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 it...so 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 God...in 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.