Burning, Burning, Burning

Candle_(Slava_celebration)“A good teacher is like a candle, it consumes itself to light the way for others.” I saw this quote in one classroom and thought it was worth sharing, but couldn’t we broaden the scope a little:

“A good pastor is like a candle, who consumes himself to light the way for others.”

“A good Sunday school teacher…”

“A born-again believer…”

Isn’t that our calling–to be spent so that others will see the True Light–Jesus Christ? How are we “consumed?” Like that candle, we become consumed as we live and walk for our Lord.  Our testimony shines because we are “consumed” or are willing to sacrifice…

  • Our ways — living in the light of the gospel may require giving up our ways for His Way.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

  • Our thoughts — EVERYONE has an opinion.  I overheard a 7th grader explaining that she didn’t follow any religion.  She just goes on her experiences. WOW! It made me realize that many people are missing the one essential factor which directs my path. As believers, we are three-part beings: body, soul, and spirit. Our goal is to have the Spirit of God control our mind which, in turn, controls our bodies. When a person leaves God out of the picture, he will listen either to the desires of his flesh or the dictates of his mind.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Below is a chart of the outcomes when we allow either the bodies or our minds have greater sway than God’s Holy Spirit.

Body-controlled Mind-controlled Spirit Flesh wins every time.
Body-controlled Spirit-controlled Mind Spirit is controlling the mind, but only when the body allows.
Mind-controlled Body-controlled Spirit A disciplined person who factors God right out of the equation.
Mind-controlled Spirit-controlled Body A disciplined person, but logic overrules faith.
Spirit-controlled Body-controlled Mind Physical actions overrule common sense quenching the Spirit of God.
Spirit-controlled Mind-controlled Body Spirit has His way in the mind, which, in turn, dictates the body’s actions.
  • Our Expectations — Sometimes we just assume the outcome.  We assume that our marriage will be bumpless, our houses spotless, our children nearly sinless. God’s plan may be different from ours because He sees and knows everything, and His expectations for us to “come forth as gold” often require circumstances beyond our expectations.

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10

A good teacher or pastor gladly pours himself out for his class/congregation, thrilling when he sees a student gain understanding or a church member yield and grow.

Burning with a passion for Christ can cause burnout unless we experience a Maccabee’s miracle! Around 200 BC, a Syrian king took over Jerusalem. He allowed the Jews to stay but prohibited them to worship in their traditional way, encouraging them to worship the Greek gods. Some did, and they were called Hellenistic Jews. However, when this king built a statue of Zeus in the Temple, the Jewish people had had enough and revolted.

When they successfully ousted a much larger and better-equipped army, they cleared out the Temple and rededicated it to the Lord; however, they only had enough oil to burn the Menorah for one day.  Miraculously, it burned for eight, and this miracle is celebrated every Hannakuh.

We will soon be consumed if our strength is not from God.  There isn’t enough wick or wax to finish the course.  Some Christians sputter at the very beginning of their walk, perhaps because they are CINOs: Christian In Name Only. Sputtering is also caused by the splash of the world, our flesh, and Satan who would gladly extinguish our light IF HE COULD! (Praise God, He can’t!) It may be caused because we are too close to the world’s faucet of foolishness, and we are not regularly dipping our candles into the wax of the Word.

Daily, we need to do a self-check to be certain we’re ready to shine brightly, by…

  • Trimming our wicks
  • Cleaning our chimneys
  • Being filled with the Word.

 

“Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.”

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Recalcitrant, Dead and Inert

ID-100159550The first word in the title stopped me  — what does it mean ? In this wonderful age of devices and gadgets, I just highlight it, and, bingo, there’s the definition: having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline.

So, when the call comes that a funeral has derailed our plans for Bible Conference, I find myself a bit recalcitrant, and that, my friend, is not an attribute of holiness!

Lately, the desire for holiness in my life has moved to the front burner. Am I living a holy life, and what does that mean? A recent quote said, “Think not on a holy life, but on a holy moment as it flies” (John Kitto).

Holiness is a lifelong process of making right choices! So, when I read this devotion, I felt that perhaps it could be a help to you as it was to me! R.C. Sproul has a way with words, even if they are big ones ! 🙂

Becoming a New Creation

As Christians, we are new creations. Our hearts of stone have been turned into hearts of flesh. In this metaphor, flesh is used as a positive figure, not a pejorative one. Where once my heart was cold and recalcitrant, dead and inert to the things of God, now it throbs and pulsates with spiritual life. Once I was biologically alive but spiritually dead. Now I am biologically alive and spiritually alive as well. I am a new person.

There is radical discontinuity between my new self and my old self. This radical discontinuity, however, is not total discontinuity. A link between the old man and the new man remains. The old man has been dealt a mortal blow. His total destruction is certain, but he is not yet dead.

The conflict of the Christian life is a struggle with sin. Sin no longer has dominion over us if we are in Christ, yet sin is still in us. Regeneration liberates us from the bondage of original sin, but our corrupt nature is not totally annihilated this side of heaven.

Paul speaks of the warfare that goes on between the flesh and the spirit. “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Thank God for the new heart of flesh He has implanted in your spiritual being.

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul

Growing Old… Gracefully?

Related imageWe’ve all heard that phrase, but as I approach six decades, I’m beginning to think I fit more accurately into that category than the “middle-age” bracket I’d like to claim. Certainly, my body creaks and groans like an old, sagging door, and my stiff joints remind me of our twelve-year-old Cocker Spaniel when she first awakens. But what does it mean to “grow old gracefully,” and how is it accomplished?

I’m sure I don’t have all the answers, but another phrase often comes to mind when I’m around older people.  “What we practice in our youth we will magnify in our old age.” For example, a cantankerous man will be a cantankerous old man. We don’t just suddenly become something that we haven’t been “practicing” all our lives! In our younger days, we may be able to cover our cantankerous tracks with grace, but when we are older, sadly, either we don’t care anymore to apply tact, or we aren’t able to because of the effects of the dreaded duo: Alzheimers and dementia.

Our church recently had the funeral of a 100-year-old woman. My husband has been pastoring her for eleven years, and in that time I can’t recall EVER hearing an unkind remark, complaint, or wrangling word come from her mouth. She loved the Lord, loved everybody, and everyone loved her. Her funeral was a celebration of her life and testimony before the Lord. At the end of the service, the family gathered round the casket in the front of the church, but it seemed as though they just didn’t want to leave.  This happened again at the graveside as well. They hated to say good-bye to this dear, dear mother, grandmother, great-grand mother, aunt, sister, and friend. Yes, they knew they would see her again, but this withered and worn shell had housed a dear, sweet soul. That face had lit up so infectiously so often that it was hard to let go.

Mary Wilson had her mind and body nearly to the end of her life, and she always praised the Lord for it. I’ve visited dear saints who have lost their minds and make no sense in their speech or understanding; however, when my husband would begin to quote scripture or we would sing a hymn, their faces would brighten and they would quote the verse with him or sing along.  Hallelujah! What a wonderful example of the spirit being willing but the flesh weak! (Matthew 26:41)Years of tucking verses away in the heart and keeping a song on the lips will bring great dividends!

So what are you “practicing?” Are you working daily to develop a kind and gentle spirit?

“Well, I’m just naturally …” you fill in the bitter blank. But know that we all come with a bent toward sin. Yes, some are, by nature, more easy going, but the fruit of the spirit is available to all! You will preach what you practice when you practice what you preach!

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. Hebrews 11:4

 

Bile (Boil) That Cabbage Down

If you’ve lost a loved one, then you will understand this scenario:  I’m preparing to teach elementary music when my eyes fall on the 5th Grade Chorus music—Bile That Cabbage Down.  I choke and a tear springs to my eye because it brings back a very fond memory of my father who passed away in 2009. He didn’t play the guitar often and he didn’t sing often, but when he was being silly, he would sing this song while playing the guitar… and I loved to hear it! My dad, who was very private with his feelings and not an “in front of people” guy, could be so different in the shelter of our home. He was silly! He loved to tease. Oh, the memory just makes my heart ache for him!

Then my next thought stopped me short. I wish I had…

  • Spent more time with him
  • Not wasted so many moments being a rebellious teen. (One summer we rode to work together and they were the most silent rides of my life! Why didn’t I try harder to talk to him? I hear you saying, “But he should have talked to you.” True, but now he’s gone.)
  • Worked harder to know him better
  • Been more patient with him

Even though these are relatively minor regrets, they do come to mind and bring with them a lesson for today that I would urgently suggest you consider…

  • Spend more time with people than your computer
  • Get out of your comfort zone and SAY SOMETHING!
  • Work at family relationships. They can become so strained by miscommunications, lack of time together, morbid self-introspection, jealousy, selfishness, and just plain meanness
  • Be more patient, especially with elderly folks and teens. These are two groups of special needs people.  We’ve all either been there or will be there! Teens bark more than they bite, and I have yet to be bitten by one because I started a conversation.  And as a pre-older person 🙂 (OK, so I might not be speaking the truth in my heart!) I’m beginning to understand the aches and pains, the disappointments life seems to throw at us, and the frightening thought that time is changing more than I can handle.

You may say…

  • “But I can’t!” Are you sure?
  • “You don’t understand.” No, but God does!
  • “It’s impossible.” But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
  • “It won’t change anything.” Oh, but you don’t know until you try! Sometimes we are so busy looking for the other person to change that we fail to realize the change that needs to happen in our own hearts!

Sometimes, when counseling with someone or in a teaching moment when I’ve tried to encourage someone to make right choices and do the hard thing, I wish that I could play back all the excuses I hear. But then there are those precious moments when the listener hears with a heart surrendered to do God’s will, and I know there’s hope for that one!

I hope this challenge blesses and changes you—I know it has touched my heart!  I needed it. Praise the Lord!

Stuck or Planted?

Do you ever feel that way—stuck! Perhaps you are stuck in a job you don’t like or a marriage that is loveless. Are you facing a life of illness where the situation you’re stuck in includes hospitals, prescriptions, and overwhelming medical bills? Sometimes, our “stuck spot” is more petty, like a bad haircut, twenty pounds too many, or a lacking wardrobe; however, those daily grind stuck spots are difficult to overcome too.

Stuck—can’t get out—can’t change it—HELP!

This powerful little prayer is such a challenge! Let us consider…

  • John Bunyan, who wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress” while he was stuck in jail
  • J. S. Bach, who wrote 46 pieces of music while in jail
  • Paul, whose imprisonment gave us Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon

All three of these men were stuck in situations that were unchangeable, and yet Bunyan turned his cell into a allegorical backdrop, Bach changed his prison into a concert hall, and Paul traded his chains in for a Spirit-led quill!

And when we consider our Bible heroes, like Esther, Daniel, and Joseph–just to name a few–we realize that they too made lemonade out of their lemony situations.

Stuck or planted?  Are you stuck because you will not make necessary changes, or are you planted right where God wants you to be? 🙂 Hmm. That’s good for thought! Just some helpful conclusions:

  • If I can’t change it, I MUST accept it serenely.
  • If I can change it I MUST elicit God’s grace and power to do so, surrendering my will to His.
  • I MUST depend on the Word of God for wisdom, reading it, studying it, and allowing it to keep my thinking biblical.

Perhaps a picture IS worth a thousand words!

Related image

STUCK…

Image result for dead plant in pot

 

 

OR PLANTED?

 

 

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9

Christmas Lights and Jonah’s Gourd

 

 “So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” Jonah 4:6

24852525_10215477430155882_3326722355540250083_nChristmas lights—a source of great delight and fierce frustration! I’m sure you’ve all experienced the irritation of placing LIT lights on your tree or around the highest point of your house, only to descend the ladder, look up, and see a section that is not working!  So was the case at the MacAvoy household this year.  After pitching three half-lit strands of lights, I finally got the tree completely illuminated; however, the following week while serenely sipping coffee and reading my Bible beside the tree (what ambiance!), I noticed a flicker of light in my peripheral vision. When I looked over at the tree, I saw the lights go on and off once again in a section of the tree!

They stayed unlit for a few days until I had a chance to check it out. When I did, I felt like someone working for their salvation.  Surely, if I pull out each darkened bulb and replaced it, checking to make sure that all the wires were intact, God would reward my efforts.  As in Naaman’s situation, God waited until that last bulb before intervening, but when I pulled out that bulb the rest of the lights came to life! I looked at the empty socket, and then at the bulb in my hand! A miracle!

The following morning I was talking to God, praising Him and thanking Him for the blessing of the previous day, when I remembered the lights. With “exceeding gladness,” I thanked Him for lighting my tree!

Isn’t that just like Jonah? He was so glad that God took pity on him and make a vine to shield him from the hot rays of the sun. He did not thank Him for having pity on the eternal souls of men, including himself, but rather was overwhelmed with joy because of physical comfort.

The Lord’s challenge for me this Christmas season is this:

 Can I look past the pressing things, the daily trials, and the difficult circumstances, and focus on the blessings and needs of those around me?

To do so takes extra time which is already limited at this time of year, but so many of our friends and families desperately need to see Jesus in a tangible way! So, do the extraordinary for Christmas. Think out of the box.  After all, Jesus left the dazzling perfection of heaven to be entombed in Mary’s womb, to undergo the pangs of labor, and to surround His deity with the scent of barn animals and smelly shepherds. Can’t I do something extraordinary for Him for His birthday?

And, by the way… “Doest thou well to be angry [with the Christmas lights] (Jonah 4:9)?”  🙂

Drop Dead!

Postcard with text "Greetings from the Sunny South." Five African American people in interesting dress--fancy suit, hats, umbrella, frilly dress. One has a fiddle and a dog. Text: "Cake Walkers. Way down south in Dixie."For a short while, we had these words on our mirror in the bathroom: Drop Dead. The idea was that we would start the day with this thought in mind. It was a good reminder; however, I remember the time when a young girl, who came for dinner with her unsaved family, came out from the bathroom, wide-eyed and saying, “You have bad words on your mirror!” To her, the idea of telling someone to drop dead was a threat!

As a church, we have been memorizing verses from Romans 6. (By the way, are you memorizing Bible verses? Is it me or does it get harder as you age? Anyway, that is my “New Year’s Resolution” for 2018! I’m not sure how I’m going to implement it, but I MUST be memorizing more scripture.) Whether it’s a piece of music, a famous speech, or a Bible verse, memorizing allows you to see it differently. As you memorize, you are meditating on the words and phrases in a different way than if you just read it.

Here is December’s verse for our church:

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Romans 6: 13

As I was working on it, I noticed something. We are urged to yield ourselves to God.  That’s easy to understand, but then Paul adds this phrase: “as those that are alive from the dead.”

OK, Jesus died and rose from the dead. We are to be like Him? Is that what Paul is saying. Of course, that is certainly part of it. But as I “meditated” on this portion of the verse, I dug a little deeper! As born-again believers, we are not only dead, but we are resurrected.  When we

  • Are saved
  • Ask Jesus to be our Savior
  • Trust Christ for salvation
  • Believe and receive Jesus as our Savior

However you want to phrase it when that happens, we die to the power of sin! We die to living our lives for ourselves. We die to our wants, our plans, our path, and we allow God to do the leading.  He directs our paths, guides our plans, and often changes our wants. We are dead BUT alive!

Later in chapter 12:1,2, Paul puts a little more meat on the bones:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

A living sacrifice—we are alive, but we really can’t live for God until we die. That hurts! Death can be painful, and what I’ve found is this:

The tighter we hold on to our wants, our plans, our life,

the deeper God needs to cut to “kill” this world from our hearts!

What are you loving more than God? Can you be honest about this? Is it your traditions? Family? Church denomination? Entertainment? Way of worship? Money? Security? The way you do life?

Look at this verse:

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Revelation 12:11

Wow! What a challenge (and a good one to memorize)! As the Lord’s Return draws closer, will we need to follow their example more: they loved not their lives unto the death?

It’s all quite a challenge, but then, true believers understand that the Christian life is not a cakewalk. (FYI and total rabbit trail. Check out the link if you want to know where that phrase cakewalk originated!)

Will you drop dead today AND allow God to resurrect you so that you can yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God? That’s a tall order. Thankfully, our loving God also supplies the grace to make it possible!