Tuesday, November 25

Giving Thanks

“And whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:17

Some things feel, to my humanly-thinking ways, more important than others. Some activities seem “holy” and others just don’t. And there are times when I have some pretty profound conversation, but there are plenty of seemingly unimportant chats. But this verse tells me that whatever I do or say should be done in the name of the Lord. Whatever. That means even when I’m taking out the garbage, or paying bills, or cleaning the shower; whether I’m fixing dinner or talking about our day– these things are ALL to be done in the name of the Lord, and I should be giving thanks the whole time!

How can I put this into practice in real life? I can find something to be thankful for even in the humblest of tasks. Taking out the garbage? That means we must have more than we need. Paying bills? Having a mortgage means having a house, and that’s sure a blessing! Plus the blessings of having electricity and telephones, and so forth. Cleaning the shower? I can be thankful for the luxury of hot running water because there’s a large portion of the world without it. Fixing dinner? We have food to eat– even multiple choices of what food to eat! Talking about our day? That means I have a family to talk to.

I could go on and on…

This should also make me more carefully consider what I’m doing and saying. If I am to do it in the name of the Lord, I ought to think twice about where I’m dragging Jesus and his name. If whatever I speak should be done in the name of the Lord, then I really better bite my tongue before saying those bitter or careless words. This all sounds like a pretty tall order, but with God’s grace, it is possible.

Monday, November 24

No Other Way

“Jesus told him,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:6

Jesus cuts to the chase here. No hidden meanings; he lays it all on the table. HE is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no other way. There is no path to spiritual enlightenment, no kharma, no deeds good enough to get to God EXCEPT through Christ. This is very politically incorrect, very un-Oprah, but it’s exactly what Jesus is saying. You don’t get to choose the best path; Jesus is it. Period. There is no room for discussion.

I could elaborate in my own words, but this great quote from C.S. Lewis sums up everything this verse is telling me:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Saturday, November 22

God Sings

“The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

There is so much to rejoice about in this verse!

The Lord is with us, here in our midst. He walks with us every moment. We are never alone, and he will never abandon us. He is a mighty warrior, fighting on our behalf. We have nothing to fear because God is on our side! And he quiets us with his love. Just as a mother soothes a fussy baby, or hugs her child to make a booboo feel better, God holds us and loves us to soothe and quiet us.

And the Lord delights in us! He is so happy to be with us that he sings. Think about that--God sings about you! Or as another translation says, he shouts for joy. Could this be why there are sunsets? Purple flowers? Bluebirds? Is this how God sings? I think so.

Friday, November 21

Which Way?

“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
Psalm 32:8

Sometimes I wonder how to figure out what I’m suppose to do. Whether an important matter, or just something trivial, I have been known for most of my life as being rather indecisive. I don’t want to make a bad decision, so my tendency is to just not make a decision at all. But that is a lazy, non-committal way to be, and it isn’t at all what God wants me to do. He does want me to make decisions, but I’m not the one who has to figure it all out; He will show me what to do. And for me, that is a big weight off my shoulders.

With God in control, bad decisions are no longer an issue. If I’m following the path God directs me to follow, then my choices might not be popular, but they will be good. It’s when I don’t listen to his instruction that I get myself in trouble. I must care more about what God says than what friends or family or the world in general says. I’ve tried doing it myself, and I can tell you from personal been-there/done-that experience that “figuring it out” on my own is never, never, never the best way to go. I spent years thinking that I’d just take care of things myself; if there was anything big enough that I couldn’t handle myself, then would I let God handle it. For years, about 99% of my prayer life was spent rationalizing and explaining things to God, telling him why this must look like a bad decision to him, but that he didn’t need to worry because I had it under control. HA!

One of the many wonderful qualities of God is his patience. I remember reading about the Israelites in the desert, and all the ways they’d mess up and complain and forget all God had done for them; I’d think they were idiots, and that I wouldn’t blame God one bit if he’d just zapped them all with a big lightning bolt or let the earth swallow up every last one of them. But then I realized that I was just like them. I was stubborn and “stiff-necked”, but eventually I realized that there really is nothing small enough for me to handle well without God guiding me.

Nothing at all.

God will teach me, guide me, in everything. There is nothing too big or too small for God to handle. And he will do it while keeping his eye on me. He won’t just give me a list of instructions and then leave me to decipher it on my own. He will lead me, my hand in his, down the best paths. All I have to do is be childlike in my faith, trusting him as a small child trusts that they are safe and knows they won’t get lost, just as long as he is holding my hand.

Thursday, November 20

Merciful and Pure

My summary & thoughts on chapter 7 of our study by Kay Arthur: Lord, Only You Can Change Me.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:7-8

We've discussed previously what it means to be poor in spirit. So how do we relate to others if we are truly poor in spirit? "...with mercy, because God has been merciful to [us]." The word used in the Bible for merciful can also be translated as kindness, love, lovingkindness, unfailing love, or loyalty. Kay tells us that the New Testament word for merciful does not simply mean having pity, but being "actively compassionate." She goes onto explain the meaning of the mercy seat in the Tabernacle, but you'd do better to read that yourself. (I was very blessed by Beth Moore's study of the Tabernacle: A Woman's Heart: God's Dwelling Place. I highly recommend it!) But the main point is realizing that the very essence of God's being is mercy, which is why He sent Christ to die on the cross. Jesus was the ultimate atonement sacrifice, and He paid the price of our sins. Since God showed us such GREAT mercy, we are called to be merciful, even to those who sin against us.

Jesus' life was a continuous example of mercy. Like with the woman caught in adultery. And even as he hung on the cross, and asked God to forgive those who had put Him there. Mercy and forgiveness are intertwined and inseparable. And in order to receive mercy, we must be merciful. (See Matthew 18:21-35) That seems hard, that showing mercy to those who have done us wrong. But God has shown us mercy, like the king who forgave a huge debt (in that previous verse I mentioned). Anything ever done to us is tiny and insignificant compared to what we did to Christ. Kay says, "What is your pain alongside His? Have you never seen what your sin did to the heart of perfect Holiness?"

"Grace is that unearned favor which saves us. Mercy is that undeserved favor which forgives us. And peace is that unsought favor which reconciles us... Mercy, remember, is not for the worthy but for the needy."

Now, what about purity? How can we be pure, when we know we're always going to be sinners? Thankfully, being pure means being cleansed. So we don't have to have a pure and unsullied past because God has cleansed us. When we are saved, God gives us a new heart and we become a new creation (Ezekiel 36:26-27 and 2 Corinthians 5:17). But we must keep our hearts cleansed. How? We keep our hearts pure by staying in the Word of God, which is like a mirror, showing us our wrong thoughts or actions, and washing us clean. That's how we renew our minds.

The Word of God is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:15) Kay asks us to consider if we are really spending enough time in the Word. There are so many people who have a genuine desire to follow Christ, but they just don't know what the Word really says. I know that was true for me, and I also realize there's still a lot I don't know about what God teaches us in The Bible, but I have learned so much in the last few years! All that new knowledge sure has made it easier to follow Christ, but it also makes me realize that I must keep on learning every day because there is no way I will ever know it all. Even if I had the entire Bible memorized, there would still be so much to learn. There are verses I have read many times and thought I understood, but then I'll re-read them and the Holy Spirit will teach me something brand new about that old, familiar verse. His Word really is alive!

The other way we keep our hearts pure is through confession. Confessing our sins " is to agree with God that what we have done is sin." But what about sins our human minds have forgotten? If we have confessed all our known sins, then God sees the intentions of our heart, so he cleanses us even from the ones we've forgotten. How wonderful! Even once we have confessed, however, sometimes it's necessary to make restitution to someone we've sinned against. Follow God's leading on that.

One more thing to keep our hearts pure:
Take your thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and

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

Wednesday, November 19

Nuts and Bolts

Thanks to my fabulous blog friend Kathy at Hey, Look A Chicken, I've found a new quote I love. This comes from The World as I Remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin by Rich Mullins. It is now on my must-read list.

...I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the people who know Him. The Word has become flesh and I have encountered God in the people who have manifested (in many "unreasonable" ways) His Presence; a presence that is more than convincing, it is a Presence that is compelling. I am a Christian not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be the nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey. "If I be lifted up," Jesus said, "I will draw all men unto me."
St Francis of Assisi said something similar: "Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words." How many times do we try to shove the message of Christ down the throats of unbelievers, insisting He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, yet we don't live any differently than they do? Recognition of what Christ has done for us--and that God allowed His child to die for us--should make our every waking moment different than it was before we knew and loved Christ. I think when the Bible tells us to be "come out from them and be separate" (2 Cor. 6:17), it really means that we should be so different--in the way we live, in our marriages, in our level of compassion, and so forth--that unbelievers notice and yearn to know what, or Who, makes us the way we are. And then, after they are yearning to know, we must "...always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." 1 Peter 3:15

Tuesday, November 18

Hungry and Thirsty

A deliquent post, but we'll catch up. This is my summary of chapter 6 of Lord, Only You Can Change Me.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
~ Matthew 5:6
The Sermon on the Mount probably caused quite a stir back when Jesus preached those words. This was most certainly not politically correct! It was revolutionary. He was saying that the people would be blessed--satisfied--not because of circumstances, but because of who they are down deep in their hearts.

To have this satisfaction, they needed to make righteousness a continual habit of life, rather than a one-time thing. Eating a big meal may be satisfying temporarily, but we'll get hungry again. Drinking water fills us, but not for days on end. It's the same with seeking righteousness. We must do it every day! "To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to have a deep, inner longing to please God. It is a longing that God Himself plants within our hearts to cause us to seek after Him. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to desire with all our being to live and walk the way God says to live and walk." (emphasis mine)

Kay goes on to tell a story about a terrible famine in China, and a man who truly knew hunger and later came to know and love Christ. I keep thinking about how spoiled most of us are. We say, "I'm starving!" but have any of us ever known real hunger? I'd venture to say that most people who have access to a computer and the internet, and the time to read blogs, are not in any danger of starving to death. There have been many times I've stood staring into the pantry, and complained that there is nothing that sounds good to eat. What a spoiled brat I am!

The Pharisees were righteous on the outside, but Jesus was telling us we must be righteous on the inside. Sometimes we may have a zeal for God, but in our zealousness, we sometimes make up our own little codes of righteousness, or a "righteousness scorecard" (as Kay calls it). Things like how short a lady may wear her skirt, or what movies we do or don't watch... but these things are part of an "artificial, man-centered standard of righteousness." The biggest danger in that is in becoming self-righteous. "Self-righteousness is living by your version of you think is required by God and then imposing that standard on others, judging their righteousness by whether or not they march to the same drumbeat as you." And that is a slippery slope!

Kay quotes John 7:37-39, which reminded me of this sermon (I learned a lot from it; I hope you'll get a chance to read it, too). She points out that the verbs in this quote mean, "Let him keep coming to Me and let him keep drinking." But it's not enough to poor on the water; we must hear the word and accept it! She encourages us to "receive what God has for you" and to meditate on this verse:

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
~ Psalm 63:1-5
More verses to study: Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 27:4; Psalm 119:1-8; Psalm 101

If we are truly seeking righteousness, we will not only call Jesus "Lord", but we will honor Him as Lord and do His will.

Kay gives us a list of seven things we can do to increase our hunger and for righteousness.
  1. Beware of idols. Remember, idolatry can come in the form of a person, a thing, a hope, a dream, or an ambition. Set your mind on the things above, not the things on earth (Col. 3:1-2).
  2. Turn your eyes from the world. 1 John 2:15-16.
  3. Count all but Jesus as loss. Righteousness isn't just a matter of forsaking certain things, but of embracing the most important one: Christ. (Philippians 3:7-10)
  4. Pursue one goal. "You can become so busy, so involved in the work of the Lord, that you actually diminish your hunger and thirst for righteousness. Remember, doing is secondary in the Christian life. The primary thing is being." (Remember Martha & Mary!)
  5. Watch the company you keep. I'd like to add that this doesn't mean we can't go out into the world to minister and such, but as far as those we keep close to us, they should encourage and edify us, rather than pulling us away from the Lord.
  6. Keep coming to Him. I love this bit of a verse she quotes: "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?" (See the whole verse in Isaiah 55:1-3)
  7. Receive what He gives you. Open your heart to Christ!

Monday, November 17

Gray Hairs

Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:4

What a glorious, lovely truth.
I’m not old yet (what age, exactly, does one become "old" anyway?), but I have more than a few gray hairs. It’s wonderful to think that the same One who knit me together in my mother’s womb, the same One who knows exactly how many hairs are on my head (including how many gray ones!), will take care of me all my days upon this earth.

Doesn’t it bring a warm, comforting feeling to know that the God who made you will continue to sustain you? When you are too tired to go on, He’ll carry you. He’ll provide absolutely everything you need. He won’t give us everything we want, but that’s only because we are like children who want nothing but candy for every meal; as parents we know that it would only make them sick and weak–and God is a much better parent than any of us!

Saturday, November 15

Prayer of Sir Frances Drake

Thank you to my cousin Jonnia for sending me this:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to
dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Thursday, November 13

Prayers for our Children

Angie at Bring the Rain came up with these, and I’m copying them to put here so they are that much easier for me to find. I’m also printing them out to keep handy (maybe on the fridge!). Her original post with these is here.

  1. When they wake up: “Let the morning bring (child’s name) word of your unfailing love, for she has put her trust in You. Show (her/him) the way (she/he) should go, for to you (he/she) lifts up her soul.” (Adapted from Psalm 143:8)
  2. When they are getting dressed: “Therefore, as God’s chosen child, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Lord, help (him/her) bear with others and forgive whatever grievances (he/she) has against others. Help (him/her) forgive as the Lord forgave (him/her). And over all these virtues, help (him/her) put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Adapted from Colossians 3:12-14)
  3. While they are eating: “Teach (child’s name) the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Teach (him/her) that (he/she) can do everything through him who gives (him/her) strength.” (Adapted from Philippians 4:12-13)
  4. When they go out of the house: “(Name of child), do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Adapted from Romans 12:2)
  5. While they are taking a bath: Lord, give (name of child) clean hands and a pure heart, and let (him/her) not lift (his/her) soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Let (him/her) receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God (his/her) Savior. Let (him/her) be part of the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. (Adapted from Psalm 24:4-6)
  6. When they are going to bed: “The Lord Your God is with you; he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, be will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
  7. While they are sleeping: “I pray that (name of child) will do everything without complaining or arguing, so that he/she may become blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which he/she shines like a star in the universe as he/she holds out the word of life-in order that he/she may boast on the day of Christ that he/she did not run or labor for nothing.” (Adapted from Philippians 2:14-16)

Sunday, November 2

Humble Submission

Now onto chapter 5 of “Lord, Only You Can Change Me”…

Meekness, which is sometimes translated as “gentle”, comes from the Greek word praotes, meaning an “inward grace of the soul. ” We learn to accept God’s dealing with us as good ”…because we know we can trust God and rest in His sovereignty even though the situation itself does not seem good.” This is a decision to submit fully to God; it is not submitting just because we can’t do anything about it, but actively choosing to accept God’s ways.

Psalm 37: 1-11 reminds us not to worry or fret. And Kay points out four specific responses of “grace under fire” (meekness) in this passage:
~meekness trusts (vs 3-4)
~meekness commits to the Lord (vs. 5)
~meekness rests and waits (vs 6-8)
~meekness is confident (vs 9,11) that even bad situations be used for good in the long run.

In other words, she says, “meekness is humble submission to the will of the Father.” And she reminds us that “meekness is NOT weakness but incredible power under the control and guidance of God Himself.”

Jesus is the best example of true meekness: he did nothing outside of God’s will; he did all that pleased God; he was willing to do anything–even die–it it was God’s will.

Meekness is part of the fruit of the spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (meekness), self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)Note that the fruit is just one multi-faceted fruit, not nine individual fruits.

In order to be meek, we must be willing to be teachable. This is something I pray for myself every day because I know I need it! We must be humble and willing to be led, and we must submit to God’s authority in our lives. Kay urges us to ask God to reveal to us any ways we have failed to be meek.

We must also demonstrate meekness in our dealing with others. In other words, we must be humble, realizing that we can easily fall into sin ourselves. If we need to deal with someone needing guidance or correction, we must humbly teach, but let God be the one to change their minds. Kay says, “…no matter how grievous the sin, no matter how strong the snare of Satan, we are not to correct anyone in any other way except in meekness.” If we speak through our own righteous indignation, we may actually turn that person away from God. Moses set a great example when Miriam and Aaron spoke against him; he allowed God to handle the problem instead of taking matters into his own hands.

One more big point: “Meekness is a sure cure for bitterness.” When we don’t submit fully to God and remember that He is fully in control, there is a risk of becoming bitter towards God. But if we run to Him instead of away from Him, then we have all the grace of God ready and waiting for us–and His grace is sufficient! A lesson it took me a long time to learn is that forgiving others is a choice, and if I choose to hang onto unforgiveness, it turns into a poisonous root of bitterness. “To the very depths of your heart, you must fully forgive whoever has wounded you, deceived you, or transgressed against you… Or if your complaint is against God, if you are bitter toward Him, then you need to ask Him to forgive you for your lack of meekness.” She urges us to ask God to show us any root of bitterness in our hearts that needs to be removed, and then give Him permission to remove it. It might be painful, but you will be SO blessed because of it.