Monthly Archives: August 2012

God: Your Creator or Your Creation?

Do you believe in God? I mean really believe in Him? Is He your creator or your creation?

It’s not so much what you say that adequately answers those questions; it’s not even what you think you believe about God. The real answers to those opening questions are demonstrated in how you live your life.

How many decisions do you make every day of your life that have never been submitted to God, nor informed or influenced by the principles taught in the Scriptures? In fact, you are more influenced by the culture around you, or what you have studied in books, or what your friends say than you are by God himself. You have not even considered your Creator in the equation, only your personal desires, convenience, needs, comfort, job performance, success, or how you can fit into the cultural mold so that your Christianity is not so obvious.

I think some “Christians” make important life decisions that reflect an attitude of, “If I were God, this is how I would handle this situation?”  Instead of asking God how He wants them to live their lives – the things they do, speak, participate in, or allow; they have re-written the Book. God is no longer Creator, Master of the universe, Sustainer of life on planet earth, but just “god” with a small “g”.

Let’s see, how does the book of Genesis begin? Oh, yes, “In the beginning Man climbed out of the primordial slime . . .” oh, gosh, what did he do then? Uh . . . I think it’s in chapter 1 verse 26, “Then Man said, ‘let us make god in our image, after our likeness. And let him have dominion over whatever we choose to allow him to control.”  Verse 27 “And so Man made god in his image, in the image of Man he created him, male and female created they him. And they blessed god and said to god, ‘make our lives to be fruitful and prosperous and then wait over here on the sidelines until we need you to straighten things out for us. But in the meantime, we’re the ones in control, so don’t interfere with our plans.’”

Earlier this week I was reading in the book of Job, (located in the Old Testament of the Bible), in chapter 12, when I came down to verse 6 that contains the phrase, “ . . . those who carry their god in their hands.

It reminded me of an acquaintance I had many years ago who carried a cross in his pocket and made a point to show it to people he wanted to impress with his spirituality. He often said, “I never go any place without this cross in my pocket.” Years later it was discovered that he had been molesting his young daughter and attempting to seduce some of her friends.

Somehow, though this man “believed in god” and had made a profession of “faith” and had even been baptized, he merely served a god of his own creation; a god who was not “God” in his life, but a religious symbol that he carried in his pocket. His had “religion” but not a “relationship with God”, yet he would have said he was a Christian.

If we want to know what Creator God is like, we need to be people of the Book. We need to see Him in the pages of Scripture and do what such a God commands:

Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Psalm 1:1-2  “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul . . . You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

We also need to spend time in the presence of God – not just reading about Him in His book.

Just as it is possible for a husband and wife to be in the same room, yet not be experiencing each other’s presence, we often do this with God. We know He is with us, but we’re doing our own thing and not entering into His presence.  We need to draw close to God in our spirit – like cuddling up with our spouse on the couch.

James 4:8 “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

Our God is the God who loves, who is approachable, who desires our closeness and has promised to be with us and to teach us all we need to know to live out our lives on earth.

John 14:23-26 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. . . the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

So, how is it with you? Do you see God the way the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit portray Him? Do you see Him as the Creator who made the earth and everything in it of the natural order, including you? Do you see Him as the powerful Sustainer of life and loving Father of all who come to Him? Or do you see only a god of your own creation; an innocuous bystander, lacking power to rescue you and having no interest in your personal life? Is your life in His hands or your own?

Is God your Creator, or your creation? Your life depends on your answer to that question.

©2012, Marcy Alves

World View: How It Affects Our “Opinions”

Have you ever thought of where your opinions come from? Do they come from your parents? A favorite teacher? What you watch on TV or listen to on the radio? The evening news? Celebrity pronouncements or movie star worship? We all are affected by people and events that have influenced our lives in both negative and positive ways. They all contribute to our basic belief system. Out of our belief system comes our worldview.

Worldview “ . . .the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it.”  “A network of presuppositions which is not verified by the procedures of natural science but in terms of which every aspect of man’s knowledge and experience is interpreted and interrelated.”   Wikipedia

In other words, your relationships and experiences have influenced your basic belief system which forms your worldview, and out of your worldview come your opinions.

I often say to my husband that almost anyone’s opinion is logical if you start from the base of their worldview. The problems arise when we have different basic belief systems. Many misunderstandings come from variant worldviews.

All of the current debates on issues ranging from national healthcare, to the sanctity of marriage, to the value of human life from it’s inception, to right-to-work (i.e., not have to join or pay dues to a union), to a strictly Constitutional government, to the extension of amnesty to illegal aliens by Presidential fiat, all are dictated by personal worldview.

For the “re-born” Christian (as introduced by Jesus in the Gospel of John chapter 3), many of these hotly debated issue opinions are influenced by a Spirit-birthed relationship to God the Father and by the teachings in God’s Word. A reborn Christian’s opinions are not merely his/her personal ones, for his spirit is now linked to God’s Spirit, or he/she is not really a “Christian”:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. . . .  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8

The Apostle Paul also speaks of this relationship with God in Romans chapter 8, in which he refers to Spirit-born Christians as “sons of God”:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in youAnyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you . . . For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  Romans 8:9-11, 14-15

Response to Negative Disqualifyers

Very often, from pro-entitlement, pro-choice, pro-amnesty, or pro-same-sex marriage supporters come charges against those, who for conscience sake, (often stemming from religious and/or Scriptural values), are opposed to these more liberal viewpoints. Such charges as “bigoted, hateful, unloving, unkind, and judgmental” are leveled against anyone who dares to express a personal opinion that is anything but status quo and politically correct.

Often Scriptures are used to support these negative charges; such as, “Didn’t Jesus say to love everyone and not to judge others?” I find it interesting that often those who use these two particular words from Scripture, have no interest in going any deeper into the Bible or into a dynamic relationship with Jesus themselves – just Scripture to disqualify opposing opinions.

Isn’t it “unloving and judgmental” to declare someone else is unloving and judgmental, when we don’t know them personally? Is love being shown toward those whom we judge as “bigoted, hateful, unloving and judgmental”? Or do we apply the words of Jesus only to win points in a debate?

Isn’t it self-serving to use convenient catch phrases from Scripture to “judge” those whom we feel are being “judgmental” because they disagree with us?

Your opinions about the value of human life, the origin of the created world and the sanctity, purpose, and acceptable form of marriage, all stem from your belief system about God, His creation, and the Holy Scriptures which reveal God’s will for mankind – in other words, from your basic worldview.

Belief in and a relationship with the God of the Bible affects our opinions and choices.

Those who support marriage between a man and a woman only, and those who are pro-life – from the womb to old age – frequently base that view on the beliefs that there is a supreme holy God and that the Bible is the Word of God. They believe the teachings in the book of Genesis, that God is the one who created human life (it was not an evolutionary process that produced this highest created being), that God is the one who gave human life value; that God is the one who originated marriage between a man and a woman and that this was His plan for perpetuity. Their opinions on such matters are honest, kind and loving, based on their worldview. And to judge them as “bigoted, hateful and unloving” is unfair.

Loving Others                                                                                                                                                                                                                     What does it mean to love others? If I love my neighbor as myself, will I not warn him when I see him about to step off the edge of a 100 foot cliff as he is sleep-walking? Or try to wake him up when I see his house is on fire?

Does being loving mean that I shouldn’t warn those who perhaps don’t know what God’s standards are for His children, nor the fact that they will one day have to stand before the judge of the universe and account for their decisions that are contrary to God’s laws, whether or not they believe in God?

It’s important in this age of “anything you want to believe is okay” to examine what our worldview is based on. Do we have a solid foundation of beliefs that will withstand time, no matter how fickle public opinion is? Do we really believe what we say we believe, or are we swayed by every twist and turn of public opinions that swirl around us?

Is your “tolerance” really love for others, or are you taking the easy way out, doing what you need to do in order to be perceived as broadminded and tolerant? Is it possible that you perfer to overlook the sins of others so that you feel better about your own sin?

Jesus called his followers to walk on a narrow path: the people on that path are to base their worldview on the Scriptures and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to lovingly warn and hopefully rescue those who are standing on the edge of a cliff.

How firm is the foundation for your worldview?

©2012, Marcy Alves

Habits of Faith

Do you know that faith is contagious? That living in faith can become a habit that affects the faith walks of others?

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. —2 Tim. 1:5

Timothy had a sincere faith because his grandmother and mother had passed it down to him.  He saw in them a living faith that was able to get them through the hard things of life. The faith of his father is not mentioned – perhaps his father was not in the picture? Paul became his spiritual father.

The gentle heart of Timothy enabled him to weep openly. Paul refers to the tears that Timothy shed on Paul’s departure. Timothy was timid and had stomach problems, for which Paul prescribed a “little wine for your stomach’s sake”. It seems that Timothy was not your macho man, confident, aggressive, sure of himself. But he had a sincere faith and a calling from God.

Timothy also had spiritual gifts that God gave him for his ministry to the church through the “laying on of hands”.  Paul told him to fan the gift into flame. Apparently the gift was there, but in ember form, smoldering but not giving off much heat or light. God gave the gifts to Timothy, but Timothy had to do something about it. He had to step out in his gifts.  This took great faith from this timid young pastor.

God also gives us gifts through His most awesome gift of the Holy Spirit; that Spirit is not timid, not ashamed, not self-focused.  That Spirit is our teacher to help us to learn the lessons of the school of faith. If we don’t learn to live in “sincere faith in God”, our children will not “catch the spirit of faith”.

I heard from someone recently who was speaking from another spirit than that of faith.  I felt myself pull back inside.  I wanted no part of that negative, depressing, self-pitying spirit.  My desire is to walk in “sincere faith” – real faith.

Throughout life we form habits – most of what we do, say, and think as adults comes from a lifetime of habits that have become cemented into our lives, both good habits and bad habits.

The Apostle Paul had developed such a “habit of faith” that he could say in 1 Cor. 4:8-9:.8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . .”

Sustaining faith like this is what I desire to walk in; what I want to share with others whose lives may touch mine.

QUESTION: What kind of faith-legacy are you passing on to your children?  Would anyone say to your child or grandchild, “You have the sincere faith that was in your . . . grandmother, or mother, or father?”

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Do you ever find yourself wishing that you were in someone else’s skin? That if you had their life, or abilities, or opportunities, or personality, you could be successful? You could have a wonderful ministry? Maybe it’s time to stop comparing yourself to others and to bloom where you are planted.

I have a good friend who has said to me in the past that she does not understand why God has not given her the opportunity to serve Him in a bigger way. She has a nice singing voice, but never got to use it. She loves worship dance, but there was no place to develop it. She has always been interested in business and has wanted business of her own, but never got the chance. She does beautiful art work, but has no place to sell it. All these disappointments leave her discouraged and with an attitude of, “What’s the use of hoping or trying?” She is not the only one to feel that way.

Life is too precious to waste on wishing for something you can’t have, or regretting opportunities you have missed or messed up on. It’s much more important to find fulfillment in the opportunities you have right now; finding joy in blooming where you are planted. God has something for you to do right where you are, for His glory.

Eph. 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

When we thank God for where we are, and trust Him to use us in this very place, with all its disappointments and challenges; as we cultivate an attitude of gratitude that we are alive, that we know Him, that He loves us and has work for us to do, He will bless us right where we are. Our discouragement will be turned into joy and fulfillment.

The parable of the 10 talents teaches us that investing what we have, where we are, will result in increasing opportunity and blessing for us. This parable, found in Matthew chapter 25, relates to the Lord Jesus’ return to earth, and compares it to a wealthy man returning from a trip.

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents,to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.’”  Matt. 25:18-29

What is God saying to us about using what He has given us through this parable?

  • First, the servant who buried the money entrusted to him, had an improper picture of his master. He did not see his master as being fair or forgiving, but as being “hard”; he was afraid to fail such a man, so he did not try to invest what he had been given.

It’s obvious that the master was a benevolent person, from his generosity to the servants who invested what they had been given, because he allowed them to keep the original money, plus the profit they made from investing it.

Maybe because servant #3 was not given as much as the other two servants, he was jealous; or he felt that his master showed favoritism to them, and did not give him the same advantage for success.

Perhaps he viewed the situation through a grid of self-pity? “Poor me, I didn’t get the break that the others had. He doesn’t trust me as much. He doesn’t like me.” It’s similar to things I have heard people say: “I was not born into a wealthy family. No one helps me when I need it. Everything always goes bad for me. I have always had to make it on my own.”

Like the third servant, some people have a totally inaccurate view of God. Their lives have been tough, and rather than placing the blame on those who have treated them badly, they blame God. There are some who would even blame God before they would blame Satan, for the evil in the world or the hardship in their lives.

  • Second, the one talent servant had an improper fear of his master. The servant was afraid of his master rather than having the appropriate respect and awe of him.

Whatever the reason, the third servant did not invest what he had been entrusted with. When he returned the original one talent to the master, it was given to the servant who had the 10 talents.

The passage in Matt. 25 ends with:

“For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

You may think that is unfair, but I believe that because the first two servants had taken the time to get to know what their master was like; they had a proper view of his character and the proper respect for him. They appreciated the trust shown to them in the property left in their care. The third servant should have taken a lesson from them. He didn’t, until it was too late.

However, it’s not too late for you to change from a complainer to one who appreciates God’s goodness to you. He has invested something in you that He wants you to use, which will bring blessings to you, to others, and to His kingdom.

My friend whom I mentioned in the beginning of this post recently told me that she believes God is using her in her current job to represent Him to her co-workers. Many of them have had tough lives, or are currently experiencing many of the things she has gone through in the past. Because they know that she has had her struggles, they have watched her responses to the difficulties of her job. She has a gift of conversation; she is comfortable talking with anyone and has the ability to put others at ease.  Little by little several of her co-workers are feeling free to share their own challenges and struggles with her. As she relates with them and gives them encouragement, she drops words about the Lord here and there.

I believe my friend is learning to bloom where she is planted. That lesson is one she can take with her wherever the Lord leads her next. I also believe that her increasing thankfulness and faithfulness will lead to increased blessings in her life.

How about you? Are you always waiting for that break that never seems to come? Do you need to be freed from comparing your life and your talents with those of others?

Maybe you need to ask God to show you the good works He has prepared beforehand for you to walk in. Invest your “talents” while you have the chance, before your master returns to collect the interest. Bloom where you are planted.

©2012, Marcy Alves

Vegetable Garden Blues

Has your garden failed to produce after hours of labor: preparing the soil, planting, watering, hoeing, and weeding? Join my 2012 garden club and we can weep together.

I don’t know what was different this year from past years. My garden was rototilled and fertilized with organic fertilizer. Plants and seeds were purchased from the same farm store I use every year; planted about the same time (early-June).

The garden was watered when it didn’t rain, weeded and hoed semi-faithfully, and prayed-over a lot. There is usually a good return by now from some of my vegetable plants; so far this season – zilch.

My garden has been attacked by “critters”(a porcupine, deer, and a groundhog), bugs (some to eat the plants and others to eat the bugs that eat the plants) and weeds. I fought bravely to protect the garden, erected a makeshift fence, prepared and sprayed a natural bug killer, planted marigolds on the edges, spread critter repellent around the perimeter of the garden, and finally set a humane critter-trap – all to no avail (except for the trapped porcupine).

A garden takes lots of work – especially organic gardens. And some years it takes more work than others.

Working in the garden this year made me think about the Master Gardener – the one who works the garden of our hearts. He must have some fairly unproductive years, too. Mostly due to the condition of the soil.

First He has to prepare the soil: at just the right time, His plow-cuts the hardened ground and loosens it up so that it can receive the fertilizer and the seeds. The preparation of the soil can take years, depending on what has formed the ground of our lives – it’s usually a mixture of our life experiences, the deposits in our hearts from human relationships, personal encounters, and “stuff” that happens to us.

Then comes the fertilizer – which, strangely, is made from those same life experiences.  Good times and bad times; successes and failures; joys and sorrows; fulfilled dreams and disappointments, which God turns into compost when we commit them into His hands; aged, decayed, rotted things that He uses to enrich the soil, getting the most out of the mixture to produce the best fruit in us.

This is what is referred to in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Seeds are scattered into the soil through other people, things we read, view, and listen to; and in those silent thoughts relayed to us from the mind of the Master Gardener as we learn to be still and listen for His voice.

Then the Holy Spirit draws up water from the well inside us that never runs dry and irrigates our garden, causing the seeds to germinate. As the plants begin to pop up through the soil, the Son shines His light on them and over time fruit begins to form.

It’s all His work, not ours – until the weeds, bugs and critters appear in the garden He’s cultivating. It’s then that we participate in the work. The soil of the fallen human nature will bring forth all kinds of weeds, briars and creeping vines which have to be uprooted.

The easiest to remove are the vine plants; they twist and curl themselves around us and strangle or suck life from us if they are not caught early on. Their roots are not very deep, but it requires time to untangle them. They are like the thorny plants mentioned in Jesus’ parable about the seed and the soil in Matthew chapter 13 – which choke out the produce that has begun to grow. Just like our daily irritations and concerns which often choke out the spirit-fruit in the garden of our hearts.

Other weeds in my backyard garden are easily removed, having only shallow, surface roots. But there are a couple different kinds of weeds which have deep, thick roots, often 4 or 5 inches long. I have to dig them out with a trowel. If I don’t, the weeds keep growing back.

In our heart-soil, there are also weed roots that have been growing for a long time; they penetrate very deeply into our soil. Past hurts often leave deep wounds into which these roots bury themselves. Un-forgiveness toward others, ourselves, and God, causes those weeds to grow and keep coming back.

We often need help from our Master Gardener and fellow believers to help us dig out these deeply imbedded roots. If we don’t get rid of them, not only will they inhibit our spiritual growth, but will cause problems for others around us.

Hebrews 12:15 says: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

And then, the bugs and critters that invade our spirit-garden, like the “birds of the air” in Matt. 13:4, swoop into the garden of our hearts and snatch away the seed, which the parable in Luke 8:11 defines as “the word of God”.  Jesus defines those “birds” as “the evil one” (Matt. 13:19) or “Satan” (Mark 4:15). These demonic thoughts from the spirit-world attempt to destroy the spiritual seed that is germinating in us. It’s important to hold onto the word of God as it comes to us in its various forms – letting it nourish our souls.

There is a contrast in Galatians 5 between the garden left to itself and the one that is cultivated by the Master Gardner, Jesus:

  • Gal. 5:19-21: the produce of the flesh:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

  • Gal. 5:22- 23: the fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

My prayer for those who want to live a life full of spiritual fruit (and for myself) is found in Philippians 1:9-11:

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

How’s your garden doing? Need help from the Master Gardener? He’s just a prayer and a surrender away.

©2012, Marcy Alves

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