknowledge that there may be a problem, we seek advice but we don’t like what we hear has to happen in order to cleanse the imperfections from our life, so we leave the doctor’s office and don’t do anything with the advice because it may cause some discomfort in our comfortable lives.

3)      Then there are those that acknowledge the problem, seek advice and regardless of the disruption it causes to cleanse the imperfections out of our lives, we prepare ourselves and do all we can possibly do to remove all the bad behavior from our life.  And when we are finished, we ask the Doctor to do His part to look and see if there is anything left that needs to be removed in order for us to go forward and live a life full of His presence.

So how do we become pure in heart?  Psalm 139:23-24 states: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.  Because “…the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

You must do some serious soul searching and ask God to help you discern what it is in your life that is literally offensive to God.  He knows and understands your motives.  If your motives are not God centered, you are offending Him and hence, unclean – impure!

Once you’ve reflected and identified the offense(s), you need to repent (confess to God and turn away or repent from the sin in your life with His strength).  When you are tempted by Satan, do what Jesus did when He was tempted by Satan, reflect on God’s Word.  Filling your mind with the Scriptures helps ensure that you stay strong.  Knowing Scripture, makes you know God and knowing God, makes you become more like Him.

Seeing God –  Be Blessed.

Message of the Beatitudes – Two – Mourn

Matthew 5:4 – “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted

     What comes to your mind when you think of mourning?  To mourn or lament is to express passionate grief from the soul.  How many of us have ever grieved so hard that we couldn’t speak, we couldn’t function, we couldn’t think straight?  Our tears were like rivers overflowing, and we were inconsolable.  Think of this as your soul mourning.  But is there anything that we should mourn? 

  • We should mourn our sins because they have hurt others and grieved God
  • We should mourn those who are out of relationship with God
  • We should mourn the unrepentant
  • We should mourn our poor spiritual condition

After our first beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit” where we admitted our need for God and denied self, we must now ask God to cleanse our souls of all unrighteousness.   In Romans 8:26-27 “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning’s to deep for words; and He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

In mourning, we allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us.  It is in this grief process, that we allow God to take the hurt, sin and renew our poor spiritual condition, forgive us, and allow us to forgive others and at the same time, to restore our souls to what God intended us to be. 

As we age, we naturally tend to become more jaded, hard-hearted, and less compassionate.  We tend to have a “what-ever” attitude.  It takes a lot for us to grieve others’ misfortunes.  We tend to think; if only they made better choices, pulled up their bootstraps, worked a little harder…etc.  We lose sight of the most telling attributes of Christ: His love and His compassion. 

So this means mourning all those who may not be in the right spirit with God.  So as not to sound judgmental, let me tell you about my grandfather.  Many years ago, in my Baptist life, I must have brought the subject of Jesus up with my grandfather one too many times.  Finally, he had had enough of the debates, and he informed me that he was an atheist and if he came from dust, then to the dust he’d go back.  He had no desire to determine if there was a God or even if there was an afterlife.  And then he told me that if I brought the subject up again, he would have nothing more to do with me.  I was stunned.  I was hurt.  I was so very sad.  My soul grieved for my grandfather’s soul, and I prayed for years that he would have a change of heart. 

When we don’t truly grieve our poor souls and the poor souls of others, we are not emulating Christ.  Jesus gave voice to the anguish in His soul.  He grieved over Jerusalem, He grieved somewhat His imminent death, He grieved abandonment, and He grieved those who persecuted Him.  He was in prayer with the Father always for Himself and for others.  Receive the blessing of being comforted by having God who cleanses our souls of all unrighteousness and who grieves the souls of others.

One of the most comforting verses I know comes from Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be shaken”.

Message of the Beatitudes – One – Poor in Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

     How desperate for God are we? 

     Most of us believe that we do alright on our own and will bring God into our lives if we run into trouble.  When we feel like we have our little plans moving along and it appears on the surface that we have control over our lives, why bother God?  As I’ve heard said, He must have bigger problems elsewhere.

    Recently I was traveling from Atlanta to Charleston and driving at about 70 mph and suddenly I felt that I was about to faint.  I have these every 3-4 years, and I know when they are coming.  I get the metal taste in my mouth, my head gets woozy, I get extremely hot and start sweating, and I see speckled lights in my vision that steadily come together leading to a blinding light, and then I go out.  So as I was experiencing the symptoms coming over me, I barely saw a sign that said rest area ahead 1-1/4 miles.  I flipped on the air conditioner, reclined my seat enough that I could still see over the steering wheel and got the blood flowing to my head and at the same time called out, “Mom”!  My next thought was, well she can’t do anything for me right now, so I yelled out “GOD!” a number of times.  Miraculously, I made it to the rest area, and unable to see much of anything, I was not capable of parking properly between the lines, so I parked parallel to the sidewalk and went unconscious.  This was a desperate situation, and I relied on God to see me through it.  Desperation about our physical needs is one thing, but have we ever felt the same desperation about our spiritual lives? 

     I believe that to be “poor in spirit” is to let go of our pride and humble ourselves before God.  It is to recognize our great needs spiritually.  We are desperate and cry out to Him that we cannot live this life on our own.  It’s when we say “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Psalm 139:23-24.  It’s when we acknowledge that without God, we are nothing.

god lives in yu - treo_062809_002_web

god lives in yu - treo_062809_002_web (Photo credit: kevindean)

     Psalm 140:5 says “The proud have hidden a trap for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set snares for me.”  It is the proud that have not emptied their souls to self and begged God to enter. To be “poor in spirit” means to open to the Word of God and truly empty our souls of self.  We must give Him access in order to truly fill us with His Holy Spirit. Those who seek His presence, know their desperate needs and confess their sins, their selfish thoughts and agendas and ask God to take control of their lives. 

     Once we acknowledge our desperate need for Him and give Him access to control our lives, our thoughts and our actions, then we can begin our transformation and wake up from a state of unconsciousness to the truth!

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