Wednesday, March 31, 2010
This morning I feel like we need to pray against terrorism in general. We need to pray for righteousness to prevail, and for the protection of our neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, countries, and the nations beyond. It's been a while since we've had terrorism specifically in the news, and I think that when it's out of the news for a while, we let down our guard and not pray as much. We are thankful for the peace that abounds, but we grow lax and stop praying for those walls of protection.
The nation of Russia is an example this week of what happens when we let down our guard. There has been peace for several years in Russia, and this week there have been two separate instances of terrorism, and they've been deadly. Deadly, and enough to cause great fear among the people. One shouldn't have to fear hopping on the subway in the morning to go to work or school, and the police shouldn't have to fear pulling over a speeding car, for fear of an explosion taking their lives. Yet that's just what happened this week. Oh, I pray that fear will not rise up in that country! I pray for peace and comfort to those affected by the attacks, but I also pray that the general population will not allow fear to get to them. I pray that instead, they will rise up, that the people will know that they are beloved of God, and that they will pray to God and take back their peace! Fear is a tool of the devil, and I pray that the Russian citizens will see that and will not allow it to fester and dictate their lives.
And I pray that terrorism will not gain any ground. Not in Russia, not in the neighboring countries, and not on the soil of this earth. An earth where even the trees of the fields and the rocks of the earth cry out for God. It does not belong to terror, or the principalities of darkness.
With God, there is peace. And I pray the peace of God, Shalom, this festival week. I pray that world leaders will seek God and learn exactly how to defeat these villains who excel in fear mongering. I pray for our world leaders- for President Obama, President Medvedev, Prime Minister Brown and many, many others. May they see God, and see that God has plans for them and for their countries. God loves them, and He loves the people they govern over.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Sometimes, you just have to get down to business when you're trying to make a decision. The Bible tells us flat out that when we're really seeking God's help, when we're really trying to discern His will for us, that this is how we do it, with prayer and fasting.
We're getting to crunch time here in our household. It's a very odd place to be, as we need to move on, but we're in a state of being patient and waiting on God. I mean extreme patience here, I have such peace when I think about this moving process that is staring at us in the face. Oh, every once in a while I'll pack up a few things or spend some time looking for a new place, but even though we're just several weeks away from our proposed move date, I just know that the place where we will be moving to will be there soon. God will reveal it in His perfect timing, and every time the anxiousness starts to threaten, I just feel that wonderful peace rise up and take over and smother the anxiety and the stress. And I mean completely smother. I'm starting to think that people think I'm completely loony, because everyone is asking us now where and when we are moving. All we can do is smile and say that we just don't know yet because God hasn't shown us yet.
Oh, but He will! And yesterday morning when I woke on the morning of Passover (which began at sundown last night) I just felt like the time was right to fast. And shortly after I determined that it was a day of fasting, I found a rental property that sounded like it was out of a dream. Really. I won't go into details, but boy, it sounded too good to be true at first, but upon further investigation it wasn't too good to be true. I called Andy at work and talked to him about it, and he agreed to put the matter to prayer throughout his day, and then maybe when he got home from work he would call the owner.
So he did. And while the kids and I were gone, Andy called and talked to the guy. Truly, it was an ideal scenario except for three things, and we were torn as to whether or not this was where we were meant to be. I mean, the owner even lived where Andy's company is based, and he knows Andy's boss well, and we were literally a shoo-in. The place was ours if we wanted it, basically, and with 25 other people calling about the property, that felt to us like a moment of favor. And yet... it didn't meet three of our criteria. One we were willing to work around if needed, but one of them was location. It wasn't exactly in the right direction we are looking to move, it would shave off about 10 minutes from our frequent commutes, all save one. And that was where God came in.
I went to bed early last night with the specific purpose of spending time talking to God. I had been fasting all day, and I just felt like this was the time. I wanted to know if this was the property God had been preparing for us. While I wasn't comfortable with a few things about this, the biggest thing that was drawing us to this property was the land... it was beautiful and abundant and we could do as we pleased with more acreage than one would think possible in a rental scenario. So I started praying, and I kept thinking about Daniel, up above, how when he wanted answers from God, he fasted and he prayed, and I reminded God about that. How He showed us with Daniel how to get the answers we needed, and here I was, fasting and praying and seeking His desire for us. And truly, just like that, an answer dropped into my head. I was shown how this property would increase Andy's commute to work by a disproportionate amount of time. And if the property had met all our criterion, it would have been worth the increase in commute. But for what it was- it was not worth it in the least. And in that instant, I felt incredible peace in knowing that this was not the right move for us. God told us no, this was not it.
When Andy came to bed, I told him to call the guy up today and cancel an appointment to see the place. I think that maybe that surprised him a bit, but after that, after getting such a crystal clear answer, I can't help but get a whole lot excited. This was not the place for us. Each place that we've expressed even a little interest in has had something awesome about it- and yet each one seems to improve a little bit. The very first house we looked at last fall had the space we wanted on the inside. The second house had character and charm that we wanted. The third house had a location and a nice yard. The fourth house was the ideal location for us, and put us in the perfect situation. This last house had so much land... I could have had a ten-acre garden and it would only be a sliver of the amount of land. I could have had my chicken coop that I think I want, and my turkeys.
God knows all this! And God knows exactly where we are going. And if He is going to give me a crystal clear answer on the no houses, I cannot wait to see what the yes is going to be! As I thanked Him last night for the understanding and for the answer, I couldn't help but giggle to myself a little bit because while I am being as patient as I possibly can, I feel like a child who cannot wait for the trip to Disneyland, because I know how awesome it is going to be.
The whole point here is that God truly does answer our prayers, but sometimes, when we're really in a point where we need an answer, we have to get down and dirty and really put some work into getting an answer. Could I have gotten that specific answer from God had I not been fasting? Oh sure, I could have, but the fasting and relying on God to supply my every need throughout the day really prepared me mentally for spending time talking to Him. By the time I got into that moment of prayer, my mind and my spirit were there- they were ready to praise and to petition, and I was ready to receive. Receive I did, just a very few minutes later- it's not like I spent hours on my knees, we're talking minutes.
Daniel knew what he was doing. When he needed guidance from God about anything of importance, he fasted and he prayed. His example is in the Bible for a reason- to show us what we are to do in those very same times of need. And just as I know my answer about that specific house was given to me last night, I also know that my petition for a revelation of our knew home is also being answered. The answer is very much on it's way, and it will be such a time of rejoicing when it finally arrives. Even Daniel had to wait sometimes for an answer to prayer, because the answer was delayed.
"He instructed me and said to me, "Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed." Daniel 9:22,23
I am praying for our answer to speed its way toward us. The answer is out there, and God has blessed us with the patience and the complete trust that He will answer. I know I can trust in God every step of the way, and the answer He gave me last night shows me that my trust is not misplaced, and that I can be encouraged with every step we take. God is just so good! And spending a day or two completely relying on Him is a very small price to pay for a lifetime of guidance and understanding.
Monday, March 29, 2010
This week is one of my favorite times of the year, because it always brings me back to one of my favorite places in the Bible. I probably have dozens of posts here on the blog about Exodus, but I just can't help it. The examples of faith, trust, and God's provision are just too staggering to not keep coming back to time and time again. This year we get a double awesome week because the week of Passover and the week of the Resurrection coincide. That doesn't happen every year, and it just makes it all the more real to look at both events at the same time.
As I read chapter twelve this morning, it was verse 23 that really jumped out at me. This was serious business for the Israelites. God was going to kill the firstborn of every family in Egypt, and in order to escape the swath of death, the Israelites must follow God's instructions to the letter. They must prepare themselves, their households, and their meals exactly so. And when everything was ready, they needed to brush the blood of the lamb physically on their homes so that God would see that His holy people lived there.
To this day, Jewish people around the world celebrate Passover, for it was the day that the angel of the Lord "passed over" His precious people with His judgement and spared them. As a result, they were also released from the tyranny of Pharaoh. But it was the blood of the lamb that really saved the people. The blood of the lamb- a foreshadowing of the Lamb to come.
"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake." 1 Peter 1:18-20
Jesus was the ultimate lamb- the blood which has the ability to not just save the people of Israel, but every person of this earth. Every single person has the ability to be saved by the blood. All they need to do is accept the fact that Jesus died to redeem them of their sins, and ask Jesus to be a part of their life, and they become "of the blood". The blood of Jesus covers their life and becomes visible to God- who will then "pass over" them on the day of judgement. It is the blood of Jesus that gives us access to heaven for all eternity.
Aren't you glad we don't have to go out and slaughter a lamb every year to atone for our wrongdoings? Jesus came, once and for all, to redeem mankind from their evil ways. It is the blood of Christ that saves each and every one of us- the blood of the precious lamb that washes away our sins and makes us white as snow- as if we never sinned. What a gift. And what a miracle.
I do want to note though that I'm not saying that Passover should or shouldn't be celebrated. That is up to each individual person. I know more and more Christians have taken to observing the Passover, and that's wonderful, and up to each and every person to celebrate. As it so happens, we are having a mini Passover celebration for our family tomorrow. Colossians tells us that while we are not required to celebrate the festivals of old, it is up to each one of us whether or not they bear significance in our lives. We are free to celebrate as we desire.
"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." Colossians 2:16-17
"One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord." Romans 14:5-6
A week of celebration? What could be more fun than that? We're going to celebrate this week. We're going to celebrate the ultimate love that sent a Precious Son to claim victory over death for all mankind. We're going to celebrate the precious blood of the Lamb, and praise His Name, because He is worthy of ALL our praise.
Friday, March 26, 2010
"Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" Mark 8:34
More than once in recent weeks I've been having dreams where I'm suddenly filled with boldness. I've had dreams where I walk up to complete strangers and start praying and shouting and speaking all kinds of scripture verses and then they get healed or released of some kind of oppression. I've had dreams where I boldly walk up to someone who is walking in sin and I start spouting off scriptures that I didn't even know I knew and eventually that person ends up saying the sinners prayer and accepting Jesus as their Savior.
Boldness. I certainly have been seeing it creep up more and more in my everyday where I didn't know it was before. Sometimes I'll say the oddest things to people, and I know it's something I never would have said before. Which leads me to believe that all these dreams I've been having have been important. Because as I'm practicing all these Bible verses in my sleep, and saying all these prayers and speaking with complete boldness, my spirit is learning from it. It's almost like a practice session, for when it occurs in real life. More than once I've woken from a dream certain that what just happened really happened. I think that God works in mysterious ways, and in my case, He's working on giving me boldness through the use of dreams.
While I can feel the shift and the change inside of me that's been going on for several months, I keep checking myself when I read these verses above because it makes me more than a little nervous. Verses about taking up my cross and following Jesus, and suffering for Him. Sometimes I read these and I feel a fluttering in my stomach, and for a while there I would read these and have second thoughts. Because I am a mom. I have two beautiful children, and if I think about it and worry on it, I can say that following the path of Christ may not be worth it in the end, because what is it going to cost me? Us? Are we going to have major problems with our kids- are we going to have to watch and pray as they make bad decisions in life? Is that going to be worth taking up our cross and following Him?
Except that is not today. Nor is it tomorrow. It's the future, which has not yet been written. Jesus gave us a whole section in Matthew chapter 6 about worrying.
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34
The devil very much wants me to worry about my children. He wants that worry to consume me, so that I think about it often and that I stop purposing to follow God's Will, just in case my kids will end up messed up in the end. And while that thought does cross my mind from time to time, more than that, I change my mindset and tell those thoughts of worry to be gone. All it takes is one glimpse of my kids worshiping God and all thoughts of worry are gone, because they both love Jesus, and as a result, they love others around them as well. There is nothing like watching my daughter walk around the sanctuary, gathering up all the kids who are there to dance and worship together. There is nothing like watching my son skip for joy as he hands out high fives to everyone he can when he's caught up in a spirit of worship.
See, if I stop, if I pull back on the reins and say okay to the worry, then not only am I halting my forward progress, but I'm halting the forward progress of my children. Boldness, and the desire to suffer for Christ, keeps reminding me of that when the worry tries to press in. Worry has no place in my heart, which is full of the boldness of Christ, and gets fuller each and every day it seems.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:25:33
When we seek first God, He not only provides our physical needs, but he provides our spiritual needs. You know, it could very well be that as my kids grow, they wander off on their own for a while. It could happen, but worrying about it today won't prevent it for a second. That is a decision that they will have to make for themselves someday. So in the meantime, I can do everything I can to lay a good foundation for when that time comes. So that they can choose wisely. And while I'm laying that foundation for them, I'm also laying a foundation for myself, for if that time comes, then I will know how and when to pray for their return, and I will have hope, faith and assurance that they will not wander for long. My spiritual needs will be met if and when the time comes.
Just as I boldly trust in God to meet our physical needs, and just as we're trusting in him to provide a physical home for our family, we're also trusting Him with our spiritual needs. We want Him to have our way with us, because only He knows the trials that we will face in the future. He knows how to arm us and prepare us, and for me, right now, that seems to be boldness which is being laid on thickly. Boldness and opportunities to love. While I may not understand it now a this time, I trust nonetheless. I will seek first His Kingdom, and as I seek, I will find.
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13
Thursday, March 25, 2010
"Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned." Song of Solomon 8:6-7
Oh gosh. I had this big long post typed out this morning, and my computer literally froze up on me and crashed. The only thing that saved was the Bible verse and the Youtube video.
I guess I won't share about the dream I had this morning. But maybe instead I'll share about the feelings the dream evoked from me as I woke out of a deep slumber. As I woke up, I almost had feelings of regret. Not totally regret, but more of a wistfulness, as I was having a dream about a relationship that never came to be. It was almost like watching a movie- you know, a romantic movie where you know that boy likes girl, the feeling is mutual, and yet the relationship never develops because things keep getting in the way.
These verses remind me of that very feeling. That feeling of sadness because a relationship could be so much more, only I'm not talking about a physical human relationship. I'm talking about the relationship I have with God. As I read through Song of Solomon this morning, I read it not as the romantic love story that everyone makes it out to be, but rather, a love story from a God to his Children. And I wonder... I wonder sometimes if God ever experiences that feeling of a broken heart when He's reaching out, and we brush Him aside, or make a different choice.
But I do know this, and I don't wonder about it. God never gives up. He will not relent until He has us. He is not like a human lover who will simply walk away if all is not well, God does not give up the pursuit. Ever. He will not rest until we are His- heart, soul, and mind. Because that's what God wants. He wants a relationship with us. With you. With me. He wants that relationship that goes deeper than any other, and He will not stop trying to get there.
The more I seek Him, the more I desire to learn more, the more He reveals to me. It's overwhelming, to be honest. Who am I that God would care for me? That's what I just keep thinking, I keep thinking that I'm just such a plain and ordinary person, and cannot figure out for the life of me what on earth God is thinking when He calls out to me. And yet He's there! And He places the oddest things and the oddest people on my heart, and He shares His promises with me daily in the Greatest Book Ever Written.
When's the last time a person you had a human relationship wrote you a book? God did. God wrote you a book- a huge book, full of love stories, poems, trials, triumphs, and encouragement. All because He loved us so much, and He wanted us to be able to find our way to Him. Like a hero in a fantasy, leaving little notes for his beloved to follow, God is our hero. God has left us with a whole book of letters that don't just give us clues, they tell the complete story of how much He loves us.
He won't relent until He has all of me. And He won't relent until He has all of you. God wants each and every one of us to have a real relationship with Him, and He won't stop until He gets what He wants.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
you will not stand at all" Isaiah 7:9
This morning, as I sit down to pray for the President of The United States as well as other governmental leaders, I am reminded to be thankful. I am thankful, because in a few minutes, I will begin the school day with my kids, and as part of our school day, together we will recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The pledge, which contains the words "under God", and last week, one of our courts ruled that the words were indeed, constitutional.
The 9th Circuit Court also ruled that the words "In God We Trust" remain our country's motto, and as such, can remain on our dollar bill and on our coins. Thank God for these victories! While they may seem small, they are actually rather huge, and I'm a little surprised that we have not heard more about these monumental decisions by the court. I am so thankful that these men and women ruled in favor of God. Our country was founded on Godly principles, and every single one of them should remain intact.
Yet we also need to pray fervently for our country. We need to pray for the recent actions of the House of Representatives, who passed a version of a health care bill on Sunday, which was subsequently signed by the President. While it was monumental that any agreement came out of this piece of legislation, there is still so much work to be done on it. I just pray that as the process goes on that the arguing and the fighting does not become ugly, as it's been in recent months. A country divided cannot stay strong, and we must pray that our country can come back together and unite under one banner: Under God.
I see firsthand how a divided country at the top trickles right down to the bottom. The small community I live in is facing an election in the next few weeks, and the community really seems to be divided on so many issues. Where in the past, these issues may have been worked through, it seems as if each person is mounting their horse and refusing to budge on anything. The art of compromise or even thinking outside the box to come up with a complete alternative doesn't seem to be on anyone's radar. And that's a shame, because unless we can raise up and work together as one, we will start to see that attitude trickle down even farther. Between neighbors, businesses, and even on the schoolyard.
May the God of Peace rule and reign in my community. And may He sweep through this country like a refreshing spring breeze, cleaning out the bad and filling us with goodness and compassion instead. Because we dearly need goodness and compassion.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
This verse just made me smile today because last night I was thinking along these lines. I was thinking about all the struggles and the trials that seem to come at us non-stop, and I was half talking to myself, half talking to God, saying that I sure hope it is all worth it.
And I know it will be. The Bible is chock full of verses of hope and assurance that any struggle go through will be met with victory.
There was something else I was thinking of though, along these lines. I was thinking of David, and I was thinking of when he danced before the Lord. I have a story Bible- where the whole Bible is written in story form, and I really like David's reply in this story version to his wife, Michal who tells him it was disgraceful when he danced like he did.
"It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord's people Israel- I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes..."
Not only are the trials worth it, but choosing to celebrate before the Lord is worth it as well. Have you ever been in a worship service where you just felt overwhelmed by love for God? And all you wanted to do was start jumping up and down or shouting with joy, or twirling in circles like a small child? Next time- just do it. Every time that I think I'm comfortable, that I've gotten used to my new norm in life, God drops something on me that just makes me want to run and dance and scream with joy for the Lord. So I do it. And yes, I feel ridiculous when I do it, but I really and truly don't care. When I celebrate with joy before the Lord- when I dance for Him and praise Him with all my heart, that's what matters. It is worth any crazy looks from the peanut gallery, and it's even worth a reproach by someone who maybe thought it was a little out there.
God is always worth it. He is worth it when the times are rough, when the trials just seem never ending. And He is worth it when the times are wonderful and full of peace and joy. He's just always worth it!
"But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more. " Psalm 71:14
Monday, March 22, 2010
These verses are so important to be reading. I think that sometimes when we are living a Godly life and trying to just be a "good Christian" we forget that there is a very real and very evil enemy out there trying to do us harm. That's a fact. He's always looking for opportunities to reach in and muck up our lives and cause disaster. The devil hates us. Hates us with a fervent passion, and while he knows he's doomed to spend all eternity in the pit- what he wants most is to take as many of us with him as he can. That's it. That's his M.O. He's trying to take as many people as possible to spend eternity with him- and if he can cause disaster on our lives and maybe get us to renounce our God and our Savior, he will bring it on and give it a try.
The armor of God will help us get through the rough times were the darkness comes a-calling, trying to steal our souls from the light. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit all work together when we have them at the ready- ready at a moments notice. You know, I mentioned last week about difficult people. I talked about how sometimes we just come across difficult people, and it's up to us to purpose to love them- even when it IS difficult. But sometimes, the things that make these people difficult people isn't in actuality real. Think about this. Think of those times where maybe you were thinking that someone didn't like you very much. You have this perception that another person has an issue with you- maybe simply because they didn't bother to say hi to you last week at church.
Where do you suppose that idea that this person doesn't like you comes from? From the devil of course. He notices that you've noticed that Jane didn't say hi to you at church, so he makes a sport of it, and drops this notion into your head that Jane is actually angry with you, or doesn't like you very much. So then you're walking around wondering what you did wrong, so you talk to a few people about it to get their perspective. Then those people can't figure it out either, so now there is a whole group of people wandering around wondering why Jane is not a good person- why doesn't Jane like you? This could end up going in so many directions- and really, there wasn't even an issue in the first place. Jane had to hurry off after church because she needed to pick someone up at the airport. She didn't have time to say hi to anyone, but still got stopped by a few people on the way out the door. That glance she gave you? Was one that read "oh my gosh, I'm going to be late, why doesn't he stop talking so I can go?" It wasn't a "how dare you look at me when I'm angry with you" look.
Oh, that devil. He's a master at manipulation, and a master at dropping random thoughts into people's heads. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a while to realize where those thoughts are coming from. But once we do- we do have a plan of action. First, we need to call those negative and random thoughts as what they are- lies and deception. And then we need to pray. We pray for the peace of God to come upon us- to take the lies and the deception out of us, and to fill us with truth and righteousness. And then we need to head to our Bible- to gird our loins with strength, because the devil is persistent, and he will try again. So we turn to our Bible to read scripture and take it in. So that the next time, the next time we're ready, and we aren't fooled so easily. We can use the very words that Jesus used.
"Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Matthew 16:23
Jesus was not calling out Peter for his inaccurate speech. In fact, Jesus recognized exactly what was happening here and called the devil out. Jesus saw that Satan dropped the thoughts into Peter's mind- which Peter then voiced aloud. Jesus called it right though, and rebuked the actions of the devil immediately. When we use scripture in our fight against the darkness, we cannot fail! We will succeed every single time.
Do you ever wonder where a thought comes from? I'm sure we all do, but for some of us, perhaps, we get a random thought, and we wonder where it came from- wondering if it could be from God? But what if it's from the devil? How are we to know the difference? How are we to discern whether this random thought is from God and should be acted upon in a good way, or from the devil, needing to be rebuked? Well, we follow the directions in Ephesians 6:18. We pray in the Spirit.
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" Ephesians 6:18
When we pray in the Spirit, the thoughts of the devil cannot stay. When we pray in the Spirit- using our prayer language, our minds become clear and we activate the gift of discernment. A thought that comes from God will appear radiant, and a good choice, where a thought from the devil will be revealed for the lies and the darkness they truly are. As followers of Christ, we never need to worry that we will be defeated by the darkness. God always gives us the tools we need to succeed. Sometimes though, we maybe forget that we have the tools in the first place. And that is just another reason why we need to stay grounded by reading His Word each and every day.
Friday, March 19, 2010
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
you know it completely, O LORD." Psalm 139:1-4
God knows me! He knows you too! You're not just someone He knows in passing, like the person who bags your groceries every week. He really and truly knows you, and He watches out for you. God knows when you lay your head down at the end of the day, and He knows when you wake in the morning- and do you know what He thinks in the morning about you? Oh, good- they're awake now. I want their day to be wonderful and blessed, and I want them to make the right choices today. He sees you as you go about your day. He sees your interactions with your neighbors, your family, your children, and your coworkers. I love where it says that God knows the words on my tongue before they even come out. I wonder how many times He shakes His head, wishing I would make a better choice with my words.
"You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. " Psalm 139:5-8
I know how David was feeling when we wrote these verses. So many times, I'll be reading my Bible, or even listening to someone preach and I really, really wonder- who am I that I understand this? Why is it even important for me to know this particular thing? But it seems that once God starts to reveal His Word to someone, He doesn't stop- there's no getting away from it. Those times where maybe I take a break from the Bible studies and readings, I encounter so many people who do it for me and want to share it with me. When I'm not purposing to dig in, God brings it to me instead. He knows me that much- and loves me that much- that even when I don't seem to care much for getting to know Him better, He seeks me out instead.
"If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. " Psalm 139:9-12
Even during those rare times where we try to hide from God. Those times where we're simply being stubborn, or we just don't want to deal with the hassle of being a child of God, He will still be there to guide us and hold us tight. His love for His children is unrelenting. He will not let us go! Even if we turn to darkness for a time, His light will go with us and protect us, and be a beacon to us as the way out of the darkness. Darkness and evil have nothing on the light and love of God. There is no power in the universe that can withstand the power of the Almighty God.
"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. " Psalm 139:13-16
Every parent comes to that point where we realize exactly what these verses are saying- that God's works are wonderful. When a new child grows in a mothers belly, it is always a miracle- every single time. Every time a new child is born, we get to relive that miracle. And while the miracle of life is a great miracle itself- how much more is it to know that God knew us even before we were unformed. Before we were even a thought- God KNEW us. Before I was born, God knew exactly what I was going to look like, what my life was going to be like, and exactly how many days, hours, minutes, and seconds my life was going to last.
"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!
your adversaries misuse your name. " Psalm 139:17-20
How precious are God's thoughts! What child wouldn't like to know exactly what their parent is thinking about them? I even think about dating- think about how you're getting to know someone, and you feel a connection, and you really, really want to know if the other person is thinking the same thing, but you're too afraid to ask, for fear you'll be shot down. Yet we can know God's thoughts if we spend time with Him, and spend time with His Word. And think about being on the schoolyard as a child. Think about those times when maybe a bully would say something about your parents. Oh, it would make you so mad! As children of the Most High, why do we not get the same anger when someone speaks about our Heavenly Father in that way? Why do we not try and do something about those who misuse His precious name?
"Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,
and abhor those who rise up against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:20-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Do we mean it when we say that? Do we have anything hiding in there that maybe we think we don't want God to know? To See? Well, we know He already knows what's in there. We know He already knows everything about us, but the last verse is the one that gives us such hope. When we invite God in, when we invite Him to take charge, we allow Him to clear out anything that is offensive to Him. And we give Him permission to lead us in the way that leads to everlasting life. When we get to this point of complete surrender we will find the surrender is completely worth it.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The more I place my trust in God, the more peace I have about different situations. It's really remarkable to look at myself, to analyze myself and see the complete and total difference that trusting in God makes. But I do think it's those first few steps that are the most difficult to make. I can actually look back over the last two years specifically, and see the precise moments where I said okay to God. I can very clearly see the day that I sat at my computer wrestling with myself over whether or not to log on and check out a revival that was happening somewhere else. I had been invited to watch, to check it out, and I really wrestled with it for a few weeks, because I wasn't sure I wanted to get in that deep.
I was kind of happy with where life was. We were comfortable, happy, and God was a presence in our life, and we thought that was enough. But there was something in me that was crying out for more. Every once in a while, we'd get a glimpse of what more was. We'd go on a weekend away and visit what we lovingly call our "church away from home" and we'd feel recharged and energized and ready to get back to the everyday. As I sat at the computer and debated checking this thing out, I just felt this war within myself, like if I tuned in, even that little bit of action was going to change everything. That the walls I had up were going to come crashing down, and the Holy Spirit that I had placed in a tidy little box was going to break free and do something. Did I really want to go there? Did I really want our comfortable life disturbed?
I chose to trust. I chose to trust that God put that invitation there just when I needed it most. I chose to trust that if this was something that God didn't want me to participate in, that I would find it dull, turn it off and never think twice about it. I chose to trust that perhaps, God had more for us than just a comfortable everyday life, and on that particular day I trusted that I needed to click yes. I did. And I've never, ever looked back with regret. It was like meeting God for the first time as an adult- reminiscent of the days of summer camp, when you come home feeling all on fire and excited for God, only to go back into high school and hear the stories of the beer parties and overnights and everything else under the sun. Except that this time, that excitement and zeal stayed and God has been leading us on a whirlwind ever since.
Had all this happened even five years ago, where I am exactly today would have me freaking out at best. I would be getting shorter and shorter with dealing with the kids, Andy and I would be on edge with each other, and we would simply let the distractions of the world around us get to us and cause us strife. The biggest difference is that along the way, along this path that we've chosen to say yes to, we've learned to trust in God for all things. All things!
"O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant." 2 Samuel 7:28
The more I seek Him, the more I find Him!
"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." Psalm 9:10
And we trust in God's unfailing love for us, and He will take care of us and meet all our needs exactly when we need them met!
"But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation." Psalm 13:5
The Psalms are chock full of verses about love and trust. With each step of trust that we've taken with God, our peace has increased tenfold. God is just so good! And I believe that with all my heart! I watch in awe as He takes care of those around us with perfect circumstances that could only come from Him, and it makes me rejoice- because how good is our God! He cares for the sparrows- feeding them, and he knows exactly how many sparrows there are in our neighborhood- and yet- how much more does He care for and know us!
It's no secret that we're waiting on finding the perfect place to move to in just over a month. And one would think that we're getting a little crazy and nervous about the whole situation. And honestly, if I dwell on it and think heavy on it, the enemy uses that and places these thoughts into my head that it's not going to work out like we want it to. So I don't think on it too much. I pray on it, and when people ask we talk about it, but I've just given my complete trust to God on this one. That when the perfect place is ready, He will guide us to it, and it will be there exactly when we need it.
As this process goes on though, I've been thinking about my list of desires when it comes to our new home. I have my list, and Andy has his list of what we are looking for. You know, the list of improvements over our current place that will get us to make that move in the first place. But last night... last night as I left church, I looked at the line of houses just a few feet away from church and I thought about how cool it would be to be able to walk across the backyard to church. How much more would we be able to do for our church home if we lived closer. I thought to myself that maybe one of these days we'd go drive around through that neighborhood and see if any of the places there are available for rent. Looking from the outside, there are several rentals, but they are definitely smaller than what we have right now.
But you know what? When I got home from church, I went on and looked at the rental listings, and sure enough, there was a place on that very street- what are the odds of that? Yet it is much smaller in size than what we have now. I didn't feel at all this nudge to contact this person about their place, but I placed the thought in the back of my mind, thinking to myself that if the time comes and it's still available, we'd make do.
The whole point of this is this. I am trusting completely in God. God knows exactly where we are going to be two months from now. But it's more than that. I desire, with all my heart to be exactly where God wants us to be. We know the area He is calling us to, and we so desire to be there, that it's to the point to me where if He told us to move into an apartment building- I would do it. I would give up a backyard and a garden and the idea of not sharing bathroom walls with the neighbor, if only it meant that we were doing what He wants for us. Oh, I can desire all these wonderful things and ideas for my family, and God knows I want them, but so much more than that, because I've learned that I can trust in Him, if He says "Go" we will go. More than anything I want to be the obedient daughter who goes exactly where her Father says to go. And if that means living in the projects, it means living in the projects.
More than anything, I want His will to be carried out for us. So much more than anything else my heart desires, I want that. And I have such peace about that, that it will be His Will, and that His Will will not bring us harm and it will be oh, so wonderful. My Bible is full of God's promises, and examples of how he brings good to those who love Him, and I place my trust completely in that. And my reward will be great peace and great joy. Joy unspeakable.
"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy," 1 Peter 1:8
"I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Psalm 91:12
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
my King and my God,
for to you I pray." Psalm 5:2
It's that day of the week again. It's the day where we concentrate our prayer efforts and pray for the world around us. While I pray for President Obama more than just Wednesdays, today I especially make sure that I do. It's just so disheartening sometimes, as his presidency goes on, because it seems like more and more I hear from people how terrible of a job he is doing, and how the country just doesn't seem like it's headed in the right direction.
Of course it's not headed in the right direction! There is only one right direction, and until that direction- the direction of God- is established, we need to pray for revelation for our president. We need to pray that our president would seek God when he is seeking answers, that he would fall to his knees and ask God for help in turning this country around.
And we need to pray for constant protection for this man and his family. Because God loves them so much! God appointed them for a time such as this, and I pray that He will bless them for their willingness to serve their country, and that He will keep them protected and safe at all times.
And I'm praying for the legislature this morning as well. What a circus up there on the hill! Every day if we turn on the news or read a paper we get to hear about all the arguing and fighting and allegations... it's no wonder so many smaller communities are struggling in this country, when the example we have at the top shows everyone looking out for themselves. I am praying that the Godly men and women on the hill will gain their voices and will be heard. I am praying that those who seek God first will emerge as natural leaders, and will steer the House and the Senate in the directions they need to be steered. That Godly decisions will be made, and that an accord will be found among the politicians. The last thing we need is to be fighting from within. Instead we should be focused on fighting the enemy, and the principalities of darkness.
It's an election year for many, and I feel like I need to pray about that. As campaigns get underway for senators, representatives, governors and mayors around the country, I pray that the process this year will be peaceable. I pray for honorable campaigns and that the people that God wants in office will get elected. And may the people not find themselves divided. More than anything I pray for that, because when we are a country divided, we cannot get anything accomplished. When we work together, we can change the world.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Have you ever noticed how when you're really focused on hearing God and focused on learning one of the lessons He's teaching you, you get to actually use it? The devil comes along and says "hey, you're learning about love? Hah, love THIS" and then drops someone or something into your life to stir the pot and try to cause you to, uh, be un-loving.
What I have noticed, especially, is that as I'm figuring things out, as I'm expanding my ideas of love, that I don't just get one instance of trying to love someone who is difficult, I get a whole grab bag of wackadoodles who just need God's love. (Can you see me rolling my eyes here?) (Wait, and now a smile!)
God's love is amazing though and is enough to overcome even the most annoying of situations! And even better, God gives us a whole arsenal of tools to try and use to get that love across. In many cases, patience becomes key. I've certainly been in a season of patience, and do you know, I am to the point where I can actually see the patience! Last night at dance, one of the little girls who plays with Zander asked me about the book I was reading. Well, in no time at all that led to some strange game of her grabbing my book and making up all sorts of games with it- like finding the page I was on when she closed the book. The game session was followed up with her pretending to read stories to me (which went on for a good half hour). Now, it was really cute, and I happen to have a soft spot for this little girl anyway, but I tell you, a year ago? I would have just gotten annoyed. I would have sat there being all sorts of annoyed on the inside, thinking about how I'd just like to get back to reading my book. Instead, I engaged this wacky behavior and played along. I do believe she had a good time, and when she left she had a huge smile on her face. I got to go back to my book eventually anyway, but in the meantime, I was able to show some love to a little girl who may have just needed it at that moment.
Patience and love go hand in hand it seems. I've had several instances lately where someone has told me something about someone else that has made me think twice about that person. While these things have not at all been along the lines of gossip, it's still incredibly interesting to me to step out of the situation and look at it from the outside. Have you ever noticed that when someone casually mentions something about someone else, you start to think the same way about that person? This is where that lesson in patience comes in, and also where love can be applied. Also some physics can be applied as well.
Physics? Oh yes, because when your ears heard Person A say something unsavory about Person B, your brain took that information in as fact. Now your thoughts about Person B include this new nugget of information about them as well. The patience comes into play because you need to call up that patience immediately and not contribute anything else to that thought. It's important to not say anything about Person B that would confirm Person A's point of view. Instead, you need to do the opposite. Maybe think on it, use that patience, and see if there isn't something about Person B that you already knew that would override that information. Then, you need to use physics again and give voice to that second piece of information. You need to share the good stuff you know about Person B, in an effort to plant the same thing into Person A. In fact, if you know more than one something, this is the time to share that as well.
This isn't anything new- in fact, I suspect it goes all the way back to grade school, and trying to say something nice about someone instead of something mean. The lessons we were learning in second grade are even more applicable as adults. And it all comes back to one basic fundamental.
God is a God of love. He loves ALL His children, and as His representatives here on earth, it is our job to love His children for Him.
That person who drives you completely bonkers? Yep. God wants you to love them. God wants you to accept them just as they are, because He does. And He did. God sent Jesus to earth to die just for that person, and it is your job to show that love to them- to love them unconditionally.
I read a fictional book recently that spoke about the idea that when someone accepts Christ as their savior, something in their eyes change. That everyone who has become born again in Jesus, has this same sparkle in their eyes. I like that thought, because something that I've had to learn for myself is that my brothers and sisters in Christ are just that- my brothers and sisters. I love my brothers and sisters unconditionally. We could go through periods of time where we don't see each other in forever, but I will still love them as much every time I see them. The same holds true for the body of Christ- and this is huge! Every woman I see at church on Sunday has the same eyes as me- they are my sisters, and I love each one of them unconditionally. Every man I see at church on Sunday has the same eyes as me- they are my brothers, and I love each one of them unconditionally.
For a while there, I kind of had issues with that idea. I am a happily married woman. Love for a man other than my husband or blood relatives was something that just didn't seem right to me. But then God showed me that the men that He has placed around me are my brothers, and when I started thinking of them in that way- as brothers, be they older or younger, the love was free to come out. When I think further on this, and think about how much I do love my physical brothers and sisters- how awesome is it to think that the body of Christ is one great big family full of my brothers and sisters? When I think of it in those terms, that's just so cool!
God is love. So many churches have problems and troubles because they forget that one basic fact- that God is love, and that we are to love each other. We are to put others needs before our needs and have compassion and kindness with each other. Even something as simple as holding the door for someone is an act of kindness that could have a profound effect on that other person. Smiling and saying hi can be another one. I honestly cannot believe how many people we walk past outside who just walk past us without saying hi and acknowledging that we are on the same patch of sidewalk. Kindness is not creepiness.
And that grab bag of whackadoodles? I get to love 'em all the same too. When I think on them and think on the good things, it's much easier. And then I pray for them. I ask God to bless them, and then when we are together, we have something very easy to discuss to keep the conversation from taking that wacky turn. I can honestly say that I've been praying for them. And maybe we'll actually have a nice discussion- maybe a praise report, or I'll just get some information about something else I could be praying on for them. We simply have to learn to hit the override switch. Satan really doesn't want us to remember that switch is there, but when we purpose to be God's love for Him, and ask God to help us love someone, that switch is flipped, and we'll find ourselves filled with compassion and understanding at the strangest times.
This can go right back to thinking about brothers and sisters. Over our lives, my siblings and I have gotten into some doozy of arguments and misunderstandings and disagreements, but it always comes back to the fact that we love each other. We're stuck with each other, and nothing's going to change that. Ever. When we start thinking of those around us as our brothers and sisters, there's a whole new world of possibilities just waiting there. And when we're looking at someone who is unsaved- who doesn't have our same eyes? Just think- there is an opportunity to gain a new brother or sister. And the whole family will rejoice together when that person joins the family for all eternity.
God is so good.
Monday, March 15, 2010
The other day I decided to dig into the occurrence of mountains in the Bible. There are a lot of them. But it didn't take me long to stumble on to what God wanted to say to me, and I'm going to try and fit most of it into what is on my mind this morning. And if not... well, there will plenty of other days to talk about these mountains.
There are two kinds of mountains spoken of in the Bible. There are the physical mountains- like Ararat and Sinai, and then there are the spiritual mountains. The places where people met God. Jesus was said to have gone away on a mountain more than once- the transfiguration happened during one of these times. It's the spiritual mountains that I want to focus on, because it really is the place to meet God. Daniel speaks of wanting to meet with God on His mountain.
"And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God" Daniel 9:20 (KJV)
Daniel was wanting understanding and revelation, and he knew that meeting with God on the mountain would get him the answers he was seeking. So where does this word mountain come from? I can't say for sure, but when I think about climbing a mountain, it's something that's done with complete focus. When people climb a mountain their focus is 100% on their activity. It has to be, because if they're focus is not there, their very lives may be in peril. And that's what I think of when I think of the idea of meeting God on a mountain. 100% focus, a time when you literally and physically put everything else and all thoughts aside, and simply spend time purposing to meet God.
Mountains speak of majesty.
"Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his holy mountain,
for the LORD our God is holy." Psalm 99:9
Mountains used as a metaphor can also make a problem seem like something that is insurmountable. Something that will take great effort to overcome. Yet it doesn't always have to be that way either.
"To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill." Psalm 3:4
God is waiting on His mountain for His children to cry out to Him and purpose to meet with Him. That's what He really wants! He wants His children to want to meet Him on that mountain, and when we will take that step and turn our full attention towards Him, He will meet us partway and He will give us rest and what we need.
Which brings me to the verse that began this whole exploration of the mountains. I was reading about Lot and his wife being taken out of Sodom just before its destruction. The angel turns to Lot and tells them to flee to the safety of the mountains.
"As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!" Genesis 19:17
Even though they were talking about a physical mountain in this case, they also were speaking spiritually. There are two keys which I see right here in this verse. The first is to flee to the mountains- where they will find safety. There is safety in God- He is our refuge at all times. The other key, which I think is equally as important, is "don't look back". Don't. Look. Back.
This. This is where so many people struggle. Christians and non-Christians alike struggle with this idea of looking back. So many of us look back and wish for the days in the past, or we replay events in our past and wish we could have made different choices. We think of people, places, things in our past, and when we think of them, we give them importance. When we look back at the past, we're not looking forward! It's as simple as that! When we look at the past and think on it, we're wasting thought process time that we could be using to think on Him and all His goodness.
We live in a strange time where we are spoon fed this idea that our past has to come out of the past in order for us to experience some kind of release from it. Our bad yucky skeletons need to come out to be on display for a time before we can set them aside. Why can't we all just listen to the great advice the angels gave and not look back? When we become children of God, when we confess our sins and ask Him to save us, everything that is in our past is wiped clean. It is gone, as if it has never happened- we are new creations in Him, and there is no need for us to look back.
It's the devil who whispers in our ears that those things are still important. The devil tries to convince us that because of the things we've done in the past, we will never be good enough for God. These are all lies!! God wants us to flee to His mountains, where we will find safety and peace and rest. No harm can come to one who turns to the Mountain of God!
"They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea." Isaiah 11:9
"But the man who makes me his refuge
will inherit the land
and possess my holy mountain." Isaiah 57:13
God loves us- and He wants us to meet Him on His mountain. And He wants us to get there by looking forward- not by looking back at our past and dwelling on it. Because sometimes, when we dwell on our past, we re-live it. We can re-live the experiences in our mind, and our worldly self may begin to crave some of that past life here in our new life. But God sent His messengers to say "Don't look back!" Leave the past in the past, and look ahead to the glorious future we have with our God! Lot's wife looked back. Lot's wife, I imagine, looked back and wished she could take a part of her old life with her- she wasn't looking forward to her future, and God saw her heart and gave us all an example of what He thinks of those who dwell in the past.
"But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." Genesis 19:26
Someday I really want to study this little bit further. Why salt? Why a pillar of salt for someone who looked back? What I do know is that I don't want to look back. My past is done. It's there, it's been, and it's gone. I can't change a thing now, and I just need to let it go and move on. Even yesterday can't be done over, which is a shame to me because it was such a wonderful day of worship! But even then, when we dwell on the wonderful worship of yesterday, we can't look forward to the new worship of today and tomorrow! It will be even better, even more of what God wants us to be.
I think there's a reason so few people actually climb all the way to the tops of mountains. Because as long as they stop partway up, there will always be more to come. And that is how God is. The more we spend with Him, the more we spend getting to know Him, and the more we are transformed into what He wants us to be, the more there will be. As long as we live, we will never "arrive" if we have the right mindset. As long as we want more of God, we will constantly be moving forward. Forward progress without looking back. Doesn't that just sound wonderful?
I chose to leave the past in the past and not look back. I choose to look forward and praise God every step of the way,because each step is going to be greater than the one before it. I choose to make my escape to the mountain.
"Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise,
in the city of our God, his holy mountain." Psalm 48:1
Friday, March 12, 2010
"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb." Revelation 7:9-10
The day will come.
I do believe in the days ahead, God will pour out His Spirit, and we will get a taste. A glimpse of forever. The power behind songs like this... the pure joy and love pouring out from the throne... these are nothing compared to eternity with Him.
My soul falls at His feet.
And with everything, He gets ALL the glory.
Our God loves us so much... He created us just because He wanted to spend time with us. God wants to spend forever with you, and with me. And when the fallen angel became jealous and tried to mess things up, God came himself, to stand in judgment for all. So that we might spend forever in companionship with Jehovah.
And every eye will see. Every ear will hear. Every mouth will sing of the glory of God.
God is my everything. Everything. And I will fall at His feet, and rejoice in My Everything.
But more than anything, I want that sweetness, that sweetness of His Presence to be present each and every day. With every moment, every breath.
My soul longs for Him.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
"In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!" 22"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:20-25
I had a dream this morning about figs. I don't think there was much significance about the bulk of the dream, but I woke up remembering figs- and seeing figs in a basket. And I knew I was supposed to teach someone about these figs. What's kind of funny about that is the only figs I've ever eaten have been in the form of cookies you buy at the store. We just don't have figs around here, so I've never had one. I do remember being puzzled in the dream because I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to teach about figs when I knew nothing about them.
So of course, I hop over to my computer, plug in the word figs and see what scripture it spits out. There were a few, but it was this specific passage that leaped off the screen, and it was like, ah, here it is. But as I'm reading these verse through a few times, I admit that I'm wondering which direction to tackle, because there is so much good stuff here... could be a candidate for writing these verses down and doing an in-depth word study. But in the meantime...
What strikes me first about these verses was Jesus cursing the tree. Actually, the whole interaction with the tree was just strange to me. Figs grew in abundance in that area, so you would think that Jesus would know when a fig tree should be bearing fruit. But He was hungry, and saw the fig tree, and somehow that that maybe, just maybe God would have put an early fruit or two out for him? I don't know what Jesus is thinking, but then he comes to this tree that has no fruit- and shouldn't since it's not the season, and he gets angry with the tree. His anger comes out in the form of a curse to the tree. All the disciples heard this too, and we don't find out until a little later why they heard it.
But think about the disciples- what is going through their minds at this point, and shortly thereafter? I mean, here they are following this guy who is supposed to be all about love and compassion, and he took the time to curse a tree that shouldn't have had fruit in the first place. Even more so, as we read on in Mark, Jesus goes from cursing the fig tree to the temple, where his fuse is shortened even further, and he starts turning over money tables and throwing out the people who are selling there. Sure sounds like Jesus was having a bad day, and he was displaying it for all his followers to see.
But then the following morning, as they are leaving the city, Peter's gaze travels to the fig tree, perhaps thinking about the hoopla that tree started and marvels at the fact that it has actually withered overnight. It is here that we learn one of the greatest truths in the Bible- and that is that our words carry some weight and have some power.
Right now I am conducting my own little non-scientific science experiment. I have three tomato plants growing in the house. Two are upstairs, and one downstairs, both in full sun windows. The ones upstairs I speak nice words to- I bless them. I call them blessed and tell them to bear abundant fruit in Jesus' name. The one that is downstairs is being ignored with words. It is getting watered and fertilized, but I say nothing to it. ( I am not cursing it- that is an experiment I will do next year, add the cursed plant. ) I'll tell you, the tomato plants upstairs are almost a full foot taller than the one downstairs. Their leaves seem to me to be a little larger, and overall they just look extremely healthy and wonderful.
My words are having an impact. Our words always have impact- and we really should be more careful about what we say and how we say things to people. You know, when I was in high school, I was walking in the hall with my friends when a rather popular, kind of snobby girl walking past us looked straight at me and said "she is so ugly." I can still hear her say that to this day, and I really think that those words had some impact on my life for a time. I never thought of myself as attractive in the least, but these words sunk right in, and I heard them a lot over the years. Just the simple thing- I would be out trying on dresses or looking for something new to wear, and as I'd look in the mirror I would see ugly.
But you know what? God didn't make anything ugly. He didn't create anything that isn't perfectly beautiful, and last fall, God gave me a gift. At one of our conferences last fall, God took those words away and had people speak new ones into me. I cannot count the number of people who, in that one weekend alone, came up to me and gave me a hug. And always, with that hug, people would say "you are so beautiful". Almost those exact words, every single time. God took that one person's "she is so ugly" and replaced it with at least 50 "you are so beautifuls"- isn't God so cool? That weekend I really and truly felt like something broke off of me- I have no idea what impact that really had on my life, but something definitely changed, and I have so much more self-confidence than I had before then. All because people spoke kind words into my life.
The spoken word is so real. But that is only one part of what these verses are saying to us. Did you read the second bunch of verses? Here it is again:
"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Mark 11:22-25
Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Oh, wait an amazing lesson of faith! While I really enjoy refreshing my mind on the power of words, these are the verses that speak life into me this morning. I have been in such a season of trusting and patience, and while I just feel that all that patience is about to be rewarded, I also feel that I am on a cusp. I am on a cusp where I am holding on to my faith, but it won't take much to push me over the edge into the area of disbelief- the area where I start second guessing God's promises and start taking matters into my own hand, trying to do what I can myself, stressing myself out the whole while.
Thank God for these wonderful words found in Mark. They give me the courage to stand on my faith just a little longer, because God loves me. God knows my heart, He knows what I have been patiently waiting on Him for, and the day will come when that patience will be rewarded and the faith will be answered, and boy, are we going to have an amazing testimony of God's goodness. I can't wait to shout it from the rooftops- Look what my God has done for us! He can do it for you too, because He loves you so much!
The day will come. But in the meantime, I can spend time in His Word, reading all these wonderful verses of love and encouragement. And I can look at the example of Jesus, and the things that He did and see that He really was human. He had bad days too- but in the end, those bad days ended up being great examples of faith. Our bad days can be the exact same way. When we feel we are just having a day we wish was over, we can remember that Jesus, too, had His off days, and find compassion and understanding. He knows. And His love will get us through to the next day, where we can look back and say "oh yeah, now I see."
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." Romans 8:22
The earth has been busy the last few weeks! As the earth keeps shaking and there has been earthquake after earthquake... I just want to cry. Honest, as I watch my children everyday I just cannot imagine what it is like to live in such a place. Even now, they sit on the floor playing with legos, waiting for me to finish here at the computer so we can start school. How would life be so different if we lived in a different country? I cannot imagine having to sleep under the stars night after night because it's safer than sleeping indoors. I cannot imagine knowing that any day now the rainy season will be upon us and then we'll either have to sleep in unstable homes, or fashion shelters out of tarps and tin.
On the one hand, I am so, so blessed to live in the country we live in. As I continue my in-depth study of the founding of America, God's hand was so obvious every step of the way. Really- Napoleon just decided to sell the entire West to America on a whim? I don't think so. I think God moved this dictators heart- He used Napoleon for something great and good. God put the French army in Haiti, and God caused the slaves to rise up against their masters, and it was God who designed that yellow fever would be carried by mosquitoes and wipe out that French army, causing Napoleon to have doubts about this large piece of land. Thank God for all the different steps and pieces of history that made this country what it is. And I pray every day that He will continue to bless this nation- the one place in the world that represents freedom.
But on the other hand... I have no idea what it's like to live otherwise. And everytime I see pictures of the countries who have been affected by earthquakes, my heart breaks a little bit more. There are already so many children without homes. And now because of the earthquakes there are even more- and worse, they are without parents. My first reactions to every single earthquake are met with frustration because I know so many people who would love to give homes and love to these newly orphaned children. But the process.... it's severely lacking. And closed in many cases.
One thing that I remember though, is that I have a God who hears my cries. That same God who hears my cries, hears the cries of those children, and oh, how much He loves them! And so as I think about these little ones, even though I have no names and no faces, I can pray for them. I can pray for the miraculous, for God to wrap these children with love and with everything they need. I can pray for families and shelter and food for these children. God fed Elijah with ravens! He feed the Israelites with manna- which appeared on the ground every day for 40 years! Surely He can supply these hungry children. And He can give them peace so that they can rest.
I was praying for the country of Haiti even before they were ravaged from the earthquake. For some reason, I feel like God placed a piece of my heart in that country, and I pray for them almost daily. The sad thing about it all is that the world doesn't hear all the good that is coming from Haiti. Do you know what the nationwide response to the earthquake was? The country united in days of fasting and prayer to God! They publicly asked for forgiveness for their ways, and they united UNDER GOD! Voodoo priests have given up their ways and repented- accepting salvation from Jesus Christ- and people all over the country are turning to God. Haiti is becoming a light to the dark world!
And nearly two weeks ago, after the earthquake in Chile, there were the tsunami warnings across the Pacific. You know, we spent some time that Saturday watching the live feeds from Hawaii as the surge was expected to roll in. The whole time I was juts praying for God to have mercy on His people. And do you know what happened! The tsunami was a blip! It happened all right, but it was very minimal, and barely indistinguishable from normal current activity. Geologists couldn't explain what happened! But I know what happened! God heard the cries of His people and showed mercy. He heard the cries of all of His children and showed them His love and goodness.
May the world hear and know that HE IS GOD! May He bring comfort to those who have experienced disaster, and may the people of this world repent and find Him. Only then will the earth stop groaning. When the people will cry out that He is Lord, the earth won't need to do it anymore. Because God says that if the people are silent, the rocks will cry out.
"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Luke 19:40
May the people begin to cry out so the rocks don't have to. And may God be glorified in everything!