Thursday, September 30, 2010

Other Meat

"The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat!"  Numbers 11:4

I got to this verse yesterday in my Bible reading, and it made me pause.  It made me reflect on it and read it again a few times. At this point in the Bible, the Israelites are wandering.  God has been miraculously feeding them through His supply of manna.  But look at what happens here. My Bible uses these words "the rabble with them began to crave other food."  It doesn't say specifically that the Israelites, God's chosen children began to crave other food.  It says the rabble began to crave other food.  The troublemakers, the lowest class of people among them became discontent with the manna.  So those people started complaining.  The Israelites are such followers though (remember that golden calf?) that they hear the noise this rabble is making and decide that the rabble is indeed correct.  Who wants to eat manna day in and day out?  The thought of eating meat sounds really good after they think on it some more, so they start complaining as well.

Well, as the story goes, God gives them their meat, but it has a price.

"But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food."  Numbers 11:33-34

There are two lessons here that really stick out for me.  The first one is that we need to watch out and be mindful of these people known as the rabble.  There will always be rabble- people who want to stir up trouble by planting thoughts and suggestions where there were none before. 

The second lesson comes right at the end of verse 34 there, the buried the people who had craved other food.  Ah, there is the problem.  These people decided that God's provision simply wasn't enough for them.  There is a real lesson there for us, because the world wants us, who have faith in God alone, to want to crave other food.  The world wants us to believe that God isn't enough for us.  But look at what I found nestled deep in the Psalms.

"I am the LORD your God,
       who brought you up out of Egypt.
       Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."  Psalm 81:10

"for he satisfies the thirsty
       and fills the hungry with good things." Psalm 107:9

And then there's this verse from Philippians:

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:19

God satisfies, and that's one of the biggest things we can learn from the Israelite people.  Time and time again, God showed them His glory, and not long afterwards, it's like they completely forgot about what He did for them.  He parted the sea so they could cross, and then they started complaining about not having food.  Then after a while they start complaining that they don't have meat.  Later on they complain about not having water- twice, actually.  Yet every time they start grumbling, God comes through for them...and yet they still continue to complain and grumble when the mood strikes them.  It's unbelievable sometimes!  But look, look what the Psalms say,

"For he satisfies the hungry and fills the hungry with good things."  

You know those feelings you have in the bottom of your stomach that there has to be more to life?  That's what it is looking for.  It's looking for more of God to fill that void.  That's it.  Just God.  Just Jesus and all His abounding love.  The world will tell us that it is a space that desires to be filled by the latest self-help book, or the newest program designed to change the way you think.  That's all "other food", and we should stay away from it.  God satisfies our every need- and He satisfies that hunger we have that seems it cannot be satisfied no matter how hard we work, how much money we make, and how much we give or do.   God simply wants permission from us to fill that void.  He wants us to surrender to Him, put down the self-help and smile at Him and say that Okay, God, let's do this.  Fill me, satisfy me, and keep me from turning aside again.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      for they will be filled."  Matthew 5:6

Blessed are the hungry.  Jesus said that Himself, and I believe Him.  Let us  not be like the Israelites, so easily swayed by the rabble around us.  Let us stand firm and say that God is more than enough.  He is our supply and is all that we need.  Each and every day.  God is enough. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”  John 3:20-21

Let's give some praise to God this week for His mercy and divine protection this week!  There are a few things on my mind that, as I think on them I think, wow! God is so good!

A huge terror plot was uncovered and foiled in Europe this week.  The attack was supposed to be in several major cities in Europe- coordinated for the same times.  It could have taken the lives of hundreds, had they been successful.  Praise God!  The plot was uncovered and foiled, and a victory is had against evil and terrorism.  I am so incredibly thankful that God put the right information into the right hands to discover this horrendous plot. 

I am also thankful for the country of Mexico this morning.  Yesterday there was a massive mudslide in a city in the southern part of the country.  The first reports shared news that hundreds were feared dead or missing.  Right now, authorities are saying that 11 are missing.  Eleven!  This mudslide buried an entire town, and only eleven people are missing.  Praise God for His mercies!  I am praying this morning that those eleven people will be found alive and well.  I also know, from a personal connection, that this particular town is an unreached people- they need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Just think about the goodness of God that spared this town so that they could have an opportunity to hear the Good News- they didn't perish into an eternity of torment because they never knew Jesus as their Savior.  In fact, this particular people group does not even have a Bible written in their language yet.  Translators are working fervently on finishing up a New Testament as I write this.   I pray this morning that they will be able to finish their work soon, and that God will get the glory for the amazing way this town comes through the mudslide disaster. 

I also continue to pray for President Obama this week.  I pray for continued safety for him and his family.  He is doing a lot of traveling now with elections just a few months away.  I pray that God will keep him safe in all his travels, and I pray that Godly men and women will come into his circle of trusted individuals- and that he will listen to what they have to say.  I pray for the next five weeks or so as campaigns ramp up to try and win elections.  May peace and love invade the campaigns.  I pray that this election period stays quiet and peaceful- and that the people who God has designed for office will win their respective elections. 

And finally this morning, I am praying locally for the flooding here in this part of the country.   There are many rivers expected to crest in the next day or two due to recent heavy rain, and I just pray that the damage from them is minimal.  I pray that people use common sense when dealing with the heavy waters- and that everyone stays safe.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


" 'Keep my decrees.
      " 'Do not mate different kinds of animals.
      " 'Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
      " 'Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material."  Leviticus 19:19

Yesterday during my Bible reading, this verse caught my eye.  Specifically, one part of it. 

      " 'Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.

Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.  That sounds like a strange law to me- yet here was God, telling his people the rules and guidelines, and right there in the midst of all this seriousness, He says to not plant your field with two kinds of seed.  What's up with that?  Variety is a good thing, isn't it?

The reason God had been giving these Israelites all these laws and rules was to try and keep them pure and righteous.  God knew the lands they were marching into, He knew the people who lived there, how they sinned, and how they fell into sin in the first place.  When He says not to plant a field with two kinds of seed, He is talking about remaining pure.

Seeds. Here is another verse from the Bible about seeds.

"Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away."  Mark 4:15-17

When God is talking about planting a field with two different kinds of seed, He's not talking about two different kinds of food.  For example, cucumbers and corn.  You can plant those next to each other in a field, and they will grow without a problem.  However, if you take two different kinds of cucumber, and plant them together in a field, the cucumber plants can cross, and the plants the following year could very well be a result of a cross of two kinds- they essentially become a kind of mutation.

So let's think about the seeds from Leviticus, in the context of Mark.   What kind of seeds are we planting?  This is one of the many things where we need to be careful what we are taking into our souls on a daily basis.  Let's say we're spending 30 minutes a day reading our Bibles- taking in the precious seed of the Word of God.  The seed that will grow within us and hopefully bear righteous fruit.  But then, later on in the day, we spend some time reading a book whose seed isn't exactly pure- maybe a self-help book, telling you the power of your mind.  Or maybe a fictional book whose characters are all of a demonic nature.  We're adding bad seed to the good seed we already took in.  As children of God, as citizens of Heaven, and sons and daughters of The King, we need to be more careful about the seeds we are planting.

Let's think in another way.  Let's think about the seeds that we sow.  One minute, we're talking to someone who needs encouragement.  We share scripture with them, pray with them, and the whole time we're planting seeds of life, and seeds of encouragement- the very things they need to hear.  But then as conversation goes on, it takes a dismal turn, and we start sowing seeds of a different kind- we talk about someone else maybe, and sow seeds of gossip and of negativity as we criticize someone else.  Despite any good intentions that come from it- they are still bad seeds, and should have been thrown out completely.  Now you've sown both good seeds and bad seeds with this person- what are they to think?  Those bad seeds could very well cause problems for them, as they are already struggling, and now the devil can use those bad seeds to mess with them.  When they are really struggling and thinking on the good seed of encouragement you gave them, the devil can bring to mind your gossip (the bad seed) and tell them that your good words were garbage as well.

We need to be careful and purpose to only plant good seeds!  It truly is a wise thing to think that if you can't say something nice- don't say anything at all.  And that applies in ALL situations.  We need to guard our tongues and speak life- and plant good seeds.  We need to be especially mindful when we're talking about other people- even one instance of sharing something negative is a bad seed.

Reading Leviticus, sometimes it can get really long and drawn out because of all the rules and the laws being shared.  But the purpose of those laws is what keeps me reading.  The Israelites were a people set apart for God.  They were precious to God- His chosen children.  They needed to be able to live a life that was as pure and without blemish as possible- a righteous life, so that they could dwell in His presence.  The rules are strict, and sometimes seem a little crazy- like not planting two seeds.  Thankfully, for us, for Christians today, we don't have to follow all these same rules, because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  He gave it all, so that life with God could be easier- it is more than possible to live a life without blemish, and we don't have to follow all kinds of crazy laws to do so.  But I think where people struggle the absolute most is with their mouths.  They say things without even realizing what they are saying.  Maybe if we gave intentional thought to the idea that every single word we speak could be a seed- we might be a little more careful.

God still wants His chosen children to be righteous and blemish free.  He even made it so much easier for us- but He wants us to watch the seeds that we both take into our lives- as well as the seeds that go out.  By watching what we take in, we're making it easier for His seeds of life and love to take root and be fruitful.  We don't need to worry about the bad seeds choking out the good seeds for a time.  And by watching what we sow, we're making it easier for Him to work in the lives of others around us. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Seek First

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well"  Matthew 6:33

Sometimes I get hit with these feelings of inadequacy.   Lately it seems that we've been hearing story after story of someone in need.  Every other day, someone we know or meet is going through a rough time and it would be so wonderful to just be able to bless them with a gift card for gas or groceries.  Or I hear story after story of orphanages and troubled nations and missionaries needing funding, and my heart just wants to open up and give to them all.  The other day I very vividly was thinking about going grocery shopping for another family, and was trying to figure out what would be the perfect pair of grocery bags to bless someone with- what would I want in them?  The reality for us though is that we cannot give in most of these instances.  We simply don't have the finances to afford to do them, and it's beyond frustrating.

Usually when I'm thinking things like this, I spend time talking to God about it, telling Him that it's really bothersome to me to have these feelings of compassion, these feelings of wanting to do something when we really truly cannot.  And I pray that things will change.

When the earthquake hit the country of Haiti, and there were all these photos of children in orphanages, struggling with buildings collapsing and other things, my momma heart just wanted to call whoever I needed to in order to bring a few of those orphans home to me.  My heart literally cried out for these children, and when all I could do was pray for them, I felt like it kind of broke a little bit.  And yet, my heart is softened now towards the country of Haiti- and in particular, the orphans there.  It could very well be that someday, God will make a way there, and it could very well be that I have children alive and well in Haiti- just needing their mommy.   Yet the whole idea of even thinking about adding to our family in that way brings up situations and dollar signs that are completely laughable right now.  So I pray.  And I read my Bible.  And I find verses like the one above that gives my heart a much-needed boost.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well"

You know what that says to me?  Seek God first.  And righteousness.  Do you know, all those feelings I have of wanting to help, of compassion and a desire to reach out are part of learning to be righteous.  I want things to be right- I don't want people to be suffering and in need- and I want them to know the love that God  has for them.  And it tells  me that maybe I am on the right track.  I'm allowing my heart to be opened up to the idea of helping those in need in many different situations.  And when the time is right, I do believe that God will open up the floodgates and provide what we need to be a blessing to others.  Maybe right now is not the time for us to be that source of provision for someone else.  Maybe right now, our focus should be on Him and what He would have us do.  I was just talking with someone yesterday about how when you can't do someone for someone, and their need has been brought to your attention, it must mean that we are supposed to spend some time praying for them.  Give them a few precious minutes of our day in prayer- and start by giving that way.

Huh, imagine that.  Start giving to others by giving of your time. You know, they may never even know that you've been praying for them.  But you know who knows?  God, of course.  What could be better than that?  Not only do you get to act on someone else's behalf, but you get to do so by spending time talking to God about them.  Now that's a win-win situation.  Would it be nice to be able to load up the van with groceries and make a delivery?  Yes, it would.  Oh, it would be wonderful to be able to do that.  But since we cannot right now, we need to take baby steps and start where we can.   And as we seek Him, and find favor with Him, I believe that the days will come where we will be able to help others with more than our prayer time.

But that prayer time is such a wonderful start.  It draws us closer to God, and when He acts on behalf of those we are praying for, we hopefully will get to see the fruit of those prayers.  We'll get to hear the praise reports of the job that someone got or of the substantial raise they got at work.  We have to start somewhere.  I think that if we focus on all the need around us, and how we can't do anything, it could lead us down a path mentally that we don't want to be in.  So instead, I will follow the advice given in my Bible.  Seek Him first, and His righteousness.  And if we can do that, if we can manage to learn to pray for those who God has put in our hearts to pray for, He will open up doors of possibility for us in the future.

It's also important to remember that God has us exactly where He wants us.  So as we look around and we hear about all this need around us, it can make us frustrated to not be able to do anything.  Sort of a, why did you bring us here God if we can't do anything about it?  Why did you bring these people into our lives if we can't help them out?  Frustration is what the devil wants us to feel.  What God wants us to feel is compassion.  And He wants us to spend time in prayer for that person- for that person who maybe is in such a state of despair that they can't even pray for themselves anymore.  That's why those people and those situations are  in our hearts.  It's for us to love them in whatever way we can- and sometimes, the best way to show that love is to give up some of our precious time and spend time on our knees specifically for them.  

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well"

I will seek Him first, and leave the rest up to Him. 

Friday, September 24, 2010


"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."  Hebrews 10:35-36

Do not throw away your confidence.  That is just such a booster to read this morning.  It made me think.  It made me think of all those times, where we're talking with someone and they cause us to question our faith in God.

An example?

Every year at Andy's lay-off time, we get to let everyone know that we're not worried, because God will provide for us while he's not working.  And every year, we get those looks.  Those looks of, yeah right, whatever you say.  For the most part we remain confident in God and that He'll carry us through, but every once in a while, while we're in one of those conversations, we start to maybe doubt a little.  As the other person inquires if all our bills are paid in full each month, our confidence wanes. Well, no they're not, but they're paid enough to keep the utilities going.  As someone asks if we'd like to join them for a dinner out, our confidence drops a little.  Sorry, we really can't afford that right now. And they ask why not- they thought God was taking care of us.

It's the little things that make you question.  Are we foolish to rely on God every year at this time?  Is there something more that we could be doing ourselves- should I go get a part time job to get us through the holiday season?  Should Andy be looking for a new job so he doesn't get laid off every winter?  Or someone will mention Job in the Bible, and we start to doubt a little, thinking of how he lost low would God let us get? 

But the reality is that we have a loving and gracious God, and money is nothing to Him.  Seeing that our family is fed, and clothed, and has a roof over our head truly is a piece of cake for the God of the universe.   And you know what He's doing this year?  The lay-off time has not even arrived yet, and all kinds of options are coming in- including the potential for an extended work year within his company.  Andy's got several weeks of work left and when that work is done, he has all kinds of options for ways to earn money to pay the bills and put food on the table.  How awesome is God!   I am so grateful to Him for placing all these opportunities in front of Andy before he gets laid off, because it is so encouraging to us.  We don't have to look at the calendar and worry about how after such and such a date, there will be no more income, because God has already taken care of it.

He knows our needs before we need them. God puts things into motion before we can even fathom that we need them.    And knowing that, we know that our confidence is not misplaced. Our confidence is right where it needs to be- securely resting in Him.  Our confidence is not superficial- it's not confidence in ourselves to spend wisely or do the right things.  It's confidence that He will guide our every step, and He will care for His children.   Our confidence is already richly rewarded, as we rest securely in His divine will and protection.  We don't need any more reward than that.  Just to rest securely in the knowledge that He knows and cares for us- what could be better than that?  So hang onto that confidence that God loves you, cares for you, and will take care of your needs.  He comes through every single time. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Excuses, Excuses

"The word of the LORD came to me:"  Ezekiel 21:18

When we learned in April that we were moving to this house, I spent some time in my Bible looking up every verse in the Bible with the address of 21:18- our new house number.  I've heard of plenty of other people who look up their house address as a Bible reference and come up with some radical verse that really makes them think.   So I looked up verse after verse, and found nothing that I thought could give a meaning to where we live.  Except for this verse.

"The word of the LORD came to me:"  Ezekiel 21:18

It was the only verse that even had a hint of something to it.  I memorized it instantly, and every once in a while I roll it through my head in a deeper kind of God voice. 

And yet, when we did move, we were caught up in the flurry of moving activity.  Oh, we were so busy those first few weeks.  It was still during the school year, and I didn't want to take too much time off from school, because that would take us later into summer- a big no-no for me.   So unpacking, getting settled, getting familiar with our new neighborhood, doing school, and wouldn't you know, my Bible reading lost priority status.   And continued in that matter for many months.

I can't tell you how many days I would see my Bible sitting there, literally calling out to me, and I would walk buy, with the excuse that I had much to do.  The truth is that I do have much to do- every single day.  It takes every ounce of energy that I have to make it to the end of my days lately, but about two months ago or so, I really realized that my habit of reading the Bible daily had completely slipped.  And yet, there was this verse that kept calling to me.

"The word of the LORD came to me:"  Ezekiel 21:18

Then we had several messages given at church no less, about the very thing I was experiencing, that if I wanted to hear God's voice, I needed to be in my Word daily.  They were convicting messages, but boy, it sure would be nice if God had made our days just one hour longer.  I always had an excuse of course.  Every day I could give you a half dozen reasons why I didn't sit down with my Bible that day.   And you know, I don't even know what the breaking point was about a month ago, but it was about a month ago that something cracked.

I was thinking about that verse again, and it was just a light bulb moment.  If I wanted the word of the Lord to come to me, I needed to know His voice.  And if I wanted to know His voice, the only way to do that was to spend time daily in my Bible.  I convicted myself.  Because as I thought on how I just wasn't getting in that daily Bible reading time, I thought about that day when I get to heaven and stand in judgement. And God asks why I didn't read my Bible daily... what would my answer be?  Sorry, I had dishes to do, laundry to do, spiderwebs to wipe down, school to teach, field trips to go on, dance classes to get my kids to... the list goes on.  And it all falls short.  Especially when God pulls out a log sheet and says, "Huh, I see that you managed to read 1473 novels over a ten year period of time.  Yet you couldn't pick up MY book for just a few minutes?"

And that's what did it.  See, since moving here, we've been delighting in our newer, much bigger library.  Chock full of books that I'd like to read.  I've fasted reading for enjoyment before, and I really didn't want to do it again, but I knew that if that was what it would take, I would have to do that again.  So instead, I've purposed in my heart to get back into the daily habit.  In fact, I gave myself an unattainable goal to see exactly how much of the Bible one could read in one month's time.  Turns out, not as much as I was shooting for because life does happen, and there are also passages in the Bible that one needs to read a few times to rally let sink in. 

The number one most important thing a Christian can do every single day of their lives is read their Bible.  There is something extremely important about the physical act of reading one's Bible.  Even listening to it on audio, which I know a lot of people do, is not the same at all as sitting down with the physical Bible and reading it with your eyes.  Your brain processes what you read differently than what you hear. 

All I had were excuses for not reading.  And bad ones at that.  What are your excuses?  I pray that you are able to rid yourself of them and join me in purposing to get into God's Word daily.  He has so much to say to you, but if you're not learning His voice, how will you know that He is talking to you?  Ditch the excuses, and let's dig in.  And who knows, it could be you who gets the revelation of Ezekiel 21:18.

"The word of the LORD came to me:"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Warfare Wednesday: Pray The Vote

"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

Today is the day that begins the final march to election day here in the United States.  There are forty days between today and the day we go to the poles to cast our votes for various political leaders.  The Presidential Prayer Team online has launched a campaign called "Pray The Vote" to help remind us each and every day to pray for our country.  By signing up today, you will receive an e-mail every morning with reminders to pray and a few notes about various issues.  You can sign up here at this page if you feel so inclined.  Signing up is nice, of course, but the whole point is to remember to pray every day for the coming elections- for God's Will to be done in each and every instance.

As I was thinking about what to say this morning about praying for our country, and praying for President Obama, I was thinking about all the many, many instances over the years where we've heard someone speak about the doom and gloom to come to America.  You know, people of prophecy share dreams and visions of disasters or the wrong decisions being made, and I was thinking about how I know people who really cling to that stuff.   I don't think it's bad at all, but I wonder at people who miss the point of those prophecies in the first place.  

Think of the people of Nineveh.  A city filled with wrong-doing and evil.  God sent Jonah to warn the city and tell them that if they did not change their ways, they would be destroyed.  And what did they do?  They listened, and they did change their ways, and God smiled on them and spared them.  I wonder who was in that city praying for a change.  I wonder what people were spending their time on their knees, praying for their city and their corrupt government, asking God to bring change to their city- because I'm sure there was someone there doing that very thing.

And that's often times why God gives us these prophecies- it's so that we can pray about it and have faith that the situation that has been foretold can be changed!  I hear too many people complaining about where our country is headed- instead these people should be praying for God to intervene.  If enough of His people cry out, He will hear them and He will find favor, once again, on this beautiful country.  I've written at least one or two times before how a word of prophecy is a word for potential.  It means there is potential there for something to happen. 

"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand."  Matthew 12:25

The United States may not be a kingdom, but it has been divided against itself.  It is my prayer that the country will come together once more- that the elections going on in the next forty days will not cause more division.  Rather, that truth will stand up and come forth, and that unity will be the result of it.   God gives us words and warnings so that we who have faith will utilize that faith and come together in prayer for our country, our communities, and our lands.  It is prayer that will turn our country around, and I will pray.

"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

We are His people, and if we will humble ourselves and pray, God will hear us from heaven, and will forgive this country of all the wrong that has done, and He will heal our country.  He will heal the hurt that has been caused by all the divisiveness.  He will right the wrongs, and He will shine His light on our nation once again.  All because a people prayed.  Let's be that people.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."  2 Corinthians 13:14

Tomorrow is our first official full day of fall here.  I am not a fan of fall, because to me it always signals the fact that winter is on it's way.  And I am really not a fan of winter.  But as we change seasons, I always spend a little time reflecting over last year at this time, and even back farther.  For us, its been over two years since we gathered on a weekly basis with our closest friends for fellowship, prayer, and Bible study.  Two years!  So much has changed in that amount of time, it's crazy.   When we were opening up our home week after week, we really felt like we were doing what God wanted us to.  We enjoyed every week, and never seemed to mind all the work involved with hosting either.  Yet, when we stopped meeting, we also enjoyed the time of rest we suddenly found ourselves with.  We didn't have to clean the house every week, and it was nice to be in a time of rest.

But here we are, two years and many, many changes later, and a stirring is happening.  Andy and I both have felt lately, an urge to start hosting some kind of fellowships in our home again.  I've definitely given it a lot of thought, wondering if it was supposed to be a Bible study type of get- together, or simply fellowship.  Every time I think of devoting a particular day of the week to a small group study, I get a sense of foreboding, that this is not what God is urging us to do.  So instead, we're starting off with a simple event we're calling Family Dinner Friday.   I just put out a completely random invitation to everyone I am friends with on Facebook, and we'll see who comes to dinner on Friday.  That simple. 

See, the thing is, and I've noticed it myself lately, is that we are busy creatures, us humans.  And if we're not attentive, we can wrap ourselves up in these little cocoons and hoard our off-days all to ourselves.  We do it with good intentions, of course.  We say that we really want to spend time at home with our families, and we do, but every week?  Every chance we have a day where we're not busy?  While time at home alone with family is certainly never totally a bad thing, I don't think that God brought us to this house for us to hoard it all to ourselves.  He wants us to invite people in, and allow His Spirit to minister to them while they spend time with us, visiting and eating and enjoying each other's company.

I love it in the verse up above where it says "the fellowship of the Spirit be with you all".  I love the fellowship of the Spirit.  That's the atmosphere that gets created when two or more are gathered.   It's the "thing" that keeps people visiting long past the time they said they were going to.  It's the "thing" that you sense when you finally do leave, and you look at each other and mention how you just had the most wonderful time visiting with those people.  The fellowship of the Spirit is a wonderful thing, and it's really vital to us as human beings.  Even better, though, it can be a wonderful tool for saving the lost.  Because the Spirit is no respecter of persons.  Whether our guests are saved or unsaved, they experience the same things in our home, and when they leave, those who are unsaved really wonder what that was.  And often times, they come back for more.  They come back again and again, trying to figure out what it is that makes visiting with certain people so different, only to discover that it is Jesus that makes the difference.

Fellowship.  It's so important, that Paul lumps it with the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God.  We can't function without the love of God, and without the grace of Jesus Christ we perish.  Without the fellowship of the Spirit, our soul can wither.  We need that fellowship to keep us going.  We need that fellowship to bring life to our souls and give us something to feed off of.  So we are going to fellowship.  We are going to obey and do what God lays on our hearts, and we'll have a great time doing it.   The sacrifice of our alone time will most definitely be worth it, as we share the love of God with those we love.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Open My Eyes

"Be not afraid, O land;
       be glad and rejoice.
       Surely the LORD has done great things.

 22 Be not afraid, O wild animals,
       for the open pastures are becoming green.
       The trees are bearing their fruit;
       the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.

 23 Be glad, O people of Zion,
       rejoice in the LORD your God,
       for he has given you
       the autumn rains in righteousness.
       He sends you abundant showers,
       both autumn and spring rains, as before.

 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
       the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

 25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
       the great locust and the young locust,
       the other locusts and the locust swarm —
       my great army that I sent among you.

 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
       and you will praise the name of the LORD your God,
       who has worked wonders for you;
       never again will my people be shamed.

 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
       that I am the LORD your God,
       and that there is no other;
       never again will my people be shamed."  Joel 2:21-27

I love reading the book of Joel.  (Okay, I say that about a lot of different books.)  Joel starts out with warnings and destruction and then a breath of fresh air swoops in and we get such encouragement from God.   It says to not be afraid and to rejoice in God.   Rejoice in God.  That is key for all things, isn't it.  When we are at the lowest of lows, nothing else matters, but delighting and rejoicing in God.

I kind of forgot that, I think.  And sometimes I forget that God is God and He can do what He wants, and He can solve problems in ways that I can't even imagine.  And yet we try to solve them for Him. 

Andy got the official word that his work year is wrapping up. He has a few weeks left of work this year and then he's done already.  It actually is sort of good timing at first, because we have a huge conference going on at the beginning of October, and he won't have to ask off of work for it. (And feel somewhat bad for doing so.)  But.  We're so not ready this year for a lay-off time.  We still haven't caught up from last year's lay-off time.  So since Andy got the news at work last week, we've both been kind of quietly racking our brains, trying to figure out what we're going to do.  What things can be done to bring in income, that kind of thing.   And in my prayer time I've been praying for that extra side work to come in for Andy, and for it to be on the calendar so that we can have peace of mind, really.

Except that God is God.  I was reminded of that yesterday.  We had a bit of a testimony time at church where people shared about all the good things that God has done over the last several months.  There were people who got up and shared about how they had no money to the point that they literally had empty refrigerators, and I just was floored by that.  God came to their rescue and provided abundantly for them to fill their fridges and feed their families.  I realized then that I was worrying for no reason.  Because I have been worrying.  Our freezer is not stocked well.  Our pantry is not stocked like I like, and there are many times where I find myself wishing I had extra money to really do the stocking up that I want to.  But last night I realized that I don't need to stock up.

I had to apologize to God.  I had to say I was sorry for trying to dictate answers to Him.  I try to solve our money problems by thinking that God will send us a mystery check or will send the right odd jobs to Andy, or even that his place of employment will suddenly have more work for him.  And yes, all that is possible, but do you know what?  I really just want to let God be God.  I want to rely on His provision completely.  What if, by praying for work or a mystery check, I'm holding back the real blessing of having God completely eliminate any and all debt?  Really.  He could totally do that.  What if, by praying that my van keeps working fine I'm holding back God blessing us with a new vehicle?    Last week I finally bought the very last things we need for school this year, because I kind of had to.  With Andy's work coming to a close, money wouldn't be there in a few weeks when I actually need the items.   And yet, as I've been assembling school materials this year, do you know what I was asking God for?  I was asking that the money would come in to buy the materials.  Don't I feel stupid now.

And so I pray this morning that He will open up my eyes and my mind.  I pray that I will stop trying to put God in a box, and just let Him do what He does best- and that is take care of His children.  I know He will take care of us in the best way that He thinks possible.   God loves us, and He will not allow harm to come to us.  I trust that.  I trust in Him completely.   I will rejoice in the time to come- and I will rejoice in the now.  I will rejoice and be glad because God is our supply and our provision.   God will provide, and you know what?  By letting Him take over, by giving up my control over situations, I'm totally opening up to a situation where we are going to have a wonderful testimony to share.  That's what I can't wait for.  I can't wait to be able to tell everyone we know how God provided for us.  How He blessed us in such an incredible and mighty way.  Then they will know that He is truly the Lord our God and that He loves ALL His children.

Friday, September 17, 2010


"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children"  Ephesians 5:1

This verse totally made me smile this morning, because I totally get what it's saying. 

Children have a natural desire to want to imitate their parents.  Many a family business has started that way, with Dad or Grandpa taking the lead, and then as time goes on, the sons want to learn the business and eventually take over.  But we even see it in young children- I know we've seen it in our home a hundred times.  Daddy starts working on a project involving tools, and as toddlers, the kids would grab their plastic tools and try to imitate him.  Now that they are a little older, they still want to learn and be involved, so often times, they will try their hand at using a particular tool once or twice.   Many times I'll be cooking in the kitchen and one or both of the kids wants to help- or as of late, Abigail will want to try cooking by herself, to see if she can do the same things that mommy does too.

We are dearly loved children of God.  Think about that.  Right there, that one sentence tells us several things.  One, that we are dearly loved- not even just loved.  Dearly loved- we are dear to God- that's so awesome to read and to hear.   When our children misbehave, we do correct them or punish them as is fit for the situation, but do you know, our love for our children never, ever fades.  We love them no matter what they do wrong or how they goof up- and God loves His children in the exact same way.  He loves us because we are His children, and He will always love us.  As a proud papa, God wants us to imitate Him, to try to learn to be more like Him!

Going to back to the children though, as a child, imitating a parent, it never comes easy the first time.  No seven year old boy picks up a hammer for the first time and expertly puts a birdhouse together with hammer and nails.  Usually he starts with baby steps.  First he simply tries pounding a nail into a board, and realizes that even that simple task is more difficult than it looks.  And then maybe he'll try hammering two pieces of wood together.  Finally, when he thinks he knows how to do it, he'll start assembling the pieces for the birdhouse.  Of course you know though, that no daddy would let his young son do that task all alone the first time too.  So a daddy is usually nearby, offering gentle instruction and encouragement- and correcting the wrong things done over the course of the project.  As that project is completed, a slightly more difficult one may go underway, and another and another, and before you know it, the little boy is quite the accomplished woodworker.

Oh, how I love comparing God to that of a daddy!  God is the exact same way. When He says to be imitators of Him, more than anything what He wants us to imitate is His loving nature.  He wants us to love those around us with His love.  But sometimes, that doesn't come easy.  And He clearly isn't expecting us to swallow some magic love pill and suddenly love everyone around us.  No.  It takes baby steps. First, He wants us to start with one person- maybe that one person is a little difficult to love at first, but over time, the love comes.  Along the way, while you're learning to love someone with God's love, if something goes wrong, God is there, with His Word to correct you and offer suggestions for doing a better and more thorough job.  And the more you love people with God's love, the more people God will send your way to love.  And the more people you love, the more you will become like your Father in Heaven.

And that's what it's all about.  Being an imitator of Father God is learning to be more like Him.  Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.  God loves His children, and it pleases Him so when we even attempt to be like Him.   How will you please God today?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Trouble With Affluence

"He raises the poor from the dust
       and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

 8 he seats them with princes,
       with the princes of their people."  Psalm 113:7-8

I have had orphans and poverty on my mind lately.  I'm sure that God has it in my mind for a reason, but I just can't stop thinking about worldwide poverty, and thinking about how I don't really know what it's like to live like that.   And I don't think it would be possible to know.  I mean, there is always a "next meal" for my family.  We always have food, or raw ingredients that I could prepare to at least make a loaf of bread or scrambled eggs.  And even if we didn't have anything- we have a multitude of family, friends, and neighbors who we could call on for help in a time of need. 

But what about all those people out there who don't have that support system?  And what about those people in foreign countries who truly do have nothing.  I was just reading a blog post...wait, here, I'll share it, because it's something that I just can't fathom in this country.

An Eye-Opening Trip.

Can you imagine seeing children living in a dump?  Children eager and excited to open up your bags of garbage to see if there is anything useful inside... as though it were Christmas.  It just breaks my heart, completely shatters it.  Especially as I look around our home and see so much stuff, and so much room.  And yet the only thing that I know to do for these type of people is to give money to charitable organizations who can help them.  The one thing we don't have is extra funds.  And yet God has placed these people on my heart, so I do what I can, and that is to pray.  People just shouldn't be living like this! 

I love reading verses like the one I posted above, that says that the poorest of the poor will be seated with princes and treated like royalty.   But I also pray that God will send someone to these people.  Specifically, this morning, I'm thinking about that dump in Honduras.  How many of those children know Jesus?  I just pray that God will do something miraculous to bless those children, and those people who know nothing else but destitution and poverty.  In this affluent world today, there should be no such thing as poverty.  There should not be people living on the streets, because the church should stand up and decide to love.  Our job should be to love the widows, the orphans, and those who truly have nothing.  And as we show the love of The Father to those who are truly in need, they also, can learn to love the same Father.

I feel blessed this morning.  As I go about my day doing the mundane, I am thankful for a house to clean, running water, toilets that flush, a fridge full of food- and a plethora of grocery stores nearby to fill it should it fall empty.  I am thankful for what we have, and I pray this morning that I will stay mindful of all that God has truly blessed us with, and that He will show us opportunities to share what we have.  To share what He has so graciously and abundantly blessed us with.   But most importantly, may He show us those opportunities to share His Love.  May He open our eyes to the need around us and open up our hearts so that we may share the same compassion which He has shown us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Warfare Wednesday: Thankful

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

This morning, I come to the weekly Warfare Wednesday post with thanksgiving in my heart.  Not the holiday, where we sit around and eat all day, but a genuine attitude of thankfulness.  Yesterday was election day in our state.  It was simply a primary election, the big election will be in November, but I am still so thankful to live in a country where we can exercise our right to vote.  I am thankful that when we don't like what our government and legislators are doing, we can voice our opinion and vote for someone else to take that position, and try to do better. And I am thankful that, for the most part, up to now, the pre-election business has been clean and soft.  It hasn't been full of mud-slinging and dirty ads accusing each other of negative things.  I pray that the next seven weeks, leading up to the November election stay peaceful and calm.

I also pray this morning, that as the preliminary results come out across the country, that the leaders in office will see that America is speaking with their vote.  I pray that those who are not up for re-election will see that they are not making good choices and good decisions, and that they will spend some time reflecting on that- and most importantly-talking to God about it.   I am praying so mightily for a move of God to sweep across the governments of this country.   I am praying for our nation to wake up and realize that the government of this country does not belong to man...

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  Isaiah 9:6

Jesus came to save the world and to lead us for all eternity.  Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to begin eternity while we are here on earth?  The country that follows Jesus will be the country that follows God's Will, and that's the country I want our country to be.  I want our country to be a leader- so that everyone else will follow.  Every once in a while I hear talk of a "one world government", but think of a true one-world government with Jesus at it's helm...

So this morning I am just thankful, and I thank God for freedom and for democracy.  I am thankful to live in a land where the people have their say, and I am thankful that our voices can be heard.   I am thankful this morning for President Obama.  I am thankful that he and his family are sacrificing to serve this country.  I pray for their continued protection, but I also pray for a great awakening in the White House.  I pray that our president will come to know the one and only true God, and that He will choose the path God has laid out before him.   For we truly are the United States, one nation under God.  I pray that the time has arrived where we finally get to live it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Being Like-Minded

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by  being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."  Philippians 2:1-2

Well, this verse was more than appropriate to stumble upon this morning! Because I had a very vivid dream this morning that like-mindedness was not going on.  It was actually a bit disturbing, and it took me a while to fall back asleep after it woke me because I wondered what it was saying to me.  But in my dream, Andy and I were not like-minded at all.  In fact, we were at some one's house, who it turned out, was some weird cultish family- believed un-Biblical things and were spending their time trying to convert us.   I finally had enough, and I grabbed the kids and said we were leaving, except that Andy said he'd decided to stay and hear more.  He like what he was hearing.  I tried to pray for him to no avail, and the kids and I got in our van and left.

Bothersome, obviously.  Even more bothersome, because last night before going to bed, I had read most of Genesis, and when I was reading about Joseph and dreams and dream interpretation, I remember thinking to myself that I would like to spend more time learning about dream interpretation.  And I kind of shot up a quick little prayer in my head to ask God for more dreams, so that I could learn more.

Admittedly, I like the happy dreams better.  The ones with warnings and dire situations are not fun to discern and pick apart, and I have had a few too many as of late.  This one last night though, is fortunately, not a dream about something in the natural.  My husband's faith is firm and without fault, and if he ever were in a situation similar, you can bet that he would spend his time trying to convert the other people- not spend time listening and absorbing their dribble, only to end up believing it.   But this verse this morning makes me think, because there was one aspect of the dream that sticks out- and it's here in this verse.  Andy and I were not like-minded in the dream.   In fact, we were so not like minded that we were going in separate directions- and that is something to explore further and get to the bottom of.

Because you know what?  As you read the verse up above, there is great encouragement in there.  For we read here today that there is a HUGE perk to being a Christian.  And that is that when we become a child of God and accept Christ as our Savior, we also become united with others who have made the same decision.  Think about that- every person on this earth who has asked Jesus into their lives has common ground with you.  But even more so, Paul goes on to say that we can also take joy in the fact that we are like-minded.  And that we share the same love- Godly love, which binds us together as one spirit with one purpose- to win more souls for eternal citizenship in Heaven.

I didn't share my dream here this morning to make anyone think there is anything bad going on in either my or Andy's lives.  The dream used an extreme example of not being like-minded, and whatever it is that we need to explore and discuss could be something very small and minimal- just that we're not on the same page about something.  And it also doesn't necessarily mean that Andy is on the wrong side of thinking- just because the dream says he was.   In fact, it's probably the opposite.  The last several weeks have been challenging here, to say the least.  Andy broke two of his fingers in his dominant hand several weeks ago, and it's been a real challenge for me ever since. Of course, it was the same time as we were beginning school, so the kids and I were adjusting to a newer, busier schedule.  In addition to schooling though, over the last three weeks I have also had to attempt to maintain some kind of order in the household- as well as do all the extra work that Andy does- like the yard work and taking out the recycling, and admittedly, I've been overwhelmed and a tad bit cross.

Yesterday, for an unbelievable second, I was actually thankful that my garden tanked this year, because if it was producing tomatoes like my brother's garden, I wouldn't have been able to deal with it, quite frankly.  My days are crazy and too full as it is, one more task on top of what needs to be accomplished could have been the thing that causes me to really go bananas.

Thankfully though, I have an escape.  When I just can't think about doing one more load of laundry, or loading up the dishwasher one more time, I sit down with my Bible.  I sit down and read about the blessings of the Lord and everything else melts away- including my bad attitude.   And you know what?  Because we are all like-minded in Christ, we can all have the same experience.  Every single one of us can open up our Bible when we're struggling and find peace and encouragement from the pages within.   Because God is good all the time, and He ALWAYS has a word for us to read in His precious book.  I like to think that those days, when I just don't want to lift another finger to do housework or yard work, that God actually delights in me ditching my duties to curl up and spend some time reading His words, and seeing if He has something to say to me.   And what God will bless me with, He will bless you with.  Let's purpose to be more like-minded, and to spend more time in His Word, learning about His Love and His Purpose.  What could be better than that?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Same Blood...

"Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!"  Romans 5:9

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace"  Ephesians 1:7

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,"  Galatians 3:26

This past weekend we started watching a movie that's several disks long.  It will take us a few days to watch the whole thing.  It's a movie we enjoy watching from time to time- it's just such a grand movie.  We were watching and enjoying it, when the lead character said something that made me pause and reflect for a while on it.  He was talking about his family line- about the people he descended from and said "the same blood runs in my veins".  In context, he was worried about being evil like one of his forbears... but I couldn't stop thinking on what he said.

"the same blood runs in my veins"

It struck a chord with me.  See, also during that day, I had an amazingly bad headache.  Not quite a migraine, but a fierce enough headache that didn't seem to be swayed by food, drink or medicine.  It was bothersome.  I also had an experience with tingling and numb fingers in one of my hands earlier in the day, and of course, my mind managed to link them together and give myself some kind of serious health condition.  Never mind the fact that I've had pinched nerves in my neck and shoulders for a few weeks- which could cause both the numb fingers and the headache.  I still managed to think on it several times during the day, and think about all the horrible diseases or conditions that headaches and numb fingers could be indicative of.  I was making myself nervous, and I already knew that it was going to be a rough night sleep-wise, because I was worried about it getting worse...or what if I didn't wake up at all?  It's crazy sometimes, the things the devil will use to try and mess me up- and my health and thinking about my kids without a mom is one of those things.

But then I heard that line, I heard him say "the same blood runs in my veins" and it was as if something shattered in my spirit- the foreboding I was feeling increase throughout the day was gone, as I rolled that sentence around in my head, and thought to myself, indeed.  The same blood runs in my veins... the same blood that came to set mankind free.  The same blood that walked on this earth and healed the multitudes, and fed the hungry.  The day I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I had a transfusion, and my blood became infused with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  My DNA changed forever that day, and as I sat and watched the rest of that movie,  I just felt so much better!  When I went to bed that night, I had no troubles getting to sleep because my mind had started singing a song over and over about how the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in me- and I knew the devil was just trying to mess with me.  And it wasn't going to work.

I spent a deal of time yesterday thinking about that line.  And while I am so grateful to God that while we watched a movie, He used a line in a movie to help break through what the enemy was trying to do to me, it really had me thinking about Jesus, and the things He did while He walked on earth as a man.  It had me thinking about this older brother of mine, and I kept coming back to the situation where he was being tempted by the devil in the desert.

In Matthew chapter 4, we read about how the devil tempted Jesus after he'd fasted for 40 days.  And in the end, of course, Jesus resisted him by quoting scripture at him.

"Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"  11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him."  Matthew 4:10-11

And that got me thinking about all the times that the devil tries to tempt us.  I could go into a hundred different examples of temptation by the devil, but I'll go with a really basic, really simple one.  The temptation of laziness.   I imagine most people face this temptation, because the world tells us we deserve it.  The world tells us that we deserve to have days where we put our feet up and do nothing, when the Biblical reality is that we are deserving of a day of rest- but a day of rest and a day of laziness are two very different things.  And often times that one day of laziness can turn into several, and before you know it, a lifestyle of laziness has developed.  You spend every single day lamenting all the things you didn't do because you wanted to watch one more TV show, or spend just a little longer surfing the internet.

Now I don't think that God wants us to do away with those things completely.  TV and internet can be huge suckers of our time... but quite honestly, when we find ourselves there too much, it stands to reason that we can play the blood card and be freed.  The same blood runs in my veins- the blood of Jesus, who withstood temptation and overcame the devil with words.  When I find myself being tempted to do something I shouldn't- sit around and be lazy, or read a book I shouldn't, or spend money I don't really have to spend- I can remember my big brother Jesus, and remember that He resisted temptation.  I don't have to succumb, and give in ,and then regret later and have to repent.  I can resist in the first place.  I can say "Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only" and tell the devil to go away- and I CAN and WILL be successful.

I love it when God uses something so everyday like a movie or a song to speak volumes to me.  I pray that He continues to keep my mind open to what He has to tell me- that I won't miss it because I'm too busy to notice.  I'm so thankful for His intervention in my life.

Friday, September 10, 2010

He Who Will Sustain

"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."  Isaiah 46:4

I wanted to look up the word "sustain" in the dictionary and I found many definitions.  As I read each one, my smile grew just a little bigger, because each one is so true of our God in Heaven.

  • to give support or relief to
  • to supply with sustenance-nourish
  • keep up, prolong
  • to support the weight of, also to carry or withstand weight or pressure
  • to buoy up (sustained by hope)
  • to bear up under
  • suffer, undergo (sustained heavy losses)
  • to support as true, legal or just
  • to support by adequate proof

Can it get any better than that?  When I read the last part of the verse that says that "I will rescue you" I thought about how true that is, and you know what?  He doesn't just rescue us once or twice.  He is ALWAYS there, always holding us up and helping us walk the path of life.   I can't tell you how many times God has rescued us in the area of finances alone.  It's mind boggling to think on that, on how many times we've made mistakes, and yet there God is, providing help and solutions.  He's rescued us from bad decisions we've made about other areas of life, and the verse up above says that He will continue to do so until the day we die.

Of course, as we continue on this journey of life, it is my hope and prayer that at some point, we won't need to be rescued.  That the mistakes and the errors will fall by the wayside as our lives become more and more God-focused and God-centered.  As we continue on our journey of knowing Him more and more, the mere idea of mistakes will fall behind as we walk forward, centered in His perfect will for us.  Centered in the sweet spot.

He will sustain us.  Think on that word sustain, with all those meanings up above.  I personally favor the definition that he will support or carry, because there are just times where we need that.  There are times where we need to just let go, stop, and completely rest in the fact that He will sustain us.  He will sustain us when times are great, and He will sustain us when times are tough. 

You know, sometimes it's easy to remember that God sustains when times are tough.  I mean, when things really get rough, that's usually when we are at our most vulnerable, and we finally just lean back and throw up our hands and let God take over.   He follows through on that every single time.  But what I want, is I want to remember that God sustains when times are great.   I don't want to just look around at circumstances and think to myself that life is grand.  I want to look around with eyes wide opened and see and know that God makes life so grand.  I want that to be my first thought- to thank God for the many blessings and opportunities- and not a passing thought on a busy day.

I want to keep Him at my center.  Because He made me, and He will carry me and sustain me- no matter how the wind blows here on earth.  He will not relent, and He will be there every moment of every day. 

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Too Much World

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."  Titus 2:11-14

The other day my mom offered her Christmas village to my siblings and me.  She's cleaning and purging out too much stuff accumulated through the years, and thought maybe someone would want her collection.  I thought about it for a minute, because I don't have a Christmas village, and it's honestly never occurred to me that I might want one.  The thought that literally went through my head is something along the lines of "isn't everyone supposed to have a Christmas village?  Isn't that just what people put out for a decoration?"  And then I had my answer.  I didn't really want the village.  But  the mere idea that it's something you do just because everyone else does was enough for me- because that's a thought process I'm trying to eliminate.  When the holidays come rolling around, we put up decorations that we want to, because they make our home look festive, and help us to feel joyful about celebrating the birth of Jesus. 

Too much world and too much stuff.  Now, there's nothing wrong with stuff.  Stuff can be enjoyable, stuff can bring joy to someone, and it can serve a purpose- but its when we have stuff just to have stuff.  When we moved several months back, I can't tell you how much stuff we actually got rid of.  The piles of boxes that we donated were simply amazing- all random items that we had in the house just because that's what people do.  They get stuff, they use it for a time, and then they put it away.  And they save it, because you never know when you'll use that item again- or worse, they save something for their children down the road, and then the process begins all over again.  We're raising our children to let go of stuff.  To realize that sometimes toys and things can be wonderful and we can enjoy them, but sometimes we also need to share them.

Because that's why I think God really allows us to accumulate stuff.  It isn't so that we can pile up totes in a basement or in a storage unit- it's so that at some point, we can be a blessing to someone else.

Just this week, I was the beneficiary of just such a thing.  A couple had an old quilting frame- an item that makes hand-quilting a quilt much, much easier to accomplish.  I've wanted one for years- since I began a quilt that I've been working on.  But they are expensive- especially the larger size that I really wanted.  Well, these people -who I don't even know- decided this was an item hanging around their house that was just accumulating dust.  They wanted it to go to someone who could actually use it.  And as I picked it up, and brought it to my home, I just felt so incredibly blessed.  That this item that I have wanted, but never really thought I'd be getting, was given to me. 

In fact, now that I think about that, this has happened to our family twice this week alone.  Once for myself with the quilt frame, and once for my daughter, with an item that she's wanted, but we certainly never thought she'd be the recipient of such a treasure.

And yet, I'm trying to balance my mind around the idea that I don't want to get caught up in the trap of too much stuff.  And more.  The keeping up with the Joneses syndrome, where a neighbor has something, so we have to have something.  That's the world trying to creep in and tell us we need something.  Of course it does, because when we spend our money on something that we don't really need, the world rejoices, because then that money is not going to someone who could really need it.   In the last several months, I've found myself in a serious case of phone envy, because it seems like everyone I know is getting newer, better cellphones while I have one that just does the basics.  In order for me to get one of these new phones, I would have to shell out a pretty penny- and for what?  For a phone, really, that does the exact same thing as the machine I am sitting at- only in the palm of my hand instead of on a desk.  Do I really need that?  No.  I don't even use my phone as it is- it's almost always off, so why do I need to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy piece of electronics that I definitely don't need.  I don't.  But the world wants me to think I do.

Living a self-controlled life includes not having to have the latest and greatest of everything.  And I don't want this to come off like I'm sounding like I'm against having stuff.  I'm not, because stuff can make life more enjoyable- and God wants us to enjoy life.  But when that stuff consumes us, when that stuff becomes all we think about- that's what's wrong.   In fact, the verse above talks about how we're waiting for the blessed time when Jesus returns, and maybe that stuff can help pass some of that time in an enjoyable manner.  But we shouldn't hang onto that stuff like it is so important.  The only real important thing is Jesus.  Our thoughts should be on Him.  And then, when we get something, like I got that quilt rack the other day, all I could think about was how blessed I felt, and how cool it was that God worked it out to bless me in such an unexpected way.  And I also thought about how, as I get practice with quilting, how I could use that item to bless other people in turn.

I know plenty of people out there who subscribe to the ideas of many different financial gurus.  I have nothing against them either, but when someones mindset about money is all about whether Mr. Smart Money would let me buy such an item, we're thinking the wrong way completely.  Our thoughts should not be on Mr. Smart Money, our thoughts should be on God.  When we think on God, when we train our thoughts to go to Him, then the money thoughts also get easier.  When I am contemplating a bigger purchase, I don't think about what the financial people would say about that purchase, I think about what God would think about that purchase.  And what's even better, is that those financial people will never answer me personally about my question- but you know what?  God will.  God will answer me as I'm considering a purchase.  He will help make the purchase possible, or He will give me a firm feeling that I should pass something up.

I can't tell you how many times I've determined that I'm going to go shopping to just pick up a few things, and I really feel strongly that I need to stay home instead.  I know that's the Holy Spirit working to tell me that today is not the day to be spending.  Just because there's a great sale going on at one of my favorite stores does not mean that I need to be there shopping the sale.  Especially when there are other bills still to be paid.  There's always those too. 

In fact, we're trying so hard to break ourselves of the worldly desires for stuff, that we've embarked on a "no-spend month" for our family.  We'll pay bills,put gas in the vehicles, and buy groceries on a limited budget.  But other than that, we've determined not to buy anything for the month of September.  (Except for a rake for raking leaves, because we'll need that before the month is out, and we don't have one.)  Do you know how hard the actual practice of this is? Just yesterday I was thinking about a few things we could use, and then I had to remind myself that we're not spending.  God wants us to learn to do more without stuff.  And He wants us to share the stuff that we do have.  I honestly just wish we had more that was worth sharing.

If God can give His own son to redeem us from our own wickedness, the least we can do is go without a few things that we don't really need.  Our desire is that as we spend time not spending, and focusing on Him, that we will break the world right off of us, and that our mindset will become more like Christ. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Warfare Wednesday

"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground."  Psalm 143:10

Today is the day that we set aside each week and pray for President Obama and our country.  I almost feel like a broken record saying that, but it is fact, and I am actually a little proud of myself because I do continue to pray... so many people pray at the beginning of a presidency, and they pray when there are issues, but they don't make it a regular thing.  And it needs to be.  Our president and our country need our prayers daily- once a week isn't even enough.  This week while we pray for the safety of President Obama and his family, I really feel the need to pray that he will also seek and listen to Godly wisdom right now.  He is working on tax cuts and stimulus packages, and more than anything, I just think he needs to seek God's will, and see what God wants for this country.  And I pray that he listens.  I pray that he listens to men and women of God who may bend his ear for a few moments. 

I also feel this morning a strong need to pray for marriage in our country.  I guess I haven't really considered this a Warfare Wednesday topic before, but here it is anyway.  The fact is, marriage in our country is just not at all where it should be.  So many marriages end in divorce these days, as people just decide that it's time for something new- like a new pair of shoes or a new dress.  Yet marriage is something that God delicately designed to be between a man and a woman, and to give us a glimpse of the intimacy God desires for us to have with Him.  And yet marriage is treated so casually here, and even more so, there are other ideas of marriage that are becoming more and more mainstream.  I just saw this morning that a new reality TV show is being filmed and produced depicting the life of a polygamist family... really, that's what inspired this little bit of prayer this morning, because the fact that this is going to be on TV is scary.  It presents polygamy in a loving a normal manner.  It seems to say that its okay to have more than one wife... and it's just not.  It's not God's way for us at all. 

And so I pray this morning that God would strengthen marriages.  I pray that He would show those who are contemplating divorce and separation the way to reconcile and learn to love each other all over again.  I pray that television and movie media production would give the American people good examples of marriage.  And I pray that God would provide healing for those who maybe have been in a bad marriage situation.  And for those who are in a bad situation, I pray for supernatural intervention.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will change the hearts of those who would do harm in one way or another.  Most importantly though, I pray that love triumphs all.  I pray that Godly love and God will be the center of all marriages, and that through these unions, God will do some great and wonderful things.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Blessings Abound

"Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matthew 6:8

Did you ever take the time to marvel at all the incidences of coincidence in your life?  Guess what?  They're not coincidences.  Not even a little.  You know, those times where someone gives you something that you end up really needing, or you come across someone who has just the talent you need to complete a project.  God does that.  God is a beautiful orchestrator of perfect events in our lives.  I love it when He sees to a need before we even need it. 

Like the day that the kids and I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from church.  Basic, basic example here, but I went back and forth about the idea of stopping at the store.  We had enough lunch stuff at home, but we needed lunch fixings for the week for Andy, and I didn't want to have to squeeze in a grocery shopping trip later in the day.  So the kids and I stopped and picked up a few things.  Good thing, because we got home, and Andy had brought home lunch guests.  Had we not stopped, there would have been nothing on hand to prepare lunch for company.  God saw to that need before we knew we needed it.

I can't tell you how many times we've needed clothes for the kids, but I don't really know how badly we need them until I actually go through their closets.  Sure enough, God always sees fit to bless us with clothes for the kids, just as I need to go through their things.  And then, the blessing of clothes is even more appreciated, as the pile of clothing that doesn't fit gets bigger and bigger, the more things we pull out.  God is faithful every time!

Or the times where God has blessed Andy with an extra job to make a little extra money, and we're thrilled to have a little extra in our pockets when an unexpected expense comes along.  Sure, we're disappointed a little to not be able to do something fun with that extra, but it sure is a blessing to be able to afford a repair to a vehicle when it is needed, and not have to scrimp and save for a few weeks to manage the extra expense.

I've found that there are times where I will wake up in the morning and really feel rested.  I'll have gotten a great night's sleep and wake up feeling completely refreshed- only to have the day get crazy busy and when I look back and reflect on the day, I can see how God blessed me with the necessary rest to be able to make it through the busy day without feeling exhausted and out of energy.

God knows what we need before we ask Him.  While I've shared examples of times when God has provided before we even knew we needed it, there have also been times where what He has provided and what we thought we needed or wanted was not the same thing at all.   I know many times we've talked to God about finances and providing extra means of income for Andy, or some way for him to bring in a little extra.  We know God is faithful and will meet our needs, but often times God's answer is not our answer.  Keeps us on our toes I guess, because so many times, when we're in a bit of a financial pinch, that's when other things are coming in that actually help us to stretch our few dollars further.  Someone will give us a bag of groceries, or some books that I can use for school until I can afford the ones we actually want to use.  Or I'll look in the fridge or freezer, and not really see anything to prepare for a meal, and then just like that, God will bring something to mind that will use ingredients I already have on hand- so that we don't need the expense of running to the store.

I just love to think on all the different ways that God has provided for us without actually doing what we thought He would.  God ALWAYS knows what we need.  Always.  He knows us.  He knows us so well, and sometimes when someone has something in their possession that they offer to us- and we don't actually need it, I always think about it and wonder if that will be a need coming up, and this is God's way of making sure that we're ready for that need.  He is faithful to see that we're taken care of.  I especially love seeing God take care of a need that my children have- and know that they have so that they can see how God is faithful to provide. 

God is good, all the time.  His blessings abound over and over- sometimes I think we just need to refresh our minds and think on all the things He has done- and know that He will be faithful to us in every situation.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

"This is what the LORD says—
       your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
       "I am the LORD your God,
       who teaches you what is best for you,
       who directs you in the way you should go.
 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
       your peace would have been like a river,
       your righteousness like the waves of the sea."  Isaiah 48:17-18

This morning I read verse seventeen here, and I thought, gee, that's a good verse.  Then I read it again a few times, and it felt like it bolstered me a bit.  Especially the part where it says this:

       "I am the LORD your God,
       who teaches you what is best for you,
       who directs you in the way you should go."

Yes.  He is God- and He knows exactly what He wants for us- but it's up to us to not get smack dab in the way of what God wants for us.  Because then I read on to verse eighteen, and I just felt such a sense of remorse.  It begins with "if only" and then when you add more to it, it says "if only you had paid attention".  Oh my.  That it not something that I ever want to hear from God.  That is definitely not a conversation I hope to ever have with God.  One of those ones where you're hanging around, and God says, "remember that time that you had a decision to make, and you made that particular choice?"  And I say "why yes, God, I remember that well."  And then He says "If you'd have made the other choice, the next few years would have been much easier for you.  Why didn't you pay attention when I showed you that was the better choice?" No. I don't want to ever have that conversation.

The fact is, God is God.  And He is a loving and wonderful God, and He directs all our paths.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
       and lean not on your own understanding; 

 6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
       and he will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6

I find that when I am in a season of really seeking His direction, it's much easier to get answers if I really dig in for them.   Meaning, that when I am looking to God for direction, I can't just go about my day as normal.  I need to set aside precious time for Him.  More time than normal.  That's when the principle of fasting can come into play too.  Oh, I've done that.  While seeking direction, I've fasted in the past completely from reading anything that isn't my Bible.  While seeking direction, I've fasted from the internet for a time.  While seeking direction I've fasted from watching any TV or movies for a while.  All of that amounts to eliminating some of the things that may take my focus off of God.  When I spend more time in my Bible, and I spend more time in prayer and praise, I find that when the answers present themselves much more clearly.  And why is that?

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."  John 10:27

The more time we spend in our Bibles, and quietly waiting on Him, the more we recognize His answers for us when they present themselves.  I won't go into the multitude of ways an answer could present itself, because God is God, and there are countless ways that could happen.  But the fact is, the more time you spend with Him, the more you do recognize when He is telling you something.  The more you pay attention, so that someday you don't have to have that conversation with God that begins with "If only..."

Because did you see what comes after the "If only you'd paid attention..."?  Look!  It says there could have been peace like a river and righteousness like the waves of the sea.  Just put that mental picture into your head for a bit.  Peace like a river- soothing and wonderful.  Righteousness like the waves of the sea- tranquility and beauty that comes from within.  I want that.  And I want to pay attention at every step of the way- even when I'm not seeking some kind of direction.

Which brings me to this point.  If I can take the extra time when we're looking for direction and looking for answers- what stops me from this every day?  What stops me from carving out extra time?  I guess I don't know, and it's something to think about isn't it.  Because the last thing I want is for an unexpected decision to suddenly pop up in front of me, and I make a wrong choice right then and there because I think I would know what God would have me do.  No- I want to know what God would have me do.  I want that assurance that I know my Shepherd's voice, and I will know the correct path to take should the situation come upon us.

Dear Lord, I pray this morning for understanding and for a desire to know you more.  I pray this for every person who reads this message- whether that be today, next week, or years from now.  May an understanding and a deep desire to spend more time with you come upon all you read these words.  We love you, Jesus, and we want to know you more.  Thank you for your love that is never-ending and for your guidance that is always just a whisper away. Amen.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Needy Hospitality

"Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."  Romans 12:13

Share with God's people who are in need.  That sounds easy, doesn't it?  And yet, sometimes, in practicality, it's not quite that easy.   Often times, I think that when we hear about people in need- we get motivated to help, and to share, but first, we take our own inventory.  Let's say someone is in need of food.  Okay, we have food in the house, we can share.  But as we go through our shelves, our pantry and our freezer, we make sure that we still leave an ample supply for us here at home.  We make sure that we leave a few weeks worth of food in our storage spaces, and we give someone who is genuinely in need of food, the things that we don't favor as much.  Why do we do that?  Instead, we should be more generous and understanding.  If someone comes to me and says that they have no food in the house, I should do one of two things. 

One, I should empty my shelves and my fridge and freezer of fresh, unopened food.  I should give them as much as I can- because I have a God who supplies ALL my needs, and He will see what I am doing, and will replenish my stores when it is needed.  Or two, we should take this person and take them to the grocery store and fill up a grocery cart or two.  Or maybe just go grocery shopping and then surprise them with a trunk-load of groceries.   Both options are difficult for us to do sometimes.  We don't empty our own shelves and cupboards because that is security- that is food for the family should we need it.  And we don't go fill up grocery carts to give to someone else because that's an expensive venture these days.  A truly full grocery cart of just the basics will run around $120 dollars- depending on how much meat is in it.  I pray often that God will help us to see the need around us, and to provide the means so that we can help meet those needs.

I really believe that when the Bible tells us to share with those in need, it's telling us to share selflessly.  It's to share with love, to give more than it seems we can at the time.  And I also truly believe that when we do that, God sees that, and He will take care of us if the time would come to be the one in need.  Love does that.

But you know, there's a second part to this verse.  It also says to practice hospitality.  Ah, hospitality.  Welcoming guests into your home and making them feel right at home.  I honestly think that when Andy and I do practice hospitality, we do it well.  We love the actual act of having guests in our home for a meal and fellowship.  But you know, often times, we need to be prodded to actually offer the hospitality in the first place.  It is just so easy to get caught up in the every-day business of life, and not want to call someone up and invite them over for a meal.  It's also too easy to be jealous of our family time, and to not want to share what little time we have together with someone else.  I'll be honest here.  When we moved to this new community, one of the big reasons we wanted to was so that we could take advantage of the opportunity to fellowship more often.  But now that we're here, now that we've been here, we've only done that a small handful of times. 

It is a good reminder this morning to open up my Bible and see the words "Practice Hospitality" because it's a good reminder that we haven't been doing that.  And we need to.  More than that though, we want to.  We want to get to know people better and to show love to one another by welcoming friends into our homes and treating them like kings.  But maybe we've just been too caught up in busy-ness to remember that we do want to do that.  It's a new month here, and as I look up at our calendar, I see all kinds of empty space just begging to be filled with opportunities for hospitality.  May God keep that in our minds and bring people to mind to share hospitality with.

Such a simple verse this morning, with so much to say to us.  May we be mindful enough to share with those who are in need, and practice hospitality more often.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Warfare Wednesday: On Our Knees

"So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees."  1 Kings 18:42

I continue to pray for President Obama this week.  As our country creeps closer and closer to the time of elections, it seems that every other headline is criticising this person or that person- and even people in office who are not up for re-election at this time.  The emotions in this country are just not good at this time, and I really pray that President Obama will spend some time talking to God.  I pray that God will become real to him and that he will seek answers from the only one who has the answers.

As I read in 1 Kings this morning, I stumbled upon some truths that I am praying over our country.  This verse I posted above, shows the prophet bending down on his knees in supplication before God- for the benefit of the country he is in.   And God answered Elijah.  God sent the rain that hadn't fallen in years.

But before that, Elijah called upon the Lord, God and demonstrated before all the prophets of Baal, and King Ahab, who really is God.  God sent the fire down that consumed everything in its path- including water, and at the end of the demonstration, the people fell down and worshiped the one and true God.

"When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!" 1 Kings 18:39

May we, who have a heart for God, and for the United States of America, fall to our knees and petition the Lord God for peace and mercy on this country.  May God do something so awesome and powerful that our neighbors can do nothing except fall down themselves and worship Him.

But more than that, I'm praying for an Elijah.  I'm praying for a man of God to come alongside President Obama and help reveal the truths that are hiding from the president.  And may the president hear this person and find that God IS his God, as well as this country's God.

This week I am also praying for mercy.  Currently, Hurricane Earl is headed for the Carolina coasts, and I pray that God would weaken that storm and spare the people who live in that area.  It could turn in many directions and head for many different coastlines on the East Coast, and I pray for supernatural protection for those people who call that area home.  May God have mercy on that region of the country and spare them from serious harm and destruction of property.