Friday, October 30, 2009
Pay attention, you who are far away!
The Lord called me before my birth;
from within the womb he called me by name." Isaiah 49:1
"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. 17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!" Psalm 139:13-17
I've heard this saying many, many times before- God knows me. In fact, I may have blogged about it before too! The reality is though, that I never really thought too much about it. Last night as I was driving home from dance class though, I was thinking about this, about the fact that God knows me, and I really felt like I needed to look into the word "knows" more. So then I started thinking more about the fact that God knows me, and I realized that this random line of thinking was not so random.
God knows me.
Think about what that simple sentence says. Think about when you use it. I don't say "I know Brad Pitt." Because I simply don't. I know of him, but I certainly don't know him personally. But I can say "I know Zander" because he's my child and I know him more than I know myself. And I do know Zander better than I know myself! Zander is my precious child... when he was a baby, he refused to sleep in his crib. It didn't take us too long to decide that he simply wasn't going to sleep in his crib- he wanted to sleep with Mommy and Daddy. So we did that. Pretty much, for the first three years of his life, Zander slept with us. Oh, we tried other options. We put him in a twin bed early- at about 9 months, thinking he just wanted more space. Nope, it wasn't the space. What he wanted was the comfort and security that sleeping with Mommy and Daddy provided. He got the best nights of sleep when we slept together all night.
"Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you." Psalm 116:7
I get my best nights of sleep when I rest in the Lord. When I can give Him all my worries and problems, and curl up with His love cushioning me, the rest is sweeter than any other. It's the love and security and comfort of having a Heavenly Father who truly does love me and know me. And it's more than just God knowing me, He knew me before I was born. Let's think about that for a minute. He knew me before I was born. Thinking about what we've already pointed out about knowing someone- that's pretty cool. God knew me before I was a person. God knew everything about me, and He knew my spirit and knew everything that I was going to go through in life.
Don't you wish that you could do the same for your children? I wish I could know what trials and troubles my precious children are going to face, because then I could at least try and help prepare them for those struggles. Instead, I have to commit them to My Father, to My God, the same One who knew me before I was born, knew my children before they were born. And oh, how He loves them so much. To think that God could love my children even more than I do is remarkable, because they are such wonderful little people, full of the love of Christ.
I know this has maybe been a little disjointed this morning. But I had to get both these thoughts out. See, last night, after my random trail of thoughts driving, Zander crawled into bed with us. He curled up, right in the small of my back just like he did as a wee baby. And I just felt my body flood with love for this little man. Even though I knew that my night's rest may be terrible as a result of him being there, the fact that he felt safe and secure and was sleeping soundly just made me the happiest mom in the world. God is the exact same way. He wants us to feel safe and secure and comforted wrapped up in His arms. I can't be the only one who lays in bed at night sometime, simply dwelling on the problems of the day- or worse- the problems of tomorrow. Sleep takes a long time coming when I dwell on those problems. So I'll toss and turn and then all the sudden it will be like, oh yeah. And then I pray about it. I talk to God a little, share my concerns, and then what do you know- I get to sleep after that.
God knows me. He knows my every thought, my every problem, and He loves me and wants me to feel secure and safe. Sometimes though, I have to want that too. I have to be willing to give God my troubles, and I have to be willing to let Him give me that much-needed rest. I don't know why I keep that at arms length sometimes. I'm sure my son thinks the same thing. He'll spend a day being Mr. Independent, and insist that he doesn't need snuggles or help or such. But by the end of the day, he's missed Mommy. So then we get extra cuddle time at the end of the day, because he's missed Mommy, and he realizes it.
I want to stop being Miss Independent, and just float away in the arms of The Comforter. The One who knows me, and who has known me for longer than I've been alive.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I love this verse. I've shared it in the Amplified version this morning, because it adds just that little extra bit that makes it even more encouraging to read. I love how straightforward it is too. It says straight out that it is God who provides what we need. In this case, that is represented by seed for sowing and bread for eating. As a gardener, I just completely relate to any mention of seeds and sowing. I love thinking that God provides the seed that I sow in the spring. So much. Because seeds are things of beauty, you plant this tiny little thing and then you care for it. You nurture it by removing weeds and adding fertilizer, and with time, that seed becomes something truly awesome. In the case of a tomato seed, that one seed can become dozens of tomatoes to be eaten. In the case of a tree seed, that seed can become a tree that lives for hundreds of years and produces its own seeds somewhere in the millions in number.
It is God who provides those seeds.
Seeds can also be used to describe our giving. When we give to a ministry, or give an offering to our church, it is a seed, which God may see fit to multiply as it is put to good use. But first, we have to be willing to sow the seed. Sometimes that can be so hard! Sometimes, as we're looking at expenses, and wanting to give as well, not being a miser can be terribly difficult. When I think about gardening though, if I just hold onto those seeds, what good do they do? You can't eat seeds, they must be given to the earth in order to bear fruit- fruit which can multiply in an unbelievable fashion. So what good does it do to just hold onto money? By sowing a seed into something that tugs at our hearts, we never know if that is going to be the seed that God multiplies in a magnificent way. But wait, let's look at that verse above now.
"And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing"
Now I'm getting excited! The same God who provided that seed in the first place will continue to provide and will multiply our resources for sowing. So according to this word, these verse written in 2 Corinthians, if I step out in faith and sow that seed, God will multiply our resources. So if I go ahead and give that offering to that ministry in need, even if it's only a small seed, God will see that and, according to my Bible, will perform some multiplication on our resources.
And you know what? He's doing just that.
I shared our blessing list the other day and how we're keeping track of the blessings and how God is providing for us. Let me tell you how cool this is. Yesterday morning I had to mail out a payment on something that HAD to be paid. It was difficult for me to do, because it is the end of the month, which means end of the month expenses. If I didn't send this check, we would have just enough to pay these expenses. I really needed to send this check though, so I stood there, debating whether or not to put it in the mailbox, and then decided to go ahead and do it. I simply said "okay God, you figure out how this is going to work, I''ll trust you." Not even two hours later, Andy gets a phone call from someone about a tree job that he will be doing today or tomorrow. It will more than cover that extra check I had to write.
But it gets better.
Just a few hours after that, Andy's boss calls. He was wondering if Andy would be available for a half day of work today. Now, that may not be a lot of money for just half a day, but its something completely unexpected! It also totally blessed Andy, because of all the people in that company, he was the one called to take care of this odd bit of business. That means a lot to Andy and shows the favor that God has placed on him.
We are totally reaping what we have been sowing. In faith, we have given where our hearts felt we needed to give. We agreed together that when God placed on us a desire to give, that we would give and let God provide for our needs. Our faith seems to be deepening every single day, and honestly? Right now I'm getting itchy and excited for any other opportunities to give. Where will that come up? When will it come up? We sow joyfully, and we reap joyfully.
And while I'm talking about sowing money here, I should also add that there are times where we don't have the resources to sow actual money. I don't want anyone reading this to suddenly have regrets about not having physical money to sow, because God sees our hearts. He sees those desires to be able to give, and it's important to remember that sometimes those opportunities come up to give something other than money. We can give our time to help someone do work at their homes. We can give our time to help clean at church, or volunteer at an organization for a few hours. We can also give from our own resources- clothing that isn't being used, groceries from the pantry, or loan someone the use of a vehicle for a few days. There are always opportunities available, sometimes though, we need to ask God to reveal those opportunities to us.
So let's try that in the days to come. As we're coming upon the season of Thanksgiving, let's truly give thanks for what we do have, and ask God to reveal opportunities to share what we have. And then be ready for Him to do some revealing. Because when He does, you'll have your own opportunity to sow some seed, and then watch in amazement as He performs some multiplication.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I thought this verse was very appropriate this week for our weekly reminder to pray for President Obama and our country. This week, President Obama gave a speech at a tribute for fallen soldiers, and in that speech, he praised the military of this nation. I do think the military always deserves the praise they get- the don't get nearly enough- but the context of the speech was a little shy of the mark. Here's an excerpt:
"It's not the remarkable platforms that give the United States our military superiority -- although you've got some pretty impressive aircraft here, I got to admit. It's not the sophisticated technologies that make us the most advanced in the world -- although you do represent the future of naval aviation. No, we have the finest Navy and the finest military in the history of the world because we have the finest personnel in the world."
Sigh. We need to continue to pray for an awakening in the White House. Just think about how much better this speech would have been if he ended with this:
"No, we have the finest Navy and the finest military in the history of the world because we have God Almighty before us, and with God before us, who can be against us."
Ooooh, that gives me shivers! We have the finest personnel BECAUSE we have a God who loves us and loves this country that was founded on Him. So this morning, I pray simply that God will become a mighty presence in the life of President Obama. I pray that our President will hear the voice of God and will heed it. I also pray that God will bless him for his willingness to serve our country, and will give him the wisdom and the energy he needs to manage two wars and a crumbling economy. God has the answers to all our problems- may God get the glory and the honor when these problems are solved, and not man.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens." Psalm 148:13
"The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
fathers tell their children
about your faithfulness." Isaiah 38:19
This morning I want to share about our little blessings chart. It's something I was going to share last week, but other things popped into my mind, and it got pushed aside. So this morning, I am going to talk about blessings- both big and small.
We had our big conference a few weeks ago, and leading up to it, Andy and I both had a sort of anticipation going into it. We were both certain that something big was going to come out of it-some big blessing or direction or something like that. Surprisingly, there wasn't anything like that. We were blessed immensely at the conference, but in a spiritual way. We both felt our relationship with God deepen, and we came away with some new understandings.
Monday came around though and Andy had an e-mail from a theater director at one of the high schools in the area. Could he pinch hit and help finish this set? So Andy went in and helped out- to the tune of a little bit of money that is a really big help to us. Then on Tuesday our neighbor sent over two packages of frozen duck. Duck! And a few days later added a third package to our freezer. I also balanced the checkbook after our conference and found extra money in it. Not much- but it was more than was supposed to be in it. So as I was thinking about all these things that happened in just a few days, I started giggling to myself about how God just provides all the time.
And then I went and got a sheet of paper, grabbed a marker, and wrote these things on it. I stuck it to the fridge so the whole family could see it, and it is now our blessings chart. I have a few more things to add to it this week, but it's really been a boost to me to walk into the kitchen and see that sheet on the fridge. It is a constant reminder to us that God will see to all our needs in His perfect timing. And it's a constant reminder to our kids. That is probably more important to me. They need to see that God takes care of his children all the time, and then when God does provide something unexpected, we can all rejoice in His provision.
Everything unexpected that comes into our household is going on this piece of paper. That means that I add the baggie of trail mix that was shared with us, a pot of homemade chicken soup, and a bag of unexpected groceries that Andy brought home from a job. Of course, the financial blessings will all be added, but not just a dollar amount, but whatever had to be done for the money. In the theater job it was an unexpected construction job that Andy had to do. God didn't just drop a check in the mailbox for us, he allowed Andy to use his time and his hands to earn the money. Honestly? That is a real blessing for Andy, because he's got nothing but time available right now, and giving him something to do that utilizes his talents is a wonderful thing- it keeps him from sitting at home going stir crazy.
I have to confess something about that last bit though. When Andy announced that he'd been laid off, I immediately thought about how it would be nice that he would take over some of the schooling here at home. In particular, I really wanted him to do science with the kids. I love doing the book learning and the reading with them,but the hands on and experiments are not my favorite thing to do. So I was all over him taking over the science part of our education. But as he's been busy and running around doing odd jobs, or simply helping someone out by blessing them with his time, there was a part of me that was a little annoyed. He wasn't sticking around to do science, and I didn't want to do it. Thank goodness I didn't allow myself to dwell on that, because I know that God is blessing our whole family for Andy's willingness to sacrifice his time. Yes, it means I have to do science, and we honestly are seeing Andy about as much as when he's working- so that's odd. But in all this- some of what he's doing is for money that we need to pay bills, and some of it that he's doing is simply something he wants to do to bless someone else. And that is worth more than gold.
In all this, that blessing chart is sitting on the fridge- a daily reminder of everything that God is providing for us. We may not have this grand story like our flour and rice never running out, but we do have a story. When I think about the fact that our neighbor gave us duck... Duck! Someone could have given us some hamburger helper, or even the hamburger, or canned tuna or something like that- but we were given something delicious and exotic! Something rare, and something that I can totally have fun with because I have no idea what to do with duck. See? God even provides for our pleasure, because I adore duck, but even better, I'm going to adore cooking it up and preparing it. And we didn't just get one package of duck. We got three. We received an abundance, because we have a God of abundance.
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8
Monday, October 26, 2009
I thought that maybe this morning I could keep it a little brief with this gentle reminder. We'll see if I can keep it short or not. As I read this verse this morning, I just couldn't help but think of all the times we talk about books. Specifically, not the Bible, but other books, whether they be study guides, non-fiction, fiction, even magazine or blog articles. We read these words that have been written and often times they become great words of encouragement to us. Then we share these with other people, and other people read them and also are encouraged, or say they enjoyed what they read.
But at the same time, (and this is where I've been struggling a bit), these words are not the Bible. Nor should they be a substitute for reading the Bible. I'll do that. I'll have a few minutes of free time, so I'll pick up a book I've had sitting on the shelf, and read it instead of doing what I should be doing- and that's picking up my Bible.
The thing is, all these other books may very well be inspired by the Bible- they may be chock full of Bible verses even, but the commentary given is not from the Bible. All those words that are not scripture are not God-Breathed, and I think that's important to remember. They may be someone's interpretation of certain scripture, or events surrounding scripture, and they may be very great words indeed, but when all these words are taking the place of reading what I should be reading, perhaps they should all be put on hold for awhile.
As I read this verse in 2 Timothy I am also reminded that it is not the words of man that are going to equip me up to do His work here on earth. Now, it could be the words of man will encourage me and help give me some confidence, but without the Word of God, I will not be prepared to show Heaven on earth to all those around me. It's the God-breathed scripture that is going to do the actual equipping- that will give me the actual tools that I need.
So I guess the point today is that if I need to make a choice, if I'm sitting here with a stack of books written by wonderful people, but I have not been in the Word like I should be, that I need to let that pile of books just sit there while I spend time with the words that come from God Himself. Those are the written words that are going to build me up the most, and that are going to prepare me for the days that lie ahead.
Friday, October 23, 2009
A burden is defined in the dictionary as something that is carried, or as something oppressive or worrisome. When I think of the word burden, I immediately think of the second definition- something oppressive or worrisome. I think of troubles and problems that we all face each and every day. Paul here is giving us a clue to fulfilling the law of Christ- and what is the law of Christ?
"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.' 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40
Easy enough to understand isn't it? If we carry one another's burdens we will also be fulfilling the commandments that Jesus shared- to love the Lord our God, and our neighbor as ourselves. But is it easy enough to accomplish? That, I think, is a whole other story. It really makes me pause this morning to think on this and think about what it actually means to carry one anothers burdens. I think to many of us, it means that we offer an ear to listen, or that we'll agree with someone in prayer about their situation. But I happen to think that Paul meant something much more literal. I think he literally means for us to carry each others burdens. I think he means for us to take the problems our neighbor is having and place them on our own shoulders for awhile, easing the load on the neighbor.
I can't help but think of the movie The Return of the King. Frodo and Sam have journeyed to the ends of the earth to destroy the ring, and Frodo simply can't go any further. He's wiped out. Sam gives a nice heroic speech, and makes the decision to carry Frodo- literally carrying the burden for Frodo, as well as carrying Frodo. As Christians, maybe we're supposed to be a little more like Sam. Maybe we're supposed to reach down and pick up each others burdens and carry them ourselves- literally making them our burdens as well.
How often do we look at someone else struggling and while we may say some kind words to them, or pray for them, we're really thinking about how glad we are that it's not us going through that. It seems to me that's not how we should be thinking. Instead, we should realize that our brothers and sisters in Christ are just that, and their problems ARE our problems. I talked about oneness yesterday- think of the oneness if we would start bearing each others burdens!
You know, for once, I'm not so sure I'm communicating what is in my heart so effectively this morning. I read this verse and my heart just started leaping, because this is what I have been feeling for a while now. Yes, we have our own problems, our own struggles, but for me, they just have not been important compared to helping other people with their problems. We heard the other day about a friend of ours with car troubles, and my heart instantly went out to them. I was almost in tears as I thought about how there was literally nothing we could do to help them- other than pray about it.
As I'm thinking about this, it also occurs to me that shouldering each others burdens will also help us draw closer to God. Think about it. Think about what it is that distracts you from your worship of God. It's our troubles- our problems that serve as a distraction. We can be at church worshiping corporately and all the sudden you start thinking about how you're going to pay a bill that week, or you start thinking about how you're going to have enough gas to get through the week. If we carried each others burdens, and made each others problems our own problems, those random thoughts wouldn't have a chance to pop up and interfere, because we would know the problems are taken care of.
If we carry one another's burdens we are exercising the very compassion that Christ exercised as he walked upon the earth. It's compassion that drives us to give when there isn't much left to give. This is almost a challenge this morning, because we've been so taught to make our problems our own, and to let other people handle their own problems as well. But I think we need to do the exact opposite. We need to make other people's problems our own, and in doing so, we'll become one step closer to being more Christlike.
Bear one another's burdens... instead of turning a blind eye, let's see if there are some burdens we can help bear. Let's fulfill the law of Christ by moving and acting in compassion.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
When you look at the body of Christ- the church today, what do you see?
You see many. You see many buildings, many congregations, many styles of worship. Yet it says right here in John 17 that Jesus prayed for us to be one. Maybe not so much one building, because that would be impossible. And maybe not so much one style of worship because there are cultural differences to account for. But one congregation, think about how that would be!
Miriam-Webster has many definitions for the word unity. The first one I like- it's oneness. Which goes right along with what Jesus is praying here. He is praying that we- you and I- the ones who believe in Jesus- will be one, just as Jesus and God are one. Let's really read that for a second! We all know that Jesus and God are one with the Holy Spirit- the three parts of one that doesn't make sense to our human minds, and yet we know that's how it is. So what did Jesus mean when he prayed that? That we who believe in him would be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one.
Maybe He meant a few things. Maybe one of the things He meant was about our spirits all uniting together. Just think about that- think about the possibilities if all followers of Christ realized that we have the same spirit. What if we realized that we weren't actually separate congregations- that we were really all one? What if, instead of all the infighting and the gossip, and the doctrinal debates, we just embraced each other in love?
That's what God is after. He's after a oneness in the body. We are to come together as believers in Christ with the same purposes. We've all heard the analogies about the body of Christ being like a human body- with each part serving a different purpose, yet working together- like an arm and a foot working together. It's a good analogy, but I think we're to go deeper than that actually. We're to go deeper as a body and work together even more because after all- what are body parts? They're all made up of cells aren't they? And on that level, our body parts are even more similar than we could probably imagine.
Think of an army. Think of an army that trains together. Think of the best military movie you've ever seen where a whole platoon trains together to tackle a special mission together. This army goes through their practices over and over and over. They work together, they switch places so that they also know exactly what their neighbor is supposed to be doing. They work together, eat together, sleep together, every single facet is done together so that these people almost know what each other is thinking. And when the time comes to put that army into action, each member has become a part of the whole and they know their part so well they could do it in their sleep. So they do it. The time comes when this platoon is called into action and they perform their duties perfectly, accomplishing their task with precision and experience.
We are the army of God. We are called to join together, to work together for the good of all mankind. We are called to oneness- to become one to defeat the lords of this world and to spread the Glory of God over all the earth. I think this oneness- this unity is they key to sharing God's love with all. People simply don't want that today. They don't want God's love, they don't want to get to know God, because what they see from the outside is the fighting, the bickering, and the church splits over and over. They see the bad, and so they don't want any part of it. What we need to show them is the unity. The love. That God is a God who loves ALL his children, not just some of them.
Jesus shared this oneness while He was here on earth. I think that it's about time for that torch to be taken up and carried high. It's time for the army of God to rise and with love, defeat the darkness that is threatening to consume all.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
And what is God's will today? God's will today is that we pray. That we pray for President Obama and his team of decision makers. God's will is that we pray for our leaders- that they would see God and see how much He loves them and wants the best for the United States of America!
"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places." Matthew 24:7
Last night I had one of those rare nights where I couldn't fall asleep. I had so much on my mind, and it took a long time to quiet it down. And then when I did quiet my mind, sleep wouldn't come. SO instead of sleeping, or wishing I was sleeping, I took some time to pray. Specifically last night, I felt the need to pray for the country of Honduras.
I know they've been the subject of more than one Warfare Wednesday, but things are still going on there! Their country has literally been on hold now for four months- schools have closed early for the year because there have been so many curfews, and at any time there could be another one. The ex-president and the current president cannot come to an agreement, and the whole country is supposed to be just a few weeks away from a nationwide vote to elect a new president. The whole situation is crazy. Meanwhile, guerrilla troops are gathering on the borders with Nicaragua and El Salvador, and the whole country is on edge.
In the past, I've prayed for this country with a mind to the people of Honduras- for their freedoms and peace, that God would intervene on their behalf. But I think my wording may have been a bit off, because this week, I've been praying that God would intervene on His behalf! I read an article from a few years back about how the children of Honduras are being raised as intercessors- there is a whole assembly of children who pray for their country, and that just struck such a chord with me, and I thought what a better thing to happen than to have their prayers answered! When the children cry out, and God replies in a way that only God can, Honduras can be a light and an example to the world. So I continue to pray for the nation of Honduras, and I ask that God's Will be done- may the Glory of God do something miraculous and awesome to right the wrongs in Honduras!
And while we're praying globally this week, let's also remember to pray for the situation with Iran. The country of Israel seems to be indicating that they are not going to sit idly by while a neighboring country builds their nuclear arms program. They are threatening to send fighter planes to bomb the manufacturing facilities in Iran. We need to pray mightily that President Obama and the military stand behind Israel, that they offer full support and help them in any way they can. With God before them- who can be against them?
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The LORD answered him, "Go, I will hand them over to you."
11 So David and his men went up to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, "As waters break out, God has broken out against my enemies by my hand." So that place was called Baal Perazim. 12 The Philistines had abandoned their gods there, and David gave orders to burn them in the fire.13 Once more the Philistines raided the valley; 14 so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, "Do not go straight up, but circle around them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. 15 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army." 16 So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer." 1 Chronicles 14:9-16
Yesterday when I sat down for my Bible reading time, I really didn't have any particular book of the Bible in mind. I usually do lately, so it was odd to sit there with my Bible and not have a thought of where to turn. So I sat there for a minute and saw some pictures that I had shoved into my Bible to bring home on Sunday. I pulled them out, flipped open to where they were, and started reading. I found such encouragement and direction from reading these verse about David.
I love reading about David. The Bible says that he was a man after God's own heart, so you know that when you're reading about him, you should pay attention, and see if there is anything hidden away in there for you to know. These particular verses show me so clearly that when it was time to make a major decision, David sought God's direction. Right there in verse 10, the Philistine's were before them, and instead of just marching forward and attacking David turned to God and asked God what was up. Should he attack? Would God let David win? God told him to go ahead, he would win. So he did.
And then a short while later, they come upon more Philistines. Now, human nature says, hey, we already beat them once we can do it again- but what did David do? Instead of just relying on himself, he stopped and asked God again what he should do. What is especially interesting to note here is that God does say go ahead and attack- but he wanted David to do it differently. He gave David a different way to attack, and once again they were victorious.
This is completely spot on with where we are right now.
We are no strangers to Andy being unemployed and not working. The first few years that he had his lay-off time, we really struggled. But last year I think we had finally figured things out. Yes, things were tight, but we knew what we were doing. We knew what we had to do to not spend, and we had saved accordingly. The not spending was the tough part, because for years if we had money, we spent it. Even when we knew we had bills to pay- Andy would do a tree job and bring in an unexpected $400, instead of using that to put towards a bill or expense, we would go out. We'd take the kids out to dinner, go to Toys R Us and buy them something, maybe go to the mall, pick up a few things we "needed" and then we'd go home having spent most of that money. I am so, so thankful that God has broken us of the need to have it bug. He totally proved to us last year that He would provide for ALL our needs.
And what do I mean by all our needs? I literally mean them all. He raised up friends to randomly drop off gallons of milk- just when we'd run out. He raised up other people to give us grocery gift cards or gas gift cards just when we needed them the most. He even raised people up to give us clothing for our children. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we received an abundance of clothing for our children when I decided to trust in God's provision. When I would be tempted to go to a store because there was a sale, I would just remember all these things that God had already provided for us, and I knew that if we needed it- He would provide it. In the case of a sale, I really had to come to the point where I was thinking that if God meant for me to shop that sale and get some bargains, then He was going to provide a gift card to go do the shopping. No gift card showed up, so I didn't shop.
So for us, last year's unemployment time was an exercise id doing without. We've become very good at it, and even the kids are getting into it. They totally understand what is going on, and instead of asking us for all the things they think they want, they always preface what they are about to say by "someday when we have extra money..." I love it. They understand that when we walk into a grocery store they can't ask for extra stuff because I have every nickle accounted for. And yet this year, there is something different. Something very different, and that's where the verses in the Bible apply.
We know how to do unemployment. We know which bills we can let slide for a little while, and which ones need to be paid. And we know how to go weeks at a time without grocery shopping. But this year, we have very clearly felt that this year is not like last year, and that we need to seek God for direction. David knew how to attack- and he could have attacked that second time, and maybe he would have been successful. But he chose to seek God's direction, and as a result, God went before him and helped David completely obliterate his foes. He wasn't just successful- he wiped them out! In the exact same way, we are waiting and seeking God as to what our direction should be during this time off.
And so far, the one clear direction we have had is that we are not to be squirrels. Last year and the year before, we were squirrels. We had our harvest carefully hidden away to be brought out when it was needed. We had our savings cushion, to be tapped as absolutely necessary. We had our pantry stocked with groceries. This year we don't have any of those things- so we really are trusting in His provision. But more importantly, we have been told that we are to continue sharing what we do have. We are still taking groceries to the food pantry, and when we hear of a family who is in need- we do what we can to help them. Sometimes that is something as basic as baking up a loaf of bread and giving that to them with a jar of jam. But as we've been seeking God's direction for this lay off time, the one resounding answer is to not be that squirrel, hoarding up its nuts for winter. We are to share our nuts.
The result of that is found right here in 1 Chronicles- when we follow God's directions, He will go before us and take care of the enemies waiting to devour us.
"As surely as the LORD your God lives," she replied, "I don't have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die."
13 Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.' "15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah. " 1 Kings 17:12-16
For when we take care of God's children, He will take care of us. I don't have to worry at all about anything we might need- because God will take care of us.
Monday, October 19, 2009
For a long time, I would read the first verse here- about delighting in the Lord, and I always wondered what on earth it really meant. How does one delight in the Lord? What does it mean- to delight? Delight means 'to take great pleasure', but how do we really take great pleasure in the Lord? How do we actually know that we are delighting in God?
The other day I was driving with the kids, and they were looking at the clouds as we drove. They were talking about the different shapes they made and were simply talking about how the clouds looked- and it was with the same excitement as if they had opened a present and found something really cool inside. And my thought to myself was- look at that! They are delighting in God's creation. It was like the tumblers clicked in my head to reveal some magical combination. My children were delighting in God. Ah, Jesus said a few things about children.
"Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" Matthew 19:14
"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3
"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Mark 10:15
I think the key to delighting in the Lord is to take off our grown up hats and think like a child. My children are wonders and marvels- they delight in the simplest of things. The other day it snowed for the first time, and Zander and I sat at the patio window and watched the flakes fall. They were huge and lacy snowflakes, and he was so surprised to see that the snow that fell was not just little balls of snow- that they were in fact flakes. Or the other day on the way to a birthday party, Abigail was riding in the front seat of the van, and off in the distance the sun was setting and turning some clouds gorgeous shades of pink and purple and orange, and Abigail couldn't keep her eyes off them. We'll be sitting at the table doing math, and then a squirrel in the yard will catch her attention, and we'll watch him scurry across the lawn, stopping to hide a nut here and there. Or a flock of sparrows will descend on one of the shrubs right by the patio, and it will fill our house with bird song, so we stop what we're doing to investigate, and my children squeal with joy to see all the birds just a few feet from them.
They delight in so much of God's creation! They delight so easily! Abigail will hold out her arms and twirl in the rain to enjoy the droplets on her face and hands. When is the last time you held out your hands and twirled for joy? When was the last time you skipped to the mailbox? Or turned a cartwheel on the lawn that is warm from the summer sunshine? Childish actions bring forth childish thoughts. And enjoying every facet of God's creation IS delighting in the Lord.
When we went to the apple orchard a few weeks ago, it took us mere minutes to pick two gigantic bags of apples- there were so many apples on the trees. And even though the activity took so little time- the kids enjoyed every second. They had sparkles in their eyes as they saw all the beautiful apples that God made and had put on these trees just so that they could pick and enjoy them. The same delightful sparkle is in their eyes every year as we walk up to the strawberry patch and see the bushes laden with ruby red gems of berries.
Now think of the fruit of the Spirit. God made those for us to enjoy them too! When was the last time we put that patience into practice and delighted in that? Um, probably never? When we're going through something that requires us to be patient, I bet every single one of us complains about it. Oh, we all joke about how God is using a trial to teach us patience, but on the inside, we're not joking. We're tired of trying to be patient, and we just want the lesson over already. What if, instead of stewing on the inside, we simply reached out, grabbed hold of that patience and thanked God for it, with a sparkle in our eyes. What if we did something completely irrational and twirled around in circles in our living room and thanked God for the patience he is allowing to blossom and grow in our lives. Sure, we might feel silly at first, but I happen to think that if we were to approach challenges with the mind of a child, that they would seem more like a grand adventure than a burden to overcome.
Sometimes we just need to stop what we're doing, and jump up and down and thank God for being His children. And then we need to remember that we are just that- Children of God. Children. The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. I think I don't mind so much taking off my grown-up hat from time to time.
Friday, October 16, 2009
This verse this morning goes right along with what I was rambling about the other day. What comes out of our mouths, and what we dwell on in our minds, reflects directly off what we are taking in. If we are taking in garbage, garbage comes out. If we are taking in the right things- joyful and uplifting things, joyful and uplifting things come out.
And what do we dwell on? Oh, the devil tries to trip me up with this one all the time! He'll drop just a little something in my mind that will make me angry, and I will dwell on it and it will swell up and fester and I get so mad!! It's actually almost scary, because after a while, I recognize it completely. I recognize the work of the enemy, and I pray and tell him to go away, and I thank God for peace and understanding, and just like that, the anger leaves. My meditation- my thoughts should be pleasing to God too- because, as we all know:
"The LORD knows the thoughts of man; " Psalm 94:11
When I say or think something about someone that is unpleasant or unkind- God totally knows it. Think about that for a minute. When you're driving, and someone cuts you off, or doesn't move over to let you on the highway, and you think to yourself or mutter something not-so-nice about them, God hears that. You could be the only one in the car, yet God knows all about it. I suspect it makes Him a little sad, because we are called to be like Jesus- and nowhere in the Bible do we see Jesus calling people bad names. Jesus was filled with love and compassion for every single person. And he didn't just love those who were close to him. Do you know that he loved the Pharisees and Sadducees? The very men that wanted Jesus dead? He didn't call them names or speak poorly of them- instead he challenged them to a new way of thinking, which they unfortunately rejected.
Our words speak life into other people. Think about it. When you're wearing something that you're not so sure you like and someone comes up to you and tells you that it looks great on you, doesn't that very garment bump up in your mind as a good one to wear? Conversely, if someone tells you they don't like something so well, it gets added to the Goodwill pile. And this is just talking about wardrobe- simple clothing made of cloth. Think of what your words can say about someones spirit. If you call someone an idiot every time you see them, over time, they are going to start believing your words. Oh! I have an example of this!
When I was learning to drive, my driver's ed teacher told me every week that I was a terrible driver. I left each week of driving practice practically in tears, because I thought he was telling me the truth about my driving skills. And then I would go driving with my parents, and those words from my instructor would ring in my head, and of course, I gave my mom many a gray hair with my terrible driving. The very last day of driving practice, the instructor actually looked me in the eyes and told me that I needed to wait a year to get my license. He told me I would be better off taking driver's ed again! I felt so deflated about driving. I also didn't feel so confident about scheduling my drivers test either, but I did. And when I was done with my test, the most amazing thing happened. The examiner looked at me and told me I did a great job- that she thought I was a good driver, and the one error I had with parking she totally blamed on the boxy van I was driving. She issued me my license, and just like that, this kind woman broke all those discouraging words from the instructor. I had my license and a whole new confidence in my driving skills.
When we say something kind to someone- you never know what you may be helping boost either. Think about that! When you look at someone and tell them they are beautiful, you may very well be helping break away years of self-esteem problems. And when you tell someone that you love them, you never know how many walls you may be breaking through with those powerful words.
So the question bears asking- how on earth do we stop ourselves from thinking those random bad thoughts or speaking harmful words? One step is to be careful of what we take in. But another step is to simply practice doing otherwise. When someone cuts you off on the highway, instead of thinking bad thoughts about them- pray for their safety while driving. When someone does something that just makes you mad, pray a blessing over them instead of cursing them. Or when someone is simply driving you batty, maybe you need to turn your prayers inward and pray for patience for yourself.
Being mindful of our thoughts and our words is one way to draw closer to God. The more we program ourselves to make our responses kind and wonderful- and pleasing to God, the more we will understand His nature and His goodness ourselves. And when you mess up- that's okay too. Ask for forgiveness and try again next time. Watching my words and my thoughts may be a tough challenge, but I pray that God will give me the patience and understanding to try and become more like His precious son Jesus.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I hope that no one who stops by and reads this blog gets tired of stories. And by stories, I mean the tales of provision that God always seems to provide for us at the perfect time. And I have a good one this morning- actually, it's a great one.
A few weeks ago I shared about how my kids prayed for a financial boon. We had a conference last week, and we wanted to stay in a hotel with a pool- so they could have fun during the down times. Finances were tight, and they knew it, and the kids started praying. God totally answered their prayers and the money that we needed came in for the room. And then Andy worked a short week. And then Andy was laid off completely, and I really was having a hard time justifying spending the money on a hotel room.
Andy and I rolled it around in our heads for a few weeks, and finally, I had to talk to the kids about it. We discussed how Daddy wasn't working, so spending that much on a hotel wasn't such a good idea. I even came up with a compromise- that we could still get a hotel room, just one at a cheaper hotel without a pool. The kids were disappointed, but they did see how we could use the money for other expenses. Yet as the conference crept closer and closer, we just weren't sure what we were going to do. A hotel room was a necessity. For our sanity and for our kids benefit, we needed to not have to be driving back and forth so late at night.
At the same time, news of Andy's lay-off has been spread around. So many friends have shared his abilities and talents with others, letting them know that if they need anything done, they should get ahold of Andy. And lo and behold, one day, I get an e-mail. A surprising on actually, from someone we knew who had recently purchased a new house and had some tree work that really needed to be done. Could Andy come look at it and give an estimate? Now, these people who wanted an estimate were people who really blessed us once upon a time. When we were looking for a church, they really made us feel welcome at their church, and the message that day was so exactly what we needed to hear. We ended up not going back to this church, but boy, did it bless us, and every since then, In the back of my mind, I've wished there was more I could do for these people other than pray for them.
So when Andy set up this appointment to do the estimate, I very hesitatingly mentioned to him that I wasn't so sure that he should charge these people for the tree work. I was hesitant to mention it, because golly, when Andy's not working, every penny counts. But I really felt that he needed to know that I was okay with him not charging for these people, just doing the work and blessing them. He had been feeling the same way, but at the same time, in the past he's had people absolutely insist on paying him, so if that ended up being the case, he was going to have to let them.
Andy goes and does the estimate. Although, it ends up not being an estimate. They look over the trees, he sees what needs to be done, and then discusses potential days to come and do it. They talk for a while, the upcoming conference is coming up, and will these people be there? Things like that. Andy leaves and goes on to another project for the day and I get a phone call. Andy had refused to give an estimate, and this tree project was going to be such a huge blessing to these people. So this person had been praying and asking God how they could bless us in return, so wouldn't you know. They wanted to put us in a hotel room for the conference. And just like that, they made sure it was okay with us, and then called and made the arrangements at a nice hotel with a pool. And I'll tell you, I was flabbergasted about it all weekend. I just was in awe that God would provide such a wonderful blessing.
It really said so much to our kids, I have to tell you. We certainly didn't hesitate to share the good news with them, and I really think it drove something home for them- that God loved them so much, that he wanted to provide that hotel and pool for them for the conference. And of course, we had a wonderful conference. The pool was well used, and the rest we got at that hotel was even sweeter than normal. It just amazes me how God can bring the perfect set of circumstances together and the perfect people into our lives to share something at just the right time. Only God could do that- and does that!
Only our Sovereign God, who loves His children more than anything, would provide in the ways that He's been providing for us. God loves all His children too! He doesn't just love my family, He also loves your family. He also loves you- and He wants to provide for you too. I think that's a good thing to remember, because if you had told us two weeks ago that God was going to produce someone to pay for our hotel room for us, I would have laughed and said "yeah, sure". Yet He did just that- it shows that God's provision doesn't always come in the ways that we think it will come. That mystery check may still show up in the mailbox, but if He has some other way to bless us, I'm certainly not going to turn it away.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
As we continue to pray for President Obama and governmental leaders this week, I think it's important that we also direct our prayers to the direction of God's Will for this nation. What IS God's will for America? What plans does He have for this country? While we are praying for strength and wisdom and protection for the president, we should also be praying for revelation, for him to wake up and see and know that there is a God who loves him, a God who would give him direction, understanding, and love. Think of the possibilities if we had a president and a congressional body who believed in the God of love- who spent time every day in the counsel of the Most High. God's Glory would come through and wise decisions would be made.
When I look around at my neighbors and friends and family, and I spend time out among people, I can't help but see the fear, the not knowing what's coming next is gripping people. As they watch their checkbooks dwindle and the past due notices coming in, or they see neighbor after neighbor packing up their belongings and moving away, it is a time of uncertainty. But we have a God who isn't uncertain! We have a God who always IS, and who always loves His children. The answers to what is wrong with this country is not going to be found by turning to a man- or turning to a body of elected leaders to make new rules for us. The answer is our Heavenly Father who loves and cares for us, and wants us to prosper and be secure. He wants us to have rest in HIS arms, and not have to slave away 80 hours a week just to appease the idol of the dollar.
The "experts" are declaring that our recession is over and that in the next several months unemployment is going to shrink and things are going to get better. That's wonderful to hear- but really, what I want to hear is the unexpected. I want to hear that the mayor of a town took a leap of faith and prayed with his alderman for financial needs, and then discovered an oil field in his backyard. I want to hear of our government leaders standing up and proclaiming that the Christmas trees and manger scenes WILL be displayed at Christmas. Most of all, I want our nation to remember where our country came from.
I'll tell you, the fact that we have chosen to study American history for school this year is no mistake, because it's crystal clear to us that our country was founded to escape socialist agendas and religious persecution. People fled Europe, risking death on three-week long journeys at sea to live in a new land where they could worship God! Not only did they want to worship God, but they also wanted to love each other and take care of each other through love- they didn't want a government telling them how to care for one another.
After Thomas Jefferson served our country as the third president, he retired to his home of Monticello. He was always entertaining, and Monticello had 50 bedrooms in it- often times, all these bedrooms were full. People just wanted to spend time with him! Running an estate with that many visitors clearly had a lot of expenses. It didn't take long for Thomas Jefferson to start running out of money. His first solution was to sell 7,000 of his personal collection of books to congress. This helped for a short while, and also was the beginning of the Library of Congress. But when all was said and done, do you know how Thomas Jefferson kept his estate going at the end of his life? People. The people in this country, so appreciative of how he served and helped found the United States of America, began sending him money. They sent him money and they sent goods that would be needed to run a household in that time. The people took a portion of what they worked so hard for and cheerfully shared it. Money was scarce in that time- and yet people shared it with no thought of themselves, but of how they could help.
That's what we need a return to. We need a return to people looking out for each other, of sharing what they have instead of being selfish and hoarding it all. We need people to be so full of the Father's Love that they can't help but give to anyone who might need it. Instead of turning to the government and our elected leaders to solve our problems, we need to turn to God and trust that He will place people in our paths to help us with our needs.
God is the answer. Not our president, not our government, and not our judicial system. It is God. This week I am praying for God to take over the white house. And I am praying for God and his host of angels to take over Congress. We the people need to return to seeking God for the answers- not man.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
This greatest commandment, which is familiar to most popped into my head this morning, and it seems to me as if I'm noticing parts which were never there before. Maybe not so much parts that weren't there- but there are words that are showing themselves to be important, that maybe weren't before. It's easy to get the first part- Love the Lord your God with all your heart. I'm certain I've written before about whether or not we actually really love God all the time. But for the sake of making my point today, let's assume that yes, we love God with all our heart.
Then we move on to the next part- "and with all your soul". Hmm, let's think about this one for a minute. With all my soul is a little more tricky to identify. How do I know if I love my God with all my soul? Well, I like to think that I do- and here's why. When I am in a state of worship- or when I am reading my Bible or when I am having some quiet time, I feel as though something is trying to leap out of my chest. It's different than loving from the heart- it's as if my whole self wants to just bathe in whatever God is releasing at that moment. And I am eager for that all the time- I want more of God, so yes, I think that my soul is in love too.
Then we get to the third part, which is the part that I really think we all miss. Let's read it like this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind." Whoa there- back up a minute, does it really say that? And how is that even possible? I'm telling you friends, this is the tough one. This is the one that the devil tries to go after- and he goes after sneakily and easily. The devil dangles a latest bestselling book in front of you- everyone is reading it, you should too. Even though there's a part of you that isn't so sure you should be reading about vampires or wiccan spells, you decide it's just a book and it can't hurt, so you read it. What do you know? You've enjoyed the book! So you read more in the series- watch a movie when it comes out, and the whole time you're filling your mind with things of the devil and of this world. Or you're standing in line at the grocery store, and it is moving like molasses. What do you do? Are you sitting there seething on the inside? Are you getting annoyed with the cashier- with the people in front of you who pulled out that stack of coupons? Or are you patient, calm and ready to wait as long as it needs?
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind."
When you wake up in the morning, is your first thought a negative one? Are you angry with the alarm clock or the child who woke you? A beginning to loving God with all your mind is with the first thought of the day. When that alarm goes off, or that child taps on your shoulder, try thanking God for a new day first and foremost. Even before you turn off the alarm, think about God's goodness and the fact that you have a whole new day in front of you. Boom- right there, you've taken one mighty step in loving God with your mind. Loving God with our minds takes work- I'm learning that one myself. It takes a seriously huge effort. First, you have to recognize that your mind isn't where it should be- then you can take steps to correct it.
For me, those steps have involved what I'm taking into my mind. This has been a seriously tough one for me. I love to read books of all persuasions, and I love to relax and watch movies and TV, and I enjoy playing video and computer games. But I've become more cautious about what I pick up to read. If I'm going to be reading something for enjoyment, I want it to be uplifting, not depressing or sad, or filled with occultish concepts. If we're going to sit and watch a movie, I want it to be fun and exciting, happy with a good outcome. If I sit and watch a movie that's depressing or sad or scary or a movie that makes magic okay, it's not good for my mind.
I noticed something with the last season of Survivor that I watched. I found myself getting agitated as each episode went on. As people didn't get voted out who I thought needed to go, I got annoyed, and vexed with the show. I would turn it off at the end and I would feel all wound up- but in a bad way. Then, of course, it took a while to get that out of my head! When I spend a good hour or so dwelling on a silly TV show, somethings not right. Still, I enjoyed the show, and this year when it came time to watch, I recorded, but hesitated. Then I heard a few reports that this year the cast is particularly unpleasant and you know what? I erased it without watching. I just don't need to be filling my mind with things that are not of the nature of God. If a TV show makes me agitated or annoyed or angry, it's not something I should be watching.
And I really hesitate to say this, but I also think of watching sports in this vein. If I can't watch a sporting event for the pure fun of it- I can't watch it. If I'm going to turn on a football game, I have to not let myself get agitated if my team makes mistakes or loses the game. Honestly? I think this is huge- I think that sports can cause serious problems for people with their mind. My favorite sports to watch are the Olympic games, because while I may be rooting for a few favorites- the best part of the Olympics are that there is always a winner! And no matter who the winner is, or what country the winner is from, I can relate to their joy and I can rejoice with them.
I'm also finding that loving God with my mind includes random thoughts. This is where I suspect most of us fail each and every day- and I long for the day when I stop failing! Those random thoughts like "why can't that mother control those kids" instead of having compassion and understanding the struggle of a mom, I get all annoyed, because their noise is invading my ears. Or as I'm driving down the highway, I get stuck behind the one person who thinks it's okay to step on the brakes every 10 seconds or so. I'm thinking about how annoying that is to me, and how it makes me have to pay ever so much more attention, instead of thinking about why they are doing that. Maybe once upon a time they were in a horrible accident on the highway, and fear grips them each and every time they drive. With a prayer I could help release them of that torture, but no, I focus on myself and how I am not getting where I need to go as fast as I would like.
And the random thoughts includes everything, the "that person needs to exercise more" or "don't they brush their hair before leaving the house" or "I would never wear that out in public" or, well, really, everything that is a criticism of someone else is not the mind that loves God. And the Bible clearly says that we should love God with ALL our mind- not even just a part of it, but all of it. And I think as we learn to recognize the bad and correct our thoughts, we'll eventually get there.
"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." Matthew 22:36-38
All, not some. Everything that Jesus mentions here in the commandment which He calls the first and greatest- it says all. It doesn't say love God with most of your heart, or a piece of your soul, or some of your mind. It says all. And I think as we become more aware of this, and ask God to help us to turn our minds towards Him and His ways, that the second commandment will become a walk in the park.
"And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:39
Monday, October 12, 2009
This morning I went to log onto my blog here, not knowing what I was going to blog about. I spent almost a week away from the computer, and I have to say, although I knew it, it's remarkable how much time I actually waste sitting here at this piece of technology. I definitely need to stay mindful of my computer time. I get so much more done every day when I am able to just back away from the computer screen. At the tail end of my week away, we spent the weekend away getting closer to God and what He has for us. One of the speakers said it best yesterday morning when he mentioned that some of us looked like we had taken in so much information in just a few days- it looked like our heads were about to pop. It's definitely going to cause me to dig deeply in the Word, because while I've read many of the things shared this weekend over and over, it was like they spoke with whole new meaning. I love that about the Bible. I love that about the Holy Spirit- it's Him who makes the words on the pages come alive every time I open up my Bible.
Anyway, when I logged on this morning, I learned that this post was going to be my 851st post at Heart & Soul. Just for kicks, I went through a few books of the Bible looking to see if any of them had a chapter 8, verse 51, and I found this one in John.
"I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." John 8:51
Wow! Is that a cool word for this morning or what? And here it is in the Amplified version:
"I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone observes My teaching [lives in accordance with My message, keeps My word], he will by no means ever see and experience death." John 8:51
As I think on these words that Jesus said, He was saying a whole lot with just a few words. I think we can all agree on the first sentence there, Jesus tells the truth. Jesus always told the truth, and every word He spoke and was written down for us to read 2000 years later is truth. It was truth then, it is truth today, and it will be truth tomorrow. I think if you have a discussion with any pastor or theologian, that is one area where everyone agrees- Jesus spoke the truth.
And yet, we all miss so much of what Jesus talked about.
The next part of the verse says that we need to keep His Word. I like the Amplified for, well, amplifying what Jesus says by saying observing His teachings, but it's the part that says "living in accordance with My message" that drives the point home. Jesus' message wasn't only that He was the way to salvation. Jesus' message was to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper and drive out demons.
"Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." Matthew 10:8
Why do we dismiss that part of what He shared? Why is it that we all accept the message of love and salvation, but we skip the fact that 90% of what Jesus did was miraculous- and He told us to do the same. In fact, He says that we will do greater works than He did! Jesus calmed the sea and rebuked the wind- and He says right in the Bible that I will do greater than that!
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12
Yet we mention these things... we share them with others because it's just so exciting! And we show them exactly where it is in God's Word, and we think that they will see it too, and they will understand and get excited with us. You know what happens? They see, they smile, they read the exact same thing, and then they tell you that you're crazy. That those things are not for today, and that you should stay away from anyone who thinks otherwise.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8
My Jesus raised people from the dead. My Jesus let love and compassion steer him to the poor and the helpless- and then He commissioned ME to do the exact same thing. And if we go back to the verse we started with this morning, Jesus says that if I follow His teachings that I will never see or taste death. And I believe that too! Death will come to our physical bodies, to be sure, but that body is temporary! It's the spirit body and the soul underneath that will live on forever. Yet when I get to that moment- when it comes to me that it is my time to step out of this body, I want to be able to look Jesus in the eye and know that I followed ALL His teachings. Not just the ones that I was comfortable with- and not just the ones that are easy to follow. I want to be able to hold my head high and thank Him for using me in such a wonderful and mighty way.
The kids and I have been studying the story of Pocahontas. In the story, when Pocahontas sailed to England, an Indian went with her, sent by her father, to count the English. He was sent with a stick, and he was told to notch the stick every time he saw an Englishman. When the boat arrived in England, he saw the thousands of people at the harbor, took one look at his stick, and cast it away. I want to do the same. I want to have a spiritual stick that I notch each time I share the true nature of Jesus with someone- except that I want to be able to cast the stick away because I've shared with so many people that there isn't room on the stick for all the notches. I want to be filled with the same love that Jesus had for everyone He saw- the same compassion that caused Him to heal the lepers and set a woman free who was about to be stoned for adultery. Jesus was love, compassion, and full of God's glory... if I can keep that word and keep it in my heart and share it willingly with all who will listen, the rewards waiting will be well worth it.
Friday, October 09, 2009
I was watching a movie last week about the story of Pocahontas. It was not the greatest movie, although I do think it was fairly accurate for the time period. Along the way there was a man trying to woo a young lady, and he was talking about how her heart had been broken, and she needed to move on. He compared her life to that of a tree- and I thought how wonderful that analogy was!
Let's think about life being a tree. A tree takes a very long time to grow to maturity. The large trees that make up a forest have likely been around for so many years- hundreds perhaps. In order for a tree to grow, it must have all the right nutrients- fertilizers and water in the form of rain. As the tree grows, sometimes disaster may befall it. A limb may be damaged in a storm, or a few branched ripped off by playing children, yet the tree grows on. Instead of withering up and dying over the loss of its limb, the tree tries to grow around the wound- creating a scar, yet it continues to grow up. It continues to reach for the sky, trying to grow into the beautiful tree that it wants to be.
Every seed that is planted has the potential to be a mighty majestic tree. Every single sapling that begins to grow has the potential within to turn into the mighty tree that it fell from.
Wow, is that like us or what?
"Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth." 1 Chronicles 16:33
"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12
Each and every one of us has potential inside of them. We have the potential to be great and mighty for the Kingdom of God! Every one of us! Each of us has a choice to make though as struggles come along. As we grow, limbs may break off- and these limbs would be parts of us that are not desirable- so they break off, and we learn from it, and continue to grow. We may still bear the scars of that break off, but grow we do, as each and every day we get a little closer to reaching out to heaven with our hands. Yet our growth also doesn't happen overnight. There may be times where it doesn't seem like we grow much at all- but if we dig deep with our roots, and reach out for that which sustains us, the growth process will continue. And then one day, we will no longer be that little tree- that sapling, instead, we'll be a more mature tree- bearing the scars of our mistakes, but proudly stretching out into the sky.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
I think that many of us Christians have been on a diet of hogwash. As I read these verses over and over, I see so much truth within, except that it's truth that hasn't been lived by. It says right there in verse nine that we are not controlled by our sinful nature. Yet how many times have we heard from our friends or from a preacher in the pulpit that it's okay to sin- it means we are human. We hear that it's okay that we mess up, because that's what forgiveness is for. So we ask for forgiveness and move on, chalking it up to being human until the next time. Then we go through the process of confessing our sin again.
When are we going to stand up and rightfully claim what is ours as the Sons and Daughters of God? If the Spirit of God lives within us, we are not controlled by a sinful nature at all! The devil certainly wants us to think otherwise- he wants us to think that it's human nature to sin... except that it's not human nature to sin. It's worldly nature to sin. Those who are unsaved are natural born sinners- until they meet Jesus Christ and ask for forgiveness from their sins. Once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior,we can receive the Holy Spirit into our lives and then we can "go and sin no more". Meaning that it is entirely possible to live a sin-free life!
Once we have the Spirit Within- we are no longer of this world- we are dead to the world but alive in Christ, and we should not let the devil talk us into this "to sin is human" garbage. To err is human- but forgiveness IS divine.
"She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, " I do not condemn you, either Go From now on sin no more."" John 8:11
When Jesus forgave that woman, and told her to sin no more, what do you think happened after that? She had been cleansed of all her sins, and accepted the forgiveness that Jesus showed her. Do you really think that she walked away and started sinning again? I happen to think not. I happen to think that she left and that she never sinned again after hearing the truth. She became a new person- a divine person who lived by what is right, and the truth set her free of the bondage that caused her to sin in the first place.
I think that if we as Christians would open up our Bibles and claim what we read as truth for ourselves, we would show the world that Jesus is indeed our Lord and God and that we serve a God of love and peace. All these books and words of the Bible were not merely assembled to give us encouragement or to give us warm fuzzies every day. The words in the Bible were written to tell us the truth. They were written to show us the keys to heaven- and how to behave as citizens of heaven- not as citizens of a world devoted to sin. Let's take hold of what we read inside and truly go and sin no more. The next time sin comes at us and rears its ugly head, we can remember Romans 8:9 and simply laugh at sin. Speak the verse that comes to mind and remind the devil that we are new creatures in Christ Jesus, and sin has no place in our lives. The Spirit within will help us to become the sinless creatures that Jesus made possible for us.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor." Isaiah 55:5
I am continuing in my vigil to pray for President Obama and his family. I have to admit, that it grows wearying sometimes on my spirit to hear so much criticism and so much negativity surrounding this administration. No, I did not vote for him, but by golly, he is president of the most blessed nation in the country, and as the elected leader of our FREE country, he deserves the respect and prayers of its people. So I will continue to pray blessings over him and his family. I do believe my prayers make a difference, and if every person who calls themselves a Christian would choose to pray for this president instead of criticize, I believe we can make a major impact in the way this country functions.
This week it is also on my heart to pray for the Mid-East. I have to believe that we have a God who wants peace, who would love to see peace come to the region of the world that He so loves. Israel is God's chosen country, and those who stand for the nation of Israel, stand for God. It is our job as Christians to pray for peace for that area of the world that is so troubled by extremist beliefs. Right now the big concern in the Middle East is the country of Iran, who seems to be swiftly developing its nuclear arms program. While they deny they are working on it, they continue to refuse inspection from UN representatives. The time to pray is NOW- before they have a fully working program. And not only do we need to pray for a cessation of the nuclear development, but we need to pray for the safety of Iranian citizens. Imagine the awful possibilities of working on nuclear projects undercover- one would surmise that they would do something much like from a movie- meaning not the best of circumstances.
I imagine the people of Iran are fearful right now, as are all the citizens who live in the nations around Iran. I pray for peace for the region- I pray for a peace in the political arena, and a peace to flow through the hearts and lives of everyone who lives in the region. It must be so difficult to live in a country full of turmoil and strife. I pray that the peace of God will reign above all and that a country so bent on domination will instead look to take care of her own people- will see the hurt and will develop peaceful programs and take care of those who need it.
God so wants to see peace in that region, and while I may not be able to do much about it from here at home, at the very least, I can pray about it. I can pray that God will change hardened hearts, and that peace will prevail.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
I read this verse today and it simply made me smile. Really, how can anyone read this and not smile. God is able to do so much more than we can possibly ask him for- or imagine in our tiny human brains. How awesome is that to think on? As we come to Him with our requests and our desires, I long for the day when our requests are answered- only in such a way that we never could have imagined.
For at that moment- at that time, we will truly have a testimony to share. When we can look in the eyes of those who don't know the Lord and we can show them what God has done for us- and there's no denying it. We've all heard of miracles like a tornado jumping over a house or a child falling four stories and remaining unharmed. God's ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. So while we come to Him with our prayer requests, sometimes it does us good to remember that He IS God, and He does know best how to answer our prayers.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD. " Isaiah 55:8
Often times in prayer times in the past, I found myself or those around us asking God for very specific answers to our problems. As an example, it's no secret that we're tight in the finance department right now. When I pray, I could very well pray, dear God, please bring in the money we need to pay our bills. Now because I have a loving God, He could very well answer that prayer by giving us ways to make the money we need to pay our bills. Except that, what if God had a better answer for me? What if I simply prayed to God to take care of all our needs, and to provide what He thought we should have. I make my request and leave the answer up to Him. Then He can bless us in whatever way He thinks possible. Maybe He'll have a past due bill miraculously become paid. Maybe He'll have someone drop off groceries at the house. Maybe a gift card will show up for a clothing store. Maybe God just wants to bless us and He raises up all sorts of people to give us this and that so that we end up with abundance. Just think of all that I am limiting God by asking Him to bring in the money we need.
Really, it's a lot like a Christmas wish list. As parents, I want to get my children the gifts they want for Christmas. Same with the nieces and nephews, yet often times, when I am constricted by a list, I don't have the same joy as I do if I just go shopping with that person in mind. If I'm shopping off the list- looking for a specific item, I may miss the incredible sale on something that they would really want even more.
These verses and these thoughts today are such a great reminder that I don't want to limit God when I pray. I don't want to limit how He may want to bless us by asking for specific answers to our problems. God knows our problems, and I will thank Him for seeing us through these problems in whatever way He wants to see us through. I know He is by our side the whole time- and I know that we will grow and bloom as a result. I am looking forward to seeing how He answers our prayers.
Monday, October 05, 2009
"God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 1:28
"4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5
One of the goals of man is to bear fruit. God told us right in the beginning that we were to bear fruit and multiply. I've often heard it said that the phrase "be fruitful" meant reproduction- having children. Of course, the more I dig into the Word of God, I learn that being fruitful most likely means something else completely- it's a direct order to bear fruit- the fruit of the Spirit, which we find in Galations 5.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. " Galatians 5:22-23
We learn in John 15 exactly how it is that we bear fruit- and that is by remaining grounded in God. We are compared to the branches of a vine, with God being the vine. If a branch breaks off from a vine, it truly does not bear fruit. In fact, most often, it whithers up and dies- not only not producing fruit, but ceasing to even sustain life. But if we keep our branch on the vine, we will bear the fruit that we were commanded to bear.
And how do we stay connected to the vine? We stay connected to God. We read our Word. We spend time in prayer, and we spend our quiet time, simply waiting on God. The precious Bible- God's written Word to us gives us the fertilizer and the nutrients that we need to sustain growth. As I read those verses in John over again, I am greatly encouraged, because it doesn't just say that we will bear fruit if we remain in Him, it says we will bear much fruit. We will bear an abundance. How exciting is that? As I read over the fruit of the spirit, and as I think about daily life as a mom, I really can't help but get excited at the prospect of an abundance of fruit! Imagine having so much patience that my kids can't even pry up the very edges- let alone get under my skin. Imagine having so much kindness that all the neighbor kids want to play in your yard, because you're the nicest, coolest mom ever. Think about having an abundance of joy- which we know is our strength from God. How wonderful would it be to spend every day filled with the father's joy!
But we don't get any of these fruit if we just sit around and think about how wonderful it would be to be fruitful. Thoughts don't make it happen- we have to act. We have to spend a few moments with Him each and every day. And you know, we do have an understanding God. He knows there may be days where the only time He gets with you is the time you spend in the shower. I have a new nephew who was born last Friday- I know that God understands that quiet time for that household may be stolen moments in passing for awhile. In the meantime, God is watching over them, enjoying watching the family love this new little boy. Its those times when we have the time that God agonizes over. Every time I walk to the computer and spend a few minutes checking this and that instead of reading my Bible- God wishes I would just click that red X and ask Him instead.
And so, in that regard, this week I am taking action. I am not going to spend this week in folly and foolish actions. This week, I am going to spend time with God. This week, I am digging deep, and I am taking a break from all that is around, trying to steal my precious time with Him. I have very carefully and thoughtfully written up blog posts for every day this week- and they should show up every morning this week. But they will not be freshly written posts, as I need to step away from the computer for a few days. I need to stop letting everything else compete for my time. I need to spend time with God and with my Family, because I want to bear fruit in abundance.