Monday, January 31, 2011

Make It Grow

“ For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 

“ For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
      So are My ways higher than your ways,
      And My thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9

Every time I read these verses in the Bible, they make me smack myself a little bit.  Every time.  These are some of those verses that should be posted somewhere in the house so that we see them every single day.  Because we are always trying to give God the answers to our problems.  Always.  It seems that no matter how many times I see God answer our prayers and needs in unexpected ways, I still always try and solve a dilemma in my head, trying to figure out exactly how God will take care of it.  I really need to stop doing that.  And I really need to find a way to make my faith grow.

I was telling Andy the other day that every month God comes through for us, and I just shake my head, because I knew things were going to be okay, and yet... and yet I still spend time worrying- even just a little.  Usually around the middle of the month I can look at the bank account, look at the odd jobs Andy has lying around, do the math, and I know that we will not have enough to meet our end of the month expenses- primarily our rent.  And then I look at the pantry and fridge, and I think that, well, we have to eat, so I go grocery shopping and I regret spending money on groceries.  And then the end of the month rolls around.  And somehow, Andy has worked a little extra or done something unexpected, or actually got called into work for a few days, and- imagine that- we had enough to pay our bills AND put food on the table. 

And I KNOW that God is going to make things work out according to His plans, and yet, it seems like every month at some point I can't help but do that mental math and I just know things don't add up to having all the bills met.  I have been working more and more on not worrying- on not focusing on the lack of money that is present at times- because God can work in mysterious ways and make everything all right.  I still remember several years ago, Andy was laid of for about six months and things were beyond dire.  And yet, every bill was paid, and we had food on the table.  When I went back and did the bookkeeping afterwards, the math did not add up.  We had more outgoing money than incoming.  In black and white, it was right there in front of us, and yet our bank account was not in the red.  There was little in it- but it was on the plus side.  God worked something miraculous with our finances during that time. 

Yet that worry likes to creep in often, so I've been spending time reading the gospels, because the words of Jesus always seem to chase that worry away, and they help my faith to grow, and to expect that God does take care of His children.  Take a look at this passage below:

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."  Matthew 6:25-33

Right there.  He says that we need not worry about clothing or food, because God will provide.  Luke, chapter 12 also says similar things.   We also need not worry about having a roof over our heads, so doesn't it stand to reason, that as long as we are good stewards with the little money that comes in this time of year, that we will be able to pay our rent and put food on the table?   Being good stewards is a learned thing though- it hasn't always been like that for us.  There was a time where money would come in, and we would spend it on things we didn't need- things like movies, CD's, video game things, going out to dinner, things like that.  We just were not wise and careful, and then we started learning about giving and tithing, and we found that as we tithed, and as we gave out of the little we had instead of spending frivolously, that things began to fall into place and we could rely on God's provision.  Because He provides for His children.

And yet every month, I find myself in that place of trying to figure out for myself exactly how we're going to come up with the money to meet all our bills.  I want my faith to grow.  I don't want to give away time I could be spending doing something productive to the act of worrying.  Worry is a waste of time, and God always has thoughts and plans for us that I couldn't even dream up myself.  So I need to stop answering for God and just let Him do what He's going to do. Because He's a great God and an awesome Father, and He cares deeply for ALL His children.

Friday, January 28, 2011

From The Mouths Of Babes

"Tell these things to the believers. Encourage and correct them, using your full authority. Don’t let anyone ignore you."  Titus 2:15 (God's Word translation)

With our new semester upon us for school, I decided to take a different approach to our Bible time together.  In the past, what we did was I would ready a Bible story from some book, and then we might discuss or do a little question and answer session.  Then later on Abigail would read to herself out of the Bible along with her personal devotional.  But for the new year, the kids were sent home from church with a challenge to try and read the New Testament in 2011.  They were given sheets to cross off the chapters as they read, and when I first saw them, I thought that this was a little crazy.  Did they really expect that Zander would be able to read the entire New Testament?  THEN I saw the opportunity, and I had been wishing I could come up with an alternative for our Bible time. 

So now we read the New Testament together.   The kids take turns reading aloud, so they are both reading and following along, and then they can cross off another chapter.  It's working really well, and they seem to like it.  I had decided that there wouldn't be discussion every day, but if the passage we read needed further clarification on my part, that's how we would approach it.  Well, we read the book of Titus last week, along with a few others, and the verse we read above must have really stuck with my son. 

A day after we read the verse above as part of reading chapter 2, we were in the van driving, and Zander was trying to get Abigail's attention.  She was kind of ignoring him when all the sudden he says "Abigail, stop ignoring me! We even read in the Bible yesterday that we shouldn't ignore anyone!"  Boy, did I jump on that right away and applaud him for remembering what was read in Bible.  The thing that struck me was that it was read in passing.  We didn't discuss, we didn't pause there and think about it, we read the whole chapter, and that little bit really stuck with him.  And he learned something very valuable with it.

Because last night as we were headed to Abigail's dance class, I was reminding Zander to be a good friend to the different boys that he plays with while we were there.  He, of course, nodded and agreed, and then added that he would not ignore one of the younger boys and do his best to try and include him with the play.  The lesson that Zander has applied from a simple Bible reading isn't even related to the context of the verse, but that word 'ignore' really struck something in his little mind, and he has purposed that he will not ignore anyone.

You know, it may seem like a very small thing, but how many times do we ignore someone or something, simply because we don't want to be bothered?  I think of all those stories of people being mugged or murdered in big cities while crowds of people simply walk by, doing their best to ignore what is going on around them.   Even in church situations, maybe someone an aisle over is quietly crying here and there during service, and we do our best to ignore them, because we have somewhere to be after church and we don't want to be held up by hearing a big old sob story.   I think that if the church as a whole could take a child as an example and stop ignoring what is going on around them,  that we would see a world of difference in the church.  So many people have stopped going to church simply because they are tired of being ignored.

Maybe sometimes the act of ignoring comes from a pretense of being polite- we don't want to seem as thought we're eavesdropping or are busybodies.  I can't help but think though, that if someone is having a conversation that they're really struggling, and you can step up and offer support, prayer or help in some way, that the idea of eavesdropping won't even come up.  They will simply be grateful, and then you will get a chance to share the love of God in some tangible way that could make a huge difference to them.

Let us work harder to stop ignoring those that are around us.  If a seven year old boy can read that one word in the Bible and completely change his attitude about ignoring other people, surely us adults can follow suit.   God certainly doesn't ignore us.

"Whoever gives to the poor lacks nothing.Whoever ignores the poor receives many curses."  Proverbs 28:27

I clearly remember travelling to Washington DC when I was in high school.  One of the things that we were firmly instructed on before traveling was that we needed to ignore the panhandlers in the streets.  We were told to walk right past them, as thought they weren't even there.  That if we made eye contact, we would become a target, and they would be after us for our money- and sometimes they turned out to be muggers.  So we were instructed to basically act as though they weren't even there.   And since then, I've certainly heard that advice given many times over by people traveling to different cities and different parts of the world, and I can't help but think that is such a horrible thing to be telling people. 

Sure, some of those beggars are career beggars.  I know the story of the beggar from the Capital steps who actually was quite rich- and made a fortune begging there at the Capital building.  He never needed to work, just sit on those steps every day and gather money from visiting people.   But who are we to look at a beggar, or a seemingly homeless person, and determine with a glance that that person is indeed a career beggar, or a genuine person in need?  God sees our hearts.  And if we give a few bucks or a hot meal to someone- whether they are truly in need or just playing a part- God sees our heart and our good intentions to bless that person.  He also sees their hearts- and the playing beggars will be judged accordingly.  But by God.  Not by man.

As we ask God to open our eyes to the need around us, may He help us to stop ignoring so much that is going on around us.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Choosing to discard ignorance can make a difference in someone else's salvation.  That sounds like pretty high stakes to me, and a good reason to stop being so ignorant to those around you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good Stewards

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them."  Matthew 25:14-19

I want to encourage you to go read the rest of that passage in the Bible.  Verses 20-30 tell about how the master responded to the different servants and how they took good care of their money- or didn't take good care. 

Something I've been thinking of lately is how we take care of the "things" in our possession, and how as a whole, we've become a society of, well, disposers really.  In our history travels with the kids, in the last few weeks we've been reading about the early 1900's, and how the people who lived back then truly had to make do with what they had.  What they did have, they probably made or built themselves.  And on top of that, no matter how poor of a quality the item was, they took incredibly good care of it.  A winter coat, for example, was taken very good care of by its wearer, and then when that person outgrew it, it was passed on to the next child in the family.  And if it was too big for the next child, it was either put away until it did fit, OR it was very,very carefully taken apart, re-sized, and sewn back together to fit the new owner.    Even things as simple and basic as a coffee cup, or a set of silverware was treated with great care.  People were just better stewards of what they had back then.

Now, we have the ability to go to the nearest super center and get new things anytime we want.  It seems we place little value in what we have.  I don't want to think of this in the wrong way, we certainly shouldn't reverence our possessions, and we shouldn't become obsessive about making sure things stay in perfect and pristine shape, but we can be more conscious of how we do take care of what we have.  And we can also be more conscious of the value of an item. 

I think that part of living a Christian life should include being better stewards of what we have in our possession.  We're so quick to discard an item before looking closely to see if it could be repaired or even re purposed- used in a completely different way.  Not too long ago Zander and I read about a woman who had a pair of red velvet curtains that were very special to her, because in those days velvet was very expensive, and they were a special gift from her husband for their wedding.  When they moved, they couldn't use the curtains, because they didn't fit in their new home.  Rather than just discarding those curtains, she used one of the curtains to make a cushion for a bench, and the other curtain she turned into a coat and hat for their young daughter. 

Honestly, it makes me a little angry with myself to think about this, because even something as simple as a bed sheet that has lost its mate could be re purposed to make something useful for the home- even if it is just torn up into rags.  And how many things like that have I thrown out over the years?  To me, when I think about that, I'm simply not being a good steward.  Money was spent on those items, and when we simply discard them, thinking that we'll buy a new one, we're just throwing money in the garbage.  We need to retrain our thinking to be better stewards of everything- not just the big expensive items in our care. 

I'm also not saying that we should hang on to every single thing we have and become hoarders either.  If we have something that we truly cannot use anymore, we should most definitely pass it on to someone else who could use it.  We have become very conscious ourselves of hanging on to stuff "just because" or because you never know when you might need something.  But those things don't go into the garbage bag, they go to a thrift store or to someone else who could use them.  That's part of being a good steward too, sharing with those who are in need.

When we really think about this, think about moving away from excessive consumerism, we're being good stewards on more than one level.  We're being a good steward of our finances, because we're taking better care of the things that we've spent money on.  We're also being a good steward of the earth and the planet around us, because we're keeping garbage out of the landfills and we're learning to consume less.  I think these are good thoughts, and I hope that God continues to bring it to my mind.  The next time that I'm inclined to just toss something, I hope that I'll give that a second thought and really think about whether or not that thing should be discarded.  I want to be a good steward in every area of my life, so that someday, when The Master returns, He says "Well done" to me.

"His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’"  Matthew 25:21

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."  James 4:10

This week for my Warfare Wednesday post, I really just want to concentrate on praying for protection for our elected leaders.  As President Obama travels to my neck of the woods today, I pray that he will stay safe and that God's angels will protect him from any trouble trying to get through.  I also pray that while the president is traveling, that Michelle and their daughters will stay protected and safe from all harm.  Last night was the State of The Union Address here in the United States, and emotions tend to run high after such a speech.  I pray that those who would desire to do harm to the First Family would be stopped in their tracks, and unable to do anything against this family who loves their country and its people.

I also want to pray this morning for the safety of our new governor here in Wisconsin, Scott Walker.  He has ideas and motivation that is not real popular in the city he is governing from.  I pray that God would surround Governor Walker and his family with a legion of angels to protect them from any harm that may try to come their way.   I also pray that Mr. Walker would surround himself with Godly men and women while he is in office, and that he would seek their counsel, and the counsel of the Lord in all things.

And I pray for our nations senators and representatives.  As we have learned in  recent weeks, they need to be covered in prayers of protection as well.  I pray that all over the country, that those who would wish to do harm to the elected officials would suddenly find themselves flooded with the love of God, and would choose to do nothing against the leaders who represent the people.

I also want to pray that the people will pray.  May the people of this country feel a deep need to pray for their elected leaders, and for the state of this country.  If more people would pray, and ask God for His Glory to once again shine across this land, I think that we would see a drastic improvement in the overall attitude in this country.  I pray that people will feel the need to pray for President Obama and his family, and so then they will pray.   The more people who will take the time out of their day to pray for this president, the more likely we are to truly see change come about with this country.  If enough of us will pray, perhaps President Obama will really and truly come to know the Lord God and will guide this country back onto the path she began over 200 years ago. 

"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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."  2 Chronicles 7:14

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


"But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” "  Matthew 13:8-9

Today is a day that I've long anticipated.  It's the day that I pull out the seed starting supplies and get the very first round of seeds started in the soil.  It's almost like Christmas for me, I'm that excited to start working with seeds and soil, and watching the magic unfold before my very eyes.

But since November, I've been spending time going through my Bible looking for scripture verses that I could speak to my plants.  Two years ago, if you'll remember, I performed an experiment where I blessed some tomato plants daily, while I simply tended a third one with no blessings.  The blessed plants grew to an amazing height and were abundant in fruit, while the non-blessed plant grew, but there was a very, very noticeable difference between him and his brothers.  Last year, I was so caught up in the urgency to plant that I didn't really start blessing my plants and my garden until it was too late.  In the end, the tomatoes put forth an excellent effort at the end of the growing season, but it was too little, too late.   So this year, I was determined to find the right verses to speak aloud to my plants.

But I hadn't been finding the right ones.  Ideally, I wanted some words that Jesus spoke that would basically command the plants to grow and to grow well, but I just wasn't seeing the words on the paper that I wanted.

At the same time, over the last little while, I've also been reading a fictional series of books where people have the ability to read characters out of a book.  When they read aloud a story, the characters they are reading about pop to life in their world.  Completely fictional and completely fun, and yet, God's been using it to speak to me about the importance of speaking aloud the Word. Just as in these fictional works, speaking aloud brought the books to life, in the real world, speaking aloud the words found in the Bible brings those very words to life.   I've been thinking also that it's not just about sitting and speaking aloud the scripture verses, but that there needs to be more to it.  More reverence, more understanding that when I speak the words of Jesus, it's not actually me speaking, but Jesus inside of me.

God gives us the answers in some of the strangest places- and yes, I believe He drew my eye towards this series of fictional books for the purpose of speaking to me through it.   But then last night, I was talking to Andy about starting my onion seeds today, and I mentioned to him that I still hadn't found the right verses to read aloud to my plants, when the verse I posted above literally dropped into my head.  It was awesome.  Of course, it was right there in the parable of the sower, which I'd read dozens of times thinking I might be able to use something from within.  I smiled myself to sleep, thinking about how I'd look that verse up in the morning and see if it would suit my needs.

Of course it does.  And later today, after a bit of preparation, I get to put these words into action.  I'm excited about it, but I'm even more excited to really think on all this and think about how God has been speaking to me.  He's used fiction to speak to me before, but most often, it's Christian fiction that has a scripture or two in it anyway or has an obvious message to share.  This is definitely not a Christian work of fiction, and God used it all the same.  And I especially love how He just dropped that verse into my head last night.  That tells me that I have been spending time in my Bible, taking the words in so that at the right moment when I need them, the Holy Spirit will bring them to my recollection.  And that encourages me to keep digging in and take as much in as I can.

Answers can come from some pretty unusual places, but I think as long as we are open, and are constantly turning our thoughts towards Him, that He will use anything to speak to us.  A movie, a TV show, a book, a person, a play in a theatre, God can use anything, and He will, if only we are willing to receive the message.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Be Gentle

"[Bear and Share the Burdens] Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted."  Galatians 6:1

There have been many, many times in my life where I have seen a person dragged through the mud because of something they did wrong.  And most often, that mud-dragging was done by a brother or sister in Christ.  And as I saw this verse today, I was reminded that we really need to be incredibly gentle with one another when we see behavior that needs to be corrected.  And really?  It's not that different with how I relate to my children.

There have been times where one of the kids has done something wrong, and I will get angry, and I will yell at them and scold them.  And then I will stew on it for a little while, and continue to be angry, and maybe rub salt in the wound once or twice.  Some time down the road, the bad behavior will be repeated, and the whole cycle just keeps going and going.  And yet... you know, those moments where I choose to be gentle in my correction seems much more effective.  When we sit down and discuss calmly and talk about alternatives for next time, the bad behavior seldom makes a repeat appearance.  In addition, look how much better I responded.  Because when I react with anger and yelling, I'm really not acting out of love or gentleness, and in fact am reacting to bad behavior with bad behavior.  Two wrongs don't make a right.

I think one of the reasons so many people seem to skip the gentleness these days is because we have too many examples of a lack of gentleness in today's world.  We watch a lot of television programs where people are messing up, and they get judged harshly for it almost immediately.  That's just not the way God wants us to be.  We are not to judge one another.  When we see a brother or sister mess up, we are to gently take them aside and talk about it.  We're to pray for them and counsel them, and most importantly, love them.  As the verse says above, there are times where we are to back off and let someone else handle the situation, if the wrongdoing could cause a temptation to ourselves.  1 John 1:9 tells us exactly how God deals with sinful situations.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1 John 1:9

Look at that.  It doesn't say that if we confess our sins to God, He becomes an all-powerful punisher, doling out punishment along the way.  It says that God is faithful to his people.  If we will take the step to go to Him and confess our wrongdoing, He will forgive us that trespass.  Furthermore, He will take that forgiveness a step further and cleanse us from our unrighteousness- it will be like it never happened.   And that's exactly how we need to respond to one another as well.  If our brother or sister has sinned, and has taken the necessary steps before God to repent of those sins, then we also need to forgive and forget.

Our Father is a loving, kind, and gentle God, and we should be the exact same way.   But even more than that, I want to take this one step further today and think about how we condemn ourselves so often.  It's true, we do.  We mess up one time in our life, and then we spend years and years remembering when we messed up and we don't forgive ourselves either.  As long as we don't forgive ourselves, the devil will continue to bring that up and taunt us with our wrongdoing.  We need to remember that we are children of a loving Father, and if we went to Him and confessed our sins and asked for forgiveness, that we truly are forgiven, and we need to leave what happened in the past in the past, and think on it no more.  Dwelling on the past never did anyone any good, and God wants us to look ahead, to look towards our today and our future.  Think about Lot's wife! If there was ever an example about the danger of looking back, she's it.

"But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt."  Genesis 19:26

We are to be gentle.  We are to be gentle with each other- always cloaking our words and our responses to one another in love.  We also are to be gentle with ourselves.  God loves us, and while He is our biggest cheerleader, cheering us on towards a life of holiness and righteousness, he also sees and understands when things go wrong.  But look what He does when things go wrong!  He cleanses us from that very unrighteousness and gently sets us back on our feet.  We need to do the same for each other.  While we don't have the power to forgive sins and cleanse the unrighteousness, we can know that God does, and if God can do that for our brother or sister, we can at least love them without ceasing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Purposeful Fellowship

"Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality."  Romans 12:13

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Matthew 18:20

"A friend loves at all times,
   and a brother is born for a time of adversity."  Proverbs 17:17

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."  1 John 1:7 

I will freely admit it.  I'm the type of girl who could be perfectly happy to just stay at home all by myself every day of the week.  I love just being at home, either alone or with my kids and husband.  It's almost my favorite place in the whole world to be. Often times, opportunities or occasions for fellowship will come up, and quite simply, I am unable to participate because of circumstances.  Most times, it's because I need to be doing something with my children, and I have no problems at all with that.  Right now, in this time of my life, my children are my number one ministry, and they receive top priority.  But lately, God has really been drawing my attention to verses like the ones above, and I really feel like He's been telling me that I need to be more purposeful in my fellowship with other believers.

Fellowship?  Isn't that the half hour or so after Sunday morning service where we all stand around and visit with each other?  Why yes, it is, but what about the rest of the week?  The thing is, you can't really get to know someone well with a short little visit on your way out the door Sunday morning.  You can't really get to know your brothers and sisters in Christ if the only time you spend together is under the covering of the worship-house doors.  God wants us to be purposeful with our fellowship. 

That's hard for me!  As I already mentioned, I have very limited time to be able to do such a thing, and yet, I need to find those small pockets of time for that very thing.  Just last night, a good friend came over late in the evening just for visiting and munching.  Normally, that's a time reserved for getting the kids to bed, and then I spend a quiet evening doing what I like.  I really had to be purposeful about giving up that quiet end-of-the-day time to fellowship with my friend.  The end result was a lovely evening spent visiting with a friend, that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

The thing is, the world has us so busy, and unless we become purposeful about spending time with each other, that time just isn't going to happen.  We have work, dance lessons, laundry, TV shows to watch, and on and on and on.  Let me tell you a little secret: the devil wants us to be busy.  He relishes in the idea that we are always too busy to find time to fellowship, because when we do fellowship, we draw closer to one another.  We develop relationships that result in lifting each other up, encouraging one another, praying for one another, and all-around caring about each other.  The world certainly doesn't want that.  The world wants us to be busy, busy, busy, so that when that opportunity comes up, you can say you already have plans.

I want to challenge each and every one of my readers and stumble-uponers to challenge yourself to purposeful in fellowship in the weeks ahead.  Challenge yourself to make time to get together with other believers.  Even if you only have a lunch hour to get together with someone, use that lunch hour and be a blessing one-to-another.  Invite someone into your home for an hour or two, strictly for the purpose of getting to know each other.  Invite a whole group of people over for an evening of fellowship.  Whatever is stirring in your heart, just do it.  Be purposeful in your fellowship and thwart the devil who is hard at work trying to cause the church to fall apart.  When we fellowship, we strengthen the bonds between us, and make it that much harder for him to stir up trouble.  I say it's time to cause him trouble, and to be that thorn in his side who is always ready to spend time with another believer, encouraging them in their faith walk. 

"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

Thursday, January 20, 2011


"[Trials and Temptations] Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."  James 1:2-3

Every time I see this verse I think about how hard it can be to actually walk it out.  When you're going through a trial, it's easy enough to put on a happy face to friends and outsiders when discussing it, but then the reality is when you're home alone, you're thinking about it almost all the time- and you're certainly not joyful.  You're worried.  This is where faith and reality collide.  A lot.  But you know, it can be helpful to spend some time reading other verses in the Bible to help build up our faith a bit.  One verse in particular that can be helpful in a trial is Jeremiah 29:11.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

This is a great one to read, because it's God speaking directly to us.  And when you're worried about a particular issue, it is such a comfort to close your eyes and take in God saying "I know the plans I have for you".   You can think on Him, and while you may not quite be in that state of joy that James was talking about, you can think about how wonderful it is that God knows exactly what is going to happen next.  God already has a plan in place to help with the trial you're going through.

Another awesome verse to read over and over in the midst of a struggle is Isaiah 41:9-10

"You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
      And called from its farthest regions,
      And said to you,

      ‘ You
are My servant,
      I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
       10 Fear not, for I
am with you;
      Be not dismayed, for I
am your God.
      I will strengthen you,
      Yes, I will help you,
      I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’"  Isaiah 41:9-10

Oh, now that IS a good one isn't it?  Read that a few times- trial or not, and you can just feel the peace wash over you as you think of God speaking directly to you and saying "Fear not, for I am with you".

There is no trial, no struggle too big for God.  And what I like to do when I am in the midst of something that is trying to tear my faith away, I like to think on the other side of the struggle.  I like to think on the trial already being over, and looking back and seeing how God worked to get us through.  Because those are the stories that faith is made of.  When I think back on other trials and struggles that we have gone through in life, each and every one has a story about how God provided, or God gave us faith, or God put the right person in our life at the right time.  When we're in the midst of something unpleasant, it helps to talk about prior struggles, and how we had victory over them in times past.

And so that's how I consider it pure joy to go through a trial.  I think about the finish line.  It's like running a race, eventually, you always come to a finish line, and this struggle too will come to an end.  And when you cross that finish line, you will have an amazing journey of strength and endurance to tell others about.  The race itself may be grueling at times, and you may think you may not have the energy to make it to the end, but then you think about crossing that finish line, about putting the race behind you, and it gives you a fresh burst of determination to make it through.  Thinking on that finish line, and the face of the proud Papa waiting there, encouraging you, is where the pure joy is.  God is our biggest cheerleader when we're going through a struggle, and when we think on that, when we think on Him instead of our problems, He finds joy in us, and will give us the perseverance we need to make it to the finish line.

Consider it pure joy.  When you've made it to the end of the trial, you will have an amazing testimony to share, and who knows?  That could be the very story that leads someone to follow Christ.  Your story could be the one that convinces a loved one that they need Jesus to help them in this life.  That is pure joy indeed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’"  Jeremiah 18:11

This verse is my prayer this morning, that our country will turn from its evil ways, and that righteousness will take front and center in everything.  As the Senate and the House of Representatives get back to business after several days off, I pray that God will have an influence in the decisions to be made.   I pray that those congressional leaders who have dealings under the table will stop what they are doing and will return to a life of honesty and integrity.  Two characters that often seem to be missing these days.  I also pray that arguments and debates will be peaceful and civil, and that in the end, the right decisions will be made.  A country can be run with honesty and integrity, if it's a nation that puts God first, and seeks His will in all they do.

I continue to pray for protection for the Obama family.  And I pray today that they're time visiting with Chinese President Hu goes well.  May he see something here on American soil that he wants for his country- and may that something be Jesus Christ.  God certainly loves the people of China, and God can even use a presidential visit to show his love to the people.

This morning, I also felt drawn in a direction to pray for our economy.  There are rumbles of hope out there for the economy to come, but it's a very cautiously optimistic hope.  The fact is, the economy is making people depressed and causing bad decisions and a myriad of other problems.  First I want to pray that people will take their eyes off the economy and focus on Jesus.  May they see that He is more than enough, and that money is not the answer to everything.  But secondly, I wanted to pray something specific about the economy, and that is a prayer that invention and innovation will see a resurgence as people turn to God for answers.  May He give divine answers that result in new ideas and innovations that will change the way we live.

We've been studying some great innovators for school, Thomas Edison, The Wright Brothers, George Washington Carver, Henry Ford, and so many more, and it's very obvious, as we read about these amazing inventors, that God was a part of these people's lives.  These men, and many of the others we're studying changed the world with the amazing ideas that God gave them.  It's remarkable to see the hand of God on someone, and see all the ideas that He blessed them with.  Even Benjamin Franklin had idea after idea- many that we still use today- those ideas were gifts from God.   God can inspire inventions and innovations that truly could change our world, and I pray that He does that very thing.  Inventions that are world-changing will also be economy changing.    Think of all the people nowadays who are employed in a technical trade- the people who help run and take care of the Internet, for example.  There are millions of people who make their living working for an idea that thirty years ago was a figment of someone's imagination.   There are many times that I'll be looking something up online, and I'll just quickly think something like "gosh, God, this Internet was one of the best ideas you've ever had".  I am thankful for technology- even though sometimes I may have a desire to live a simple and plain life, I am thankful for how far we've come with technology, and I cannot wait to see what else God has in store for us- because it just has to be great!

I think our country IS going to turn from its evil ways.  I really believe that God has great plans yet for the United States of America, and that His love is going to ooze from every square inch this country has.  And then it's going to spread across the globe like a wildfire, and our planet will be united in one thing, and one thing alone: Jesus.  That's going to be awesome to see.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lessons From A Headache

"The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Job 1:12

A week and a half ago I very suddenly came down with a migraine.  Oh, it was a bad one, I had to call Andy home early that day to make dinner, because standing up and doing anything just wasn't going to happen.  I pretty much spent two days lying on the couch watching TV, waiting for this stabbing headache to go away.  At one point I sought out advice on how to best weather the migraine- I was looking for something homeopathic that could at least minimize my symptoms.  I was surprised when a few of the bits of advice included thoughts like "I think God gives me migraines so that I slow down".  God gives migraines?  God gives me this horrible stabbing pain inside my head?  I had to think about that one for awhile, because I know I've heard many times before how people say God gives them problems to correct bad behavior or such.  But I didn't know that I had actually seen scripture to the contrary.

And then I read the book of Job.  If there was anyone who suffered, it was Job.  I read the dialogue between God and Satan, and saw such fatherly love from God towards Job.  And yet, Satan comes along and asks to mess him up a little, and God told him to go ahead, confident in Job's heart and love for Him.  When the first calamities befall Job, he says something that I thought was always spoken by someone a little more important.  it's an often quoted scripture, except it's not entirely accurate.

"The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;"  Job 1:21

This verse is quotes a lot, and in different ways.  A popular worship song even has these words in it.   Except it's actually a false statement.  Because just a few verses earlier, we saw that God gave Satan permission to wreak havoc on Job.  It may be mincing words here, but I do think it's important to note that while God allowed disaster to strike, God did not cause the disaster.  Satan did.  In Job's case, when he said the Lord has taken away, he actually wasn't correct.  If he'd said something like "God allowed everything to be taken"  that would be correct.  But he didn't.

Which brings me back to my migraine, which God most definitely did not give me.  And yet... I learned something during those two days.  I had been spending a lot of time contemplating a fast, and trying to decide what I was going to fast for the new year- leaning towards food of some kind or in some way.  One of the many things I know about migraines is that they can often be triggered by food- or lack thereof.  It was clearly obvious that I should not do a food fast of any kind at this time.  After a migraine attack, I am susceptible for weeks to a second round- I needed to be conscious of what I was eating, and eat regularly.  A fast was not an option. 

It was that second day of the migraine when my computer crashed.  I was feeling a bit better as the day went on, and thought that I could sit down for just a minute and do a few things, when my computer went down.  I knew what was wrong with it, and knew someone who could fix it, but just the same, I knew I would be without for a few days, and I just knew that God was showing me what He wanted me to fast.  Which brings me back to that silly migraine again- that God did not cause.  But maybe, just maybe, the devil had a little chat with God and told God that he wanted to wreck our happy home with a migraine, and God told him to go ahead- because God knew that He could use that migraine to show me a few things. 

Here I am ten days later, and God is still showing me truths about that migraine, among many other things.   God did not take away my computer in an effort to punish me for spending too much time there.  God allowed my computer to have a problem to point out to me that I really should think about where I spend my time.  It's nothing for me to sit down to just check one thing, and then hours later I'm still there- caught up in this, that, or the other thing.  Now, while my computer is still not here, I am using other computers in the home, and severely limiting my time, because they are not my computer, and it's just not the same.  And while I've been spending less time at the computer, that's meant more time for my thoughts to dwell on Him.  It's meant more time to work on other things around the house- often time things that lead me to more thoughts on Him.  All-around, basically pointing out to me that He wants some of my time in my days.  Little bits here and there aren't cutting it, and He wants more.

God gives, and sometimes He allows things to be taken away in an effort to draw us closer to Him.  The question is, when those times come, will we follow the example of Job and still worship Him in everything? 

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Time Such As This

"Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14

A friend of mine has been pouring through the book of Esther for a few days, and I thought that I would spend some time there myself, as it's always a delightful book to spend time in.   This verse from above is an often quoted verse, I hear it quite often used in contexts of other conversations or preachings, or even used in books.  But as I read through it this morning, I couldn't help but think to myself and wonder exactly what time am I being prepared for?

Did you ever wonder about that?  Every single person has a unique set of abilities and talents, and did you ever think about the unique abilities and talents you have and wonder when your time was going to come to pass?  I certainly have been lately. At times, when I think on that it's almost frightening, and I say frightening, because to someone who doesn't know Jesus, frightening would be the right word.  But since I am a child of God, and I do not possess the spirit of fear in my body, it's only almost frightening.  It could cause panic and worry if I really, really thought about it.

Because one of the things that's really been on my mind in the last while has been the coming vegetable garden.  That may seem harmless enough, and it's a fun hobby for me that pays dividends by putting food on the table. But what if that vegetable gardening became a necessity?  I mean, a necessity, not because of lack of money to purchase fresh food, but what if it became a necessity because the food we purchase at the grocery store had the potential to cause life-threatening diseases?  What if, by purchasing that package of grocery store celery, you knew you were gambling 50/50 as to whether or not your family got e coli or salmonella?  I would think that most people would pass on the fresh celery.

And yet, we need the fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain healthy physical bodies. This year as I've been planning my vegetable garden, I feel like there's a sense of urgency driving me to do it.  And yet, this urgency is not to plan quickly and haphazardly, but to be really purposeful and really think on what I want to plant- and when I want to plant.  This hobby of vegetable gardening that I truly enjoy could become one of those skills that I've developed for "such a time as this".

My passion for home cooking and cooking from scratch could be another one.  If, indeed, there was something wrong with our food supply here in our country, say with canned goods, it would barely affect my family, because I know how to make most things from scratch.  How many of my friends and neighbors don't?  Cooking for me is a hobby, it's something I really and truly enjoy, but it's also a necessity for me to feed my family well.  Admittedly, when I talk to most people about this very thing, no one seems particularly interested.  I mean, who wants to go to the trouble of making their own pasta and sauce when you can buy ready made items from the store?  Well, I do.  And maybe the day will come where these skills I have will be put to use, and I will be able to share with my friends and neighbors in days of need. 

And yet, in both these instances, I just have to say that I pray the hour of need doesn't come, because these are scary ideas that I'm talking about.  While I'm certainly not afraid, and I'm not concerned in the least of the days to come- because I've been learning to not worry about tomorrow- these thoughts do make me more aware.  And honestly?  It is making me talk to God about these simple pleasures I've taken up as hobbies.  When I am thinking about my vegetable garden, I've been praying that God will help me to make the right decisions this year, and that He will provide abundantly so that we can purchase the things we need to really make the gardens productive this year.   I recently taught myself to knit, and while I'm still working on my first project, I'm finding that it's an enjoyable little thing that I can do when I want to just sit and relax for a while, and it's something that produces tangible benefits.  People can always use scarves, sweaters, socks, blankets, and other clothing items that have been knitted.  In the back of my mind I'm also thinking about the whole idea of prayer shawls and prayer cloths, and I'm wondering about what it would be like to really get accomplished with knitting, and then while knitting, reciting scripture and prayers while making an item for someone in need.  I know I've heard of people doing that very thing while stitching a quilt together.

I guess the whole point of these ramblings today is found right in the book of Ecclesiastes.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might"  Ecclesiastes 9:10

The hobbies and activities that we take part in from day to day are in important part of who we are- and someday they could be something that God will use in a great and mighty way.  And so it seems to me that as we tackle something that is seemingly harmless- like a hobby, that we should do so with all our heart and really learn how to do it.  Someday, you may be called upon to use that skill in a great and mighty way, and I guess that I for one would like to be prepared.  Because someday, I might be called upon for such a time as this. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Teach Your Children Well

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."  2 Timothy 1:7

I heard this verse recited about a week ago, and it's been in my mind ever since.  Fear sometimes gets me.  I'll lay awake at night afraid of one thing or another, not sleeping, and it will go on for some time.  But then, just like that, the Holy Spirit breaks through and I am reminded that God is not a God of fear, and then I start thinking on Him, and thinking of some worship songs, and the fear literally melts away and I am able to sleep.

But when I heard this verse the last time, it really resounded for me as an example for us as we raise and train our children to be little men and women.  In fact, it resounded with me so much, that I have not been able to stop thinking about it, because discipline can be such a sticky subject for parents.  Many parents have strong convictions about why they do things one way or another.  But I've never heard this verse used in the context of discussing discipline and what the Bible has to say about it.  And yet, it's right there, plain as day.

The thing is, I think many of us are making a mistake when we choose how to discipline our children- (including myself, don't think I'm talking just about others today).  The key words in this verse above are at the very beginning- that God has not given us a spirit of fear.  And yet, for many parents, that's exactly what we use to try and coerce our children into better behavior.  We use fear.  We threaten with spankings or groundings or taking away a privilege or something precious.  And often times it works,because fear is a terrible thing.

There are so many methods out there for parents to follow- so many books have been written on the best ways to train a child and discipline a child, and I can't help but think that a majority of them should actually be discarded because they are wrong.  We should not be motivating our children towards good behavior by using fear.  

I think of following God, in general.  I don't adhere to His laws or read my Bible daily because I am afraid of punishment by God.  I don't "try to be a good Christian"  because I'm afraid that God will punish me in some way or another.  God isn't like that.  I follow God and all His laws because I love Him.  I follow His ways and spend time reading His letters each and every day because love drives me to do so- not fear.

Shouldn't it be the same way with our children?  Love is what should drive us when raising our children, and when we need to discipline, when we need to set boundaries and rules, they need to be rules laid down with love.  I guess I don't really know what the answer here is, because as a parent it's really easy to look over at little Johnny and say something like "if you don't stop doing that, you'll get a spanking" or "if you don't stop hitting your sister, your precious toy will go in the garbage".  How does a parent get a child to stop bad behavior without using fear as a motivator?

I can't say I truly know what the answer is, but I can say what works for my children.  They hate hearing that their mom or dad is disappointed in them.  Disapproval is a very strong motivator for them, because they love us and want us to be pleased with them all the time.  And when they display exceptionally good behavior in situations, we make a point to show our pride in their efforts, and we'll reward them with a small token or a treat for a very special occasion.  It encourages them and shows them that good behavior is desirable.

This is a verse to think on today, and a whole process to think on.  Because the absolute last thing I want is for one of my children to be afraid of me.  The last thing I want is for them to behave only because they are afraid of the punishment if they don't.  What I want is for them to want to behave out of love.  Isn't our relationship with our Heavenly Father based on love?  And if our roles here on earth are to prepare us for a lifetime with Him, it seems to me that we should make every effort to train our children in the way that He would have them trained.   God has not given us a spirit of fear, and we should not turn around and try to use that very thing to train our children with.  Because if God has not given us fear, where do you suppose it comes from?  I think that is not something I want to encourage to grow in the lives and minds of my children.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Put On The New Man

"This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."  Ephesians 4:23

When we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we became all new creations in Him.  There are verses scattered all over the New Testament about how we become new when we accept Him, and yet it seems like there are far too many Christians being deceived.  The great deceiver himself wants us to think that our old self is always there, poised to make a comeback.  He wants us to think that there is always a chance for us to mess up and revert back to our old ways and our old lives, to be captive of the sins of the past.

But the truth is, our old selves are buried and gone!  And even better than that, God forgives us of ALL those past sins and forgets them- it's as if they never happened.  And yet we remember them, and they come back every once in a while to taunt us and tease us and try to get us to slip up.  Why?  Because the devil tripped us up once with those bad behaviors, and since he is not capable of original thinking, he thinks that the old things will work again.  So he tries again. He sets that temptation right in front of us and whispers sweet things to us about them.  And do you know what we can say to him to make him go away and take that temptation with him?  We can tell him to go away, that our minds have been renewed, and we are a new creation in Christ Jesus.

I like verse 23 that says that we should be renewed in the spirit of our mind.  That means that not just our bad actions of the past should be gone, but also our ways of thinking.  Most temptations begin in the mind-they begin with a thought, and that thought festers and eventually becomes action.  Instead of thinking about things that may make us feel good for a time or thinking about those things that are not becoming of a child of Christ, we can think on Him.  Oh, the devil will try to creep into our thoughts as well, there's no doubt about that.  But we can banish him with simple scripture spoken out loud. Philippians 4:8 is the ideal verse in these situations.

  "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."  Philippians 4:8

A temptation does not have to turn into a thing that reminds us of the old man that we've laid aside.  A temptation can be just that, a thought or an idea that we can defeat with a simple utterance of God's Word.  And when we reach into our mind and bring out the precious words that God gave us, we give that new man purpose and confidence.  We are winners and we are conquerors!  We are what the new man was designed to be!  God gave us the tools we need to live as that new man- not just in theory, but in truth and actuality.  We don't need to buy into that garbage that because we are men and women, we have to mess up every once in a while.  We need to correct that thinking, and hold our heads high as sons and daughters of the Most High God and use the very tools that He gave us to defeat the enemy.

Think of it this way.  In medieval times, warriors were equipped with a sword and shield to use to battle the enemy.  A new warrior would spend time learning how to use that sword, and learning how to use that shield properly to deflect a blow from the enemy.   He would train day in and day out, and then when the moment arose for a battle, he would be prepared and would use that sword and shield to their fullest potential.

We are that warrior.

"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."  Ephesians 6:16-17

The world has confused us with lies, but those times of lies are over.  A warrior back then would not have simply held that shield and that sword and let the enemy come at him without defending himself, and that's exactly what's happening today with the thoughts that we should expect to mess up.  We need to open our eyes and see the truth of the situation.  The truth is that we have a shield all ready to deflect the poison the enemy would fling at us.  And we have the ultimate sword that we can use to defeat him- the scripture and the God-breathed words found within our Bibles.  Like that warrior in old times though, we need to spend time learning to use our sword and our shield.  We need to spend time in our Bibles, reading the words God has for us, and memorizing them, taking them in to ready them for action.  Think of every verse you memorize as another arrow to set in your quiver.  Each and every verse can be brought out at the moment of need to fire off at the enemy and send him on his way.

So not only did God make us a new man when we accepted His son as our Lord and Savior, but He also made us warriors- and capable warriors at that.  He's a good Father, and gave us the tools we need before we even knew we needed them.  And we can be of a renewed mind, and see the lies that the devil tries to confuse us with and defeat them with the Words from God.  Temptation can be a thing of the past that we can laugh at send away, we don't have to accept it as a part of life.  We were designed to be righteous beings- righteous just as our older brother Jesus was before us.

"Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ "  Matthew 4:10

Worship God and serve Him only.  We can do that, if only we will open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds and see the truth for what it is.  The truth that we can defeat the enemy with just a word.  Jesus showed us exactly how in Matthew, chapter 4, it's time for us to follow His perfect example.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:5

He makes all things new. Thank God for that.  It seems to be a crazy week this week, both here in our country, and across the globe.  There are so many things just crying out for attention, and calling me to my knees to pray for them.  My heart just aches for that newness described in Revelation 21- I wish that God would make everything new and heal all the hurting hearts around the globe, as there are many.

I start this week's Warfare Wednesday by lifting President and Michelle Obama in prayer.  Later today they will have the difficult task of attending a memorial service for a tragic shooting in the state of Arizona.  May God surround this couple with His angels and keep them safe from all harm.  May their attendance at this event bring comfort to those who need it, and may this incident awaken those who would sow seeds of discord in this country.  A house divided will not stand, and it's time for our country to unite and fight no more.

My thoughts and prayers are then moving far south, to the country of Haiti.  It's been a year since that devastating earthquake rocked the country, and things have not changed all that much since then.  May God provide hope for these poor people, and may He become real to this small country.  May the leaders of Haiti publicly turn to God in their time of need, and may He answer, showing His glory and love to the precious people of Haiti.  God loves these people so much, and I pray that they would turn to Him and allow Him to heal their nation, and not look to the ways of men for the healing.

And then I'm heading over to the nation of Australia.  Severe flooding from heavy rains has paralyzed a major part of the country.  Many people are dead- many more are missing and presumed dead, and the flooding is showing no signs of easing up anytime soon.  Acres upon acres of fields of crops are covered with floodwaters, and tens of thousands of homes could be destroyed before the waters begin to recede.  I pray that God will show His love to the people of Australia.  May the breath of God blow upon Australia and carry away the waters in a supernatural demonstration of how much God loves the people in that country.  May He bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones and lost homes, and may He provide mightily for them as well.

And finally, this week, we'll come back full circle to the terrible shooting incident this week in Arizona.  There actually have been several shooting and stand-off situations around the country in the last few weeks, and I think it just shows how many people in this country are driven to the point of despair.  In the area I live in, there has been a remarkable rash of bank and money store robberies as of late, and I think people are just turning to whatever they can turn to in these moments.  As I posted in the verse above, I am praying mightily that God would make things new in our country.  I pray that He will bring a newness to the United States of America, and that this newness would bring hope to these people who have nothing else to turn to.  May they turn to God in these moments of despair, instead of the shallow things this world has to offer.   God has great plans for this country, and nothing would please Him more than to see His children turn to one another and offer an olive branch, and to reach out to one another with words of love instead of words of hate.  God can make all things new.  I pray that He does.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


"Wait on the LORD;
         Be of good courage,
         And He shall strengthen your heart;
         Wait, I say, on the LORD!"  Psalm 27:14

One of the hardest things for a person to do is to wait on the Lord.  In every instance I know of, it's difficult.  When you've been asking God questions and waiting for direction, it is difficult to wait for His perfect timing to give you the answers and show you the path to take.   In those instances, I have found that waiting on Him and relying on patience is key, and worth the waiting in the end. 

When we were looking to move last spring, and we were just two weeks from our move out date and hadn't found a place to move to, people and friends truly thought we were going mad.  They thought we were crazy to wait for God to show us the perfect place.  Instead, their solution was to take something- anything, temporarily while waiting.  We chose to wait.  We chose to trust completely in God to show us precisely where He wanted us, and He did in a huge and glorious and amazing way.  My heart is still rejoicing, pretty much daily, for bringing us to this home in this city.  I really feel like my patience and my reliance on His provision for us was rewarded in such a huge way.  We love it here- we have found so much joy and love here, and we're just plain happy with our living situation.  Had we not waited on God, we could have missed this opportunity completely, and then where would we be?  Scary to think about that, actually.

But waiting on God can mean more than just having patience about a situation, or waiting on God for an answer to a question.  Waiting on God can simply mean that.  Sitting in the quiet and waiting on Him.  We are such busy people, and I know for myself, I have a very difficult time just doing nothing.  Those days when I don't have anything pressing that needs to be done, I'll find myself caught up in a book or puttering in the kitchen or garden.  Or I'll watch something on TV or surf the net.  But when was the last time you purposed to just sit in the quiet for a period of time and wait to see if God has something to say to you? Waiting on God is probably one of the most difficult things to do.

It's much easier to carve out some time to read the Bible.  Have ten minutes before the roast is done?  Just grab your Bible and squeeze in some reading time.  Prayer time can be done while doing other things- while folding laundry or doing dishes for example.  But quiet time.  Being still and waiting on God is so incredibly difficult because we are told that we need to be busy at all times.  We are told that being idle and not doing anything is wrong, and so when we try to not do anything, we feel like we should be doing something, anything.

"He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

God Himself tells us to be still and know Him.  To be still means to be devoid or abstaining from motion.  Also to be uttering no sound, and to be free from noise and turbulence.  Basically, it means to not be doing a thing- to be perfectly still, quiet and in a peaceful place.  Sometimes that can be a very, very difficult thing for a mom to find.   For years I've said that the shower is where I do my best thinking, because I can do what I need to do to get clean, and then I can just be there.  I can let the water run and stand there and let it wash over me and close my eyes and not be distracted by anything.  Sometimes that may only be a minute or two- but it's still a precious minute of stillness.  God has really given me some of the best ideas or thoughts while I've been in the shower having that brief moment of quiet time.

See, God knows me.  He knows the busy life I lead, and He knows that my children have my attention at all times, and He will never, ever fault me for that.  I remember feeling badly about that for a time, about not being able to find a cluster of time for quiet time.  Instead, I had to snatch little stolen moments when I could.  When I would take the laundry upstairs to fold and put away, once it was folded, I would often just sit on my bed for a minute or two and relish the quiet and the peacefulness.  It may have been ever so brief a moment, but it was enough to let God fill me with peace and re-energize me for the day.

God is a good God, all the time.  He loves His children, and all He wants is a few precious moments of stillness so that He can share His love with them.

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

Monday, January 10, 2011

Holiness For The Housewife

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.””  1 Peter 1:15-16

This verse made me smile this morning, because it's almost like the ultimate form of peer pressure.  "If I can be holy, you can be holy."   And yet, it's true.  Jesus showed us that it is possible to live a life holy and pleasing to God- and if He can do it, we can do it.

I'm reminded of that catch phrase WWJD- What Would Jesus Do.  Oh my, if those people who proudly display those letters knew what they were displaying!! People usually use that as a reminder to be kind- to show some grace, but do they really know what they are showing the world on that bracelet?  Gosh, if Jesus were there, and He saw that woman in the grocery store rolling around in a wheelchair, he wouldn't just help her get that box of crackers from the top shelf- he would reach out his hand with love and tell her to get out of that wheelchair and be healed.

WWJD Indeed.

I'm thinking about this idea of holiness this morning, and I can honestly say that in my present role in life- I have a hard time wrapping my head around this. I am just a housewife- and a mother who happens to also teach her children.  I suppose I can be holy in the things that I choose to teach my children- when we learn, we often learn about how different subjects in life relate to the Bible, or we learn what God has to say about a particular subject.  But what about the rest of my day?  How do I display holiness while I'm doing dishes, folding laundry, or cooking dinner?  Is it holiness to clean the floors and wash windows?   Well, I don't know.  But I do know that God's Word tells me to be busy in my home.

"These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, 5 to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes,"  Titus 2:4

My home could use some busy-ness indeed.  I spent part of this past weekend- well,most of it actually- lying on the couch dealing with a migraine, and while I was lying there unable to really function more than opening my eyes, I saw that my home is in a bit of disarray.  Oh, if we received a phone call from someone who asked if they could pop over, we could have the house presentable in about 30 minutes or so- but it would be a mad scramble, and we would have to rope off the upstairs.  Once upon a time- and if you go way back on my blog you'll find it- I had a mostly clean home.  And this was with very young children!  I took great effort each day to clean my home so that it was always company ready- and ready to practice hospitality.

"and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds."  1 Timothy 5:10

My home is not really hospitable, and I need to get it that way.  THAT, to me, is where holiness begins for a housewife.  While I'm cleaning, I can also work on my prayer life- as I can pray without ceasing.  I can think thoughts on God and about different verses He has spoken to me.  I can listen to great worship music and fill  my mind with praise and adoration for God.  I can do all these things while I tackle dust bunnies and spiderwebs.

But I can't do all these things when I'm sitting at the computer for a good part of the day.

I've been thinking about doing a fast for the beginning of this year for some time now.  I was thinking on it at the beginning of December, trying to decide what kind of a fast I wanted to begin my year with, and I just wasn't coming up with anything that struck a chord with me.  Nothing that felt like it was right for this time.  My self-imposed deadline to begin a fast was the 10th of this month- my thoughts had been leaning towards a 21 day fast to the end of the month, but I just couldn't decide what.  This weekend, while I was flat on my back with a migraine it struck me that a food fast just was not going to be the answer this time for health reasons, and I almost despaired about what exactly I would fast.  Perhaps I wasn't called to fast this time around. 

And then my computer behaved badly.  I had to turn it off and it wouldn't turn back on.  Argh! I've known that my computer needed a new power supply, but here it was, the moment, and I was annoyed with myself.  How do I function without MY computer- without all my bookmarks and tools?  Yesterday we took my computer to a friend to fix it, and I'm sure he'll work on it quickly for me, but in the meantime, yesterday I felt a little lost.  I used Abigail's computer and Andy's computer to check e-mail and things like that, but it just wasn't the same.  And then it came to me.  If I was feeling lost without my computer- perhaps it was time for a little pruning.  I've done an internet fast before, and it was difficult.  It was hard to limit myself to only necessary internet and e-mail.

How does a housewife practice holiness?  By listening when God speaks.  And by getting up from the computer chair and tending to the tasks that have been assigned to her.  He has been convicting me about my home that is not ready to practice hospitality, and He has taken away one of the biggest obstacles standing in my way.  He will help me to focus on what I need to focus, and when my 21 days is up, I will be ever so much close to being the woman that HE wants me to be. 

But no worries my friends, I will still be blogging.  I will blog, and I will still check my e-mail.   I am thankful for the added computers to the home that allow me to continue to function with the basics.  It is His provision that put these marvels of technology in our home, and I need to remember that they are tools meant to enhance our lives- not tools to control our lives. 

Friday, January 07, 2011

That Thing Called Love

"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."  Ephesians 5:12

Be imitators of God and walk in love.  Do you know how HARD that is sometimes? Seriously.  It doesn't take but one errant comment from someone, and after that you spend days and days not even wanting to be around that person.  This happens often I think in the body of Christ.  Most often, these instances are completely non-intentional, but great church splits and divisions have happened simply because some people started to not get along so much.  There was a lack of love, and the love of God was all but forgotten for a time.

And then I am reminded that the body of Christ is a family, and I see that things may not be as they appear. 

I always love my family.  Always.  Oh, there are times where my husband may drive me bonkers, or a brother or sister will do something to irritate me, but you know there is always love there.  That love never, ever goes away for any reason.  I may be annoyed or irritated for a time, but there is still always love.  

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are always to love one another, and I think the practice is not as hard as we make it out to be.  If we honestly and truly accept that these people who we are surrounded by ARE our brothers and sisters, that love should really just be there!  Think about that for a second.  Those times when someone really gets under our skin?  Maybe we do need to just not be near them for a few days, but we also need to pray about it, and really take into our hearts and our minds that that particular person is our brother or sister.  And I would bet that before long, those negative feelings will be replaced by great love and understanding.  Family love is just like that. 

There are different denominations and churches around the world who practice calling each other sister or brother, and I think it's something that we should see by example and put into practice in our own lives.  

You know, I adore and love my brothers and sisters.  Every single one of them all the time- and they are such treasures to me in my life.  But to think that I have so many more brothers and sisters within the church is just mind-blowing to me.  And wonderful.  When I think about some of the dear relationships that I've's just something really wonderful to think on this morning, and I am thankful that God dropped these thoughts into my mind.  I have always been the oldest of my natural brothers and sisters, but in the family of God, I have older brothers and sisters who I can rely upon in times of need.  I have older sisters that I can trust in confidence with a matter of the heart when needed.  I have older brothers who delight in spending time with my children and lending a hand with a task around the house if needed.

All these thoughts on brothers and sisters and love are really aimed at one of the true goals for the body of Christ: Unity.  I think when we really and truly can get into our souls the idea that we are all brothers and sisters in Him, that unity of the body will come with it.  And while I cannot change the hearts and minds of every Christian around the world, I can start at home with my heart and my mind.  I can check my attitude towards other believers, and I can learn to always, always fall back on love to correct me. 

Love is an amazing thing, love is what Jesus showed us when He gave up His live for the whole world.   If He was willing to die for all of His brothers and sisters, can we not at least learn to get along and stand together in times of need?   Sometimes love can mean sacrifice- particularly a sacrifice of our time.  And sometimes love can mean an offering to God, and God loves that.  He loves it when we offer up our love freely to others when they need it.  When we imitate Him, we're really just pleasing Him and making Him a truly proud Papa.

Let's love.  And let's love big.  The family is worth it.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Daddy Time

"Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him."  Acts 10:34-35

God shows no partiality.  He doesn't love some people more than others- He doesn't love some people a little less.  God loves ALL of mankind.  Every single one of us.  But did you ever look around, and it seemed like some people just had it better than you?  You hear story after story about how one particular family receives blessing after blessing, meanwhile you are really struggling, and wondering if God hears our cries for help.

God loves you just as much as the other people.  It's true!  God loves each and every one of us with the exact same measurement.  I never would have thought that possible, until I had children.  I love both of my children more than anything else in the world.  I don't love one more than the other- I don't love one of them just a little bit less when they are naughty.  My heart is filled to near bursting with love for each of them- in the exact same measurement.  But you know, there are times where it may appear that I bestow more favor on one child over the other.

There are times where it seems like Abigail will go the extra mile for me for a while.  She spends a few days trying really hard to not fight with her brother, abiding by the rules of the household, and even offering to help out with a few tasks around the house.  Or she'll want to spend some time with me doing something.  And while we're spending time together, often time little treats or tidbits will make their way to her, and to someone looking in from the outside, it may appear that I am showing less favor to Zander during the time that Abigail and I are spending together.  The truth is, she was the one who initiated the time together, and as a parent, I am completely delighted in the fact that she wants to spend some time with mommy.  So while we're spending time together, when she asks if she can have that chocolate bar, I am going to be more willing to delight her and tell her that yes, she can have that chocolate bar.  And then we'll both be delighted, because we're spending time together and she gets to enjoy something a little special.

Do I love Zander any less during this time?  Of course not.  I love him just as much as his sister.  But perhaps while she chose to spend some time with mommy, he was too busy being interested in his video games to want to spend some quality time together.  

Isn't it the exact same way with God?  God is always there, ready and waiting for us to want to spend time with Him.  He wants us to get into our Bibles and read what He has to say to us- each and every day.  He wants us to spend that quiet time with Him, and He wants us to spend that time praising Him and thanking Him for everything that is.  But sometimes, we choose something else.  Sometimes we let something distract us- a computer, video games, the golf course, or a really good novel.   God doesn't choose favorites among His faithful, but He does know who chooses to spend time with Him, and who continues to be distracted or busy.  And when we are spending time with Him, delighting in Him, and pouring out our hearts and desires, is He not just like a father to us?  And couldn't it possibly be during those moments when it's just us and Him, that we ask Him for favor with something, or we ask for His help, and because He's so delighted with us in that moment, He simply says yes to our requests?

God just wants to spend time with us.  But more importantly, He wants us to want to spend time with Him.  he doesn't want us to view it as a chore, or something to check off on our to-do list for the day.  He wants us to look forward to spending time with us.  I know that when I plan to take Abigail or Zander out for a few hours with just mommy, that they look forward to it for days.  They get so excited thinking about that one-on-one time.   That excitement and anticipation is how we should feel every single day as we approach our Heavenly Father.  It should be with delight and excitement, and a heart full of love.

God shows no partiality.  He doesn't favor one of His children over another.  But He does choose to delight in those who delight in Him.  This is something to think about.  Because many of us are going through struggles, and we seem to be asking Him the same things over and over, and it may seem like God is ignoring our pleas and our situation.  But the truth is, maybe He's just waiting for us to want more from Him than an answer to our request.  God is not a magical gumball machine that we can just put in our requests and expect a good answer to spit out when we put our request in.  God is God, and He wants our time.  He wants our hearts, and He wants us to want Him.   I truly believe that it's in those moments of one-on-one time with God, that many prayer requests and petitions are answered.  Because God loves it when His children love on Him.  He loves it when His children purpose to spend time with Him.

God wants us to want some Daddy Time.  And the more time I spend in my Bible, reading about different men and women of God who chose to spend that precious Daddy Time, the more I see that it is those who spend the time, who seem to get their prayers and requests answered.  The truth is that we are all favored of the Lord.  He loves each and every one of us, just the same.  But if we want to know His desires for us and our lives, we have to spend the time with Him.  And we have to want to spend the time with Him.  And then He will delight in us, and we will see things from a whole new perspective- as a close and personal friend of God.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Warfare Wednesday: A New Man

"Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man."  1 Samuel 10:6

I received this verse this morning in my e-mail from the Presidential Prayer Team, and it was just way too good to pass up.  I've spent the last few days reading 1 Samuel, and when I saw this verse again, I swear it lit up like a Christmas tree. This is the perfect verse to kick off a new year of Warfare Wednesday with, because this is my prayer for the year for President Barack Obama.

Just this morning, the headlines are talking about the president's uphill battle with the new congress, as they take their places today and begin a new session.  I suspect he is going to find the challenge difficult, and what better opportunity for him to get to know God?  When nothing else seems to be working, and congress doesn't seem to want to compromise, and there's no one else to turn to, President Obama will turn to God, and he will become a new man in Christ.  He will become such a new man, filled with the Holy Spirit and emanating the love of Christ with every word he speaks.  God can do this.  God can draw this president to Him and give him a great plan for America.  But first, he needs to humble himself and come before the throne of the Most High God.

I pray that this is the year.  This is the year that President Obama truly comes to know God and that America will once again be flowing with God's Goodness.  God did this very thing with Saul over 2000 years ago.  Saul was just another guy, and was chosen to be king of Israel.  In the process of becoming king, he met God and the words in my Bible say that he was turned into another man.  The day that President Obama gets to know God is the day we will see another man as president of the United States- and that will be a glorious day for the Kingdom of God- because righteousness will rule.

And so as 2011 begins, we will continue, as we have every week since he was elected, we will continue to pray for President Obama and his family.  We will pray for their continued protection, and we will pray for Godly people to come close to them and advise them.  But most of all, we will pray that President Obama will have his own God Encounter in 2011. 

It's going to be a great year, and we're going to pray it through.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Lack of Judgement

"But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the LORD’s anointed, and be guiltless?” 10 David said furthermore, “As the LORD lives, the LORD shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish. 11 The LORD forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the LORD’s anointed. But please, take now the spear and the jug of water that are by his head, and let us go.” "  1 Samuel 26:9-11

I was reading the accounts of David and Saul yesterday in 1 Samuel, and every time I read there, I kind of shake my head and wish that Saul would wake up and see that David is not trying to kill him.  Even though David has been anointed as the next king, once Saul is gone, he is patient to wait until the right time for him to be king.  David is patient, and is more than willing to wait until God's perfect time for him to be king.  Twice in the span of a few chapters we see David get close enough to catch Saul completely off guard and kill him right then and there.  And yet he doesn't.  David could make a choice and alter future events, but instead, he chooses to let God decide when Saul's end has come. David waits on God's perfect timing.  What a lesson right there!

In the verses I posted above, David is in position for the second time to kill Saul, and his assistant is encouraging him to do so.  Instead, David makes the choice to stay his hand and leave Saul in God's hands. And that is where my thoughts are this morning.  David respects Saul as king, and loves God so much, that he chooses to not lift a hand against Saul.  This is a huge lesson for the church- for the body of Christ- because it seems like every other day I am hearing or reading or seeing negative words against various pastors, churches, ministers, evangelists, and on and on and on.  Why?  Because we're so quick to be judge and jury in every single situation.

Right now there is a huge worldly influence on people in general to judge others.  There are dozens of TV shows in our country and across the globe in different countries, where we, the viewer at home, get to call in a vote at the end of the show and judge the contestants for various talents, deeds, or appearances.  We're encouraged to judge, and then send someone home.   That very judging we do in the evenings while we watch silly television shows carries right on over into our everyday life without our even knowing it.   We look at the mom we pass with eight kids in tow- many of them crying- and we think in our mind that she should have stopped having a kids a few kids back.  Or we see how that new family at church dresses each week, and we wonder when someone is going to tell them that our church is not a suit-and-tie type of church.  Or in the cases I mention before, a pastor says something from the pulpit one Sunday, and one person may not agree or questions some of the things said.  And before long, that person is spreading the word through the community that this pastor is listening to the devil and is spreading false doctrines and lies.  It's sickening, really.

And then we go back to David.  Who wouldn't lift a hand against his beloved king.  Even though he knew that God had anointed him the next king, and even though this man who slept on the ground before him was trying to kill him, he stayed his hand and left him in the hands of God.

You know, there's obviously situations around the world where a pastor or leader is truly shepherding his flock down a wrong path, and I'm not speaking to those situations.  In those situations, I trust that God will speak to the hearts of the elders of that community to do something, or that God himself will intervene.  But what I'm talking about this morning are the slanders and lies that are spread because one person was uncomfortable and decided to pass judgement right then and there.  Whether we're talking about a pastor, leader, or another family down the block.  Sometimes it's those neighborhood situations that are worse.  Neighborhood gossip can be as hurtful and damaging as being slayed by a sword.

We need to follow David's example and choose to not judge.  We need to choose the path of mercy, and leave them in the hands of the Lord.  And we need to ask God to open our eyes to those situations where we are passing judgement without even realizing it.  Maybe you're at soccer practice, and you see a family arrive where the kids are poorly dressed and they have equipment missing.  You look casually at moms harried face and lean over to your friend and casually suggest that mom get a new alarm clock and learn to dress her children appropriately.   You wonder where the dad is, and the conversation steers to wondering if he was out late drinking and is too sick today to make it to the practice.  You've judged this poor family right then and there, and the conversation you had with your friend was overheard, and before you know it the whole group is shunning this family because they think the dad is an alcoholic and mom is lazy. And maybe he beats his family too?  See, just like that, judgement has taken place- a harmful judgement.   If you saw the reality of the situation, you would see that this woman's sister had gone into premature labor overnight, and this woman was at the hospital all night long at her sisters side- only leaving when her husband showed up at the hospital in the morning, kids in tow, to relieve her so that she could take the kids to practice.  Daddy dressed the children like dads will sometimes, haphazard and not really caring if the shorts and t-shirts matched.   This woman is on the verge of tears, thinking of her sister in bed and that unborn niece or nephew in peril.  What this woman needs is a friend and some prayer, and we're too busy passing judgement on their appearance to see that she needs some love and care.

Jesus himself tells us not to judge one another.

"Judge not, that you be not judged."  Matthew 7:1

May God open our eyes in this year ahead.  May He forgive us for the judgements of the past, and may He open our eyes to the truth of the situations around us.  May He help us to eschew the ways of the world, and the judging one another that is so rampant today.  And instead, may He fill us with love and compassion for one another.