Friday, February 26, 2010

How Beautiful

Abounding and Abundant

But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth. Psalm 86:15 NASV
But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 NIV

My next door neighbor and I went to the same church. We both sang in the choir and had formed a good friendship. She had surgery on her neck and was going to be immobilized for several weeks. The choir got together and supplied some meals for Judy and her husband. I cooked a couple of meals and took it to them. It was summer time and my garden was doing well so I took Judy fresh tomatoes and a vegetable casserole. In my mind I had done my part.

A few days later during my quiet time I was using a list of the names of God as a prayer and meditation guide. One of the names that I was meditating on was Abounding and Abundant. I was thinking on all the ways the Lord had been those things to me. Then in my heart I asked the question, “Since I am to be like you, how would those qualities look in my life?” I was going through my day when suddenly the Lord answered my early morning question. In my spirit I sensed Him saying, “I would feed Judy until she is well.” I took a deep breath as I let His response sink in. At that time I was taking care of my mother-in-law who was a complete invalid. I said, “Lord, if you want me to do this I want to do it with joy and not just a sense of obligation.” I told my husband what I felt the Lord was asking me to do and if he was willing to purchase the extra groceries and to help. He got on board with it and for the next couple of weeks I cooked for both our families Monday through Friday. On the weekends her daughter would come and take over.

I had such joy and gladness as I planned and cooked our meals. My husband would load up their portion and take it down when her husband got home from work. They were blessed and so were we.

What did I learn? We can exchange a sense of Christian duty for a vibrant experience of His abounding and abundant love flowing through us. Jesus asked us to go the second mile, to be a cheerful giver, to be as generous as He is. He also said that it was more blessed to give than to receive and we certainly experienced that. Glimpses into His heart may cost us something but it is so worth it.

MY PRAYER: Lord, I don’t want to walk in duty and missed the delight of your abounding and abundant nature flowing through my life. I ask you to reveal yourself to and through me. In Jesus’ name amen.

MY CONFESSION: A slave is not greater than his master. You humbled yourself and came as a servant. You promised that if I know these things I will be blessed if I do them. By Your grace, I will. I stand on Your Word! John 13:16-17

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grace to Match Every Trial


In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by VARIOUS trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7 NAS
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the MANIFOLD grace of God. 1 Peter 4:10

It may seem odd that I would put these Scriptures together, but they are linked by a common Greek word. The word in the Greek for various in 1:6 and manifold in 4:10 is the same (poikilos) and the literal meaning is many-colored. The use of the same word in this wonderful hope filled letter from Peter is a beautiful reassurance to us. It lets us know that there is a matching grace for every trial that we face.

Jesus told us in John 16:33 that in this world we would have trouble, but to take heart because He had overcome the world. I never go looking for or expecting troubles but they come anyway. And just as Peter warns they have been many-colored. We’ve had financial and health related problems. We’ve had family and other relational problems. We have had work and legal entanglements. I could go on and on and so could you. I’ve observed this not only in my life but in the lives of others. I have seen the persevering love of a parent for a wayward child. I have seen the loving patience of a husband caring for his dying wife. I have seen people terribly mistreated and yet choosing to walk in a Christ-like manner toward their opponents. Their example has strengthened my faith and honored their Lord.

Peter says that our faith is being tested by the fire we are experiencing. The rigors of our trials are meant to strengthen us and show that our faith is genuine. As I heard Beth Moore say recently, “Fires can burn the fake out of us.”

In times of trial we have to appropriate His promises and expect His grace to be more than sufficient to help us to overcome in a way that honors Him. There is abundant grace to match every trial.

MY PRAYER: Lord, I thank you that you are Emanuel, God With Us. You will never leave us or forsake us. We can count on the sufficiency of your grace for every trial that you allow to touch us. I know that you mean it for our good and Your glory. In Jesus’ name.

MY CONFESSION: When I pass through any fiery trial I will not be burned I will be refined and strengthened. Your grace will be a perfect match for my need. I stand on Your word!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Resurrection danced by Selah Warriors

Delays, Disappointments, and Going Deeper


Delays and disappointments are common to man. However, if you are a friend of God delays and disappointments are often gifts from His hand to take you deeper and allow you to be someone through whom He can display His glory.

In John chapter eleven we see this lived out in such an extraordinary way we may miss the implications for our own lives.

Mary, Martha and Lazarus were friends of Jesus. They had a history and were intimate friends. Lazarus became ill and they sent word to Jesus. They knew Jesus healed, they had seen him and they heard the testimonies. Jesus received that word and this was His reaction, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was.” John 11:5-6 NAS Notice that love motivated His delay. Love allowed the disappointment. Love allowed the devastation of Lazarus' death to ultimately take them deeper and display His glory.

Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary still sat in the house. John 11:20

Martha called Mary her sister, saying secretly, "The Teacher is here, and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she arose quickly, and was coming to Him. John 11:28-29 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." John 11:31-33

For those of you who know Mary and Martha’s history it may surprise you that it was Martha and not Mary that instinctively and quickly made her way to Jesus. People may act in unexpected and uncharacteristic ways in crisis. In Matthew 11:2-3 the bold and fiery John the Baptist questioned the validity of the One he had previously boldly proclaimed when he was thrown in prison. Disappointment or disillusionment in the way Jesus allows things to unfold can shake us to our core.
We read that the Jews who were with Mary were comforting her. The word comfort literally means to “relate near.” On some basic level just the presence of people who care about us can provide solace, but eventually they go home and we are alone. We don’t know why Mary didn’t run to meet Jesus but I suspect she was deeply disappointed that Jesus didn’t respond in the way she thought he would. We just know she didn’t go until Martha told her that He was calling for her. One of the simplest things we can do for the hurting is to remind them that Jesus is waiting for them to come to Him with their grief and questions.

When Mary got up her comforters presumed she was going to the tomb to weep because that is a very human response. We visit the grave, we relive the events, we cry, we leave tributes, but I personally have never found consolation in those acts. But I have, with countless others, reached the place where Jesus is. It was there at His feet that Mary released her hurt and disappointment. It was there at His feet she had a deeper revelation of who He was. He took her beyond what she already knew. “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” She knew Him as healer, but He would take her deeper. He is the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Jesus shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Jesus shall never die. John 11:25-26 What a revelation, what a promise, and what an amazing Savior.

We all have our own ways of coping and making it through tough times. Where do you go when you are wounded, disappointed, or grieving? Mary went to the place where Jesus was. We too need to get there by faith. Stand on his promise that he is near to the brokenhearted and to those who are crushed in spirit. He will not fail you. You may be disappointed because you know what He could have done and didn’t. But you don’t know what He can do if you trust Him. When He doesn’t meet our expectations He wants to exceed them. He will work it for our good and His glory. He wants to take us deeper still. Get to the place where He is. He is calling for you.

MY PRAYER: Lord, whatever you allow in my life is meant to draw me deeper into my understanding and experience of you. Help me to run to you for the healing and comfort that I need. Only you can bring life in the midst of brokenness, hurt, and confusion.

Friday, February 5, 2010

With No View to Their Good


And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 NAS
I have mentioned that I am doing the Bible study Lord, Change My Attitude. It is excellent and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Every week that I am in the study and memorizing key Scriptures I find ample opportunity to put what I am learning into shoe leather.

Here is this week’s challenge to determine if we are a critical person. Criticism: To dwell on the perceived faults of another with no view to their good. If we dwell on someone’s faults after a while we have a hard time appreciating what is good about them don’t we? What if it is my perception that’s off base? Hmmm, good questions. That is why it is so necessary to pay attention to what is going on in our relationships. If something seems amiss, don’t dwell on it until it becomes a problem. Take it to prayer. Ask the Lord to show you if it is your perception that is off or is there truly a problem? As Joyce Meyer is fond of saying, "We often look at ourselves through rose colored glasses and at others with a magnifying glass."

What do we do when we see or experience something in another that is truly a fault? If we are a critical person we will point our finger, judge them, maybe confront in an unhelpful way or talk behind their back. We really have no view to their good guiding us. If we are genuinely concerned then we will pray over them and what we see. We will ask God to help and to open their eyes. It may be totally appropriate to go to the person and lovingly express your concern directly to them. Galations 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
I find myself placed squarely in this challenge right now. I am not going to dwell, I am going to pray and ask the Lord to help me discern if my perceptions are incorrect. I truly hope they are. If my perceptions are correct, I am going to pray over the place of barrenness with a view to their good and God’s glory. If at some point the Lord wants me to speak, then by His grace and for their good I will.

“Any hack can tear down; it takes a real artist to build up.” Can I get an amen?

MY PRAYER: Jesus, you are the ultimate artist. You are at work by your Spirit in us to conform us to your image. Help us to treat others the way we would want to be treated.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

WORDS IN DUE SEASON


Thy word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against Thee. Psalm 119:11 NAS

I’ve mentioned that I am doing a Bible study with some women. We determined at the beginning that we were not going to be lax about memorizing key verses when we were asked to. We even had some incentives to do so. When we memorized our first lengthy verse we put the names of everyone who had met the goal of memorization into a hat and drew for a prize. It was fun, but honestly the real reward has been to see how the word has truly kept us from falling.

The first week our Scripture verse was Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. I developed a problem with my computer that I couldn’t resolve. I called for technical support and spent two hours on the phone with someone who was trying so hard to be helpful. However, we did have a large and frustrating barrier….I couldn’t understand his thick accent. I was transferred to another person who I couldn’t really understand either. The problem was never resolved. As I sat and waited on the phone, my memory verse held me in check. I was not going to grumble or be rude. I wasn’t going to whine to everyone within ear shot either. I was just going to deal with it as graciously as I could. I’m not saying I did it perfectly, but God’s Word truly helped me. A couple of days later I went back to my computer and went through some basic steps again, just to make sure I had done everything before I took it to my computer guy. Voila, it began to work again without a hitch. I was one happy camper.
The next week our verse was from 1 Timothy 6:6-10 Part of those verses say, “But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.” Our daughter called that week to tell us that she had lost the stone out of a ring we had given her many years ago. It was an heirloom that had been in my husband’s family since the Civil War. The stone was very unique and irreplaceable. She was heartsick and dreaded telling us. The first thought that came to mind was, you guessed it, “We brought nothing into the world so we can’t take anything out of it either.” I am so sorry that it happened. I know she felt terrible. I know my husband regrets that it happened, but none of us have been plagued or weighed down by the loss. We are still here, still healthy, still have a God who loves us and has always taken care of us. No treasure we have ever laid up in heaven will be lost, stolen, or destroyed by moth or rust. God’s word helped us to deal with it and move on.
If you want to be more victorious in the daily nitty-gritty’s I recommend memorizing Scripture. It has been such a rewarding endeavor in my life the past few weeks. I love it!

MY PRAYER: Lord, thank you that your word is so powerful and practical. Help us to treasure it in our hearts so that we don’t sin against you. We want to shine like lights for your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen

Monday, February 1, 2010

Take My Life (and let it be) Chris Tomlin

Success or Failure? Watch Your Speech!

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. Philippians 2:14-15 NAS

I am facilitating James MacDonald’s study Lord, Change My Attitude. It is excellent. Our memory verse for this week is the above Scripture from Philippians. It gives us no wiggle room at all as Paul emphatically states, “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” We have been asked in the study to listen and make note of our internal and external dialogue to determine if we are a complainer. I know that God has done a real work in my life concerning my attitudes and my tongue. Still I have become keenly aware even as Isaiah that, "
Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips?" Isaiah 6:5


I’m not sure if I can adequately express the importance of allowing the Holy Spirit to do His refining work with our attitudes and speech. I have had the opportunity to work with several ministries and observe the way the leadership functions and speaks. One had tremendous potential to impact many lives and the resources to carry it out. However, I found that those in leadership were quick to place blame and felt free to openly criticize other ministries or people who did not live up to their expectations. I knew that the Lord wasn’t going to bless their endeavors. He did not, and after a relatively short time it folded. On the other had I have been volunteering with another organization that is the polar opposite. There is a graciousness of speech, no gossip or critical attitudes ever on display. You can sense the Lord’s blessing and provision as the ministry moves forward to accomplish His purposes.

Whatever the scope and realm of your influence may be remember that you are setting an example. You may think, "Well, I'm just a stay at home mom." What an avenue of influence you could have over your children. You have an opportunity to edify and impart grace to those around you. More importantly you don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. If you want to prosper guard your attitude and your speech. You will appear as a light in this dark world.


MY PRAYER: Lord, I want to speak those things that are good and edifying. Let me put anything that is contrary far away from me. I can never build myself up by putting others down. Help me to shine in this world and bring pleasure to You.


MY CONFESSION: I will impart grace and edification to those who hear me. I will put away all evil speaking. I will be kind and tenderhearted. I stand on Your Word! Ephesians 4:29-32