Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Even Though...

"Though the fig tree does not bud
       and there are no grapes on the vines,
       though the olive crop fails
       and the fields produce no food,
       though there are no sheep in the pen
       and no cattle in the stalls,

 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
       I will be joyful in God my Savior."  Habakkuk 3:17-18

This verse this morning made me smile, and made me think of my gardening this year.  Learning to garden in a new space always has its challenges, but this year has been exceptionally so.  It's not been a good year at all for the garden.   As I take my walks through the yard, I look at the plants that bear no fruit, and the spaces where plants were, but rabbits ate them, and I could just shake my head and complain.  I could grumble about the garden- and I admit I do if people ask how the garden is.   But you know, despite all the vegetative carnage in my yard, I am still filled with incredible joy when I walk the yard.

There are still a few plants that are bearing fruit of some kind.  And even though my garden is doing terribly, I still thank God for the garden.  I thank Him for the ability I have to do the gardening, and I thank Him for the wisdom He is giving us to improve the yard and make gardening possible for next year.   More than once, I've found myself thinking the opposite.  When we first moved here, I was so excited about the yard and the blank slate it presented.   As time has gone on though, that excitement translated into realization as to just how much work was waiting for me out there.   And at least twice, I've caught myself wistfully thinking about what it would be like to have that country property where I can put up a big ole industrial strength electric fence... and then I've made myself stop thinking like that.

Because God put us exactly where He wanted us.  And He gave me a yard that needs my tough- it's just going to take some work.  I could re-write Habakkuk's verse to fit my situation, since no figs or olives grow in my yard.

Though the apple tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the bean crop completely fails
and the fields produce very little food,
though there are no pumpkins in the pen 
and no corn cobs on their stalks,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Creation itself is such a joy.  Life is such a joy.  It seems like almost every day I am reminded that we need so little- and yet we have so much.  Daily I find great joy in my kids- in seeing the world through their eyes, and spending time with them delighting in the world that God created. Yes, it's a bummer my garden bites this year.  But I'll tell you what, it makes the produce that we do enjoy from the ground that much sweeter.  The other day the four of us very carefully divided the tiniest little cucumber from the garden.  It was a surprise to find out there.  It could very well be the only one we'll have this year, but oh, it was wonderful, and it made us all smile as we nibbled it up.  And when someone gives us a handful of homegrown tomatoes, we are able to delight in them greatly, as we wait for the few fruits we have to ripen.

God is so great to give us these little things to bring us joy.  But you know what?  Even without those little things, we would have great joy, because GOD is our joy.  Thinking on the Lord brings us great joy each and every day.  As we delight in His creation, and we delight in each other, and we delight in His words that He brings us every day from the Bible.  God is our supply, HE is all we need, and He is more than enough.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Greetings, Fellow Citizens

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,"  Ephesians 2:19

Something wonderful happens when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  It's so much more than simply a warm, fuzzy feeling.  In fact, it's many wonderful somethings that happen.  When Jesus comes into our life- He literally saves us from an eternity of torment in the lake of fire.   Additionally, when we make Jesus number one in our life, we also transfer our citizenship from earth to heaven. 

I am reminded of our studies of American History.  How appropriate, since we start school back up this morning as soon as I'm done here.  :)  I love reading the stories of immigrants, and the trials and travels they had to go through to get to our country.  So many persevered through hard times, simply to get themselves and their families to the land of freedom and opportunity.  They came from all kinds of differing countries and backgrounds, but do you know what happened when they arrived on our shores and visited Ellis Island?  They became US citizens.  Former Russians, Germans, Indians, Kenyans, and Chinese all bore the similar title of United States Citizen- even though they may have been rooted elsewhere.  They obviously looked and acted nothing alike, but they became citizens- brothers in this new land.

In the exact same way, when we accept Christ as our Lord, we are granted citizenship in heaven, and as such, we also suddenly find ourselves with a whole new family.  As part of God's Household, we find ourselves with a hugely new family full of new brothers and sisters.  And every person who takes that step of faith is welcomed into this same family.  Think of that- not only are we now citizens of Heaven, but we are also united for all eternity.  Our brothers and sisters in that church down the road are just as much part of God's household as the church that we attend on a regular basis.

Unity in the church.  So often I think that when people think of the idea of unity in the church, they think that we all have to shed the various teachings and ideas that make us unique, so that we all become one big, united church under God.  But I think that unity is actually slightly different than that.  It's not even so much the idea of accepting our differences, but simply the act of loving one another.  Truly.  Think about our natural, human families.  I love my brothers and sisters all the time- no matter what.  Even during those times in our life where we think we don't like them all that much, underneath, there is always love, connecting us one-with-another, no matter the circumstances or where we are in life.  The family model is a model for us as citizens of Heaven.  We are to love each other- no matter what.  We are to show love to one another- we bear each others burdens, and we lift each other up in prayer.  Unity is love.  It isn't all of our different churches uniting together and becoming one in theology and doctrine and whatnot.  It's simply loving each other, and then! (There's a really cool then!) Then, when we have learned to love each other- no matter what, we can turn to our unchurched neighborhoods and show them the exact same love.  That love will draw them in.

Really.  When the unchurched and the unsaved can look at their community and see all the different churches loving each other- instead of competing for membership or criticizing each other, it will draw them in.  Love will save our communities and our neighborhoods.  All because we showed love.  The love that was naturally placed inside of us when we accepted Christ as our Savior.  The same love that ties us all together as citizens of Heaven, is the same love that will bring peace and unity to the human race.  We just need to learn to love one another- just as Jesus commanded us.

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29-31

Friday, August 27, 2010

You Are Beautiful

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."  1 Peter 3:3-4

I think that sometimes we get too focused on the outside.  I've seen these verses quoted over and over in the arena of telling people that the Bible says that we shouldn't wear jewelry or nice things.  That's silliness.  But when you really look at it, he isn't saying at all not to wear adornments.  But what he is saying is that beauty does not come from the decorations.  Beauty comes from within- the very beauty that emanates from our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives inside each and every one of us.

Oh, just think about this for a second- what a delightful picture to start my day with!  When Moses was on the mountain, spending time with God, he began to glow.  His face literally glowed from being in the presence of God- so much so, that he had to put a veil over his face when he came down the mountain.  Look! It says he was radiant!

"When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the LORD's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded,"  Exodus 34:32-34

We don't have to wear a veil anymore.  Jesus came and made the ultimate sacrifice just for us, and in the process removed the veil.

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit"  2 Corinthians 3:18

Each and every one of us who has accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior has Him dwelling inside of us- which means that we are radiant from the inside.   Sometimes we just fail to see it.  Sometimes we look in the mirror, or we watch the latest shows that tell us how to make ourselves beautiful, and the devil tells us such grand lies.  He tells us that we're ugly, or that our closet doesn't carry the latest fashions, so we think we will look dowdy as we walk out of the house.  He tells us that we're not good enough, and when we listen enough times, we maybe start to feel that way, and we shrink back.

But I'm here to say today that I AM beautiful!  And more importantly, YOU are beautiful.  You are beautiful because you are radiant from the inside.

Consider the snowflake.  God made snowflakes in such a unique way that there are no two on the earth that look alike.  Think about that- how many snowflakes does it take to fill a mountaintop- and no two are identical.  When we take the time to look at and examine snowflakes, we never, ever call them ugly.  No, really, think about that- no one ever looks at a snowflake and says "boy, that is one ugly snowflake."   Every snowflake is beautiful and unique and exquisitely made.

In the same way, YOU are exquisitely made.  You are a precious bauble that God has made just so, and He loves every single thing about you.  God thinks you are the most beautiful thing that He has ever made- and there isn't a single human being that God looks down on and says they are ugly.  They are all beautiful- but I think some even more so, because they have activated the Jesus that is inside of them.  Every human being on earth has the potential to glow for Jesus- but it isn't until that moment of asking Him into our lives that we activate Him- like flipping a switch in our DNA that says "glow for Jesus"!

There's nothing wrong with adding a few pieces of jewelry, styling hair, or wearing a touch of cosmetics on the face.  But if we think it's those things that make us beautiful, we're not really understanding where beauty comes from.  The old saying says that beauty comes from within, and that is so true- it comes from within, but it also comes from above.  God thinks you are the most beautiful being He has ever created- and He wanted you to know that today.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

To Be Content

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:11-13

These verses have been on my mind for a few days.  I just keep thinking about what it would be like to be completely content, as Paul writes here in Philippians.   I do consider myself a fairly content person.  We stroll from walk in life to walk in life, taking things as they come in stride, but at the same time, there is the part of me that is always looking ahead.  We're always looking for that next paycheck, that next event, that next big thing, because maybe we're sure that's going to be THE thing.  Last week, and this week, actually, I think I'm getting a little of a taste of being content, because I've really been feeling it in my spirit.  I'm not sure if I can really explain what I'm feeling, but maybe I'll try.

Every once in a while I get these thoughts that are almost of inadequacy.  I say almost, because it's maybe more of a thought that I could be doing more than I am.  It's not the lack of a career or anything, but as I spend each and every day with my kids and my home, I get these thoughts that maybe there is more I should be doing than what I am. More so when I read things or hear things about other women who stay  home with their kids, host Bible studies, teach Sunday School, volunteer one or two days a week, and then still find time to go get their hair done or go out with the girls.  There are days where it takes everything I have simply to get the laundry done, and those are the days where maybe the devil tries to get at me and tells me that I'm not good enough.

But the last two weeks, there's been a shift in my thinking.  That's the best I can describe it.  I really noticed it the most yesterday, I think, as I set about the mundane everyday task of preparing lunch for my kids.  It wasn't even anything exciting, a simple assembly of grilled cheese, yogurt and chips, but as I assembled these plates, I just had this overwhelming sense of contentedness.  Like, this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing, and it fills me with incredible pleasure to simply feed my children lunch.   I can't say I ever felt that way about lunch before, except perhaps those days where I surprise the kids with something special for lunch, or with something unexpected, like a lunch at a restaurant.  My everyday this week has just felt so right and so...good.  We're going to be starting school back up next week, and that just feels right too.  As I've been planning and purchasing, everything has slowly come together, and I am completely expectant that this feeling will carry over into next week, and the beginning of our school year will be absolutely wonderful.

When I read these verses by Paul, I catch where he says that he has learned to be content in any and every situation.  That's what I strive for.  I may be content right here, and right now, but what about a few days from now?  What about a few months from now?  What if there is a major change or shift- will I be content?   I pray that I will be, because if I can focus on God, who gives me strength for all things, I too, can be content wherever I am.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  Philippians 4;6

I have to confess, I forgot it was Wednesday this morning.  I was focusing on some verses in the Bible, thinking on them, thinking on what I might find to say about them this morning, and then I remembered it was Wednesday.  Oh, yes!  we need to pray for our country this week!  We need to pray for President Obama and his family, and Vice President Biden and his family.  And we need to pray for all the elections going on in our country.  Regardless of who is running, may God win the votes.  May the men and women who will best represent God in their respective offices be the ones who are elected into position.

I also want to do some praising this morning, because God is good all the time!  I just read a little news article about a new discovery in the Gulf of Mexico.  Imagine that, a new microbe has been discovered that actually eats oil, and it flourishes in cold, deep waters where oil spills are most likely.  Praise God for His creation! And praise God for His merciful answer to the prayers that have been prayed for a miraculous answer to the devastating gulf oil spill.  God's delightful answer is a new creation that will eat the oil without affecting the integrity of the gulf waters. How wonderful and awesome is that!

But I also want to pray this morning for finances.  It just doesn't seem like this country can get it going in the right direction as far as finances go.  The different tax cuts and incentives in the long run just aren't helping.  As more and more people are forced to tighten their spending, it's going to get more and more difficult for people in our nation.  One of the bills that is going before the House of Representatives once the August recess is over is a bill to increase funding for school nutrition.  On the surface, the program sounds wonderful- it's an initiative to remove junk from school cafeterias and increase the nutritional benefits by serving healthier foods.  It also will allow more children to qualify for reduced price or free lunches- ensuring that poor children at least get healthy food while they are at school.  This is an issue I really support and am so grateful that First Lady Michelle Obama has championed it.  Except that some of the funding for this program comes at the expense of another program.  The food stamp program, which already doesn't provide enough funds for poor families will take a hit and those who receive food stamp aid will receive less. 

Yesterday I went grocery shopping because we were out of some basic necessities.  As we shopped, I also added a few things to put in my pantry- stocking up for the winter months where sometimes I just don't want to go out, or we are really watching our budget.  And I thought about how many people can't even do that.  How many people can't simply add just a few extra items to their cart every week to have as a back-up for in a time of need.  How many people don't think to add just a few things to take to a food pantry or a food bank, where hungry people get some desperate assistance.   In a country where so many people are fighting diseases that are a result from over-consumption, it's completely ironic that there are so many who go to bed hungry at night.  I sure wish that I knew the answer.   I find myself praying often that God would touch those who are hungry.  May He fill their bellies with manna, and send an angel to provide food for their tables.  Hunger is just not something that anyone should have to experience.  Ever.

As I think about these things this morning, it can be really easy for me to get anxious.  I realize this is Wednesday when we pray for our country, but I find that this verse above is very applicable to the things that I'm writing about this morning.  The issues that are very real in this country are very real in my own backyard.  I mentioned that I put those extra groceries in my cart, but the reality is that I was thinking about the months to come, and thinking about the time of year that Andy is usually laid off, and it made me a little concerned to think about the pantry and the freezer that we worked so hard to empty before moving in the spring.   And we haven't had the opportunity to re-fill.  Finances have been short, and it's been a trial of trusting God to provide, and not trying to rely on ourselves to meet our needs.   God always has the answer.  Whether it's a friend with a bag of groceries, or a few coupons to help stretch the grocery budget.  I need to remind myself sometimes of the very thing I posted above.  God is good.  All the time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

He Hears, Even When We Don't Cry

"I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.   Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live."  Psalm 116:1-2

God really blessed me yesterday.  It's a simple thing, a trivial thing almost, but it's amazing how one simple phone call that you weren't expecting can just totally turn into a blessing.  

Our new dance year started this week for the kids.  We actually have classes year-round, but after a week off last week, this is the first week of the new school year for dance.  Every year it seems we add more and more to our plate as far as dance goes.  The more Abigail has been in dance, the more we really feel that this is a path that God has her on for a time.  This year, she is up to five different classes, and it's been a bit of a challenge to get all those classes bundled into just two nights a week- reducing the amount of time we're at the dance school.  But then this year, Zander started dance too.  He's been having such a blast over the summer with his dance class, that I knew we made the right decision to let him decide if and when he ever wanted to take dance. But his class, really, the only one we wanted for him, was on an evening we were already busy with church. 

It was kind of a sacrifice moment.  Not that we needed to sacrifice one activity for another, because they were both at different times, but it meant a night of craziness for us.  Going to dance, rushing home to eat dinner, and then rushing off to get to church in time for the mid-week service.  Skipping church was never an option, we really feel that the kids get their best teachings on Wednesday night, coupled with enough activities that they don't actually know they are learning important things.  It's great.  As the summer went on, and we adjusted to this new schedule of back-and-forth, I just kind of accepted that this was our new normal.

I wasn't crazy about the new normal, and kind of lamented in my head that there wasn't another night that Zander's dance class was offered.  But I never said a word to anyone, and I know how much work goes into making the schedules at the dance school, so I didn't feel like I wanted to ask about another class and cause more work for the owners. 

But yesterday afternoon, I got a phone call from the dance school.  They had so many kids interested in Zander's class for fall, that they decided to add another one on a different night of the week, and were we interested in switching.  I was hesitant at first, admittedly.  Our schedule was set in my mind, and the night we would be switching to is truly our only free night of the week- I was kind of protective of it.  But as our conversation went on, I got more and more excited, and by the end of the phone call, I'd switched Zander's class to the new night.  As I hung up the phone, all I could do was giggle, because I knew that God had just blessed me.  Not just me, but our whole family, as our Wednesday night just became so much more enjoyable and relaxed.

I kind of sat on that idea all yesterday afternoon.  Isn't it just like God to answer our prayers when we haven't really even made a request?  I saw this verse this morning, and I thought about how that could have been me in another few months.  As the snow will eventually start flying, and I could just see myself getting more and more tense about all this driving back-and-forth stuff.  That would have been me, crying out to God for mercy as we lived out this crazy schedule that we made for ourselves.  And now it's a non-issue.  God looked at our situation, and just knew how much it would bless us to have Zander's class on a different night, and He set things into motion to make it happen.  God knew how much this would delight me!  I love thinking about that.  This may seem like such a simple, basic thing, but it really speaks volumes to me that God does care about our every day.  He does care about something as simple as how busy our week is, and He can change things up just because it will make us happy for it to be changed up.

So if God will answer the prayers we have not prayed even, how much more will He answer our genuine prayers- our cries for mercy.  What a thought this morning. What a great thought, that we can call on God all the days of our lives, and He hears us- even when we don't call.  I love Him so much.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wonder, Amazement, and Passion

"Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him."  Acts 3:6-10

I love reading this.  Imagine the pure joy that must have gone through this handicapped man.  He received a miraculous healing from God, and in return, immediately began praising God for it.  It makes me smile to think of this man, who sat in the same place every day, begging for money, running and leaping and telling everyone who will listen how God healed his feet and ankles in an instant. I can see him in my mind, reaching out and grabbing people by the shoulders and saying "look what the Lord has done for me!"  

And the people were filled with wonder and amazement.

This last week, the TV show, Extreme Makeover:Home Edition has been in town, building a new house for a deserving family.  Literally, thousands of people throughout the week have been at the build site, watching in wonder and amazement as this project went on.  It really was cool to have this happen in our community, but at the same time I can't help but wonder if this many people would show up if God was in town.  

It's been over two years now since the big revival went on in Lakeland, Florida.  I remember watching that online- seeing the arena and the baseball stadium filled with people hungry for God.  I remember seeing the hundreds of people who were coming from all around the world- full of faith that God would heal them of their afflictions and diseases, and many were.  Yet I will bet you that just down the street from where this was happening, there were also thousands of people, who heard about it, but shrugged it off, eh, it's just a big church service. 

Passion for God and the things of God.  That's what's missing in our country.  I think that people think that if they truly get passionate about God, they will turn into some kind of super freak.  But the fact is God is looking for people to get passionate about Him, and then take that passion and use it in their everyday lives. He's not looking for people to get passionate, and then spend 24/7 in church walls, praising Him every moment of every day.  What He wants, is people who love Him with all their hearts, and then go to their jobs, their homes, their neighborhoods, and share that love with those around them.  God doesn't want us all to leave everything to follow Him, He wants us all to follow Him, and then everything else will follow too.  

God wants passion.  He wants us to share that passion.  Football season is underway here in the states- still preseason, but football none the less.   People are very, very passionate about their football, and it is a frequent subject of many a passionate conversation.  I am rather impatiently waiting for the day when we can talk about God, and the things of God with the same amount of passion.  Instead of spending Monday morning talking about how the football team did, let's talk about what God did over the weekend.  What people got delivered or healed Sunday morning?  How many people gave their lives to Jesus for the first time?  How many people got baptized in the Holy Spirit for the first time?  Now those are statistics to get excited about!  Those are numbers worth talking about and getting excited over.

The day will come.  The day will come where wonder and amazement over the things of God will be an everyday occurrence.  And the day will come where we will be able to talk about the wonder and glory of God without worrying about offending our neighbor.  Because the Bible says that EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father."  Philippians 2:10-11

The day will come, and I am looking forward to it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Greatest Joy

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."  3 John 1:4

Today is a special day in our household, as this morning, our little girl woke up and discovered that she was a ten-year old.  She is a little girl no longer, and every day I marvel at the miracle of life, as I've watched her grow from a wee babe, needing mommy every second, to a confident and competent young lady, who is beginning to enjoy some Independence.  Oh, sure, there are times when maybe we don't like each other very much, but it seems like every day she does something unexpected that catches me by surprise.  She'll come up with a clever idea for something for her and Zander to do, or she'll decide she wants to make a meal all by herself.   Or she'll walk over to a crying cousin and do her best to try and cheer them up- most times being successful.

The name Abigail means "Father's source of joy" and I can't help but agree with that. ( Except maybe that it should include mother in there somewhere.)  But I know with all my heart that she brings her Heavenly Father great joy every single day of her life.  She is joy- if it could be bottled up, we could make a fortune, because she has so much of it, and she's so willing to share it.  There's nothing I enjoy more than watching my daughter dance in worship to the Lord.  She does it so beautifully and so expressive, that I just know that it pleases God so incredibly much.  But even better than that, she also watches out for other kids who may not know how to dance, and she will help them and show them a few easy things that they can do to dance in a worshipful manner.  

I truly had no idea when we discovered that we were going to be parents, just how much joy she would bring to Andy and I.  God knew what He was doing though when He created her.  Her smile has always been contagious, and even the roughest day can't help but be brightened up when she walks into the room.   I just pray that her heart for Jesus stays strong as we dip our toe into the pre-teen years with her. I pray for her just about daily that she won't have to make worldly mistakes that so many teenagers make- that she will just love Jesus every day of her life and allow Him to be her best friend.

And I pray this morning that God would bless my not-so-little girl with the most wonderful of days.  May her day turn out even more spectacular than she was expecting, and may she know that above all, His love for her will never, ever fade. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Buh-Bye Jealousy

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
 28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
 31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "  Luke 15:25-32

There are so many lessons in this one story of the prodigal son.  So many, that when I read it, I start to compose at least four different blog posts in my head.  There's just so much good stuff in here, and it seems like every time I read it, God peels back another layer of the onion and see a little deeper and see so many more lessons.  But this morning as I read the story of the lost son returning home, I was really struck by the attitude of the older brother.  What a whiner- that was my first thought, and then I thought about how often we ourselves get sour grapes because someone else gets something so wonderful...
I mean, really.  We hear about God really blessing someone- we hear about a raise at work, or a housing situation coming through, or someone being healed of an affliction, and it can be really difficult to not get jealous.   That's one of the things that was going on with this loyal son.  Here he's been working at home all this time, being diligent and responsible, helping to take care of his fathers estate.  He's been home all this time while his brother was out running around in the world, spending every last penny, and behaving in a poor manner.  This brother decides to return home with nothing to his name, and here dad is so excited, that we're throwing a party and celebrating.  Diligent brother is jealous, because where is his fatted calf?  When does he get to party and have a good time instead of having to be responsible?

And here is how we get rid of jealousy.  

"For God does not show favoritism."  Romans 2:11

God does not show favoritism.  And while it may appear on the surface that God is showing favoritism by blessing someone else with the very thing that you are desiring, the fact is that God has no favorites.  So instead of becoming bitter and jealous, we should actually become encouraged.  Because we see God doing for one person the very thing that we desire Him to do for us.  If God will do that for our neighbor- He will do the same for us!

The good son who stayed behind and was loyal and diligent and a hard worker didn't know this.  He had no idea that all he had to do was ask his father to throw him party, and he would have.  All he had to do was ask his daddy for a day off, and it would have been gladly given.  This son did not really understand the relationship he had with his dad- which was the same relationship his lost brother had.

Instead of being jealous for someone else and their situation, we should rejoice with them!

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."  Romans 12:15

"But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful." Psalm 68:3

We can rejoice in knowing that we serve a loving and a fair God- and what He does for one person, He will also do for us if we seek Him for it.  The crabby brother in our story did not understand this at all.  He didn't really understand the loving relationship he could have been experiencing with his father all along.  

In the same way, God wants us to understand that he wants to have a loving relationship with each and every one of us.  That's one of the points of the story of the prodigal son.  The father loves his wayward son so much, that he doesn't care what is in his past.  He doesn't care in the least what his son has been doing in the past.  It's instantly forgiven, and forgotten, and then they move forward, rejoicing together in the fact that they are together.  God wants to rejoice with us too!  He wants to have that loving relationship and rejoice with us daily- but we can't do that when we leave His letters to us sitting on the side table collecting dust.  We can't do that when we choose to ignore His precious Word or choose to not take the time to pray or spend quiet time listening for His voice.

God wants a loving, rejoicing relationship with each and every one of us.  The angry son above didn't get that.  I want to get that, and I want to be able to rejoice one with another, and say goodbye to jealousy forever, because I know that God loves me just as much as He loves my neighbor.  God's just cool like that.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Warfare Wednesday: Prayer For The President

Dear President Obama,

This scripture verse today is my specific prayer for you.

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints," Ephesians 1:18

One Who Loves Jesus and America

I pray just about every day that our president would come face to face with the glory of God. I do, because the president who bows his knee in supplication to the Lord Most High is the president I want to see lead our country in the right direction.

This week has been a dicey week for the president. I don't need to re-hash the major news, but an Islamic community is planning to build a mosque near the site of the September 11th attacks, and of course, this has brought out all sorts of criticism and rage and fear on every side of the story. Now, I believe in Jesus. I don't like to see plans for a mosque going up anywhere, however, I live in America. I live in the land of the free where there is freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We are free to worship whomever and however we'd like. The muslims are free to worship where they want. It's an unfortunate choice that their proposed site is near Ground Zero, but I don't know the details as to why they chose that site. Maybe because of the debris field it's in their affordable price range, I don't know. But I do know this. I don't want to live in a country where the government decides to step in and tell a community of worshipers and believers where they can or can't build their house of worship.

I am praying for all involved in this situation. I am praying for wisdom for government leaders who may think about stepping in, and I'm also praying for the general public. May those who are angry and upset realize that they don't want the government to interfere in this situation. Once the government steps in and tries to do something, they set precidence that could spread like wildfire...

We live in America, one nation under God. There are times when we need to be reminded of this. I shared a verse up above, and that genuinely is my prayer for President Obama- I pray that his eyes are opened to the wonders of God and that his head and heart is open to the wisdom of God. I thought I would close todays post with the verses from Ephesians that follow verse 18. May the power of God come upon our national government. From the President to the Vice President, to Congress, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court. May God be at the head of this country once again, so we can be an example for the world around us.

"and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." Ephesians 1:19-23

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dream For Direction

"Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:19-21

Can you imagine the turmoil that was going through Joseph's mind at this time? Here he had been betrothed to Mary, and now she's pregnant- and not with his child. What is a man to do in this case? I imagine he went back and forth and in so many directions, trying to decide what to do. I am certain that he even had trouble sleeping because of the decision he had to make. Our gracious God, though, gave Joseph an answer while he was dreaming. An angel appeared to Joseph in his dreams and assured him that staying with Mary was the right thing to do. And we all know what happened after that. Joseph heeded the advice given in his dream, and became the earthly father to Jesus.

Admittedly, it never occurred to me that God could use a dream to give an answer to a question. I've definitely had many, many dreams that I've considered for direction, but mostly, they all direct me towards one thing- seeking more of God in one way or the other. But the other day. I think I got a very clear answer to a question that I'd been pondering for several weeks. It really wasn't a huge life-changing thing, but it was an answer nonetheless, and I'd like to share how things happened, so that maybe sometime if God gives you an answer in a dream, you will know that the dream really was your answer.

Over the last month or so, I've been assembling the books and things we need for the coming school year. It has not gone as smoothly as I'd hoped, as the funds just haven't been there as I'd anticipated. Planning for the coming school year has been interesting, as I've had to break up the year into pieces, and I've been accumulating the things we need for the first few months, and then hopefully later on we'll be able to pick up the rest of the things we need. Anyway, one of the things I was seriously considering was selling our literature from last year. It would be a way to get some of the funds needed for the next year. But as I looked at this pile of wonderful, wonderful books that we've loved so much, I knew we'd come back to them. In three years Zander will be doing that core again, and it seemed silly to me to sell them, only to have to buy them again. And yet, it would be a way to get a nice chunk of money to help pay for the new books for this year.

Ah, the dilemma. It wasn't weighing on me heavily, but it was there. I am a book person anyway, and our school books aren't simply textbooks and workbooks- they are literature books- wonderful stories and biographies that have been written by talented writers. It always is difficult for me to get rid of any books in the first place, and here I was considering getting rid of books that I KNEW I was going to need again. In the back of my mind too, I know how expensive the curriculum is that we are using, and if I sold these books used, someone out there would be insanely blessed by getting all these books used- they would be able to afford their school year. I just couldn't decide.

And then one night, I had a dream. I had a dream that I was a little girl, and I was riding on the back of a horse drawn wagon- also in the wagon was a brother- infant to toddler aged. While we rode in the wagon, I was holding a very large stack of books- they were heavy, but I wanted to protect them and make sure they arrived at our destination, so I was hanging onto them ever so carefully.

And then there was an accident. The wagon lurched, and I and my brother toppled off the wagon. I was still holding onto my books, but my little brother landed in a river and started flowing downstream away from me. There was no one else to save him except me, but there I was holding on to this precious stack of books, and I didn't want to just drop them in the river where they would certainly be ruined. The longer I stood there holding this bundle of books, the farther away my little brother got as the flow of the river was carrying him farther and farther away.

I don't think there was an end to that dream, but I did wake up later on with a real impression from that dream. I was holding onto these books like they were really something precious, when really, they are just books. I knew that God had given me an answer to my dilemma, I needed to let go of the books I was hanging onto. This morning I will be heading to the post office to mail a rather large box of books to a family in Texas, who I hope will enjoy these books as much as we have. Because I listened to my dream, I will be able to purchase a goodly amount of the remaining books we need. Not all of them, but enough that I think we can start school on schedule. And in three years when we need these books again, I am confident that I will have no problem gathering the books again. And who knows- maybe the curriculum will have changed slightly, and there will be new and more wonderful books added to the pile.

The whole point of sharing this today is that sometimes, an answer can come to us in a dream. Just as Joseph received an answer all those years ago, God can still use our dreams to give us direction. That which He has done for another, He can also do for us. Now, I still strongly suggest that if you do think God has given you an answer to an important question in a dream, that you seek good counsel too. Share what you think God is telling you with a mentor or an elder. In my case, I think selling some books was not a dramatic and serious question that required much spiritual counsel. Yet it was an answer for me, and I really felt good when I put that box up books up for sale, and I felt even better when I saw that someone did want to purchase them. I hope He'll use the opportunity to talk to me even more in my dreams- waking up in the morning with a surefire answer was so wonderful- and so from God. He is so good to use dreams as a way to talk to us.

Monday, August 16, 2010

It Is A Sweet Week

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."" Matthew 11:28-30

Yesterday was a beautiful day at church. Worship went on and on, and so many people were touched. As we praised God with all our hearts, He shared His heart with us. His heart is to bear our burdens for us. God really wants for us to take the problems that have been weighing us down, and hand them over to Him. He wants us to take the yokes off our shoulders and trade Him for his easy burden- the burden of love. It doesn't matter what your burden is. It could be an addiction to something, it could be a financial matter, a health matter, a mental matter- such as depression or fear- it could be a relational matter with another person. God wants to carry that burden for you. You've carried it long enough, He wants to take it from you and give you rest.

While the heart of God was being revealed yesterday, many people, including myself felt as if a great weight lifted from their shoulders and their hearts. Literally! My step got a little springier and I just felt such peace- and so relaxed. We had a rough Thursday and Friday- and it was weighing on us, and just like that- poof. God took it away, and then He promised that this week was going to be a sweet week. A relaxing week where if we take the time to spend time with Him, He would share more of His heart with us. If we purpose to spend more time in His Word this week, He will show us things that we've never seen before and delight us in new ways. I can't wait to find out what He has to say to me in His precious scriptures.

"I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken. 25 " 'I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety. 26 I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. 27 The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. " Ezekiel 34:24-27

The world tries to enslave us over and over again- but Jesus has come to give us life! We can take up His yoke, which is light and easy, and be free of the yokes of this world. And there's nothing you have to do to qualify for this precious gift. All you have to do is say yes- how cool is that? Just say "Yes, God, take these burdens from me, and give me yours. I want to have a sweet week, resting in the gentleness of your heart."

And just like that, it's done. God wants you to come to Him and to experience what a sweet week with Him feels like.

"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." Isaiah 55:1-2

The richest fare is in our Bibles. When we feast on the banquet that He has already placed before us, we will delight in everything He shares with us. It won't even be like a regular old banquet with food- where there is almost always something that you don't like on the table. At God's banquet- every morsel is delicious to the soul. Every word we take in will be satisfying and delightful.

"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

A week full of God's peace. A week full of feeling satiated and relaxed and wonderful- this is going to be a wonderful week, and is such a precious gift. It couldn't have come at a better time for us, as it's birthday week here. My precious girl is turning 10 on Friday, and I am so excited that the week leading up to it is going to be wonderful and full of grace. And if you're reading this today- or even later in the week, this sweet week is for you too. God told me to share it with you, my precious readers, because you are so deserving in His eyes. He loves you so much, and He wants to give you seven days of glorious rest. Unload your burdens to Him and He will give you so much rest and love- your heart may come near to bursting.

It's going to be a delightful week.

Friday, August 13, 2010

You Gotta Give It Away

"And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:39

How does one really love their neighbor? Over the past few years, it seems that the messages I hear about love are just increasing all the time- it's clearly an important subject. Love is the key to everything- God Himself is love, and it's something that we really need to get into us and learn to utilize. And yet, sometimes it can be so hard!

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2

Sometimes we just run out of patience, or we grow tired of bearing with someone in love when they're being so difficult. I think of that often. The last few times I've heard a message on love, I just took a minute to talk to God about it and ask Him "what about those people who just drive me batty?" How do we learn to love someone who seems annoying to us at times? And how do we love someone who just seems to make it difficult to love them?

Well, I was thinking on this again this week, and kind of asking God about my questions when I got a very clear answer in my head. I thought about my children, and I just knew that God was showing me the answer. I love my children. More than anything, I love them so completely, and every day I marvel at the fact that my heart hasn't burst, I have so much love for them. And yet, there are times where I don't like them all that much. Those days when neither of them have gotten enough sleep and they are fighting and arguing all day long, and all I want is for the day to end so they can go to bed. I don't want to spend time with them because they are so unpleasant. And yet... And yet I still love them with all my heart.

It almost made me laugh when I had this thought, because it was ridiculously obvious once I thought about it. Yes, I may find that person annoying over there from time to time, but you know what? I can still love them- I don't have to like all their actions in order to love them. If that person were going through a hard time and needed a boost, I wouldn't stand back and think to myself that I don't want to help them out because they annoy me sometimes. No- I would help as I was able, and pray for them, and let the love of God work through me to minister to them.

Loving others is not about some mystical journey where we all walk around professing our undying love to everyone we meet. It's not like that. Learning to love those around you is not like some crazy hippie movement from the sixties. I imagine that there are times when God looks down at us and sees what we're doing, and says, "Hey, you know I love you, but you're being really stupid right now. Knock it off." It's more about learning to reach down inside ourselves, and finding the love that God already planted there, and then using it.

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10

We are God's workmanship, and as such, we have a whole boatload of love hiding inside of us, just waiting to be pulled out and utilized. God put it there in advance so that we would have it when needed. The two greatest commandments are to love God first, and then to love our neighbors. He made it possible for us to accomplish this by putting the love there in the first place. Jesus is love. When we asked Him into our lives and our hearts, He moved in and brought an endless supply of love with Him. It is our job to utilize this precious resource that is within us and share it with those around us.

So yes, that person over there may be annoying from time to time. And that person over there may have a personality quirk that you'd rather not be around sometimes. Or another person may just come across as brash and irritating sometimes, and that's all okay. You don't have to learn to love some one's bad behavior- you have to learn to love the person behind the behavior. I can have the naughtiest kid on the planet- one who needs to be grounded for a few weeks and sent to their room for several hours, but I will always love them. My heart will always be full to the brim with love for my children- no matter what their behavior- and we have it within us to take this idea of loving our children unconditionally, and applying it to other people.

But maybe you're reading this and you don't have children- you don't know what I'm talking about. Well, how about your parents? Oh, I remember very clearly as a teenager, those days where I really, really didn't like my parents. Those days when punishment was doled out I really didn't like my parents at all... and yet, I still loved them. It may have felt like that love was really far away and really deep down inside, but I still loved them, regardless of how mad they made me at the time. In the same way, a neighbor really could make me angry beyond belief at times, but deep down, I know I still need to love them.

In those situations, when someone makes you angry, I almost always make it a point to say something to God. "You want me to love this person? Grr" But then I am always reminded that I am to love this person, and when I think on that- maybe ever so briefly, but that always lessons the anger- even just a little bit.

Loving your neighbor is not some crazy impossible task that Jesus set out there before us, and we'll never realize. We will realize. We do realize- I just think that we forget that people are people, and there will always be things we disagree with or prefer to not spend time around, and that's okay. Love is not impossible- not even a little impossible. It's more than possible, and when we start thinking like that, we'll find even more love hiding within us, just waiting to give it away.

Way back in the early 1990's, renowned artist Michael W. Smith was singing about this very thing. Over ten years later, it's even more relevant. I want to send you over to a Youtube video of him singing it live- it won't let me embed it here on the blog like I usually do. It's worth the five-and-a-half minutes to head over and check it out. Give it a listen, you won't be disappointed. Have a wonderful weekend- and look for an opportunity to give some love away. When we look for it- we will find it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 29:29

I've been thinking on the idea of secrets for a few weeks now. I love it when God shares a secret with me. Often times, those secrets that he shares with me are directions for me- directions for me to do something or go somewhere or do something for someone specific. While I usually share those particular secrets with my husband, I don't share them with anyone else, and that is because they are secret, of course. Things that God would have me do to bless someone... And yet, sometimes I do feel this urge bubbling up to tell people about the things I have done. You know, when you're talking with someone and they mention about how wonderful it is to see the food pantry nicely stocked with food. On the inside, you know that you, yourself are responsible for a good portion of it, how easy and mindless would it be to say something like "well, you know, hubby got paid a little extra this week, so we thought we'd put it to good use." Yet instead, the correct response is probably just a simple agreement, and a purposed conversation that doesn't share what exactly it is you've done.

There's the tough part. I think that in this world we become so conditioned to seek out praise, that when we participate in one of the secret things of God, it's just natural for us to want to brag about it and receive some human accolades. But you know, our accolades are in heaven- as God smiles on us listening to the secret things that He places in our hearts- and those are the accolades that are important.

I was looking in the Bible for examples of secret things, and wouldn't you know, Jesus shared a few examples of things that are to be done in secret.

"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:3-4

When you give to the needy, do it in secret. There are far too many people in this world who give to the needy publicly. It would be like me, walking down the street, holding up a check and announcing to all my neighbors that "This check is for the needy! Watch me give it to them- see how big this check is? Aren't I a good person for giving this much to those in need?" The reality is that no one needs to know how much I give to the needy except me and my husband. When we try to make an act of giving a public act, it can cheapen the giving that we are doing. And when afterwards we walk around telling people how we gave so much to this or that, we are not following the words of Jesus and giving to the needy in secret. Our giving should be between us and God and no one else needs to know about it.

Honestly? I get much better rewards from giving in secret than in public. I love smiling on the inside, knowing how I've brightened some one's day without them even knowing it was me who did it. When I give in secret I'm really acting on love. I'm acting on the love of Jesus that is flowing inside of me- and stirring that up and causing it to pour out of me rewards me so much more than praise from another person possibly could.

Jesus had more to say about secret things though- quite a few all in one chapter.

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6

We should give in secret, and we should pray in secret. Let's just think on the practical side of this. Let's say you're in a crowded room of people. Noisy people- maybe there's loud music playing. Someone comes up to you and wants to talk to you. Rather than leave the noisy room, they lean into you and they have to shout in order to be heard. They tell you some wonderful things, but you're really very distracted by this room full of loud people, and the things you hear just don't seem as wonderful because of where you are. Now think instead about this person coming to you and pulling you aside. You go to find a quiet place where you can talk and focus on each other and the things being said. The conversation is much more rewarding isn't it? God wants to talk to us one-on-one too. He's a jealous God and wants to be the sole focus of our attention. He wants us to pray to Him in secret, where we can just focus on Him and His wonderfulness, and where we aren't putting on a "prayer show" for those around us.

And then Jesus tells us to fast in secret too.

"But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:17-18

Now, I've shared things in the past while I've fasted, but more as a way to encourage other people about the principle of fasting. I make no secret about saying that I used to be very much against the idea of fasting. But when I am in a state of fasting, that's not public knowledge. The whole world around me doesn't need to know that I'm only eating vegetables for a few weeks. Now, if we go to some one's home for dinner, then they may need to know, only so that I don't offend them by passing up their luscious looking roast. But fasting is a tool to draw closer to God- and that needs to remain there- between myself and God.

In fact, all these things that Jesus talked about being secret, and being done in secret, are tools to help us draw closer to God. Now, long after the fact, the things that are done in secret may be shared as a testimony- to give glory to God and to share an example to someone else. I've shared examples of giving people money when prompted by God- not to bring glory to myself for sacrificing a few dollars- but to share that God does talk to us and can prompt our hearts to bless someone in their own times of need.

When we do something for the kingdom of God, it should be done in secret. It should not be done for the purpose of bringing ourselves glory or recognition. And if out purpose in doing something in the first place IS for the glory or recognition, perhaps we need to take a step back and do some thinking and some analyzing. And then maybe some repenting. For all things happen for the glory of God- not the glory of man. Those who humble themselves shall be lifted up into higher places- higher places in the spirit- and higher places with Him.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20

If we find faith, God will answer.

This morning as I continue to pray for the safety of President Obama and his family, I am also praying for much wisdom for him. I am praying for wisdom for him to know how to deal with the borders of this country. America has always been the land of the free- and anyone on the earth could come to this country to start over or try to make a new life for their families. With the risk of terrorism, and the drug trafficking along the Mexican border, finding a balance has to be near to impossible. The drug lords in Mexico and central America are getting tougher and tougher, and the southern border of our country gets more at-risk every single day- and what are the answers? I certainly don't know the answers, but I know who does. God has the answers. God knows how to protect our border from terrorists and drug cartels. God knows how we can still let immigrants in while keeping the riff-raff out.

Can you just imagine how this country would be protected if our leaders would call upon the Lord God to send His angels to protect our borders? Oh my gosh! A nation that will bow it's knees to the Lord will find favor with the Most High.

This morning I am also praying for mercy and protection for the people of Russia. And I'm praying that God would send healing rains to put out the forest fires wreaking havoc in that country. Of biggest concern are the fires that are coming dangerously close to the site of Chernobyl. A fire that reaches there would send radiation back into the atmosphere, and I pray that God would not let the fires get that fire. I pray that He will give the firefighters supernatural energy to fight the fires- and that He will also keep them safe- both from the fires, and from the risk of radiation.

In addition, in the capital city of Moscow, 700 people have died from breathing in the toxic fumes being created by these wildfires. I pray that God will have mercy on the city and that He will protect the people from these horrible fumes. May He give them sweet, fresh air to breathe, and may He cleanse the air of all unrighteousness that tries to linger.

And while I'm praying for that, it's been a long time since I've thought of Chernobyl- the site of the worst nuclear accident on earth. The area is still toxic and uninhabitable. Yet God could clean it up. God knows exactly what is needed to rid that area of contamination. What a sign that would be to the Russian people, of His love for them. And so I pray that as the attention is currently back on Chernobyl for a time, that God would clean the area with His mighty breath and power. I pray that He would shower His love on Russia, and that the people would know that the love they are experiencing is from God alone, and that they would turn their hearts over to Him.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Lord Bless You, And Keep You

"But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh." Jude 1:17-23

I love to read the book of Jude. It's such a tiny book of the Bible- and yet it speaks volumes. I love how Jude gives us glimpses of things seen no where else in the Bible. He speaks of the archangel Michael, fighting with the devil for the body of Moses. He speaks of wise sayings of Enoch- who we know didn't physically die, but simply went to be with the Lord. And he urges us all to contend for our faith- to not let it fall into the hands of the wicked. As I read Jude this morning, I just felt that maybe many people don't read the book of Jude- because the very thing that we read about being wary of is the very thing that is happening to many churches today.

What happens is that someone joins a church, and all is well. Everyone is always happy to receive a new member. And then as time goes on, this new member gets more and more involved, and then tries to instigate change within the church- and change that's not necessarily for the better. Discussions ensue about how to make church more friendly to people outside of the church- how can we make it less about God and more about self... this is a very dangerous slippery slope that so many churches are on right now.

"For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." Jude 1:4

There are entire denominations of "church" out there where God isn't even mentioned- doesn't even have a place in the weekly service. Service is all about feeling good about yourself and trying to be a "good person". Church and life is all about one thing: God. Plain and simple, life is about worshiping God and loving His son Jesus who died for all mankind. Life is about becoming more and more like Jesus- that should be our focus. When we focus on God and on Jesus, everything else comes along with it. Imagine that! All that self-help we seek out, all that trying to be a better person will just naturally fall into place as we focus more and more on things of the Spirit and trusting in God above to take care of our every need.

When we don't know what to do, verse 20 tells us exactly what to do...

"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit."

Have faith in God and pray in the Spirit. So many times, I feel like I need to pray for someone or something, but I'm at a point in my walk where I really want to pray the right thing... I don't want to speak words that are contradictory to God's Will, and I don't want to petition God for the wrong things, so many times, I will simply think on the issue at hand, and then I will say something simply, like "may God's will be done completely" and then I will spend time praying in the Spirit. That's a surefire way to ensure that you are praying for the situation that needs your attention. It may seem like cheating sometimes, but boy, is it an effective way to pray.

Jude also tells us to keep ourselves in God's love. How do we do that? By following His commandments to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And we need to be merciful to those who doubt.

"Be merciful to those who doubt;" (v. 22)

We live in a world that tells us that faith in God is optional, and I think it's natural for people to doubt that God's love can really be enough for them. Rather than show these people disdain, we can have mercy. We can love them where they are at and gently encourage them through the use of testimonies of God's love and how He's worked in our own lives. With God's help, those who doubt will have their eyes opened.

I'll close today with the very end of the book of Jude. He gives us such encouragement with his closing words, and I pray that it encourages you as well this morning.

"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 1:24-25

Monday, August 09, 2010

More Than Many Sparrows

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7

Every time I read this verse, it makes me happy. The more I read it, the more I get delighted as I think about how much God cares for me and for my family. Except that He doesn't just care for me and my family. He cares for you and yours as well!

And as I think on this idea of the sparrows, it makes me think about birds in general. Other than annoying birds- like crows which are really noisy- birds always make me think of joy. They are always fun to watch- who doesn't enjoy seeing a few finches flit in and out at a bird feeder? Who doesn't light up when they hear a familiar call and then search the yard to find the bright red cardinal calling to his sweetheart. My kids and I are constantly being delighted by the antics of birds. As much as we delight in the activities of bird watching- how much more does God delight in us?

Our summer is almost at an end, and it's been one for the books, as we've just enjoyed it so much. One of the greatest things we've done this summer has been to enjoy our community pool- and the swimming lessons they offer. My kids were both nervous about the idea of swimming lessons as the summer started, but as the weeks went on, they took to it more and more- and now they are both looking forward to heading to the pool in a little while. They can't wait to learn more and to work on their skills more. I just know, that as they delight in their lessons for 30 minutes every day, that God watches them, even more delighted. A proud Papa, watching His beautiful children delight in the activities that the water He created offers them.

Did you know that there are between 100,000 and 150,000 hairs on a human head? God knows exactly how many are on your head. Exactly. He knows just how many came out in the shower yesterday, and He knows how many fell out onto your pillow as you slept last night. If God knows how many hairs are on my head- think about how much more He knows. As a parent, I know a lot of things about my kids, but I've never felt inclined to sit and count the hairs on their heads. As much as I care for them- God cares even more. Sometimes when we are facing a trial, it can be really hard to believe that God cares for us as much as the Bible says He does. We think about what we are going through, and we wonder why God would want us to go through it in the first place...

I don't think anyone really has the answers to those kind of questions. But I can say that when I look back at all the different things that we've gone through, we've learned each and every time. We grew as a result of what we went through. Was it easy growth? No, but each and every time, I would look at verses like this one today and I would just repeat it over and over, and remind myself that God knows.

He always knows! And we are worth so much to Him... God knows the exact number of sparrows on the earth at any given time. He knows exactly how many hairs are on your head at any given time. How much more does He value your heart and your soul. He loves you so much more than any human being can fathom, the love He has for his children is limitless and boundless.

What a great God.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11

Everything that God has made is beautiful. Think about that. This week as I sat at the swimming pool with my kids for their swimming lessons, I was thinking about how if there was one place to challenge a person's thought life- a pool was it. So many people in so many bathing suits... need I say more? It can be really challenging to look at someone and not think about how they're wearing the wrong suit for their body shape. And yet, everything that God has made is beautiful. Everything! Which means that person you saw a short while ago, looking terribly unfortunate, is absolutely stunning in the eyes of the God who created them. As I've been thinking these things this week, I can't help but wonder if our human thought processes are messed up. And just as we try to build up our faith by declaring things that are not as though they are, maybe when we see someone or something not beautiful, we should start declaring them beautiful. As we do that more often, maybe we'll begin to see through God-colored glasses, and we'll see the same beauty that God sees in all His creation.

As I move on in this verse this week, though, look at that second part, the part where it says that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. What does that mean? Let's take another look, only this time in the Amplified version.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men's hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." Ecclesiastes 3:11 (AMP)

The idea of eternity has been planted within us to give us the drive and passion each and every day to get up and go one more time. We all have our purposes- our reasons for living. Right now, my purpose, every day when I get up is my children and my family. What are we going to do today together, what are we going to do today to better ourselves. I am a completely satisfied wife and mother, and yet... there is something there that still feels like there is something wanting. We can have everything in the world at our fingertips, but without God, it is all meaningless. Our purpose is to go through life becoming more and more like Jesus everyday so that one day we may get the chance to stand (or fall) in the presence of God Almighty.

That IS a really difficult mindset to undertake. It's so tough sometimes to stop focusing on all the things that are going wrong or need improving and trust in the idea that God really is enough for us. You know, when you have a stack of bills piled on the desk, and not enough coming in to pay them, and then you hear a message about relying on God... it can make one snarky, because I know that God sees the stack of bills, and yet He wants us to just trust in Him. He wants us to praise Him in the worst of times, which always starts out like a great idea, but I'll tell you, every time that happens, my mind starts to wander. I'll be praising God, joyfully, and all the sudden, a dire monetary need will just drop into my head from nowhere and totally wreck the praise experience I was in the middle of. One minute praise and joy, and the next minute, worry and self-reflection. I still haven't figured out the answer to that one, but I do find it helpful to recite some scripture. Lately I've been starting with a verse in Matthew.

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life" Matthew 6:27

And this all comes full circle because there is a really big secret here. People who worry all the time, who focus on their problems and trying to solve them, aren't very beautiful. When we are focused on Him and when we can rely on Him to meet our needs and give us peace, we reflect that peace on our faces. We reflect the beauty of the Lord from the inside out. People who worry all the time just look worried, and crabby, and they can be the prettiest person, but that worry and anxiety reflects poorly and makes them look less beautiful. Yet God created all things to be beautiful. So there is a conclusion to be drawn here- worry does not equal beauty. When we can set that worry aside, when we can, instead, purpose to let Him satisfy our every need, we will reflect the beautiful nature that God already put inside of us- just waiting to be awakened.

No, we cannot really fathom what God has done for all eternity. The mere idea of eternity doesn't make sense in our limited human minds. But while we're waiting for the revelation that helps us understand eternity a little better, we can focus on Him and let Him make us the most beautiful people we can be.

It's a short week here for me this week. Sorry about that, I go away for a week of vacation and then come back and give everyone a short week of posting here. It's conference weekend, so time is short, but I'll be back Monday morning with all sorts of goodies to share. If you have the inclination, you can check out our conference online- as we stream it live each and every day. Go here to our church website, and click on "Watch services live" in the left-side menu. And here is a link to the conference schedule so you know when to tune in- all times are Central Standard Time. Have a great weekend, I'll see you on the flip side.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:2-3

This past weekend, after arriving home from our vacation, Andy and I took a rare opportunity of down-time to catch part of a movie that was airing on TV. We had only seen the movie Pearl Harbor once, and neither of us could really remember if we liked it or didn't like it. So we settled in and watched the dramatic presentation of one of the most infamous events in American history. Yes, the movie was just that, a movie, but... I was moved by it. The whole concept of war... it just boggled my mind. I truly don't understand how anyone can think it right to attack another country with the specific purpose of wreaking havoc and causing death. And even though this particular event was nearly 50 years ago, in my mind, it was feeling fresh. It made me think of the tragedy on September 11th as well, and that night, I really felt like I needed to spend time praying for our country.

And I still do. I've felt an intensity for the last several weeks to pray specifically for the United States of America. I've been praying for mercy and for favor- but more than anything else, I've felt a need to pray for her continued protection. I just feel like we need to really spend time on our knees praying for the protection of our country. And this verse above today is just so appropriate- "Call to me, and I will answer", if every Christian could just spend time interceding for our country, praying for protection and for a return to Godliness, we would make such a difference. God would hear us indeed, and He would smile upon us and He would cast His favor back on this country.

With an increase in prayer for our country, I've also felt an increased need to pray for those in office. Yes, I've been praying for President Obama and His family, but in addition to that, there's also been an increased awareness for me. You don't realize how often you encounter a photo or a glimpse of one of the buildings in Washington DC until those glimpses cause you to feel a call to prayer. One of the reality TV shows I watch is taking place in Washington DC this season, and every time they show us the capital building, I just have to take a minute to pray for the lawmakers inside that building. Prayer for our country is one of the greatest things that we can pray for- God wants to hear our prayers for our nation, our state, our communities. He wants to hear our petitions for protection for our leaders, He wants to hear our petitions for Godly wisdom for our elected officials. It pleases God to hear us pray for our leaders.

But in addition to praying for our own country this week, I also feel strongly that we need to pray for God's blessings upon the nation of Pakistan this week. Intense flooding in the rural parts of the country has already claimed the lives of over 1500 people. When there is flooding this intense, there is also great risk for disease, and clean water becomes a very precious thing indeed. Impending rainstorms are also threatening to add to the disaster. I pray for mercy for the people of Pakistan- they are beloved children of God, and I pray that He would intervene in a mighty way and cause the flooding to cease. Additionally in Pakistan this week, tensions are running high in the large city of Karachi. A party leader was assassinated yesterday, causing riots, a mob, and many killings.

"For this is what the LORD says: "I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees." Isaiah 66:12

May the flooding that is happening in some parts of Pakistan be a sign to the Pakistani people that peace is possible. Peace like a river can be abundant, if only the people of Pakistan will turn to God in their times of need. God loves the nation of Pakistan, and I pray that the people of the country will come to know that, and will come to know Him.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


"LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy." Habakkuk 3:2

As I read this verse this morning, I thought about how it was a wonderful prayer for Habakkuk to be praying. And then I thought about how appropriate it is for today too! How wonderful would it be to have the deeds of the Lord known in our time. And to have those deeds credited to God, and not to these made-up entities we've created. We have a raging thunderstorm and we say that mother nature must be angry. We have an increase in hurricane activity one year and people blame it on global warming. And the good things too! Earlier this year there was a massive earthquake in the Pacific Ocean, and there were tsunami warnings everywhere. The tsunamis didn't amount to much, and people found something scientific to attribute that too- rather than give thanks to God above who showed mercy to millions of people.

I cannot wait for the day when I can turn on the news and hear the newscaster talking about the glory of God! How wonderful will it be to hear a news story about people being healed miraculously- and hearing the credit go to God and not to something special in the water or hear skepticism about there actually being an illness in the first place. It will truly be a wonderful day when we can give glory to God for the mighty things that He has done- and do it in a public way with our neighbors and our communities. We can start preparing the way for this to happen by starting it ourselves. When people comment on our lovely gardens, instead of saying thankful and being prideful in what we've accomplished- imagine the reaction if we gave God the glory! We can say something like "Yeah, God did a great job this year, didn't He." Or " God did some of his best work when He created the tomato plant." One person at a time. If more of us gave God the credit for the things we do through Him, I think that would be contagious, and it would get people thinking more about what goes on around them.

As I read further into this chapter in Habakkuk, there was another pair of verses that particularly jumped out at me.

"Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

I think that this is another way where we can make a difference and a huge impact on our communities and the people around us. We can be going through some of the roughest times, we can be facing an empty larder and an empty checkbook, but we can still rejoice in God and be glad in Him. To be certain, when people see this, they will want to know what is making the difference. I've seen it firsthand. We've gone through some really rough patches, and when we still exhibit joy in our everyday, despite what is going on, people notice. People see this, and they want to spend time with us so that they can figure out exactly what is making us so happy in what should be a depressing time in our lives. They want to know what the secret is, and when they learn that the secret is faith in God, they don't really know what to think at first. But I've seen that this mindset is contagious. Through our example, other people have also come to rely on God to get them through their rough times, and end up sharing their own joy in the midst of trouble.

We are in a time of renewal, a time where we can prepare ourselves for the days to come. As we gird ourselves with His love and faithfulness and peace, we can share that with those around us simply by living it out. God has great plans for this planet, and I don't really think that it is all the doom and gloom that people have talked about for years. I think that God's Glory is going to become obvious and apparent and part of everyday life for us. THAT is something worth looking forward to, and something worth preparing for. And we prepare for this time by taking in His Word as much as possible, making it a part of our very selves so that when a friend, neighbor, or co-worker needs a word of encouragement, we can give it to them, without having to pause in conversation and spend precious minutes looking up a verse that comes to mind. The world around us is going to turn to us, and see our joy and our delight in all things of God, and they are going to want to be a part of it. Who wouldn't? That's what I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to the world around us changing, and accepting God as their God and Jesus as their Lord and Savior above all else. That is going to be one great and mighty day.