Monday, June 29, 2009

The Line Between News and Gossip

Proverbs 18:8 "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly."

I stayed away from news networks this weekend (which is hard for a news junkie). Why? Because the majority of stories focused on the life and death of Michael Jackson. Granted, his death, tragic and sudden, impacted a lot of people, but do we really need to know all of the details? Do the news outlets even know the details - or is it all speculation?

This morning, I decided to brave the news again. They actually had some news: Madoff sentenced to 150 years in prison for his fraud, Iran declares (again) Ahmadinejad as the winner of the election (after counting a few votes - that's a whole other post), bones positively identified as St. Paul's, and so on. Then came the replay of the 911 call regarding the late infomercial pitch man Billy Mays. Really? Do we need to hear the frantic call placed by a grieving family member? I know it's a matter of public record, but I still feel like I'm intruding. Then, of course, more "news" about Michael Jackson.

I guess I'm wondering where the line is drawn between news and gossip? To me, it's news when someone famous (or infamous) dies. It's gossip when rumors swirl around regarding the manner of death. If the coroner has not stated the manner of death, then any speculation is just gossip. This leads to confusion, more rumors, defamation of the deceased person, and added pain to the already-grieving family.

There are so many other stories the networks should be focusing on: the coup in Honduras, the ongoing protests in Iran, the CAP and Trade energy bill (again - another post), and the threats from North Korea.

Okay - I'll get off my soap box. Anyone else feel the same way or differently? Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Word Study Wednesday: Hiding His Word

Psalm 119:11 "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

As he finished his sermon, the guest speaker closed his Bible, looked out into the congregation and cited Ephesians 5 - without looking at the Bible or any notes. My friends and I stared at each other in awe at this man's memory. The rest of the congregation seemed to be in awe as well. When finished, he hit us with this question, as if in reply to our astonishment: "How many of you have songs or lines from movies and tv shows memorized?" Ouch. His point was that we should know the word of God by heart, since it is our life.

The definition for "word" comes from the Hebrew word 'imraw or 'emrah. It means "commandment, speech, word." (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)

The definition for "heart" is interesting (to me, anyway). Its original Hebrew word is "leb" (pronounced labe). It refers not only to the heart, but to the "feelings, the will, and even the intellect." (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)

One could almost interpret the psalm as "I have hidden your word, your commandment, and your speech not only in my heart, but in my will, my intellect, and my feelings so that I might not sin against you." His word soaks into our very being. First, through knowledge and memorization, then into our heart where we can recall it when necessary.

This may sound daunting, but it's important. I believe it ties into being a disciple of Christ. If we do not know the Lord's commands, His words, or speech, then how are we to know the Lord? Jesus knew the word of the Lord. He replied several times using the phrase "It is written."

Why should we know the word? The psalmist answers that question. So that we won't sin against God. If we do not know that coveting is a sin, is it still a sin when we covet our neighbor's new car? Yes, it is. The Lord makes it clear in the Ten Commandments not to covet.

Don't get me wrong. I am not the best when it comes to memorization. That is why I depend upon the Holy Spirit. I feel if I take the time to memorize the word, then at some point, when I need it, the Holy Spirit will bring it to mind. It may not be word for word, but the point is still there.

Knowing the word of God should not be a grade-school task, but rather a gathering of sacred knowledge sent to us from our Father so that we may live lives pleasing to Him.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

This post is dedicated to my Dad.

My Dad and I have always had a great relationship (even during those dreaded teen years). I'm not saying we didn't have our issues, but we always worked through them. Though I may not have agreed with his wisdom (I was a teen after all), I always knew he came from a place of love and experience.

I enjoy spending time with Dad. When I was younger, he would take my brother and me to the golf course with him. At the time, I'm sure we complained about it ("It's too hot!" "It's too cold!"). Looking back now, I value the time we spent together. I also had the joy of witnessing his hole-in-one.

We also walked a lot. I treasure those times as well because it allowed us to talk. We'd talk about work, school, friends, and so on. Though we live in different states now, we still talk several times a week.

One of the important lessons Dad taught me was that it's never too late to change what you do in life, though you may have to work hard for it. Just about the time I started college, Dad decided to get his CPA license. Though he already had a degree, he still needed to take a few classes to meet the accounting requirements before taking the CPA exam. He worked a full-time job and took night courses. He would then come home and study, study, study. After a couple of years of hard work, he completed the required courses. After prepping for the CPA exam, he took it and passed with flying colors. I learned that if you really want something, hard work and sacrifice are required, but the results are worth it.

This is just one of many lessons I learned from my Dad. He's always been generous, forgiving, encouraging and loving. I hope to pass these lessons to my children.

Thanks Dad! I love you!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Lesson at the Park

"Mommy? Mommy?" my daughter asked as she looked for me. I saw her and called out "I'm over here, sweetie!" As soon as she spotted me, the panic-struck look on her face eased into a smile. She then continued playing in the water fountain at the park.

This happened a few times between my daughter and my son. They were focused on playing and running around and lost sight of where I was sitting. I never lost sight of them though. Eventually, they remembered where I was sitting.

At times, my relationship with God resembles this. I become so focused on what is going on around me, I lose sight of God. Thankfully, He never loses sight of me. When I look around and call out His name, He replies "I'm here. I've been here all along." My panic-struck heart then calms and I continue on, but this time focusing more on God.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Word Study Wednesday: Know Your Enemy

Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (NIV)

"If you're not popular in Hell, then there's something wrong," my minister said one night. I laughed, but the impact of that statement has stayed with me for several years. Why? Because if our enemy, satan, is not battling us, then we are not a threat to him. If we are not a threat, then we, as Christians are not doing what God has called us to do.

Last year, my enemy attacked. Weird things happened. Illness, depression, nightmares, and falling down a flight of stairs all within a few months. Worse yet, these attacks were not limited to me. My family experienced illness and nightmares as well (except for the youngest).

I reached out to several friends - one of them a minister. After explaining every crazy thing happening to my family and me, he asked if I had done anything or made any decisions affecting my spiritual life. DING! I realized then that my spiritual awakening and decision to begin writing for the glory of God led to these attacks. My friend reminded me to put on the full armor of God - the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the readiness from the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (my friend Robbie has started a series on the armor of God. Click here to read the first installment). I also prayed. I prayed by myself, I prayed with my children, I prayed with my friends. I prayed with anyone who would pray with me. I walked throughout my house and read scripture out loud (thanks to a suggestion from another close friend). I also became angry. I didn't shy away from the battle. After several weeks, things returned to normal - a new, more aware normal.

Our enemy doesn't just attack in large, noticeable ways. He also uses subtle battles to his advantage. For example: yes, I decided to write again, but how long did it take me to create a blog or attempt my first article? Longer than it should have. I allowed distractions. I permitted negative thoughts. I didn't look to God during these times and the enemy won - temporarily. Or rather, he postponed defeat.

Our enemy comes to "...steal, kill, and destroy" (John 10:10) and will use whatever means necessary to carry out his plans. But, God is greater. God is the Almighty. He will:
" you from the fowler's snare and from the
deadly pestilence. 4He will cover you with his feathers and
under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and
rampart. 5You will not fear the terror of night, nor the
arrow that flies by day, 6nor the pestilence that stalks in
the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday..."
(Psalm 91: 3 - 6)

It is extremely important to know our enemy. I guarantee you he knows us - every weakness, every fear, every button to push. We need to know his so that we are prepared to battle. Our Commander has the plan. Follow it and don't forget your armor.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Word Study Wednesday: Disciple Part 2

Today we continue studying discipleship, with a focus on John 15. In John 15:8, Jesus proclaims "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." The definition for "disciples" is "student, follower." We are students and followers of Christ.

How do we produce fruit? We, on our own, can't. In John 15:4, Jesus says "No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." This makes sense, since a branch on its own cannot live without the vine. We must abide or live in Christ and He must live in us to bear fruit.

Jesus states that God, as the Gardener, will cut "off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:2). It's inevitable, we will be pruned so that we will grow stronger and bear more fruit. To reiterate what Jesus said, bearing fruit not only shows ourselves as His disciples, but it also brings glory to God.

I know I've been pruned, usually through some sort of a life change - a move to another city, a death of a loved one, a change of habit, and so on. Yes, the pruning may have been painful, but whenever I look back at where I was before and after the pruning, I see growth. I also notice myself growing stronger in Jesus - my vine. I would rather be pruned than to be completely cut off from the vine. To be completely cut off from the vine leads to death.

What kind of fruit will we bear? Jesus answers this as well. Answered prayers (vs. 7, 16), obedience to His commands (v. 9), completed joy (v. 11), and love (vs. 9, 12, 13, 17). Once again, Jesus commands us to love another (see last week's post), even to the point of death. Let it also be noted that obedience to His commands is a result of living in love (v. 9). Love is crucial to being a disciple of Christ.

What kind of fruit are you bearing? Are you willing to be pruned in order to grow stronger and to bear more fruit? Are you living in love? More importantly, are you abiding in Christ? These are not just questions for you, but for me as well.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Word Study Wednesday: Disciple

Today (and for the next one or two Word study posts), I would like to focus on what it means to be a disciple of Christ. I'm not only sharing this information with you, but I'm also learning it myself. I am not coming from a place of "expert," but rather as a friend sharing what I've learned. I want to hear your opinion as well. That's the point of this blog.

Being a disciple is more than accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior. The definition of disciple is "a learner; a pupil* (which is why the twelve men who followed Jesus were called "disciples"). They were learning from the Master on how to live a Christ-like life. Notice the definition does not say "one who has been taught" or "graduate." The definition implies a current existence. As a disciple, we are continually learning how to be like Jesus.

So, how can we be like Christ? One way is to love each other. Jesus says in John 13:34 - 35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Let's look at how he loved us. In John 3:16, Jesus says: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." He came to die for us so that we may gain eternal life. I cannot think of a better example of love. Jesus showed love to everyone, the leper, the adulteress, the tax collector, and those who wanted to kill Him. Even as the soldiers nailed Him to the cross, He prayed for them (Luke 23:34).

I am by no means perfect in this area. I too quickly speak words of hatred (it shames me to write that) towards those I may dislike (politicians come to mind - just as an example). If I want to be like Christ, I need to exhibit love towards those people. How? I can pray for them and pray for myself that God will show me how to love them. I can also keep my mouth shut.

What about you? What can you do to love others, even those who seem unlovable?

Next week: Abiding in Him

*Strong's Exhaustive Concordance: Greek Dictionary (3101 mathetes (pronounced math-ay-tes))