Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Take Time Tuesdays

Chapter Six ~ Living in the Basement

"The apostle Paul had a strong and steady underlying consistency in his life. Consequently, he could let his external life change without internal distress because he was rooted and grounded in God. Most of us are not consistent spiritually because we are more concerned about being consistent externally. In the external expression of things, Paul lived in the basement, while his critics lived on the upper level. And these two levels do not begin to touch each other. But Paul's consistency was down deep in the fundamentals. The great basis of his consistency was the agony of God in the redemption of the world, namely, the Cross of Christ." Oswald Chambers

I am continually amazed how God prepares me for the "lessons" He wants me to learn and what He's about to teach me. He's been speaking alot to me about the FOUNDATION in my life. I'll be posting a separate blog entry about this topic later. While I have tried to ground myself in His Truth, I still struggle with the external expression in my life. To be honest, I've lived in the "basement" and in the "upper level" ~ a great challenge to try and balance in this world, because you can't have it both ways. I'm so thankful for continued transformation in this area of my life and it's getting easier to allow God to change my external life, as I strengthen my foundation in Him.

The author begins the study this week by sharing how, as new Christians, she and her husband attended many Christian conferences and read the latest Christian books ~ but they discovered that what they needed to focus on (the most) was the Word of God. Okay, that was my story too. Been there, done that - but something always seems to be missing... Building and strengthening their foundation (their basement) in Him. We need a strong foundation for it keeps our lives, choices and reactions to life centered on Christ. I love these words shared by Paul:

"As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died. It doesn't matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God's peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God." Galatians 6:14-16

Cynthia Heald shares: "The way we preserve this purity (devotion to Christ) is to know, understand and cling to the foundational principles of Scripture."

"Christ is not one of the many ways to approach God, nor is He the best of several ways; He is the only way, "the Way, the Truth and the Life."" A.W. Tozer

Is this what we really want in this life? Is this what we believe? Do we stand up for this Truth? Do we share it with others?

I can answer YES and NO to each of these questions from over the years. I've reached a point now that I can't be balancing life and choices on a teeter-totter. I must firmly make a decision to live my life firmly grounded in His Word and Truth... He is the only way!

"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:15-16

This is great news, but we can't live this out in our own strength. We need God in our lives every moment or we fall short of what He desires and plans for our lives. We must constantly be with our foundation in Him.

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I was astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be servant of Christ." Galatians 1:3-10

"I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." Colossians 2:1-10

These two passages say much to my heart... I struggle within some churches, as I see values and ideals embraced that, to me, do not reflect the gospel as I have known it. I don't understand how people can support candidates for electoral offices when that person supports abortion, same-sex marriage, or has the "face" of faith but does not live it out in their daily life or in their policies in a position of leadership. I don't understand how Christians can read Harry Potter and Twilight books (and see the movies) and not have a conflict with their belief in the gospel. I don't understand how Christians can play video games with characters that are ungodly or commit acts of violence and violate others. I don't understand how Christians can watch television shows or movies that contain sexually intimate scenes or laugh at sexual jokes. I don't understand how those raised in the Christian faith are easily swayed by the "appearance" of faith in others, and choose to walk away from all they have ever known to be good and true. While we all fall short and are prone to sin, we are to encourage one another to live in the Truth of the gospel and to turn away from these worldly things. God's Word encourages me to take a firm stand for what I believe, continue to love others because He loves me and allow Him to continually transform my life... Often, I've tried to look the other way ~ but I cannot. His Word and Truth is too strong in me and I cannot bend to accept what I know is wrong and not of Him. How I pray His children - all of us - wake up from our slumber and hear His voice and turn away from our wicked ways and return to Him and His Truth that sets us free! If we're not the examples of His gospel in our daily lives, who will be?

"Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40

So, let's just say for discussion sake that all the rest of the Bible doesn't exist and these are the only words we have to live by. It's easy to understand, clear and quite simple. Right? Then, why do we have such a difficult time living this out every day of our lives? Am I the only one who struggles with these words and the actions associated with them?

When we returned home from Colorado, the neighbor above us was leveling the back portion of his driveway and cutting away at the hill behind us (yes, it's his property and he can do what he wants - but it could have a negative impact on our property). We have talked to him, at length, about the instability of the hillside and the need to have large landscape rocks added to the hill, so no one has any problems with the changes he told us he planned to make. He agreed and told us he had connections and would try to find some to stabilize things. He hasn't done it so far... And, lowering part of his hill has taken away more of our privacy in the back. AND, the neighbor next door re-sided his house while were away and took the land line phone lines off his house and hooked them to a t-bar post in his yard just on the other side of our fence. Well, that's great - but those lines hung across our yard and you had to duck under them to walk up to our house. When Blaine brought it to his attention, he told Blaine that they didn't need them anymore - maybe he should call the phone company to have them removed. He agreed to tack them back onto his house, even though his wife fussed and didn't want any holes in their new siding (trim). Neither neighbor cared that they'd caused us inconvenience and it really unsettled me and I stressed over these two issues for days... Then, I suddenly realized that it may negatively affect us, but this world is temporary and if something does happen we will do our best to react in a loving way in dealing with the situation. Until then, God just taught me that I need to live in TODAY and let Him deal with the tomorrows. Is it worth alienating our neighbors over these issues - they are not biblically immoral issues; just incovenient - and the answer is, NO! And yet, it is so hard to love our neighbors as ourselves when other people don't act the same way we do. And then, there is the whole issue of how we're to love God...

Cynthia Heald shares: "living the Christian life - "keep a simple, but profound" approach to following Christ."

This is challenging to do living in a complex world, isn't it? Or is it?

"This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16

How have we gotten so far off the path God has for us? How have we wandered so far away? It should be easy - ask, walk in it and devote yourself to Christ and you will find rest...

Much to think about and consider from this week. Our focus should be a strong foundation in His Word - simple, pure devotion to Christ and loving Him and others as we love ourselves. Can't get much easier, right?

In closing, a quote from Amy Carmichael:

"If I covet any place on earth, but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

I'm actually thrilled that this week's message is perfectly timed, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the wonders of His life and gift of eternal life for each one of us and His never-ending love for all people!

Abundant blessings dear friends and may you experience the wonder of that Holy Night ~ rejoicing and singing JOY TO THE WORLD!

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Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! Abundant blessings on your day... Joanie