Friday, February 29, 2008
We've been in a foul mood this week at our house. I think most of it is just the fact that it's winter, and we're at the point where we've had enough of winter, and we're ready for the rejuvenation of spring. We're ready for the new to start and not just in a weather sense. We also know that there are changes ahead for Andy's job, and for our spiritual lives as a whole. We both feel that God's been preparing us for a new challenge, and we're just ready to get to whatever it is. It was easy at the beginning of the year to look forward to getting to the point of newness. For a while we just kind of floated on that expectation, and prayed often about it, so that when the time came for change, we didn't miss the opportunity that we were waiting for.
Except that I think we got so caught up in waiting for something new that we forgot about the present. And this last week we've just been crabby in our daily selves- tired of waiting, and ready to move on already. It's so hard to wholly place ones self in God's hands and submit to His authority and His timing. We need to remember that eagerness we felt at the beginning of the year and hold to that. While we are in a state of waiting- at a plateau so to speak, we can still remember what we've learned so far. I think of those who perhaps started a diet with the beginning of the new year. By now, they may have seen a few pounds shed, but it takes time to get to one's goal. Time and persistence. In the same way, with the spiritual "diet" we've been on, we need to be persistent, or we will go back to our old ways. We began the year with vigor, and as an example, took wholeheartedly to the challenge of reading through the Bible this year. That vigor has vanished in the last few weeks.
So today, I am turning to David, and remembering what he has done in times of trouble. He simply turned to the ever-present help. He turned to God and cried out for help. And God answers. God gives us the help we need- the shot in the arm to get us through to the next stage. I need to remember that. God is there, and I can call on Him with anything, and He will help us through.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
This verse made me pause a bit today. I saw just this verse, and not the others around it. My first thought was that this verse was telling me that it was not okay to be a shy and quiet person. That the timidity I may feel from time to time is not the way I should be. Then I went and looked up the surrounding verses and immediately it made more sense to me.
"I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
8So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God," 2 Timothy 1:5-8
It isn't talking about being a shy person at all. In fact, I think they world would be a terrible place if we all were boisterous and effusive. It was talking about being timid about sharing God's love, and being timid about your faith. God did not share his love with us so that we could hide it in a box and put it away, never to be shared with anyone else. God gave us His love, and expects that we will share that love in any opportunity we have. And that is what this verse is talking about.
I guess I think of it like I think of cooking. Anytime anyone asks me a question about cooking, I'm only too eager to answer questions or discuss an aspect of it. I should be the same way about my faith. When someone asks me a question about what I believe in, I should bubble about it just as I do about cooking. I needn't worry about offending people with what I might say, because I have God's power and love backing me up. I should be more eager for the opportunity to discuss My God than I am to discuss the latest recipe I've tried. Sometimes it's not that way.
My prayer today is that God will help me to see that and prioritize in the right way. And also that as the opportunities may come up, he will give me the courage to not be timid and to share that for which I am passionate about.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
No one will ever know it all. I love this verse because it is a reminder to me that I do not pursue learning something new in vain. It is good to always be learning something new, and I love the challenge of setting a goal before me. Whether it be learning a new skill, or learning something from God's Word. I've been finding that with our Sunday study. I always thought I knew the book of Exodus. Who doesn't know the book of Exodus and the story of Moses. Yet, it's as if I've been reading it for the first time. The Lord has shown me so many wonderful things hidden within that I would have never known had I not been willing to learn something new.
The other day my daughter announced to me that she wants to learn to make a quilt. That was completely unexpected to me, she's been learning how to sew, which I can teach her, but she's been reading a book where a girl weaves a blanket, and she told me she wants to make a quilt. And while I have always wanted to learn to quilt...I have no idea how to do it. So we're going to learn together. And not only will my daughter learn a wonderful new craft, but she will also have the experience of seeing her mommy learn too. That alone is valuable- showing her, through example, that there is always an opportunity to learn something.
I'm also setting an example every morning, as she is getting ready for school, I am spending time with my Bible. She sees me reading it each and every day. She knows that I am a fast reader, and I could easily read through the Bible in its entirety in very short order. But then I wouldn't learn anything. I take my time, and I read carefully so that I can see what God's Word has for me each and every day. I pray that my daughter learns from my example and remembers it when she is a young woman herself.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. 9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel." Ezra 7:6-10
I was reading the book of Ezra tody, and I glanced over in my study Bible to see what it had to say about what I was reading. It really made a great point today- a basic point, but a good one nonetheless. The study page mentioned that using the Bible really comes down to three steps, and they really must be done in order, because they don't make sense if you don't follow their order. These steps are study, obey, and teach. Studying God's Word without obeying it just seems to me like a big waste of time and effort. Reading the Bible does you no good unless you obey the commands and directions within. It's like trying to assemble a bicycle. You need to follow the directions, or you could end up with a horrible mess!
Then there's the step of teaching. Have you ever tried to learn something from a teacher who didn't know what they were talking about? I have. In college one of my professors had been diagnosed with cancer, and while she was managing it and it was going away, she missed a lot of classes while going through treatments. Often times, the teacher who took over some of her classes was from a different course section, and therefore knew very little practical application of the course matter. Sure, they could read to us from a book, but it meant very little without the personal spin and the anecdotes our professor would spin in each and every day in class. The same holds true for the Bible. Sure, anyone can read it, and read it to others, but unless you've practiced what's inside, the person you're trying to teach is going to miss the crux of the message you're sharing.
As we practice what we read in the Bible, we teach most often by example. When people know that we are Christians, often times they examine our lives for proof of God. Do these Christians really believe what they say and read? Or are they putting on an act to try and get us to go to church.
Read, obey, and teach. As Christians, we can't do the last two without the first. We must read our Bible first in order to find out what it has to say to us. Only then can we begin to obey what's within, and only after we've experienced it can we teach what we've learned.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Love the Lord your God. I think sometimes that can be a difficult thing to grasp for us. It's easy to love people- and recognize the love we have for people. It's a physical, tangible thing that we feel, and we see the person we love and our heart reacts to that person being in out presence. And while I can say that of course there are times where we feel the same about God, it is harder, because he isn't a physical, tangible presence in our everyday lives. It's not like God just walks into a room and our heart leaps for joy because we see Him. Loving God is more...an act of faith, I guess.
I can say I love God, and of course I do, but I need to remind myself of that from time to time. Actually, most often, from day to day. This morning was one of those mornings where I sat down to do my blogging here and I kind of didn't want to. I was having one of those mornings where I totally regretted my decision to even start this blog. Because I post six mornings a week, and before I post, I spend time with God in His Word. It's a fantastic means of accountability for me, but the enemy will use anything he can to try and keep me from spending time with God. The allure of my other blogs and my website is great in the morning, and some mornings it really takes an effort to give God his time first. And then once I've managed to rouse myself into opening my Bible, I feel much better. Really. It's as if a peace washes over me, and I know I'm starting my day as I should, and eventually the words come to me to put on this screen here.
Loving God is very much like any other relationship in aspects as well. For example, I love my husband with all my heart. But sometimes, I don't like him very much, or sometimes he does things that drive me batty. Sometimes he chooses to do things I don't understand even, yet I still love him. I love my children, but there are certainly days where they make me so angry! Or they drive me completely crazy. Our relationship with God can be just like the relationships we have with people. There are days where I get angry with God- I hate having to watch our finances so closely, and I hate not being able to pay all our bills every month. And sometimes God does something that we really don't understand. Why on earth did he guide Andy to take this awful job? And why, a few weeks ago, did Andy come away from a promising sounding interview only to hear back nothing later on? And why on earth did God place it on my heart to get involved in the music ministry at church, only to have other people complain about it? That makes me mad AND drives me crazy!
But it's our relationship with God that makes me able to tell him all of this. It's because I love Him and He loves me that I can be open and honest and tell Him exactly what I think. I can tell Him that I've had enough or I can tell Him exactly how much I appreciate something. I can thank Him for all that He has done for us, and will continue to do, but at the same time, I can tell Him that I'd rather not go through that particular trial again. We have a fantastic God who loves us very much, and that's the type of relationship he wants with us. He wants us to be able to complain to him, to cry to him, or to praise him- all in one breath.
"Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods," Exodus 18:11
Saturday, February 23, 2008
This verse just made me think of an old B-movie, or an old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon. Can't you just see a villian like Snidely, with the pointy moustache, working so hard to "plot evil" and then in the end his plot is foiled by the good guys? And the good guy- our hero, follows through on his good plan, and then ends up beating the bad guy, and receiving the adoration of many- usually a girlfriend included.
It just made me chuckle a bit this morning, to see this very premise laid out in Proverbs. It's so true, of course, and we've seen it on movie screens and televisions for years. But really think about it. People who "plot evil" do eventually go astray. They work hard at their plan, but in the end something trips them up- and usually it's themselves. I think of someone who has a problem with lying. They get so caught up in telling their lies that eventually even they come to believe their lies or they fabricate so many stories that they can't keep them straight.
Instead, we should try to be the person who plans for good. We want to be the hero who makes plans that result in love and faithfulness. We want to plan for the future in a way that will glorify God. That's really what it comes down to. Are we planning for a future full of "stuff" and things and keeping up with the neighbors? Or are we planning for what we can do to bring more followers for Christ? There's certainly nothing wrong with taking care of ones self or family, but we need to keep an eye on the prize as well. We want to spend eternity with our Lord, and all the stuff here on earth won't matter to that end. And a plan for evil, not only will it ultimately fail, but in the end, when you are standing in front of God, that evil plot will be revealed to all, and do you really want that? I don't think so.
Friday, February 22, 2008
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." Proverbs 21:9
This morning I was reading about finding the balance in one's life. What was being pointed out was the perfectionism that we're confronted with every single day in this country. Just look at the TV line-up and you'll see what I mean. There are channels devoted to perfectionism at every level. There's HGTV where you can see over and over how to make your garden and home perfect. There's the Food Network where you can see how to cook and how to eat perfectly, there's the Fine Living Network which shows that you need to own vineyards and islands in order to be happy. I could go on and on with examples. And sometimes we can watch these shows or channels and feel inspired to make a change or do something- and that is never really a bad thing. Or is it?
What about the people who watch those shows on decluttering the home, and then they look around their own home at their disaster and feel discouraged. So discouraged, that it doesn't even occur to them to try and take action. That's where we find so many people, in a state of discouragement, because they think they'll fail before they even start. That's where we may find many women in the verse I posted up above. She may be a in a state of discontent because no matter what she could do, she's never going to be able to keep up with the Joneses.
But there is a way to find balance and contentment. You can try with just a little bit at a time. Instead of cleaning out your entire house of clutter, you can choose to clean out one drawer, or underneath one piece of furniture. There is truly no need to reach for the state of prefection. It's taken me a long time to learn that lesson. I used to be embarassed inviting people to our house with the current state of our furniture. But you know what? They really don't care. Our friends know they are welcome in our home- and that's what matters most. Sure, I'd love new furniture, but I also know that it would be completely irresponsible of me to get new furniture. That money needs to go elsewhere. And I used to worry about not being Martha. Not having every drawer and cupboard perfectly organized. And again, no one really cares. Sometimes, I do find myself attacking a cupboard in an effort to clean it out, and when it's done, there is always a sense of accomplishment. But I also know that all of my cupboards are not going to be clean at one time. It's just not going to happen. If it did, I would likely be the woman in that verse today. Angry and quarrelsome, because I've spent every waking moment trying to make my house perfect. And then my son would come through and make a mess and drive me batty.
" All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty." Proverbs 14:23
All hard work is rewarded- no matter what it is. Even if it's something as basic as cleaning off a counter or one shelf. One task at a time can bring a great reward for the person who does the task- a true sense of accomplishment. We don't learn to walk by getting up from crawling and starting to run. We start by taking baby steps. We take a step, and then we fall or step backwards. But then we get back up and try again. A clean and organized home can be had, it just takes baby steps. And as long as we realize that we don't need to be perfect- that our home isn't going to be featured on a national TV show, we can take one step at a time and bring our home to the place where it should be. And for me, that should be in a state of welcome. A state of cozyness and warmth so that all who enter know that they are welcome.
"She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness." Proverbs 31:27
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Then we volunteered for something that I had never thought of volunteering for- the simple task of taking care of the morning coffee. Lo and behold, the woman who had been taking care of this very thing for years was tired of doing it. She didn't want to do it anymore and was beyond thrilled that we volunteered to do so.
The lesson learned there is that you never know. When you're feeling like you need to step up and volunteer to do something, maybe that's God's way of telling you that someone else needs a break, or it's time for you to do something different. Fear should be no part of it.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
Sometimes it does take a bit of courage... when I volunteered to play the drums again, I kept chiding myself for doing so. I was so nervous that first time I played! I don't know why- I'd played for years at another church and with the school band, but this was something new. This was showing a whole group of peers that I had this talent that they never knew about. Seriously, let me tell you, I really felt like throwing up the first time I sat behind the drum set a few months back. And then just a few weeks later I was hauling in congas and percussion things and doing something that I never even thought of doing before. It was crazy, but apparently God had a reason for pulling me out of my comfort zone. The simple act of being able to contribute something at church has really helped me feel a renewed purpose for even going to church.
It did take an act of courage for me to step up and volunteer, but there was no fear, because I knew what God wanted from me. I pray that He will continue to give me courage when I need it, because I know there's more coming...
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9 (NIV)
I love the fact that the Bible comes in so many translations. Today I read the Verse of The Day and it puzzled me. I wasn't quite sure what it was getting at, so I went and looked up the verse in a couple of different translations. This is what I ended up with from the NLT:
" Love prospers when a fault is forgiven,
but dwelling on it separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9
This verse is just so true, and it's much more clear in the second version as well. How often do we dwell on people's mistakes, but not on the good that they've done. We're always so quick to point out other people's faults, that we don't realize that sometimes we're genuinely hurting feelings and causing our relationship with that person to be broken. Instead, we should be doing just the opposite. We should be building our friends up- we should be encouraging them, not tearing them down. People remember the bad more than they remember the good. Why is that? I can still remember conversations that didn't go well from over 10 years ago...yet when I try to think of a good conversation with the same people, nothing comes to me.
Maybe if we spent more time scrutinizing the good and looking for the good we'd spend less time dwelling on the bad. I'm thinking that looking through rose-colored glasses and looking for the best in everyone and everything isn't such a bad idea. By making a conscious effort to look at the glass as half full, we can completely change the way we relate to other people. Imagine someone getting up in front of a group and talking for the first time. They do a terrible job...if you told them they did a terrible job, they'd likely never get up there again. But if you look for the good points- tell them you liked their message, the sound of their voice, or something else that you particularly liked that they said, they will remember that. They will feel bolstered by your encouragement, and perhaps get up and speak again another day.
We need to spend more time dwelling on the good instead of the bad. We need to look for ways to build up our brothers and sisters, because they get enough discouragement from the world around them. As friends, it is our job to do the opposite and show them love.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
But then this person in my devotional asked about how my life would have been different had I not accepted Christ at such a young age. What path of destruction might I have chosen had I not had the Holy Spirit guiding me... I shudder to even think of it. Which kids would have been my friends in school? Would I have been one of those teen moms? Would I have felt more free to experiment with alcohol and drugs? I'll never know, but I am so glad now that I don't have that dramatic testimony.
" I will sing of the LORD's great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
3 You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
4 'I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.' "
5 The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD ?
Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings?
7 In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.
8 O LORD God Almighty, who is like you?
You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you." Psalm 89:1-8
Monday, February 18, 2008
This is really an amazing verse to read this morning. According to what I am reading here, there is absolutely nothing that can come between me and God. Nothing! He will always love me and you, and there is nothing that can change that. We could be in the midst of absolute persecution, and God's Love will still be there for us. God's Love supercedes all, no matter what.
That can be such an encouragement in times of distress, or in times where we feel our spirit is struggling. Those times when maybe we question our faith, and whether or not there really is a God out there, God still loves us. We may even have done some horrible things in our past that continue to haunt us today- guess what! God still loves us and wants us to let go of the past! God's Love forgives us of all our sins- ALL, not just one or two of the minor ones, He forgives us of every single bit of wrongdoing.
For God IS Love, and nothing can come between us and His Everlasting Love.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
All this to say that I'm tired of feeling yucky, and I'm ready to be done with it Lord.
"This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
"He took up our infirmities
and carried our diseases." Matthew 8:17
You can take it away anytime now.
Friday, February 15, 2008
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways." Psalm 25:8
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:5
Sometimes it can really seem like God isn't answering our prayers. We can pray and pray about something, and feel confident that God will answer, but then time goes by. We begin to doubt that those prayers will be answered. Or we keep one eye on the calendar and pray for something before a certain date, and then when it doesn't happen when we think it should happen, we become discouraged. As Eve was tempted above by the devil to doubt God, so too can we feel tempted to doubt.
The reminder, which sometimes I need to turn to daily, is in the Bible. There is no doubting God's love for us. He has already shown His goodness and Mercy to us by sending His son to die for us. For me. What I can see and feel in front of me is not the way to measure God's goodness and provision. That's why I turn to my Bible. As each day passes, I learn more and more about God's goodness and mercy, and it gives me hope. And it helps me to place my trust in Him daily. And after a while we gain the confidence to trust in His goodness wholly.
All we need to do is look at the ultimate sacrifice made for us. Jesus gave up His life willingly for you and me. How can we even let doubt creep into our trust in God. He will answer our prayers in His time. And in the meantime, we can revel in the glory to come.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I like the last sentence of this verse in particular today. Jesus was talking to the disciples here, but I think it also applies to us as Christians. It says that by loving each other, all men will know that we are Christ's followers. Simply by loving. Not even by doing good works or by praying for others, or by performing miracles. Simply showing love to others will show them that we are different, that we follow a God of love.
There could be worse things to be known for, I think.
This also tells me that there is no better example for others than by showing them love and kindness. By showing love to our neighbors, we are showing them that life with God at the head of our lives is a wonderful, loving thing.
Think about that the next time you're tempted to do something not so kind. For what are we showing when we are not showing love?
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psalm 51:10-12
Renew and restore. We all need that sometimes. If you've been reading my blog here for awhile you know that I've been in that period for a long time. For a good year at least, I want to say, Andy and I were in a period of being bored and going through the motions because we felt we had to. Thank God he lifted us out of that. Thank God we once again have purpose and His Spirit is guiding us in a time of renewal and restoration. It's absolutely wonderful to wake up in the morning excited for a new day, and it's incredible to wake up on a Sunday morning raring and ready to go for church. The thing is, it's contagious. Even our children wake up Sunday mornings excited that it's Sunday. They love Sunday School, and they just love being at church with Mom and Dad every week.
And then there's our Sunday group. I can't tell you how many times we would clean the house for group wishing we didn't have to. Yet God had a purpose there, and we continuted, and now, today, it's Wednesday, and we're already thinking about getting ready for our group on Sunday. We had to miss last week because I was sick, and we really and truly missed it. It feels as if our week wasn't complete.
The point here is that David turned to God and asked for His help. He asked His Lord to lift him out of his funk and renew his heart. And God did. If you want that excitement, that feeling of rejuvenation and renewal, all you need to do is ask. Turn to God, lift your voice towards heaven and ask him to renew his Spirit in you and He will. It's just as simple as that. Sometimes, that's what he wants. He wants us to long for Him and His spirit, and He wants us to want Him. He wants us, more than anything, but a relationship is a two way street, we need to want Him in our lives as well, and all we need to do is turn to Him and ask, and He will answer with a most definite Yes.
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20
Will you invite Him in?
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
When I checked out the verse of the day today, (and yesterday for that matter) I noticed that both days were parts of 1 Corinthians 13. Strange, it's never done that before. But then I realized that it's actually Valentine's week here, and that would be the reason for the love verses. (Insert rolling eyes smiley here.) See, Andy and I, we don't celebrate Valentine's day. In any way, shape or form. We celebrate our love, our marriage, and our lifetime together as one every single day of the year. Every year at this time we just shake our heads, and can't imagine why we would need to celebrate "luv" to each other via expensive gifts and dinners out.
Instead, we choose to take our example of love from the Bible. Rather than the commercial sense of love that says that we should be buying each other extravagant gifts, we choose to honor each other each and every day that we draw breath. The verse above says that love ALWAYS protects, ALWAYS trusts, ALWAYS hopes, and ALWAYS perseveres. Always. Not a few days a year just because the calendar says we should. And the best part about this love that we share, is that the Bible here is not necessarily talking about romantic love. It's talking about real love. True love for another human being- and even better, not just for our spouse. It's talking about the love we have for a brother or sister, or the love we have for a neighbor- the love that has us walk over in a 30 below windchill just to say hi and see how they're doing.
Love truly is a wonderful thing, and we don't need a date on the calendar to remind us to love, and we especially don't need to spend money to show our love.
"These things I command you, that ye love one another." John 15:17
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:36-39
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Friday, February 08, 2008
for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23
Growing up, people always used to say "garbage in-garbage out". This verse goes right along with that. Now, before anyone gets all alarmed, this isn't going to be any kind of lecture about watching the right TV shows or movies, or listening to the right music or reading the right books. Only you can know yourself and know what is best for you personally. But at the same time, we do need to watch ourselves and what we participate in. I think about when I'm reading a fantasy book or series. I love to read good fantasy- that's one of my favorite genres. But I need to watch myself when I get involved in such a book because it can consume my time. I can end up wasting a few days just because all I want to do is read that book. When my heart's desire moves away from caring for my family, and instead drifts toward reading ALL THE TIME, I need to stop and take a step back.
That's when I need to re-focus, and I need to do that by spending time in one book- the Bible. Just a few minutes every day reminds me where my heart is and what I should be doing. I need to be mindful of when I'm not spending enough time reading my Bible- it's important. Reading the Bible nourishes my soul- so much more so than any novel or cooking book could do.
"The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8
Thursday, February 07, 2008
I saw this verse this morning on Verse Of The Day and it almost alarmed me. I could very easily see this being mis-interpreted and causing problems for many. "Let those who love the Lord hate evil." First of all, this is a bit of a surprise to me, here we are in the Bible, with a verse that's giving us permission to hate. But notice, please notice, that it doesn't say to hate evil PEOPLE. The Bible says to hate the wrong-doing and the evil itself, but not the person who is doing it or causing it. We are told by Jesus himself to love our enemies.
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:43,44
We love the people who are causing the evil, and perhaps it is our live that will free them from the evil that enslaves them. God is love, and since we are made in his image, we should exude with that love for our fellow human beings at all times. Without that love, without loving others as ourselves, we become nothing.
"...if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:2
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
I like this little snip of parable this morning. This verse, these words from Jesus, are all about focus, and keeping it. Once upon a time fields used to be plowed with a hand tool, and a horse or a mule to pull it. A man plowing a field needed to keep his head forward at all times to make sure he plowed in a straight line. It was tough work to break a field, and any deviation from a straight line would mean less yield in the end. A plowman needs to keep his focus forward at all times.
As followers of Christ, we need to keep our head forward at all times too. We need to keep our eyes on the prize at the end and keep going forward. We need to keep our hearts and minds tuned into our purpose, our reason for breath. Our purpose is to worship God, and along the way, share His love with those around us, but always keeping our eyes on God. We can't continue forward in our walk with God if we are continuously looking at what's behind us. We can't undo what is in our past, we can only look forward and praise God for what is and what is to come.
I, for one, am glad for that. It may be fun sometimes to reminisce and think about things gone by, but for the most part, I would never want to really look back and re-live a moment or two. All we can do is learn from life, and learn from our past, and then continue to move forward. If you look behind you while driving a car, you put yourself at great risk for an accident. So keep focused forward. Let's keep our eyes on God and what he is going to lay before us. It's certain to be wonderful.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
26"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go." Matthew 18:23-27
The servant in this story was in posession of a debt that he could not pay. He would never be able to pay this debt- and it was a great one at that. Yet when he asked his master for mercy, for a little time to take care of this debt, the master took pity and forgave him the whole thing. He didn't give the servant more time, or the means to make the money to re-pay him, instead he just forgot the whole debt- the whole amount. When I first read this it struck me as a nice story of mercy, and justice in the end, and about being able to forgive those who offend you.Yet when you really read it, when you really read this part, this is so much like God, and what he has done for us. We don't deserve God's love, or eternal life through Christ. As failing humans, we deserve death and punishment and an eternity in misery. Yet our God took mercy on us and showed us compassion and has forgiven us all of our debt. All of it. By falling on our knees and asking him for forgiveness of our sins, not only does he forgive us, but he also grants us an eternity in paradise. That is grace, all the way. And God's Grace knows no limits. It doesn't matter what horrible sins we've committed, God's Grace will erase them from existence and accept us into His presence.
His love for us is great- so great. I don't deserve His grace, but I am thankful for it and gratefully fall to my knees in adoration. I am His servant, and He holds my heart.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Last night at our group study we had a really good conversation about how we as Christians represent God here on earth. It was a really interesting discussion. We all talked about how difficult it can be to walk that thin line between being "in-your-face" and annoying, versus being too withdrawn and "strange". It seems to me that there can be a good balance, the tought part is finding it.
I think about my neighbors- our physical neighbors. They all know that we go to church and are Christians, and I expect that they probably spend a lot of time studying us, seeing how we live our lives to see if we're strange or out there or...whatever. So what would it tell the nieghbors if one day we decided to throw a big party with lots of drinking and what-not. Or what would it tell the neighbors if I spent all my time lounging in the backyard myself doing nothing but yell at my kids... or even, what would it say to the neighbors if they overheard me talking bad about another neighbor, or complaining all the time. We need to remember that as Christ's Ambassadors, we are the world's example of Christ here on earth. We need to view our neighbors with love and also our own home and family with love. This love shows!
I used to find myself yelling a lot at my kids. I don't think much more than any other kids, but I would go upstairs and find them doing something they shouldn't have been doing and I would raise my voice and yell at them. This was something that I struggled with a lot as a young parent. It was easy to tell, to scold my children with a raised voice. Yet after a while, it occurred to me that the raised voice wasn't working- they still were misbehaving from time to time, and then...then I noticed that my daughter started yelling at her brother when he would do something wrong. At about the same time, I noticed more often the occasional noise from next door, and I really became ashamed of myself.
We live in a duplex, which means we have a shared wall with our neighbors. And I can't help but figure that if we can hear the occasional vacuum or washing machine from next door, that they can hear mom screaming like a banshee at her children. Andy has spent a good deal of time talking to this neighbor, being friendly and neighborly, and things like church have come up from time to time. What kind of an example was I being!! So I have been working on the yelling- a lot. And it is definitely making a big difference with my children, and I praise God for that. But I also hope that it's making a difference with the neighbors. I hope our good example stands, and that we can continue to do so.
Being under a miscroscope may not always be fun, but if having my life scrutinized by those around me means that they are more likely to want to get to know my Lord better, it's worth every ounce of scrutinization. I can only pray that God will continue to show me the areas I need to improve.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Isn't it?! We cannot conceive in our minds what wonderful things God has prepared for us. That's just incredibly exciting to me- that we will get to experience something completely new and different from God- and you know it's going to be awesome, whatever it is. We have never even imagined such a place while here on earth. Even the most exotic fantasy novel won't be able to compare what God has waiting for us in heaven.
I imagine that in this regard, God is kind of like a parent on Christmas morning. You spend time and money tracking down and wrapping up the ideal gifts and you can't wait to show them to your kids. I suspect God is like that up in heaven. He is excited himself and can't wait to reveal what he has for us- but he also knows not to reveal it before its time. He doesn't want to spoil the excitment or the wonder of that wonderful day when it is shown to us.
It's like that song "I Can Only Imagine..." only I don't think we really can imagine, can we?
Friday, February 01, 2008
I have been thinking about Exodus and Moses all week! Who knew that reading these passages for our study on Sunday would result in week-long contemplation! And it seems like everywhere I turn right now I am seening references to the exact same thing. Even a television show I watched last night completely talked about Moses and how he learned to listen to God. I read a book yesterday that was fiction, but all about heeding God's voice and waiting on God's timing.
This verse above is the perfect example of Moses waiting on God's timing. Moses had listened to God, and gone to Pharaoh, and instead of letting the Israelites go, Pharaoh brought harsher punishment on the Israelites. Moses was getting frustrated, because God wasn't following through on his promises to Moses. Just imagine how that must have felt at the time. I imagine that Moses felt a bit like a fool- he shared his promises with the people of Israel, and when they weren't released from their slavery, I bet they blamed him. And then things got even worse for them, and they did blame Moses for it. Yet as we read ahead in Exodus, we learn that God did follow through eventually. God's promises were fulfilled when it was best for God's plans. By the time Pharaoh let the Israelites go, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that it was by God, and God alone that they were released. And not only the Israelited knew it was because of God, but the Egyptians knew it was from God. And the neighboring nations knew that it was from God. Had the Israelites been released right at the beginning, God would not have gotten the glory.
This is such an encouragement to remember in times of distress and trouble. When we are in the worst of circumstances, we can still cry out to God to help us, and he will hear us and answer us. We just need to remember that sometimes, we need to wait on His timing. He knows when it is best to lift us from despair. It is in God and God's timing that we can put our faith and our trust. He will follow through- of that there is no doubt.