Are You Holy?

Growing up in a Pentecostal background much emphasis was put on the need to be holy.  I was told that God was holy – and I needed to be also.

Well – Scripture does back that up.

In the Old Testament God is called “Qedosh Y’Israel – Holy One of Israel.”

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Isaiah uses this term multiple times – I counted 29 times.  Perhaps he used this term so much because of his vision of the Holy One.  Jeremiah and Ezekiel also used that term as did the Psalmist.

The New Testament affirms that Jesus is holy.

Luke tells us in his Gospel that Gabriel told Mary:

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

Evil spirits, when confronted with Jesus recognized His holiness as Mark tells us:

Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

And both the Old Testament and the New Testament called for us to be holy also.

Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Tell the whole congregation of Israel: Be holy because I, Yahweh your Elohim, am holy.

Peter reiterated this command to be holy as he reminded us what the God had spoken in the Old Testament:

For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

Being holy is an important thing because the writer to Hebrews declared:

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

But, what exactly does it mean to be holy?  That has been a subject of debate and study for centuries so I am not going to pretend that I have “the” answer.  But I think for too long we have looked at holiness as something we can obtain by our own efforts.

We see it in every denomination as we all have our lists of “do’s” and “do not’s”.

For me a lot of what it meant was all about outward appearances – and most of that was for the women.

  • Your hair must be long
  • You cannot wear any makeup
  • You cannot wear slacks or pants
  • You cannot wear jewelry

And on and one the list went with what I could not do.  Not much was said about what I should do.

I joke now that if I wanted to know if something was a sin I would just ask myself “Would I have fun if I did this?”  If the answer was “yes” it was probably a sin.  It really was not that bad, but  it always gets a laugh.

The big one for my Catholic girlfriends was

  • You cannot use birth control.

I want to share more in future posts about how I came to realize holiness was more about what was inside of me than outside.  I don’t want to give the impression that being holy does not require an effort on our part but I believe (as I will share more in later posts) that holiness shows up on the outside only when it is rooted on the inside.

For now I would love to hear from some of you on this subject of holiness.

  1. What does holiness mean for you?  How would you describe it to an unbelieving friend?
  2. What were some of the “rules” you grew up with in your church?

 

The Day I was Mad at God

I remember the moment I held my daughter in my arms.  It was overwhelming to realize I was a mother, personally responsible for this tiny baby.  Looking at her, I whispered that we were going to be the best of friends.  I shared with her my hopes and dreams of the hours we would spend reading, playing in the park and listening to music.  Four years later I once again held another daughter in my arms.  How happy I was – two beautiful daughters!

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My girls were my world.  As a mother, there was nothing I would not do to make them happy.  As time passed, my oldest daughter and her husband gave me the joy of being a grandmother.  Robert was born and his first year was filled with precious memories watching him beginning to walk and say his first words.  One year later a beautiful granddaughter was born.  As I walked into the room where my daughter lay holding this new grandchild, my heart skipped a beat when she held the baby out to me and said, “Mother, meet Barbara Rose!”  She was named Barbara after me!

In the midst of this joy, my heart was torn.  In just a few short weeks I would have the honor of dedicating this little child to God.  However, a few days after the dedication I would get on an airplane with my husband and youngest daughter and fly to the other side of the world to serve as a missionary in the Philippines.

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Several months before Rebekah had become pregnant with Barbara, God had opened a door for my husband and me to work in the Philippines for a couple of years teaching in a Bible College.  At the time I felt everything would be okay because by the time we left Robert would be over a year old and Rebekah and Rob would do fine as new parents with this little boy.  While I would miss Robert, I would have had that first year to share and treasure while we were gone.  But now my daughter, who had married very young, had not one, but two children less than twelve months apart.  She and her husband were both college students.

As I looked at them struggling to keep up with their home, their studies and two little babies, I wondered how can this young couple make it.  Holding Barbara Rose on dedication day, my heart ached as I realized I would not be there to see her sit up, take her first steps, and say her first words.  When I came back, she and her brother would not know who I was.

Yet, I knew God had called us to go.  I thought of the verse in the Bible that speaks of loving God so that in comparison it may seem we hate our family.

Rebekah and Rob went with us in the airport as far as they could go before security barred their way.  The last look I had was the two of them standing there, each with a baby in their arms, and the saddest, forlorn look on their faces.  I felt my heart would break.  I was deserting them when they really needed me.

We settled in the Philippines and while my heart still ached, I became busy in the work and prayed the time would pass fast for them.  A couple of months later, we had a call from my daughter.  Our little granddaughter was having digestive issues and it looked as if she might have to have surgery.  How I longed to go home, but we had just arrived and our budget did not really include money to make a trip home.  Rebekah assured me they would be fine and did not need us, but I could hear in her voice the longing for her mother.

Hanging up the phone, I went into my bedroom, laid on the bed and told God how mad I was at Him.  I said, “I sold everything I had, gave up my time with my grandchildren to obey You.  The least you could do is take care of them.  I feel as if I am turning my back on my daughter.”

God did not strike me with lightning for speaking that way.  That’s the beauty of a relationship with God.  He knows our hearts, He understands our pain and He loves us.  I have never understood those who feel we cannot be totally honest with God – as if He does not already know our very thoughts.  He understood the love of a mother for her children.  He loved me in spite of my hurt and anger.

But quietly I felt that “still small voice” of God speaking to me.  He said, “I turned my back on my Son for you.”

For the first time in my life I got a little idea of how much God really loved me when He sent His Son to die on that cross.  John 3:16 took on new meaning for me.

And the end of the story – Robert and Barbara quickly developed a love for Grandma and our relationship is very close.  God also has given me many more grandchildren and I believe the example we set putting God first in our lives has had a tremendous influence on my children.  Putting God first is sometime hard, but always in the end, brings great blessings.

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!

Remember the fairy tale where the wicked stepmother would ask:

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Last Sunday in church the speaker taught from the book of James where James wrote:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

As I reflected on these words from James, I thought how often I look in the mirror.  In the morning I look to see that my hair is in place.  I use the mirror to help me as I put on face lotion and makeup.  Depending on what my day brings, I may go back to the mirror to adjust my hair, put on lipstick or, if my husband and I are going on a date, to put on some earrings or other jewelry.

When I view myself in the mirror, if I see some hair sticking out-of-place, I get a comb and correct it.  Or, when putting on makeup if I notice that I have put on too much eye shadow I get a tissue and make corrections.  Fixing a scarf or a piece of jewelry I will use the mirror to make sure I get it just right.

In other words, I use the mirror to make sure I look my best before I venture out in the world – and make any corrections I feel are needed so that I do look my best.  (Of course the older I get, I less I really like to look in the mirror.  Seeing my reflection, I sometimes wonder :

 

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James, I believe is telling us that God’s Word should work like a mirror for us in our spiritual life.  As we read God’s Word if we see areas in our life that need a spiritual adjustment, we should make that correction.  Just as we would not look in the mirror, see our hair was a mess and walk away without fixing it, so we need to let God’s Word show us those areas where we need to draw closer to Him.

I think our question should not be:

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Rather, it should be:

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Say Yes or Say No –

A few years ago my husband and I took our granddaughter to a park by the Mississippi River near our house to feed the ducks.  Although she was only four years old she quickly realized we were only a few blocks from the John Deere Pavilion.  She loves this place with all the many tractors and farm implements

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After feeding the ducks, we headed back to the parking lot and she asked me if we would take her to see the tractors.  I told her to ask her Papa.

When she asked him, he replied he needed to think about it for a minute.  After only 30-45 seconds, she looked up at him and said,

“Say yes or yes no.”

After pausing to laugh he told her we would go see the tractors.  After all, does Papa ever say no to this little girl?

Reflecting back on this day, I thought how quickly she wanted an answer.  Whether it would be the answer she wanted or not, she wanted an answer.  She would not be content with Papa not making a decision.  The opportunity to go to the Pavilion was there – but Papa needed to give an answer, not keep her in suspense wondering if she would get her request.

My thought then turned to times when God has asked me to make a commitment to something.  To follow Him down a road that I do not really want to go.

To love someone I feel has really hurt me.

To give up my own time to minister to someone.

To sacrifice my own finances to help someone less fortunate than me.

To simply obey and do what His word directs me to do.

How many times do I waver between doing what He is asking of me and what I want to do?

I wonder how many times He is patiently saying

Say yes or say no!

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Jesus told us:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

Yet how often do I say “yes” to God but then not follow through in obedience when it conflicts with my own desires or wishes. God’s Word reminds me that I must:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

I cannot say yes with my mouth but no with my actions.  It’s either yes or no.

That old saying is true:

If you straddle the fence at some point you will come to a fence post and have to get off on one side or the other.

Say yes to God and no to sin!

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Wept

I posted this back in 2015 but think it is so appropriate today as serving God seems to have become to many more a hobby than a real conviction and calling….so I’m sharing it again.

Jesus wept

Then Jesus took His disciples up on the mountain and gathering them around Him, He taught them, saying:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven
  • Blessed are the meek
  • Blessed are they that mourn
  • Blessed are the merciful
  • Blessed are they that thirst for justice
  • Blessed are you when persecuted
  • Blessed are you when you suffer
  • Be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Are we supposed to know this?”

And Andrew said:  “Do we have to write this down and take notes?”

And James said:  “Will we have a test on this?”

And Thomas said:  “Do we have to get this signed?”

And Phillip said:  “I don’t have any paper.”

And Bartholomew said:  “Do we have to turn this in?”

And John said: “The other disciples didn’t have to learn this.”

And Matthew said: “May I go to the boys’ room?”

And Judas said: “What does this have to do with real life?”

Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus’ lesson plan and inquired of Jesus:

“Where is your anticipatory set, your aim (long-term goals), your objectives in the cognitive domain?”

AND JESUS WEPT!