Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Don't trash it

The book of Hebrews held a fresh reminder for me this morning.

"Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward." Heb. 10:35

What is your confidence?

As a child of the Most High God my confidence should not be in any thing I possess other than the person of Jesus Christ.

But how often do I throw Him away? 
How often do I trash His promises to me as if they are not enough?

When I get up and face the day ahead of me full of dread, doubt, or fear....I am throwing away my confidence.

When I pray for something and think in my heart that the situation is impossible...I am throwing away my confidence.

When someone has wronged me and I withhold my forgiveness from them....I am throwing away my confidence.

When I allow sin and pride to mean more to me than obedience to my God....I am throwing away my confidence.

I am ashamed to say that I do this ALL THE TIME.

Thankfully, my Jesus, can't really be thrown away.

His precious Spirit resides in my heart and is ready and able to equip me for whatever lies ahead.

My only job is to choose:

Trash his promises....or trust them.

Oh Lord help me to trust you.  I want Your Word to be my breath.  Help me trust.  Help me take Your promises to the bank.  Forgive me when I throw Your blessed promises away as if they mean nothing.  They mean everything!  Let me live out my life with my hope only in You.  Give me faith where I lack.  I love you Jesus....my confidence, my hope.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tempted...at any age

Church was a staple of life for me. 

It was a home away from home.

Unfortunatey I think kids toss aside the privilege of coming into God's house so frequently.  I know I did.

As a kid and teenager, it became more of a place to be seen and hang out with friends.

On the flip side... it did mostly keep us out of trouble.

(I mean no one really considers practical jokes, wet willies, or house rolling as trouble, right?!?)

Being involved at church and hanging around with good freinds went a long way in avoiding trouble and temptation as a teenager.

But what about now? 

I was just thinking about how temptation is still such a part of daily life.

I am still tempted to lie.
I am still tempted to cheat.
I am still tempted to do the things I know I shouln't do.

We don't outgrow the pull of temptation.

Granted the temptations have changed.  But they are still present.

Youth seems to be the time when we are warned repeatedly about various temptations.

Don't have sex.
Don't drink.
Don't do drugs.

Am I right?

If I had a dollar for every time these words were uttered in youth group I would be well off even still.

But what happens when we exit our teenage years? 

We go on living life. 
We attempt to make wise choices.

But we sometimes forget that we are a walking target.

These days I am not tempted like the young impulsive teenage girl who sought to please others.

Now I am tempted like the worn out, thriving, desperate wife and mother that I am.

But now....instead of sitting next to other teenagers who battle the same feelings I do.  I sit next to other mothers and wives and try not to drown in my own comparisons.

See.....the battle is totally different now.

Staying true to our convictions despite the temptation to cave is so so hard...at any age.

Attempting to grow in my faith and staying in God's Word have helped my feet not stray the path.

But temptation is real. 

Without Jesus I know I would have gone from one feel good thing to the next.  I am well aware of my weakness.

Let's not live like a battle is not raging around us. 

Let's not live like we are immune or too old to encounter temptation.

Let's be real.

Let's acknowlege that we live lives that the Enemy of our souls would love to destroy.

Stand your ground...stay true to your convicitons...do what is right.

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."  Eph. 6:13

The stand you take may greatly impact others.....

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shake it off

Praise be to God for His joy!

I mentioned in my last post that He delivered and it was nothing but ON TIME.

I was in desperate need.

Sometimes we learn through the lacking of things.  Other times we make it through only by the lavishing of things.

His joy is being lavished on me right now.  I can't tell you why.  There were recent days I prayed for joy to come and, at best, I faked my way through.

Faking is not always a bad thing.  Especially if we are being obedient without the warm fuzzies that go along with it.  I believe we are well within reason to fake some joy even when we don't feel it.  

Ok.  So maybe I do know why God has opened the doors of heaven and rained down the joy.

Most of the prayers that I am passionately and fervently bringing before God Almighty either get the answer I didn't want or seem farfetched and hopeless. 

I would say that requires some joy for the girl praying, wouldn't you?!?

It seems like every direction I turn my heart is pulled by someone I love being disappointed, disillusioned, discouraged, defeated, or dejected. 
(I didn't mean to use all of those D words but they seemed to fit)

None of these issues are small matters either.

They are big to me and to the ones living them out.

Prayer is my only option. 

The best one even.

But resting when all the praying has been done is unnerving.

Last Friday morning Shep and I did our morning prayer routine.  It has been a great way to start our day.  We approach God and voice to Him all the stuff that we shouldn't fret over during the day.  Just the act of talking to Him expresses our trust in Him as the only Way.

After we had finished praying we began to discuss some of the requests that we had prayed over.


We had just given these requests to the One who could supply answers and direct our steps.  Now we were trying to wrap worldly wisdom around God sized requests. It wasn't possible.

I could feel my forehead wrinkling in worry.
My shoulders sagged in doubt.

Immediately Shep said, "Baby, shake it off.  Quit taking these things back on you.  We have given them to God. Now let's rest in that and take the next step of this day."

It was a good word from a good man.

He could literally see the transformation in me as doubt and fear did its work.  It completely undid in a matters of seconds what faith had built up moments before.

It happens just that fast.

Be on guard.  Shake the worries off.  Pray hard.  Rest.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

He brought J O Y

It seems as though I have been in a funk since the New Year....maybe, if I were really being honest, it was even before Thanksgiving.

So that would be four months of a FUNK.


I am not saying that the funk is over.

But today I woke up to some unexplained JOY.

(Thank you Jesus!)

Circumstances in my life and in the lives of people I love certainly play a part in my demeanor.  I am not one of those people who can play off a smile when I feel more like throwing a tantrum.

This week has been hard.  Caroline and Shep have been seriously under the weather.  It has rained every day (which seems to be the forecast for this entire winter), and some serious issues have had us face down in prayer.

This morning I woke up to an amazing husband and three cutie pies ready to offer their homemade Valentines (is their a better kind?!?). 

After ooohing and ahhhhhing and doling out hugs and kisses I soaked in some of the sweetness of that. 

Just my family showing me love.

Then I opened up my devotional and God had planned to do the same.

Show me some love.

He encouraged me through His Word to rejoice in Him always.

I can't explain it. 

This isn't some new or novel thought.  Rejoicing in God is always encouraged in the life of a believer. 

But a funk doesn't do a thing for a rejoicing heart.

It was like somehow the Light got into crevices that had been shut down. 

I am certain that the problem has been me.

I can be a pro at shutting down.

Sometimes we don't want to let that Light in.  Joy seems so far off and to try and miss seems worse.

So....we settle for a funk.

This morning, on Valentine's Day, my Lord gave me some joy.  It was like He brought it to me like breakfast in bed.

I will boast in that.

One of our prayer requests of the week was answered in a way that broke my heart....but the joy remains.

Another prayer request is being answered in a way that indicates much hope....and my joy doubles.

Psalm 86:4  "Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul."

He did this for me. 

He brought joy to me this morning.

A box of chocolates or a dozen roses couldn't touch this Valentine's gift from God!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bowing to Idols

God showed me something new in His Word this past Sunday.

As Shep taught our class about the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, God had a modern day lesson for me.

1 Kings chapter 18 is pretty dramatic.  

Elijah intends to show the people of Israel that the LORD is God alone.  These people have followed false gods and have turned away from the one true God. 

The stage is set.

Two bulls are chosen and cut up for a sacrifice and placed upon wood. 

The 450 prophets of Baal are to call upon their god to answer by fire and consume the sacrifice.

Elijah, a prophet of God, will do the exact same thing (as well as soak his altar with water three times and build a trench) and call upon God to consume his bull by fire.

We know the outcome....the prophets of Baal call to their god and he does nothing.  Elijah calls upon the Lord God and "the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench." (v.38)

However the outcome of this story is not what God had in mind for me. 

My application came 10 verses earlier in the story.  The prophets of Baal called on their god repeatedly.  Verse 28 says, " So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed."

These people had been completely deceived.  The same enemy that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy us had disillusioned them.  They had decided to place their hope in a false god.  They bowed to it.  They believed in it.  They even slashed themselves until their own blood flowed.

Are we that different?

Do we place our hope in any false gods?
Do we bow to them?
Do we believe in them?
Do we cry out to them repeatedly to save us...deliver us....help us?

I know I have.  From time to time I still do.

I bow to security.
I bow to prosperity.
I bow to power.
I bow to popularity.
I bow to jealousy and anger.
I bow to resentment.

We may shun the idea of any of these things being a false god...but if you place your hope or focus on them instead of God...one or more of them has become an idol.

Thankfully the Holy Spirit will convict me when I bow to any of these idols.  He is a jealous God and will allow nothing else to come before Him.  This is for my own good.  My other gods remain silent just like Baal.  They have no real power....I only imagine a false sense of control.

As God showed me this in my own life He took it a step further. 

Did you notice that these people cut themselves until their blood flowed?

I meet young women each week at our center who have done the same thing.  They are so desperate to find security, fulfillment, and hope that they will cut themselves just to try to attain some attention or some type of cleansing.

God asks us to bow to Him alone because His blood flowed. Ours doesn't have to.

Not only did it flow for us but He can still consume like a fire and show Himself mighty!

Let's live the sacrificial life set ablaze by God's holy fire.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Clear as Mud

I listened to a friend share about a glorious encounter she had with God.

She described being in the car surrounded by praise music and receiving an encouragement of supernatural proportions.

Her smile was wide.  Her eyes were bright.  Her hope evident in the tones of her voice.

This isn't her norm these days.

She is dealing with pain. A broken heart awakens her every morning and follows her to bed each night.  Her prayers are repetitive. She yearns for restoration.  She aches with what should be...what could be. 

Yet none of that was clouding her at this marvelous moment.

For this brief pause she shared how God had been ministering to her...in spite...in the midst of a muddy mess.

There was this moment of clarity for her...and for me.

As I stood there listening....watching....observing...I noticed that God's glory was brilliant against the backdrop of her season of darkness and pain.

If it weren't for the oppressive pain....would she notice or even need God like she does?

If her current season was complete joy and contentment would she miss out on these marvelous moments with God?

I am not sure she would trade them but maybe....just maybe....she wouldn't go back  to who she was before.

How does pain do that?

How is it that we hate every moment of it yet learn so well from the tears cried in that place?

How is it that laughter never felt better than after periods of sorrow?

I hate watching anyone hurt.

I hate what my friend is dealing with day in and day out. 

But I loved watching her bask in the spotlight of grace today.

Her yoke was cast off and His yoke fit her like a glove...easy and free.

Like anyone else in a hard place she will endure more pain.  But marvelous moments do happen.  The mud will clear and laughter will ring as grace does its work. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Fire in her Bones

There is a lady in our church who just lost her husband.

I don't know her very well.

I just know the consistency in which I have seen her live.

Her husband had been very ill for years.  She had been his caretaker.  At first his illness did not hinder them from coming to church.  But over time it became increasingly more difficult to get there.

Occasionally other family members and friends would step up and care for him so that she could enjoy the encouragement of her church family.

Let me be the first to say that those visits often resulted in the church body being encouraged by her occasional visit....and not the other way around.

This woman is real.

Real about life and her present circumstance but, more importantly, even more real about her God.

She has never once backed down from stating the burden that has been hers to bear.  But she has also never once backed down from an opportunity to give any listening ear a litany of reasons to boast in the Lord.  Faith exudes from her.

This past Sunday she came to church as a widow.

It was a first for her....and for all of us too.

Instead of hands holding tight to her husbands wheelchair they were instead full of empty dishes being returned to church family who had prepared food during the funeral.

A few of us had the chance to hug her neck and wish her well.

As always...we were the blessed ones.

Her eyes sprang to tears with ease but the smile was unmistakeable.

She told us that she missed him. 
She even told us that moments of despair linger.

But in the short time I got to be in her presence I heard her repeat the same phrase over and over.

"His grace is sufficient."

I bet she said it 4 or 5 times in the few minutes I was at her side.

There is was.

The fire shut up in her bones...that is the truth of God's Word....shining out for all to see...beyond her frailty.

I don't believe her repetition was for me (or my friend who was with me) although we benefited greatly from her words.  I believe they were for her.

Sometimes we must say it (over and over) to tell our minds to believe it.

Christianity is nothing if not intentional.

I love that this sweet saint, ahead of me in the race, is running an example worthy to follow.

Out of her pain flows the wellspring of life....truth from a life lived by faith....and sometimes we get a splash onto us.

I have thought of her several times with fondness and gratitude.

Today as I walked out of the grocery store I thought of her again.  I crossed the parking lot and began to sing out loud....

Your grace is enough.
Your grace is enough.
Your grace is enough for me.

Let us live our lives so that others may be splashed in the richness of his grace on us!