Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Guard

"Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
         Keep watch over the door of my lips.
 4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
         To practice wicked works
         With men who work iniquity;
         And do not let me eat of their delicacies." Psalm 141:3-4

Think first, then speak.  Wise, wise advice given many times over.  I've heard that in so many variations, to think before speaking, and yet, sometimes, there are times where we just open up our mouth and blurt something that perhaps we shouldn't.  Maybe we tell a lie, or we call someone a name, or in the case of a parent, maybe we scold a child just a little more than we should have. 

This Psalm of David is a most excellent one to memorize and to recite over and over.  By making it a part of ourselves, it can serve as a reminder that our words should be words of love, of encouragement, and of understanding. A simple word can deflate someone entirely, or build them up and give them just the encouragement they need to do the next big thing.   My son is an excellent example of that with his reading skills.  He's a very good reader, and I've long been encouraging him to try reading some more difficult books, but he always refused, saying he wasn't a good enough reader to be able to do so.  Well, I told him over and over, many times, that he is a most excellent reader, and apparently, I got to the point where I told him that enough.  He agreed.  He picked up the more difficult book and surprised even himself with the ease in which he read that book.  My job there was to encourage him, to tell him that he could do it- if I had even voiced doubt for a moment about him not being able to do it, he'd still be sitting here with a picture book.  But instead, I chose to reinforce over and over for him what I already knew- my words gave him encouragement.

Guard our words, Dear Lord, but then also look at the next verse. Do not incline my heart toward an evil thing.  As I read that second verse there, I am reminded of social situations where we may be tempted to do something we wouldn't normally.  I mean, really, how many of us are all by our selves when we are most tempted- not often.  Oh, it happens sometimes, but most of the times, temptation will come from those we are with at the time.  Even as I get older in life, social situations still always manage to present themselves.  "Do not let me eat of their delicacies" basically says to me, don't let me get caught up with them even once.  Because after the first time, it's easier the second time.  Think of a delicacy.  Think of the most delicious bite of food you've had in a special situation.  Think about how much you might like to have just another bite of that at some time.  You've had it once, and now you want it again.  Temptations can be just like that.  We give in once, and it's easier to give in a second time.

These verses are all about asking to help protect us against the ways of this world.  And what wonderful verses they are!  They are the perfect ones to memorize and then recite to help us guard against falling into sin most unexpectedly. May we all take these verses into our hearts so that they become a part of us- and may the Holy Spirit bring them to mind exactly when we need them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"Do not fret because of evildoers,
         Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
         And wither as the green herb."  Psalm 37:1-2

Hello Wednesday! As I was thinking about what to post this Wednesday morning, these verses above came to mind.  We've been deep into a study of World War 2 for school, and as we've read about the atrocities of Hitler and Mussolini and Hirohito, we've simply been appalled.  The more we read, the more it's just incomprehensible how these men held no value in the preciousness of human life.  Thank God that is history, and we're past that time.  Or are we?  As we read the news everyday and hear about yet another bad man in a country far away, it can be very easy to look at history, and then look at the likes of Qaddafi, Chavez, and Castro and start to get worried.  It can be very easy to see that there is still great evil in the world and begin to fear for a way of life we've all come to know and expect.

And then we read verses like this in our Bibles, and we know that God knows what is going on here on earth.  God knows, and what God wants is for His People to not go into hiding and preparing for the worst.  Rather, He wants His People to pray.  God wants to hear the voices of His Children calling out for mercy and grace, and for these bad men to be saved- or removed from power.   And so as I flip on the news and the headlines are full of news of military forces in this country and that country, I am reminded to pray.  I pray that these bad men will be mowed down like the grass, and that righteousness will prevail.  Because God IS righteousness.

At the same time this morning, I think this "not fretting" and not letting fear take over can also be applied to what is going on in Japan.  They simply don't know how to stop this nuclear disaster from getting worse, and it seems like everything they try is not producing desired results.  But there is One in heaven who knows how to stop the disaster.  There is one above, who can not only stop the meltdown from happening, but He can also remove any trace of radiation from the air, the land, and the people around.  God knows the answers to this huge, huge problem, and I just pray this morning that God would send out his army of angels to protect the people of Japan from the potential radiation.  I pray that the answers would come for stopping this meltdown, and that God would get the glory for it.  I pray for supernatural answers to the drama unfolding, and for supernatural cleansings of radiation poisoning.   God is a good God and loves the people of Japan.  I think He's just waiting for more of us to spend time praying for that precious country.  Again, He wants to hear His children cry out to Him for answers, and I will do so on behalf of the people of Japan.

Let us remember to not fret as we hear about global events in the days to come.  The Bible tells us there will be many things going wrong in these end days.  We must remember that we are Children of God, and have been placed here for just such a time as this.  It is our job to pray and to intercede on behalf of those who need it.  Let us remember to pray and not fear. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just One Step

"And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus."  Matthew 14:28-29

I was thinking about this verse yesterday as we were driving home from dance classes.  It just popped into my head, out of the blue, and generally when that happens, I've learned to pay attention. 

Every time I spend time reading about Peter walking on water, or thinking about Peter walking on water, it seems like I get something new or different out of the words in my Bible.  What I was thinking yesterday was not about the miracle of actually walking on water.  Instead, I was thinking about what it took for Peter to actually take that step out of the boat.

Because there wasn't some magical transference of Peter from the boat to the water.  He had to physically lift his foot over the side and step out of the boat onto the water.  It was a physical response to his desire to be with Jesus.  Think about that, because that's what I've been thinking about for the last several hours. 

In the different translations that I've read these verses in, not one of them mentions that Peter had to take some time to think about this first.  So I believe that he didn't.  One of our faults as people, sometimes, is that we over-think things.  We put too much thought into how things work, or why things work, and too often that can wreck the beauty of a magical moment.  I believe in this case, Peter did not even give it a second thought.  He saw Jesus walking on water, asked for confirmation that it was Jesus, and then joined Him in walking on the water.  He didn't hesitate, He didn't sit there and think about the ramifications of getting wet, or the scientific properties of water that could even make this walking possible.  He just did it.  With just one step.

I think that many, many Christians desire a closer relationship with Jesus, but we spend so much time thinking about the hows and whys, that we miss the many opportunities that come our way.  Peter grabbed hold of the most excellent opportunity in front of him, and didn't think twice about it.  What do we do when we're in such a moment?  I'll be honest, there are times, where I will be in a situation where God is doing some really cool things for people, and I think about how there are things in my life I'd like to see changed, but then I don't DO anything about it.  I just sit there and thank God for blessing those around me.  Opportunity missed.  An opportunity that needed a physical response from me- whether that be going to my knees, lifting hands in adoration, or getting out of my seat and walking to the altar. 

But it's often that first step that is so hard and difficult.  Why is that?  Because we over think.  We see Jesus across the room, and we think how wonderful it is to merely be in His presence, that we don't NEED to get any closer, that perhaps those people over there have more important needs than ourselves.  And by the time we've maybe worked up the idea that we should go over there, it's too late.  The moment has passed.

Sometimes, maybe that physical step that we need to take is something much smaller- or something on a more "at home" scale.  Maybe that physical step we need to take to get closer to Jesus is simply to pick up our Bible and read it.  Maybe that physical step is that during a time of sorrow or sadness, we lift our hands towards heaven and praise God- even in the midst of troubled times.  Maybe that physical step is something towards another person- a gift of groceries, or simply a kind word and a smile.

With just one step, Peter did something that we are still talking about thousands of years later.  Now, while I doubt anyone will be writing books here on earth about the things I may or may not do, there is a book being written about me in heavenly places.  And someday, when Jesus and I sit down together and look through that book, we'll see the story about the time I took that step, and there will be great rejoicing because of it.  With just one step, Peter showed the world that there is no such thing as impossible.  What are you going to show with your step?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Try Me

"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
      That there may be food in My house,
      And try Me now in this,”
      Says the LORD of hosts,

      “ If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
      And pour out for you such blessing
      That there will not be room enough to receive it."  Malachi 3:10

I wasn't going to post yet today.  For the last ten days or so I've  been knocked out by a lovely virus, and just have not felt much like doing anything.  No blogging, no reading, no nothing.  I'm still not myself, but am hopeful that any day now, normalcy will return.  From what I have been hearing from other friends and people, this bug lasts about two weeks or so... so any day now!

But then, this morning with school, we listened to the above verse set to song, and it just struck such a chord with me.  Tithing is one of those issues that people get really passionate about- they either believe it is for today, or they believe that tithing is not an essential part of a Christian life.  I am part of the first group.  I believe wholeheartedly in the act of tithing, and my husband does as well.   This verse though, oh, just look at this verse!  Look at what God is telling us about tithing!

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
      That there may be food in My house,
      And try Me now in this,”
      Says the LORD of hosts,

      “ If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
      And pour out for you
such blessing
there will not be room enough to receive it.

He says Try Me!! It's a challenge- issued to whomever wants to follow through and test God in this one.  He challenges us to the act of tithing, and says that if we tithe, He will bless us so abundantly- there will not be room for the blessings He bestows.  Wow! It seems to me that this verse is the perfect opportunity for anyone who is questioning the validity of tithing today.  It's like God is saying, I dare you to try tithing and see how I bless you for it.  

Tithing is simply a way to give back to God what is already His in the first place, really.  He provides the income that Andy brings in, and so in response to God's provision, we take a mere 10 percent of that and give it right back to Him- then we have the remaining 90 percent to be good stewards of.   When we are actively tithing, we really never miss that 10 percent in the first place.  Mathematically, there are times that truly doesn't make sense to us, because on paper, it looks like we may be short some weeks without that ten percent, but it always works out.  God takes care of us when we take care of Him.  And by taking care of Him, I mean by giving a portion of our finances to His House, to help keep it running smoothly.

Once upon a time, when people were in need, the first place they would turn to would be the church.  It was the church that would provide, food and other necessities for those who need it.  Our society, at least in our country, has gotten away from that somewhat.  Oh, many churches still have food pantries within them, but most often, assistance is gotten from the government via programs or welfare.  More and more, I've been feeling a sense that we need to get our "houses" in order to prepare to feed the people, because as finances become tighter and tighter, it's those programs that are going to be cut.  As a church, we need to be prepared to step in- and to do the job that was ours to do in the first place.  As church members, we prepare by bringing our tithe into the storehouse. 

And so I challenge you today, as you read this wonderful verse.  I challenge you to think about your own stance on tithing- and then do something about it.  If you don't tithe currently, take these verses to heart, and try God, see how He blesses you with your act of tithing.  If you do tithe currently, take these verses to heart, and remind yourself that you've helped take care of God's House, and in return He will take care of you- use this verse as encouragement today to get through whatever tough times are dragging you down.  Read this part again, and just feel the love that is dripping off of it.  God loves you so much, and wants you to be obedient to the things that He has directed us to do. 

If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
      And pour out for you
such blessing
there will not be room enough to receive it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Springing Forth

"Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert."  Isaiah 43:19

It seems that everyone I talk to these days says the exact same thing.  Spring is arriving just in time this year.  It's very slowly warming up, the snow is melting, and most people seem to have a little lift in their step.  It's wonderful.  I am always so incredibly thankful when spring arrives.  Which is kind of funny, because spring always shows up, but every year it just seems like I can't take anymore winter and then God flips the switch, and we've headed for spring.

Spring is just such a wonderful time to think on God.  It really is, because everywhere you look, there is newness springing forth. As the snow melts away, with time, the grass will begin to green up, and flowers that you didn't even know were there will begin to pop up and amaze the world with their vibrant colors and textures.  The soil will yield the frost it's been hanging on to, and accept the gift of life- seeds planted within to be turned into fruits and vegetables for the family table.

Yesterday I celebrated springs return by sowing my tomato seeds indoors.   It was almost as exciting as preparing for an exotic vacation.  As I do every year when I plant seeds, I marveled at the goodness of God, and at the wonders that He created for us.  Tomatoes always marvel me.  A small, simple seed, when planted and tended properly can yield dozens of fresh, wonderful tomatoes.  And each tomato can contain hundreds of seeds itself.  It's an amazing circle of life, and to me it's a sign that God truly does desire for us to live in abundance.   From one simple tomato, we can produce hundreds of new plants if we had the mind to.  And most fruits and vegetables are like that.  I can't think of a single one where you plant one seed and yield one vegetable with one seed.  Carrots may come to mind for some, because we usually pull up just one carrot.  But had we let that carrot produce its seeds, it would produce hundreds all by its lonesome self.

In the exact same way, Jesus has been planted inside of us.  Jesus has been planted in our hearts, souls and minds, and the seeds that produces are innumerous. But it is up to us- are we going to stifle the growth?  Are we going to keep those seeds to ourselves?  Or are we going to take those seeds and scatter them, sowing them purposely in those around us? We are a seed carrier for the Goodness of God, and we were designed to share those seeds.

"But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”  Matthew 13:23

Spring fills me with hope and encouragement each and every year.  As the physical world around me brightens and warms, it reminds me that God is always there, that He's always in everything that happens.  And then I read verses like the one way at the top today that says that God is doing a new thing.  I can't wait to see what the next new things is.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."  Mark 16:15

Today is Wednesday! And at least I'm remembering that it's Wednesday on the right day this week!  I don't think that I need to be long and lengthy with this week's prayer reminder.  Today is the day set aside to specifically remember to pray for our government, and our leaders, and for situations around the world as the case may be.  While I continue to pray for the continued safety and protection of the Obama family, and for Godly counsel for President Obama, my eyes, ears, and heart are still solidly with the precious people of Japan.

The earthquakes there have not stopped, with aftershocks climbing well into the 6.0 range on the Richter scale. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live there... food and water is becoming more and more scarce.  People who live in a part of Japan that is unaffected by natural disaster are being affected by the nuclear crisis and the food shortage.  I know of people who are leaving the country, hoping to lower their stress load for a while- and feed their family.

The prospect of finding survivors is getting less and less as the days go by, and as I look at the pictures of the search and rescue teams doing their job, I just am overwhelmed by the magnitude of what they're trying to do.  May God bless them for their efforts, and may those who are still buried in the rubble, losing hope, cling to Jesus in their time of great need. 

In a time like this, when there is real suffering and pain and tragic loss, I am almost overwhelmed with how we should pray.  It seems obvious to pray for the nuclear situation, that God would perform a wondrous miracle and stop the meltdown altogether.  I pray that those brave people who are working in the thick of it would do their jobs to the best of their abilities, and that they would find a way to fix the problem.  But more than that, I pray that all this radiation exposure that they are experiencing would not affect them one bit.  I pray for supernatural protection for their physical bodies, that they would walk away from this experience healthy, whole, and able to live a long, full life, knowing that God spared them and blessed them for their dedication.

As I read the verse above this morning, I thought about how I can't go into all the world and preach the gospel.  I can't just put myself in Japan and lend a physical hand to these people, but I can pray for them.  I can pray for the Great Comforter to sweep across the country and heal the pain and the suffering.  I can pray for miracles and joy- even in the midst of a sorrowful time.  And I can pray that as this nation looks ahead, looks to what is next, that they would do so through the eyes of Jesus.  I can pray that the nation of Japan would turn to God for the answers to their problems.   May a Godly nation rise from the ashes of this past week, and proclaim the goodness of God over all its people.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

He Makes All Things New

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."  2 Corinthians 5:17

I don't know about anyone else, but I will frequently have dreams at night about people from "back in the day".  I'll have dreams where I'm interacting with someone who I knew during my running around years, and when I wake up from those dreams, I always wonder what that was all about- it anything.  It usually bothers me, to be honest.  The first thing I usually do is just say a prayer for whoever it was.  Maybe they just needed someone to intercede for them, so the Holy Spirit was bringing them to mind- even though I haven't seen them in well over ten years now.

When I think about that time in my life...well, I just shake my head at myself, because it was the only time in my life that my light was under a bushel.  There aren't even any redeeming moments, where there were opportunities to share the love of God with any of my friends. There were none of those, and those groups of friends had no idea the truth that I was hiding away for a period of time.  The thing is, when I think on those days, yes, I feel badly for my actions, but I feel badly more because I didn't do any sharing of truth.  When I do think of that time I always ask God to bring good Godly people into their lives now to share God's love with them.

But you know what?  It doesn't do any good to beat myself up about that time in my life.  Because the fact is, when Jesus won, and I decided to put worldly ways behind me, and I apologized to God for my running around years, He forgave me, and all that went quietly into the past, never to be brought out again.  There is an adversary though, who wants me to think on that time.  He wants me to see how worthless I was during that time, and how I made no impact on that group of people.  The devil wants to remind me that people could be joining him in eternal suffering because I chose to be worldly for a time. If I were to allow myself to really dwell on that, I have no doubt, I could begin to feel worthless myself, think I was crud for that time in my life.  The truth, though, is this:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."  

I AM a new creation.  The devil wants to try and make me think otherwise, but God's Truth is that I am a new creation, and what happened in the past is gone.  It's vanished, and I am a brand new creation.  What happened before doesn't matter, really.  What matters now is what I do today.  What matters now are the choices I make for tomorrow.  What matters is that I don't let the devil fool me into thinking that the mistakes from the past matter today.  They don't.  And they don't for anyone.  You could live 99 years of your life stubborn and cranky with people- like Ebenezer Scrooge, and in the last few days of your life you find Jesus, and learn of His love, and let Him fill your heart with it.  And you know what happens then?  Those 99 years of yuck are as if they never happened!  That's the love and the grace of God.

Oh, there will be temptations.  There will always be temptations, or wonderings maybe, is more the word.  I wonder, every once in a while, what it would have been like to stay on that worldly road, and be spending my life trying to balance kids and going out the bars and having a good time.  Boy, am I so glad that I chose Jesus instead.  Balancing kids and Jesus is like putting peanut butter with jelly.  They belong together, and our kids seem to take almost as much joy in serving God as we do.  They LOVE seeing God do things for other people.  So those very rare days when the devil comes a-calling and tries to tell me I'm dirt for the things of the past, all I have to do is look at my kids, and see the love of Jesus pouring out of their eyes and know that I truly am a new creation. I really am, and if you have asked Jesus into your life, you truly are too.  Don't let the things of the past weigh you down.  When you have those days where you're feeling yuck because of something in your past, pull out this verse.  Recite it out loud to yourself, and let it chase away those feelings.  Because you are a wonderful new creation in Christ Jesus. God doesn't make garbage, and He wants you to know that He made you the priceless, wonderful creation that you are today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Calmness Abounds

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."  John 14:1

As I watch news from around the world, and continue reading about the disaster in Japan, it would be really, really easy to start to let myself be anxious. It would be incredibly easy to look at disasters and events around the globe and start to think about all the what ifs.  What if that's us in the future?  What kind of disasters could happen in our neck of the woods?  How do I prepare my children and family for such a disaster?  I suppose one could even get depressed, thinking that the way the world is heading, there is no hope for a nice future for our children.

But I don't.  Just look at that verse I posted above- it's wonderful!  Jesus, Himself, says "Let not your heart be troubled" , and just reading that fills my heart and my mind with peace and calm.   There is nothing this earth can dish out that God does not know is coming, and I believe that should any disaster strike in our neck of the woods, we would be prepared for it ahead of time.  Not so much in a sense that we would be in some special bubble that protects us from disaster, but more in a capacity of being able to weather the storm- whatever it could be.  Also more than that, for because we are filled to the brim with the compassion of Christ, should disaster strike here, we would be able and willing to help those around us who need it. 

My world does not come to a standstill because of events around the world- natural or otherwise.  My heart is full of the calmness and peace of God, and my life goes on.  While life goes on, my prayers and thoughts are with many who are dealing with the aftermath of disaster.  My thoughts are certainly with the people of Japan, and the threat right now of nuclear meltdown.   The fear that must be sweeping that country...fear is not from the Lord!  I've been praying ever since Friday that somehow God would use this whole disaster for good, that somehow, He would work an amazing miracle and show the people of Japan how much He loves them, and cares for them,and will carry them through the process of mourning and of rebuilding. 

I can't play the what if game anymore.  I used to.  It used to keep me awake at nights, thinking about all the possibilities of various situations.  The fact is, God knows me! He knows my family, and He knows exactly what is going on with us and what we need for the future.   I also know that the devil will use any opportunity to run me down- and if that's with bad thoughts that cause me to lose a lot of sleep, he'll try that out.  But you know what helps in those cases?  In those instances, where my brain just won't stop, and I realize that, I turn my thoughts on Heavenly thoughts.  I'll start thinking on a great worship song- though sometimes that backfires if it's a particularly exciting song.  But what works almost every time is starting to think on God, and starting to pray silently in tongues.  Every. Single. Time.  Running that prayer language through my brain banishes any awful thoughts, it banishes any anxiety or stress, and it fills me with that precious peace.  It reminds me of the words that Jesus spoke.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."  John 14:1

Because Jesus told us there will be troubles,

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

But he says to be of good cheer, because He has already overcome the world for us.   So I will have good cheer today.  I will rejoice in spending time with my family and with my children.  And I will be cheerful as I do my housework and provide meals for my family.  And I will have abounding calmness, because Jesus' words will course through my veins and through my mind, filling me with His precious peace.

Friday, March 11, 2011

And The Earth Shakes Again

"Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;"  Deuteronomy 7:9

This morning, as I woke up and got out of bed, I was joyful at seeing the sunshine streaming in through the bathroom.  According to our weather forecasters here, we've finally turned the corner, and are confidently marching forth into spring.  With a song in my heart, and the promise of warmer days and melting snow ahead, I sat at my computer and saw the terrible news of an 8.9 earthquake in Japan, and subsequent tsunami warnings.

And my heart broke. 

I have to be honest with you, I don't know how God does it.  I read the news and hear about all the destruction and the loss of life, and I just want to curl up in a ball on the floor, crying out to God for mercy.  My heart is crying for the people in Japan who have lost their lives, loved ones, friends, homes, vehicles...basically everything. 

But I do know this: God is faithful.  As I saw the verse above this morning, I thought about how appropriate it was for my mood this morning.  And then I thought about tsunamis.  And I thought about flooding, and I wondered exactly what it is that God is trying to tell us.  I do know this, I know of his promise to never again destroy the whole earth with a flood.  He promised! And it WILL NOT happen again. Ever.  Because God keeps his promises and his covenants.  

"Your throne is established from of old;
are from everlasting.
         3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
         The floods have lifted up their voice;
         The floods lift up their waves.
 4 The LORD on high
is mightier
         Than the noise of many waters,
Than the mighty waves of the sea. "  Psalm 93:2-4

But there is a lot of flooding going on around the globe, and I'll admit that I do wonder what it all means. 

    "For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;  "  Isaiah 44:3

The world is thirsty for God, for the blessings and the power of God, and I just pray that as the recovery efforts get underway in this horrible disaster, that the people of Japan will pour out their hearts to God.  And may God hear them and bless them abundantly.  For even Job, who suffered more than any man on earth, recovered, and when all was said and done, he was even more blessed in the end than when he began.

"Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning;"  Job 42:12

As the people of this earth turn to God for answers, and find their loving Father waiting for them with open arms, may He pour out his blessings on the people, as the water pours out on the earth.  May these people, who seem to have lost everything, find new joy in Him, and may God bless them abundantly.  Because He so loves them.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Warfare Wednesday: A Day Late

"Open your mouth for the speechless,
      In the cause of all
who are appointed to die.
       9 Open your mouth, judge righteously,
      And plead the cause of the poor and needy."  Proverbs 31:8-9

I have no idea what happened yesterday!  I woke up, knowing full well it was Wednesday, and rolling around a few things for my Warfare Wednesday post, and then I went to the computer.  I spent time checking out the news reports, seeing what was going on in the world, and before I knew it, I was blogging, because something came to mind to blog.   I blogged away, and it wasn't until about an hour later that I realized what I had done- that somehow I had shifted Warfare Wednesday to the back of my mind and went in a totally different direction.  Someone must have needed to hear what I had to say yesterday I guess.  That's the only explanation I can think for it.  I didn't want to let the day slide until next week though.  There's too much going on in the world around us, and we need to pray for our leaders more than ever.

I am surely praying for President Obama this morning.  It seems like every day there is a new country with an uprising, and I know that our President is unsure how he should respond in many of these instances.  Does he support the government- who may have been a tentative ally?  Or does he support the protesters and their cries for freedom and equality?  So I am praying this morning for Godly wisdom for President Obama.  I pray that as he thinks about each and every one of these situations, that he will know the right thing to do in each individual circumstance.  I also pray that he will turn to God for the answers to the many questions that are on his plate regarding the unrest in the Middle East.  No one know what is going to happen there better than the Lord God, and I pray that President Obama will turn to his knees for answers and for solutions- and that he too, will pray for peace for Israel and the surrounding countries.

As the uprisings of people continue in the Middle East region, and in Africa, the earth is also uprising.  I am praying this morning for the people of China who are digging out from a pretty major earthquake.  May the glory and peace of God flood China, and fill the people with hope, and with His love- the love of a real Father. 

And I am still praying for the people of Christchurch, New Zealand.  It's been a few weeks since the devastating earthquake hit there, and it could be years before they are fully recovered.  I have also been hearing stories of miracles and survival happening, and I pray that those will more than continue.  As God pours out His love on the people of Christchurch, may they turn to Him fully, and give Him all the glory for their survival, and for their recovery as the begin to put the pieces back together and get their lives back to a new normal for them.

And finally, this morning, I want to pray for peace.  I am praying against the powers of darkness who would seek to cause harm to the people of God.  Just this morning I read that Heathrow Airport in London was evacuated due to a bomb threat.  Nothing like a bomb threat to instill fear in the people of London- and of people who travel in general.  Fear is not from God, and whether there were intentions to actually follow through with an actual bombing or not- sometimes the mere act of instilling fear is a major part of terrorism.  Terrorism WILL NOT WIN on this place called earth!  I am praying this morning for safety and peace, and for an end to terror groups all over the globe.  God is a God of peace and of love, and there is no room for terror in the global love revival that is going to sweep across the globe.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Giving And Recieving

"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:19

I love using this verse to encourage my spirit in rough times.  It's always a wonderful reminder, and it also encourages me greatly, because I've seen firsthand how God supplies our needs.  I especially love the last part of this verse that is so often recited, but not really understood.  According to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ.  Wow!  It just doesn't get any better than that.  God's riches are boundless and limitless, and it was Jesus Christ who made the way possible for God to share those riches with those he loves- us.

As I read chapter four of Philippians today, which by the way, I keep getting drawn to, I re-read the verses leading up to verse nineteen, and I saw the context in which Paul actually used these words.  He was talking to the church in Philippi, and thanking them for their support.  They had sent him aid and supplies in his times  of need, and Paul was letting them know that those offerings had been received, appreciated, and that God would reward them for their diligence in giving.

It's a reminder to us that giving needs to never be far from our minds.  For when we give out of our hearts, God sees the cheerful giver and will remember that in our times of need.  But even better, God tends to like multiplication.

There were times in the past, where we gave something, only to have it turn around and come back to us multiplied.  Once we gave a simple tote of clothes to a family who needed them.  They were children's clothing that we weren't using, so we happily gave them when the need came up.  A short while later, we saw that Abigail was outgrowing everything in sight, and I started to try and figure out exactly how we were going to be able to afford new clothes for her.  God saw to it that the clothes that we gave in love came back to us multiplied as we received about 4 large garbage bags full of clothes for the kids.  All of them in great shape, and they either fit, or were large, so they would be grown into.  God took care of a need, because we took care of someone elses need.  I'd love to see how that other family gets blessed in the area of multiplication!

Still another time, it was a very small act of giving, but I'd noticed the food pantry at church was dangerously low, so I went grocery shopping and filled two grocery bags with enough groceries to give a family of four one weeks worth of lunches and dinners.  That winter, we had so many groceries and food items given to us, it was overwhelming.  We had a full freezer and pantry the whole time Andy was laid off, and never once had to think about running low on a food item.  God saw us giving from the heart when the need was presented to us, and He remembered.  When the time came, He blessed us so richly for that small act of giving.

When we are stingy, and keep things to ourselves, the plain fact is that we are not giving God any rights to bless us.  We need to open up the door to receiving those blessings by first being generous ourselves, and sharing what He has already given us in the first place.  And He certainly sees every time we give.  He sees when the children give too.  When they go through their money jars, and they are trying really hard to save for something specific, God sees the sacrifice that they make by choosing to give some of those precious dollars in the offering.  Sometimes He has given them the very items they were saving for.  Other times He's put gift cards or more cash into their hands so they can purchase what they really want- and then some.   I love seeing God reward my children for their generosity.

And I love telling stories of how we give, and then we receive.   But you know, we don't give so that we can receive.  When we give something, we don't sit there with a notebook and write it down, expecting that God will give that back to us within a certain amount of time.  We give to give.  We give because there is a need that we can meet, and we desire to meet it.  Yet, at the same time, I also like to remember later on.  For example, when a need comes up within our household, let's say we need gas for our vehicles.  I can remember how one time we gave someone a gas card, or one time we slipped someone a few dollars to put gas in their car, and I can remind God of that.  I can remind Him that we sowed into someones gas tank, and ask Him that He would remember that and put gas into ours.  That helps my faith.  That helps me to believe that God does take care of His children and remember all the things that He has done for us in the past.

We have to give to receive, but at the same time, we are perfectly content to just do the giving.  If the receiving doesn't happen, that's not why we give in the first place.  But if we don't do the giving part, we can't do the receiving part, so the giving unlocks the ability to receive. 

God wants to take care of us, He wants to bless us, but He wants us to not be selfish.  He wants us to love one another and take care of one another, because He so loves each and every one of us.  The next time you feel the desire to give to someone- follow through on it.  Give whatever it is, no matter how small, and watch it come back to you multiplied.  And then remember how He did that for you- it makes a great story to tell over and over and over.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Rejoice Always!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!"  Philippians 4:4

It's very easy to rejoice when things are going great.  It's very easy to rejoice when there is an unexpected blessing, or when life, overall, is just in a happy place.

But what about when things aren't so rosy?  Then, it can be difficult to rejoice in the Lord, and yet, it could very well be the key to turning things around.  The thing is, when you are happy, it can actually physically affect the way you are feeling.  When you are in those moments of despair, wondering what is going to happen, it can cause depression and sadness, and cause you to shut down.  But choosing to rejoice in something can physically change that and drive away those thoughts of sadness that are trying to take over.

Sometimes, though, it's just hard to find something to be happy about.  The answer?  Rejoice in the Lord.  God is ALWAYS good, and He is ALWAYS there, ready to rejoice with us, so we might as well rejoice in the Lord, because only good will come of that. If the good that comes of our rejoicing is only a happy mood for a short while, that alone is worth it.  If the only good that comes of our rejoicing is that we pleased our Father in Heaven, well, what could be better than that?  When sadness tries to take over, reject it, put in a fun praise song and dance before the Lord- He will bless you for it!

I looked up that verse today because I've been reading about the rescued Chilean miners and their pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  These men and their families are just so full of joy towards the Lord for saving them from the bowels of the earth, and as I read about their travels, I can't help but swell up with great joy for them- that they are alive and well, and able to experience the wonders of traveling in the very places where Jesus walked.

But then as I read that verse, I read the small verse after it, and I don't know that I ever connected the dots and read the two together.

"Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand."  Philippians 4:5

When we're stressed and/or depressed, we tend to be crabby and short with those around us.  Gentleness really doesn't factor in, if I'm to be completely honest.  I mean, really, when I'm having a bad day, the last thing I am exhibiting to those around me is gentleness in any form.   But here... first we are told to rejoice in the Lord always- and admonished twice to do that as well.  And then we are told to let our gentleness be known to all.  They go together- like peas and carrots.  When we rejoice in the Lord, the gentleness is there, and will be exhibited to all who cross our paths, because by rejoicing, we will also taking steps towards bearing the fruit of the spirit- of which gentleness is a part.   When we rejoice in the Lord, we are laughing at the enemy who wishes to sideline us and our families.  By rejoicing, we're sending the devil packing, and we're watering the very soil upon which our fruit will grow!

But then look at that last line!  Just look at that- how wonderful!  The Lord IS at hand.  He's right there.  He's right here.  He knows the trials we go through.  He knows the issues we face and struggle with each and every day.  He IS at hand, and He is ready to hold our hand and let us know it will be all right, and that everything will work out for good.  God's good like that, and I just can't help but think about how much it delights Him when we set aside our troubles and instead, choose to delight ourselves in Him, and to rejoice in Him.   I am certain it makes Him exceedingly happy, and in return, He wants to share that exceeding happiness with us who caused it in the first place.  It's a wonderful cycle- rejoice in the Lord!!

Rejoice in the Lord, always!  This was such an important thing for Paul to share with the people, that he repeated himself!  I suggest we take heed!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!"  Philippians 4:4

Monday, March 07, 2011

Open Our Eyes And Expect The Unexpected

"And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who
are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."  2 Kings 6:15-17

I was thinking about these verses for most of the day yesterday.  I was thinking about how God often answers our prayers in unexpected ways.  Just this past January, I was talking to God towards the end of the month. I was pointing out to him that Andy really didn't have any more side jobs to do, and he wasn't going back to work, and we had a whole February's worth of bills to be paid.  My expectations were that Andy was going to find some work, or some odd jobs that would get us through.  God had a different answer for us.  God used a past circumstance to provide a means of income for the month of February, and honestly, it was wonderful to not have to worry for a few weeks about how we were going to pay that bill next week.  I did not expect a check to show up in the mail, and I think that's one of the things God was telling us with that, is that He is God and can do what He wants, when He wants, and in His unexpected way.

I love these verses about Elisha and his servant, because the truly are in a desperate circumstance, that to the natural eyes looks like it's impossible.  Imagine waking up in the morning, crawling out of our tent and discovering an entire army surrounding you! That's what happened to this servant, and I imagine that while he tried to find a way out of the situation, his mind wasn't really thinking of many solutions.  He was probably trying to figure out what would happen if they surrendered peacefully, actually.  But when we went to Elisha, full of worry and panic, Elisha knew better, because he could see in the spirit, and he saw the army of God with them.  When Elisha prayed and asked for his servant's eyes to be opened, the servant was also able to see beyond what was going on in the natural around him.

Imagine that!  Imagine your sight changing before your very eyes, and suddenly seeing that which you hadn't been able to see before.  How amasing and wonderful (and maybe a little bit scary) to suddenly see an entire army of angels and horses and chariots of fire all around you!

May God open our eyes so that we may see!!

I am certain that this servant had no thought of what he saw prior.  He may have expected that Elisha could pray to God and have them lifted up and moved supernaturally, as had happened to Elijah several times before, but instead, God used this situation to use the unexpected, and Elisha then prayed that God would blind the army around them, and Elisha led them elswhere before having their eyes opened back up. And even more than that, this army could have easily been wiped out by the army of angels on Elisha's side, but when Elisha had led them far away from him, he had their lives spared, and gave them a great feast before sending them on their way. 

Expect the unexpected!

That's the mindset I want to have!  When I have an issue, a problem, a struggle, and I take it to God, I want to take it to Him completely... I want to be able to lay it at his feet and trust that He will take care of it, and then not think on it further.  Because you know what happens when I think on it?  I think on it and I find myself coming up with my own solutions, I try to think on how God is going to solve this pickle, and honestly, I'd just rather see the Glory of God in the answers to my problems, and see exactly what He is going to do this time, because it will probably be awesome!  I don't want to come up with "options" for God, I want to see His Hand upon our lives in a way that can only be explained by Him.  That's how we share His love with others, by sharing what He has done for us, and those unexpected things are the coolest to tell about.

Open our eyes Lord, and help us to expect the unexpected.

Friday, March 04, 2011

My Soul Cries

"As the deer pants for the water brooks,
         So pants my soul for You, O God.
 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."  Psalm 42:1-2

It's been a very long, tired week.  And I mean tired.  After a wonderful weekend last weekend, it seems that our whole household has just been tired.  We've been sleeping extra, not doing a whole lot, and overall, we've just felt a  I woke up singing this song this morning, and it's beginning to dawn on me, maybe, why we've been feeling so tired.

Our souls are longing.  We spent the weekend engulfed in worship to the King, hearing some amazing words of encouragement and direction, and just enjoying being in His Presence, and now that we're in the normal everyday, our souls are missing the weekend.

Or we could just be tired.  :)  But it's lovely to think that maybe we're just missing spending time with the family of God, praising and worshipping our Father in Heaven.

But God wants us to want Him every hour of every day.  And scripture says that if we, the people to whom he has given the earth, will not desire Him, that even the rocks will cry out to God.

"But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Luke 19:40

Could it be, that when we're in the midst of having an off day, one of those days where it seems like something is missing, that maybe what we're missing is time with Him?  Maybe that's all we need to fix that off feeling.  Maybe when we find ourselves slightly out of sink, or out of normal, we need to pause.  We need to take just a few minutes out of our day and spend time with Him.  Spend time talking to Him, telling Him about our troubles, our needs, and our desires.  And tell Him how much He means to us. 

I bet that would fix a lot of our off days, that precious time with our Father.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

In Your Thoughts And Prayers

"We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,"  Colossians 1:3

This is going to be a quick post this morning.  Last night my sweet son crawled into bed with me after a bad dream, and all snuggled up and comfy we both slept an extra hour this morning!  Feels great to have the extra sleep, but now I'm a little behind...

Anyway, today's verse is something I woke up with, because for two nights in a row now, I've had a dream about the same person.  You know, sometimes I have a dream about a celebrity or other famous person, and when I do, I tend to wake up feeling like I should pray for them.  That's happened a few times- hey, these people need Jesus too, and they go through trials that a little back-up prayer may be just what they need to get through the trial.  But I've never dreamed about the same person twice.  And not twice in a row.

I really believe that when we allow ourselves to become more sensitive to God and his desires for us, that He can bring people to mind to pray for.  Sometimes He'll bring a family member or a friend to mind, and I'll feel a need to pray for them.  Later on, I've occasionally heard about someone going through a rough time or a bad day, and then they suddenly feel so much better.  Yay God! But when a celebrity comes to mind, I always think twice before praying for them- especially when I've had a dream about them, because I want to know what God is trying to tell me.

In this case, I'm not sure if there's more there or not.  I recall much of the dreams as being nonsense, but the presence of this person is vivid.  There could be a deeper meaning there, and I will spend time talking to God and asking Him to show me what He's trying to tell me, but in the meantime, this person is most definitely in my thoughts and prayers. 

In my thoughts and prayers.  How often do we say that to someone and then discard it?  I see that phrase a lot, actually, in the virtual worlds I participate in.  I know I myself have been guilty of saying that to someone, and I do say a quick prayer for them, but then I don't continue to dwell on them, and they are not really in my thoughts and prayers.  But then I read little snips of Paul's life, and I can't help but wonder exactly how much time every day did he spend in prayer?  I bet it was an awful lot, because I bet he truly spent time praying for every individual he knows in communities he's been in.  And when he says "praying always for you" I have no doubt that Paul meant that in a very heartfelt way.

We can learn from Paul.  We can learn to not be so flippant with our words.  When we tell someone that we are praying for them, let's follow through and really pray for them.  Maybe that's all that God's waiting for to activate someone's miracle or healing. Maybe He's just waiting for you to get on your knees and start to intercede on behalf of that person. 

And maybe that's what's going on with my dreams.  I admit, I didn't think on this person much at all yesterday.  Merely a thought that this person had showed up in my dreams somehow.  But a second night in a row?  This person is being prayed for, because if nothing else, I know that God loves them so much, and I also know that they are in a position where they could share the love of God with so many, if they would only open up to Him and His desires for their life.  May God visit this person in an incredible and mighty way, and may they feel His love and know that it's real, and true, and everlasting for all time. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Warfare Wednesday: Unity

"But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand."  Matthew 12:25

"And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand."  Mark 3:25

The political issues here in Wisconsin continue to drag on.  Last night as I watched the news reports coming from our state capital, it seemed that many of the protesters are getting more and more agitated, and look to be thinking more about adding violence to the so-far peaceful protests.

And as Wisconsin is on hold, so to is the nation, as our federal government is also struggling with budget issues.  Several other states are also dealing with similar problems, and the whole country has it's eye on Wisconsin, to see what we're going to do, because we were first.

I am praying this morning for unity.  I am praying that the two sides will stop fighting each other and will come together and agree that the budget mess has to be reconciled.  I am praying that as the nation watches Wisconsin, that they will not see two sides fighting against each other, slamming each other, and cursing each other with poor words.  Instead, I pray that they see a state who loves God, and who loves freedom, and that they see that even in the worst times, we can set aside our differences and come together for the common good.

A house divided cannot stand.  Our country has been fighting itself for years now.  It may not be an actual civil war with weapons and battles, but it has been a war of words- it's been a war of mud-slinging and spinning and poor journalism taking over.  I am certain our enemies around the globe are watching with a keen eye, as they sit back and watch our government struggle to find common ground and pass a budget bill.  Though the two sides seem far apart, God can most certainly bring them together.

And so this morning, while I pray for our President and our country, I am also praying mightily for these legislators who have tough decisions to make.  May God bring them to the right decisions, and may they come together in a wonderful display of unity.  May our house, once again, be united. 

One nation, under God, indivisible...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Temple Of The Mind

"So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”  Matthew 15:16-20

A few weeks ago I talked at great length about the temple of the body, and how we really need to start paying attention to the foods that we are consuming.   That blog post has sparked quite a few good conversations since then, and it's also helped me to stay focused and aware of what I am eating- and what my family is eating.

But I felt like I left that post a little open-ended, because as important as I think watching what we eat is, I think it's equally important to guard the temples of our minds.  Jesus talked up above in Matthew about the things that come out of a persons heart.  He said that it's the evil thoughts and feelings that come out that defile a man, and that had me thinking...where do these thoughts come from in the first place?  Why, they come from what we take in in the first place.  The come from movies, and TV shows, and books, and websites, and magazines, and on and on and on.  They come from media, and we need to be vigilant on the things that we are  exposing our hearts and minds to- and they hearts and minds of our children.

I know there are plenty of movements out there of groups of people who eschew media altogether, and maybe for some people it takes that amount of extremism to keep from watching the bad stuff, but really, it's all about the choices we make when we do take the time to partake in one of the many forms of entertainment here on earth.  I think God likes us to be entertained, He loves seeing my family sitting down for a movie night and enjoying each others company.  But He wants us to be careful in our movie selection.

One that immediately comes to mind is scary movies.  Thrillers, suspense mysteries, and even some superhero movies kind of cross that line, and I happen to think that maybe those are the movies that we Christians especially need to avoid.  Why?  Because fear- the feeling that comes out when watching these movies- is not from God.

"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

In fact, that applies to books as well.  If we're reading a book, and we suddenly find our hearts racing, and we're peering over the book feeling a little afraid- for even a moment- that may be a clue that we need to put that book down and leave it down. 

Now, I'm not saying that we should only be reading books that come from the Christian bookstore, or only watching movies with a Christian slant, because lets face it, there's not a whole lot out there yet that is of a really good quality.  I also think the library shelves are filled with wonderful stories and classic literature that doesn't fill the mind and heart with yuck, but I do think we need to be better on our guard. 

My son has a great affinity for Star Wars.  He comes by that honestly, because I've always been a huge fan, but I do keep an eye on his Star Wars play, and the things that he takes away from it.  He'll watch the movies over and over, read books, play video games, and then play-act many of the scenes.  But within the context of Star Wars, there's also an element of the supernatural with "the force" that if it is dwelled on too much, and skewed in just the right way, it could cause spiritual problems at some point.  I love that my son enjoys the fictional world of Star Wars, and he does understand that it is all pretend and fiction, but if at any point he started displaying actions that indicated that he was processing what he was taking in as real and fact, we would have to cut the Star Wars out. 

I just think that it's important as much as possible, that we keep our minds on things from above.

"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."  Colossians 3:2

Set your mind on things above.  What do you think after you've watched a great movie or a great book?  Do you know, there is a series of books that I've been enjoying immensely- it is easily one of the best written works of fiction I've ever read.  Every time I finish one of the books, I think about the author, who has since passed away, and I think that God really blessed him as an amazing storyteller.  He never even finished the series of books that he started, and when he died, I thought that God must have some great work for him to do in heaven.  And yet, the books he wrote had no Christian slant to them, there was no scripture, no moral values- just an amazing story.  But when I put one of his books down, I feel like I truly enjoyed something, and I can set my mind on things above and thank God for gifted writers who can entertain us so well with words.

We need to be vigilant on the things that we allow to enter our mind and our heart.  There is so much media out there that is wonderful and exciting, and when we walk away from a book or a movie or a TV show, it should be with a feeling in our heart of happiness or joy- because we just had a nice entertainment experience.  If we walk away with feelings of fear, or anxiety, we need to rethink what we just did, and see that we don't let it happen again.

God wants our whole temple to be on a firm foundation- and that includes our heart and our minds which can be greatly affected by the media that we allow ourselves to experience.  Let's set our minds on things above, and with that mindset, we can find it much easier to be on guard, and to keep our temples whole and solid.