Life Lesson: October 9

9 Oct

Meditate: Read Jonah 2

Sing: It Is Well with My Soul

Chorus:   It is well with my soul. It is well, It is well with my soul. 

Verse 1
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well. It is well with my soul

Verse 2
Tho’ Satan should buffet. Tho’ trials should come
Let this blest assurance control.
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

Verse 3
My sin O the bliss of this glorious tho’t
My sin not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord O my soul

Verse 4
And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so it is well with my soul

Message
            How can this man, Horatio Spafford, write a song that basically says, “Even though life is hopeless and horrible, I am ok!” There have been times in my life when I was not ok. I was afraid, lost, alone, hurt, or angry. I was NOT ok! But today, I am ok. How can that be? It can be, because God is faithful. God gives grace to the lost and mercy to the suffering. God forgives and God gives hope. Horatio Spafford did not say, “It is well!” because life circumstances changed. He said, “It is well!” because God is good and nothing in this life is worth hanging on to except God. Horatio did not focus his attention on the sea billows, trials, and suffering around him, he turned his eyes to the one who pardoned all of his sin and promised to come again to take him to a better place.

Jonah was in the belly of the big fish when he prayed to God for help and mercy. He proclaimed “when my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord (vs7).” When all seemed lost, Jonah turned from his circumstances and grabbed hold of the only thing that mattered, God! My favorite verse in this chapter is verse 8. Jonah realizes and says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Jonah discovered, just as Horatio Spafford discovered, there is nothing in this life that is more important than our relationship with God, through Jesus.

Jesus tells us, in Luke 14:26-27, that we must set everything else aside (even family) to be a disciple. Nothing can stand in the way of our relationship with Jesus. Then, no matter what happens once we pick up our cross and follow, we must keep focused on the most important thing. If we try to hang on to things in this life, we will forfeit the grace that God has for us.

Blessing
Go to the grocery store and pick up a few extra items that you can donate to a food pantry or take to someone in need.

Move
Sing: ‘Let Go, Let the Spirit Flow” and do some motions. Make your motions as big as you are able. Remember that we have some “worthless idols” that we need to let go of.

Let go, let the Spirit flow. (3x) 
Let go, and let God.

Additional verses: Clap you hands, raise your arms, lift your knees, etc.

Create
After some time in prayer, make a list of “worthless idols” to which you hold on. Next to the list, make a new list of where you have seen God’s grace in your life.

Nourish
Keep track of what you eat today. Are you getting a well-balanced diet?

Rest
Find 10 minutes to be still. Do nothing during this time. This is God’s time to renew you in mind, body and spirit.

Recreation
Swim today. If you are not able to swim, take a long hot bath. Enjoy the feeling of the water around you.

Pray
Rewrite Jonah’s prayer in your own words and in relation to your own life circumstances.

Snacks
Treat yourself to your favorite cookie.

World Prayer
Read the paper or watch the news. Jot down the first four situations you read or see. Take several minutes to pray for each one.

Sleep
Are you getting enough sleep? What can you do to improve your sleep time?

From morning until night, God wants us to worship and commune with Him. Start your day in His Word and then weave throughout the day these elements of devotion, worship, contemplation and service to others.

_______
“It Is Well with My Soul”, pg. 61 CFO Sings, H.G. Spafford & P.P. Bliss

“Let Go, Let the Spirit Flow”, pg. 262 CFO Sings, Frank Wilson & LaVerne Krull Caton

Life Lesson: October 2

2 Oct

Meditate: 
Read Psalm 136

Sing: Revelation Song

Verse 1
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain, Holy holy is He.
Sing a new song To Him Who sits on Heaven’s mercy seat.

Chorus
Holy holy holy Is the Lord God Almighty.
Who was and is, And is to come.
With all creation I sing Praise to the King of kings.
You are my ev’rything, And I will adore You!

Verse 2
Clothed in rainbows of living color, Flashes of lightning.
Rolls of thunder, Blessing and honor, Strength and glory,
And power be to You, The only wise King!

Verse 3
Filled with wonder, Awestruck wonder, At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power, Breath and living water.
Such a marv’lous mystery! yeah

Message
            Do you ever forget who God is? I do not mean that we forget that he is the Creator, but do you ever just take that for granted and treat him like a Magic Wand waiting to do your bidding? I know we all want to answer an emphatic, “No! Of course not!” Well, I know I do sometimes. I go to him (after I wake up) and after giving a cursory, “Thank you for this new day,” I then move into the needs and wants of my day. My prayers often sound like this, “Lord, Thank you for this day. I pray that Sally gets the help she needs and Joey does well on his test today. Lord, I am really busy today, so please help me with that.” I then get distracted by something and after checking the text that just came in on my phone, I continue. “Oh Lord, I still need help with that bill that I really can not afford and please help that lady (whose name I can’t remember) who said she has cancer.” Another text comes in and then the reminder on my calendar pops up to say my first appointment is at 9:00, so I finish up. “Lord, I have such a busy day. Please help me. I wish that I had more time to spend with you. Amen.”

I am certainly not suggesting that our prayers should be long and drawn out and praying for others is very important. Praying for ourselves is okay too, but it is important to consider our attitudes and focus when we are praying. In Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus tells us to go into our room and pray in secret. This means that all attention is given to God and that it is our intention to spend time in prayer, instead of fitting it in where we can. What if we spent time in a secret and quiet place, giving our total attention to God every day? What if we spent more time focusing on him that on ourselves, our problems, and our worries?

Today is a good day to turn my eyes upon Jesus and off of the world, my problems, my responsibilities, and me.

Blessing
Praying with someone can be a real blessing. Find someone who has nobody else to pray with and offer to spend 15-30 minutes with them in prayer. Take as long as you (or they) need.

Move
Sing and do the motions for “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” Repeat this several times until you are no longer distracted by anything but Him. Spend a few moments in quiet listening prayer.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus        (Begin with head down and begin to look up)

Look full in His wonderful face   (Continue raising your eyes and head and raise your hands)

And the things of earth              (Spread your arms out in front of you, moving them side to side)

Will grow strangely dim              (Sweep the things of the earth away)

In the light of His glory and grace (Bow in reverence and prayer)

Create
Take Psalm 136 and rewrite the first part of each verse using your own life experiences.

Nourish
If you are able, fast one meal and spend that time in prayer. If you are not able to give up food, eat lightly and use the rest of the time to pray.

Rest
Find 10 minutes to be still. Do nothing during this time. This is God’s time to renew you in mind, body and spirit.

Recreation
Get out and ride a bike today. If you do not have one and can not borrow one, at least take a walk.

Pray
Just praise God! Read through the Psalm you wrote and read through the song for today. Read the words out loud!

Snacks
If you did not fast for a meal today, try fasting your snack time. Spend the time in prayer.

World Prayer.
Pray for the leaders of the world.

Sleep
Go to bed a few minute early and give God those minutes in prayer.

From morning until night, God wants us to worship and commune with Him. Start your day in His Word and then weave throughout the day these elements of devotion, worship, contemplation and service to others.

_______

1. “Revelation Song” – CCLI Song # 4447960, Jennie Lee Riddle, © 2004 Gateway Create Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing (IMI)), CCLI License # 283314.  CCLI Song # 15960

2. “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” – Helen H. Lemmel, © Words: 1922 New Spring Music: 1922 New Spring, CCLI License # 283314

Life Lesson: Sept 25

25 Sep

Meditate
Read: Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, Philemon 1: “Paul, a servant, an apostle, a prisoner,  of Christ Jesus…”

Sing: Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)

Chorus
My chains are gone I’ve been set free,
My God my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love amazing grace

Verse 1
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

Verse 2
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

Verse 3
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

Verse 4
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God who called me here below
Will be forever mine, Will be forever mine
You are forever mine


Message
            I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, an employee, a pastor, a worship leader, and I have many other titles. I probably would not, however, think to call myself servant or prisoner. I cherish my freedom and my independence. Along with many others, I celebrate Independence Day and I sing songs of thanksgiving for my freedoms. Sometimes I forget that although society allows me to say and do mostly whatever I want, I am not really free. I am in bondage to sin. As Paul says, there are things I should do that I do not and there are things I should not do that I do! It seems that I should be in control of my thoughts and actions, but there are times that I do not seem to have any self-control. I am in bondage to the evil that controls my heart.

There is good news though! Jesus came to break the bondage that holds us as slaves to sin which leads to death. We can be confident that Jesus Christ came to set us free. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1a).” Why then do we continue to hold so tightly to the chains that have been broken by Jesus? Paul encourages us to “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1b).”

So, if we have freedom in Christ, why does Paul call himself a slave and a prisoner? As slaves of Jesus, we are actually free. We no longer have to live in the sin that so easily entangles us. We no longer have to align with the world that puts pressure on us to be a certain way or think certain things. We are free to be the new and transformed people that God created us to be.

I often need to be reminded, but I know that I do not have to be a slave to the world, but I can be free in bondage to Christ and be all he wants me to be.

Blessing
Send a note to an expectant Father. Write a prayer of blessing for him and this new title that God has for him.

Move
Play some music and dance. Be thankful that God has freed you to dance for him!

Create
Consider the descriptions used by Paul to describe his relationship with Jesus. Make a list of names that might describe your relationship with Jesus.

Nourish
Try a new recipe today. If you generally eat alone, share your meal with someone.

Rest
Find 10 minutes to be still. Do nothing during this time. This is God’s time to renew you in mind, body and spirit.

Recreation
Visit the local humane society and play with the animals.

Pray
Ask God to show you how to live into the titles that you discovered during your creative time. Be sure to have a time of listening prayer and journal what you hear.

Snacks
Have some ice cream. You are free, but you do not have to overdo it.

World Prayer.
Pray for those who are in physical bondage. Pray for those in prisons or in some other form of physical captivity.

Sleep
As you go to sleep, be thankful for the freedom you have.

From morning until night, God wants us to worship and commune with Him. Start your day in His Word and then weave throughout the day these elements of devotion, worship, contemplation and service to others.

_______
“Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)”, CCLI Song # 4768151, Chris Tomlin | John Newton | Louie Giglio © 2006 worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), sixsteps Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), Vamos Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), CCLI License # 283314

Life Lesson: Sept 18

18 Sep

Meditate: Read Isaiah 51

Sing: Therefore the Redeemed

Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return
And come with singing unto Zion,
And everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. (repeat)

They shall attain gladness and joy,
And sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return
And come with singing unto Zion,
And everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.

Message

There are times when I feel sad or depressed. There may be a situation that brings on these feelings or it may be something I cannot put my finger on. When these times come, whether justified or not, the enemy tries to tell me that my faith is shaken or I do not put enough trust in God. If I listen to this voice, it drives me further and further into the negative feelings and the vicious circle continues.

It is times like this that I need to spend less time trying to identify, justify or explain my emotions and turn to God, my shield and the lifter of my head (Ps 3:3). It is God who will rescue me or shield me or comfort me. God will never shame me or condemn me for the emotions that I feel.

Isaiah tells us that the redeemed of the Lord (that’s us) shall receive gladness and joy and that our sorrow and mourning shall flee away. It tells us that we will have everlasting joy upon our heads and that this joy comes from the Father.

We can not just make our negative feelings go away by saying we should not feel this way and it will not make it better to have someone else tell us our feelings are wrong. What will make things better is to acknowledge that we feel this way (for whatever reason) and lean in closer to God. Acknowledge that we have been redeemed, that we belong to him, and that we can trust him to rescue us. In these times, read the Scripture, pray, meditate, and practice the various “prayer” activities we have learned in CFO. In this way, God will liberate us from despair, anxiety, fear, sadness or depression.

Blessing
Seek someone out that may be experiencing negative emotion and bring them a flower. Let them know that the flower represents the love of God in this time. 

Move
Sing and do motions for Deep and Wide. Remember that you can never go so far as to get away from the love of God.

Deep and wide. Deep and wide. There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide. (repeat)

Create
Get out your crayons and draw a picture of your emotions right now. Ask God if there is something he wants to show you in this picture.

Nourish
Remember that what we eat can have an impact on how we feel. Choose your food well.

Rest
Find 10 minutes to be still. Do nothing during this time. This is God’s time to renew you in mind, body and spirit.

Recreation
Dance

Pray
Pray through the UPT prayer list. If you do not get this list, contact Carolyn Miller to begin getting it. www.unitedprayertower.org

Snacks
Try a spice you have never had before.

World Prayer
Pray for those who feel hopeless.

Sleep
Just sense the presence of God as you fall asleep. If you do not seem to feel him, begin to quietly whisper, “Come Lord Jesus.”

From morning until night, God wants us to worship and commune with Him. Start your day in His Word and then weave throughout the day these elements of devotion, worship, contemplation and service to others.

_______
“Therefore the Redeemed”, Ruth Lake, pg 136, CFO Sings.

“Deep and Wide”, Har. Herbert G Tovey, pg 141, CFO Sings

Life Lesson: Sept 11

11 Sep

Life Lesson 45

Meditate

Hebrews 12:18-29. Consider verses 28-29 in light of your own worship.

Sing
10,000 Reasons

Chorus
Bless the Lord O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before, O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

Verse 1
The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Verse 2
You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

Verse 3
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Message
            I found my mind wandering in worship on Sunday. I was thinking about my “ToDo” list, lunch, my kids, and my work. I was thinking about people in attendance that Sunday and wondering where some of the others were. I was thinking about how I was feeling and that my head was not really in the game. I wondered why I could not seem to focus on worship and then wondered what the next song was. I suddenly realized that if I am not staying focused when I am standing behind the pulpit, then how were the people in the pews managing.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that our worship needs to be acceptable; with reverence and awe. I would love to be able to say that my worship of the All-Mighty, Most Holy, Exceedingly Awesome, Only God is acceptable, reverent and awestruck. I am sad to say that I can not say that, with all honesty. I think maybe I fall more into the category of the synagogue leaders who told the people to go be healed on a day other than the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17). These leaders were more concerned about everyone doing church the right way (their way), rather than the things of God.

I have realized that my worship needs to be a constant state of being, rather than a momentary event and it needs to be done with my whole body, mind, soul, and strength. I need to make sure that I am preparing for Sunday worship all week long, so that Sunday becomes a celebration and culmination of my weekly worship. In the hour that I spend in church I want my entire being to be connected to God, through Jesus, for His honor and glory. I am sure that I will have successful times and unsuccessful time, but I know that if I continue to press on, God will honor my attempt to worship him acceptably in reverence and awe.

Blessing
Read Matthew 25:34-45. Ask God who he wants you to bless today and how. Know that by meeting the needs of the “least of these”, you are in a true act of worship.

Move
Using the Doxology, make up motions and get your entire body involved in worship.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost
Amen

Create
Ask God to help you identify things that distract you from worship. Make a list of these things. When you have finished that list, make a list of reasons to worship God. The reasons to worship should outnumber the list of distractions. Keep the second list handy so that you can bring yourself back to worship as needed.

Nourish
Before eating, spend time in thankful worship.

Rest
Find 10 minutes to be still. Do nothing during this time. This is God’s time to renew you in mind, body and spirit.

Recreation
Take a walk. Even if it is five minutes around your home or office.

Pray
Instead of intercessory prayer or praying for needs and concerns, spend your prayer time in worship. Sing songs of praise.

Snacks
Give up your snack time and replace it with worship.

World Prayer
Pray for those who can not worship openly for fear of persecution.

Sleep
As you fall asleep tonight, whisper praises to God.

From morning until night, God wants us to worship and commune with Him. Start your day in His Word and then weave throughout the day these elements of devotion, worship, contemplation and service to others.

______
“10,000 Reasons”, CCLI Song # 6016351, Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman, © 2011 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), Said And Done Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), Six Steps Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), SHOUT! Music Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), CCLI License # 283314

 “Doxology”, CCLI Song # 56204, Louis Bourgeois | Thomas Ken, Public Domain, CCLI License # 283314

Life Lesson: Sept 4

4 Sep

Meditate:  Read Hebrews 11:29–12:2.

Sing:  Faith of Our Fathers

Verse 1
Faith of our fathers living still
In spite of dungeon fire and sword
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word

Chorus
Faith of our father’s holy faith
We will be true to thee till death

Verse 2
Our fathers chained in prisons dark
Were still in heart and conscience free
How sweet would be their children’s fate
If they like them could die for Thee

 Verse 3
Faith of our fathers we will strive
To win all nations unto Thee
And through the truth that comes from God
Mankind shall then be truly free

Verse 4
Faith of our fathers we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife
And preach Thee too as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life

Message
               We all have someone who we think is the highest example of faith and Christian living. Most of us can think of someone that we look up to and want to emulate. The reality is that these are just people who trust God, by faith, to walk them through the journey that He has planned for them.
I had always looked up to my father as a “real man of God.” I wanted to be like him and I wanted to have a relationship with God just like he did. It was hard when I grew up and began to see his faults. He was still a good man, but I suddenly began to realize that he was not perfect and that was alright. He was on a journey. There were others that I met in CFO. There were speakers and song leaders that I believed could probably walk on water. As I got older, I began to hear things and see things that shed light on the truth that these were just sinful human beings. Like me! These people were sinful, they were mortal, they were fallible, and their only hope was to walk by faith. The good news is that I could look at their lives and learn from them. They are part of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds me and by their examples (good and bad), I can learn to walk the journey that God has laid out for me.
God has a plan for each one of us. If you doubt that, consider Paul’s word to the Ephesians, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (2:10).” Sometimes we see a glimmer of what that is and other times we feel that we are in the dark. The good news is that we can trust him to guide and direct our path to get us to the good that he has planned for us. It is also good news to know that we are not alone. God gives us people to walk with us on this journey.
We have two roles in our walk with God: 1) Walk by faith. Keep our eyes on the prize and use those who have gone on before us as examples. 2) Be an example. Remember, there are people coming up behind us that need someone to guide. Is your life a good example for those who need it?

Blessing
Consider one or two people who have helped strengthen you in your journey with Jesus. Write them a note and tell them how they have helped and pray a blessing for them. If they are no longer living, see if you can track down a family member and send the note and blessing to them.

Move
Walk through every room in your home. Picture each room as a stop on your journey through life and ask God to reveal a message about that stop. Seek God’s leading concerning your walk in the future, by lessons learned in the past.

Create
Rewrite today’s song in your own words. This does not have to rhyme and it does not have to fit the music. Allow yourself creative license.

Nourish
Do not get so busy with the journey today that you forget to eat. Eat slow and healthy today. Do not rush the journey.

Rest
Find 10 minutes to be still. Do nothing during this time. This is God’s time to renew you in mind, body and spirit.

Recreation
Whatever you do today, take a minute and be intentionally present in the moment. See what there is to see. Close your eyes and smell. Take time to taste and to touch something along the way. Remind yourself to hear what is happening.

Pray
Spend some quiet time asking God who he wants you to help or mentor as they walk through life. Begin by praying for this person and then ask God how you should take the next step.

Snacks
Eat something with a great smell, interesting looks, unusual texture, and maybe even a curious sound. Let taste be the last thing you discover about your snack.

World Prayer
Pray for those who do not walk with God and feel alone today.

Sleep
Thank God that he is always present in your journey.

From morning until night, God wants us to worship and commune with Him. Start your day in His Word and then weave throughout the day these elements of devotion, worship, contemplation and service to others.

______
Faith of Our FathersCFO Sings, pg 309.

Debt Free Lives, Part 1

3 Jul

Even now, I struggle with the title of this chapter. Sin and debt have become so ingrained in our lives and such an acceptable state, we can not imagine life without it. Maybe, in all honesty, we do not want to, but Galatians 5:1 tells us that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Yet every day, we make choices to live in the slavery of sin. With everything we do, think or say, we are faced with the choice to do it God’s way or do it our way and more often than not, we choose our way over God’s.

Sin is disobedience, plain and simple. Sin is doing, thinking or holding on to what we should not, even when we know it. Sin is doing it my way instead of God’s way. As previously mentioned, sin is an interior issue, not an exterior one. James 1:14-15 “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” 1 John 1:6, “If we claim to have fellowship with him (God) yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” I heard a sermon recently where the preacher (not my Father or Husband) was talking about sin. Yet, he did not call it sin. He talked about mistakes and errors in judgment. He talked about those “oops” that we do, not doing things right and that we are only human. It is time that we faced sin head on, call it what it is and determine that it is time to get a handle on our own evil desires. I know the world thinks there are gray areas, but a good rule of thumb is, if we have to ask if what we are doing is wrong, we probably should stop and run away. Stop making excuses and let’s begin to take God seriously.

In order to take God seriously, we need to understand what God say about sin. The Word is very clear and we should have no difficulty with interpretation. Get ready, these are tough words, from Romans 1:18 – 2:6 “But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

“So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

“Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

“But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile.* But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.” (New Living Translation)

We have been taught that sin is a part of life and we have no control over it. “We are only human” and “God made me this way” have become our most favored excuses to remove our responsibility and keep doing what we are doing. Let’s be honest, we sin because the consequences seem so far away, everyone else is doing it, it seems harmless, and generally sin is fun. We would not do it, if it was not fun and if it did not give us some pleasure in return. Even if just for a short time. Watch the TV or read a magazine and you will soon understand that our whole purpose in life is to make ME happy. Society has developed a serious idol worship. The idol of self. Everything we do, we do for our comfort, progress and personal wellbeing. (continued in Debt Free Lives, Part 2)

Our Debt

2 Jul

As a Credit Manager, for a furniture manufacturer, I am very aware of debt and the driving force it has on our society. Each day I see so many companies that have given up and filed bankruptcy, because it has become impossible to manage. Some days have hundreds of bankruptcy filings. As a family with two auto loans, a camper loan, student loan and credit cards, my husband and I are very aware of the oppressive weight that debt can hold over our lives. We (personal or corporate) do not want to be in debt, but we are drawn in to the “gotta have it” mentality and then once in debt, it become very difficult to get out and stay out. It reminds me of trying to diet. We go one pound down and two pounds up, until we wake up one morning and realize that we have no idea how we got to where we are.

Let me try to give some perspective to the debt situation in the United States. With the U.S. National Debt Clock ticking, up to $10,624,404,037,210.22 on January 27, 2009 and the ever increasing Consumer Debt at $2.6 trillion, we are well in over our heads. If the estimated population of the U.S. is 305,539,618 then each one of us, from my three year old grandson to my 80 year old Father-in-law, owe $43,000 each. The average household size is 2.59 persons, which makes the household share of this debt $112,076 and since the median household income is only $50,000, we are in serious trouble.

In my work, over the years, I have been fascinated by people and their ways of dealing with debt. Some pay according to the agreement with the lender and take their commitment with all seriousness. Others pay according to their ability or the convenience of making a payment, regardless of what is owed. These people become indignant when questioned about or reminded of their debt. There are debtors that acknowledge their debt and make payments when reminded, but otherwise do not think much about it. These are the people that will only pay those debts that are brought to their attention. There are also those who simply do not acknowledge their debt and have no intention of paying it. This list is not exhausted, because it is as long as the list of people in the world, but it gives us an idea and I suspect we can put ourselves in one of these categories.

When each of us finally come to the place where we are ready to face our debt, we find that we are either totally overwhelmed and can hardly see a future of freedom or we determine that it is nothing more than a nuisance, but not a priority. We may decide that debt is really something other people have a problem with, but ours is totally under control. Some may actually have the attitude that debt is the lenders issue, not the borrowers and this is a very dangerous conclusion to draw, as it removes us from all responsibility of our debt.

Scripture is quite clear about debt. Proverbs 22:7, says, “…the borrower is servant to the lender.” and in 22:26-27, “Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you”. Romans 13:8 states “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” I do not think God can be any clearer and we have not even looked at all of the passages that warn us about being in debt or lending.

Financial debt, the debt of money borrowed and repayment owed, is something that we are all aware of and understand. Is is the force that drives our economy and can ruin our families. It can take an entrepreneurial dream and turn it into a bankrupt nightmare. It is a predicament that can start war and end in death. It is something that can make an average,  upstanding, moral man turn to crime to make ends meet. A family with all the comforts the world can imagine may suddenly find themselves living in a shelter or worse, on the street. As overwhelming and impossible as this all may seem, it is nothing when compared to the debt of sin that we owe. If you thought $10,624,404,037,210.22 was a big number, try putting a value on the debt of our sin as viewed by the eyes of the innocent one who paid our debt on the cross. If we work hard and live within our means, we may someday find freedom from our financial debt to others. The only means we have to pay off our sin debt is the gift of Grace that God provided through his Son, Jesus Christ. We can not live within our means and do anything good.  As Paul said, “our best is but filthy rags”. It is God, and God alone, that can make all things new.

As clear as Scripture is about financial debt, it is just as clear about our debt of sin. Romans 3:23, says “for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” and 6:23 tells us that, “For the wages of sin is death….”. The hope of Christ is found in Colossians 2:13-14 which says, “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

Just as people respond to financial debt in various ways, we respond to sin debt in the same manner. To some, sin is overwhelming and seems impossible. For others, it is a nuisance, but not a big deal. Sin just means a little guilt now and then. Many of us see sin as something other people have a problem with or that it is God’s issue, not the sinner’s. You know,  if he didn’t make so many rules, we would not have so many problems. We have very unhealthy attitude about both debt & sin. We become flippant about financial debt (only $20 on my JCP card), until it becomes a hopeless problem. We become flippant about sin debt (only a little gossip, only a $1 lottery ticket, not really a bad word, gluttony?, greed?, I’ve gotta have it….), until we begin to suffer the consequences of the sin. Then it becomes a mountain.

I have worked with people who have paid off huge debt over a long period of time. It seemed impossible, but when it is done, they felt great and I felt great. In those times, when I have worked with them to pay off the debt or I was able to write off a portion to help them out, it is as if they have a fresh start. What if, after the debt was clear, they continued to work on it and worry about it and call me? That would not make sense. I would feel bad that I could not convince them that it is finished. What if they turned around and ordered another $10,000, with no more ability to pay than the did before? I would feel that all my work was for nothing. So how do we suppose Jesus feels, when he said, “It is finished” – John 19:30 and yet we continue to trying to fix it (pay it off) ourselves? Why do we continue to carry it around and beat ourselves up? Why do we just turn around and do it again? Why do we have such a hard time living in the  freedom that Christ provides? The answer is simple, “…the Devil prowls around, like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8 and “…by our own evil desire, we are dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15. This is an internal, ongoing battle that is not going to go away.

Gallery

Life Lessons from CFO

1 Jul

Society is so far out of balance. We have too much food, not enough food, too much exercise, not enough exercise, too much TV, not enough study, too much sports, not enough downtime, too much purchasing, not enough producing,  too much worry, not enough meditation. So how can we use the CFO program to help us get our lives into balance?

It sounds a little like a cliché, but it makes sense, Inspiration + Expiration = Respiration. We need some of everything to have balanced lives. We can have a diet of only green leafy vegetables, but that does not mean we will be healthy. The CFO program replenishes and depletes (this is not a negative) each part of us, body, mind and soul. Meals, rest and sleep replenish the body. Singing, exercise and recreation deplete the body. The mind is replenished by the talk and also by sleep, while Creatives and fellowship deplete the mind. The Spirit is replenished by Meditation, prayer, sleep and the blessing service and is depleted by Creatives, singing, prayer and the world prayer broadcast.

In the next pages, you will find a basic daily guide for using the CFO program each day. There is a suggested meditation, song, scripture and so on. I encourage you to work through each day and all the parts of the program, do not be concerned about doing them in order or making sure you do it perfectly. If you do not know the song, let God help you make up a tune or choose a different one. If there is a suggested activity, that you feel you can not do, pray and let God give you an idea. He is always creative and will give you suggestions if you ask. Use the suggested activities to help you generate your own ideas. This should not be difficult. It it becomes too hard, then it has failed. The elements of the CFO day should just be part of who you are. Scripture, Song, prayer, giving and receiving blessing from God should be just as natural as breathing and eating.

Make notes as you complete each part and what God says to you through each section. Use the lists as a check point and journal at the end of each day. Try to look at the song and meditation early in the day, so you can carry God’s song and word through your whole day. If you are unable to do an activity on the day it is listed, do not skip it. Swap it for another day’s activity. Keep it flexible and balanced.

Once you have completed the days that are laid out, you should have some good habits developed and ideas about how to take this further. I have added a template in appendix B, that you can copy and record your daily activities and scripture choices.  You can also use these daily guides to help plan personal or group retreats. The CFO program, is a tool that God gave to an obedient man, many years ago. This book is just another tool to use the program. Let God be your guide.

My prayer is that this will help you develop positive habits and balance your lives. As John Wesley said, we need to “Do no harm, do good and stay in love with God”. This sounds balanced to me.

Remember that if or when you fail and you entertain your inner desires and they become sin, all hope is not lost. Do not despair, do not be discouraged. Confess your sin and repent (start over). Ask God to forgive you and receive his forgiveness. Forgive others that may have been involved (intentionally or unintentionally) and forgive yourself. Take control again and let Satan know that he has no place in your life. Then put on your armor, pick yourself up and continue the race.

Fellowship & Snacks

19 Sep

This may be the most widely attended part of camp. I have to admit that it is one of my favorite times, but this is not just a time to eat. This is a time of fellowship. We can get to know people, share our joys and laughter, but be careful not to stay up to late or eat too much.

I was quite convicted when I saw that Webster said snacks were “a small amount of food”. I decided that a snack is not the fourth meal of the day and I need to make some changes. Webster also said that Fellowship is the quality or state of being brothers, association in alliance or partnership. I think this fits Kingdom living quite well.

Scripture tells us in Acts 2:42, that “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship.”, Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.”, Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”, 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

We must spend time with each other in fun and fellowship to encourage one another and to keep us accountable. To live our lives in secret and privacy, can lead to temptation and depression. Kingdom living requires the kingdom subjects to work as a team.

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