A candle on a hill?

I read an article today that said several Christian colleges are lifting the ban on alcohol and tobacco among their staff. It seems that going along with the crowd is becoming more important than standing on the Word. This is rather concerning for me, and for several reasons.

First off, let me say that I’m not necessarily against drinking per se, but I am against what social drinking leads to for many people. It’s like a lot of other things — one drink can lead to two, and that can lead to questionable behavior, and that can damage a person’s reputation or much more. Think about it….how many young people go out on Friday night, or whenever they choose to engage in social drinking, and have just one drink? Yes, there are people who do; however, the majority don’t stop at one. In fact, lots of people who go out for the purpose of drinking stop long after they should. See, the problem is that drinking isn’t just drinking. It affects the pleasure center of the brain, and it leads to decreased inhibitions. Decreased inhibitions lead to people doing things they might never do when they are sober; these things can and often do include vulgar language, drug use, and lewd behavior up to and including sex outside of marriage. How many people wake up the morning after and either can’t remember what they’ve done or are ashamed at what they did while under the influence of mind-altering substances?

Here is a short list of things that can happen as a result of going out to drink with friends (either directly or indirectly):

  • drunkenness
  • nudity
  • fornication
  • adultery
  • rape
  • car accidents
  • arrest
  • drunk driving
  • loss of employment
  • alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death
  • drug abuse
  • lying to cover up where you were or what you were doing
  • pregnancy
  • child endangerment
  • loss of respect
  • memory loss
  • overspending

These are short-term consequences of the effects of alcohol intake on the brain. The long term effects can be much more damaging and include losing your home, your family, your job and possibly even your life. Drunk people do all kinds of dumb things because they don’t have the checks and balances that exist when they are sober. This loss of inhibitions can even lead to a decline in personal hygiene, assault, stealing in order to get more money to support a drinking habit, alcoholism, drug dealing, prostitution, and murder — or even the death of the person doing the drinking.

Is it really worth taking that step? Is fitting in with the crowd important enough to risk your life? Do you want the people you go to church with to see you acting like a fool under the influence of alcohol? What about what we see in the Word of God?

  • Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
  • Romans 13:13 “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy”
  • Ephesians 5: 1-18 “Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.But immorality (sexual vice) and all impurity [of lustful, rich, wasteful living] or greediness must not even be named among you, as is fitting and proper among saints (God’s consecrated people).Let there be no filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting or becoming; but instead voice your thankfulness [to God].For be sure of this: that no person practicing sexual vice or impurity in thought or in life, or one who is covetous [who has lustful desire for the property of others and is greedy for gain]—for he [in effect] is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.Let no one delude and deceive you with empty excuses and groundless arguments [for these sins], for through these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of rebellion and disobedience.So do not associate or be sharers with them.For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [lead the lives of those native-born to the Light].For the fruit (the effect, the product) of the Light or the Spirit [consists] in every form of kindly goodness, uprightness of heart, and trueness of life.10 And try to learn [in your experience] what is pleasing to the Lord [let your lives be constant proofs of what is most acceptable to Him].11 Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be so in contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them.12 For it is a shame even to speak of or mention the things that [such people] practice in secret.13 But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light.14 Therefore He says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light.15 Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people),16 Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.” {Amplified Version}

As sons and daughters of a Holy God, we are admonished again and again to be examples of His love and grace, His light and mercy; of how He has changed us, how He has brought us out of darkness and into light. How, then, is drunkenness any part of this? How can we equate “getting loose” with others to the glory and mystery of our salvation? We have been purchased by the blood of a Holy Savior; paid for by the sacrifice of His life, which paid for our sins. Can we not give up drinking booze for that sacrifice, or is it so important to us that we have to lay aside our salvation (or put it in a box on a shelf in our hearts) so we can go have what the unsaved call “fun?” Do you really want to risk your witness … wait, before you answer and say that’s not going to happen, think about the person God has you mentoring…think about them coming along the street after you’ve had a few drinks, stumbling out to your car so you can take the lives of others into your hands as you drive home with decreased response time because of what the alcohol does to your brain. What kind of message does that give them? “Oh, it’s okay to drink, even though we just read this week that being drunk isn’t good. Maybe those words were for another time and place. I guess the Word of God is just a guideline, not something we need to take literally. It’s….well….it’s just a story, then. Just an example. Just fiction.”

Lest you think this isn’t hitting me too, I’m being convicted myself as I type — not of drinking, because I don’t and haven’t for over a decade, but I’m being convicted of other behaviors I engage in that don’t glorify God; behaviors that might lead others to think that we can make exceptions to the Scripture for our own benefit. I need to repent, too. See, this is how it is…we get a message for others, or we sit down to discuss something important, and God takes the light of His Word and shines it on our lives as well.

Is your life a candle on a hill? Or do you hide that light so you can indulge in worldly pleasures? I know I have some repenting to do, and some changing.  Repenting is no good if it doesn’t lead to change. That’s like adding soap to the washer but putting it in a plastic bag first — it doesn’t get the clothes clean unless it can mix in with them and touch them. Repentance is when the Word of God touches your life and cleans it up, each time leaving you a little more like Him and a little less like the world.

“May God bless you and keep you; may God make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; may God turn His countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

 

No longer set apart 2

Praise is equivalent to being in the outer courts of the temple, and worship is like approaching and then entering the Holy of Holies. The goal should be bringing the body together in unity, rejoicing or praising, and then moving into a time of intimacy with the Father, in preparation for hearing from Him both as a body and personally. He speaks through prophecy, the Word, words of knowledge or wisdom, and/or revelation. It might be in the sermon or message. It might be that as you read the Bible a sentence, phrase or chapter speaks to your heart. It can come in all kinds of ways. One way that is hard than many others is through a still, small voice. This is difficult because, in this day and age, finding time to be quiet enough to hear Him when the voice is still and small takes more effort than some of us are willing to put forth. How many of us can actually turn off the TV, the computer, the phone, the cell phone, and all other distractions to spend even just a little time listening for the voice of God? Do we even know how to do it? Would we recognize His voice if He spoke directly to us?

Have you taken the time to listen to God lately, or is your prayer life full of petitions and reminders to God about His promises? We should be spending more time praising God for what He’s done and for what He will be doing in our lives and the lives of those around us than telling Him what to do and how to do it. If you ask God to do something specific in a specific way, and His plan doesn’t include moving in that way, His only answer can be no. We need to remember that left to ourselves, we would be on our way to hell. We can’t even manage our own lives, much less the lives and needs of others. We are in need of His intervention in our lives in order to have hope for today and tomorrow. His promises encourage us. His hands surround us. His wings protect us. He deserves our praise, adoration, worship, and thanksgiving. Just getting up this morning was a blessing. Being able to dress yourself, feeding yourself, going to the bathroom, communicating your needs and desires — all these are blessings. Many people live without even the simple things we take for granted. For that, we should be full of praise and gratitude.

Setting ourselves aside for God doesn’t necessarily mean living in a hut in the desert (unless you’re called to do so), but it does mean thinking before we act about how our actions will reflect on Him. We are His ambassadors. People look to us to be examples of what it means to be a Christian. As a group we’ve fallen far behind in this area. Christians – not all, but enough to be noticed – get drunk, fornicate, commit adultery, steal, lie, commit fraud, gossip, dress immodestly, live together outside of marriage, and put ourselves before others; all of these are in defiance of the commands in the Word of God. We don’t display humility, but instead show off and act proudly. Instead of striving to be shown a good workman, we strive for worldly recognition and financial rewards. We see people in need and instead of helping them, we either pass right by or we proceed to preach at them about how their behavior led them to be in this situation – forgetting that it is God’s place to judge, not ours.

How should children of God act? Well, we should be gracious, honest, and kind. We should function with integrity and honor both at home and in the world. We should dress modestly and conduct ourselves in the same way. Avoid putting yourself in a position where you have to choose between right living and sin. Don’t go in bars. Don’t spend time alone with members of the opposite gender unless you are married or a sibling. Stay away from temptation as much as you can, and ask for help with the things you can’t avoid. Seek to honor others before yourselves. And, last but certainly not least,

Put

God

First.

That there is the most important way to live as set apart for God. Step aside and let Him have the first spot in your life, and then live that way.

No longer set apart 1

“13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

“16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

“25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (I Cor 5:13-25)

The more I read, the more I wonder. The more I wonder, the more my heart aches.

So many of today’s churches have turned away from the things of God and are, instead, embracing a form of godliness while those with discernment can see without effort that sin is rampant in those churches. It used to be that Christians were held to a higher standard than those in the world. Now? It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

  • We got rid of wearing suits and dresses so that we didn’t offend people who wanted to come to church in jeans and t-shirts instead of waiting for them to catch on to the idea of looking your best for God, to honor Him.
  • We stopped using the word “sin” so people wouldn’t be uncomfortable during the message.
  • We stopped preaching directly from the Word, instead using illustrations and examples. After all, the Bible is an archaic text that shouldn’t be taken as being relevant for today’s world, right?
  • We stopped telling people that living together outside of marriage was sin. We didn’t encourage them to be celibate, because that might make them squirm in their seats.
  • We instituted giveaways, raffles, and contests to draw people in rather than letting the Presence and Power of God draw them in. After all, the Holy Spirit isn’t relevant today; only foolish people take the Bible as literal instead of symbolic.
  • We stopped having Sunday and Wednesday evening services because people are busy and expecting them to give so much time to church is unrealistic. They have so many things to do!
  • We limited our services to an hour so people don’t get bored. Some folks will just flat get up and leave a service if it goes over an hour in length.
  • Worship? Sure, if you can fit it into 15 minutes or 3 songs. After that, people get tired of standing up and get bored. Come on, we have to be relevant. People have schedules; places to go, things to do, people to see.

I’ve watched a number of churches that used to be full of the fire of God and the move of the Holy Spirit shrivel up and become a mere suggestion of who they once were because worship is no longer the reason they come together. Many church services today have an awful lot in common with a concert during praise and worship — a prominent worship leader, instrumentalists, drummers, back up singers, and sometimes even lights or special effects. Sometimes it’s so loud you can’t hear the person next to you singing, but everyone can hear the worship leader. This ambition, this spotlighting, goes against the Word regarding how we are to serve others.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

I suggest that we get back to basics. Church should be a place for believers to gather for praise to and worship of  God the Father, Jesus his Son, and the Holy Spirit. It’s not a social club, though fellowship certainly has its place. Our primary focus should be gathering together to praise and thank God for the miracle of salvation, for the things He has done in our lives and for His Presence within us. It’s about worship – corporate worship – setting aside the temporal, the day to day worries, the fusses and conflicts we deal with, and focusing our beings on the goodness and awesomeness of our mighty God. It’s a time to close our eyes, leave the worries and cares of life behind, and simply

Be

With

God.

It’s hard. I know it’s hard. We have so many things going on — work, raising children, keeping our homes clean, maintaining our cars, managing our finances, dealing with difficult relationships, health issues, parents, stress in our marriage or stressing about not being married, and so on — that it’s not easy to set it all aside and focus on our Lord and Savior. This is the purpose of corporate praise.

When there’s a group of people, from 5 to 5,000, all focused on giving God praise, something happens. Joy is infectious. Praise edifies us. It’s catching. We hear the joy around us – the hands clapping, the laughter, the lighthearted singing, the thankfulness for getting through another week – and we start to feel lightened ourselves. “A merry heart does good like a medicine.“(Prov. 17:22) No truer words have been spoken.

Once praise has helped us set aside our detailed lives, it’s time to worship. Worship is coming into the very presence of God in an intimate way. It’s opening our spirits to Him and sitting at His feet, which is the perfect place to tell Him how thankful we are for salvation, for healing, for how He has changed our lives….the list goes on and on. While worship may start with singing, it doesn’t necessarily end with singing. It often ends in prayer, whether corporate or individual; the manifestation of one or more spiritual gifts; or even a time of deep silence and communion between God and the believer.     (continued next post)

Sometimes I’m not so quick at catching on

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So I was supposed to have the other half of my teeth pulled this past Friday but we were snowed in. It’s been rescheduled for May 9th and I’m on the cancellation list. After the teeth come out and the gums heal, I can get fitted for my dentures. I can’t wait till this is over. I want teeth back!!!

It’s been a rough year. My dad died this past December and, remarkably or not, I had basically no feelings about it. He was my dad, but he was dad in absentia, and there wasn’t really a relationship there. He didn’t like my kids – well, except Becky – and I have trouble with people, especially family people, who don’t like my kids for no good reason other than they don’t like them. He was a sick man both physically and mentally. I don’t have many memories of him but the ones I do have aren’t the best. I feel bad for him and I hope he found peace with God before he died. I really, honestly, don’t know if he did.
It was hard at the funeral hearing them talk about how kind he was to his grandkids. He sure wasn’t nice to my kids. He blamed them for all kinds of things and was kinda mean to them. Of course, Mom said he was abusive to me too, so it’s just a continuation of the story, I guess. I suppose the grandkids he was nice to are the ones his second family of kids had. They were probably perfect just like his girls were. They couldn’t do anything wrong in his eyes. Of course, he raised them. He wasn’t around us much and once the divorce went through I only saw him one other time until I was 18. He’d write, I heard, but Mom, bless her heart, burned the letters and kept the child support checks when he bothered to send one.
Oh well, enough of that. He’s gone now. I hope he found peace.

I’ve been struggling with my weight – still – like I have my whole life. It’s a constant battle. I eat, and then I feel bad, so I criticize myself, and then I feel bad, so I eat. See a pattern here? Yeah, me too. It’s been that way as long as I can remember – as far back as kindergarten, even. It got worse when my stepdad messed with me, jerk that he was….there are enough willing women in the world….why do some pervs have to mess up the lives and minds of poor little girls who are all innocent and stuff? They should be castrated. Seriously. Cut their parts off and let them pee through a suprapubic catheter for the rest of their lives. It’s almost comparable to the crap we go through hating ourselves and thinking we were the ones who asked for Daddy dearest to grope us, or worse….and then we have eating disorders, struggle to make friends and trust people, and are basically screwed up until we either get intensive counseling, learn to live with it, or die….

Yeah. I’m a bit introspective today. Yanno what though? This is probably good. I need to get the junk out of my brain so I can acknowledge it and stop pretending everything was fine and it’s my fault I’m 100 pounds overweight. Because it’s not my fault. I was molested and beaten and psychologically abused and neglected, and I covered my tender, scared, vulnerable little girl with fat to protect her since the people in my life who should have done that didn’t do it. I had to do something. And now, 45+ years later, I struggle with trying to unlearn this coping mechanism, and every time I get kinda going on it, something else comes up, and the mechanism kicks back into high gear and I’m at it again.

I wanna do so many things and I struggle still with the judgmental voices telling me I’m not going to succeed; I’m not going to do it right; I should have done it earlier; I should have done something else; I’m aiming too high or not high enough; those voices get so firmly ingrained in your psyche it’s almost impossible to get them to shut up. I’m not saying it can’t be done. What I’m saying is that it’s really hard and you need lots of support and a cheering section, and my small cheering section and sometimes not so strong support people struggle right now to get from day to day, so that….well, it ain’t going all that well, okay? I’m lucky sometimes to get from morning till night without wanting to just give up.

But I can’t give up. God won’t let me. He loves me, and He hangs on to me even when my hand goes all floppy-like and I’m dragging my feet and bawling and whining and having one big fat grand pity party, and He sits down and holds out his hands and then He hugs me and lets me cry and He comforts me and tells me it’ll be okay, that He’s not gonna judge me because I’m overweight or because I take narcotics for pain or because I only have 11 teeth or because of my thinning hair or because I pick at my sores….or because my youngest daughter won’t let me see her kids, or because we can’t afford to go on a vacation and I really, really, really need one…He loves me anyhow. He’s gonna be here no matter what happens or who craps on me or what breaks or how rotten I feel. He’s right here next to me no matter what. And He tells me I’m not a loser and I’m not ugly and I’m not useless or worthless, and it gets into the cracks in my lumpy, glued up heart, and I know for a minute or two again that I’m gonna make it, and I’m strengthened enough to go on and tackle the next battle.

I’m going to write my book and I’m going to have it published and someone is going to read it and be helped…..inspired…..motivated…..encouraged…..strengthened…..and they’ll be able to go on for another day because I shared my story. It’s going to happen. I’m not giving up. I will succeed.

God bless us all, and hug us in His arms, and love us just because we’re His. 

Amen.

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