Join me...

Join me...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Making of An Idol

"Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts.  They have embraced 
things that will make them fall into sin"  Ezekiel 14:3

Elvis Presley once said in an interview, "Well sir, the image is one thing and the human being is another.  It's very hard to live up to an image".  I am a long time Elvis fan.  You know you are successful in pop culture when you are a "one name" artist.  This past week was the 34th anniversary of his death and he has only grown more popular and successful.  A teen idol who still has a host of fans long past their teen days.  I personally don't think he's still alive but....just kidding!!  Thinking of his career and his popularity, brings to mind the subject of idols. 

During my morning quiet time, I have been reading in Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was a priest who had been taken in captivity to Babylon and while there he was called by God to be a prophet.  The Israelites had a bad habit of worshiping just about anything those around them worshiped.  Why didn't they influence others as much as they were influenced?  Probably for some of the same reasons we struggle with that but, needless to say, they were deep into idol worship.  God is a jealous God and He had told them in no uncertain terms how he felt about idols.  Number one was:   "Do Not worship any other gods besides me.  Do Not make idols of any kind...You must never bow down to them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!" (Exodus 20)  I would consider this instruction to be about as direct as you can get.  Yet, they bowed.

If I'm not careful, I can be very judgemental concerning the Israelites.  Why?, how?, what were they thinking?, are all questions that have been asked by me.  On the other hand, I can excuse and overlook idol worship in my own life.  Richard Keyes, "The Idol Factory", defines idols this way, "An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as a substitute for God.  All sorts of things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions toward them...Idolatry may not involve explicit denials of God's existence or character.  It may well come in the form of an over attachment to something that is, in itself, perfectly good...An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero - anything that can substitute for God".  Hmmm, that definition stings.  When I search my own heart, I must confess, there have been idols there.  A big one has been the scale.  Have you ever seen the commercial that shows a person dragging around a scale chained to their leg?  Funny, but painful.  I have spent most of my adult life struggling with weight.  I look back over the years and my poor body image has defined me in so many ways.  How I felt about myself, what activities I would participate in and my clothing choices to only name a few.  One of the biggest regrets I have now is that I was never able to enjoy my younger body!  I can not remember a time since I was 16 that I didn't feel the need to lose weight.  I never felt pretty.  Strange, isn't it?  If I were to bear my soul, and I don't think either one of us could handle that, there are a few more that I have bowed to. 

The thing about false gods is that they never satisfy.  Never.  False gods are unable to fill up those empty places in our hearts.  They lie, they mislead us, they addict us, they just never deliver on any promises they make to us.  They leave us frustrated, jealous, defeated, depressed and a whole host of other feelings, emotions and realities.  God offered so much more to the Israelites and He offers so much more to us.
God promised restoration to the Israelites and He promises it for you and I too.  Isa. 41:9-10 "For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.  Don't be afraid, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  I will help you.  I will uphold you with my victorious right hand".   Ezekiel 36:26 "And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command".  Hebrews 1:3 "As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.  He has called us to receive His own glory and goodness!  And by that same mighty power, He has given us all of His rich and wonderful promises.  He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in His divine nature".      

Kelly Minter, "No Other Gods", puts it like this, "A professed god is who or what we say our god is; a functional god is who or what actually operates as our god".  Is there something or someone "functioning" as a god in your life?  When was the last time you not only searched your own heart but asked God to search it and "reveal any unclean" thing within you?  When we tear down the idols in our lives and purpose in our hearts to devote that kind of attachment, allegiance, sacrifice and worship to the one true God, we can truly begin to find peace and joy.  I will not lie, as I have said in the past, I'm a work in progress.  Living in the freedom of worshiping the one true God is the desire of my heart.  I am so glad that God knows that about me.

Until we visit again...
Live blessed
Carmen





Sunday, August 14, 2011

Under Pressure

Have I ever mentioned that I can be a little over cautious?  As a child, my mom cooked many suppers with her handy, dandy pressure cooker.   I have memories of the little weight jingling away and even more vivid memories of her stern warning.  "STAY AWAY FROM THE PRESSURE COOKER!  IT COULD BLOW UP!"  What all could happen to me or our house was never quite fully explained, yet I knew it probably involved a lost limb or eye.  As an adult, I never owned one and never intended to own such a explosive, dangerous device.  Recently, at a gathering of friends, one of the young ladies began to sing the praises of her electric pressure cooker.  I was intrigued.  By the way, another aspect of my personality involves asking lots of questions.  I quizzed her.   Interrogated her.  After all, she was suggesting I use a piece of equipment that could do potential harm!  She assured me they were safe.  That I would love the new and improved models.  I began to ask around.  Several friends have them.  I began to get brave.  I needed one of these.  After all, working full time leaves little time to cook.  The purchase was made (after much research on the best, safest model of course).  55EXEYUJVV5B

Fast forward to today.  With directions in hand, and my dear husband close by (what if it exploded and I needed first aid or an ambulance!), I faced my fears.  I read the directions, several times.  I looked at the illustrations.  Read ALL of the safety precautions.  Gathered all my supplies, and began.   When the timer rang and it was time to do the quick release of pressure, I turned that over to my valiant husband (he asked was it so he could be disfigured instead of me).  "Of course not", I said.  He was so confident.  He reminded me several times, that it is 2011 and the label said "safe and easy".  If I had filmed myself when he began the pressure release, it would have been a YouTube sensation.  Standing across the kitchen from him, I actually jumped when I first heard the loud "hissssss" of the steam escaping.  After quite a bit of harassment, I reminded him that it is good to be needed.   

I am happy to report that we enjoyed wonderful bone in chicken breast with new potatoes and carrots in 30 minutes.  Fifteen to reach high pressure and 12 to cook.  Falling off the bone tender I might add.  Well, I'm hooked.  I love this new gadget!! 

I love that man of mine.  My hero.  It was fun experiencing this together.  Try it sometimes.  You might even get to kiss the cook!

Until we visit again,

Live blessed,
Carmen

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stings

"...O death where is your sting?"  1 Corinthians 15:55

It is here in this corner of "the land of pine trees and lakes".  It has stung the group of believers I call family.  In the past week, a wonderful elderly saint, a warrior for Christ, a man who faithfully ministered in prisons and nursing homes went to meet his Savior face to face.  A dear friend lost her brother very unexpectedly and Monday night a sweet, kind, godly young pastor's wife lost her courageous battle with cancer.

I don't understand the timing of death.  We sing of heaven and we talk of being homesick but I have found that most of us feel like the old saying, "I want to go to heaven, I just don't want to go today".  Really what I don't understand is God's timing.  His decision process.  God's power and sovereignty are supreme.  His ability to intervene in the affairs of men is unquestionable.  Yet, I have often said, "I know He can, I just don't know if He will".  

How do you feel about questioning God?  About arguing your case before Him?  During difficult times, when tragedy hits us personally, we usually ask "why"?  What purpose will this serve?  What is the eternal significance in this?  Sometimes, usually after time, we may see the "why", the purpose.  More often we will not know the answers to our questions on this side of heaven.   This is where our faith muscles are stretched and we "know because we know" that we are loved by God and if we are in pain, it is never in vain.

For those who have left this world, they have met their sweet Savior.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that when we are absent from our body, we are present with God.  That is a wonderful and exciting promise!  To those who woke this morning without their loved one, this may be a comfort that will have to grow through time.  Healing will come only through a process and a big component of that will be time.  My prayer for them all is that God will do for them what only He can do.

Until we visit again...
Live blessed,
Carmen 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Not Returning to Egypt Part II - Pain = Change

Change is scary.  Sometimes it's exciting, often it can be bittersweet but usually scary is one of the bigger components.  Unless we are changing our cologne scent, we usually don't do it without our feet dragging and our fingernails dug into the carpet.  Of course, I have been known to struggle with a change of cologne scents.  There are so many to choose from!  Ok, off that rabbit trail and back on the main road.  The Bible talks alot about change.  Restoration is the theme that runs through the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament.

In Part I of this post, I shared how I sought godly counsel to help me make some necessary changes emotionally.  I am also a member of Weight Watchers.  It would be great if I could say that I was successful my very first try at this eating plan but, this was my second time around with them.  I have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight more times than I can count.  Like a dear old friend, James, said once, "I have lost a 1000 lbs over my life time!"  An exaggeration for both of us but it sure feels that way!  If I listed every "diet" that I have been on some of you would be surprised and others of you would say "been there, done that".  Emotionally, there are issues I continue to struggle with.  Physically, I am in better health than I have been in years.  I would say that seeking help staying free has been an important step for me.

In "The Word For You Today", the author has several great quotes on change.  "Usually we don't change until the pain of staying the same becomes unbearable.  For most of us, knowledge is not the bridge to growth-pain is."  Knowledge has not been the catalyst for change in me.  I "knew" what needed to be done.  Yep, pain did it!  Emotional pain and physical pain.  It's amazing how being miserable could motivate me.

Step Two:   deciding to change.  In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul tells us to "let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think."  "Let God" - hmmm, active participation.  I must participate.  I must decide, choose, act and I must decide, choose, act daily.  Even when I didn't want to, when it was inconvenient, when it seemed easier to use old behaviors, when I was pressed, pushed, tired or hungry.  Even when those I love played on my weaknesses.  I must decide!! Please don't misunderstand me.  Making lasting changes in my life has been one of hardest things I have ever done.  The second quote from "The Word For You Today" says, "Change usually comes when it hurts so much that you have to change, when you learn so much that you want to change, and when you receive so much that you welcome change."

Here I am today.   Just deciding every day.  Standing firm, and not letting myself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1)  I have come to realize that there are some issues and behaviors that I will have to work on daily to keep submitted God.   I wish that I could say that it was easier.  I am to the place now that "I have learned so much that I want to change and I have received so much that I welcome change".  When I fall, I get up, dust myself off and start again (Proverbs 24:16).

Has the pain of staying the same become unbearable?  You can change.  I am.  Notice I didn't say I did.  I am a work in progress.  My dear husband has a Sammy Kershaw song that he quotes often.  Kind of a mantra for his life and I think I will borrow it here.  "I ain't as good as I'm gonna get, but I'm better than I used to be".

Until we visit again...

Live blessed,
Carmen