Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31, 2011 Making a Resolution

Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

For about ten years I was considered by a certain magazine to be a freelance writer, but I worked for them almost as a staffer, every issue churning out an assignment of one kind or another. Then I got an assignment to write a feature for the winter issue, focusing on New Year’s resolutions.  Ah, there’s the rub.

If there is one part of writing nonfiction that I love, it’s the research, whether its Bible study or researching the historical or social matters related to the article. I love it and tend to go way overboard, spending many more hours that are really necessary to get the needed information.

When I worked on that article about New Year’s resolutions, I struggled, because the more research I did, the more it appeared they did not have a place in God’s plan. At least resolutions as they are commonly understood, a person articulating a change he or she is going to make in life, and generally God does not have a place in the resolution.

I’ll skip to the end of this story. I wrote the piece; they paid me for it, but they did not publish it. It appeared that I did not come to the conclusion they wanted. Still I do not regret all that work, and I came to a couple of conclusions. God wants our word to mean something. He wants our yes to mean yes, our no to mean no, not maybe or if things work out that way. He wants us to be people of integrity.

Then, He wants to be a part of every decision we make. He wants to matter always, not just sometimes. There is nothing wrong with saying, “With God’s help, and as it pleases and glorifies Him, I want to honor Him by eating more healthily this year.” If you want to call that a resolution, go ahead.

 As I thought about this concept this morning, God brought these verses in Matthew to mind, and I really believe they cover it all.  If we are love God with our heart, soul and mind, then every aspect of our lives will be submitted to Him. Furthermore, if we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will be creating an environment where God will be glorified and His message made more credible.

 So, don’t ask me if I made any resolutions this year. However, you can ask me if there’s anything in particular that I am praying about. It is this, that God will help me to be aware of my desire to love Him and others, and to help me choose behaviors that are consistently loving:  to God first, and then to all those He has placed in my life.

Friday, December 23, 2011

December 23, 2011 Lord, You are All I Want

Psalm 142: 5  I pray to you, O Lord, I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.”

We sing, well at least some of remember singing, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, my two front teeth …” Well it goes on from there, and so do we.
I must have been six when I remember singing that in front of the tree, all the while knowing it really wasn’t true.  I don’t remember what I did want, but it probably included a doll because I remember the doll I got that Christmas. Her name was Roxanne, and she was beeyouteeful!  I have no idea what else I got, and thankfully, that was before the days of the Sears catalog. I remember the Christmases after that, when our mother had us write our names on the things we wanted in the catalog….things we did not even know existed before that catalog.

Then came TV and newspapers, and magazines and billboard ads along the road all promising that if we just got this one thing, happiness would be ours. The problem is, they all lied. Over the years I did get one or maybe a few of those gifts, the ones that promise happiness, and all they did was make the list of possibilities one item shorter.  I have lived a lot of years, and I can promise you, no one thing made me happy for very long.
Now, I am not saying I am an unhappy person.  What I am saying is that no person or thing can give you true fulfillment and happiness.  That happiness place inside you remains leaky, like a balloon with a tiny whole, letting the air out, even if it is slowly.

People fail; after all, they are flawed human beings, just like me.   Stuff wears out, breaks or goes out of style, or we do.  God alone never fails.
I remember the summer God came into my life – over fifty years ago. By anyone’s clock, that’s a long time ago. Over the years, I have unwrapped a whole lot of gifts, but only that gift of a Savior remains to bring satisfaction and joy. If you know me, you know I love books. I have piles of them all around me, about everywhere I go. But no book brings me more joy than the Bible, God’s love letter to me.   

As I reflect on all the stuff of Christmas this year, I can honestly say, it can all go away.  Just give me Jesus.  Now I am not saying I don’t love or want the people close to me in my life. I am not tempting God. Well, he cannot be tempted anyway. But I can pray, “God, help me to remember this moment when all the promises of the world threaten to drown out the truth, that there is no gift more precious nor satisfying than your love.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 20, 2011 He loved me anyway!! And you!

Psalm 139:16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

I love the French word chargee`. It has the sense of being too busy, pressed, overwhelmed; think charged. When I think of this book with every day, every event of my life recorded, I think chargee,every space filled in, with tiny writing between the lines recording even the thoughts nobody else knew.

Then I think of the temptation to blame God for all the junk in there, the bad choices that mar, probably every page. The verse does say that every moment was laid out before it happened, so because God is sovereign, it must be his fault.

But the Holy Spirit won't let me get away with that. He reminds me that I made those bad decisions on my own. Nobody made me do it, whether I like it or not. I admit this is a conundrum, my will and God's sovereignty, but it is real....the my will part.

Finally , I am challenged. God knew it all. He knew all of my junk, all the bad thoughts and deeds, and He still loved me, still chose me to make me His own. This is what Christmas is about, the birth of the one whose life and death marked paid in full over all my sin debts recorded in those pages.

Thank you God, Most High, for your gift....the greatest gift of all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19, 2011 Our Prayers, our Christmas gift?

Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of the harps and gold vials full of odors which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 8: 3-4 Another angel with gold incense came and stood at the altar. And a great quantity of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God's people, to be offered on the gold altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of the saints, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out.

I wonder if the prayers of the saints come out as one big puzzle - like a puzzle box spilled out, or whether they are spilled out one person at a time...the prayers of each person exposed to all the onlookers.

That line, incense given to him to mix with the prayers of God's people - I wonder if some of the prayers need help to make them palatable to God - the demanding ones, the prescriptive ones where we tell God what He should do, the selfish ones...words hammering on God's door as if there was no one else on the porch. I wonder how much incense must be added to my prayers to make them a worthwhile offering.

Consider then, that somehow our prayers are preserved, because this says they are, and made into something beautiful. I wonder if that thing of beauty, my offering, which my prayers will make looks unfinished, like the afghan where the creator ran out of yarn, and the corner or the center is missing.

It is the time of giving, shopping and wrapping, presents , to pile up beneath the Christmas tree, offerings for our loved ones. It all makes me think about what kind of offerings I have wrapped up for God.

Friday, December 16, 2011

December16, 2011 So Simple

Micah 6:8 No, O people, the Lord has already told you what is good,and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

I have been using Cheri Fuller's One year Book of Praying Through the Bible, this year, and part of the entry today was so to the point that I wanted to share it with you, and preserve it for me.

"Though the requirements may sound simple, they are an important key to pleasing God:
  • First, do what is right; this means not only rendering just decisions but also discovering our particular work and doing it faithfully.
  • Second, love mercy. God expects us to practice steadfast love, pursue and value kindness,and act mercifully toward others, from the greatest to the least.
  • Third, walk in obedience and humility with the Jesus, he gave us the ultimate  model of how to live."
It is the end of the year, and campus is quiet, except for the wind whistling cold around my window.  A time for reflection, this is not always a time of joy.  I think of three students in particular:  one I know lied to me.  I am grieved for her because I know I am not the only one she lies to, and because I know her lies also separate her from God, or are a symbol of her separation from God.  I have tried to render a just decision for her, even though the real consequences of her sin have yet to be seen.

Another student rejected my offer of mercy, saying to me, "I don't want your second chances, your mercy.  I guess I won't be back." She left my office telling others I kicked her out, though I hadn't.  She told me she would not live as other students were required to so she would not be back. It's funny because she even asked me to kick her out, and I told her I was not going to do that. I wanted to extend mercy to her and she must choose, accept the mercy and live within BBC standards or choose otherwise.  And mercy rejected, I grieve for what must follow for her.

A third student has lied and practiced deceit, and then has pleaded ignorance and innocence.  In reality, she is neither ignorant nor innocent.  She will not be permitted to return, a choice she made by disregarding the conditions earlier discipline required. And I grieve for her...all the advantages and mercy and kindness given her, hurled back at us.

Walk in obedience and humility, the latter being the more difficult right now. I want to right my name. I want to be respected, not disparaged in front of other students, their friends and families.  I write these things here, knowing none of those people will read this. But here I confess my own weakness: humility can be a struggle. Oh, I have no trouble knowing that God has  called me and equipped me and enables me daily for this, but I think it is a human thing, to want others to think well of you.

As I review the year, I am challenged in regard to my own desire for respect, my grief for these students who have made such costly choices, and further challenged by the temptations they all face.

A friend just reminded me that we all learn many of our most valuable lessons as the consequence to our own wrong choices, but as I said to him, that idea brings us little comfort when we love people, when we long for them to be at peace with God...and we know by experience the pain of those wrong choices.

So, I guess my reflection today must drive me to my knees, to remember these students, and others on my mind, to, in complete humility, trust God that He does know what is best and is able to place others in their lives to bring them along.

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 9 Repentance and Vision Casting

Joel 2:12-13 Therefore also now, saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting and weeping and with mourning, and rend yoiur garments and turn unto the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness and repenteth him of the evil.

Proverbs 29:18  Where there is not vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

These two verses were part of my morning reading, and in some ways they seemed like bookends to me, beautiful bookends. 

God loves us so much that not only did He provide Himself through Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to redeem us from our sin, but He wants us to live a joyful and productive life, and He tells us how. 

He calls us to turn to Him with all of our heart, and then He tells us what that might look like; a real turning to God will involve emotion and action, a passionate expression of the kind of emotion that would demonstrate we mean what we say.  As I meditate on that, I wonder if there are people who struggle with the reality of their salvation because it has become all about the rational, about believing and receiving, not about getting heart-involved.

When we are in a relationship with a human being, a real love relationship - even a like relationship, it matters to us.  We feel things - we cry and sometimes yell, and we are moved to a variety of actions or behaviors because it is that real and important to us.

Somehow, it seems to me, we look down on emotion, at least in our circles, as it relates to God.  It is almost as if an economic transaction has taken place - our belief that Jesus paid the our sin debt, so there. I wonder how different our lives would be, our churches would be, if at least personally, we allowed ourselves to feel - the amazing joy of being redeemed, the overwhelming awe of being in a relationship with God who, though He is gracious and merciful and kind, really does want our attention, as any lover would. 

The difference between God and any lover is that He is pure and good; His motives are pure and good, and as we obey Him, we will be blessed beyond our comprehension.

And as we begin to feel and understand what we have in Him, a vision and passion must be generated, to share all that we have with others.  I remember the day I believed.  I ran home and poured it all out to my parents, shaking my Daddy's arm, begging him to believe, "in case it was true."

How sad it is that we become placid, stagnant, even asleep, in our blessedness, forgetting what we have and Who we have, so sound asleep that we cannot be moved into action with a vision for the lost.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Healing! December 8, 2011

Hosea 11:3-4a I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.

I find it hard to imagine it has been a month since I wrote here, even though it has been a challenging month - recovery and therapy from my knee surgery, Thanksgiving, and then a cold that settled in my throat and, like every one else with a cold, took a toll on my energy level.  But here I am, attempting to get on paper a bit of what God has been doing in my life.

 I had been doing some teaching on the work of the Spirit, that God the Spirit loves us and wants to engage with us in this life.  Then a couple of days ago, as I got out of bed, the Spirit of God laid a particular student on my heart, and I believe God was saying, "Give him some money." I remember thinking, "Hmmm, now how is that going to happen?" but I was game.   I got in to work, and guess who showed up at a neighboring counter within a very few minutes?  Do you think God was hinting?

I cannot tell you what fun it was to go out and tuck the money in his hand.  He asked me why and I said "Cuz God told me, and when God tells me to do something I really do try to do it."
He walked away muttering, but it was so worth it.

Then today's reading: it was part of a read through the Bible thing, and it so blessed my heart, especially as one who has been healing physically that I wanted to share it with you.  I love the "they knew not that I healed them" part.  It would be normal to say that Dr. Henzes fixed my knee, or it healed because I did sweat through all that physical therapy - ending each session with two or three 5 minute miles on the Exercycle, but I know better.

Just as  God heals us physically, sometimes using doctors and exercise, He heals us spiritually. Yes, I did have to  have surgery and I did have to  do PT, but God did the knitting together of my body. And God does the knitting together of our soul if we do our PT, meaning prayer therapy, and CT, communication therapy - made up of listening to Him communicate through His whole Word and OT - occupational therapy, where we put feet to His commands.

When I was especially miserable and a bit "drug befuddled" post surgery, I satisfied myself with a verse or two and reading a meditation.  As I got more clear-headed, and made time to really read chunks of Scripture, my heart healed - not just to being satisfied, but to be filled with praise and real joy.

Well, that's all a bit rambling, but I just wanted to share what God's been doing in my life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November 9, 2011 It's all About Perspective

I Peter 2: 21-23 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps who did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.

It's been a while since I have felt clear-minded enough to write here - a wounded knee, torn meniscus that interfered much with life - whether sleeping, walking or just sitting and thinking. Then surgery a week ago and the subsequent recovery. I have been grateful for pain medicine, but as a colleague said of my behavior Monday afternoon when I returned to work, apparently I brought a measure of mirth to the office with somewhat uncharacteristic behavior.

Anyway, I am trying to make tylenol be my drug of choice, but it isn't cutting it, especially at night.

All of that to say, you only have to read 1 Peter to get perspective on suffering; Peter was writing to a people being pursued unto death because of their faith. He reminds them that their suffering is really only for a season, as is all suffering. We need to step back and get the right perspective - the duration of any earthly suffering, our earthly suffering -  is short when we look at eternity in the presence of the Father.

Then Peter reminds them that the trial of their faith can be useful bringing honor and glory to God. Our suffering and trials come in the form of a trust, we are trusted with them as a way to honor God and show the world that He is enough, sufficient for the trial.

In the verse for consideration today, we are reminded of the One who modeled how to handle suffering for us, Jesus Himself. He did nothing to deserve what He endured, from the years of living restricted in a human body (I wonder if He had a cold, a stomach ache, or sore muscles or feet.) And that pain is nothing to compare with the cross - not just the physical suffering, but the bearing of our sin debt and the separation from the Father....when He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

So I guess for me today, and maybe for you, it is important to step back from what seems such a challenge today, and look at the bigger picture. As real as my pain is right now, Jesus showed me how to handle it, and like Jesus, I can handle it better as I commit myself and my pain to Him.

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 27, 2011 Who's watching me?

Titus 2:3 Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that is appropriate for someone serving the Lord.

OK, I cannot deny the fact that I am an older woman any more; after all, I do have my AARP card. But I also think that you don't have to fit the AARP age bracket to be an older women ministering effectively to younger women. In fact, I think you can be 25 (or even younger) and be an older woman - at least functioning in the role mentioned here - serving the Lord.

Now, to the heart of this passage - appropriate for someone serving the Lord. What does that look like?

• Appropriate, be in behavior: katastema-demeanour, deportment, bearing

• for someone serving the Lord: hieroprepes - 1. befitting men, places, actions or sacred things to God ; 2) reverent

So what does that look like? I like the definition for hieroprepes, summing it up this way for this application: behavior suitable or right to and part of, the identity of those who are set apart to serve God.

In other words, everything this woman does should point to God or match the expectations of someone bearing His name. In real life, that means for instance, my clothing should not distract from the words that I say - which should always bring glory to God.

That's really the point of it all, bringing glory or attention to God in a way that honors Him. So the humor I use, the way I interact with people, the way I use my time, the television or movies I watch, the video games or the time I spend playing online games should honor Him.

Hebrews 12: 1 -2 a says this:  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...

It matters what we do and say because it all says something about Him. The witnesses, seen and unseen are affected by our are the feelings of God. Too often we feel like we live in our own private bubble, as though it doesn't or shouldn't matter to anyone else what we do...but there are witnesses, and even if no one else does, God sees it, and He cares.

We can embarrass Him, grieve Him, or honor Him and make Him smile...and that's what I want to do, make Him smile, and probably so do you. So, we have to get over ourselves and first recognize our penchant for sinning and then, cede those rights to Him. The end result will be much greater and deeper joy for all of us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 25, 2011 Moving God?

Psalm 96:2-3 Sing to the Lord; bless his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

Last Saturday night, it was all about Dr. Brian Maxwell, a colleague and friend, who was honored at an event celebrating both his fiftieth birthday and his fiftieth play directed at BBC. For nearly two hours, his former students and colleagues shared how Brian had impacted their lives and what they love about him and simply, that they do love him. It was a genuine praise event, honoring him for who he is and how he has related to all of them.

His response, weeping! That all of these people actually came here from all over the country to recognize his impact in their lives. Among the speakers were many who not only learned how to speak publicly and to act and stage and direct plays, but also who caught his passion and vision for teaching, and many who went on even to his alma mater for graduate school.

Now. let's think about our verse, and its echoes in the New Testament: Ephesians 5:19 - 20, Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And in the model prayer, especially in the first verses of Matthew 6:9-10, After this manner therefore, pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Now back to Dr. Maxwell - he wept as he heard his students rehearse the impact he had made in their lives. Do you think God is any different? We have emotions because He did first. How do you think He feels as He hears us sing 'to the Lord' or as we praise Him, from our hearts?

Here's an aside: I believe that singing ought to feel like, and parallel, praying; our singing should be an offering of praise to God, so...think about how we make Him feel as we sing out of a genuine heart of thanksgiving.

I know a lot of people struggle when it comes to giving thanks or praising God, but I love what Cheri Fuller says: True praise is grounded in faith in who God is, not just what he does. When we focus on God's character and attributes, we gain an eternal perspective on life, and praise becomes our natural response.

Think about Who God is - Creator, Sustainer, Full of Mercy (not giving us what we deserve - as a result of our sin) and Full of Grace (giving us what we do not deserve), Loving, Kind, Patient, Faithful in face of our infidelity... and we could go on and on. Then think about the joy we can give to Him as we honor Him with our words of praise and thanksgiving - like Brian, I believe God will experience great joy - perhaps even weeping.

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 24, 2011 He designed you to Sing for Joy!!

Psalm 90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.

II Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

I'm a morning person, have been all my life - even when I was a teenager. My younger sister could sleep till noon, but by 6:30 am the mourning doves called me. Today I was talking with a student about how to remind herself to whom she belonged, and I said something about rolling out of bed and starting the day by thanking God you could roll out of bed. Then I encouraged her to thank God for His love for her - His unfailing love. Perhaps that might have something to do with the fact that I am a morning person, that I can think that clearly in the morning, and I do know that God didn't make us all morning people.

Still, I didn't always wake up that way. I have been trying cultivate a thankful spirit from the get-go because I do believe it pleases God. I think about how I love it when I do something for someone, and they communicate their appreciation - not so much because I want to be thanked, but because I want to know I got it right; what I did mattered to them.

If I think that way, maybe it is because God does to. He wants us to realize and to tell Him that we recognize what He did for us - He knows the exercise of giving thanks and expressing appreciation is healthy for us, and a good way to start the day.

Then I think about starting the day in the Word - putting on the armor of God, preparing for whatever God or the evil one has in store for me. I was encouraging a student today to talk to God, but to also listen to His response in His Word. As Paul wrote to Timothy, it is God's way of preparing us in every way for the blessings and the challenges.

What an astonishing pair of thoughts: God wants us to sing for joy and be prepared for everything that comes our way! What love! What a beautiful way to live, and it is possible. I wonder how much beauty I have missed by charging into my day without sitting expectantly for a few moments at the beginning of the day, listening for His voice, either in my head or in His Word.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 21, 2011 Having a Good Day?

October 21, 2011 Having a Good Day?

Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

I Peter 1:7-8 That the trial of your faith , being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, might be found to the praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ; Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now for season ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

• Psalm 37: 4 anag: delight - to be soft, be delicate, be dainty; a) (Pual) to be delicate; b) (Hithpael); 1) to be of dainty habit, be pampered; 2) to be happy about, take exquisite delight; 3) to make merry over, make sport of

• I Peter 1:8: agalliao: rejoice - to exult, rejoice exceedingly, be exceeding glad

Maybe it's the fall weather, a lot of heavy skies filled with leaden clouds (here in Northeastern PA we are headed toward the rainiest year on record), but when I read this verse in Psalm 37:4, I hit a wall of sorts. Day before yesterday I asked a student how she was, and she said, "Not very well, kind of depressed, and maybe it was all the clouds. She really did say that.

But it made me think about the quality of our lives. God's desire is that we live delighting in Him or rejoicing with joy, and honestly, I don't see a lot of that going around. Instead, it seems that people find it so much easier, even socially easier, to talk about how tough it is or how much they have to do or worry about or... you get the idea.

I just asked someone if they were enjoying their pregnancy and they looked at me like I was speaking Greek. Pregnancy is such a beautiful miracle, the privilege of "growing" a baby in your body, having the child of the man you love, that I don't understand how you would not enjoy it. Now, I do know that there are hard moments, but my word, what a gift God has given us to have a child, especially when you think of all of those women (15% of those who want a child) cannot have one.

I met another friend in the hall with her toddler and it was all about how exhausting it was. It made me sad because this is such a beautiful, healthy and normal little one. I say all those things because of so many women who are called to parent children who aren't. I challenged her to enjoy this little one because there will always be challenges to all the ages of our children, and honestly, the ones you face with little ones may well be much easier than the ones you face as they grow older.

All of those events made me wonder how we make God feel with all our whining and complaining and lack of appreciation of what God had blessed us with: first of all, salvation, and hope, and a future which grants us peace today, and then there is meaning for our lives because He has given us a place in the Body that is so significant the body is wounded when we walk away from that place. And we haven't even considered our health, sight, hearing, ability to walk and communicate, relationships, roof over our heads, closet full of clothing, and for most of us reading this, the freedom to worship as we wish.

Have we forgotten to or how to rejoice or delight? Is it something for little kids on their birthdays or Christmas or when we win something? I wonder what kid of day we could give God if we rehearsed what we have in Him, and then allowed ourselves to rejoice in that, to actually feel the joy and thrill of being His?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 20, 2011 He's Listening!

Nehemiah 2: 12b I didn't tell anyone what My God had laid on my heart to do for Jerusalem.

                2:18 I told them how the gracious hand of God had been on me...

                2:20 I gave them this reply, "The God of heaven is the One who will grant us success...

I have been praying specifically for God's guidance as to what He wanted me to do, as Nehemiah did,  both in the immediate future and in the long-term - maybe a few years away. God does answer prayer; yes, He does. Sometimes you have to wait for an answer, and God uses even the waiting as a way to shape us and the answer. Sometimes you do get an immediate answer, and sometimes I think, the answer comes in two parts, an assurance of His presence immediately, and the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us, all of that before the specific request is answered. The implication for me is that though the answer will come, we may not recognize it right away because of the other things God is doing in our lives...sometimes as significant as drawing us back to His side, reminding us of Who actually is in control.

Anyway, each fall I usually tackle a writing project that becomes part of my family Christmas presents, much like someone who knits might give away sweaters or mittens that she had handcrafted. So I started praying about it, and God laid something particular on my heart, a writing project about how God pursues us. (On a side note, I will be looking for personal stories where someone has recognized God's pursuit in their lives.)

As I have worked on it, God has reminded me of how many times He intervened in my life, to show us the way, to protect us, and even to use us which brings me to the relevance of the Scripture above. And I have to say that I love looking at familiar passages in a new light, looking to see what God might be saying that I haven't recognized before.

I think of Nehemiah's words in verse 12, what he doesn't say, but what is implied. He and God have been chatting and regularly I think. He recognized God's voice and the burden he felt for Jerusalem as a clear call of God to a particular cause.

Then he told them about his God, how kind and merciful and generous (all things that make up graciousness). Have you ever felt so full, so aware of the goodness of God that you wanted to tell everyone? That was Nehemiah. Today our church is observing a Day of Prayer. Over the last couple of weeks we were invited to sign up to pray at specific times during the day, so all the hours of the day would be covered. And a tent was set up in the parking lot so people could easily park and spend time in prayer. Anyway, afterwards, that's how I felt, full of the presence of God and like I wanted to tell people about it - like you.

Finally Nehemiah writes of his recognition that God will give them success. I cannot tell you the comfort that was to me today - a recognition that the success of my projects, specific things that I believe God has called me to, is possible...assured even, as I am faithful to this mission, and that's what I think it is - a mission God has called me to, just as you are called to different missions.

The beauty of God's Word- this passage written about 2500 years ago, and just as fresh and relevant and useful to God and me as it was when Nehemiah penned it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18, Taking God for Granted

Jeremiah 29:11-13 I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.

I guess the first thing I need to say is that really, even though I haven't posted here I have continued to be in conversation with God, both the listening and the speaking sides of that conversation. I just likened it to texting to a student - I was talking to her about how God has texted us (non-literal translation here) and He wants us to text Him back ( what we do when we pray.) But these last two weeks have been really full. First with Bible conference, and then four medically related appointments - an x-ray and MRI - cortisone shot in the knee and probably surgery, finals week in my online class with attendant grading, and life as it relates to having college students life with us. OH, and the readying of my next online class which begins next week.

Anyway, now to some challenges that God has brought my way. I met with a student this week (we've been meeting for a couple of weeks) and when I asked her about how often she talked to God, she said, "Hmm, not so much." I was stunned. Students often tell me they have trouble reading their Bibles but they pray a lot. As I asked the next question, she told me maybe she prayed when she was really stressed, but not really otherwise. When I asked her about the reading of her Bible, quiet time she called it, not so much either.

I was stunned - she is a Bible College student who told me that she "asked Jesus into her heart" when she was seven, and grew up in a Christian home. How does this happen? Did she pray a prayer because her mother, after a fashion, talked her into it? Did her mother feeling secure, now that her daughter was "going to heaven" feel like her job was done? Did the church or Sunday School teachers feel like the lesson was enough? So did she learn to take the Father's love for granted? Do we?

Brennan Manning said, "When the Father's love is taken for granted, we paint Him into a corner and rob Him of the opportunity to love us in new and surprising ways."

I reminder her that God was a Person, that He had feelings, and that He loved her. He wanted to hear from her and He wanted her to listen to Him. But we have to look for or seek God. If we just take Him for granted, pulling Him out when the stress gets overwhelming, what have we done to our own quality of life. God has good plans for us, and for my student, and now it is my responsibility and opportunity to help her learn that, to introduce her to what it really means to "have Jesus in her heart."

I guess my thoughts right now all revolve around how may young people are like her, looking good, not in serious sin, just putting in their time, and missing the best.  Because of whose fault?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 5, 2011 Not your ordinary prayer request!!

Colossians 1:9-12 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask 1. that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that  a. you may walk worthy of the Lord, to b. please Him in all respects, c. bearing fruit in every good work and d. increasing in the knowledge of God; (so we would be) e. strengthened with all power according to His glorious might, for the f. attaining of all steadfastness and patience;  g. joyously giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to h. share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

How many times have you prayed that God would heal someone, guide someone in decision making, bless someone, maybe even keep someone from sin, or even be with someone?

OK, the last one is a pet peeve of mine - because if the person is a believer God is there. According to Colossians 2:9-10," In Christ the fullness of God lies in a human body, and you are complete through your union with Christ." I don't know how much closer God can be than that - in union with the believer. But that is not the point of this discussion.

The point is that I, and I mean me, pray too often almost in cliches, saying or asking God to do that which He does by His nature - He is good and He does all things well, and for the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Still, we are constrained to pray - to give thanks, to bring our requests and petitions to God, and here Paul gives us a way to pray very specifically. As I rehearse this prayer, I also get an idea of what God wants for me.

He wants me to walk in way that shows I am aware of the price Christ paid to redeem me from my sin - walking worthy of the Lord. He wants me to please Him in all respects - all the choices I make, from what I eat, how I dress, where I go, what I watch, and everything I say. It matters to Him; it affects how He feels. Pleasing implies the giving of pleasure and the failure to do so - which is to cause pain.

He wants me to bear fruit in every good work - do things that matter, spending my time and energy doing things that have good consequences. And since increasing in the knowledge of God faces the good work thing, I wonder if God and Paul consider what we do to increase in the knowledge of God "a good work."

The result of all the things Paul prayed for was for the Colossians and for us, that we should be strengthened by them, we should grown in patience and demonstration of inner joy and the future hope we share with other believers.

I cannot help but wonder what would happen if we would put that passage on paper, carry it around with us so that we would remember to pray in this way, not just for others but for ourselves as well.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 3, 2011 My Best Friend

October 3, 2011 My Best Friend

Philippians 4:6-7 Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful that the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I don't mean to be in any way disrespectful but this verse brought this image to mind, and I can tell you why.

When I was a tiny girl, before actually I can remember, our family had a collie who functioned as my baby sitter, or so I am told. And I must say, there are photos to prove it. My parents or big sister could lay me on a blanket in the yard, and our dog would guard me - nudging me back on the blanket if I rolled off, and fiercely protecting me from anyone who might threaten me. That dog was my best friend even before I knew about best friends. And not only did he keep me from fear, but he gave peace to my family.

In this image, you see a baby at absolute peace sleeping on this much larger dog. I am not seeing God disrespectfully here, but this we can have the same peace illustrated in this photo. We are invited in this passage to go to the One who longs to give us peace and who will listen to all of our joys and woes, never leaving us. Just as the baby can rest on this dog and have no worries, we can rest in God.

God is our best friend in an even greater way than a dog is man's best friend. I wonder how many of us have poured out our hearts to our dog, cried into their necks, and felt better, especially after our dog licked away our tears.

But God not only can listen, wants to listen, He is able to do something about our needs. He longs to be our best friend - to listen to us, our deepest secrets and regrets and pour peace out on us. Our dog may make a good listener, but God listens and responds in a way that is for our good. Human friends and even animal friends will fail us. But God will not, ever!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

September 29, 2011 Who's in Charge?

Eph. 5:18-20 Don't be drunk with wine because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph. 6: 18 Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I love the illustration and the way Paul uses it in Ephesians 5:18 because it is so clear. There are few people who have not seen someone under the influence or control of some kind of alcohol. That individual no longer has any restraints; it is though there is a disconnect between the brain and the body - a message of do whatever is before you to do without regard to the consequences is now in control.

Paul then talks about the Spirit's control, having shown us what control looks like. Wine controls and leads the individual to one end; the Spirit of God leads in the opposite direction. When wine is in control, we draw attention to and make fools of ourselves. When the Spirit of God is in control, we draw attention to God and glorify Him through our behavior.

The singing of psalms and hymns, and even choruses today, will be the natural by-product of intimacy with the Spirit. The awareness of the goodness and kindness and mercy of God will so rule our lives, that we will naturally be a people of thanksgiving.

Paul goes on to talk further of the Spirit, encouraging us to pray in the power of the Spirit always. I love the way Cheri Fuller puts it in Praying Through the Bible. Our eternal destiny is to corporately and individually be the place where the Spirit dwells and through which he intercedes. God is using every circumstance to help us grasp this truth and to learn to let the "rivers of living water" flow through us."

The challenge for me today is to make room for the Spirit to lead; that means getting out of his way. I can either control my life or allow him to, and honestly, it takes time to allow him to control me.   It requires me to get off the merry-go-round or the roller coaster of my own will which takes me thoughtlessly wherever, and own the presence of God. I must indeed "be still and know that He is God" and invite his control.

Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26, 2011 What do they hear?

Eph. 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a words as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. v 20 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Definition of UNWHOLESOME 1 : detrimental to physical, mental, or moral well-being : UNHEALTHY 2 a : CORRUPT, UNSOUND b : offensive to the senses : LOATHSOME Mirriam-Webster Dictionary

Boy, the word unwholesome covers a lot of territory, doesn't it? Detrimental to the body, the mind and the morals or ethics! Paul is here encouraging or admonishing the Ephesians, and by extension us, to be careful about what we say, how we use words. And as I read this, I noticed something - it says "that it may give grace to those who hear."

Did you ever notice the difference between hearing and listening? I didn't until I was learning French and the words ecouter and etendre. One means to hear - like to hear a sound. The other has the sense of paying attention to the sound - listen, more than just noticing a noise.

Have you ever heard something you were not listening for or to? Perhaps it was a parent, shall we say, communicating with a child at the grocery store, and the child communicating back. Maybe it was someone sitting behind you in church, or near you in a store, even in a waiting room somewhere. You heard words that, though not meant for your ears, still offended or hurt or discouraged you. That's what this verse is talking about.

We are to speak in such a way that we not only grace the person who is listening to us, to whom we speak, but those who may hear our words, even accidentally. The ones who hear words out of context, but who nonetheless are affected by them.

All of these makes me think of the "private jokes" we participate in where some are not included in the inside story, and feel left out, and are thus hurt or offended. Or the times when we indulge ourselves and say out loud what we are thinking without thinking about how it might affect those around us.

Words are powerful, to encourage and to discourage, and God expects only the first from us. We cannot forget the words that follow the admonition to use our words wisely, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit." God notices what we do with our words, and not only can we hurt or offend other people, but we sadden God when He sees us act so thoughtlessly, misrepresenting who He is and who we His children.

Friday, September 23, 2011

September 23, 2011 Just how big?

September 23, 2011 Just how big?

Ephesians 3:17-19 May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully experience it.

Every time I read this passage I see a cube - a mile high, a mile wide, and a mile deep, and I picture an ant nearby. That ant cannot even crook his neck enough to see how tall that cube is much less imagine how really big it is. Then I think of me, as a mere human being in the middle of the floor of such a cube, only I don't know its dimensions - how high, and deep and wide it is because I cannot see the ends of any of the lines delimiting it. All if can do is feel the warm and safe love of God.

When I think of the word long in the verse, I think of how long the love of God endures. It is endless. God's love has no beginning and no ending because He is eternal. He loves me. Wow!! God loves me, and He loves you.

Think now about being in the middle of that cube: Then think about putting down roots; they just go further and further down into His love, love which flows back up though those roots into you - comforting and strengthening you, empowering you to not only resist the evil one, but to live a victorious and holy life.

I love this image - the golden cube. Can you see the lighter area? The triangle? Makes me think of the Trinity - God my Father, Jesus Christ, my Savior, and Holy Spirit, my Comforter, all in the measureless cube of my God. and His love.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21, 2011 HOw deep does my taproot go?

Gal. 5:22-23 When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. New Living Translation

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. NASB

The Spirit however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control—and no law exists against any of them. Phillips

In Africa, where we lived, we had a mango tree in our yard. It bore wonderfully juicy mangoes near the end of dry season, after we had gone six to seven months without rain. The tree was able to do that because it had a tap root that went up to 1/4 of a mile deep into the earth to a water source. Rooted in that water source, the tree bore a thick foliage of brilliant green leaves and heavy peach colored fruit when all the trees around it were either barren or hung with dried out palm fronds.

The mango tree is a good picture of what it looks like to be rooted in the Holy Spirit or controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is true that you don't eat the fruit we bear, but life would not be fruitful or pleasing or satisfactory without this fruit - love, joy, peace, patience...and well, you can read the rest.

The mango tree cannot remove its roots from the water source, but if it could, it certainly would neither bear fruit nor even survive. I don't think, we as believers, are much different. When we pull back from giving the Holy Spirit control of our lives, when we refuse to allow the Spirit to nourish our lives, we are no more useful nor pleasant to be around than those leafless and fruitless trees in Africa or anywhere else.

As I reflected on the fruit available to us, I wondered how the deeper we go with the Holy Spirit, the more yielded we are to Him, impacts us. I wondered if self-control or temperance is such a battle for most of us because we pull our roots out of the water, out of the Spirit's control. And I wondered what it would take for me to get those roots completely immersed in the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 20, 2011 Is it out of style: to be quiet?

Isaiah 30: 15 For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength, and ye would not.

I Thess. 4:11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business and to work with your own hands as we commanded you.

I Tim. 2:1-2 I exhort therefore that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

A couple of things come to mind today, both having to do with quiet.

Did you ever notice how hard it is to find quiet? Every store, even the elevators have piped in noise. Runners, walkers, drivers all live dangerously, shutting out the warning noises of nearby traffic, for the sake of noise piped straight in to their brain via ear buds. Homes and offices hum with the buzz and burr of a dozen pieces of technology, and it grows harder and harder to even find a place of piece outside.

But God calls us to be quiet. He meets us in the quiet; we can hear Him in the quiet. We can hear ourselves and the Spirit within in the quiet, so it should be no surprise that the evil one makes noise ubiquitous, uses even "good" music to keep us from the best - the voice of God.

Quiet seems to make people so uncomfortable that they immediately find some way to fill up the space, rather than listen...for anything. But it is in the quiet that the Holy Spirit works, that He can bring back to us truths that undergird our faith, that strengthen us for the challenges of the day, that bring joy in the place the evil one would fill with stress and anxiety and pain.

The second thing I notice as I look at this theme of quiet is its relationship to prayer - for all men. God, through Paul, calls us to prayer - to engage in conversation with God in behalf of others, for ALL men and in particular leaders, those in authority over us. The outcome of that ministry in prayer is personal peace and quiet and godliness. Instead, we fill up the space with noise and whine and complain and undermine our leadership.

Scarcely a day goes by that I do not hear Christians say hurtful or hateful things about our president....and I think that if it grieves me, how much more it must grieve our Lord.

So He tells us the importance of quiet, the value of quiet and how to obtain a quiet and peaceable life, and we ignore His counsel.

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 16, 2011 A Day of Distress

Psalm 59:16 As for me, I will sing about your power. I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress.

For the last two weeks or so, I have been in many days of distress, not because I personally have lost much or been hurt, but because destruction surrounds me, visible smelly destruction and pain. Yesterday I had an opportunity to be part of a 400 person contingent from BBC (all classes canceled and offices closed) going to Wyoming County to help with relief efforts, finally, a way to do something about all the distress I was feeling.

Our group, or the smaller groups within the larger one, shoveled mud out of homes, tore out sheetrock and carpets and cupboards, threw out sofas and mattresses and dishes and clothes, cleaned out grocery stores and hardware stores and barber shops and all kinds of businesses. Well, you get the picture! We all participated in a massive effort to erase the massive damage of a hurricane and devastating flood.

And God is a God of unfailing love! How do we make sense of this? I wanted the students who worked with us yesterday to have an opportunity to debrief last night, but I think I need that same opportunity...and more than the time or place to rehearse what we saw and did. I need to come to an understanding of how my God who is my refuge and safe place in distress could allow or cause all the pain we saw.

OK, God cannot be tempted nor does he tempt any one to sin. Got that! God is sovereign; the Lord Almighty. But how do we put it together - devastation and unfailing love?

Love hopeth all things. I guess I start there for me. I have a future expectation that I will understand. Today God asks me to live by faith, and that means not having all the answers. "All things happen for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose." I must have faith that this is more than a cliche, that God is at work in all this for the good of those who love him. Is the good what we saw yesterday as we were an encouragement? Perhaps we were the answer to an unspoken or unuttered prayer. Perhaps we were able to be Christ's ambassadors to people who would never have listened or cared two weeks ago. Maybe our students, maybe we adults were challenged to look again at our life in a different perspective - to think through what really matters.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 12, 2011 How final is it?

John 11:11-13 ...Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death; but they thought he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

Funny the words we use to describe what happens when someone dies because we work hard at not saying that anyone is dead. . Someone recently wrote that my nephew John, only 13, passed away. I couldn't help thinking that there was something wrong with that expression. Pass away seems so final, like dust we sweep up and discard. But when Christians leave this life, it's so much more than a passing away. It is truly only part of a natural journey...for some, we think the parting is too soon...but that's from our earthly perspective.

When I think of John, I think what he did was pass on, pass on ahead of us, like in a line for lunch. We will see him again out at the lunch tables. And I have only to close my eyes right now, and I can see him walking around with that shy smile, sometimes a knowing smile, kind of in-on-the-joke smile. John is real to me...not the body that lies in the ground, but the living John who has eternal life. He left his shell behind, but that's all.

And more than a memory, I know I will see him again. He has gone ahead of me to meet Jesus.

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 9 I am not surprised!!

II Corinthians 11:14 I am not surprised! Even Satan can disguise himself as angel of light.

Funny how we think we cannot be surprised at what life tosses us, but I'm here to tell you, it still happens. I guess I wasn't surprised that we would have flooding this last week; what did surprise me was how deeply I was moved by it. I'm not sure if it is my age, that I have a sense of what it means to be displaced from your home ( we were flooded out years ago), or that I have family affected by it, or that it is so close - my home town, my husband's home town, the town I shop in, are all under water, but the choking pain of it all will not leave me.

And maybe that is the way it should be. Many years ago, I remember sitting in church in Africa, and reading the passage in Matthew 9:36 where the writer talks about Jesus, about how he saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion because of their pain and discouragement, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus set the model for us; he hurt for them, and we are to feel with the hurting.

The second commandment in the New Testament is to love one another, and it seems to me that you cannot love someone without hurting when they hurt. So, I was surprised by the pain that filled my heart this week. It made me think about the day I noticed I must have grown up - it was Christmas and I was making a list of the gifts I wanted to buy for other people, not one of suggestions of things they could buy me. Is this pain now evidence of the work of the Spirit in my life, love the way it should be - the kind of love that pushes you to do more than say you care about others, but to actually do for others?

I don't know what God is doing in my life, but I want to be a handy and useful tool.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sept 7 Cleaning up after the storm

Psalm 51: 1-2 Be gracious to me O God, according to thy loving-kindness; according to the greatness of thy compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:12-13 Restore to me the joy of my salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors thy ways and sinners will be converted to thee.

This has been some storm season, and winter has not yet dropped her first snow flake. Still, branches and leaves and all manner of debris cover roads and sidewalks, and my deck, and fill rain gutters and ditches. And the storm is not over until it is cleaned up, rather like life.

David asks for God's help in restoration after the storm of his failure, for God's cleansing (forgiveness) and for a restoration of his first passion, the joy of his salvation.

This made me think of the day I came to Christ. I was so excited and happy, I practically jumped out of my skin - the joy of my salvation...and I tell you, I wanted to tell everyone about Christ - teaching transgressors about the hope they could have.

I wonder if we need some anniversary celebrations - celebrating the end of our personal storm and remembering the joy of our salvation!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 6 So many words!

Ecclesiastes 5:7 and 6:11 There is ruin in a flood of words. Fear God instead...The more words you speak, the less they mean. So why over do it?

Proverbs 22: 17-19 Listen to the words of the wise, apply your heart to my instruction. For it is good to keep these sayings deep within yourself, always ready on your lips. I am teaching you today - yes, you - so you will trust in the Lord.

Now I am an admitted bibliophile - I love books! and the words in them...filled with story. And I like words used beautifully and carefully; that's one of the elements of great writing. And with all that said, I have been guilty of filling the space between another person and myself up with words, sometimes to avoid the unsaid.

God speaks to that issue - we should be a people of fewer words and more meaningful ones. The flip side of that is that we should, instead of being a people of many words willing to share them all, God is calling us to be listeners. And I think listening means more than hearing. That's why there are two words to describe what happens when the vibrations of spoken words penetrate our ears and then minds. One word, hear means simply that the mechanics work - our ears do pick up the noise. The other means that we receive the sound with interest. God is calling us to hear with interest the words others speak, and that's tough to do when we are focusing on our own words.

Then in Proverbs, we are told who to listen to - the wise, not just he words spoken into the air of the wise, but the ones recorded. In many cultures the aged people are revered because of their wisdom. I fear that in our culture, the aged people are an embarrassment to us. We chuckle over their lack of being au courant or up to date with the latest technology or jargon, and we seldom think of asking them about the old days and what they learned living through so many years.

Similarly, I wonder how often we read the words of the writers of Scripture with the idea that we are mining them for gold, for wisdom, that will help us learn how to live. And I mean the kind of mining that causes us to be so excited we are quick to share the words and the relationship with God they help-s us to have with others. Instead I fear, too often we fear doing just that because people might think there is something wrong with us if we go all "Bibley" on them.

I love A.W. Tozer's words on that subject: The sacred page is not meant to be the end, but only the means toward the end, which is knowing God Himself.

Well, I've rambled- stream of consciousness, they call it I think - all to say that words are important. We should be careful about the ones we use, use fewer of them in general, and pay attention to the words of others, especially of the wise, whether they are spoken or written down as God's Word.

Friday, September 2, 2011

September 2 Earthquakes and Hurricanes and Tornadoes

Psalm 46: 1-2 God is our refuge and strength, our very present help in trouble, Therefore we will not be afraid though the earth trembles (earthquakes) and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas , though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with its turmoil.

I love what looks like coincidences, knowing there are no coincidences, only divine appointments. In the last week or so, our region has experienced an earthquake, tornado warnings, a hurricane, and floods. Yesterday California experienced an earthquake, and this morning at 6:30, Alaskans woke up to an earthquake and tsunami warning.

And I woke up to this beautiful passage in Psalms putting it all into perspective. Then I had opportunity to use it to encourage a student, reassuring her that in the face of challenges, all we have to do is crawl up into God's lap. I love that image of God's lap as our refuge because it is true.

Isn't it amazing, that God is our refuge, whatever refuge looks like to you. I think of how a little child runs to his or her daddy or mommy, and the comfort is there. Then again, there are people for whom that is not true, whether it be they had dysfunctional parents or lost their parents or their experience of refuge looks somehow different. The point is, we understand what God is saying here by relating it to our own experience of refuge.

I'm not sure how old I was, but I remember running up the dirt road after school to my house, seeing my mother sitting in the front yard, (it was September ) and burying my head in her lap, tears flowing freely. I cannot remember what the issue was, but she was my refuge. Maybe that is why when I think of God being my refuge, the concept of a safe lap becomes so powerful.

Well, here we are in an era of natural disasters, financial upheaval, and regular threats to our peaceful existence, but God! He is our refuge. It is in owning His strength, not our own, that we can endure whatever life brings our way. It is sadly interesting that too often we would rather hang around in our own weakness look for pity and sympathy than live in the victorious place of God's love and power.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 1 A New Month, A New Day, A New Slate

Lamentations 3:20-22 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

II Cor. 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come...20. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,

Yesterday I heard about a student who used a very negative term, a demeaning term, to refer to herself, as though it was somehow virtuous to minimize who she was, even as a child of God. I struggled on and off all day with how I felt about what she said. I had a distinct sense that it was not right, that it was almost a kind of pride - an "I am nothing," almost like it got her off the hook from doing something for God.

This morning, and I love how God made our brains to work things through, to continue to process them in our sleep, this verse in Lamentations came to mind and the verse in II Cor. 5:17 was in my Bible reading. I love how they come together as a response to my struggle yesterday.

It is true, apart from the work of God our righteousness is as filthy rags. BUT, (capital letters intentional) as believers, we are new creations, a beautiful work of God, clothed with Christ's beautiful and holy and pure righteousness. We must remember God does not make junk!! And though we mess up regularly, though I mess up regularly, I am so grateful that every day, I get a new slate. I don't have to carry around the burden of my sin, my sin debt. On the cross through Christ, that debt, all my sin, was erased. Today, this morning, I am a new creation, draped in God's mercies, charged with being His ambassador, His representative.

How exciting is that? I'm no worm, no sinner, no piece of dirt. I am cleansed through Christ, renewed through His Spirit and His Word, and charged this day with being the me He made me to be in such a way that He is glorified.

PS. I know that believers still sin, but identity is no longer as sinner, but as holy one, as child or God, as friend of God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30 Is the Power Turned Off?

I Corinthians 4:6-7 For God who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves... not crushed....not despairing,...not forsaken,... not destroyed...v. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

We just experienced a hurricane, and the power was off at our house for only eight or nine hours. Unfortunately, many who live in the Northeast will not have power for days or perhaps weeks, and it does not matter how often they plug things in, there is just no power there.

As I read this passage, I thought about how different the spiritual power situation is. For the believer, the power is always there. Honestly, I know believers who function as though the light has gone out, as though the power has been turned off. The sad reality is that the power is on and functioning; they just don't believe it or want to use they walk around "unplugged," with a hopeless, discouraged, hang-dog appearance.

I love how Paul writes here of his own personal experience. He is truly speaking of that which he knows - having been beaten, shipwrecked, betrayed, pursued, even jailed, but he never lost hope or power or light. He lived through these challenges entirely plugged in to the reality of God living within and empowering him to endure, not in his own strength, but in the power sourced directly from God.

As I reflect on this, I confess, there have been moments when I have been strongly tempted to the self-pity track. For some bizarre reason, perhaps believing Satan's lies, it is sometimes more appealing to be the victim than the vanquisher. As we give in to the impulse to whine or beg for pity and encouragement, we are telling others we have "shorted out;" our power source circuit is not complete; God has failed us.

But God!! Oh, how I love those words. He never goes away. Our power connection never short-circuits or runs out of steam. That's why we are encouraged to "walk in the Spirit." Live out our relationship with the Living God. It is real and permanent. We do have all the power we need to pass through victoriously every challenge we face, not to go around them or have those challenges skip over us. We will face real and painful tests and temptations, but as long as we remained "plugged in" to the power of God, owning the reality of His presence and filtering power (He ensures we are never tested above our capacity (I Cor. 10:13) we can get to the other side, and the journey will be glorifying to God.

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29 Where is He?

John 14: 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you.

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of hi that raised up Jesus fro the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you

Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? ...Nor height nor depth not any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I Cor. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost wich is in you, which ye have of God and ye are not your own?

We ask that, don't we when we are in the middle of a hurricane, whether it is a real one like Hurricane Irene who plowed up the east coast leaving a path of destruction in her wake or a hurricane of illness, loss, broken relationships ...or well, you get it. Those times when it does not go well with our soul.

Unfortunately, some people lead believers to think that once you give your life to God and you live for Him, all will go well in life. But it just doesn't work that way. Christians, like their unbelieving neighbors still have to live in this world so scarred by the fall, the twisting at even the cellular level introducing the seeds of our own devastating afflictions, whether physical or emotional or intellectual.

And when we are faced with those unexpected challenges, we cry out, "Where are you God!"

But He never left!!! I am so grateful that He never leaves us, nor forsakes us, nor stops loving us. We may not notice Him, but we never have to ask Him to be with us. Rather we need to pray that God will remind us that He is right there, ever-present and ever-loving us. AND, we need to pray that way for those we love who know Christ and who are currently facing challenges to their faith or their peace.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25, 2011 Waiting?

Psalm 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on the solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.

How are you in this thing called waiting? Is it easy for you to sit in the doctor's office or stand in the line at the grocery store? Or how about waiting for an answer from a letter or email? Then there is the waiting we do for a holiday or birthday or ride somewhere. Can you wait in peace? Or does your foot start tapping, your paper rapping in impatience?

I was struck by a writer who said waiting was an action verb, that you must wait actively. Hmmm, seemed almost like a paradox to me, until I gave it some thought. Waiting involves the passing of time, and we can pass time mindlessly, sitting or standing there with our minds off in la-la land. And I must admit I have spent a lot of time like that, and like spent money, you just cannot get it back.

But the idea of waiting patiently. What is that all about? I think it has a sense of passing time in a state of anticipation, expecting a response. And I think though there might be an eagerness to it sometimes, that does not mean there should be an impatience.

I wonder if God doesn't have in mind that we could redeem that wait time, that we could use it as time to consider what He wants us to do, about that for which we wait, or perhaps to use to think about other things, or to pray. I do not believe in chance or coincidence or accident. I think that sometimes God wants me to wait because He wants to hear from me about someone or something I will see from that waiting space.  And sometimes I must wait there in order to hear Him because He knows the time I spend waiting for something else is the only time I might have to listen or speak to Him.

Wait time is like crossing a street. You can have a leisurely stroll from one side to the other, noticing everything around you, or you can be like the guy I saw on the news this morning, running furiously across the train tracks, noticing only the other side. I wonder how differently this day, or any day might be if we savored wait time instead of dreaded it. I keep a copy of the Message translation of the Bible with me at all times; it is so easy to read and redeem wait time. But I am also trying to redeem wait time with prayer, allowing my circumstances to prompt me to pray about things I might otherwise not notice.

Oh, I don't have this down pat, but I was so refreshed and encouraged by the possibilities of making waiting a pleasurable thing, something that honored God that I just had to share it with someone.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22 Anticipation!!!

John 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you.

I love that we are part of a family, not just our biological family, but our spiritual family. One of my brothers, spiritual ones, gave me a great book: The God Who Smokes by Timothy Stone, a former missionary kid. My friend Don, knowing my passion about writing told me to go straight to chapters 9 and 10, so I did and they spoke straight to me as a writer. But then, I just continued to chapter 11 instead of going back to the beginning and I am so glad I did.

You have probably picked up the idea that I have been thinking about the life our life in Christ now and the one to come of late and there was this great paragraph in chapter 11 that I just had to share with you:

You are an eternal being, and your home is an eternal and infinite and exquisitely beautiful place where everything and everyone is complete and whole and in harmony. It is musical and magical, and it is where we all were meant to be. It is where the dance begins and never ends. It is where you fly because all the weights and the waits have been removed. All the nos and the can'ts and the shouldn'ts, all the stops and flops and failures, all the bads and wrongs and wickeds and brokens, and all those long, needling, crushing, killing regrets are erased.

Wow, what a thought!! Makes me wonder why we cling so to this world. Certainly we want to enter that place without regrets, having done all we could to redeem this world for Christ, to use our giftedness for His glory, but oh, what a day it will be when we are shed of this world!!!!

Today our semester begins, and between those on campus and those online perhaps a 1000 BBC, grad and seminary students are filled with anticipation, of learning, building relationships and at the end receiving a "well-done" handshake and a diploma.  So we step into this day filled with anticipation of the glorious day at the end of our "earthly semester," when graduation brings us into heaven. May we bring glory to God as well all encourage one another as we head toward that end.

Friday, August 19, 2011

May 19, How Fast Time Flies!!!

Psalm 33: 1and 4-5 Let the godly sing with joy to the LORD, for it is fitting to praise Him...For the word of the LORD holds true, and everything He does is worth of our trust. He loves whatever is just and good, and his unfailing love fills the earth.

I can't believe it has been a week since I last wrote here, but let me tell you it has been a full week. Last weekend, I spent every spare minute trying to think and clean and shop ahead, knowing that this last week, I would be at school every day from 8am to nearly 9pm for our Leadership Training Week. That said, it has been an unbelievably sweet week with God.

How do you sleep the night before Christmas? or vacation? or your birthday? I don't know about you, but it takes little to mess with my sleep routine, and this week was no exception. I had lots of presentations to make, housing to finalize, and lots of involvement in the entire week...and weekend to come. So, lots of time to pray.

Now, there was another God thing that enhanced all that night-time prayer opportunities. We had our leadership team read MAKING DISCIPLES, ONE CONVERSATION AT A TIME. One of those chapters talked about visualization as a helpful tool. The author encourages people to visualize ahead of time the conversations they are going to make as they minister to people. The point is to take the fear out of it, to make the actual conversation much more comfortable because you have anticipated it, have rehearsed it.

As I thought about that, I thought about visualization as a useful tool even in my prayer time. Instead of praying to a God Who is somewhere, I started visualizing God in person, of imagining what it would be like to actually be in His presence. Now I have believed and taught that God is everywhere present. And I know that when I pray, I am talking to Him, but let me tell you, it has been so different this week, thinking through the reality that I am in God's presence, the One who loves me without condition.

Let me encourage you to think through Who you are praying to, and how much that concept is influenced by your relationship with other humans, your own dad perhaps. When I thought about what it would be like in His presence, after I leave this life, it occurred to me how great the difference between here and there would be. Think about what it would be like to be without sin and doubt and fear and insecurity in your own mind. Then think about being in that place, that Holy Place, in His Presence - how sweet, how pure, how inviting, how accepting, how loved you will feel! And we don't have to wait until His return or death releases us to that place. We have access to it now, every time we meet Him in conversation, whether we are speaking or listening.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12 Who's your leader?

Psalm 32: 8-9 The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse of mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control."

I love how God works; sometimes we call it coincidences, but God works by appointment and intentionally. Last night I woke up with a specific student on my mind and felt like God wanted me to contact her. That's one of the blessings of technology - you don't have to wait until people have gotten up, showered and had their coffee before you start talking.

Anyway, my first response to God was, "Really, you want me to get up now? It's two o'clock." I waited a couple minutes, and for sure, that's what He wanted.

Now I have to tell you that in my Bible reading recently I have read about how God led in dreams, how He is honored by our doing what is just and right, and as always, He wants us to love one another - and sometimes that calls for personal sacrifice.

So, I fumbled around and found my glasses and felt my way downstairs to the computer, eyes so bleary and watering that it really was a challenge, especially the whole getting the computer up and going and finding email and face book. Anyway, as I prayed and typed I was sure God wanted me to send both an email message and face book one, so I did, thinking to be honest, that since sleeping is always a challenge for me, for sure I would not get back to sleep the rest of the night.

But God. I love those words. But God took me back to bed and back to sleep. And let me share with you, one of the blessings of vacation - our four days in a little cabin on the end of a dirt road was the reminder of the blessing and what it takes to really hear God's voice - silence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10 It's All About Motive

Proverbs 21:3 The Lord is more pleased when we do what is just and right than when we give Him sacrifice.

Just under 20 primarily one-syllable words, this verse is still packed with challenges. Going to the end, I think about sacrifices. That's pretty much a foreign word to most of us, I think; at least, the concept of really giving something to such a way that it costs us something. The Israelites regularly sacrificed, and when they did, they gave up something significant - the best of the best. They knew what the word sacrifice meant. They had a mental and physical image of it. But I am not so certain that we can relate as easily to that concept.

Still, many of us do set aside money to give to God, sometimes by faith, trusting Him to meet our needs as we tithe or give special gifts. But real sacrifice, giving anything until it hurts, I'm not sure we have a grip on that. And I wonder what that costs us - that lack of an understanding or experiencing what it means to sacrifice to God with a right motive, out of our love for Him and desire to glorify Him.

Now, to the other end of the verse, God is more pleased when we do what is just and right. To slow down life enough to consider that what we do affects how God feels is essential. Isn't that a mind blowing concept - the simple acts of being fair with people, with thinking through the choices we have to make so that we make right ones brings God pleasure?

Of all the "enemies" to the Christian life and godly living, I think the pace of our lives is one of the greatest. We are so busy that we do not think through why we do what we do. I wonder if there is a difference between doing things that are good to do by habit, and doing those same things consciously as a way to please God. Just wondering.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8 Keeping Track

August 8 Keeping Track

I Thessalonians 3:5 For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor should be in vain.

There Paul sits in prison and his thoughts are not on himself, but on his old friends, those who have ministered alongside of him and those who have come to faith in his ministries. As I was reading in I Thessalonians 3 this morning, this verse especially challenged me, forcing me to ask myself, "Why have I not contacted old friends and former students to find out about their faith?"

Oh, it is easy to rationalize why not. I am a busy lady, with a full-time job, three married children and nine grandchildren, one of whom lives with me, and another who will be moving in soon - when college starts. I have church responsibilities, and siblings and ...what a bunch of excuses!!!!! Forgive me friends and most of all forgive me God. Because I do make time to browse through a magazine while supper cooks - sometimes, and I have been known to play Spider Solitaire - serves as brain exercise and even look at catalogs that come in the mail knowing I will never order from them.

The point is, I am missing many opportunities to be a blessing and to bless others. So this entry will be short as I make a list of people I need to contact today....and Facebook makes it so easy.

Friday, August 5, 2011

August 5 What Dreams May Come

I Thess.5:9-11 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that whether we are awake or asleep, we may u live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up as you also are doing.

Rev. 21:3-5 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them and they shall be His people and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear and there shall be no longer any death; there shall no longer be any mourning or crying or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."

It' s been a week already since our vacation stay in a little (one room) log cabin in the hills of Pennsylvania, and I still feel refreshed when I think of it. Virtually no cell or Internet service, at the end of a dirt road, our little cabin provided one of the most refreshing retreats we have enjoyed. The cabin did have a TV and video player and a few videos, one of which was What Dreams May Come starring Robin Williams about the life of a man whose children die, who dies himself, and whose wife follows him into the afterlife by suicide. Because she has taken her own life, she is not allowed into heaven...that's the crux of the film. And for various reasons, I loved this movie.

The next movie we watched (it was supposed to be a comedy) was made in the '30's, and the theme again was the afterlife as you follow one man into his experience of hell and a sort of redemption.

We had not planned on watching either of these movies, so I cannot call the timing anything other than a God-thing and purposeful, even if the purpose was only to make me think a bit about the reality of the next life, or should it be called the continuation of this life for the believer.

I used to think that when I left this earthly life for heaven that I would not be able to open my eyes, the glory of God would be so brilliant. And honestly, I couldn't get a lot farther in my imagination of what it would all be like. However, I am thinking something much differently right now. I wonder what it will be like in a place of perfect love. To wake up in the presence of the One Who loves me without limits, without conditions. Will it be as an earthly child runs into the arms of her daddy at the end of the day, we will run into His arms? Will we be finished with our own fears and doubts? Will our eagerness to love Him back and to glorify Him control us?

Ah, there's the thought. Do we really love Him now? Do we seek now to glorify Him first, over self? Funny how what was supposed to be a bit of entertainment can be used by God to get our attention.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August 4 Dead to Self

Romans 6:11  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Have you ever read a book that you didn't want to let get far away from you, besides the Bible?  I just read a little novel Lying Awake by Mark Salzman that was just that kind of book.  It's about a cloistered nun who so loves God that she turns every day events into opportunities to remember that her role is to love God.  For instance, as she sees deer outside the garden walls, she thinks: As the deer longs for running streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

While she waits for a CT scan, she thinks/prays I will not struggle against You, no matter where you lead me....and later as she lay in that noisy cylinder, Perfect affirmation, perfect understanding, perfect silence: Your love, dear God, in full voice.

The book is full of these silent asides or prayers where you get a glimpse of her response to not just change, but the routine in her life.  Her goal is to practice the presence of God, to acknowledge Him in everything she does.

As a reader, you watch her wrestle with a decision that could rob her of the joyous intimacies she shares with God at the cost of distracting those around her. The bottom line, it's always all about self.  How many of the choices that we make are almost made for us because we let the self rule as a default mechanism.  We are so used to doing what pleases ourselves, what is easiest or most comfortable without ever considering how our choice might either affect others or speak to God.

The cover says this is a novel, but it is one of the most challenging novels personally and spiritually that I have read in a while.  Perhaps it won't strike you that way.  I have learned that what God uses in my life He may not use in yours, but just maybe He will allow you to have your thinking challenged here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 2, Like a Nursing Mother or a Loving Father

Back from vacation:

I Thessalonians 2: 1-12, 1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, v. 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God....7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her own children....11 exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children 12 so that you may walk in a manner worth of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

As I read this I was reminded of the standard Paul set and how far from it I fall. He bent himself into the form needed to minister, gave up some things, worked at whatever was needed to help his friends know how to live out their faith. I was further reminded of how our culture has made us so self-centered, guarding our rights, our comfort levels, putting our own needs and desires first.

God did not do that. Jesus Christ did not do that. Paul did not do that, nor did Phoebe or Priscilla or...well, you get the point. It is so easy in life to fall into a rut, a pattern of busyness, even doing good things, that we miss the beauty all around us. This last week we spent a few days in a log cabin at the end of a dirt road. We sat in the stillness on our front porch, definitely not a deck, and watched and listened to the rain fall, the sun shine, and the sun set. We listened for the voice of God, and I have to tell you, it was easier to hear there, with no internet or phone service. I heartily recommend it to all.

Anyway, it reminded me of how much more beauty and joy and peace of heart is available to us when we stop thinking about ourselves, when we loosen the grip of the world and its entertainments and distractions to just love on people. That is what God does, loves on people, and what He calls us to do. And it is far more satisfying than anything else there is to do.