Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Blessings

Our daughters have arrived, cranberry biscotti is dwindling in the jar, and we sometimes have thoughtful discussions around coffee and our Advent readings from Regent College-- all great blessings in my books.

I'm not always consistent about Advent readings, but this year's have stirred my thoughts and brought many insights. Regardless of what we face this Advent, whether we have loved ones close by or not, I pray we will encounter Immanuel. Today.

"God with us" is precious. Whether we ponder God's coming to us through the vulnerability of a newborn or the need of a homeless person, whether in a loved one's passing or memories that make us long for old relationships, all our situations are opportunities to discover that God, indeed, is with us. Even when life is messy.

The reality of embracing Immanuel transforms our lives.

Immanuel draws us like the Baby filled with the God of love. As sojourners longing for glimpses of Home, we can be happy that God comes to make His home, now. In our arms.

Come, Lord Jesus! We welcome You!

http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocomocom.htm


Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
("O Come, O Come Emmanuel," Author unknown)

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Where would you like to encounter Immnanuel in your life?

Where do you need His love, and to whom will you take His love?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

CONFIDENT SUPPLICATION

Most of us major on supplication, represented by the last letter of the ACTS prayer acrostic (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication).

While supplication or petition is effective because God is kind, it's the caboose that can’t get very far unless it is coupled with the rest of the train.

Celebrating and describing God’s glory (adoration) ushers us into the Almighty’s presence, the engine room. There we find our high priest Jesus Christ, a savvy engineer, able to forgive the sins we confess. This propels us into new intimacy and thanksgiving comes easily from our freshly cleaned heart. Plus, in hard times, instead of whining or gritting our teeth, focusing on God and giving thanks speeds us away out of a dark night into the sunrise.

When adoration, confession and thanksgiving happen, we bring our requests with confidence. No mere wishful thinking. We’ve been in the presence of our powerful Lord. We've been forgiven. Guilt can no longer keep us away. Any false guilt or false notion – like bothering a “busy” God or evaluating our need as “unworthy” - gets escorted off the train like an apprehended terrorist.

Confidence settles into the seat next to us and introduces us to a new passenger: God’s peace.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5: 14-15).


FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

“Rejoice in the Lord always.… Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

Identify any terrorists aboard your prayer train. Confidently ask your Engineer to bind and remove them.

Spend some time rejoicing in God’s promises. Let your anxieties be escorted away, replaced by a new travel mate, God’s peace.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanksgiving in Advent

The "T" of the ACTS prayer acrostic (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication), giving thanks, is never out of season and packs benefits of its own.

At any season, taking time to look for things to be thankful for miraculously shifts your perspective. Though your income may be choking or your health questionable, thanksgiving is a choice that flips your surroundings right side up. Fault finding stands us on our heads seeing all that could potentially bring discomfort or even terrorize us.
During Advent, and any other season, giving God thanks seems to release that pressure and stand us on our feet again. Thanksgiving refocusses us on the big picture in which our kind and merciful heavenly Father daily provides for our needs.

"Praise the Lord, God our Savior, who helps us every day" (Psalm 68:19, NCV). "Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms" (Psalm 68:19, NLT).

God is our Savior --ready to help us as we call. Immanuel, "God with us," enjoys our gratitude, rewarding us with a happier heart and feet replanted and on the ground.



FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

When pressure has you thinking only about your problems, will you choose to give thanks for the good gifts your Savior gives you?

What will it take for you to flip right side up?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Confession

If you're like me, confession does not come easily.

It's painful to take a look at attitudes you'd rather not acknowledge. A simple thing like mild annoyance that rises when you don't get your own way or full grown anger that flares when you have been crossed are signals for confession. Other signs could be fear crawling in the shadows or insecurity leading to uneven ground away from the Rock of Ages.

Confession, the "C" of the ACTs model of prayer, is hard. But it is like presenting yourself to the doctor, revealing the infection in your body, and waiting for the prognosis and the cure. Sometimes it is quick and painless. Sometimes it calls for a deeper incision than you would choose, but it allows you to rid your body of the poison that the Creator never intended for you to absorb.

Telling the Great Physician your discovery sits you in His office. There you can listen for His instructions on how to get whole.


FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

"If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts" ( John 1:8-10, New Living Translation).

Examine your life with the Great Physician's help. Is there any attitude or habit that you need to confess?


Friday, November 19, 2010

Old Faith Recipe

I savor the food old saints serve. It's obvious that they've learned some good recipes in God's kitchen.

My devotions got me mulling over how God teaches fresh faith. An occasional stint in His kitchen won't do it. To live by faith, we need regular practice. It seems like sometimes God changes ingredients on us, so we have to carefully listen, daily, to His instructions.

We learn how to mix the ingredients then wait for them to cook. Finally we get to taste, chew and swallow. Then digestion, a slow process, benefits our whole body feeding muscle, bone, and brain.

Listen to one of A. B. Simpson’s recipes.
"God is looking for people on whom He can place the weight of His entire love, power, and faithful promises. And His engines are strong enough to pull any weight we may attach to them. Unfortunately, the cable we fasten to the engine is often too weak to handle the weight of our prayers. Therefore God continues to train and discipline us in His school of stability and certainty in the life of faith. May we learn our lessons well and then stand firm."
(Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman, Updated by Jim Reimann, 1997, Zonderman, p. 426.)

Simpson used a metaphor of his day to describe an ageless principle: circumstances that test our limits are opportunities to prove God’s limitless supply. Even when our faith is scant, we can use the little we have and get into God’s kitchen. There we will discover resources and recipes that will deliver an uncommonly satisfying meal.


FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Might you trust that your short faith supply is really an opportunity to discover God's ‘love, power, and faithful promises?’

"Not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed" (Joshua 23:14, NIV).

Try reading this verse out loud three times. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s promptings after each reading. Jot down your impressions.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Adoring God

"I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom”                         (Psalm 145: 1,3, NIV).

You’d think that adoring God would be easy-- like pouring sweet praise over your lover or speaking with abandon to a gurgling baby.

But I’ve found that it’s not always easy.

In fact, to adore God I have to prime my heart with praise from scripture. If I am preoccupied with a concern, I don’t praise easily. But when I recall God’s prior revelations, I can refocus. That creates an expectant gaze which helps me to move to praise.

When praise doesn’t come easily, I choose to look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3). When I do, my whole being can tell a difference. That’s because adoration takes me into God’s presence.

Adoring God (the first part of the ACTS acrostic: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) opens windows to fresher air than I breathed a minute before. Adoring God opens my eyes to see the eternal impinging on my day, the power of the Most High poised to act consistently with His good purposes.

Adoring God can bring fresh life to a tired body. It can bring hope to my flagging spirit and the Prince of Peace to a pocket of pain. I might still need sleep, but now I’m aware of Christ's enabling presence with me.

How better to start a day – or finish it – than to adore the most lovely Being who loves us!

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

What helps you focus on Christ’s amazing presence?

What benefits do you experience when you adore God?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Success in Suffering

It takes some strong weather and the maturing of your vine to realize that you can be in a windstorm and still prosper.

Joseph was thrown into prison for doing things God's way. Yet, "the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor.... and gave him success in whatever he did." (See Genesis 39:21-23.) The scriptures don't tell if Joseph stayed awake, tormented by the false accusations that put him in prison. Neither do they describe him as sullen or bitter. Instead, he seems to have discovered that, in this place of shame and constriction, God was with him and would somehow bring good (Genesis 50:20).

In the midst of difficulty, is this not success: submitting to God's presence, listening for God's insights, applying all that the Lord reveals  -- and in the strength which He mightily supplies? When we have a clear conscience and remember that God is with us, then the severe pruning of the vine is nothing to fear. We know it will eventually cause larger, more luscious fruit to develop. (See John chapter 15.)

Recently, my mother shared with me that, as she faces the ravaging storm of cancer, she feels as if she is in the eye of the storm. Everything around her is in turmoil, but she is at peace in the center. Because, like Joseph, God is with her.

While we might grapple with the whys, moving to the whats and experiencing God's transforming presence is ultimately what brings success in our prisons. There we experience uncommon peace, one of suffering's gifts. That's success!

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Might God be using discomfort in your life to strengthen you for greater things?

What do you need to address with God so you can move to the center and His peace?


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Endurance, the Challenge

What makes it hard for you to endure?

For me, it's fatigue, ignorance, or self-reliance. Sometimes in this spiritual race (Hebrews 12), I think I'm looking to Jesus, but I'm running as if I am the one who has to do it all.

Of course I get tired. Of course, I want to chuck it at times and say it's not worth the daily persistence.

I've been living with scriptures on "faith" by prayerfully researching and meditating on those scriptures, and God is teaching me more about trusting Him in hard times.

Patient endurance is not passive resignation. It is actively trusting the energy which God supplies when you are weary, bruised, or flagging in commitment. 

Since I am glaringly aware that it is beyond my natural capacity to excercise that kind of faith, I  journal, pray, and obey with the Holy Spirit's power. Not my own.

So, join me in asking these questions. How can we endure or run with patience this race set before us? How can we look to Jesus who both authors and perfects this faith He has powerfully seeded in us?

We can endure when we realize the important focus is JESUS -- not ourselves nor our issues. Even when we fail (in our eyes or others'), we have to get up, dust off our knees, and refocus and keep running.

Want to be transformed into a woman or man of character? Meet the challenge to endure by looking persistently to Jesus!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Did God Really Say?

I have noticed that when I am forging ahead with some idea God gave me, and I encounter repeated obstacles, a seductive voice whispers, “Did God really say for you to do that?”

When that siren voice sings, I have to call all resources on deck to keep me on course. I have to be on guard against doubt that relishes a slippery deck and rubbery knees.

Maybe what I thought was God’s instruction was really my wish—merely a pipe dream—and not a worthy plan. I wonder how my boat can handle these choppy waters.

So it’s a good time to check the boat, my motivation and my destination.

If my initial check and double check with God’s Spirit and word has been confirmed by other sources, if I had no vested interest in the destination, and if I keep my communication open and current with the Captain, then I can trust all will be well… rough seas or calm.

What God says, God will do. When white waves throw salt water in my eyes, I wipe them off by faith.

Trusting what God said helps us ride our waves. The storm may rage, but Christ is in our boat.

As we listen to our Captain, His infinite wisdom speaks saving grace one word at a time. Hold on to those words already spoken into your mind and heart, then choose to keep thanking our able Captain for what you already know to be true.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
(Genesis 3: Reference to Eve and Adam’s temptation to distort God’s instructions and choose their own desires over God’s.)

What has God already told you that you need to remember?

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).

Ask the Holy Spirit to bring you a scripture promise to meditate on and to transform your situation.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Extravagant Love


Our daughters drove 20 hours around the clock to Indiana to surprise their Dad for his birthday. They arrived tired but jubilant to give him their love gift.

Through the corner of his eye, he saw them sitting quietly on the stairs waiting for his eyes to find them. They were out of context and his sensory input didn't make sense. It prompted a quick second look and we all went into peals of laughter. We hugged and laughed some more.

Sometimes God's extravagant love comes to us in overwhelming surprises. The first look may not make much sense, until we realize the gift has already been given, the cost paid, and it is waiting for our readiness to receive. Follow up attention and open armed embrace are the doorways to benefit from the gift, allowing us to make time to examine, talk, listen and enjoy.

Those rare occasions punctuate the mundane with exclamations of God’s lavish longing to bless us. Love picks us up and twirls us around in joy.

All because our Creator loves us lavishly and wants to bless us.

No performance required -- only the willingness to receive.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION 
See 1 John 4:19; Jeremiah 32:38-41 and John 3.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).

Take some time to think about the kind of love that sent God’s only Son to die for you.


Though you might recognize that God’s extravagant love is directed to you personally, do you act as if you have to earn it?

What makes it hard to receive and enjoy Jesus Christ's love for you?




Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Under Authority



Jesus stayed tight with the Father: always listening and doing what the Father revealed. Elijah did the same,and his prayers demonstrated the power of God's authority.

There are some unusual events in 1 Kings 17 that God "commands." I expect God and Elijah had been discussing the altar for Baal that King Ahab had set up in the temple before Elijah told King Ahab that God would stop all rain until He gave further word.

That the rain stopped for three years affirms God's commandment that would create hardship for many. For Elijah to have such powerful confidence in God's commands, he had to be a man under authority -- a man of faith.

The word of the LORD came to Elijah again and directed him to leave and go hide in the Kerith Ravine. There God had ordered the ravens to feed Elijah. Ravens! Dirty (unclean) birds! To feed one of His choice prophets! (Surprise, Elijah!)

The LORD gave further directions to go to Zarephath where God had commanded a widow to supply Elijah with food.

Gathering sticks to cook her last meal with her son, she had to have been afraid of the future -- perhaps even depressed. Elijah assured her she need not be afraid for, if she would do what God asked, the God of Israel would provide flour and oil for her till the famine broke.

She had to trust God's word ... and sacrifice her plans. She was to give Elijah the first cake of bread before she prepared a meager meal for her son and herself. Her adherence to the word of the LORD through Elijah saved their lives. Obedience was her doorway to blessing.

But obedience does not guarantee smooth sailing. Her son got ill and died.

Responding to Elijah's passionate plea that the boy's life be restored, the LORD commanded life to return to this young lad. The result was the mother became assured that Elijah was a man of God whose words were truth.

What lessons might we learn? As we stay under authority by trusting, listening, and obeying God's word, we get to be conduits of God's good purposes so righteousness can come to our land.

For Your Consideration

In addition to 1 Kings 17, see the story of Jesus and the Roman centurion, a man under authority, in Matthew 8: 5-13.

Obeying God may take you to uncomfortable places. How can you make sure that you keep current with God is showing you?

Do you have confidence that God cares about your walk with Him? Or, that God loves to give you what you need and reveal His righteousness?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Faith Training

Weight lifting develops our strength. We sweat, endure pain, and push towards exhaustion. Each time we exceed our former limit, we build greater endurance and strength. When we achieve our goal, the memory of the pain only becomes a badge that we hurdled our obstacles. We admire our better defined abs in the mirror, glad that our discipline has grown strength and a healthier body.

Developing stronger faith muscles is not too different ... except we don't usually sign up for the stress and pain. Oh, we pray for God to develop our faith, but when the opportunity comes for resistance training, our instinct is to question or complain.

Hebrews 12:11 reminds us that discipline is painful, not pleasant. But the pain we endure as Christ followers  produces endurance, character, and a sure hope in Jesus Christ. Suffering, like weight lifting, eventually produces greater joy! As we search for God's help in those times, we discover His love and the Holy Spirit's help. Our hope becomes more sure precisely because of the weight of life's demands (see Romans 5: 3-5).

We do well to remind ourselves that God is at work in every circumstance (see Romans 8: 18-39).  If we continue training with Christ, the weights won't merely display our impotence, they will be the very opportunities that God uses in our faith training.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Are you in a situation in which you can recognize God using "weights" to develop your faith?

What new angle of trusting God are you learning? Will you focus on a scripture promise or principle that could further strengthen your faith?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We Won't Fear, Then

Fear can grow in us like cancer.

News about Iran, the UN, our own economy, national and local politics, our bank accounts, children, accidents, cancer, business closures, home foreclosures... I could go on... all feed our fear.

Dislodging us from familiar ruts, upheaval can leave us shaken and fearful.

Psalm 46 reminds us that God is bigger than whatever earthquakes we experience.

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea"
(verses 1-2, NIV).

It's only natural to be scared when our stability is shaken. That's why it's good to remember that God is stronger ... and is with us in the earthquake. Even though we walk in the midst of trouble, He revives us.

Despite where we find ourselves, God can bring good out of chaos. But we have to hush ourselves in the holy place (see verses 4-6) and, in the Almighty’s presence, we can quietly listen for the Lord’s voice and look for His works (verse 8).

It takes supernatural power to deal with fear. But we access that through the gift of Jesus Christ who is with us. (See verses 10 -11).

So then, even if the mountains get shaken, we won't fear.

For Your Consideration
(See also Psalm 23; Psalm 138:7-8; Romans 8:28-39.)

What helps you remember that God is with you?

Have you told the Lord of Heaven's Armies about your earthquake?

How do you keep fueling your faith and keep from slipping back into fear?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blessed, Broken, and Multiplied


If you want a fresh jolt, then a careful reading about Jesus feeding crowds of 4000 and 5000 will get you there. Since familiarity is numbing, ask for the influence of the Holy Spirit as you read.

When I recently read and imagined Mark's account (chapter 8), I tried to hear the dialogue and watch expressions on people's faces.

Did their mouths fall open when they watched a few loaves multiply to feed thousands including them? Did they listen more intently after they were satisfied? Or did they scarf up the food, oblivious that the One who quieted their growling stomachs also came to quiet their hearts?

Did Jesus' eyes sparkle as He watched His disciples execute the improbable feat of feeding so many with virtually nothing? Was He thrilled that His Father was pleased to meet the needs of people who were willing to give Him everything? As they trusted Him for the impossible, and they experienced His miraculous intervention, did He applaud the Father with unmasked joy?


When I prayed using the components of the scripture as best I could, God not only fed but nourished me.

Maybe you could try praying that scripture. I suspect the Spirit of God, who can transform your limitations, will bless, break, and multiply what you bring Him.

I pray so.

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for what You have given me. I give................ back for Your blessing, breaking and multiplication.

Like your disciples, I don't understand it all, but please don't give up on me. I want to keep following You carefully and learn all I can from You. Help me obey what you reveal, trusting that You know more than I.

You are kind, strategic, and powerful. Getting to know You fills me with joy, and I worship You!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Save Me!


"Save me, I pray, from ...,
for I am afraid ....
But you have said..."

(Genesis 32:11-12, NIV)

Adrenaline was running through his veins as he progressed toward his disenfranchised brother, Esau, and his four hundred men. While he prepared to make a quick exit if needed, Jacob called out to God.

His fear and distress were palpable. He divided his sheep, servants and family into two groups so at least one could escape if they were attacked.

And he cried out to God to save them.

He admitted that he was afraid Esau would come and attack him, his wives and children. He wasn't hiding that. How could he? So many lives were at stake as he faced eating the fruit of his old deception.

So in the face of possible death, Jacob reminded God of His promise. "But you have said, 'I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted" (Genesis 32:12).

Later that night Jacob wrestled with the Angel of God by the Jabbock River. He had to acknowledge his strength was no match for God's, and after he did, he walked toward Esau with confidence, despite a new limp.

"I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." (Genesis 32:30)

Jacob's fear of losing his life at Esau's hand brought him to a different type of power encounter. There he regained his life.

For Your Consideration:
I invite you to meditate on the components of Jacob's prayer and make them your own.

1. "Save me."
In what arena of your life do you need God's intervention?

2. "For I am afraid."
Can you name an emotion that might be fuelling your desperation? And will you name the source of that emotion, laying it out before God? (Compare 2 Kings 19:14-19).

3. "But you have said."
As you recall scriptures the Spirit of God has impressed upon you, which promise can impact your situation in life changing ways?

Artwork by Ira Thomas, http://www.catholicworldart.com/Jacob.html

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To Do Hard



"God has asked us to do hard. This is what our family has been called to." Mary Beth Chapman spoke those words to her family after her five year old daughter Maria's death.

I heard her story this September first when Family Life interviewed her and her Grammy award winning singer/songwriter husband Steve. She shared how their family life had been full of wonderful events and transitions just before it was severely jarred by grief.

Despite occasional quivers in her voice and sniffles while the host spoke, she demonstrated a firm trust in God's strength and goodness. The grief had torn her like a killer in pursuit of her own life. She knew the enemy had come to steal, kill and destroy her family, but she held her children close and declared "He will not destroy our family over this."

Though devastated and shaken, she demonstrated her sure footing on the unshakable Rock. She chose, not felt, to keep trusting the God she had come to know over years of walking intimately with Him.

Her book, Choosing to SEE, will be an enlightening read. Especially if God has called you to 'do hard.'

http://www.familylife.com/site/c.dnJHKLNnFoG/b.3843443/k.809C/FamilyLife_Today.htm

For Your Consideration

Have you, or someone you love, been called to do hard?

What scriptures or other resources can you pull on for comfort? Instruction?

I also recommend Elizabeth A. Mitchell's book, Journey for the Heart written about their faith as they journeyed with her son James who died at thirteen with a worn out transplanted heart.
http://blog.journeyfortheheart.com/

Friday, August 27, 2010

Faith to Overcome


I keep asking God to increase my faith.

When people or things I love are thrown to the ground, I sometimes feel like the man who asked Jesus to heal his mute, epileptic son. Jesus' disciples had not been able to cast out the spirit, and the man wasn't so sure now that Jesus could do it either. "Have mercy on us and help us, if you can" (Mark 9:22, NLT)

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes” (verse 23).

He looked into Jesus' eyes, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (verse 24).

I expect Jesus' question penetrated this father's best hopes and fears. He believed, but he had his doubts.

Unbelief shrinks God to what we've seen and heard. When the limitations of our mind stop us short of the goal and when trusted experts hit the wall of their own expertise, hope get thrown to the ground like the young man. Our senses and experience lie that we are undone and tempt faith to step back from trusting God.

Those are the best times to turn to our Helper. Those are opportunities to let Jesus help us overcome blocks to belief -- to have overcoming faith. They are occasions for God's Holy Spirit to remind us of His presence and greater power at work in us. (See Philippians 2: 12-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.)

Paul says that hearing comes by faith through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17), and John writes, "The Spirit of truth ... will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13).

Regular hearing, reading and applying God's word, then, is critical for opening us to the Word and the Spirit. They train us to jump unbelief's hurdles.

As we make ourselves available to Christ's transforming word, God's grace helps us hear Jesus asking, 'Do you believe I can do this?'

Yes, Lord. Help me believe.

For Your Consideration


When you become aware of doubt, look for your underlying belief:

Do you assume God doesn't love you? That God is surprised or disappointed by you? Or do you think God is either powerless or disinterested? Are you blaming God for consequences of your own behavior? Or are you projecting onto God? -- How do the scriptures speak specifically to the issue you have identified?

What will you do about your discoveries?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Unbelief


I struggle with unbelief at times.

I don't like to admit it, but the temptation to disbelieve God lurks in the background waiting to sabotage my best efforts at faith.

I was appalled when I first discovered this enemy living in my home. I denied its presence, incredulous that I was providing shelter for this saboteur of God's work.

"Moi?" I thought innocently. Unbelief had so subtly veiled my sight I could not even see clearly.

At risk of oversimplification, I will share some steps I take to overpower this enemy.

First, I have to acknowledge its presence.

"If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light ... the blood of Jesus, [God's] Son, purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:6-7, NIV).

When the Spirit of Christ is revealing a new nugget, I ask for discernment whether I need more information or whether there might be underlying unbelief holding me back from assimilating and agreeing with God's truth.

Pretending I always have faith with a only little doubt sprinkled on top is not enough to face unbelief in the eye. While my intellect is God-given for His worship and my joy, I have to agree that God, not my intellect, deserves the last word. When the enemy tries to deflect my trust in God's goodness, I must stand my ground... or rather, God's ground...in exorcising this monster.

"Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God... You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. " (1 John 4:3,4, NIV).

Secondly, when God's Spirit sensitizes me to this attitude that hurts us both, I ask forgiveness for my part in playing hostess and then appropriate Christ's deliverance.

When God first revealed this awful house guest, I chose to believe the overcoming presence of Christ was greater than the lies that had snuck into my living space because of hurt, false teaching, disobedience or ignorance. Since Jesus shares His authority with His own, I opened the exit door and commanded unbelief, by name, to get out.

It's Jesus' accomplishment on the cross that gives us the power to overcome unbelief. We continue to learn what is available to us as Christ followers as we read and study God's word -- not merely listen to others who do.

My unbelief had been dressed reputably, but I had to agree with God's word that its clothes covered tentacles of pride and fear which curled around my heart and mind cutting off life flow. Instead, God wanted to enlarge my heart to hold more of the Almighty's presence and my spirit to discern the unseen.

I truly want what God wants. So, when unbelief comes to my door hiding death under garments of apparent enlightenment, I count on my Lord for the power to overcome.

For Your Consideration

Have you encountered unbelief masquerading in your life?

How might the power of Jesus Christ practically impact your struggle?


Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57, NIV)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Living Fully at the Cash Register


I pushed the wheelchair to the register without the dress we were hoping for.

It was Mum’s first shopping trip in two years since her illness. Looking for suitable clothing had tired her out so I was conscious of the small talk the cashier was making with the customer ahead of us. If she wouldn’t chit-chat with her friends, I thought, we could get through more quickly.

When it was our turn, I found her warm -- not merely professional. I realized then that she was as genuinely friendly to us as she was to her previous customers. She directed us to where the better dresses were, and we wheeled over to them.

Our second time through the line, I complimented her on her outstanding customer service. As I completed the form she offered me to write my commendations to management, I couldn’t help but wonder if she might be a Christ follower: she was extraordinarily personable.

She efficiently took care of the sale, while she told us how she loved her job and considered it a blessing to be there. “I had been down for many, many months with an immune system disorder, not thinking I would ever recover.”

“But God is good and I’m now able to work again. Glory to God!”

No wonder, she was uncommon. Her can-do attitude was probably shaped, or at least strengthened, during her illness. Now her eyes and voice reflected an uncommon love of life and people.

I suspect it may have been the powerlessness she experienced during her illness that propelled her into God's great power to conquer and live fully in each moment.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:35, 37, NIV)

For Your Consideration

Consider how your daily life might be transformed if you realized your health was in jeopardy.

How might you give your frustrations to Christ?

Meditate on the love of Jesus Christ pouring into your life at your point of greatest need.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Familiar Yet New


"Are you unpacked?" That's the question I have been asked lately.

"No, but I'm getting there." I'm still looking for ways to organize this new house in between finding my way in an unfamiliar city, cooking, doing laundry, and unpacking another box.

An interesting discovery has been how my morning times in the Scriptures and prayer have grounded me. In a time of unfamiliar roads, grocery stores, and light switches, when I sit in the same brown chair, though in a different room with a new view, I am "home." The same Lord, the same Word who spoke so regularly in the old place still speaks here.

This morning I read from Hebrews 4, a chapter which continues to intrigue me as I discover its gems.

"Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts."
(verse 7)

"Today ... hear his voice" eased into my heart.

Not long after is this recognizable verse (12):

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Today I can hear the living word of God. Today that word can speak cleansing. Today I can have confidence in the Word who is also my High Priest. He sympathizes with my displacement and gives me rest even when the work of unpacking and reorganizing stares me down (see verses 14-16).

So in the midst of the unfamiliar, I am confident. His familiar voice speaks what I need to know or remember.

Today I will unpack my heart with my High Priest, confident of His help as I call on him for the most mundane things. That's when I "receive mercy and find grace to help ... in ... time of need."

That familiar voice speaks a new word this day. What a solace in my time of upheaval!

For Your Consideration

What do you need to unpack with Jesus Christ, our High Priest?

If you are in a challenging day, what 'new' word do you need?

Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Share Your Comments


For those of you who have mentioned that you read my blog, thank you for your encouragement. Several, though, have said they didn't know how to post comments.

Look for the "comments" link at the bottom of each post. Click on it and you'll get a screen where you can share your thoughts. You may share annonymously or you may give your name. (I like to know who I'm talking with, but would prefer an anonymous thought to none at all.)

I'm very thankful for the people who already share their thoughts with me. Extrovert that I am, it makes me feel as if I am connecting in a meaningful way. So join us, won't you?

I will be moving to Muncie the end of this month, so I probably won't post for a few weeks in favor of packing and more packing. I'll appreciate your prayers as we transition.

Have a great summer!

For Your Consideration

When you communicate with God, what helps you best hear the Holy Spirit's input?

Shorn Hair and The Holy


In place of her flowing hair a feathered headband cupped her recently shaved head. She didn't look as if she was on the other side of cancer, so I wondered why this dramatic transformation.

I went to hug her and commented on the half inch growth framing her bright face. She was astonished that I didn't know that Peter had a bout with cancer, and she had shaved her head to stand with him.

The more her story unfolded, the more I was aware that the ground underneath me was burning.

"Now I know how Abraham could sacrifice his Isaac," she told me. "I got to the place where I understood anything God did was good and for Peter's best. So I'd pray that God would have his complete way in his life. If he needed to vomit, let him."

Shirley stepped a foot away and continued. "Then I'd put on my Mommy hat and ask the Lord to please have mercy on him. Please don't let him be wiped out by the vomitting."

I sensed the weight of what had happened. Not only had her hair been shorn. Her will had been. And out of releasing her hair and her son -- both familiar and beautiful -- had come a greater beauty.

Her broken heart had expanded. Her shattered dreams had kaliedoscoped. Her best desires for her son had been replaced by a Desire much greater: complex beyond comprehension, yet thoroughly good.

I thought I was going to hear about a hair cut. Instead, I stood in the presence of the Holy.

For Your Consideration

What would be a costly sacrifice for you? How do you think God might provide (or has already provided) for you to live confidently in your shorn moments?

(See Genesis 22 for Abraham and Isaac's experience with costly worship.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Marker


I was the worst mother when I refused to allow my then chubby 12 year old to wear a stylish but short skirt. I was firm, but she pressed back with everything she had.

I knew it was hard to find stylish clothes to fit her, so I knew my input was devastating. More than wanting her to feel pretty, I wanted her to dress tastefully and understand modesty.

I agreed: we’d ask her father’s input. He was a fair man and had balanced my more stringent cultural background on different occasions, so she had a shred of hope.

When he agreed that the outfit was unbecoming for our daughter, her eyes flashed and her words nailed the air with disgust.

However, it became a marker in her life. Despite the anger she felt, she remembers that we cared enough to stand up for her best.

Sometimes God insists on His way despite what we've clearly told Him was best. Thankfully, our anger does not deter His goodness ... and we live to thank Him.

That’s when we look back and appreciate the firm Kindness that covered us.


For Your Consideration


"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts"
(Isaiah 55:9, NIV)

Can you recall an incident that seemed devasting but which actually worked to your benefit in the long run?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yeshua Almighty


She was bent and looked up from a weathered face of 81 years.

There was a quality beyond her looks that drew me to her. I'd been sitting next to her making occasional small talk at the gate. She was articulate, though a bit forgetful, and I could tell she was worried about getting her carry-on luggage in the overhead compartments.

I felt an assignment to make sure she felt secure... as if she were family. I helped remind her where her seat was: one behind mine. To reassure her, I waved to her before I started to sit. The man behind me asked if I'd like to trade seats.

So began a conversation that left us both changed. "You understand older people, don't you."

(I always ask the Lord to guide me to meaningful conversations or good rest whenever I fly.)

She came from a home where her mother hated her. Her older sister, before she died, apologized for being so mean to her. It reminded me of Cinderella, except Hilda had had no carriage, no glass slipper, and no palace life.

She did have a man who had been interested in her and courted her for years. But she was afraid that his controlling sister and mother were only too familiar.

Now, a year after his death, she was grieving what she could have had, missing his care, wondering if it might have worked.

We talked of faith, of the "Almighty" as she referred to G-O-D, and commented on His surprising similarity to the Jesus I talked about.

She didn't think she was the poorer for her experiences. Just sad. I reminded her of Joseph's comment to his brothers. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good" (Genesis 50:20).

They could have made her bitter, those close encounters with rejection. But they didn't. She described how she broke the generational meanness by deliberately speaking encouragment into a younger relative who had also been picked on. There was a sensitivity, an openness to others who were vulnerable.

There were times she looked straight into my eyes and I into hers. Brokenness met brokenness. "Mine keeps being mended by Yeshua," I told her.

"How do you pronounce 'Yeshua' in Hebrew?" I asked. "You don't," she flashed back with a smile. In spite of her custom, I knew that same Yeshua would reveal more of Himself.

We shared slices of our lives and precious discoveries from our faith.

She nodded. "I'm very glad we had this conversation. It has helped me."

I'm glad too, Hilda. May Yeshua, closer than a brother, be your comfort and your peace.

For Your Consideration

"There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24).

How have you experienced Christ saving presence in the twists of your life?

[Note: Name and photograph have been changed.]

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cloud Covering


"[God] spread out a cloud as a covering,
and a fire to give light at night"
(Psalm 105:20)

It is one little verse out of forty-five, and one provision of several others the psalmist describes. He urges the people to rejoice in their great God.

"Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.... Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced" (verses 2 and 5).

The psalmist recounts the miracles God used to deliver Israel from Egypt and to supply their needs in the desert. He produced plagues of frogs, gnats, and locusts in Egypt, and supplies of quail, manna, and water in the desert. Their covenant-keeping God was doing the miraculous to help them get to a place to worship Him.

But it was the cloud covering that caught my eye this morning. A cloud to stay the scorching heat. A cloud in the waterless desert.

I've never trekked across north African desert, but pictures record endless sand dunes and hot, rainless skies. I find it amazing that God would use a cloud to stay the heat and guide them at the same time.

Depending on our desert, God will provide the cloud. Our desert and cloud may look quite different from the picture above. The desert might be a glamorous place filled with sound and lights, and the cloud the pages of a Psalm.

Today, God reminded me that He would provide just what I need, and would guide me in the way I needed to go.

I just have to ask. "They asked, and he ...satisfied them ...." (verse 40)

For Your Consideration

What does your desert look like?

What provision or guidance do you need, and have you asked God for it?

Which of God's "wonderful acts" prompts you to share His goodness and power?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kindness and the Lawnmower


Our lawn mower decided not to start. That was after the lawn got a growth spurt from the rains.

Our yard was beginning to look like we'd moved out already: the grass had to have been five inches high! I drove in from work and despaired that our lawn looked even worse between our neighbors' manicured yards.

Later, I was working on my computer and I looked out and watched Sue drive her mower beyond her property boundary, making repeated loops from her lawn to ours. With each turn, the side of our property was mowed. I was grateful because each fresh cut leveled a portion of my embarrassment.

I went out to apologize and explain the reason we hadn't cut our grass. Then I went to the shed to bring the lawnmower to the garage. I looked up to see Garry walking toward me offering to help me get it started as he had the week before.

When I explained my predicament, he helped me lift the lawnmower into the car, angle it and disassemble the handle so it could fit in the sloping hatch back -- a tedious task.

Driving home the next evening, I wondered how I could borrow or rent a lawnmower. I pulled in the drive and saw the front lawn neatly mowed. Honestly, the surprise sent me into giggles of joy.

My neighbor smiled when I went to thank her. She was happy to help. After all, my husband had helped hers when he was doing some construction, she said.

Today, I watched Garry use his rider to mow down the overgrowth in the back. Sam, our neighbor behind, mowed our extra 4 foot behind his yard to our tree line. How wonderful to have neighbors who help in practical ways! I'm amazed at their kindness and deeply thankful for their help.

God showed me love through my neighbors and their lawnmowers. They fulfilled Christ's law of love and my needs were lavishly met. That serendipity endears my Lord to me and makes me love Him more.


For Your Consideration

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:1, NIV)

Do you have any need that has grown beyond your ability? Have you asked for God's intervention?

You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. (Galatians 6:2, CEV)

Might you extend a helping hand to your neighbor when you see a need with which you can help? Will you acknowledge the joy God must also receive as you express Christ's law of love to others?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

One Little Word


This morning I read Hebrews 12:2 in the New King James Version. It says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

It was “unto” that first got my attention. I tried substitutes: “toward,” “up to,” “at,” and wondered how the different nuances might affect the way I looked to Jesus. Then I noticed my study bible had an explanation of “looking” from the Greek word, “aphorao.”

It is made of 2 words: apo, “away from,” and horao, “to see.” It denotes attention that is riveted to the object; undivided attention, without distraction, so the onlooker’s gaze is fixed on one object.

The New International Version translates the phrase, “Fix your eyes on Jesus.”

What happens when I rivet my eyes on Jesus? Or gaze upon His beauty? What if I lock in to try and absorb grandeur or power beyond my comprehension?

Is that how Jesus looked to His Father? Is that how He could stay on His Father’s track when hoards of people clamored for His attention and needed quick fixes?

I suspect Jesus’ early hours with His Father were extremely focused. He knew the value of the relationship, of locking eyes, focusing, and keeping the main thing the main thing.

I must try to remember this word -- aphorao (af-or-ah-oh).

Oh! Oh the wonder when I see Him, when I really look TO Him. It’s that look, that gaze, that persevering focus that keeps me encouraged. He endured past the cross and the shame. Because of His persistent focus, He pushed past weariness and finished His earthly assignment.

With His returned look, so will I.

For Your Consideration
What helps you fix your eyes on Jesus?
What helps you keep distractions to a minimum?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stop and Worship


We had lost 30 minutes waiting for a gate to open for our arriving flight.

Gail knew the Atlanta airport well and she recommended that the moveable walkway would be as quick as the train to the next gate.

However, it wasn't long before I realized I had to pick up my pace to make my connection, so I respectfully asked if she'd mind if I went ahead. I doubled my pace even on the moving walkway and was making great strides. That is, till I spotted some splashes of color on hanging canvases in the corridor ahead.

As I approached I recognized beautiful colored photographs of the universe, of its nebula, constellations, and galaxies.

They arrested me. I briefly forgot the flight and gazed at the configurations of color, the incalculable lights, and the unfathomable distances documented. I was filled with the awesomeness of their splendor.

Something deep within me called out to applaud and pay homage to the Creator.

I took a few long looks, my face wreathing into smiles as I observed the neon green, blue, and pink from the superimposed telescope images. I couldn't assimilate the incomprehensible distances they referenced, but I gawked, my mind stretching, my heart laughing with delight.

Before I had to move back into hurry mode, I wanted to flag down all who passed by.

Look at what our Lord created! Don't rush by so quickly. This is not the work of an amateur or of a small deity. Stop and worship. Absorb the grandeur as best you can.

This God knows your name, the hairs on your head, your dreams and your frustrations.

"O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens....
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?"
Psalm 8:1, 3-4 (NLT)

While I couldn't linger in front of those pictures, they have lingered in me.

They remind me of the joy of relishing God's majesty and my need to stop and look for God's fingerprints wherever I see them... including in the Atlanta airport.

For Your Consideration

"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7, NIV).

To what might you need to attend to celebrate God's thoughts toward you?

Is there anything you can do to develop attentiveness to God's majesty?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Unpretentious Worship


Have you ever been in a gathering where you notice people who genuinely worship, unrestricted by others around them? What a joy!

This Resurrection Sunday, we were worshipping Jesus who had publicly poured out His love for us on the cross. We were celebrating the power of the empty tomb.

I had the privilege of sitting behind Philip. Occasionally, I'd glimpse his face: eyes closed yet focused, expression peaceful but passionate. Tall and slim, this young man's unpretentious worship fanned the fire in my own heart. Unconcerned with people around him, it was as if just he and the Lord were in the sanctuary.

So I chose to be outwardly expressive also. It was appropriate, and he had led the way into the holy place.

When I observe a fellow pilgrim worship from that deep inner place, pouring out adoration like precious perfume, the fragrance of Christ fills my own heart. Then the fragrance spreads to others, and Christ becomes visible beyond our worship style, the length of our arms, or the color of our necks.

I dare not look long at those worshippers, because I seem to be intruding on their holy space. But beyond that, my own heart longs to join in the adoration so due our Lord.

Doesn't yours?

For Your Consideration

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." (2 Corinthians 2:14-15, NIV)


Are you able to abandon others opinions of you and publicly express honor and love to Christ who poured out His love for you? If not, what keeps you hostage?

How clean and lovely is the fragrance God spreads through you?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So We Can Walk Free



When I meditate on the cross, I am overwhelmed.

Jesus went through hell so I could experience heaven… so I wouldn’t have to be eternally tied, hell bound by my sins and circumstances.

It wasn’t pretty. Neither was my sin.

Jesus took it all on His body. Beaten bloody beyond recognition, God’s Son suffered without speaking out for His innocence. Satan gloated over Christ’s death, but our Savior still had the upper hand, completely submitted to His Father.

Betrayed with 30 silver coins, our Jesus paid an unthinkable price for our freedom.

The value of what this uncommon Savior spent on us was more than a mine full of coveted diamonds, more than bread to feed all nations, more than wine to make many hearts merry, and more than the costliest fragrances of the world -- immeasurably more!

The precious Bread of Life, the fragrance of heaven, gave us His all.

He bought us back from the one who had entrapped us from Eden’s days. He stands before the Father upholding the repaid debt.

We can walk free. The accuser has no more legal recourse. We need to remember this when we see his accusing finger.

God paid an unimaginably steep price for our life and freedom. Such extravagant love ties our heart to Lord Jesus.

Jesus has already paid the price we couldn’t pay. Praise God!

And walk free.

For Your Consideration

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. (Galatians 5:1, NIV)
See also 1 John 1:7-9, and Isaiah 53.

Are you counting on Christ’s finished work at the cross so you can live the life He intended for you?

Is there any place where you have slipped back into the burden of trying to be righteous all by yourself?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My People


Today, I was drawn to the phrase "My people," from the familiar passage, 2 Chronicles 7:14.

I thought of how intentionally God creates a people for Himself. The author of true life and love wants to deliver, lavish love, and form His people into a holy group. God’s love in Christ includes each heart that says “Yes” to all the King’s holy purposes. Those purposes include the joy of worshiping the one true God.

But, all-knowing, our Lord speaks a caveat.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

God had warned them … several times… prior to this occasion of the temple dedication. If they obeyed or disobeyed, they would reap consequences in the fruitfulness of their homes, land, and in their relationships with the neighboring nations.

"When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people... will humble themselves… and seek my face…”

God knew those times would come. God knew that His people, who were excited in their new temple, would later slide into worshiping gods of their own making though they continued their religious rituals.

We are so like the Israelites. And God's kindness and forgiveness are still as reliable as the sunrise.

Like a groom desiring his betrothed, like a father instructing his children, and like a hen protecting her chicks, the Covenant Keeper provides ways to re-establish relationship and restore covenant. If we will turn again to the Lord, He will forgive us. If we will seek His face above all others, God promises to heal our land.

Are you one of God's people?

For Your Meditation

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9, NIV).

As one of God's people, are you good advertising?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Praise Practice


I have prayed with people who weep, with folk who sing their prayers, and with people who pray through lists. At first, I did what most novices do. I compared myself with seasoned pray-ers and their various styles.

I thought, 'There's no way I can pray like her!' But my heart longed to improve. To pray better. More effectively.

So I started asking God to help me pray like the ones who seemed confident that God was hearing. They seemed to know God well. I would recognize Scripture woven into their prayers with praise sprinkled everywhere.

Praised flowed fluently from one of my friends, while I found praising God beyond 30 seconds difficult. It was just too easy to fall back into asking for things!

To replace my old gimme habit with a longer time of praise, I found the Scriptures the best tool. I'd find a psalm and make the words my own.

As I did that more frequently and for longer times, I found my heart became lighter. It was easier to tell God how I loved and appreciated Him. I started smiling more.

That motivated me to find other passages to pray: Chronicles, Revelation, Ephesians. The more I joined Biblical streams of praise, the more my heart flowed with joy. Practice praying the scriptures gave me what both God and I wanted. I was enjoying His "river of delights."

"How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light."
Psalm 36:7-9, NIV


For Your Consideration

If you've never tried practicing praise, perhaps you can ask God's help to guide you to scriptures you can turn into prayers.

Do you find that the more you praise, the more God whets your appetite for His presence? I'd love to hear your experiences.

Try timing yourself. Thirty seconds is longer than you think!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

When the Kitchen Sink Backs Up


Last night I washed my dishes in the bathtub. That's because I couldn't rinse them easily in the basin -- my first choice after the kitchen sink.

Earlier that day, I'd worked on the plugged kitchen sink: baking soda, vinegar, hot water. Repeated applications. I got the bubbling going, but no real release of whatever the problem was.

So I pulled out the big guns and emptied my bottle of gel Drano. Some bubbling, but not enough.

I'd heard something that sounded a little odd in the garbage disposal, but didn't feel anything with a hand search. So I promptly moved on to the next thing.

The plumber arrived today. He had to do underground work: dismantle and drain the pipes, so he could solve the problem.

So like our spiritual lives, isn't it?

If there is a little thing clogging our relationship with God, we need to deal with it and keep the drains open. If not, it can attract other junk and lay dormant or hidden from view till it causes you an unpleasant STOP.

No wonder God calls us to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), pour out our hearts to Him (Psalm 62:8), and ask for a clean heart and a renewed spirit (Psalm 51:10). When we notice something that's not quite right, we do well to look more closely, and as soon as possible, instead of hurriedly going back to our busy routines.

Regularly praying Psalm 51 makes us proactive in asking for God to deep clean and reveal what junk needs to be confessed, what attitude needs to be developed, and what fruit of the Spirit needs to be nurtured.

"Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin....

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me....

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Psalm 51:2,10,12 (NIV)

For Your Consideration

Is there some attitude that could harden into a block if unattended by you and the Holy Spirit?

Would you invite God's counsel on an issue that needs attention?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sponsor a Child - Compassion


Sponsor a Child - Compassion

This is Efrance, a young girl from Rwanda. Neither she nor I write regularly, but I appreciate her letters, and I expect she does mine.

I want to draw your attention to Compassion, a Christ honoring and effective ministry among third world families who need some physical help. Compassion helps the families and schools their children. It's been a blessing for us to sponsor Compassion children for several years now and I look forward to meeting them one day.

Do check out the ministry. The link (underlined) above will take you to their site and see some of the children waiting to be sponsored. You will also have an opportunity to support the work in Haiti, young leaders, or a child who might be waiting on your commitment. Your heart just might be captured and enlarged.

If you've ever wanted to sponsor a child, but procrastination got the better of you, now might be a good time for you to do so. They are in Haiti as well as several other countries.

If you can't afford to sponsor a child, perhaps you could pray for the ministry or make a one time donation.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Put your Foot in the Water



Last week, my devotional took me to Joshua chapters 3 and 4. My guess is that you may not read much from Joshua either, so I encourage you to read the passage for yourself.

When God instructs us to do something difficult, God will show us how to accomplish His goals. Even if it means crossing a river at flood stage.

We are like the tribes of Israel who were progressing toward their promised land. Unlike the tribes of Israel though, our enemies are often internal, like fear or procrastination. However, if we are attentive for God's voice, He will give us details for our next steps.

Crossing the river was the only way do what God instructed -- conquer the land of promise. But raging waters are no match for people, and they knew that. To take the precious ark and stand in swirling waters must have been dangerous. But God told them to do it, and they did.

God was the One with the power they needed.

The scriptures say that as soon as the priests put their feet in the water, God stopped the flood so the whole army could walk through on dry ground. Can you imagine their joy as they took stones from the river bed to build a marker for this miracle?

If God has spoken clearly, then God will take care of the consequences of our obedience. Even if it seems treacherous, God will take us across the river. After all, He has the power.

For Your Consideration

What might you be afraid of in taking the next step to following Christ?

What intervention do you need from God to obediently cross your river?

I found the picture of the Jordan River at an interesting site that develops many lessons from the account. Though I only scanned it, it looks meaty and worth a visit. http://mudpreacher.files.wordpress.com

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Desperation


Feeling desperate is awful. Lonely. Scary.

Yet, as I've experienced the fruit that desperation can bear, I'm more easily able to thank God for how He will use my situation to transform me. So, by the grace of God, desperation is a door to a wider place.

Currently, in my circle of acquaintances, there are several people who are feeling desperate.

Death, economic pressure, job loss, personal failure, anger, fear, feeling out of control... these are some of the pressures we face. These are hard situations, not easy to solve.

I remember when I was a young mother. My husband was gone many days and evenings with his new job, and I, hundreds of miles from my family, was trying to be a good mother. I was doing a good enough job, but in my eyes, I was failing miserably. No matter how much resolve I mustered, I could not seem to be the even keeled mother I wanted to be.

During that time I became depressed, which, in turn, made me aware of my need for someone wiser to help me sift through the important things, and let the unimportant blow away. I was sweating the small stuff as I juggled being a young wife and mom in a new community with a yet undeveloped support group. In addition, in my public life I was trying to be the pastor's wife I thought I should be -- no small demand.

I cried out to God from the depths of my being. And God heard me.

"My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge" Psalm 62:7-8, NIV.


This was a good time to trust Him. As I poured out my heart to God, Mercy led me to a book, Women Who Do Too Much,(Zondervan,1992) by Patricia Sprinkle. God used it to pry me out of a rut and see my situation with new eyes. Then Grace lead me to Hosea 12:10 which helped till and water my fallow ground. I knew I had to camp there for a while, so I memorized the verse. The repetition and focus helped me absorb its truth.

"Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you"
Hosea 12:10.

From ground freshly prepared by desperation's vulnerability, I reaped a more consistent time with the Lord. No longer was it a good thing. It had become necessary: like breath for life or rain for parched ground. That was the lesson. And that led me to a daily, transforming interaction with the Word of God.

It was an opportune time to seek the Lord, and as I did, God came to me with soothing showers.

For Your Consideration
Is it hard to admit you are desperate?

Can you identify good fruit that God has grown out of your desperation?

Because you know God's love and mercy will bring good out of it, would you pause and thank God for a difficult situation? (Romans 8:28)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Experience with the Beauty of Holiness


It always intrigues me to observe how the Holy Spirit weaves a theme when people pray together with unified purpose.

Today, three friends and I met to pray for local government and church leaders in our city. The theme that developed was holiness: the beauty of God's holy presence, and holiness expressed through His people. One friend prayed for holiness to be more evident in the church. Another prayed that we would see God's face. A third praised God for His beauty.

We interceded on behalf of various groups -- pastors, worship leaders, small group teachers -- then, toward the end of our session, we came to a place of unusual silence. It was not the silence of the "heaviness" of God's presence, not the kind that hushes you with awe. It was a pause indicating a shift was coming.

So we chose to start reading and praying Scripture, starting with Revelation 5, a chapter that describes worship around the throne room of God.

Verse 5 reads,
"In a loud voice they sang:
'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!'"


Though we didn't sing the words, we did read loudly -- more loudly than usual.

Then Carol turned to Psalm 99 and prayed verse 9.

'We exalt you, LORD our God
and worship at Your holy mountain,
for the LORD our God is holy.'


Sometimes we read in unison, sometimes one of us prayed a passage we'd noticed. The more we read, the stronger our voices grew. It was as if God's Spirit was fanning glowing embers into a fire. I felt I was getting a shot of joy. I listened and participated as we prayed excerpts from the Psalms.

From time to time, two of us would start praying the same Scripture and we would laugh in joy and astonishment. God seemed to say, 'Yes, I am holy, and I will guide your praise. I will show you my delight and bless you as you praise Me.'

We asked... and we had an experience with the Beauty of Holiness.

For Your Consideration:

Will you share with me some nugget of your experience with the "Beauty of Holiness?"

What characteristics of God might be displayed when the Holy Spirit fans corporate prayer, using one prayer to inform or ignite another.

Why not take a literal 30 - 60 seconds to praise the Beauty of Holiness and get a fresh experience of God's delight?


I found that picture at www.renovare.us, a great site for spiritual formation resources.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti's Horror



On the heels of Haiti's incomprehensible horror, I want to linger over Psalm 46.
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging" (Psalm 46:1-3)

This horror reminds me of the concentration camps... too awful to imagine. In the movie, The Hiding Place, there was a scene of Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom as they led some women in a conversation about God’s love. An angry violinist on the lower bunk, huddled by necessity with the other women, shook her fists at Betsie. Once nimble fingered, accustomed to beautiful music, she’d been sorely injured in heart and hand by cruelty and forced labor.

‘Where is your loving God now?' Her taunt... reasonable... hung in the air for just a second before Bestie’s answer.

I remember Betsie’s answer was peaceful. It was something like, "If you knew Him, you would know He is good."

That kind of peace can only come from a deep KNOWING that God is truly good and is with us. In all our circumstances.

Suffering often thrusts us into a desperate search for answers. As we keep searching, we find One who is the answer, and who lovingly draws close.

Sometimes God's presence shows up in a white hot fire with Daniel’s three friends (Daniel 3:16-30). Sometimes, His presence gives us grace to die. More recently, God has been coming to many, dressed in human flesh, digging rubble, cleaning wounds, giving genrously and praying fervently.

For Your Consideration

“[Jesus] took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed"(See Isaiah 53, The Message).

Do you think Jesus' suffering for you was like or unlike His suffering for the people of Haiti?

How might the promises of Romans 8, epecially verse 28, help you process grief and suffering?

Will you pray that many in Haiti (and those who help) will come to know Jesus by name and in the power of His saving grace?


A classic devotional which often addresses suffering is Streams in the Desert. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stewarding Our God-Stories


The idea of stewarding our God-stories came from John Maxwell's stewardship series. As I studied the material, I was quite taken by his phrase "Stewards of Our Testimony."

Dictionary.com defines a steward as "a person who manages another's property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others."

The apostle Peter, who was caught off guard and denied Christ under pressure, later exhorted us to "set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience" (2 Peter 3:15-16a).

Impetuous Peter was now steadily operating under Authority. After Jesus' deep work in him, he was now able to share gently and respectfully. He had experienced Jesus' forgiveness and restoration. The power of the Spirit was writing another God-story and Peter was stewarding something bigger than himself.

Earlier in his letter, Peter mentions "You have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2:24).

Interesting, isn't it, how our Overseer stewards us well while helping us become like Him?

Don't we have stories to tell?!

For Your Consideration:

What changes have you observed since you gave Christ authority in your life?
What does Jesus as your Shepherd and Overseer evoke?
How can you steward your testimony more effectively?


I found that sweet picture at http://www.missionaloutreachnetwork.com/group/bless. It's an interesting link to people who are sharing their faith in a variety of ways.