Saturday, August 13, 2011

When God Says, "Woe"

"...Woe! Woe to you, declares the Sovereign LORD."
(Ezekiel 16:23)
The entire chapter of Ezekiel 16 is gripping, graphic and crushing. Why? Because God has said, "Woe" several times in response to the ongoing rebellion of His people of Jerusalem. Almighty God, the all-powerful Creator of the universe -- "the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love to thousands and forgiving wickedness and sin" (Exodus 34:6) -- is very, very angry with His people. Their sins of pride, idolatry, adultery and the sacrificing of their own children were spreading worse than an incurable disease. God had enough and as we can see (Exodus 34:6), God is long-suffering!
In the first 15 verses of Ezekiel 16, God is describing His love, adoration and pampering of His beloved bride, the people of Jerusalem. But soon, pride and vanity rose up in their hearts and God was not pleased. "But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute" (Ezekiel 16:15). Do we in American begin to see ourselves as people who worship beauty? Do we believe we don't need The Shepherd to lead, provide and protect us? Do we prefer to leave The Shepherd's pasture and each become a Lone Wolf instead?
They became unfaithful. The LORD said the gifts He gave His bride became their perversions: "You took your fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them" (Ezekiel 16:18). Have we become idolatrous with the gifts of our technology tools called cell phones and smart phones? During Sunday morning worship services how do we lift holy hands with a mocha latte in one hand and a cell phone in the other? God also describes how His bride took the clothing and the finest of foods and worshipped their own idols with them. Do we do such things with our bodies and personal wardrobes?
The LORD was disciplining His own for their wickedness, "Because you did not remember the days of your youth but enraged me with all these things, I will surely bring down on your head what you have done, declared the Sovereign LORD. Did you not add lewdness to all your other detestable practices?" (Ezekiel 16:43)
In our own nation, sex-trafficking, pornography studios, legalized abortion, and prostitution dwell on the American street corners and in rented back rooms. Will we turn to God and repent as a nation?
Our HOPE is that the same God who rises up to judge the sins of the world is also a tender-hearted Shepherd of His people. "...his greatness no one can fathom" (Psalm 145:3).
At the end of Ezekiel 16, after dealing with the heinous sins of His own people, God shows them mercy and compassion. "So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD" (Ezekiel 16:62-63). It takes the righteous sacrifice of Jesus Christ to atone for the sins of His people and satisfy the wrath of God. And that's exactly what He did for His bride.

I pray Almighty God will have mercy on U.S.
(2 Chronicles 7:14)
For His Glory,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Roaring 20s: Hear Their Hearts

This is a new column I'm adding to That Girl's blog. I call it 'The Roaring 20s" because the authors who have been invited to write a column as they get inspiration, are in their 20s. They also happen to be our daughters Grace and Mary.
They both joyfully love the Lord, daily seek Him in their passion to be faithful to Him, and by His grace are willing to be used by Him. I am overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness to God for what He continues to do in them. Frankly, they inspire me as I watch them enthusiastically struggle and strive to live for God. I freely seek their 20-something perspectives, asking them, "What do you think about this idea?" I think it is important to let our children speak -- and then listen -- to what's in their hearts! So I've asked them as my "Little Sistas" to share their hearts here as the Lord leads them to write something. Recently, Grace shared the following message on Facebook and I was moved by her openness to share her heart and her God with the world. I asked her if I could publish it here, too, and here it is!
Random Musings on Contentment
by Grace Balint
If you've ever met me, you know I'm a high-energy, generally VERY happy person. I often wake up with a smile on my face because guess what? Today's another chance to live a day in my life! I serve a risen Lord, I live in Pasadena (the greatest town ever created) and I have a blessed, amazing, adventure-filled life. Seems like I've got it made, huh? You're invited to keep reading.
Lately (especially the past few weeks lately!) I've been incredibly frustrated, confused and ...well, NOT happy. (There's a lot going on that I don't care to get into just now). I definitely have moments of happiness and excitement (just the other day, I ran UP the DOWN escalator at the mall..not as hard as it might seem, the first step is definitely the hardest, and the end result is a bit of an adrenaline rush!) but I'm not at all excited about where my life's headed at the moment. So, I've been thinking...
The Bible is VERY clear that God's "best" for us is to be content. As happy as I usually am, it is exceedingly rare that I truly feel content. My days often go like this: wakeup, morning routine, think about the events of the day while doing morning routines, go to the office and work while looking forward to NOT being at the office late, going home (and thinking about what to wear to 24 to workout) then going to 24, while at 24 (after deciding if I'm doing cardio, weights, or taking a class) thinking about what's for dinner, making/eating diner while trying to decide if I'm going to be productive and either practice piano, clean my apartment, or simply relax and was Beverly Hills, 90210 (I'm in Season 6 now!) before going to bed and then starting the whole monotonous process over again.
I remember two deliciously wonderful moments, both of which, for some reason, happened in the same week just last year. My small group had planned a day at the beach--my favorite place in the world--and I was stoked! Since I'm such a high-energy person who feels the need to be constantly stimulated, I pretty much always carry a book and an iPod so I will never be bored. I was quite surprised to discover (after slapping on sunblock, sunglasses and hat, and settling in my rainbow beach chair) that I was perfectly happy to sit there, relax, and listen to my friends talk. I occasionally added a comment to the conversation or asked a question, but mostly just enjoyed being there. I had no desire to pick up my book or turn on my iPod. There was nowhere else I wanted to go, nowhere else I wanted to be, and nothing else I wanted to do. I was completely and totally content. How delicious. :0)
Later that week, I was with my best friend at the time, an amazingly wonderful human being (and I really wish God made more men like this) that I was incredibly close to. I really considered him more like a family member than a dear friend. We were sitting on his couch watching ?? and as the hour got late, I ended up leaning against him and he wrapped his arms around me. He soon fell asleep. His calm, steady breathing started to lull me to sleep as well, until I realized that since I was leaning into him, I could feel his heart beating. If you've ever held a newborn baby (you know how its heart beats like a hummingbird's wings?), or felt anyone's heart beat, really, you know what a magically beautiful, calming experience it is. My sense of calm deepened, and once again I realized: there was nowhere else I wanted to go, nowhere else I wanted to be, and nothing else I wanted to do. I was completely and totally content. How delightful. :0)
Reflecting on these two moments, particularly the latter one, I'm reminded of Phil Wickham's worshipful song about the comfort Jesus provides; here are the lyrics (my favorite part):
"You will be safe in His arms
You will be safe in His arms
'Cause the hands that hold the world
Are holding your heart
This is the promise He made
He will be with you always
When everything is falling apart
You will be safe in His arms"
I think this might be the "key" to finding and maintaining a constant feeling of contentment. If I can remember that wherever I go, whatever I do, Jesus Christ goes with me and I am safe in His arms, I have absolutely no reason to NOT be content! Hakuna matata, mate, Jesus Christ has got my back! And, He will hold me in His everlasting arms until I go to heaven and meet Him in person! You're invited to join me on this "quest for contentment," and I'm sure the end result wil be...well..deliciously delightful :0).
"Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment."
1 Timothy 6:6
"Be content with what you have."
Hebrew 13:5
"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."
Philippians 4:11

Friday, March 25, 2011

What? Counseling? Me?

The following is taken from a devotion of the upcoming
Totally Devoted 2.
May you be encouraged, and may God be glorified.
"You guide me with your counsel"
Psalm 73:24

There is a stigma that comes with counseling. I call it pride. You know what I mean, when people say to each other under their breath as their eyes roll, "Oh, they are going to counseling." Often it's looked upon as a gap in our plastic armor because it exposes weakness and frailties of those who are seeking counseling --- and oh, we can't have our weaknesses exposed! "Weaknesses? What weaknesses? I'm just fine!" Ha ha, I've heard a wise and discerning Christian counselor say, "Everybody needs counseling!"
Hey! I go to counseling on a regular basis to get help, advice, wisdom, direction, insight and guidance. I need it! Just ask anyone who is close to me, they'll tell you it's true! :) I ask my Counselor --usually on my knees -- to give me insight on what is going on in my mind and in my heart and help to make it right.
The truth is people who seek wise counseling are humble and wise. They are admitting, 'we don't have all the answers' and 'we do want to grow and mature emotionally and spiritually and I need God's help!' A sound mind, the Bible calls it.
There are many kinds of counselors: reputable, licensed, professional Christian counselors who advise and pray with the clients who visit their offices; then there's the other kind who doesn't believe in the LORD as LORD; then there are close, trustworthy friends who will offer Scripturally-based, honest answers only a close friend will give; and then there are the false teachers who give us advice to suit their own agenda! But, (TA-DA!) there's the One whom the Bible calls "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God" (Isaiah 6:9) That's where I run when I need help and refreshment! I go to my counselor on a regular basis and he's always there for me!
King David went to counseling: "I will praise the LORD who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me." ( Psalm 16:7) Look at that, his counselor also watches over him.
When we go to a counselor's office, we're not going to entirely share everything on our first visit. Or maybe not even our second or 10th! It depends on how deeply rooted our trouble is! We want to guard and protect ourselves to see if this counselor really cares about us and if we can truly trust this counselor. We're going to test this counselor to see if he/she has integrity, wisdom, and compassion for us. Then, as we begin to open our hearts and a solid, healthy relationship starts to develop with our counselor the healing process sprouts up. As we begin to trust in the truth about our situation, strongholds of fear and unbelief shrivel up and die. Our counselor plants seeds of love and laughter in the place of the strongholds and we continue to blossom and grow and bear more and more fruit.
That's the way it is with our salvation. When we first become Christians, our Counselor (God) does not show us all of our faults and sins at once, He shows them to us gently with His grace and His love. He teaches and instructs our hearts. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8) He gently leads us and helps us grow up and become free to serve Him wholeheartedly, to live and love and laugh and serve others with great thanksgiving.
I believe people who seek wise counseling not only receive help but they also recieve healing! So what are we waiting for? If you're struggling go to the Wonderful Counselor and ask Him to help you and to send help! It is the humble and wise thing to do.
Love & blessings,

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The LOVE Everyone Craves

Two times this week I heard from the mouths of stunningly beautiful celebrities that they have struggled with overwhelming insecurities, a lack of peace and contentment, and are very troubled about their lifelong battles to meet the unrealistic expectations of others. Whew! Sound familiar to you ladies out there?
I heard these sad stories on one of the TVs in our neighborhood gym that was tuned in to Oprah. Hahaha, she's so famous worldwide that I'm confident I don't have to tell you her last name! While I was trying to take care of my own temple of the Holy Spirit (and just about to break a sweat) I watched and listened to famous actresses and models be interviewed by Oprah. These ladies --who have reached middle age and beyond -- were all still very attractive and continued to share very similiar testimonies of: never feeling pretty enough, thin enough, young enough, tall enough, short get the picture. Yes, they became financially wealthy because of their countless appearances in and on: runways, movies, magazine covers, billboards, and innumerable advertisements inside the thousands of magazines. Lots of coverage, lots of fame. Well, that's what it looks like to the world, doesn't it?
However they gave credence to the fact that money can't buy contentment and joy. These ladies had sparkling smiles, glowing faces, skinny bodies and broken hearts.
I was so intrigued by what they were saying because I've seen this several times on Oprah's show. Yes, I try to keep up with what she's heart is women's ministry and encouraging women in the LORD. I try to be know, pay attention to what the world is selling women. But Oprah had two sets of gorgeous stars two days this week. Yes, I watched both shows and kept hearing the same thing from several women. Just like I heard a couple of other groups of Hollywood celebs say very similiar things on her previous shows over several months. Hmmmmmm. Yes, I'm paying attention and seeing the lies of the world continue to torment women.
These women on Oprah -- all of them -- wanted love and acceptance as we all do BUT they wanted and still hunger for something that ONLY JESUS CHRIST CAN GIVE: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. I think that's what every person craves because that's how God made us: to crave/love/want Him. We all want to be loved in spite of our shortcomings, weaknesses, flaws, frailities...
These stunning beauties -- and as I said earlier I've seen so many tell the same story on Oprah. They're in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 6os...and yes, still very pretty. They talk about the fear of aging, trying to grow old gracefully, and being accepted. One blonde --who was the cover girl of 100s of magazines -- admitted when she was in her 20s she'd go home and cry because she knew when she looked in her own bathroom mirror she did not look like the air-brushed girl on the cover of the magazines that they painted her out to be! These women are looking for true peace that is only found in the unconditional love of God.
I did notice that most of these lovely ladies have retreated from Hollywood lifestyles and the unrealistic expectations of being a star. They're moving to ranches and open spaces to be with family and to raise and train horses and grow gardens. They are getting away from the cameras and lights that have stolen their privacy and fed their self-centeredness.
Some of these stars expressed that middle age has helped them to change their priorities. They have also turned to caring for animals and family pets who will love them unconditionally. I heard the ladies say that their horses and their dogs and cats are their friends. These women (there are many who I have seen in different shows)are still breathtakingly beautiful on the outside but worn out on the inside from looking in all the wrong places to be satisfied and content.
The U.S. entertainment industry & media - not all of it but mostly - has successfully sold the lie to women and now to the upcoming teens and 20-somethings that you'll only be happy if you achieve the outward perfection. "Come and buy this product and it will make you happy." "Weigh this much and you'll be popular." "Buy this label and you'll find your Prince Charming." Ugh. I can't find any of these things in my Bible. That means women are being lied to and we're believing this stuff.
I think all these women on all of these shows are crying out. Just think how many of us who are not starlets, but women with friends and families and neighbors who struggle with this stuff.
Jesus really is the answer. When we belong to Jesus He loves us when we have a muffin top. He loves us when we need a touch-up on our dark roots. And when we say we want to "sleep in, let the kids get their own cereal." And when we age and get wrinkles and our hair gets thinner.

Yep. I know this is true. For one thing I know Jesus saved me and made me His child when I was at my worst! He did not wait until I got cleaned up inside and out. Nope. One night when my heart was deeply broken and I was on a beach on my knees and I cried out and asked God to become my Father and to make me His. To forgive me for my sins. He did. He does and He will continue to be my Father in heaven. He is my Everlasting Father. That means there is no beginning or end to His love, provision, and protection of His children. Are you one?
Let Him set you free, too. He'll give you life rich with His unconditional love -- like you've never known. And then He'll tell you to share that unconditional love with everyone in your life!

Love & blessings,