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!!