Friday, May 28, 2010

Be Still

"Be still, and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10

This is one of those verses that I think we tend to ignore from time to time. A problem comes out way and we spend a lot of time and thought trying to figure out how to deal with the problem. We try to come up with a solution, and when that doesn't work, we try to come up with another solution, and another, and so on. Often times, while we're trying to figure out the answers to our problems, we're also going crazy. We may be wearing ourselves out- in more than one way.

This weekend, here in the United States, we're celebrating a holiday weekend. Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor those who have served our country in a time of war- but it's also a time to get together with family and friends. Often times, family and friends we haven't seen in a while. I have a challenge to issue to my readers this morning. I challenge you to not spend the weekend talking about your problems. I challenge you to not talk about other people's problems. Instead, spend the time visiting and focusing on what is good in your lives. Spend the time encouraging each other and having a joyful time and not dwelling on your problems.

Because you know what we need to do when a problem is facing us?

"Be still, and know that I am God"

We need to be still. We need to quiet our mind and stop trying to figure out a sensible, human way out of our problems. We need to stop dwelling on the problems, and dwell on what is good. When we are still... It is in those quiet moments that God reveals Himself best. When we still our thoughts and our minds, God can present His answers for us. We don't need to make ourselves crazy trying to find a solution, because when we still ourselves, God will present the solution for us- but first we need to find that moment of quiet.

Just think about this verse for a minute this morning. Close your eyes and repeat, "Be still and know that I am God." Then just relax and be quiet for a moment. Doesn't that just give you a little boost right then and there? Know that He is God- as He fills you with His peace and His joy, you'll find that taking that moment to just be still and reflect on Him is totally worth it.

Dwell on this verse this weekend. When you're having a discussion that starts to get you riled up about something- just think on it. Let the words wash over you and calm you and relax you. It's better than any other kind of relaxing medium you can think of.

Happy holiday weekend everyone! Enjoy your time with friends, family, and those you love. And enjoy some time with Him- He's looking forward to spending some time with you too! I'll be back on Tuesday- be blessed!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Importance of Prayer & Intercession

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20-23

I was reading in the book of John the other day, and when I came to chapter 17, it really made me pause and think about what I was reading. Jesus knew how the next few hours were going to go. He knew that He was about to be arrested, beaten, and put to death... What would most of us do if we only had a few hours left before we were to be taken away from our loved ones? We would do anything we could, I think, to spend just a little more time loving on our loved ones. And yet, Jesus didn't do that specifically. Instead, Jesus found it more important to spend his last few hours praying.

I think that's telling us something vital. Oh sure, when life comes at us with an issue or a problem or trial, we all turn to prayer. We ask God for help with our situation, but in this case, Jesus isn't just praying, He's showing us a crystal clear example of intercession.

I looked up the definition of intercede in the dictionary, and it said that it means "to intervene between parties with a view to reconciling differences". Mediate was given as a synonym. Intercession means "prayer, petition, or entreaty in favor of another".

What do we do when we get a phone call or an e-mail that someone is in need of prayers? We tell them we'll pray for them. And we do- I know in my case, the minute I hang up the phone, I spend some time talking to God about the situation. And I may pray about it throughout the day too- I often pray while I do dishes or fold laundry. But then in a day or so, I don't really think about the situation much more other than to ask that person how things are going as a follow-up. Now, maybe this is just me, but I suspect that this is how most of us behave in our prayer life. Now, let's think of an alternative, using Jesus as an example.

Jesus went somewhere specific to pray. He went to a quiet place where He could be alone to talk to God, and then He did just that. He had so little time, and yet He took the time to talk to God about His loved ones. He asked God to bless His disciples- and then He asked God to bless, well, pretty much everyone. In fact, Jesus prayed that all of us who believe in Him would be one- that we would be united in our faith.

So if we are one- one with another- than what affects one of us, affects us all. It stands to reason, then, that when someone calls us with a prayer need, that not only do we commit that issue to prayer right there and maybe throughout our day, but that we give it the same exact serious prayer time that we would give a pressing need in our own lives. Think about the difference you could make in some one's life if you would commit to praying for someone or something for a specific period of time. I wonder... if all of us who believe would commit to the act of intercession one for another... why, I would expect that we would see attacks of the devil foiled much more frequently. As we build a wall of prayer around each other- and build that wall of protection from our prayers, we would become closer with each other- AND closer with God, having spent that precious time with Him.

I just... you know, as I'm thinking about Jesus, facing His last few moments on earth, and what is He doing- He's talking to God. Jesus knows that in a few hours He is going to be with God in Heavenly places, and yet, while He is still here on earth, He finds that it is important to spend more time talking to Him. With His last few precious breaths here on earth, Jesus took the time to intercede for those He loves. And did you know that when He sat there in the garden, talking to God and praying for those He loves, that YOU were included in that prayer? That Jesus specifically saw your face and said "I in them and you in me"?

Prayer and intercession is so important that it was one of the last things Jesus did as a human here on earth. It seems to me that would be an example worth following. In practical terms, it could be just as simple as taking a calendar and writing prayer needs on it. Take a period of time- say a week, and commit to praying for a specific person every day of that week. Or if you just need to warm up to the idea, take just three days. But if Jesus specifically took the time to intercede on behalf of His dearest loved ones, it seems to me that we need to be following His example.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Warfare Wednesday: Church Unity

"these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations." Isaiah 56:7

It's that day of the week again! As we roll into a holiday weekend here in the US of A, let's take a few minutes and thank God for the leaders of our nation. Let's take a moment and thank God for President Obama and his family. Let's ask that God would bless them with a wonderful holiday weekend- that they would be able to enjoy some time together- which I'm sure they don't get too much of these days. Let's continue to pray for protection over them, and that God would make His Will for America known to this president. A president who has a relationship with God Almighty is a president who really can make a difference.

And we will also pray this week for Vice President Biden and his family. As the second in the chain of command for this country, we don't hear about the vice president as often as we hear about the President. Regardless, may God keep him safe, and may God keep his family safe, and from harm. May God bless their family for Joe's willingness to serve his country all these years, and may he also develop that wonderful relationship with God. With Godly understanding and Godly wisdom, the country could be put back on the track it's supposed to be on- a track that puts God in the pilot seat to be an example to the rest of the world.

I posted the verse above this morning, because something else that has been on my mind as of late is division in the church. It seems to be getting more and more prominent. Every week it seems we hear about a new church starting up as a result of a breakaway from a bigger church. Or I hear a lot about people researching how to start home churches, because they just can't find a house of worship that they agree with. Instead of coming together in unity, we're breaking up into smaller, and smaller pieces. And I just want to pray this selfishness out of the church. Church used to be all about coming together to worship and praise God, and to find out what He has to say to His people on the Sabbath. But now it's all about what I can get out of service. Was it good for me? Did I like it- did enough people say hi to me... things like that.

Regardless of the differences in how services are carried out, a church who preaches the Word of God is a church of God. Our focus should be Him, and that's that. A church that would work together would be a church that really could affect the world around them. If we could all work together, we could work on feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and healing the sick. Instead we're all fighting against each other, trying to get more memberships to increase the offerings and build bigger buildings. One church, working alone, could feed a handful of hungry people. A whole group of churches, working together, could feed a whole community.

It's time for us to come together! It's time for us to stop fighting, and it's time for us to realize that we could be one church- under God and not hundreds of little churches with our own focus. I want to be a part of the church mentioned here in Isaiah 56- a house of prayer for all nations. I am praying for understanding and for unity in the church community. When we open up our eyes and see that it's not about increasing membership- but about saving the lost, THEN we can come together to BE the gospel for the lost around us. A church united together will give glory to God- and not to man, and that's something we should be after.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Slow To Anger

“[Listening and Doing] My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19

I'm wondering about this verse this morning. Really, I'm wondering about it. How does one get to the point where they are slow to become angry? To me, that just sounds like, well, something really difficult. I know I've read this verse a hundred-plus times before, so it's nothing new- but how does one truly become slow to anger? I'd like to know this!

Because when I come across something that causes me to become angry- the anger is almost instantaneous- it's the first thing to come up, and then I need to focus myself and calm down and give the problem to God. That's how the process goes for me, I get angry first, then process what it is I'm angry about. I know other people who process first, and then the emotions come. My husband is one of those, he is quick to listen, slow to process and speak, and then he may become angry or emotive accordingly.

But I'm wondering about those of us who are the opposite- is this a female-male difference? No matter what it is, it has me searching out other verses on anger in the Bible. Maybe I can find a clue as to how to adjust my emotions so that I can be slow to anger, and not first to anger, and then slow to simmer down.

Here's one that says to avoid anger altogether.

"Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil." Psalm 37:8

Ah, here's one that give us some advice for when we are angry. David advises us to silence, so that when we are angry, we don't make an error and sin, or say something that we shouldn't be saying.

"In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent." Psalm 4:4

Search your hearts and be silent. That IS good advice when anger is threatening to take over. When we search our hearts, we're trying to get to the core of why this thing is making us angry in the first place. Maybe our anger is misplaced? Maybe it's for a bad reason- or maybe it's about something that really isn't any of our business at all! And then there are also times, at least for me, where I've quieted myself down to try and figure out why I am so angry- only to discover that the devil himself has been messing with me- giving me a completely imaginary scenario so that I am angry with someone while I have no reason to be. As a mom I find that when I get angry with my kids, sometimes it's misplaced anger. We can have one of those days where it just seems like they aren't listening at all- they're fighting a lot, or just plain being naughty. Of course I get angry, and sometimes angry mommy comes out for a while. But something that I've realized is that my kids are not inherently naughty- there's almost always a reason for it. And when I can quiet my spirit, reflect on our day and figure out why our day is going the way it is- I usually find a reason. A lack of sleep is the normal culprit around here. And when I can see that when my eyes are opened up to that fact, the anger goes away. Just like that, I become tolerant of their behavior and try to make adjustments to create an atmosphere of peace in the house.

Why do we become angry in the first place? Do you know that God becomes angry? My first thought was that maybe anger was not from God, but a quick search for anger in the Bible finds dozens of verses that say "the anger of the Lord burned towards them" or something like that. But I also found these verses in the Psalms that go right along with what James is saying about being slow to anger- and why we should be slow to anger.

"But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." Psalm 86:15

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love." Psalm 103:8

"The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." Psalm 145:8

And there's this verse in Joel as well that also says something similar:

"Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity." Joel 2:13

We should learn to be slow to anger because our Father is slow to anger. As I've been reading these verses and trying to discover how to get rid of the anger completely, I've learned that maybe I'm not going to get rid of it. But maybe, with God's help, I can learn to be slow to anger. I can work on my response to situations and try to see a situation through compassionate eyes- and not selfish ones- which admittedly, are probably the root of much anger.

I went back to the book of James to read that verse again, and I discovered there was a second part to it. So often we read just verse 19, we read that we should be slow to anger, and we stop there. I know that memorization for me in the past did not include verse 20. The thing is, it should, because we see why learning to slow our anger is important.

"for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." James 1:20

God wants us to have a righteous life- and anger can get in the way of that. Think about it, when we are angry, nothing seems to go right does it? When I get angry, I'm probably thinking thoughts I shouldn't be thinking- if not saying them out loud. A person living a righteous life has learned to control those thoughts and those words. And since that's what God wants for us, it seems to me that talking to Him about anger is the way to go. It says right here in His word, that He desires us to be righteous- but that anger will hinder us. So with God's help, we can learn to do away with instant anger. With God's help, we can learn the thoughtful, peaceful way to deal with an unpleasant situation. Anger does not have to have a part in what we think, say or do.

Joel says to rend out hearts and not our garments. By looking to the inside, and seeing that maybe we need a heart adjustment, we can learn to deal with the anger that creeps up in those moments. We need to take David's advice, and search our hearts, and dig out whatever it is that is causing that anger in the first place- and we need to give it to God. We need to reach in and turn on that compassion and see what the situation really is like before us. And then. Then, we can answer as Jesus would- we can answer with love instead of anger.

"Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." James 1:21

God's Word, and the character of Jesus has been planted in us. When we can accept that- when we truly accept the idea that we can learn to love just as Jesus did- then we can break the cycle of anger that brings us down so often. Fill our hearts and our minds with good things- with God's Word and with the things of love and of God, and we can watch that instant anger dissolve away for good.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In His Will

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31

God loves you. Just read these verses again! See? Every time I read this verse, I am just amazed that I find it tucked within the words of my Bible. They can bring so much comfort to me when things are not going quite right. Or when things are just plain going bad, and I don't understand what is going on and why we're in a jam. Then I read verses like this, and I just know that God knows what is going on, and He'll see us through.

He doesn't always take away the problems- but you know what? Sometimes He does! Sometimes when we ask for help, the help comes, and the thing that was terrorizing us just vaporizes, and is almost like it never was. But in the instances where the problems don't go away, He gives us the tools we need to combat the problem- head on.

He gives us peace, so that we don't have to lie awake all night long, dwelling on the problem and losing precious sleep- which is vital to healthy living. The peace of God will also fill us so that we don't stray and think thoughts we aren't supposed to. You know how that is- a situation comes up, and someone specific is to blame. Our human selves want to curse that person, think bad thoughts of them, and make them go away. The peace of God stays our mind and our tongue. It keeps us from spreading rumor and gossip, and it keeps us from saying horrible things about people that we otherwise might say- and then regret later on.

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

God also gives us joy in times of trouble. There is nothing greater than that. You know, it used to be that when someone was going through a rough time, there were stereotypical things that one did during that time. I'll use the example of breaking up with a boyfriend, or losing a relationship. What did one do during that sad time? You would lie on the couch all day, crying from time to time, eating foods that will spike your blood sugar and cause a crash later on, and usually, watching sad movies was involved in that time as well. All that sadness would prolong the agony and if we only knew then what we knew now- that the joy of the Lord is our strength!

When we feel something sad coming upon is, we need to make an effort to get rid of that sadness. Instead of watching sad, weepy movies, we need to put in a comedy and watch something that will make us laugh and lift our spirits. When we're struggling with something in particular, we need to find other people who have been through the same thing and who can encourage us to get to the end- catch on to their joy for having made it through.

"for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

We are worth so much more than sparrows- God knows us so well, and He loves us so much, that He gave us the keys to getting through any trouble that could come our way. Those keys are hiding within our Bible, and only by picking it up and spending time in His Word will those keys be unlocked. When we uncover that verse that gives us such encouragement, we need to commit it to memory. We need to recite it over and over- almost like a mantra, and every time we recite it, we're building our spirits up just a little bit more, so that we, too, can overcome!

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Jesus IS peace. He told us troubles would be there, but He also told us how to get through them. When the devil tries to come after us- and he will, that's just his nature, we can laugh at him, and speak words of scripture to him, and he will flee. The devil will try to use just about any situation you can think of, and twist it to suit his purposes. But instead of using human instinct and fighting evil deeds with evil words and thoughts, we can use our spiritual instinct, and fight evil with good. We can pray, and speak life into that which the devil would use for evil purposes. Because he may use people and situations to try and get at us- to try and rob us of our peace and our joy. But Jesus is bigger. The love of Jesus surpasses all, and God still loves that person trying to rob us. We can love them the way Jesus would, and sometimes that means grace and mercy.

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21

Because in the end, when a situation comes at me, I don't want my first instinct to be to swell up with anger. I want to laugh at it. I want to be able to instantly rely on the joy of the Lord to help us take care of the problem. And the more the troubles come at us, the more we can practice that. There are a lot of times in the Bible where we see the words "Do not be afraid." Jesus said that more than once, and many of the angels in the Bible said that as well. It's there for a reason. Even if the only thing we can remember to say to ourselves is "Do not be afraid" it seems that would be well worth it to repeat over and over. God's got our backs. There is nothing that we could go through that He would desert us for. He will always be there- and will see us through to the other side. God loves His children- every single one of them.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Not Quite Completion...Yet

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

I'm not entirely sure what brought this verse to mind this morning. But there it is. I guess maybe I was kind of thinking the other day about our last few years, and how it's always seemed like we've had one issue after another where we were really seeking God and seeking answers and guidance for decisions we were making. But in the last few months, it's been, well, different, because we're in a place where we don't have a major decision to make. There isn't a big change looming ahead for us, and we're at a point where we just kind of keep on going.

But the thing to remember is that we have not arrived. We have not suddenly reached the pinnacle in life, and we shouldn't be content with where we are at all. We may not have a major decision in front of us, but we do have a brand new day each and every day. Every day we have a brand new opportunity to grab hold of the day and take advantage of our day. Every day we make the choice whether or not we're going to try and go a little deeper and a little further in our relationship with God.

That's what we should be after. Even though we're thrilled with where we are as far as making major decisions goes, we should not be content to just lay back and do nothing for awhile. In fact, we should do the exact opposite. We should take advantage of the fact that there isn't a pressing need in our lives that we're contending for, and we should dive in and try to soak up as much of God's Word as we can. When all is well with us, this is when we need to also turn our attention to others, and try to be an encouragement and lift others up in their times of need.

What makes me think of all this, is that as I read this verse today, my first thought was okay, God's not finished with us yet. He has us where He wants us, now what is He going to do with us. But then I read the verse fully, and I had to pause for a moment and read it again. I centered in on that word completion, and thought on it for a moment. Then I thought about completion.

When I bake a cake, there are many different stages of completion. There's the moment the batter has come together and I can put the cake in the oven. That's completion on my end, but the cake is not complete yet- it needs to bake. Later, the cake comes out of the oven, at another stage of completion, but really, it's not done yet. First it needs to cool, so it can come out of the pan. Finally, the cake is ready. But wait- first it needs some frosting, maybe a sprinkle or two to decorate. Now is it complete? Well, when I bake a cake for the first time, it isn't really complete until I've actually tasted it and seen for myself that it is a good cake. But maybe after tasting, I see where there can be changes or tweaks for next time. My cakes never really reach the state of absolute perfection and completion.

So to, is it with us, interestingly enough. There may be moments in our life where we feel a completeness. A moment where we may think that we have finally arrived where we want to be. Think of all those milestones in life: high school graduation, college graduation, marriage, children, grandchildren... All of these are important moments in a person's life, and there are many others too, but at each moment, we think that life can't possibly get any better than it is at that exact moment.

How awesome then, is it to read in Philippians that I will not actually find completion until the day of Christ? That means that I get to keep having these moments of mini-completion, these moments of joy and excitement, until the very day that Jesus comes to relocate His people! It also means that there will always be something to strive for- something to seek God for. It may very well be that many times, those moments are simply spent seeking more of Him. This verse is a good reminder today. It is great to look around, survey life, and be ever so thankful for the things that God has done. It's even better though, to think that it will get better than this. This level that we're at? It only goes up, it only gets better, and as we go up, our relationship with God will get deeper as we draw closer and closer to one another.

God started this work so long ago. He conceived of this work before time even really began, and He will not just set us aside because we've gotten to a particular stage in life. He will continue to work in us, and will continue to guide our paths and show us more of what He has to say to us. And this will continue all the days of our lives.

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. " Philippians 1:4-6

Thursday, May 20, 2010

He Answers

"Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear." Isaiah 65:24

I read this verse the other day, and it's been on my mind ever since. Before we call, He will answer. Just think about how remarkable that actually is!

God knows when we are going to call to Him. God sees us, God knows us, and He knows when we are going to be calling on Him for help or for direction. The thing about God though, is that usually He isn't just going to send that answer our way before we ask. He wants us to ask. He loves to hear the voices of His children, and He wants us to ask Him for help.

I totally get this as a parent! As I watch my child take on a new task, I try to let them do it by themselves, knowing full well when they are going to need my help. But I don't just give them my help, I wait for them to acknowledge that they actually do need my help. I wait for them to turn to me and tell me that they can't do it on their own. Then I am more than happy to lend them a hand, or guide them in the right direction. But first I wait for them to come to me.

The longer I have kids, the more I understand things about the nature of God. He truly is a father, and He really and truly loves His children. All of them! The thing is though, we wouldn't learn anything if He just did it all for us. If, in the great path of life, God simply laid out the path wide open before us, we wouldn't learn anything. We wouldn't learn about asking Him for help, we wouldn't learn about discernment, and we wouldn't learn the joy that comes from an answer given. We would be a little like robots in a scenario like that. And God doesn't want a herd of robots, He wants His children to want Him, He wants His children to seek out His help and accept it when it is lovingly given.

He answers BEFORE we even call. I just can't stop thinking about how cool that sounds. Yet at the same time, it also makes me think of all those times when we struggle on by ourselves, determined to see something through and manage the task before us. And then finally, when we realize that there is just no way we can do it on our own, we call out to God, and He answers, and me manage to make our way through with His help. How much easier would the entire task have been if we had only swallowed our pride and asked for His guiding hand from the very beginning?

That makes me think of money again. Don't ask me where that thought came from- well, actually I do know where that thought came from, but how many of us really could use Godly wisdom when it comes to our finances. I imagine a lot of us- or most of us really. But think about the finances. Think about how we sit down with our checkbook and pay the bills. We go grocery shopping and fill the pantry, we pick up a few necessary items and fill the gas tank. And then we see how much more we need to pay, and we know there isn't enough left to do that with. So then, at that point, we ask God for interference. We ask Him to bless us, to help us get through to the end of the month. He always does, His love is never-ending. But what would happened if we did it in a completely different way?

What if, instead of spending first, and then praying and asking God for wisdom with what remains, what if we prayed before we even spent a nickle? How about, instead, sitting down, writing that tithe check first, and then asking God to help you wisely spend in the weeks ahead. Ask Him to help open your eyes to the ways to save money in the grocery store. Ask Him to open your eyes to need, and where you maybe need to stretch and give. Ask Him to help those finances stretch to pay ALL the bills, and not just some of them. Just think about the possibilities if we asked God for that help BEFORE we were down to the last few pennies.

God will hear us every single time. But first we need to open our mouths and call out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Warfare Wednesday: Around The World

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." James 3:17-18

I just feel like this week we need to send some prayers around the world. As always, we will continue to pray for safety and wisdom for President Obama and his family, as well as Vice President Biden and his family. But this week, my eyes have been turned to Asia, where there is turmoil in one part of the continent, and accusations in another.

I am praying this morning for the citizens of Bangkok, Thailand. Bangkok is in chaos after a major clash between protesters and police, which subsequently involved the military and many citizens being killed. It's already been an unstable time for the people of Thailand. The protesters have been protesting for some time, but they hadn't affected any change, so they got angry. I just want to pray for peace to flood the streets of Bangkok. May God give wisdom to those who are seeking change, to keep them from resorting to violence. And may God give the leaders of Thailand wisdom as well, to see where they need to make changes. May the peace of God flow among the citizens of Bangkok- and around the country of Thailand. May they not be afraid to leave their homes, and may they recover from this incident in short order. Thailand relies a lot on tourism to boost their economy. May the country become safe once again for tourists to visit and explore the beautiful country that God created.

And while we're in that part of the nation, let's slide on over and pray for the country of Pakistan. Pakistani leaders have recently been accused of knowing where major terrorists are know, relations between Pakistan and the US are tentative at best, and I just pray for wisdom for all involved with getting terrorists out of Pakistan. I pray for the Pakistani government, that they would not have to fear retribution from terrorists for anything they do. And I pray for wisdom for the United States diplomats when talking to Pakistan. May they choose the right words, and may they seek Godly direction and understanding in best dealing with the government of Pakistan.

And now we're going to slide on over to the country of Afghanistan. Ah, Afghanistan, I just pray that God will win! This very morning, taliban operatives attacked a US Air base in Kabul, killing 1 and wounding 9. May God protect the military members- from the US as well as other countries their supporting us, who are there trying to protect the citizens of Afghanistan, and trying to rid the region of the taliban extremists. May God give the military supernatural plans to eradicate the terrorists and extremists who want nothing but harm for the people in that country. My heart goes out to the citizens of Afghanistan who have been living in a war zone for so long... and just when things maybe start to seem a little normal again, the taliban surges forward and tries to wreak havoc again. May the power of God come upon that country! May He cause the very hearts of the taliban to change and to be filled with the love of God! Imagine the kind of change that could bring to the war-torn region! God loves the Afghani people, may they know that in a big and powerful way.

And finally, we're going to sidle on over back to our side of the world and pray for the nation of Mexico this morning. Today President Obama is meeting with President Calderon, and I just pray that God will totally bless their time together. May they have God-seasoned discussions, and may they find answers together to the problems we face together along the border. Mexico is dealing with some serious drug issues, and those issues are causing big problems along the border. May these men have some revelation today about how best to deal with these drug cartels who are causing serious problems. May the borders become a safe zone, and may the region see an end to the drug running that causes so many problems in both Mexico and the US. If our two countries could figure out a good way to control the border together, trade and relations could really become a boom to both nations. I pray that the conversations these two men have today would be salted with Godly wisdom, and that perhaps an idea or two may be planted that will come to fruition for the benefit of both countries, and for the glory of God.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Building Together

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." Luke 6:46-49

I had a dream last night about building a house, and then woke up singing the children's song about the wise man who built his house upon the rock. I don't remember a lot of the details about the dream, but I do remember this much. I remember that there were a bunch of us from church, working together to build this house, and we had to really purpose to work together. When one person would have an idea, it didn't take long for someone to disagree. We really had to work hard in our minds to agree, and when all was said and done, the finished product was absolutely wonderful, and we were all glad that we had listened to each other.

So often I think we spend too much time trying to get our own points across. Or we get so focused on accomplishing our tasks that are in front of us- or even something as simple as we spend a lot of time focused on what our personal ministry should be within the church. I think every one has been there at one point or another- you're new to a church community, you decide it's going to be your new church home, so then you figure you've got to get involved. And then you spend time trying out this ministry or that ministry, trying to figure out a good fit for yourself. That's all great, and wonderful, but I think the danger here is that we get so focused on trying to find out personal fit, that we don't look up and see the big picture.

The big picture, the reason why we are all at church in the first place. We get so focused on getting up on Sunday morning, heading off to church where we spend our morning busy. We spend our time getting ready for our task, thinking about our task, doing our task, and then when we're done, we go home exhausted, but we didn't really spend our morning doing what we should have been doing. And that is simply worshiping God with a body of believers.

Having all the busy worker bees in the world isn't going to make a church great unless that church has a solid foundation. And that foundation is Christ, and the common goal of coming together on a regular basis to worship Him and praise Him. That needs to be the number one focus and the number one goal at all times. When our focus shifts, or our goals shift to focus on this program or that program, we're putting the body on an unstable foundation.

This is not rocket science at all. When we all come together on Sunday morning, with the common goal of simply worshiping Him, we're laying a foundation for anything else that God wants to do that day. Now, sometimes, that worship is done through an area of ministry. Teaching Sunday School is a very worshipful experience- if you keep your mind and your heart on Him. We need to remember the reasons we teach Sunday School- it's not to simply be busy in the church and it's not because we may have finally found our area of ministry. We teach Sunday School to worship God, and to share that worship with the little ones. We're not there to come up with the greatest and best craft project- although that can happen too. We're there to share the love of God with the littlest and most important members of the church. We're there to teach them how to focus on Him with all their little hearts too.

The church that puts God first is building on a rock solid foundation. When we stop thinking about ourselves, and focusing on trying to figure out where we should serve, God does His best work. When we focus on Him, and spend our time worshiping Him, instead of dwelling on ourselves, He will open the doors where HE wants us to be. Someone will come up to you and ask if you'd like to help with a particular project. Or you'll simply begin to feel a compassion towards a particular area of service or ministry. And God is good! He knows where you will do your absolute best- but we do our best work when we are able to work on solid foundations.

The foundation is Him. Without Him, everything we do is pointless. When it's all about us, it's pointless, and we may as well just stay home. But when we all work together, when we come together and worship together, the pieces fall into place right where they should be. So then we have a functioning body, where we all work together like clockwork.

Just as in my dream though, sometimes it can take a lot of energy and focus to work together. Division and conflict always try to squeeze their way in, but by keeping our focus on God, and particularly striving to work together, our goal will be realized. We can accomplish our task when we work together.

A church divided will not stand. A church divided is on a shaky foundation, but with a little focus and a lot of determination, that foundation can be re-laid. All it takes is God. Truly. All it takes is getting back to the whole reason why we are a body to begin with- and that is to worship Him with all our heart, soul and mind. And when we get back to that reality, when we get back to Him, everything else will fall into place exactly where it needs to be.

It's a change of heart that begins with one person. You. When you purpose to focus on Him, and make Him the center, you're laying your own personal foundation. And then when you come alongside a brother or sister in Christ who has also made Him their foundation, you can work together. And it's a wonderful cycle that goes from there. It starts with one, and then one by one, we all come together, and what happens is that we find ourselves part of a body with a common goal and the sky will be the limit for what we can accomplish together. The wise man built his house upon the rock- The Rock of Ages.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Beyond Comprehension

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"
35"Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?"
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:33-36

Do you ever just stop and think about how incomprehensible God really is to man? These verses this morning are just that reminder to me. Who can really and truly know God? And then when you really think about the enormity of every facet of God, it kind of makes yourself seem really, really insignificant.

And yet God created you, and He created me. *Smile.*

As I read that first verse, and it mentions the depth of wisdom and knowledge of God. Think about all those people you may have ever heard speak, or that you read their books, that you would consider to be wise people. There definitely are people on the planet who are wise, and full of knowledge. There are many preachers and ministers who are just blessed by God to be knowledgeable and wise. And yet these people are like a drop in a very large bucket- even if you combined all their wisdom and knowledge together, it would be incomparable to the wisdom and knowledge that God has.

Who has known the mind of God? Well, each one of us has the opportunity to at least try to get to know the mind of God. That would be the purpose of our quiet time with Him. When we spend time in our Bible, we are spending time reading God's Book, and seeing what knowledge we can take away from it. But it's really in those quiet moments where God may reveal some mystery to us- a revelation that can only come from Him.

It's verse 35 though that really made me think this morning. Who has given to God that God should repay him? This just made me think of all those people who have issues with giving to the church today. Over the years I've heard so many different arguments about why people shouldn't give so much, or why certain forms of giving (like tithing) are obsolete. But the fact is, giving really comes down to one simple word. Obedience. Giving is all about obedience. Think about this. As we're reading these verses about the enormity of God, it's understood that God can and will do whatever He desires. (If He desired, He could reach down and squash me like a bug right now!) So when you think of that, do you really think that God needs our money? Ever? Do you really honestly think that God NEEDS any of us to give money? He's God! He doesn't need our money at all- but when the time comes to give. When the offering basket goes by, God wants to see where your heart is, so He gives you the opportunity to give.

Where are our hearts? Do we give sparingly, because our hearts are with the importance of building a savings account? Or do we give generously, because we understand the Biblical truth that God will provide for ALL our needs. The fact is, we don't really NEED money either. The unfortunate reality is that the world has us all swindled- the world has us believing that with money we will find happiness, that money will give us security and will solve all our problems. Probably the hardest lesson for anyone to learn is the lesson that loosens the hold on the checkbook. When the time comes to give, do we just skim off the top? Do we pass along that twenty dollar bill, because, really, it's just twenty bucks. We could use it, sure, but it's big enough that we can give ourselves a small pat on the back, yet it's small enough that in the grand scheme of things, we won't miss it. OR do we empty our wallet at every opportunity we have?

God wants to know where our hearts are! Are our hearts still in love with money? That we need to save, save, save. Or are our hearts in love with God, and when He presents an opportunity to give, we give everything we can, knowing that the God we love, who loves us in return, will take care of meeting our needs.

I know we still have a long way to go in the arena of giving. We've had our moments, but every once in a while the practicality creeps back in, and we forget that with God, all things are truly possible. God has never let us down. And I, of course, have an example for you of how we gave, and God gave back to us.

I have no idea how this turned into a money discussion today. But here it is anyhow. :)

Last fall, October, specifically, we had a conference that we attended where one of the speakers was someone we were quite familiar with. In fact, we've given specifically to his ministry before, and we find ourselves often thinking of him and praying for the success of his ministry. God has just placed him on our hearts. Anyway, last fall, we had an opportunity to give to this man's ministry again. The thing was, this was a specific donation. He was in need of the finances to finish renovating a building he'd purchased for his ministry. Oh, as soon as we heard this we wanted to give! But this was the end of October, and Andy had already been off work for several weeks and finances were extremely tight. Beyond tight, actually. But we really felt like we needed to sow into this man's ministry. And yet, it was much more than that.

What I really felt in my heart was that by giving to this man's ministry on this particular day, we were actually giving into this man's home for his ministry. Interestingly enough, we were also finding ourselves in need of a new home. This just seemed like one of those times, where we felt that if we could dig deep and give to the home of this ministry, that God would see that, and He would remember us when the time came that we needed a new home. So we gave. And as we gave, we prayed that God would multiply the small gift we could do- and that He would make our widows mite seem a grand amount when it came to supplying needs for this ministry. Seven months later, God honored our gift by providing us with a wonderful new home.

Now, could we really afford what we gave back in October? No. On paper, we certainly couldn't afford to be giving anything. And yet, as different needs came up through the winter, God took care of those needs. We had food, clothing, shelter and our basic needs were met time and time again. Had we trusted the checkbook that told us we couldn't give, who knows if we would be in this house today. I shudder to think of that.

God loves His children! Every single one, but He wants to know that we love Him more than we love money. He wants to know that we love and honor Him more than that financial program that tells us to save. He wants to know that we love Him and will obey Him.

God gets the glory forever! And He gets the glory for everything that happens in our lives. I love it when people ask us how we're settling into our new home, because it was home before we moved in! God blessed this house before we even arrived, and we've never had to settle. It's just been home. And it's a home of peace and tranquility and joy- and that's all because of HIM! It's nothing we did to deserve it, we definitely don't deserve it. But God remembered us, and He remembered when we gave into another man's home, and when the time came, God was able to really bless us, because we had obeyed so long ago.

God really doesn't NEED anything from us. But what He wants is our hearts. He wants fellowship and companionship with us. God is God- He can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, except for one thing. He can't make us choose Him. That comes from our own free will, and that's what He ultimately wants from us. He wants us to choose God first, above all else, because everything else, compared to God, is nothing. If God really wanted us to have a million dollars, He's God. He could literally just drop it in our bank accounts, and that would be that. God can do whatever He wants! I think one of the problems we really have today as people is that we don't remember that. We think that God is bound by the same laws of earth and physics that we are. God knows no boundaries- He is God! He created the idea of boundaries!

God is just so great, and His goodness is fresh and new with every day that I wake. Every day begins anew, with a new opportunity to see what He has in store for us, and new opportunities to share that goodness with everyone we cross paths with.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Celebration Day!

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14

I've been eyeing up today for weeks- as I saw today was creeping closer and closer, I wondered if I would do something special today or not. It seems I may not do anything in particular but think about this verse up above, but I did want to share what it is that makes today a special day. Today marks the day of the 1,000th post here at Heart & Soul. What started as an experiment so long ago has finally reached an age where maturity begins. Does that really make me a mature Bible blogger? Eh, I have my own doubts about that, but it is incredible to me to think that there are now 1,000 posts on this blog about scripture.

When I first started this blog, I actually had a team idea in mind. That team idea simply didn't work too well. I was the only one of my little team who actually had the time to do the blogging, you know, college and med school will do that to a person. Once it was apparent the team concept kind of fizzled out, I really thought about just stopping the blogging here. I just wasn't sure that people were reading what I was writing, and I also didn't feel that I was qualified myself to be spouting off about what I was reading in the Bible. But there was something inside of me that told me to keep going. Keep digging into the Word and see what your Father has to say to you. That one thing alone kept me going, and keeps me going today.

A few changes have been made here at Heart & Soul. At one time, I kept track of how many people visited here, and it would fluctuate incredibly, but I found myself being discouraged when I saw low visitors for a time. So I actually stopped tracking- something a blogger never does. So I have no idea if I have 2 readers or 200, and I like that better, because another change that I've made, is that I just write what I read. I used to get an idea in my head and use that to scour the Bible for verses, but now, I let the verses lead me. Given some of the many e-mails I've gotten over the years, by doing it that way, I'm letting the Holy Spirit gently guide me, and sometimes He tells me to write about something that someone specifically needs to see. I love it when He does that.

Like this verse today. We all know this verse, and it's one of the many I have memorized and locked away somewhere deep inside of me, but how many times do I actually say it? How many times to I pull it out and recite it and remind myself of it? I need to do that more often. Because as I read this verse I thought about how it just screams of irony to me. It's one of those verses we learn in Sunday School as a young kid, and I think about how many times we read this verse and it makes us smile. And then we turn around, and while one minute we are calling something God created blessed, in the next breath we are doing the very opposite. We're cursing that driver in front of us who doesn't know how to step on the gas. Or we're calling someone an idiot because they didn't do what we wanted them to do.

God's works are wonderful! Every single one! That includes you! You are a wonderful work of God, and that person driving in front of you is also a wonderful work of God.

Now think about when you work really hard at accomplishing a task. Whether it be building something with your two hands, or making a craft project, or giving a room in the house a face lift. Maybe you've made a wonderful dinner, or a time-intensive dessert. Whatever it is, think about how you feel then when someone comes along and sees this thing that's taken you hours upon hours to complete and they tell you it looks like garbage. Or it looks terrible- like a two year old could have done it. That would feel pretty suckish- wouldn't it?

It's the exact same thing when we say or even think all kinds of horrible things about God's creation. God thinks every single person He has created is beautiful and wonderful. God calls every single person beautiful and blessed- and we need to start thinking in the exact same way. When we start thinking like God thinks... Wow, just think about that! When Jesus was here on earth, we don't see any indication that He called anything garbage. He loved everyone who crossed His path. He spent time with prostitutes and tax collectors! People that everyone else would scorn and despise, and yet Jesus loved them all the same. Jesus showed us exactly how He wants us to treat everyone around us- with a loving heart and a caring hand.

Every single being in God's creation is fearfully and wonderfully made. As you go for a walk through the town you live in, think about that. Every single person that you walk past was made specifically by God- exactly the way He made them. When you walk into a grocery store- every single person in there is blessed of the Lord- it's just that some of them don't know that yet, and their souls are crying out for someone to show them that God truly does love them.

And so as we move forward here beyond the 1,000th post here at Heart & Soul, I want to encourage you to challenge yourself to think more like Jesus. I want to challenge you, the next time you catch yourself thinking un-Godly thoughts about someone, or saying something negative aloud, to really think about what God would think of that person. We can change our thought processes- but we have to do it one thought at a time. God's works are wonderful! Commit this verse to memory, and when you find yourself thinking something contrary, recite this verse and remind yourself just how wonderful God truly is. Because He IS wonderful in all He does, has done, and will do.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

God Alone

"Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.

23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.

24 They will say of me, 'In the LORD alone
are righteousness and strength.' "
All who have raged against him
will come to him and be put to shame." Isaiah 45:22-24

Every time I read these verses in Isaiah, there are two lines in particular that make me pause. I read them over again, and I really see what the words there are saying. In verse 23, He says "every knee will bow and every tongue will swear" The key word there is every. And I think God truly means Every. Single. Person. Ever.

Think about this for a second. This means, that all those people who have chosen poorly in life, all those people who chose to follow themselves or to deny the existence of God will one day be on their knees, bowing in obeisance to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Even the worst dictators ever to walk this planet, Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, will bow and acknowledge that HE is Lord over all.

Kind of makes you think a little more about what it is we're doing while we're here on earth. Because at the end of the day, what really matters is God. Who He IS, and what we can do for Him this day. There is no other like God! There are people who spend much of their lives wishing they could make a difference- wishing they could do something of importance. When the reality is, the most important thing that we could possibly do is acknowledge God as our sovereign Lord. Once we bend our knee, and make that choice, we are marked for life. When we bow our hearts and our minds to God, and accept the sacrifice of His Son, we become His for all eternity. But first, we have to make that choice. We can choose to bow now, to give Him our life, such as it is, or we can choose to go our own way. But in the end, we will bow anyway- won't we?

It's almost the ultimate in irony! If we choose our own path, not only are we choosing to suffer in torment for all eternity, but in the end we have to bow to the very being we are trying to ignore while we are here on this earth anyway.

So we can make the choice to follow Him, and then we can be a living example for all those around us too. That just seems to me to be the wise decision in the first place. There is no other God! The thing is, by choosing to serve Him now, rather than later, not only are we placing ourselves in a better scenario for eternity, but we get the benefits of being one of His while we are here. We get to walk through our everyday, carrying the love of God with us everywhere we go. And when people ask us "how on earth did you get through that?" We can look them square in the eye and say that "In God alone, we found strength."

You know, as I read these verses again, I see where it says "be saved all the ends of the earth." Do you know that God wants all of us to choose Him? He doesn't look down on the earth and say "no, I don't like them too much, or them to much, and oh, no, she is a bad egg, I don't care for her either." The crazy thing about God? He loves every single one of us. He loves that wacky neighbor, and He loves that guy going into the adult bookstore. God wants every single person on earth to choose Him for no other reason than that He loves them! God loves every single person that He creates.

And He summons each one of us by name.

"For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me.

5 I am the LORD, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me," Isaiah 45:4-5

How much more will God do for those who acknowledge Him? We know that God can use all things for His purposes, and if He will bless those who don't even acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior, how much more will He bless those who do?

There is no other God! The world can lie to us and try to create all sorts of other gods for us to follow, but the truth is that there is only one God. There is only one Creator, there is only one Lover of our souls, and I make the choice to bend my knee now, and love Him now. I choose to acknowledge Him as my Lord, come whatever may.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Romans 8:27

I have been remiss in my Warfare Wednesday posts. While every once in a while I put in a particular note to pray for our Vice President, most often, him and his family get left out altogether. It is true that the main focus, and the main thrust of my Warfare Wednesday posts are a reminder to specifically pray for our President, but as I checked the headlines this morning, I found that I have been checked- and I need to remember to add Vice President Joe Biden and his family to our weekly prayer time. After all, he is number two in our country. While he may have a quieter, less public job than President Obama, he is still an integral part of our national government, and we should be praying for him every week as well.

Specifically this week, I want to pray prayers of protection for the Biden family, for Joe and his wife Jill, and for their three children, Beau, Robert and Ashley. Beau specifically this week. He is attorney general for the state of Delaware, and suffered a mild stroke. He is expected to make a complete recovery, and I am going to pray that God will give him a supernatural recovery, and then will protect him from any further stroke issues. May God protect this family and keep them from harm- and may He bless them for Joe's willingness to serve his country. May God grant Joe Godly wisdom as he helps to make important decisions on Capital Hill. As vice president, he presides over the Senate. He also serves on many committees and has a very vocal voice on many of the issues facing our country today. May he listen to Godly words and understand just how much God loves him.

I am also praying this morning for the state of Oklahoma. This past Monday, deadly tornadoes made their way through parts of the state, wreaking havoc and destroying homes. So many people have lost their homes and have much cleaning up and rebuilding to do. In addition, weather forecasters are predicting another round of storms and potential tornadoes to come through yet this week. May God grant mercy to the state of Oklahoma (and nearby Kansas). May He spare these people another round of terror and disaster, and may He give them peace- abundant peace and joy, where they may have none.

An interesting side bit about Oklahoma. The name Oklahoma means "red people" in the Choctaw language. Many, many Native Americans have come to call the state of Oklahoma home, 67 official tribes call it home. Many of those people are there because they were forced from their homes many, many years ago. May God forgive us for the horrible things we did to these Native American people. And may the people forgive the United States for its actions as well. When forgiveness is finally found among the Native Americans, the blessings will abound, and much of the hurt this nation has experienced over the years will finally fade away. May God bless those tribes, and may He protect them from the coming storms as well.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inexpressible Joy

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:8-9

I had a strange dream last night. I don't remember a lot of details, but I do remember that I was with my church family. We were all together- and not just our normal Sunday morning church family, but our extended church family- people who visit once or twice, or come for conferences. We were all together, and we were marching together, as if coming home from a war. We were happy and joyful and thrilling in our fellowship with each other, actually. And then there suddenly was enemy soldiers intermingled with us. We wanted to be rid of them, so we marched over to the church doors and threw them open. The praise and worship going on from the inside sent them away immediately. After that, it was one joyous party as we celebrated our togetherness, and our God. We were so joyful, people were doing flips and cartwheels, and running up and down the aisles.

That's what I remember upon waking the most. I remember the joy. The inexpressible joy that made me want to start doing flips and cartwheels. Joy that felt that if I didn't let it out, it was going to burst inside of me, and I needed to let it out. I have felt that joy before- the glorious joy that comes only from the Father in Heaven. I confess that I've been experiencing joy often in these past few weeks. Every day as I walk through my house, I am filled with joy, and I just cannot stop thanking God for bringing my family here. Even this past Sunday, this past Mother's Day, we had a church service unlike any we've had yet (and that says something!) and I left church practically giddy with joy. That giddiness- that inexpressible joy has been with me all week. Something that is funny just strikes me as beyond funny, and I can be found laughing hysterically at something that was only a little bit funny.

God gives me joy. He does! That's the only thing I can come up with.

"Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God." Psalm 43:4

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Let me tell you about delighting in the Lord. It's not some great big grand secret, it's as simple as finding joy in the things that He has created. And then thanking Him and praising Him for it. Over the last few weeks, as I've been outside working, I've been completely delighted by the birds in the yard. Yesterday as I worked pulling weeds a pair of cardinals sat in the trees above me and literally accompanied my work with singing. It made me giggle! And I thanked God for creating such a delightful bird, and putting them in my yard. As I walk past a flowering bush in the yard, every single time, I take a moment to bury my nose in the fragrant blossoms and marvel at the beauty that God created. I am delighting in God's creation- enjoying every second of it that I can, because I know the seasons are never-ending, and it won't be long before the heat of summer causes the blooms to cease.

And when I hear a story of God blessing a friend of mine, I express my great joy and my thanks to God. I rejoice with them, and I delight with them, and I thank Him over and over for blessing my friend in such a wonderful way. I have to confess that I live for those moments. I love hearing the stories of blessings- and I love seeing God work in the lives of those I love dearly. It literally fills my heart with more of that inexpressible joy!! Delighting in God is not the mystery that I once thought it was. It's simply opening up your heart and your mind to the wonders of God! It's rejoicing In Him! How can I not rejoice when every moment of every day I see evidence of His Goodness and His Love?

When I dwell on God's Goodness, I am almost instantly filled with joy.

"for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah 8:10

The joy of the Lord is the strength we need to overcome any obstacles that we may encounter. Honestly though, when you are filled with the joy of the Lord all the time, those obstacles almost seem ridiculous. The devil tries to come at you with some crazy scheme, and it's the joy of the Lord that enables you to laugh at the devil and tell him to shove off. When HE is your focus, inexpressible joy will accompany.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lessons From Mother's Day

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

This was the lesson I got to work on yesterday. You know how sometimes something comes along that you can't help it- you just worry about it. A lot. And you really dwell on it, and it almost makes you ill, you just keep thinking about that problem or that issue, and try to come up with possible solutions. Sure, you pray about it, but then you think about it some more- it practically consumes you, you are thinking about it so much.

I had to recite this verse to myself several times over last night, because I was there. I was thinking about something that came about yesterday and I was trying really hard to not be upset, because this time, it had a twist. It was something that directly affects my kids, and that made my thought processes even worse, as I tried to come up with a solution in my own mind that was not going to cause hurt to my children. I'll tell you, there is very little that is worse than being a mom, cherishing your children, and knowing that you are going to have to tell them something that will make them upset and sad. Thankfully, I can at least postpone telling them until I have to, and that gives me time to talk to God about it more.

Because you know what? There is nothing that goes on in my life, and in the life of my children that God doesn't know about. And HE knows what is best in every situation. I spent some time talking to God last night, and really, what I was talking to Him most about, was that I was questioning Him, because the whole situation is just strange to me, and I just wanted understanding. I didn't get understanding, but you know what I definitely got, I got peace. Because God is in control. He knows, and He holds my children's hearts in His hands, and that I have to trust in most of all. The absolute last thing a mom wants to see is her child's heart break. I'll tell you, when we moved a few weeks ago, we were so excited-all of us- that there wasn't any bit of sadness about leaving where we were until one particular moment. When my kids went next door to say goodbye to their best friend, and then walked out and straight to the van, my mommy heart just broke for them. My kids are old enough that they will remember this friend for forever- I know I still remember my best friend when I was six years old. I prayed to God as I walked to that van myself that He would make this transition easy for my kids, and so far, He seems to be coming through, as they LOVE our new house.

So I remembered that last night, and I remembered these verses above, and I basically had two choices. One, I could lay awake all night, rolling things around in my mind, coming up with solution after solution that really wouldn't do anything except sit in my mind anyway. Or, I could just give the entire thing to God. If it comes to pass, I need to believe that God has a reason for it. But I have to really and truly give the issue to Him. I can't just think on it all the time- because all that will do is rob me of my daily joy, and it will also rob me of sleep- which these days I feel like I already don't get enough. There's nothing the devil would like more than to see me lose my cool and become short with my family, and he would love to see anger and division in our household.

Fortunately for us, we are a Godly household. The very day we moved in, our home was blessed, and it will remain blessed, and no enemy can tread here. So as situations come along, like the one that sprang up yesterday, I need to remember and I need to trust. My mommy heart needs to trust that if this needs to happen, that God will protect my children's hearts and not allow hurt to enter and fester. He will prepare them accordingly for the challenge, and He will cradle them in the palms of His hands. Because as much as I love them- God loves them even more. That boggles my mind daily, because I love them so much that I feel as though most days my heart will explode. But God loves them so much, that He can't wait to spend eternity to with them.

As I've given Him my children to protect and watch over, I trust that He knows what is best and will take care of them in the times to come. I will not worry, and I will not be anxious, because that serves no purpose other than to drive me batty and make me unpleasant. Instead, I take the whole issue, fold it up and tuck it in a box, and hand the box right over to God. He can have it, and He can take care of it as necessary. If the box needs to be dealt with, He'll prepare the little hearts that need caring for. If the box just happens to vanish, that will be His answer as well. God's got everything under control, and I will trust in Him with all my heart.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" Proverbs 3:5

I don't usually do this, and I save the praise reports for a completely seperate post, but since this issue was on my mind this morning, I thought the praise should go right here. After thinking on it a while, I was promptly distracted by school. But once school was over, I was STILL dwelling on the problem, and I was wondering if I should actually pull Abigail aside and talk to her about it and get her thoughts. I decided not to yet, but just a short while later, I was in the shower when God dropped a very clear and awesome solution into my mind. It literally came from nowhere, and I know it was God-inspired. The answer is, of course, perfect, and takes care of any hurt that could be perceived on either end of this issue. Thank God for His timely answers in our times of need.

Friday, May 07, 2010


"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left." Matthew 24:36-41

I've spent my extra spare time this week reading a fictional book about what "the end of days" could be like. It's been presenting things in a way that I've never encountered before. Most accounts of the end of the world and the rapture are dark and gloomy. Many a book or a movie has capitalized on the doom that happens around the time Jesus will return for His people. This account that I've been reading, presents it in a much more positive light. Yes, the groanings and moanings of the earth signify that time draws near, and the wars and rumors of wars are indeed signs of the end. And yet, while we Christians look forward to the idea of the rapture- of being caught up with Christ, most of us are a bit frightened of the idea, because of all the horrible events that are rumored to take place along with it.

But when we think about God being a loving God, it changes the perspective a bit, and makes the whole idea a little less frightening to me. Because God is a loving God- He loves mankind so much that He sent Jesus to die so that every single person ever born has the opportunity to choose to follow Him. And the reason the end of days has been so long in coming is that our Loving God wants to allow as much time as possible for as many of us as possible to make that eternal decision.

But the day will come, when Jesus will return for His children. But rather than paint a gloomy picture of natural disasters and wars and bombs, lets think of the rapture in a completely different light. Lets think of it as an evacuation. The devil and all his fury is going to be released on the earth for a time of tribulation, and it is our Loving God who want to see His Children evacuated to safety to escape all that the devil may dish out. Think about that for a minute, and really let it sink in. Think about the idea of the rapture actually being a relocation of God's Children to safety- a way to escape all the doom and gloom we read about in Revelation and Daniel.

Now that's just plain cool and exciting! The truth is, that all the scholars in the world can dissect those books of the Bible and try to give us an account of how things might happen, but until they come to pass, we don't really know what could happen or how things will actually occur. But we can rejoice in knowing that our Loving Father in Heaven has provided a way for His Children to escape the worst of the fury being unleashed on earth. He will send His Son, His Champion, and our King to gather us all together and relocate us to a safer, more peaceful place. Every single person on earth who has made the decision to follow Jesus will be evacuated to a heavenly location.

Honestly, thinking about it in those terms, it makes me wonder why we don't have people lining up at our church doors, begging to be shown the way to Christ! It also makes me look more forward to the event myself, and maybe it makes me a little more bold. I mean, why wait until the boat is actually sinking to form a rescue plan? All we have to do is say YES to Jesus and the plan is in place. Our rescue plan is cemented, and then it's up to us to get as many people on board that boat with us as we can. With a 100% guarantee of survival, who would want to pass that up?

"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. " Matthew 24:30-31

I, for one, like the idea of being evacuated. I like the idea that before it really gets bad here on earth, Jesus will arrive and we will be rescued and transported to Heaven. Thinking in those terms just makes the whole concept of Jesus' return that much more wonderful and pleasant to me. The evacuation orders are in place, He's just waiting to be told "Go." And then there will be much rejoicing as we are relocated to live with The King.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Figs On My Mind Again

"Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered.

20When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked.

21Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:19-22

I know I talked about the fig tree not that long ago, but it's on my mind this morning, so I must need to talk about it again. Actually there are a few things on my mind, but they are all similar, and all related to Jesus cursing the fig tree.

See, the other night we had our first real storm of the season- tornado warnings and all. Our church body has been spending a lot of time learning about the power of our words. Had Jesus experienced a tornado in his time here on earth, no doubt He would have looked at the tornado and commanded it to dissipate. Well, many of our church members got to put that into practice. One of these tornadoes, in particular, the national weather service has indicated that it actually didn't happen, because they can find no evidence of it. But the truth is, friends of ours watched this tornado forming from their front yard, and commanded it to dissipate, and it did that very thing. The damage caused by other tornadoes in the area was very minimal, because so many pointed to the sky and commanded the storm to go away. And that it did. It moved very quickly off to the west, leaving no damage in its wake.

But what makes me think of the fig tree withering is the fact that I have a massive garden full of weeds. And not just any weeds, an invasive, vining variety that is all but impossible to kill. It has taken me literally hours to weed just a small portion of it, and I have a long, long way to go. Last night as Andy and I were discussing our options for trying to rid ourselves of this horrendous Bishop's Weed, these verses about the fig tree came to mind. Now, I did manage to use some weed killer on one small 3-foot section of the weeds. They promptly began to wither, but then I ran out of the weed killer. I couldn't help but think last night about my success with blessing my tomato plants. If my words could cause plants to grow vibrantly and bear abundant fruit. Can my words not also cause plants to wither?

I intend to put my words where my mouth is. Literally. Later today, as I head out to the garden to pull more weeds, I intend to use the very same words that Jesus did, and curse the weeds that are trying to take over my yard. Now, I know I'll still have to go around and pull all the weeds out, but by cursing them, and using the faith I have in me, I know that I can cause those weeds to never come back. I won't have to worry about little root pieces hanging back and creating new weeds, because my words have power! I do not doubt that I can cause these weeds to let go of my yard. After all, my garden is blessed, God put it there just for me, and He didn't put it there so that I can watch weeds take over. He put it there for me to enjoy, so that I can grow wonderful vegetables and other edibles.

Jesus says right there that I can do exactly what He did to the fig tree, and then so much more. While I may not be looking to cast any mountains into the sea today, I do intend to take the baby steps and cause my fig tree to wither. With faith the size of a mustard seed, I can do that very thing.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14

Right now I am so thankful! I am so incredibly thankful that the car bomb in NYC was thwarted and discovered. Times Square is one of the busiest places on the planet, and a car bomb going of there would certainly cause many to lose their lives. But worse, it would cause fear in the hearts of the American people. May the people of New York, and other major cities be encouraged that this plan for disaster was thwarted, and the suspect has now been arrested. The last thing we want is for fear to take over the lives of the American people. We will not be afraid! And I pray that God will continue to protect the people of this nation that He loves so much.

And I am praying this week for much wisdom for President Obama. He has so much coming at him from so many directions, I pray that God would give him the energy he needs to give each and every matter his full attention and consideration. And may He consult with God on these matters of importance. May he realize that he can not lead this country alone, but that with the help of God, He can take this country in the direction it needs to go.

I am praying for the situation in the gulf coast with the oil spill. I am praying for all those men and women who are working on the scene, trying to contain the oil- I'm praying for their safety, and for supernatural energy so that they can get the job done. That leak is 5000 feet below the surface- hazardous at best. May God keep these precious people safe from harm while they work around the clock to contain this disaster.

But speaking of disaster...

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

While we may not see it yet, I believe that God has something for His precious children that will come as a result of this disaster. He uses all things for good... just as He used an earthquake in Haiti to get the nation to come together in prayer and repentance, God can use this disaster for something awesome. I pray that He does just that. I pray that He wows the people of this country, and of this earth by using what the enemy would like for harm, and use it for something absolutely wonderful.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A Day of Rest

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." Genesis 2:2-3

God knew what He was doing. I could probably just leave it at that and be done for the day, but in recent months I've really learned first-hand that God knew what He was doing when He rested on that seventh day. He was giving us an example, by resting Himself, He was letting us know that rest is indeed an important part of life. Rest is important- if you don't get enough of it, your body gets run down and sickness can come upon you much more easily. We've kind of unconsciously adopted the idea of a day of rest, and I cannot believe how much of a difference it truly makes for us.

We happen to take Sundays as our day of rest- not on purpose, and not specifically because it is Sunday, but it sort of worked out that way on accident. With church services in the morning and evening, it very much limits the amount of activity we can get done during the day. So we started using Sundays as our lazy day. Watching sports happens sometimes, or spending part of the day catching up on e-mails or phone calls. I like to spend the time reading a book without feeling guilty for doing it. Often we find ourselves caught up in a family board or video game. It's just become a day where we don't tackle the big projects, and it makes such a remarkable difference in so many ways.

First of all, it truly makes us less crabby and irritable. When we don't get enough down time, our fuses get short. We relate to each other sooo much better if we get that one day where we all consciously make the effort to relax a bit. Secondly, it really makes a difference physically. I definitely noticed this last week. Since we moved on Friday and Saturday, that Sunday was not a day of rest. At all. We worked hard at unpacking and cleaning, and were so incredibly exhausted as a result. We didn't take our day of rest, and last week it almost was like pulling teeth to get the kids to settle in for school. We just didn't want to do it. But this Sunday, we rested, and yesterday morning we started school nice and early and got so much accomplished- it was wonderful. And it was a direct result of that day of rest we took.

But as I read this verse, and I thanked God for His example, and for our decision to take that day of rest, I really noticed the second part. See where God blessed the day of rest and made it holy? I like that. Corporately, as a church, we do celebrate our holy day on Sunday- we set it apart for God. But I happen to think that if your day of rest fell on a Wednesday, or a Friday or a Saturday, God would bless it equally. If you can purpose to set aside some time to rest, relax and get rejuvenated, God will bless you physically and spiritually for following His example.

Proper rest is just so important! It's so important to our bodies that God Himself rested. And maybe for some people, an entire day of rest just isn't possible- that's okay too, but eagerly take what rest you can. When the kids go spend some time at the park with Daddy- don't take that time to get some work done, take some time to rest. Relax, run a bubble bath and spend some time talking to God. God certainly understands that for some of us, work as a parent never stops, and sometimes that day of rest doesn't seem so restful at the time. But God sees our hearts, and He sees our precious children, and He will bless us all the same.

I challenge anyone reading this morning who doesn't specifically set aside time to relax to do so for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference. Now, I know everyone has different ideas of what resting is, and I'm not going to debate what activities or chores would be permissible for a true day of rest- that will change from person to person. But I challenge you to look at your calendar and simply set aside some time to rest- more time than simply laying your head on a pillow every night. If you find it difficult to just sit around and home not doing much, go to the movies or take in a Saturday afternoon baseball game- a double header where you will just sit and relax for hours at a time. Find the time to rest, and God will bless you for it. I know we've been immensely blessed, and I'm so glad that we make the decision to rest as often as we do. It makes our productive time that much more productive. And that's just really cool, and a wonderful gift from God.