Thursday, April 28, 2011

Woah. That's totally righteous, dude.

Last night, our Bible study group read the Beatitudes, and got stuck on the one that says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." I asked the question, "What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? What does it look like?"
 
We struggled to establish a definition for righteousness. Some associated it with being "self-righteous," which I related to the Pharisees- those who put on the external appearance of having religion through the law, but in doing so, failed to rely on the power of God's grace. Here's what the dictionary says that righteous means-characterized by, proceeding from, or in accordance with accepted standards of morality, justice, or uprightness. In other words, doing what is right and good. That's a good thing to hunger and thirst for, don't you think?

The Bible has a LOT to say about righteousness, and I tend to think the Biblical description shifts some of the perspective from doing what society accepts as good and right to doing what GOD says is good and right. Synonyms for righteousness that are found in Biblical reference are holiness, Godliness, and integrity.

Here are some scriptures to consider:
  • Job 29:14 "I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban."
  • Psalm 33:5 "The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love."
  • Isaiah 33:5 "The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness."
  • Isaiah 51:8 "For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.”
  • Ezekiel 18:26 "If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die."
  • Amos 5:24 "But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness
  • Romans 3:22 "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."
  • 2 Timothy 4:8 "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
So...what does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? I think it means to crave God. It means to seek after Him and follow His ways, to yearn to be closer to Him. What does this look like in someone's life? I think it means that a person seeks total transformation. They seek repentence in Jesus, turn from their sinful ways,  and earnestly live in relationship with Him. It isn't something that we can accomplish of our own will or in our own strength. That is self-righteousness. True Biblical righteousness comes from Jesus.

I think Phillipians 1: 9-11 sums it up nicely."And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may 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." The bold and italics are mine, but the words are from Paul, a righteous man if ever there was one.






 
 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Monday, April 25, 2011

On the menu this week

Spring break was lovely, but it derailed my organized life. I was in a great groove of planning and cooking meals at least 5 times a week. I was a coupon clipping diva. I was tracking my points on Weight Watchers, working out 4 times a week, and losing weight at a reasonable pace. I had it all together.

And then, three weeks of blissful, unstructured break, and POOF! All gone!

I've gained my weight back, thanks in large part to the fact that I've been eating out almost every night because I didn't take the time to plan my meals. I threw out food that went bad because I was too lazy too cook. I missed the gym almost all of last week because life got in the way and I just didn't make it a priority.

To top it off, I've been in a very cranky mood because of all the chaos, which has yielded even more emotional eating than normal, which has created that cycle that I hate so much.

This week, I've got a better handle on things. I made time to plan my meals, thanks to E-Mealz. We're having Mexican skillet pasta tonight, tandoori chicken tomorrow, mango salsa tilapia Thursday, and dijon chicken Friday night.

I've set my schedule to include Zumba at least three times, probably four. I've planned my outfits out for the week to save precious time in the mornings.

Hopefully, we'll all recognize a positive change in my attitude, a negative change in my weight, and a general overall glow about me.

Let's go with that.

Cracked cisterns

I am on my fifth week of my 90 Day Bible reading plan. I have missed a day or two along the way but am mostly caught up. I've found areas that I really enjoy reading and others that I've struggled through.

In addition to much of Psalms and Job, here's what I've completed:
Genesis
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
Isaiah
Matthew
Mark
Romans
1 Corinthians


Right now, the "prophecy" section I'm in is Jeremiah and I really have been getting a LOT out of it. I hate to say that Isaiah was a struggle for me- but it really was. Jeremiah is full of things that I can apply to my life, and it has brought a lot of answers to things I've been struggling with. In Jeremiah 2: 13, I read this last week:  “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Jeremiah was relaying God's message about the Israelites who had continued with their destructive pattern of wandering from God and worshiping false idols.

I think that verse has major implications for the church today, too. People are thirsty for God's word, but rather than drinking from His living water, they search for it on their own. They dig their own cisterns and get no water from them because they are like a seive...the water slips right through. Just like the Israelites, they call out to God when they are suffering, but then wander away again when they get what they need. They follow after messages that are easy to hear and require little sacrifice. Those false doctrines or idols that are pleasing to us are nothing more than cracked cisterns. Can we expect our thirst to be quenched if we drink of anything other than Living Water??

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grace and Truth

Last night, our Bible Study class began a new study focusing on Biblical truths. We talked a lot about absolutism, relativism, and subjectivism...and determined that we fall somewhere in between absolutism and relativism on most things.

One of the topics we discussed was the balance in truth and grace. Are we super legalistic about things? Or, do we have an "anything goes" philosophy because we claim grace? Both ways are dangerous, we decided. Living a life of do's and don'ts reduces God's power and makes it much more difficult for us to be in true relationship with Him. Having no standards isn't right either, as we are called to be set apart from the world.

So, what on earth are we supposed to do???

The key to finding balance between grade and truth is to be in relationship with God. Romans 8:1-2 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Jesus released us from legalism. Following rules and doing the right thing won't justify us; only grace will. He calls us to live a holy life, but provides grace for those times when we fail. . When I get angry or jealous, or I say something I shouldn't say, or withhold my love from my neighbor,  He will forgive me.  Now, I shouldn't take advantage of that grace, but it is there- and it is plentiful. Forgiveness is a daily necessity. I can't earn it, I can't repay it, and sometimes, I can't even understand it, but I know that it is true.

God's grace is an outpouring of His love for me. His unbelievable, unending, unconditional love. It's a gift and He wants us to accept it. He desires a relationship with each of us. No matter how terrible our sins have been, His grace is deep enough to cover them. There is nothing about me that is good enough to deserve God's love and grace. That's a hard thing for a lot of people to accept. I think it's hard for a lot of us to digest the fact that Jesus loved us so much that He went to the cross to sacrifice for our sins. We tend to see all the bad we've done and think we're unlovable and unredeemable. Not true! Romans 8:38-39 tells us, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
I started by talking about absolutism and said the folks in my group and I decided that we fell somewhere in the gray area of all the black and white on most issues. Well, that's still true in a lot of respects, but one truth I can accept without hesitation is that of grace.  I've seen it at work in my life, and it continues to amaze me.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Adopting a new mantra this week.

As much as I've hoped it might, the clock has not frozen today. Time marches on, and tomorrow will bring the first day of a new quarter of school. I'm still not adequately prepared but I'm working on it. I've pulled my head out of the sand.

In order to prepare myself for what lies ahead, I've adopted a new mantra to repeat when times get tough this week. It is Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

I'm not giving up on my prayer that God will reveal the middle of the puzzle to me. I'm still sure that there's something at work that I'm not noticing because I can't see past the nose on my face. So, instead of letting this get me down and depressed and wallowing in the woe that is me, I'm going to focus on the verse. I won't become weary in doing good because AT THE PROPER TIME,  I will reap a harvest if I don't give up.

Did you notice what I noticed? AT A PROPER TIME. That doesn't mean by midnight tonight. Or by June 10. It means in HIS time. And to a God of eternal proportions, my timeline is pretty minuscule. Who knows, maybe tomorrow, as much as I dread it, will bring something to light that makes this puzzle make more sense. I just have to keep my eyes open and focused on Him, not on me.

God is good, all the time. Even when I'd really like Him to hurry it up, He is good!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Check out the Purple Dress Project

A few months back, I was visiting another blog, saw a post by another commenter, and clicked on her link. I scanned her blog and found references to Crohn's disease, so I began to read. Ashley, author of A Hasty Life, is a young woman whose life has been altered by Crohn's much like mine has.

This month, she's raising funds and awareness for Crohn's disease through the Purple Dress Project. Pop over to her blog and check it out. She's wearing the same purple dress every day this month, chronicling the adventure with pictures, and posting daily facts about the disease. She's a doctoral student in textiles and has a great sense of style. She's rockin' that purple dress!

I've provided a couple of links for you but her blog is always in my "Blogs I Read" list, so she's easy to find.
Kudos to Ashley, and kudos to you for checking her out!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's me, it's me, it's me, O Lord!

Standin' in the need of prayer. I bought the boys a new CD of fun little religious songs, and that's one of them, and tonight it applies to me.

I go back to work on Monday.  When I think about it, my chest gets tight and I want to throw up. It isn't that I hate my job. Really. I've just lost my fire for it. I feel very strongly that there is something else I should be doing, and I suspect that it is all a part of God's bigger plan for me. Some of that is being revealed to me, little by little, but it's like working a big puzzle- I've only got the edges put together. The big picture in the center is still in pieces waiting to be figured out. And, you all know, waiting drives me nuts!

Here's where the prayer part comes in. I need you to pray that God will continue to reveal His plans for me, and that I'll have a heart and eyes that are open enough to recognize it. I need you to pray that I'll have enough faith to walk down that path, even though I already can tell that it might be scary, it might be unpopular, and it might be difficult. I need you to pray that I'll be strong enough to handle the opposition and the challenges that come along. I need you to pray that I'll be obedient no matter what.

I know that God is mighty and can do more than I imagine possible. I've seen Him work before, but usually it is in the lives of others. Now, I'm beginning to see Him working in my life, and it is amazing- and terrifying! I appreciate your prayers and your love! You guys are the best!!!

XOXO!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Psalm 90:12 Adventure

Psalm 90:12 says, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Hold on to that verse for a second. I'll come back to it.

Most people have heard of the exercise program P90x. It stands for Power90Extreme, and is a rigorous fitness and diet program designed to produce significant results. I think that's great if that's your thing. Clearly, it isn't mine. For me, "intense" and "physical" don't belong in the same sentence. I'm loving Zumba, but that hardly qualifies as "extreme."

I have decided to embark on a different kind of 90 day adventure. I'm going to read the Bible in 90 days. I thought I'd be really cute and call it B90x, but someone else already did that. So, I'm going to call it P90:12Adventure, in reference to the verse above. I'm numbering my days as I read through God's word in order to gain a heart of wisdom.I'm on Week 2, day 4, which is approximately 12% complete.  I began on March 27. My estimated date of completion is June 24, which my 34th birthday!

Here's what I'm doing. At my Emmaus Walk, someone gave me a "Read Through the Bible in a Year" plan. I adapted it by breaking it into 13 chunks. This particular plan appealed to me because, unlike some other 90 day plans, it doesn't have me reading in order. I have tried those plans before, and the prospect of 27 chapters of Leviticus in a row doesn't work for my ADD brain. My interest wanes and I give up. However, knowing I only need to do a few short readings in those heavy, complicated books and then I can move on to something more "fun" keeps me motivated.

The structure for this plan is:
Sunday: Gospels
Monday: Law
Tuesday: History
Wednesday: Psalms
Thursday: Poetry
Friday: Prophecy
Saturday: Epistles

So far, I've read Matthew 1-22, Genesis 1-31, the book of Joshua, Judges 1-16, Psalms 1-23, Job 1-8, Isaiah 1-22 and Romans 1-8.  I'll try to post some updates on here, as well as things I'm learning as I go.

If you'd like to accompany me on my P90:12Adventure, leave a comment w/ your email address or email me at elly.gilbert@gmail.com and I'll send you a copy of the plan!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Priorities

I'm still stewing over many of the things I learned on my Emmaus walk, but one of the things that I'm really wrestling with right now is the concept of priority. I *thought* my priorities were clearly defined. I had a pat answer ready if anyone asked me what mattered most in my life. However, when I examined my life a little closer, I realized that my answer didn't really match up with the way I was living.

For example, the first thing I tell most people about myself when we meet is that I'm a teacher. I don't say, "I'm a Christian mom to three fabulous kids and wife to an amazing husband." I say, "I'm a teacher. A working mom." The emphasis in my real answer is on work. Now, my job is and should be important. But should it define me? NO. Evidently, though, it does, because I have a hard time talking about my life without dredging up my career. And, when I look at the hours I spend at work, thinking about work, planning for work, dreaming about work...it far exceeds anything else in my life. That is a problem.

My first priority should be serving and worshipping God. Some may say that I serve through my career, but I know that isn't really true. If anything, it becomes an obstacle to service. I am drained at the end of the day and I can't participate in true acts of service because I'm exhausted. I often feel called to work in different ministries, but don't have the energy to follow through. Work makes me bitter,too; I resent the time and effort I put in to lessons that go unappreciated. My light doesn't shine like it should because I'm grouchy, tired, angry, frustrated, and not giving God the attention He deserves in my life.

I also know that work is  an obstacle to loving and serving my family the way I should. Again, a lack of energy keeps me from playing with my children in the evenings like I should. I try to cook and serve a family meal every night, but sometimes I just can't. I have meetings and work-related obligations that fill my nights. I have grading, planning, and other "homework" that diverts my attention. I'm not present with them like I should be.

I know this. What am I going to do about it? I'm not sure yet. I know what my priorities should be. I want them to be as such. However, making that happen might require a major life shift. A new way of life, a new way to fill my days.

I am praying that God will make me obedient to His will in my life. I want to hear His voice and follow. When I search the scriptures for examples of this, it always seemed that God asked His people to do things they thought they couldn't, but they did anyway, and He pulled through. Maybe I know what He's asking me to do and I just don't want to say yes yet. Maybe I'm afraid.

Here's my prayer for today, that God would fulfill His promise from Proverbs 2: "If you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." I pray that God will show me the insight I need. I will seek it as a treasure. I will apply my heart to understanding His will.