Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Word Study Wednesday: Sin

Do I take sin seriously? Am I dealing with sin in my life? I've been reflecting on these questions quite a bit lately.

I understand that sin is a an act of rebellion on my part against God. Sin separates me from Him. I also comprehend the seriousness of sin since God sent Jesus to die for our sins.

My sin not only affects me, but those around me as well. I'll use my sin of gluttony for example. When I overeat, I am mistreating my body - God's temple. The more I overeat, the unhealthier I become. When I am unhealthy, I am not at my best to deal with my responsibilities, let alone opportunities. I'm just too tired. I then become sick and unable to give 100% to God and my family.

When I pray for forgiveness of my sin, what are my expectations? Do I reflect upon my sin and ask the Lord for help? Or do I expect Him to wave a wand and *poof* the sin is gone never to bother me again? When the Israelites celebrated Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement, they took it seriously. They fasted and stopped working for the duration while the High Priest performed the ritual, which included sacrifice, burning of incense, and confession in the Temple. They used this day to renew their covenant with the Lord.

Second Chronicles 7:14 says "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." The original context of this verse is God's answer to Solomon's prayer of dedication. In the prayer, Solomon asked the Lord to hear His people. This was God's response. I believe it is just as applicable today as it was then.

Asking forgiveness of sin is more than "please forgive me." It requires action on my part as I turn away from my sin and constantly seek the Lord's face. Thankfully, through the sacrifice of Jesus, He hears me. He helps me through the Holy Spirit. He desires the restored relationship. For this is the abundant life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No Word Study Wednesday Today

I won't be posting a Word Study Wednesday today. I'm hoping to be up and blogging within the next couple of days. Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Word Study Wednesday: False gods and Idols

Exodus 20:6 "You shall have no other gods before me."

This verse is part of the Ten Commandments. Sadly enough, while God dictated these words to Moses, the rest of the Israelites grew impatient and fashioned their own god - a golden calf. Despite escaping from Egypt and miraculously crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites lost their faith in the one true God.

I've been reflecting on the way I live my life lately and one of the questions I keep asking myself is if I have any false gods or idols in my life. No, I do not have any carved or gilded statues in my house, but there are other ways of worshipping a false god or idol.

The Hebrew word for "gods" is "elohiym" (pronounced el-o-heem) and it simply means "God or gods." (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance).

The Hebrew word for "idol" is "eliyl" (pronounced el-eel') and it means "good for nothing; idol, no value, thing of nought."

The definition for idol seems fitting for what I use or do instead of turning to God. For example, when I'm emotionally exhausted, I make my way to food. I could turn to prayer. I tend to veg out in front of the television or Internet when I feel stressed - just to get my mind off of my issue. I could worship God and meditate on Him during those times instead.

Idolatry is some thing that we deviate to instead of God. It dilutes our faith and weakens our walk with Him. In Isaiah 1:21, the Lord says "See how the faithful city has become a harlot!" He was referring to Jerusalem and how the people, who once worshipped God, now worshipped many idols. He considered it adultery.

I have noticed though that when I rely on something else other than God, though it may temporarily satisfy me, the feeling quickly goes away. I am left empty and dreading the extra calories I just inhaled. When I turn to God, I feel full. I may still have a problem, but I have peace about it and possibly wisdom to help me with the situation. I hope I remember this though next time I'm faced with the choice to worship and pray or eat junk in front of the tv.

What about you? Do you have any idols or false gods in your life?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September 11: A Bittersweet Date

Ten years ago today (September 11, 1999), I woke up knowing my life was about to change forever. I tried to savor every moment, though the day flew by quickly. I remember the calmness I felt that day, knowing I was making the right decision and that I had been blessed by God. With my hair and make-up flawless, dress perfectly fluffed, and bouquet weighing a ton, I walked down the aisle arm-in-arm with my Dad, towards my husband-to-be. Afterwards, family and friends celebrated with us with dinner and dancing. Toasts were made (along with smart-aleck comments thanks to my brother and a friend), cakes were cut (delicious ones made by a family friend), and congratulations were offered. That day, full of love, laughter, and celebration will forever be a part of me.

Fast forward two years. My husband had to be out of town for the day on business, but planned on being back to celebrate our two-year anniversary. I listened to a local radio station as I sat in rush-hour traffic. The morning DJ came on and announced that a second plane had just hit the World Trade Center. A second plane? I didn't realize one had hit the first tower. I turned up the radio and listened to the barely-there details. Once I arrived at work, I joined the rest of the employees in the lounge area watching the television. Details trickled in. The Pentagon was hit, the towers crumbled, and the plane crashed in the field. I remember standing there, jaw to the floor, awe-struck with what I was hearing. The company sent us home to be with family. That day, full of terror, tears, and sadness will forever remain with me as well.

Obviously, we didn't celebrate our anniversary that night. In fact, we didn't celebrate our anniversary on the 11th for a few years, instead waiting a couple of days. It didn't feel right. This year though, I want to celebrate it on the proper day. God blessed us that day and has blessed us for ten years. I want to acknowledge and commemorate the occasion. I no longer feel I'm disrespecting those who lost their lives, but rather honoring the Lord for what He has done for us. I've decided there has to be a balance between celebrating my marriage and remembering those who lost their lives. That is why this date will forever be bittersweet.

Word Study Wednesday: Powerful Prayers

"We loved to hear him pray." My Dad heard this comment several times regarding his late father, my grandfather. As Dad and my brother went through some of Grandpa's belongings, they came across a study outline he had prepared. The topic: "How to Pray". Curious about my Grandpa's thoughts on prayer, I had my brother make me a copy (my brother kept the original). I've reviewed it a couple of times since, and each time I do, something new stands out.

Today, I'm borrowing heavily from his outline. In particular, the section titled "How to Pray With Power." This may be a little long, but I believe the points he makes are important.

To begin with, our prayers must be made to God. I know, you're thinking, isn't all prayer made to God? Here are some things to consider.

Do we make a definite, conscious approach to God? We need to have a vivid realization that God is listening to us as we pray.

Do we allow our minds to be taken up with what we need? They shouldn't. Our minds need to be focused on God. Our needful thoughts should be secondary.

Do we allow our minds to wander? I'm guilty of this. One moment, I'm praying and the next, I'm thinking about something that happened last week.

"In this type of praying (the wandering, not-focusing-on-God type), there is no power - this prayer is not to God."

So, how can we make sure our prayers are unto God? "Look to the Holy Spirit to lead us into the presence of God. Develop an attitude of reverence (don't be hasty with words and wait for the Holy Spirit's lead)." Romans 8:26 says "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." Jude 20 also says "But you, beloved, building yourselves up in our most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit..."

We should also pray without ceasing and with all earnestness. When Jesus prayed in the Garden, "He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground," (Luke 22:44).

Hebrews 5:7 reads "In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears..."

The point these two verses make is to pour our prayers from our soul, "stretching out toward God in intense and agonizing desire."

The next point convicts me: "If we rush into God's presence, run through a string of petitions, jump up, and leave - if we put little heart into our prayers - we cannot expect God to put much heart into answering our prayers." He might because He is gracious, but I see the point. Also, if I'm not willing to deeply express my requests, then are they that important to me?

I hope this helps you in your prayer life. I know my grandpa's words have given me many thoughts to seriously consider. What are your thoughts?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Our New Journey

Tomorrow is the first day. I have my schedule ready, books organized, and crafts planned out. That's right - tomorrow is the first day of our homeschool.

I'm a little nervous, but excited beyond words. Both of my children seem to be excited as well. My daughter has been counting down the days and even picked out her first-day-of-school outfit.

I try not to be overwhelmed with the idea that my husband and I are responsible for their education. And trust me, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. There are learning styles, homeschooling styles, numerous choices for curriculum, state laws and requirements, independent school requirements (more on that in a minute), homeschool organizations, homeschool legal defense associations, and on and on and on.

I attended an introductory course a month ago and a some of these questions were answered. I also learned new things to add to the plethora of information currently floating in my brain. For example, there are three homeschooling options to choose from (according to Colorado law). I could homeschool and submit information (i.e. attendance records and testing scores) directly to the school district or I could work through an independent or private school, which means I follow their guidelines for attendance and testing, while they maintain our records. Another option requires me to have a teacher's certificate. We chose the independent school option.

I'm also trying not to feel pressured. I feel like this year is for trial and error as my oldest is starting Kindergarten. I'm sure curricula will come and go, depending on each child's needs, but hopefully I can attune myself to each child's learning style early on to avoid frustration.

The one thing I'm looking forward to is the look on my children's faces as they learn something new and it clicks. I want them to be excited to learn more about the Lord and His creation. I'm sure it will be a refresher course for me as well, and hopefully I, too, will appreciate the Lord and His creation a little (okay a lot) more.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Word Study Wednesday: Tweeting Prayers

Last night I started writing my post for today, but I was going to discuss prayer and fasting (I will, at a later time). After researching these two topics, I began to think about my own prayer life and wonder if it could be better (yes, it can). Don't get me wrong, I pray. I pray a lot throughout the day, but they are short prayers ("texting God" as my friend Melyssa calls it. Mine are more like tweets on Twitter - 140 characters or less). How can I develop a strong relationship with the Lord if I'm only tweeting Him?

As I reveiwed the Scriptures last night regarding prayer, I noticed how seriously the Biblical heroes took prayer. Moses, Daniel, Jesus, and many more, would go to a quiet place or rise before the sun to pray. Some prayed for 40 days and nights, some fasted during their prayers, some wore sackcloth and ashes as a sign of true mourning and repentance. Pleading for mercy, praying for their nations, for protection, for a child - these prayers were offered from the heart. They prayed without ceasing (1 Thessolonians 5:17).

How can I improve my prayer life? I can't necessarily go away for 40 days and nights, but I might be able to find 40 minutes (keep in mind there are no time limits on prayer, I'm using this as an example). I can go to bed earlier so I can get up earlier and use the quiet time of the early morning for prayer.

I can also watch what I pray. James 4:2b - 3 says "You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." (ESV)
What are the motives for my prayers? Am I praying for God's will to be done or am I praying for material possessions that will bring no glory to God?

How am I praying? Am I like the hypocrite and the pharisee - praying where others see me (Matthew 6:5) and bragging to God how great and pious I am (Luke 18:11)? Or like the tax collector who hung his head, beat his chest and begged for mercy (Luke 18:1) realizing my great sin and His great grace?

The benefits of prayer are endless. I will draw closer to the Lord as I relay my most intimate thoughts to Him. My relationship with Him will grow stronger meaning my faith will grow as well. It's also a chance to check my thoughts and motivations and pray for forgiveness. I can't do this though in short prayers, just like I can't build a relationship with someone with short phrases.

How's your prayer life? What are your thoughts on prayer? I would love to read your comments.