Monday, April 8, 2013

Hiding in the bushes

Genesis 3:8-10
(8) And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
(9) Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?"
(10) So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and hid myself.

     So I have to ask... have you ever found yourself trying to hide from God?  I mean even though we know we can't, we do it anyway.  I know I have.  When I read these verses I'm reminded of my own sin and the shame that I experience as I'm hiding hoping that God will just simply walk by and let me be.  Please Lord God, don't acknowledge me right now!  But then what happens? Hey Steve, "Where are you?"

     I think it's important to note that any sin we commit can not be covered up or hidden from the Lord God.  In Adams case he was actually naked, unclothed, and it wasn't until he ate of the forbidden fruit that he saw his nakedness. We know this from Genesis 3:7 as they both tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves.  Adam wasn't hiding from God because he was embarrassed to be naked in front of God, Adam was hiding because he was ashamed of his sin against God and his nakedness was confirmation of that fact.  Adam is also very afraid of God.  Adam knows he's in trouble and he knows the wrong he's committed.  Have you ever been there?  I have.

First lesson here... We can't hide our sin from God!  Sin is like being stripped naked.  It's out there for God to see.  We are exposed.

     In Genesis 3:9 God asks of Adam, "Where are you?" Why do you think he asked this question?  It's certainly not because God doesn't know where Adam is hiding. God ask the question so that Adam will have to answer and admit to what he'd done.  God convicted Adam of his sin just like He does you and I when we sin.  Ultimately God through his questioning got Adam to tell him he was naked and afraid of God finding this out. In Genesis 3:10,11 we see that God asks Adam how he knows he's naked?  God asks, "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?"  Adam finally says to God that he ate of the fruit, but not until after blaming a couple of people first.  He blames the woman for giving him the fruit to eat, and honestly he blames God for giving him the woman.  Genesis 3:12 Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.  It's like, yes I did it, but if you hadn't given me that woman I wouldn't be in this situation right now.  It's hard to admit or acknowledge our sin to God isn't it? Especially if we're hiding.  In Genesis 3:13 we see that God also ask of Eve what happened and she explains that the serpent had deceived her and she ate.

Second lesson... We must acknowledge our sin.  When we admit we've sinned against God, we take responsibility for our actions. We admit our guilt.  Just try not to throw others under the bus when you do it... shame on you Adam.

     Well, we see that Adam and Eve had sinned and that they acknowledged and admitted their sin to God.  So what next?  Well there are consequences to sin.  We just need to know if we sin, we will suffer.  There were consequences for Satan, Adam, and Eve for what happened in the garden that day.  Now unfortunately, since we are all offspring of Adam and Eve, we're still suffering even today for their sin. God punishes Satan (the serpent) God punishes the woman and future generations of women, then God punishes Adam and future generations of men. Genesis 3:14-20 reveals how God dealt with this sin and the consequences of it.

Third lesson... There are always consequences to sin.  When we sin, we can expect suffering and consequences.  Keep in mind that sinning against God is a revolt against God.  It's a choice we make of disobedience. We will face consequences.

     Things don't look to good for us right now does it?  We see that if we sin, we can't hide, we might try to, but God knows.  Eventually we'll admit our sin to God, God convicts us of our sin so that we can acknowledge our guilt.  There's no chance for redemption if we don't admit our sin.  Have you heard God ask you... "Where are you?"  If so, it's time to admit your sin and confess.  Then we learned that there will be consequences.  People get hurt, our lives are not lived to their fullest, we aren't effective in our ministry anymore, on and on... there are consequences directly related to our sin.  But there is hope for us.  We serve a God that is abundant in grace.  He covers our sin and makes us right with Him.  God forgives our sin. Genesis 3:21 says... Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.  As you know Adam and Eve tried to sew fig leaves to cover their nakedness, but figs leaves are temporary and inadequate. God gave them skin coverings that would do the job. Covering their nakedness properly and providing for their needs.  
     I think it's amazing that right after they sinned against God, God still provides for them and cares for them.  God not only provided clothing to cover their nakedness, he provided a way to give mankind eternal life by protecting the way to the tree of life.  God didn't run Adam and Eve out of the garden to harm them, he ran them out of the garden and placed an angel to guard the way to the tree of life.  The way to the tree of life is now protected and the only way to it is through Jesus Christ.  No one will ever eat this fruit again unless, they go through Jesus Christ first.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Fourth lesson... Know this.  God loves us.  He will always provide for us even though we've sinned against him.  Forgiveness awaits us!  Restoration awaits us!  We will be reconciled.  Our sin will be covered!

     I hope these words encourage you as they have me.  I want to thank all of you for your prayers.  I went back to church yesterday evening and I had been away for quite some time.  Living in sin, hiding in the bushes, knowing I'm not where God wants me to be, but finally tired of God asking me, "Where are you?"  Finally admitting and acknowledging my guilt I went back and it's as if I never left.  I guess I realized that when you're where you're supposed to be, it just feels right.  I'm so glad that my Heavenly Father is a God of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  
     If you find yourself hiding in the bushes, naked from the exposure of sin, there's only one way to cover up.  Call on the name of Jesus. Allow God to cover your sin and shame and then you can move on with your life as God intends.  The hard part is coming out of the bushes.  Once you do, God takes care of the rest! 

God bless you.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Different results demand different actions

     Last year I was tired of feeling overweight.  Now I wasn't in real bad shape but I was bothered by my clothes all of a sudden becoming tighter and more constricting.  When I weighed myself I was about twenty five pounds heavier than I'd ever been and I realized that I needed to do something to change my weight gain or who knows how big I could get? Either way I was headed in the wrong direction and I knew it. Things had to change.

     At first I didn't do much of anything about my weight other than kind of wishing I wasn't so heavy.  After a few weeks of wishful thinking and hoping that somehow I would lose weight just by being more conscious of it, I quickly decided this wasn't doing anything to help my situation. Yep, I was going to have to do something different.  
     So the first step for me was educating myself about weight loss.  Google search here I come!  I found out all kinds of stuff about weight loss as you can imagine and after much reading and becoming more educated about the subject, I finally came up with a plan. Eat less, exercise more. Sounds easy, but it requires something I didn't have up to this point and that was commitment and discipline. 
     My second step was to make a commitment to lose weight.  Until I became committed to the task, it was just a dream. With commitment came all kinds of ideas on how to make it happen.  I set a goal of how much weight I wanted to lose. I developed a tracker to measure my results weekly.  I calculated how many calories I needed to eat each day to begin losing weight.  I decided to stop drinking sodas.  I decided to eat three good meals a day instead of skipping breakfast as to jumpstart your metabolism in the morning and start burning fat as early in the day as possible.  I realized that if I walked every day then I would burn even more calories helping me to achieve my weight loss goal even faster. I decided to snack less in the evenings as I watch television. And finally, I determined that I could eat whatever food I wanted, just smaller portions at each meal. You see, my commitment set me on a path to make a plan... now comes the discipline part. The part where it takes discipline to execute the plan. Yes, the hard part.  
     This was the third step of doing something different to get a different result.  I stated earlier that it was the hard part of doing something different and it was, but only in the beginning.  The reason this was the hard part was because this is when I had to simply get going.  Up till now it was all just a plan.  Yes a plan of action but without action it's just a great plan.  Results are not improved because of great plans, results are improved because of acting upon great plans.  Without action, it's just a dream.
     Final step for me was to maintain.  After weeks of eating less, measuring results, walking more and snacking less, I saw the pounds coming off.  I ended up losing 28 pounds over a 3 month period.  All I did was stick to my plan and measure the results.  I did notice that as I began to get into better shape I was beginning to lose less weight each week. Eventually I was at an ideal weight, I felt good, I think I looked good. I actually had to buy some new clothes because the old ones just didn't fit anymore. But the weight loss slowed tremendously and my goal now was to maintain my weight goal through my new established routines.
     I tell you all this to parallel similarities with our Christian life.  In my case, I felt I've lost my focus in my Spiritual walk with the Lord.  I've come to a place where I know that I'm weak and for a lack of better terms... fat and lazy and in need of different results.  I would say that the last few weeks I've repeated the exact same process that I did in the beginning of my weightloss journey. Wishful thinking for change.  Sure I'm convicted and know I need to change, but as of yet, I've not made the commitment to do so.  Seems I keep making excuses as to why I can't make it to church.  Often my prayers are shallow and more and more infrequent. My bible study happens less often and about the only time I spend time with God anymore is in my car listening to bible studies or sermons on the way to work (I have an hour drive to work.) I'm feeling disconnected.  I'm not lost, but I'm way off course. Just as I said earlier when describing my weight gain... I'm simply headed in the wrong direction. 

Different results demand different actions!

Pray for me as I seek the Lord's guidance and ask for strength to re-commit myself to living my life for him.  May He give me a heart of commitment and a desire to set goals to grow into the Christian he desires me to be.
May this commitment refocus my attention on His plan for me through our daily walk together and a renewed attention to his word, the bible.
May I have the strength and stamina to be diligent and disciplined in my actions and behavior as he shapes and molds me.
And through this may I see different results.  May I be a different man. 

It's time to lose the weight of the world and become fit for Christ!  

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
                                                                                                                                                           Philippians 4:13

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Our First Priority as Christians

     Through the years I have written many notes on the pages of my bible.  Today I noticed the same note over and over again.  These were little reminders to me to never forget our first priority as a Christian.  The note simply said, "Matthew 6:33 Our first priority as Christians!"  Then in another book of the bible I came across it again, written very small in the margin of the page, "Matt. 6:33 First priority of Christians."

Matthew 6:33, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

     What's this mean to you and I.  It's simple really.  It means to turn to God first for help.  We should fill our thoughts with his desires.  We should focus on his character and use this as our guide for our way of living.  We should serve and obey him in everything.  So if our first priority is to seek (first) the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then what's the promised outcome?  All these things will be added to you... What things?  The answer... basically everything that you and I worry about.
     I know that I've spent countless hours of my life worrying about things that concern me.  Worry about my kids, worry about my job, worry about my family and friends, worry about paying the bills, worry about the economy, worry about this and that... worry!  You know, Jesus teaches us about worry in the preceding verses to Matthew 6:33.  vs 25 Don't worry about your life.  Don't worry about what you'll eat. Don't worry about what you'll drink.  Don't worry about your body. Don't worry about what you'll wear. vs 32 says that God knows that we need all these things and Matthew 6:33 is his answer to us on how to stop worrying about our life and to simply let God take care of our needs.  He already knows what we need and he knows that in our weakness we are worry warts!  We need help! So God made it very simple for us... simply seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.  The key here is the word first!

     What do I normally do?  I allow people, objects, goals, and other desires take priority over me.  They are usually first on my mind and my first thought is how am I going to achieve my goals, my objectives, or tackle my people issues.  When I do this I quickly bump God out of first place.  

     I have to always be mindful to choose to give God first place in every area of my life if I am to expect for those things that I normally worry about to be added to me.  Why should I seek God first?  Because God is the only one that can truly take care of my every need.  When I worry, my focus is not on God and what he can do, but rather on my concerns and questions about what I'm going to do.  I can not let my worries about tomorrow take my focus off of God today.  The only way to stop worrying, is to realize that God is in control, not me.  Isn't this great news!  I don't have to worry anymore.
     So if you find yourself worrying... stop immediately and seek God.  Seek first God!  Seek God's kingdom, his character, his righteousness first.  You notice there is not a second thing to do?  When you seek God first, you have nothing else to worry about.

     The title of this post is... Our first priority as Christians.  You know I would have thought maybe it would have been to witness, or maybe to pray, read my bible, spread the good news.  But no.  It's to seek God first.  I understand that for me to be an effective witness for Christ I must seek God first.  Before prayer, before reading my bible, before ever spreading the good news.  Before I can do any work that belongs to the Lord, I must seek God first.  Yes... this is our FIRST priority.  It's sad really that I struggle so much in this area.  At least I have these little reminders throughout my bible to get me back on track.  Wouldn't it be better if I just made this my routine?  I think today, I will do that.

Monday, January 14, 2013

With age comes responsibility

Titus 2 (2) Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. (6) Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. (7) Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, (8) and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

     The older I get the more responsibility I'm given as a man of God.  In my early fifties (a grandpa) I realize the example that I need to be. Not only for my boys that now have families of their own, but for my granddaughter as well. (the next generation)
     It's scary to me to think that the bible that my immediate family may read could be the example they see in me.  A man in his fifties, getting older and expected to be the example of what a Christian would look and live like after many years of spiritual growth.  For me, these verses deeply convict me.  The Holy Spirit went right to work on me as I read them this morning and I've been thinking about this passage of scripture all day.

     I love role models.  People that live by their convictions.  People that strive to be the best they can at life and love.  People that put their faith in the Lord and as a result endure and press on through life's challenges with confidence, joy, and peace.  What an example they are for me.  What hope they give me.
     Now can I say that I am that example for others, especially younger men? Am I the example of a man that has been steadfast in his faith and love?  Have I been a good example of self-control?  Have I been that role model that younger men can watch and observe and see the reflection of God in and through my actions, speech, and behavior?

     Let's just say this... I know where I stand, and I know the work that God still needs to do in and through me.  His spirit has spoken and I have heard. Now as the Spirit leads I pray for my obedience to follow and allow God to make me the man He wants me to be. After all, I'm being watched by people I love, people that I know look to me to be their role model.  I also know that because of my age, my role, and my position, that I am already a role model for others.  The question is; am I the right role model?  A Godly role model? Am I an example of a man lead by God so that if anyone copied me or acted like me, they might be one step closer to God?  

     If you are asking yourself the same questions then pray along with me and  let's pray for God to intervene in our lives, to conform us into His likeness as we seek to be used by Him.

Prayer:  Dear heavenly Father.  You know my heart, you know where I stand.  You know I need help and I know I need you.  Please guide me and direct my every step and help me to listen and obediently follow you.  As a result, may I be the example you want me to be for others to see.  It's in Jesus name I pray.  Amen