Wednesday, December 31, 2008
In Disney's movie of The Lion King, there is a part where Simba is talking with Rafiki(the monkey) about going back to Pride Rock to take his place as king. Simba is talking about how he didn't know if he could face all the other lions with his bad past. Rafiki suddenly grabs his stick and whacks Simba over the head with it. Angry, Simba asks "what did you do that for?" To which Rafiki laughs and replies "it doesn't matter, it's in the past."
These verses in Isaiah today are absolutely perfect for this morning, as today is the last day of 2008. I love the excitement of a new year. A new year means a new beginning, and that's always an opportunity to take up something new or correct a behavior, or...just do something new! But often times, people approach the new year with something other than anticipation or excitement, rather, they approach it with regret. Regret can be a dangerous enemy, because it can keep us from moving forward. We get so focused on the past and what we did wrong that we forget to look forward to see what's right in front of us. Right here in Isaiah though, we see exactly what we need to do- we need to not dwell on the past. Because, really, what good does it do to dwell on the past? We can't go back and change a thing, all we can do is change what we are doing today, and change what we can be tomorrow. We can't change the past.
Do I have regrets about this past year? I do have some, none that I will go into detail on, but I can say that if I focused on the regrets I do have, it would consume me and make me a very bitter and depressed person. Really. I handled a few situations poorly this year, we made some changes in our lives, that while we're happy with the changes, wish we'd have made them sooner. And there are other things... but you know, I also know that the things that we experienced in our past were part of what helped shape me into the person I am today. Each and every day I am learning to be more and more like Jesus, and because of what Jesus did for me over 200o years ago, I don't have to dwell on or worry about what is in the past. Today I am a new person, and I cannot wait to see what new things God has in store for me in 2009!
Because He's going to do something. :) It says right here in Isaiah that he is doing a new thing, and I am so ready for it. I am ready for whatever it is He wants from me, but I can't do it if I am so focused on my past. Instead, I choose to let the past go, I choose to let 2008 close, and open 2009 with a fresh, new slate, full of new opportunity and new chances to share God's love with those around us.
I choose to let the past stay in the past, because it doesn't matter, it's in the past. I choose to look forward, and look up, so I don't miss what's coming at me.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Jesus has already fought the fight for us so that we don't need to. Look, right here in John he says "I have overcome the world." And he has done just that. Jesus already paid the price for us so that we do not have to be troubled by this world. We don't! We have peace in Christ, and it's there for us for the taking. If I read the headlines or watch the world news reports they are so full of doom and gloom. They are full of disasters and economic trouble and are overall, full of bad news. When did reporting the news become just about reporting the bad? I guess I'm just thinking that as a Christian, I can look at those new reports in one of two ways. On one hand, I can look at them, see how terrible things are, and I can go along with it. I can get caught up in worry and concern and panic. OR. I can turn my thoughts and my mind to heaven, and grab hold of the peace the passes all understanding. I can praise God, because I know that despite terrible things, He's got my back and will see me through.
I guess it just changes how I look at things to really think about God's peace. I guess when something bad happens to us, I always think about how that is an opportunity for God to really do something cool. Losing a job is an opportunity for a great new one to come along- or an opportunity to do something during the time off. Andy may very well be at the beginning of a lay-off time. And at first thought, that makes me really nervous about finances, but I guess I just don't dwell on the negative, and instead, I think about how cool it's going to be to be able to tell everyone we know about how God sees us through the hard times. I can still tell you with absolute certainty that two years ago, our income and our expenses do not line up. I paid far more bills than we had money for during Andy's lay-off time. Yet, somehow I was able to meet each and every one of our obligations, and our checking account remained solvent. God provided completely. This year, God provided extra work for Andy several months before he even needed it- now that is just plain cool. When those people started calling in October, looking for Andy to build sets for them this winter, we knew that was God telling us that he had our back this winter. Yet, in a week here, Andy could very well be called back to work, it's all in God's hands how things work out.
Regardless how things work out, I'm not worrying about it a bit, because I have a real peace about everything. Now that is a true gift from God, I've never had peace about Andy's impending lay-off time, and it's always been stressful for us. But you know, when we succumb to the stress and permit our minds to dwell on it, it consumes us. It's all I can think about, how we're going to pay this bill and that bill. It takes up every waking second, and even some sleeping seconds as well. So I rebuke the stress. I rebuke the worry and the bad thoughts that come because of it. Instead, I rejoice and I thank God for his provision and for the great things that are to come. If Andy has time off, it's because he needs the time off. If Andy works, it's because he needs to work. Regardless, the bills will be paid and the peace will remain. I have compete faith in Jehovah Jireh, our provider, and Jehovah Shalom, our God of peace.
Monday, December 29, 2008
You know, I read this verse this morning, and I just heard that first line so crystal clear in my head. It was almost like a movie voice over, and the voice saying the verse was so calming and enchanting to listen to. I could hear the compassion, almost as if God was looking down, seeing the trouble in our hearts and just wanted us to know that everything was going to be all right. In fact, Jesus was speaking this verse to his disciples in the book of John. He was comforting their hearts because he just finished sharing with them that he was going to be betrayed and would be away from them for a time. He wanted to comfort their sadness and let them know that everything was going to be all right.
And I think that we can read this verse, hear the voice in our heads, and take the exact same comfort from it. In those times where our hearts may be troubled by one thing or another, it certainly is encouraging to read this verse and see, straight from the mouth of Jesus, "don't let your hearts be troubled." Then he takes that a step further and says to trust in God, and trust in Him. That can be tough to do sometime, and I have to say that if I opened my Bible and simply read "Trust in God, trust in Me." I wouldn't think much of it. I would wonder what on earth it meant, and quite honestly, it doesn't read very well all by itself, does it? But you add that little bit at the front of it- add that "Do not let your hearts be troubled" and you can feel the soothing balm just settle on your soul. You can prepare your heart for the words to come, and as you feel the compassion behind that statement, you can then take courage feel emboldened by "Trust in God, trust in Me." That makes the adrenaline flow almost instantly and it's like "Yes! That's what I need to do, and all will be right."
It brings tranquility in a sea of despair. It calms the troubles and the madness and the frantic nature of life, and share what we need to hear, just when we need to hear it. I will put my complete trust in God and in Jesus, and I will not allow my heart to be troubled by anything. Instead, I will turn aside that doubt, and simply dig deeper into the Bible and see what else my heart needs to hear. And a few verses later, this is what Jesus also tells his disciples, and it goes hand-in-hand with what we read at the beginning of the chapter, it shares with us the peace that only God can give through his son, Christ Jesus.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14;27
Saturday, December 27, 2008
"Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so." Genesis 1:29-30
Since I have been blessed with the gardening bug, I think it should come as no surprise that God likes to talk to me through plants and gardening. Every time I plant something in the ground and watch the entire process of growing, I am completely amazed. And when I read Genesis all over again, I get excited when I get to the third day, because God created plants on the third day- He didn't wait until later on, like the fifth or sixth day, he created the vegetation straight off. Then, three days later after he'd created man, he gave them the vegetation and the seed bearing plants to do with as they please.
Here it is, December 27th, and I'm already dreaming of spring. I talk to God a lot about my garden, how I'd like it to be wonderful this year, and about how much I'm looking forward to doing my planning, and ordering seeds, and starting the seeds... the seed catalogs have started rolling in, and as I leaf through them, I compliment God on all the wondrous variety that He has created. Tomatoes come in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, green, white, purple and black! Carrots come in orange, yellow, red, white, and purple, and various shades thereof. I love to think about the carrots, because not only are the colors an amazing variety, but with each color comes a different set of vitamins and nutrients. Only God would think to nestle powerful antioxidants into the colors of fruits and vegetables!
So as I'm looking out the window at all the snow... and as I make my way outside from day to day, ruing the cold and wishing for spring, I know that it's coming. I know that God created the seasons, and while I still don't like winter, the best part of winter is that spring is next. Spring, a time of new beginnings, and while it's winter, I can rest and plan and take care of some tasks inside that will be pushed aside once it's nice enough out. I have to think that if we didn't have winter, I wouldn't appreciate spring so much, and for that I'm thankful. God knew what he was doing, and I continue to marvel at all of His creation day in and day out.
Friday, December 26, 2008
you surround them with your favor as with a shield." Psalm 5:12
I wasn't totally sure I was going to blog this morning. Every once in a while it's nice to take a day or two break, and while usually it's when I'm sick or on vacation, this time, I just liked having my mornings with my kids. And as I thought about that, I thought I needed to blog this morning, because this has just been such a wonderful couple of days.
In the past, we've really gotten caught up in Christmas frenzy. Not so much in the last year or two, but beyond that, I can look back and see how we totally lost Christmas in with how busy we made ourselves. We'd commit to activity after activity, and in between commitments, we'd be stressing about all the gifts we needed to buy and the lack of funds for doing so. I would even stress about being in the kitchen, about having to make so many cookies and candies, and inevitably all the stress the several weeks prior led to me not feeling well sometime during Christmas week. It's interesting how the lack of stress leads to a much healthier holiday season.
But I've been blessed by several months of focus prior to Christmas...focus on God, and because of that, Christmas has been especially blessed. Not only has it been a time to focus on God and what he has done for us this past year, but it has also been a time of rest, if you can believe it. Other than a few household chores, it's been a time to simply spend with family, enjoying each other's company and sharing what God has done with us. I woke up this day after Christmas, and I truly do feel as if I've had a vacation- you know that feeling? The feeling where you've had several days where you have not needed to really worry about much more than what's for dinner, it's a wonderful feeling, and not one I expect to have in the midst of a normally harried holiday season.
I am so thankful to God this morning for that. I do feel rested, and I expect this feeling to continue well into next week as we finished out the year of 2008. I thank God for his peace, for his provision that provides that peace, and for rest. I feel completely blessed, and it's not because of a gift I might have found underneath a Christmas tree, but rather, it's because of a gift that dwells inside of me.
"Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure" Psalm 16:9
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:8-14
I'm going to be taking a couple of days off from the computer to enjoy Christmas with my family. Be blessed and have a wonderful couple of days. See you on Friday.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
5Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
6When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink." Luke 5:4-7
I was reading a book last night, and came across this verse and read it a few times. Then this morning, I was still thinking about this verse, so I decided to look it up in a few versions to see how it read in other versions. This is one of those that doesn't change a whole lot from version to version. This little story in Luke is about when Jesus first called Simon (Peter) to follow him, and these few verses are so full of meaning, I guess maybe I just didn't really look at it before. In the Bible the act of fishing is frequently used to represent catching up people for Jesus. And once again, that is what is going on here.
Simon followed Jesus' directions and even though he hadn't caught anything all night long, but as soon as he heard the voice of Jesus give him direction, he followed it and cast his nets, and then he caught fish. I cannot help but think that this is talking about "the church". So many churches are working long into the night (metaphorically), but not seeing any results. The problem is that they are relying on man and not listening to what Jesus has to say to them. But when they tune in, when they listen and follow His direction, the results are more than they could have imagined possible. I also notice that there was no discussion... no questioning of Jesus' directions, and no discussion with the other people on the boat as to whether or not to do as he said. They simply did it, no questions asked and were rewarded for their faith.
But the real nugget here in today's verses is in verse seven."So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them..." This right here tells us that churches of today are not doing what they are supposed to. In general, we spend our time recruiting and advertising and trying to get people to come to our church versus the other churches in town. It's almost a competition, and we gaze wistfully across the road at all the people going into that church and wonder how we can get some of them to come to our church. When in fact, instead of being competitors, we should be partners. We should be calling on each other to help. When our seats are overflowing and our congregation swelling, our first thoughts are to add services, add onto our building, or build something new. Instead, we should be calling on our other partners in Christ to help, we should be calling to our partners to come join with us, and fill their nets as well. We should be working together for the same goal, that of winning souls for Jesus. This isn't to say that our churches should be the same, they were, after all, different boats, but there should be a willingness to share, not a desire to hoard and keep the blessings of God all to ourselves.
We should be fishing together. And when we hear that someone is attending a church, the first things out of our mouth should not be about how much better our church is, but how great it is that they've found a church to go to. We all have a common goal, a common purpose, and I just can't help but think that it's time to set aside our differences and work together for those goals and purposes. We should be building each other up, not trying to tear each other down for our own benefit.
Monday, December 22, 2008
This was one of the verses that our Pastor talked about yesterday at church. As soon as I read it, something clicked and I thought, I'm blogging about that tomorrow after thinking on it some more. So I've been thinking on it, and my first thought is that it's really a shame that when everyone memorizes John 3:16, that they don't just tack this on the end as well. It speaks volumes about one of the things that I think we do wrong as Christians... "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world," If Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, why is it that we do so often?
Because we do! We put on our Christian hats and walk around like we're better than everyone around us, like we have some secret to being happy, and nope, we're not sharing, because we're better than them, and why would we want to even think about talking and mingling with those of the world. I know you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't experienced it yourself, or done it yourself, you've seen it. What's so awful is that is such the opposite of how we should be behaving. Jesus came to save. Jesus, who was filled with compassion and love for even the most unlovable, came to earth to die for us, and we can't be bothered to share that wonderful news with those around us?
So I see Christmas as an opportunity. It's an opportunity as we're spending time with friends, family, loved ones, and not so loved ones, to practice what we read in the Bible. It's an opportunity to stop looking at others with eyes of condemnation or pity, and an opportunity for empathy and compassion. It's an opportunity to love, because Jesus loved us first, and that's what he would do. Jesus loved unconditionally, he didn't look at a person and think about how he didn't agree with their choices in life. He would simply love them and hopefully in that act of loving, he would make a difference in that person's life.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:16-18
Those people who we walk past every day without another thought are already condemned... they are condemned because the don't know the same Jesus that we do, and it's up to us to share that great news with them and pull them out of condemnation. It is our job to reverse the condemnation on their lives, not add to the condemnation by turning up our noses at them.
So let's act and believe and love this Christmas. I pray that as I come across those who need his love, that it will ooze from my pores and they will know that I have something that they need. Christmas should be about love, and I plan to do my best to make it that way.
Friday, December 19, 2008
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace." Luke 1:76-79
I read this verse of the day this morning and immediately had to go read the rest of the chapter. This portion comes at the end of Zachariah's song, after the birth of his son John, who will grow to be John the Baptist. When I finished reading the chapter, I thought about being Elizabeth or Zachariah shortly after this moment. When Zachariah was sharing his prophecy about his son, he was full of the Holy Spirit, and praising God with his heart and soul, but what about a little later on. Maybe the next morning after celebrating long into the night. What about that moment where they held their son and thought of what had been said about him, and then realized the immense responsibility they had for this child. This child had a purpose in life- even just a few hours old, they knew that he was going to be a prophet of God. That really makes me think.
Would I raise my children differently if I knew what they were going to be later in life? If my children were going to be in the ministry somewhere, would that change how I raise them? Well, my first instinct would have been to say that yes, of course it did. If I knew my daughter was going to be a singer, for example, I would have her in voice lessons and choirs and anything that would help her down the road. But then I really thought about my own question. If I knew that Zander was going to be a Pastor someday, as an example, would I raise him any differently? And my answer then was definitely not. I wouldn't raise him any differently than I am right now. It wouldn't do any good to cloister him and shut him off from the world to focus on God and his studies. I do know that once upon a time within the church, when a boy was destined for the priesthood he would go to live with the priests at a very young age to be raised in that atmosphere. I suspect many priests and leaders in the church fell from grace for that very reason. They grew up knowing that there wasn't anything else- they never knew what it was like to be tempted by a friend to shoplift, or to say a naughty word, so when temptation came along later in life, they had no idea how to combat it. So I think that I would try to not raise my children differently, yet I wonder if I would manage that?
I guess whether my children are destined for something important or not is up to God. And I think I don't mean that like it sounds. If God has plans for my children in ministry, he will place that calling upon their lives when they need it. In the meantime though, whether they are to be called to some higher plan or not, they are my responsibility. I imagine that along the way I will have similar moments that Zachariah and Elizabeth had. Those moments where a child does something so incredibly naughty, that I wonder how God could possibly want this child for something. Or those moments where I am filled with incredible love for my children and I wish that God didn't want them for something, so that I could keep them close to me forever.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed when I think about the actual responsibilities involved in raising my children, I'll admit that freely. I wonder often if we do enough- do we talk about God enough with them? Are we being enough of an example? Do I pray enough for my children? I guess in the grand scheme of things, these are all excellent questions, because as long as I am asking them of myself, I am doing all of them. When I stop questioning I've become too confident, and that's probably not a good place to be.
And just as Zachariah was filled with joy at the birth of his son, it seems that most days these days, I am filled to bursting with joy at my children. They've just been something special lately, and it's been an incredibly fun holiday season with them. I am so thankful for the responsibility that God has blessed me with in my children, and I pray that he keeps me mindful of the responsibilities I do have towards these wonderful little people.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I sort of wasn't looking forward to last night. We had Abigail's first Nutcracker dress rehearsal, and for me, that means a long night! I drop off Abigail at the high school where the performance will be, and then basically, Zander and I have three hours to kill. I don't feel comfortable dropping her and then running somewhere, so it means three long hours sitting in a high school commons area. That can get very boring! But Zander packed a backpack of things, and I tucked a few things into my purse, and we managed to fill our time by spending it together doing a few fun things.
Abigail, on the other hand, was beyond excited. She loves the Nutcracker and dancing in it, and last night she was a big old ball of joy when we dropped her off. We did catch a glimpse of her once during the rehearsal, and her eyes were like saucers- she was having a fantastic time, and I think that Zander and I caught that from her, because that three hours passed by much faster than I'd expected it would. I think part of that is because I decided that instead of leaving Zander to his own devices and hunkering down with a book, I decided that that time would be a great time to just spend with my son. Often times at home I get busy with things around the house, but this was three hours of time that I could just focus on him. We had a great time playing cards and cars and video games, and he got all silly and did some dancing, and he just was a joyful little boy last night.
Children amaze me all the time by how easily they bubble over with joy and excitement, specifically my children. Abigail can come home from school with the tiniest little reward in her hand, and it's as if she's won the lottery, and I think there's a lesson that we as adults can take from our children. Children are joy! They look for joy! They don't walk around looking at the glass as half-empty, and they don't purposefully look for the problems in something. They look at the glass as half full, and they look for the joy and the fun in things. Children are so open to joy that it just comes on them when it's least expected sometime. I've been trying to grab at those moments of joy myself, because life is so much more than woe is me and why aren't things better. I want to have joy in the now, and everyday. I want the joy of the Lord to fill me so that every moment is joyful and wonderful, and I want to capture the joy that my children experience all the time, and I want them to stay that way forever.
Maybe by being an example of joy myself, I can show them that being an adult isn't all doom and gloom. By showing them that living for God and living a life of joy is normal and wonderful, I'm giving them a spectacular example. So really, we're learning from each other. I'm learning how to experience the joy of a child from them, and they're learning that it's okay for an adult to experience joy. That's wonderful, and I pray that joy will follow us throughout this holiday season.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I've been hearing a lot in the last week about fasting. Whether in a sermon, blog post, or read in the Bible, the subject of fasting has been coming up a lot. Something I've discovered in the last several months is that when God is saying something, sometimes it comes up a lot. Sometimes when God is talking, I'm not paying much attention, and I need to get the message over and over and over. I read these verses in Ezra today and simply shook my head, as once again, the subject of fasting has come up to me. Shoot, I think I may have dreamed that someone mentioned fasting to me. Clearly, I need to spend some time in prayer and fasting. However, as I learned earlier this year, fasting for me does not mean that I'm going to starve myself, and I need to spend some quiet time with God to find out exactly what it is I am to fast. Last summer I went over a month without watching TV, and by spending that time with God, I grew exponentially. So for me, a good fast is to stay away from watching TV.
Fasting though, is much more than just giving something up for a period of time, it's also about using your time wisely. When you fast a meal, instead of just going about your day being hungry, you should be using your regular meal time to spend with God. Instead of watching TV or surfing the net for your regularly scheduled time, you open up your Bible and focus on God instead of the blinky boxes. Fasting is a way to carve out a period of time just for you and God. It also can be a reality check. I discovered last summer that my world is not going to come to an end if I stop watching some of my favorite TV programs, and ever since then, TV has become less and less important to me. Where I used to watch a couple of hours of programming a night, I'm down to a scant few hours a week. It's wonderful, to be honest! Sure, I may be missing some great entertainment, but I have the best entertainment on the planet in my own two kids.
As I read these verses in Ezra though today, I saw that that prayer and fasting went hand in hand, and I read as these people petitioned God for their safety- and did so through prayer and fasting. They were serious, and desired His hand on their travels, so they fasted, to show they were serious and that they were completely relying on Him. As a group they all fasted together and sought God together- and look what happened! God answered their prayers. They had a safe journey and were protected the entire time. God does answer prayer! And while I know for certain that there are times where God answers those quick prayers whispered in haste, I suspect that he really pays attention to those prayers that are prayed in earnest. Often times men in the Bible fasted for a period of time and prayed constantly while they were seeking wisdom or direction from God.
So this morning and for the next few days I suspect, I'll be giving an extra few minutes of thought and prayer time to God, as I find out exactly what he would have me do in the area of fasting. Is it for a period of time? And what am I fasting? TV again? Reading? A food group? God will show me what he would like me to set aside while I focus on Him.
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:16-18
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
" 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men. 8You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." Mark 7:5-8
This whole chapter in Mark is such a fascinating chapter. This is one of those times where Jesus totally broke free of tradition and began spouting off on the Pharisees. The religious leaders of that time were so caught up in maintaining tradition and the appearance of being religious that they lost sight of what it is all about- God. These men were so focused on the do's and don'ts and the doctrine that they didn't even "see" the Son of God standing before them. In this particular case, the whole episode began by eating with unwashed hands. It was a tradition in their culture to wash their hands before eating, (understandably so...) , but this time, the disciples simply ate without going through the traditional washing, which I imagine had a particular methodology as well. The Pharisees immediately called them out on it, asking Jesus why he allowed his disciples to be unclean.
Jesus kind of went off on the Pharisees then. Here they were, so focused on the rules and traditions that men had laid down, that they didn't see the bigger picture. They didn't see that it wasn't unwashed hands that made a man unclean. Jesus went on to tell them that it isn't what goes in the body that makes a man unclean, it's what comes out. And he wasn't talking about the physical stuff- he was talking about evil thoughts, slander and greed to name a few. Here, he explains further to his disciples:
"Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")
20He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' " Mark 7:18-20
We hear a lot, especially this time of year, about traditions. We do this because we've always done it. We do that because that is what the church has always done. The problem with tradition and man-made rules is that we become so focused on them that we forget to focus on God. We sit in church for our candlelight service that we always do on Christmas Eve, and we think about how beautiful the candles are, and how Christmas just wouldn't be complete without the candlelight. When instead we should be thinking about how Christmas just wouldn't be complete without Jesus. Why should it matter if our service is by candlelight, campfire, or electric lights? Christmas should be about focusing on God, about drawing closer to him, and that we can do by any light. for that matter, we can do that in the quiet of our own homes, we don't need an organized, traditional service to do that.
I guess what makes me sad about Christmas is that I see everyone buzzing around like busy bees. Like frantic busy bees. They have programs and tasks and shopping and groups to organize, and I don't think I've talked with anyone yet this December who hasn't had that frantic look in their eyes as they try to squeeze in yet another activity. It would be one thing if everyone enjoyed being so busy, but who really loves running from one thing to another, always just a little bit late. I find it amusing when someone asks how we're doing and says that we must be so busy with all the things we're involved in. Um, no. Yes, we have things to occupy some of our time, but for the second year in a row, we've made a point to not get caught up in the must-do frenzy of the season. Instead, we're relaxing, enjoying our family and drawing closer to God together. Sometimes just saying no gives me such joy... because when I'm not spending every day running like crazy, I have plenty of time for God. When I can finish my day not exhausted, I can spend time with God and focus on Him without yearning for my pillow instead.
Breaking free of tradition and those man-made rules has only served to help me get closer to God. God's rules and God's laws are really the only ones that matter. I've always been a little nontraditional myself anyway, and I pray that I can stay that way. I pray that I will not be caught up in tradition that only serves to distract me from the real reason to celebrate Christmas.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Every time I read the Christmas story I always think of Mary and what it would be like to be told by an angel that I was going to have a child, even though I'd never been with a man. I think about the courage she must have had in her heart to be the chosen woman of God for this task. This morning, though, as I read these verses in Luke, I thought of the rest of what the angel said... what did Mary think of that? As the angel tells her that her son will be great and will sit on David's throne and rule forever... as a mom, I have to tell you, that kind of changes things up a bit. I think that those statements right there would be precisely where I would draw my courage from. And it makes me really think that Mary was a woman of fantastic faith.
I'm thinking that from the outside looking in, if I was someone who just knew Mary somewhat, that she would come across as a woman of magnanimous faith. You know that you know someone like that, someone who could be told they are dying of cancer, and their face lights up and they get very excited because they know their Jesus can heal them. Mary had extreme faith that told her that everything this angel told her was going to come to pass and that she truly had no need to be afraid. Consequently, I suspect that when the angel said "do not be afraid" she took that to heart and wasn't afraid. She placed her faith in her God who chose her for this amazing task. And while I can say with certainty, that I certainly don't want an angel to show up at my doorstep telling me I'm going to have a child, I would love to have the faith and the strength that Mary had.
The kind of faith that when I read in the Bible that God will provide for my every need, that I can believe it in my heart of hearts and know it to be true, and not have that tiny portion of doubt hiding inside, hoping that God comes through on his promise.
Mary is such a fine example of a person of great faith... it's a shame that I really only focus on her when I'm thinking about Christmas. I need to remember to look at her at other times, and draw from her faith to help build up my own. And then I need to share that faith. Faith does me no good if I keep it all to myself. It's meant to be shared, and with God's help I can do just that with anyone who needs it.
Without God I am nothing, but with God... with God anything and everything is possible.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times." Micah 5:2
There were many words spoken in the Old Testament about the future birth of Jesus. It's amazing to me to look at them and see just how long before his birth that God was telling his people about His son to come. The book of Micah, for example, according to my Bible was written between 750 and 686 BC. That's at least 686 years before Jesus was born that it was being prophesied... that's absolutely incredible and mind boggling. Especially when I think about time now... I live in a country that isn't even as old as that! The book of Isaiah was written around 700 BC, and here is what he says in chapter 9, verses six and seven:
"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:6-7
I guess this is really a follow-up to yesterday's post on God's timing, because God's time can be a long, long time to us here on earth. I can imagine, that as people heard these prophecies from Isaiah and Micah that they became excited, eager to see the fulfillment in their lifetime. Who knew that they were going to have to wait around ten generations to see that fulfillment! Yet God's timing IS perfect and it serves His purpose. One of those purposes is to prove the Bible correct and accurate. When we can read a prophecy in the Old Testament, then read it's fulfillment in the New Testament, we can be assured that God sees the prophecies fulfilled. So what that does, is give us hope and encouragement when we see the prophecies in the Bible that have not yet been fulfilled! Like this passage, for example:"Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy." Isaiah 65:17-18
This passage was written around 700 BC, and has yet to be fulfilled- and it's completely fascinating to me. It says that God will create a new heavens and a new earth, and look at the next verse! The old earth and old heavens will not be remembered or come to mind. That is incredible to think about. Someday, God will create this new heavens and new earth and take us to live there, and what was will not come to our minds- it will be as if the earth as it is now never existed... wrap your mind around that! I know when I think about that, it's completely mind-boggling. Regardless, though, I read verse eighteen, and it says to rejoice forever in what is to come. That I can wrap my mind around. And even better, look here at verse 19, at these words from God."I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more." Isaiah 65:19
God will rejoice and take delight in us- his people, and the sounds of weeping and crying will be heard no more. There will be no more sadness or pain... it will be on earth as it is in heaven, and it will be so wonderful. I love reading of what is to come, because there is so much sadness in this world today, and it gives me great hope. Not just for the future promises of God to come to fruition, but if gives me hope to know that He expects a people to be there to join Him in that new earth and new heaven, which means that my effort towards my unsaved friends, family and neighbors may yet bear fruit. There is just so much encouragement in reading God's Word each and every day, and I revel in it.
I thank God for His word and for the prophecies that have been fulfilled, and I thank him for the fulfillment that is to come. It's an exciting time to be a follower of Jesus, and I pray that He keeps my heart open to what is to come.
Friday, December 12, 2008
It was the first seven words that grabbed me like a vice this morning. "But when the time had fully come..." Just typing it again grabs me! We hear a lot about God's timing... but I think it's just so important to remember and to be reminded, because we live in a gotta have it yesterday world. We're so used to having what we want when we want it- we can walk into a fast food place, order dinner, and walk back out the door with a full meal for four in just five minutes. When we go shopping, if we don't feel like waiting in a long line to be checked out, we can do it ourselves at the self-check stations. When I want to buy something, I no longer even have to leave my home to do so, a few clicks online and I can buy my item- and I can have it shipped overnight if I really want.
But God's timing is SOOOO not our timing. When he's doing a work in us, learning His timing seems to be a huge part of it. And while there is a part of me that thinks that one of the reasons for that is to learn patience, I also think that it's to learn reliance. A person can be patient for so long, but then they try to figure things out on their own... I think of when we first really became discouraged with our previous church, we just were starting to feel that maybe there was something else out their that was meant for us. But at the same time, we ignored it, and instead of just waiting on God and trying to see what he had to say to us, we did the exact opposite, instead of waiting and turning to God, we got more involved, we found more to do, thinking that we could fix the problem we were feeling internally. Obviously God knew better, and when we finally understood what He wanted for us and what He was saying to us... well, the message could not have been any clearer had the words appeared in the sky to us. Turning to ourselves and relying on ourselves to fix the problem only made it worse for us... our quick fix didn't help fix what was actually happening. I do wonder how the events of the last year would have been different had we, way back in January, decided to just talk to God and see what He wanted for us and from us.
Yet God's plans for us are revealed in due course, but first, we need to spend time with Him,and in Him. That's one thing we can be sure of, if we will turn to him and rely on him, he will let us know what he wants from us. A few months back I went through a period of really wanting to know what God has planned for me. I think in the midst of change, I just wanted to prepare myself for more changes ahead if possible. So what I did was I started reading. I read a whole slew of books written by Christian authors, and they were all great books and fine reads... but it really wasn't what I should have been doing. My thirst and quest for knowledge drove me to turn to the words of men. What I should have done is turned to the words of God. Only the Bible will give me what I need, will sustain me while I wait on God's timing.
I still have no idea what God has for my future, but you know what? I'm okay with that, because He will show me what I need to do, when I need to do it. And instead of wrestling with myself and sweating it out, I am going to enjoy the season that I'm currently in. I am going to turn to the Words of God and read them, and digest them, and see what He has to say to me within them. God's timing is perfect, and I am going to rely on that completely. His plans for me may be twenty years in the future yet. In the meantime, I can get to know Him better by reading His Words. The Bible will sustain me while I wait and listen. And when the time is fully come for me, God will let me know.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I posted that poem yesterday and it's had me thinking ever since. I've been taking a really laid back approach to Christmas this year. Normally by this time I have dozens of cookies and candies made, and I am caught up in hard-core Christmas shopping and wrapping. We also have activities going on and we're busy with this and that... but this year, not so much. Yet I look at the calendar and at first a part of me gets nervous and riddled with anxiety because I haven't done any of that yet! There's only two weeks to Christmas, and we are not ready for our so-called usual stuff.
But you know what? It doesn't matter. Because instead of focusing on the gifts this year, we're focusing on the real gift- Jesus. Instead of spending all my time in the kitchen baking and missing much of the holiday, I'll make up a few things, but I think this year we're just going to keep it simple. The thing is, despite our best intentions to remember what Christmas is about, it's so easy to get caught up in trying to make the best traditions for our kids. It's so easy to think that I have to have everything just so or the kids won't enjoy Christmas. And this year... I'm just not going to do it. Instead of being busy, we're going to enjoy children, and spend our time talking about what Christmas means to us. Oh, they'll still get gifts, but the tally will be far less this year, with much of their gifts being something to share or for the family together.
"The greatest of these is love". We're forgetting the love that our God had for his people that he sent his son to earth for us. Love is the reason for Christmas, it's why we celebrate, and it's so much more important to remember that and celebrate that love, than to celebrate presents and cookies. I am reminded of the Grinch... at the end of the story, the Grinch discovers that Christmas isn't all about the gifts or the roast beast. "Christmas," he thought "doesn't come from a store... maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
It does mean a little bit more, and I find it somewhat amusing that a secular world embraces the story of the Grinch, which in the end, talks about one of the greatest principles in the Bible- love. It's all about love, it's about spending time with those we love, and putting aside our differences. It's about loving the unloved, and it's about sharing the love with those who need it most. It's about setting a great example of love for our children.
I'm determined that this Christmas is going to be all about love.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
And I thought I'd share. I thought it might help add a little perspective as we look about our frazzled month of December.
I Corinthians 13 - A Christmas Version
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights
and shiny balls, but do not show love, I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing
gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but
do not show love, I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have
to charity, but do not show love, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend
a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus
on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in
giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
This verse, all by its lonesome is very interesting and speaks thousands of words in one little breath. Let's focus on Lazarus for a minute. He was in the same place as Jesus, and people were coming in crowds to see Jesus, but on this particular day, in this particular time, people wanted to see more than Jesus... they wanted to see the proof before their very eyes. They wanted to see the man who Jesus had raised from the dead. They didn't come to hear Lazarus speak or give a lecture, and while they came partially because they wanted to see Jesus, more than anything, these people wanted to see the confirmation. One glance at the man who had been dead for several days, and they would have their truth. One glance at Lazarus, and these people had proof that the miracles Jesus was doing were real indeed, and as such, what he had to say must be real too.
"for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him." John 12:11
Now I may not be Jesus, and I may not have a Lazarus that I can show off to show God's glory, but one thing this verse speaks truth about is the fact that people want to see. They want to see a change in our lives that comes only from God. When we talk to our neighbors about God and going to church, you can bet that when we're outside they are watching with scrutinizing eyes. I know that our neighbors listen carefully, and watch out of the corners of their eyes to see how we treat our kids. Do I scream at them like other neighbors do to their children? How do we treat the neighbor children? How do we treat the neighbors? Are we the first to volunteer to help them out when they need it? Sometimes it is true that as Christians we may feel like we're living in a giant fish tank, out there for everyone to see. But isn't that sort of what we want?
Isn't it? Don't we want people to look at us, look at our lives and how we live and say to themselves that we're doing something different, we seem happier, more fulfilled, more kind and generous, and how do they get that in their lives. They watch us, they see us, and when they see that proof that Jesus exists in our lives, it may very well be what they needed to see to make that important decision.
People want to see, and I want to live the life that's worth seeing. I want the neighbors to see how happy my children are, and wonder why. I want them to wonder how my husband can be so chipper despite being laid off. Mostly, I just want them to see Jesus in my eyes, and know that He is the difference, that he makes every second of life worth living.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
We're in the midst of our first snow day of the year, so it seems strange to me that I would be drawn to verses about vines and branches. Yet I am, because this speaks to me so well. I love to be reminded that unless I remain rooted in God, my fruit will be nothing. It's really no different than a real plant. A plant must be rooted in fertile ground, it must be fertilized and watered regularly in order to grow well and to bear the fruit it's meant to bear. Except in this case, that rooting, that fertile soil is God's Word.
I just go in spurts, I guess. I'll spend a few weeks really digging in and diving into my Bible everyday and relishing every word that God shows me. That same time I'll crawl into bed at night and do my prayer time with God, and I'm eager to do so. But then I'll go in the spurt where I'm busy. Life and things get in the way of that quality time in the Bible, and I'll just catch quick snips here and there, and I tell myself that it's better than nothing at all. My prayer time becomes a quick, thanks for a great day, guard over my kids while they sleep and then I'm done. It always takes me a few weeks before I realize that I've fallen back into easy mode. And I know that's not what God wants for me. I know that God wants my branches to produce the fruit they're meant to bear. Yet when I spend too long without the good fertilizer my branches weaken and I certainly don't want to be that. I don't want to be the branch that is cast aside and thrown into the fire.
So I thank God this morning for this stern reminder. I needed it, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to remind we what I need to grow the way God wants me to grow.
Monday, December 08, 2008
I'm becoming a sap. Really, and truly, I tend to be sort of a non-emotional person, I don't so much cry at movies or tv shows, but lately... When I see someone in need or even better, when I see someone helping someone in need, I just get overwhelmed and the tears well up big time. I can't even think about watching something like Extreme Makeover:Home Edition, because my eyes will be leaking the whole time. But when I think about the idea of kids going without Christmas gifts, that's what puts me over the edge. When I think about all the people who are utilizing the food pantries in the area, it makes me want to fill my shopping cart and take it to them.
Yesterday I stopped at the grocery store, and as I waited in a busy line, I looked at other people's shopping carts. I always do that, but this time, as I looked at those carts, I wondered about the people in front of them. Was that a carefully planned shopping trip? There's not very much in that cart, is that all they can afford to buy? Is there a well-stocked pantry at home? I know I've been there in all those situations. I will never forget the winter when Abigail was a baby. I had $40 a week to spend on groceries for Andy and I- and that included buying jars of baby food for our precious daughter. Those trips were planned down to the penny. I would carefully plan that weeks worth of meals to best utilize the inexpensive ground turkey I could buy for 99 cents a tube. We would cycle through meatloaf, pasta and chili, as those seemed to be the best budget stretchers. I remember the day that my mom called and asked if she could take me grocery shopping to put food in my fridge, and I opened up my fridge, found the fixings for a big pot of chicken soup (and only those fixings) and told her that I thought we'd make it to the next income okay. That was a scary time for us.
I know what these people are going through. I know what it's like to have a husband unemployed, I know what it's like to look at that price tag on the shelf, scowl, and look at my list, knowing that I'd budgeted far less for that item than what it actually is. I also know what it's like to have a child ask for that particular box of cereal and have to tell them no, it's not on the list that week.
That empathy, that knowing what other people are going through has me digging in even more to help when I can. When my kids asked if they could take some food to church for the food pantry, I was overwhelmed with their generous spirit, and we went through the pantry and took in what we could. When I'm standing in the grocery line and the person in front of me is counting carefully through their change, looking for just a little more, that's an opportunity for me to pull out my own wallet and lend a hand. Sometimes, it's tough for me to do so. I know how much money I have in my wallet and in my bank account, and I know how much I have set aside for this and that. Yet... there are just so many people in need, and it breaks my heart. It's like, all of the sudden I walk around and see so much need, so much hurt, and I wonder what Jesus would think if he walked the same grocery store I do. What would he do?
I need to remember, I need the reminder that as tight as things may get for us, as tough as things may become for us in the months to come, we have a wonderful God who will provide for us, and there are so many people who don't know My God. There are so many people who will have needs that I need to do what I can to help meet them. We need to never tire of caring for others. We need to never tire of helping someone else who is going through a rough time. Because Jesus will never stop caring. He will never stop wanting to help those who need help, and if I am going to become more Christ-like, I need to dig in and find that compassion, and I need to use it. And with God's help, maybe we can make a difference for Him.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
There are just some days where I really feel beyond blessed in my marriage. Particularly, when I hear other women complaining about their husbands. We've all been involved in those conversations, the husband who isn't very helpful around the house, the husband who sits in front of the tv all day long, with nary a glance for the zoo going on around him. I'm very blessed to not have that at all. My husband will just glance at the messy living room and decide to pick it up, without thinking that I should have done that already, or that I should have been more forceful in getting the kids to do it. He just does it, because he knows what a crazy busy life I have, and he wants to help out. I love that. Not so much that he'll help with the housework or spend a few hours with Zander so I can get something done, but because he looks around, sees that maybe a little help would be welcome and simply does it, without complaining about it.
I think that part of the reason he does that is because he's giving a part of himself up for me and for the kids- according to the verse above. It would be very easy for him to come home from work and sit at the computer, or head for his work space and spend it building something. Instead, he sets aside those selfish desires and gives me a hand, and you know what? It comes back to him. Because, then, at the end of the day, when the kids have been tucked in bed I can relax. I don't have to keep working to get something done, and we can sit and watch something on tv together, or discuss something we've read recently in the Bible or in a book. Had my husband not helped out at all, that time that we have to spend together might not have happened.
And even better, both my kids see this example in a man. Abigail sees the kind of man she wants for a husband someday, and Zander sees the man he should grow up to be. The line of mom duties and dad duties are hazy in our household. Sometimes Daddy is responsible for getting dinner in the oven and on the table, and that really helps Mommy out, and they both see that. Sometimes Mommy has to go out and shovel the driveway without waiting for Daddy to do it, and they both see that too. Most importantly, I think they see that we operate as a team, as partners, not as two individuals who sometimes have common meeting points. Something that the kids stopped doing, because it didn't get them anywhere, was playing Andy and I against each other. They know that when they ask me something, I'm going to ask if they've already checked with Daddy.
I guess this morning as I wake up and see Andy already busy doing this and that I just feel incredibly blessed. I know I am blessed as I hear from other women all the time, and they ask for advice about how to get their husband to help more... I certainly don't have any magic answer, but I can say that communication is a huge help for us. And prayer. How often do you actually spend time praying for your husband or wife?
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Ephesians 5:31-33
One thing that I have learned is that respect is not something that can be taken or simply expected. That respect is something that is earned. I am not going to respect my husband if he comes home from work and sits in front of the tv all day. I am also not going to respect my husband if he has a few days off from work and spends the entire time at the computer or sitting with the video games. My husband earns the respect I have for him by being an active part of the family. We have a fantastic partnership with mutual respect for each other, and for that I know I am incredibly blessed and thankful.
Friday, December 05, 2008
you are exalted far above all gods.
10 Let those who love the LORD hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light is shed upon the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name." Psalm 97:9-12
It seems the verses I've been drawn to this week all have the same theme going on with light and dark. I love it when God reinforces what I'm learning with more on the same topic. What drew me specifically to this passage today is verse eleven. "Light is shed upon the righteous, and joy on the upright heart." Specifically, the mention of joy.
Let me tell you why. I hate winter. I hate the snow, I hate being cold, and there are so many times I wish I lived somewhere warmer. My favorite winter ever was the one that I spend in Washington DC, the only times it snowed it wasn't more than an inch. Winter was balmy and rainy otherwise. That was the perfect winter to me. Yet, even with my cold, winter-hating feelings, I'm looking outside this morning and experiencing joy. The snow is beautiful. Yesterday Zander pointed out that when the sun shines on the snow, it gets all sparkly and looks like someone dumped glitter on the snow. And when Abigail comes home from school she hands me her backpack, changes her mittens and heads out to play in the snow- her face full of the joy of winter. And so despite my own personal feelings of dislike towards the winter, I can look outside and feel my insides get all warm and toasty.
I have to think that is God's way of saying something. When I can experience joy regardless of the situation... that is a real gift from God. I've had a rough week, as I have not been well, and life always goes on even when I'm sick. Yet every night this week, as I lay in bed sniffling and sneezing and feeling lousy, my sweet son was with me, snuggling up close and trying to help Mommy feel better. I swear I would just lie there and rub his back and it felt like my heart would burst. Yesterday I felt much better, and he slept in his own bed, like the previous nights never happened. Another example, we had grand plans for Christmas gifts this year for our kids. But Andy's work has cut way, way back, and we've had to change our plans. At first I was disappointed, because the kids were going to be so excited with their gifts. But now this changed plan has me just as excited as the first one- and in reality that doesn't make any sense, but here I am full of bubbly joy, happy that it's the holiday season.
So this morning I do exactly what verse twelve is saying. I am rejoicing in the Lord, and I will praise His Name all day long. In fact, when I'm done here, I'll be heading off to clean up the home that has seen some neglect the past few days, and you know... I may just enjoy it this morning. God is great, and I thank Him for his never ending joy.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Isn't this a great verse to read this morning! Just yesterday I was talking about the doom and gloom of darkness, and that we don't need to worry about the darkness, because we have a light...and here He is!
Here is why this verse is important to me today- Jesus says that whoever follows him will NEVER walk in darkness. Never. That means that we don't need to fear that darkness that is trying to press in. You know what I'm thinking this morning about that darkness pressing in? That it is an illusion, that it is a tool of the devil, trying to trick us into being sad and depressed, and trying to convince us that we belong in the darkness in the first place. But today's verse! Today's verse tells us the key for pushing that darkness back and away. Jesus is the light of life, and all we need to do is remember that, and hold to that, and when we feel that darkness starting to inch closer, we can call on Jesus' Name and the darkness will flee.
"For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, " Colossians 1:13
"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." John 12:46
Thank God for his son, Jesus, that we may never need to be a part of the darkness ever again. Thank God for His Light to guide our way and fill our hearts with joy.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on his God." Isaiah 50:10
We live in a dark world. It seems that around every day, every corner, every life-changing moment, there is darkness there. Sometimes, I feel like it's surrounding me, just trying to break through my shell to envelop me and swallow me. I live in a town where the bars are crowded, yet the churches are not, and I'm sure that is normal, and not just relevant to where I live. One of the standard jokes in Wisconsin is that if there are at least two bars on street corners, that's enough to call a town a town. And driving through the countryside, that is certainly true for the most part. Even as I watch TV from time to time, I am bombarded with commercials that tell me I need this, that, and the other thing, and the TV shows themselves tell me that I live in a dark, dark world filled with crime. News reports aren't much better.
It would be so easy to give up. It would be easy to just curl up into an introspective ball and say that I don't care anymore. There are days where I wonder to myself if it's all worth it. But then I read verses like this, and it gives me just the boost I need. Even where there is no light at all, there God is. I can be walking in complete darkness, surrounded by utter bleakness, yet there God will be, a light unto my path. By walking in the light, I need not fear the darkness around me, and maybe, just maybe, while I'm walking on my path of light, someone else from the darkness will reach out for the light themselves. If I keep my eyes on the light and focus on the brightness that is leading my path, I can avoid the darkness completely. I can see the dark around me, and pray that my light will shine into the darkness for those who need it. But I will stay the course.
"Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 4:2
I live for God, and as long as I keep that focus, and hold to that mindset, the darkness will be held at bay. As long as I live for God, what the world does and thinks doesn't matter. It's necessary to be reminded of that sometimes.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
"O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord." Psalm 139:1-4
God knows absolutely everything about us. Everything. He sees every single thing I do, and knows what I'm going to think about doing before I do so. I was reading about marriage, and about how it's okay to make mistakes, and as a wife, that makes me really angry. Because read these verses again, God knows what my spouse does, he knows what I do. Now read the next verses:
"You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand! 7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!" Psalm 139:5,6
When all is well and we are walking in the Word and are reading our Bible's daily, God blesses us. I know this, because I've seen it first hand. But when one of us messes up... then it's not okay. Not okay at all. It wasn't too long ago that I completely bungled up our finances. I pretty much was responsible for the mess all by myself. God has been helping us work through it ever since, but I know that had I stayed responsible for our finances, and treated them the way God wanted me to treat them, that we would be even more richly blessed now. Instead, I needed to learn a lesson, and my family has been learning right along with me.
See, that's the thing. This may not apply to the single people who might be reading this, but when you are joined in marriage with someone, when you sin, it's as good as if your spouse sinned. God wants to work so much within a marriage, he wants to bless both you and your spouse- be it husband or wife. Sin of any nature on your end affects the spouse. Think of this. For me, it is sinful for me to spend money haphazardly. I really need to keep in close contact with God when I am about to make a major purchase. If I were to go make a major purchase right now and empty our bank account, we wouldn't be able to pay our monthly bills and the whole family would suffer big time. Yet I was the only one who acted of a sinful nature. A person who is unfaithful to their spouse affects the whole family, not just themselves for sinning. A person who commits fraud to get a little more on their tax return will be found out in the end and the whole household will suffer- whether it be just a spouse, or children involved too. A person who spends those few minutes a day on unwholesome internet sites is robbing their family of blessings. Imagine what that person could do if they spent that time in prayer instead, or reading their Bible, or even e-mailing an accountability partner.
The whole thing I was reading this afternoon was absurd. Someone who sins affects more than just themselves, and to me that's not okay and its a terribly selfish mindset. In fact, that's one of the things that helps me out. First of all, I know that God sits here at the computer with me every day. There are angels who stand guard over our computers. I know he knows when I am tempted to purchase something I shouldn't. When I do make that purchase there is instant regret, because I know that God was a witness to that. At the same time, I am also mindful of what my husband will think if I make a purchase. Will he approve? Or would he get angry for being wasteful of my money. See? It's a reason not to sin- not a reason to try and talk myself into it, because only I will know. It never will be me who only knows, and I am so glad that I have my God and my husband to keep me accountable.
More than anything I want God's Blessings upon my life, and I know that my husband wants the same, and together we can reach higher and higher and closer to God than we thought possible. I would never dream of robbing my husband of his blessings to satisfy a whim, and I know that he feels and thinks the same way.
So, to those people who think they can get away with sin because it's only them, think again. God's watching, and you are robbing your family of the best blessings God has to hand out.
(Whew, I feel better now. Maybe this will help balance the yuck out there. )
"Here I am," he replied.
12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." Genesis 22:9-14
Jehovah Jireh is another way to say "The Lord Will Provide" and is one of the many wonderful names of God. It's what I woke up singing this morning, so I thought I should dive right into Genesis 22 and read that ultimate example of the Lord's Provision. It amazes me every single time I read it, I wonder what Isaac is thinking as his father binds him and he realizes it is he that Abraham means to sacrifice. I wonder what exactly Abraham is going through Abraham's mind... did he really think that he would have to go through with giving God Isaac? Or did he have faith enough that God would provide the alternative? I just love seeing in my mind the whole scenario being played out, and we also see how in tune with God that Abraham was, because he heard the angel tell him to stop. I'm thinking that if I'm about to plunge a dagger into my son's heart that my mind would be screaming in anguish... yet Abraham was ready for God to intercede and heard the angel call him. I want to be so in tune with God that I hear His every whisper.
Last night, I had an example of Jehovah Jireh, although I didn't realize it until this morning. Yesterday I wasn't feeling the best. I've been feeling very tired the last several days, but just chalked it up to a busy holiday weekend and the fact that I needed more rest. Yesterday though, I swear it was about six in the evening and I was feeling ready for bed. I resisted, spent time with the kids, and after tucking them into bed, continued to fight that need for sleep by turning on the tv to watch something with Andy. Twenty minutes later Zander is just crying away upstairs, and when I check on him, he just says that he needs more snuggles from me. I snuggled him for a small bit, but when I went to leave, he gripped me harder and his eyes filled with tears. My heart made the decision to end my day. I grabbed my son and we crawled into my bed together and I snuggled him right to sleep, praying for my beautiful boy, and then I followed along shortly into dreamy bliss.
This morning, after several extra hours of sleep, I actually feel like I've rested. I'm still not 100%, but boy, there is a definite change over yesterday. I just know that God was watching me last night, and watched me continue to resist going to bed. Something as simple as that, and God took care of me by using my sweet boy to encourage me to get that much needed rest. He provided that rest, and I am so glad for it this morning, it will allow me to tackle my day with energy, instead of regretting getting out of bed in the first place.
Thank God for His provision. Thank you Jehovah Jireh for always knowing best and providing a way.
Monday, December 01, 2008
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain." Psalm 127:1
Sometimes I need to read a verse several times through before a meaning really sinks in. I read Psalm 127 this morning, and that is a very short chapter- just 5 verses long, but it's the first two that really caught my attention this morning. Here is verse two as well:
"In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves." Psalm 127:2
What these verses are just screaming to me this morning is that unless we have God with us, all we do is for naught. That second verse in particular... how many people do you know- or hear of- who work sun up to sun down, simply trying to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Yet this verse says all that is in vain, and what I really think it's saying is that if you are a child of God, He will do the providing. This is an excellent word to find this morning and sear into my brain. Andy only worked two days last week... and this week isn't starting off well either, as he is home this morning due to weather. Christmas is coming, and we've had grand plans for gifts for all. And I'm really, really trying to keep my focus On Him. Because we've been promised, we've been shown that God will be looking out for us, and I'm determined to hold Him to that promise.
Yet, I read these verses, and they just amaze me. That very first one... I think about a person or a group of people who are unhappy with their current church situation, so they decide to start a new one. That happens a lot- that's how new churches are formed most often. But if man is behind the decision to try and form a new body of believers, it's not going to go very far. It's when God is behind the decision to start that new church that the church grabs hold and attracts followers. When God tells His children to build a body of believers, that's the church with the staying power. I know in my own little community several upstart churches have come and gone, and I have to think that is because it was man's decision to build a place of worship, and not God.
These verses today are just like so many that I've been reading lately. I love how when God is working on me with something that everything is related. Just about every message I've heard in the last month, and every book I've read, and most passages in the Bible that I've been reading center around one thing- and that is focusing on God. If I can just keep my eyes and ears on Him, He will be my rock and my deliverer. I love this verse in Romans:
"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:31,32
If God is before me, who will dare come against me. Only myself, I'm afraid, and I need to get rid of that- I need to get rid of that doubt, of that human-ness inside of me that tells me that I can control everything. I need to let God take control. God is not going to be my co-pilot, as those bumper stickers say, I want God to be my pilot. I will let Him take me where He may, because I know He loves me and will not take me where I don't want to go.