Monthly Archives: September 2013

Stand in Awe

Stand in awe.

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Ex 14:13-14

Sometimes I go from fear to fear.  I am anxious about something.  When it is resolved I feel so much better.  But then I move on to the next thing I fear, waiting for it to be resolved.

Instead, I should stand in awe always, reverent before the Almighty, merciful, faithful God, waiting to be amazed by Him.

I am in awe at how we have a baptism today, how God has brought this girl so far.  I am in awe that there were 15 people at the young professionals event last night, that God is working so mightily in that area.  I am in awe with how God helped a long time situation to get resolved and now the person involved is being so effective.  I see so many areas where God is working.

Today, instead of praying in fear, let me be on my knees in my heart, in quietness, in anticipation, in respect for Him.

Look how God has worked in the past:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”…  Ex 11:9

“At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt.” Ex 12:41

One of my favorite Exodus verses I came across this week is this one:

“That night the LORD kept watch to take them out of Egypt. (All Israelites in future generations must keep watch on this night, since it is dedicated to the LORD.)”  Ex 12:42

The Lord keeps watch over our darkest nights.

I remember one night when I was around 20, and I had a really bad stomach ache.  I woke up my dad and stepmom to see if they had something that could help me.  My dad stayed up with me for awhile to make sure I was feeling better. He held vigil with me.

There is something very comforting about someone holding vigil with you. When we took my mom off life support, my brother and I stayed at the hospital.  All night we would go into her room and talk to her, tell her it was okay.  I believe it was helpful to my mother.  I know it was helpful for me to have my brother with me there, and to not do it alone.

Jesus wanted his closest friends to hold vigil with him on his darkest night.

“Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matt 26:38

Although the friends could not give Jesus the support he needed, God provided it.  Jesus was strengthened to the point that he was able to go to the cross.  Satan did not win.  Although Jesus was crucified, the things that could be feared did not win out.  Instead, people stood in awe at the amazing way God worked through the resurrection.  People are still in awe of this to this day.

God keeps watch over our darkest night.

“He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. … The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; 8the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”  Ps 121

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  Ps 23

God holds vigil with us, and we need to do the same for Him.  How do we keep vigil with God today?  We remain alert always, always giving our best to Him instead of slacking off.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. . . “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  Matt 25:1-4, 13

Satan wants me to slack off.  He wants me to compromise. I call it spiritual entropy — we tend to wear down and head towards mediocrity over time.  One of the ways he does this is by distracting me with my fears.

And there are many things to fear.  There are wicked people. They do wreak havoc.

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Matt 24:13

Stand firm to the end. Stand still. Stand in awe.  Stand like Paul did when he was taken in prison.  He sang instead of dwelling on his fears.  Stand like Jesus did when a storm came up and he was on the boat with his disciples.  He slept.  He was at peace.

God, you are awesome.  May I focus on that today.  May I wait for your glory to be revealed as is shall be, over and over again.

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Friend #9 — The Promised Land is There!

glucose drink

Tuesday I spent almost 5 hours at the doctor’s office getting a glucose tolerance test.  It wasn’t hard to get the sweet stuff down, but afterwards my digestive system wasn’t happy.  I spent the first hour or so in a haze, studying my Bible with my one-armed reading glasses or just playing scrabble when I felt too rotten to focus on anything else.  Then I started feeling better and I was able to be productive with my time — catching up with people by text or phone, looking for cars on my phone internet.  In the last hour I crashed.  They asked me how I felt, and I said I was getting a little lightheaded.  When I stood up, I was REALLY lightheaded.  The bland looking male nurse with his little goatee took a blood sugar reading and stated nonchalantly, “She’s done.”  It was 53 — way low! I was vaguely aware that he put a juice box in my hand and I sucked that thing down, and almost immediately started to feel better.

The good part about all of this is that I got to know the new lab technician.  I made a friend!  Her husband is in the military, and they moved here from Texas a few months ago.  She was genuinely caring, an honest person with no artifice about her.  Somehow as my head was spinning from the low sugar, I shared with her about our church and my life.  I learned about her story.  She lives in Columbus and I invited her to the Bible talk there.  We exchanged phone numbers.  The time ended on an encouraging note.  To God be the glory!

I read through several chapters of Exodus while I was in the waiting room.  What really struck me is how God always knew what the end of the story was going to be.  He told Abraham how the Israelites would be captive in Egypt, and then would be delivered.  He knew that the Israelites would one day possess the Promised Land.

But God didn’t just hand them the Promised Land on a platter.  He didn’t make it easy for them.  Right after they crossed the Red Sea he led them through the desert and they did not have water for three days.  When they finally found water, it was bitter.  Of course they began to doubt and complain.

I can relate so well to the whiny Israelites.  In the past few weeks I have found myself thinking worst case scenarios — maybe God wants me to go through some terrible health challenges, maybe I’ll get sued somehow for the car accident.  Sometimes I haven’t at all remembered that God is the deliverer, and He will see me through to the other side of this challenge.

BUT GOD IS THE DELIVERER.  HE WILL SEE US THROUGH EVERY CHALLENGE, AND TAKE US TO THE OTHER SIDE.  “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. . . You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance– the place, LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established. Ex 15;13, 17

Here is the thing — the Promised Land is already there.  It’s waiting for us.  God knows it is there.  He just wants us to walk with Him and trust him through the times of hardship that will come, that it is on the other side.

And our destiny to become a super hero is already written.  I listened to a message recently on this.  We are God’s adopted children, the royal priesthood.  We have powerful ingredients, everything we need to become great for God.  Through life, if we follow Him, He will shape us into what He always intended for us to be.

God WILL be glorified. We can walk with Him, hand in hand, trusting in Him that GLORY is before us.  Or we can take the path of doubt and darkness, stress and bleakness.  “And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”  Ex 14:17-18

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. II Tim 4:17-18

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Friend #8 — A Better Tomato

Today, my life seems intertwined with inspirations I have from my recent reading of the first chapters of Exodus — part of my ongoing OT survey.

GOD IS IN THE GROWING BUSINESS. But the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.”  (Ex 1:6-7)  “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied”  1:12)  So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.”  (1:20)

Here is a picture of my tomato plants.  IMG_4048 I started them from seeds.  They almost didn’t make it, but then they began to grow.  I put them on a little stake.  They grew more.  I put in a larger stake.  They kept growing.  And finally I bought this frame for them to grow on.  My tomato plants love to grow.  But they haven’t produced any tomatoes!  Yes, they’ve  bloomed.  Yes, I’ve fertilized them– with Miracle Gro, no less!  But they still don’t have any “fruit.”

God grew the Israelite community better than I’ve grown my tomato plants.  It’s amazing.  He took a handful of desert men, put them in Egypt, and made them into thousands upon thousands of Israelites.

How does He do it?  Ken and I watched the 30th anniversary video from the New York Church of Christ.  They started with just a few people, and not only became a large church, they helped start numerous churches all over the world!  I want to see that happen here.

The thing is, God knows how to put people in the places where they will grow.  Who would have thought that Egypt would be the place God would put his people in order to have them multiply?    And I need to TRUST that God has put me in the best place for me to grow!  As I said in my last blog, I’ve been going back over Ps. 23.  All of the aspects of the Psalm tell me that God sets me up to win.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,…He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

So I continue to “plant” and “water” in the place God has put me.  Today the afternoon was getting late, and I hadn’t made any new friends, so I decided to start the process of looking for a car.  I went to the Hyundai dealership and met a salesman named Stephen.  Stephen is a great guy.  He’s only lived in Auburn for a month.  He and his young wife moved here to start working on his doctorate in educational psychology.  He was very appreciative when I invited him to church, he said it’s the first time he’s been invited anywhere since he moved here.  I think he and his wife would really enjoy hanging out with the other young couples at church.

I am not sure if I will buy a car from Stephen.  He actually did show me a good deal or two.  I am not sure if he will come to church.  But I do believe that God is working.  “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. (Mark 4:27)

Here are a couple of other reflections I had after reading Exodus.

Sometimes, times of challenge are needed to help us to grow.  God allows us to go through periods of “bondage” so that we will see how much we need Him.  “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”  (Ex 2:23-25)

If the Israelites had not gone through bondage, they would not have realized that they need a deliverer.  Their relationship with God would have been profoundly different.  It is the same for me.  I have been going through some challenges.  I realize more and more that it is only by the grace of God that I am where I am, and I am so grateful for the many times He has delivered me, for the smallest of blessings along the way.

WHOLEHEARTED WORSHIP IS ALWAYS THE OBJECTIVE. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  (Ex 3:12) “Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’ ”  (Ex 5:1)

Why was God so insistent that the Israelites travel to the wilderness to worship Him?  Why could they not worship Him where they were, like we go to church to worship God?    I have been distracted lately, and I think that helps me understand why God wanted the Israelites to go to the wilderness to worship Him.    I have been amazed at how consuming the things I have been going through are.  It’s a battle to remember what I feel is really important, and to devote time to these things.

So I expect, as slaves, it would have been very difficult for the Israelites to really focus on God.  They were in survival mode.  They had to please their masters.  No wonder God wanted them out of that situation, into a place where they could give Him their devoted attention.

God is always going to work in our lives to bring us to a place where we can be more devoted to him.   I told Ken right after the car accident, “I think God is starting a period of transition for me.”  I don’t know what this transition is.  But I know His goal is to refine me, bring me closer to Him, and enrich me immeasurably.

I hate spinning my wheels, putting in much work and getting nowhere.  I am thankful that although I grow my garden imperfectly, God is the master gardener.  He is growing me, and growing His work here, in just the right way.

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Friends #7 — The Lord, My Shepherd

The last week has been so strange.  I was already having health challenges, and experiencing side effects from a new medication,  Then I had the car accident and was recovering from that, with physical discomfort and yet more side effects from medications. The last couple of days I have been preparing for an endoscopy, so I fasted and went through the lovely process of flushing myself out.

I’ve felt emotional about the accident.  I’ve felt tired and it took all I had to push through.  I’ve felt extremely nervous about the endoscopy.  I’ve been out of my usual routine.  I haven’t had a car.  My chemistry is off.  At some points I’ve felt as low as I can remember feeling for awhile.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”  Ps 23:1-3

A few days ago I went back to basics, and it was wonderful to read over Ps 23 and meditate on it.  God is my good shepherd.  He is with me, guiding me, taking care of me.  I found many rich truths that comforted me.

By God’s grace, I have continued to reach out to others to make friends.  The cable guy came over Monday and I listened to his story.  With his belt of tools slung low around his waist, he reminded me of some kind of modern cowboy coming to wrestle technology instead of cows.  He told me how he met the girl of his dreams at Auburn, and she got pregnant, so they got married and made the best of it.  She is working and studying to be a nurse while he works long hours as a contractor.  His life is challenging, but he is doing what he can, and is grateful for his wife and child.  He said he had no time to fit church into his schedule, but I wished him the best.

Yesterday as I was prepping for my endoscopy, Ken and I discovered that the nurse lives in our neighborhood.  We had a good chat, and I learned about her oldest son, and how he now is a graphic artist for Auburn’s athletic department, and how she is amazed that his talent came from her, a nurse, and her husband, a policeman.  I invited her to our chili cookoff or neighborhood Bible study and I think she was taken aback.  She didn’t seem interested, but it was good to get to know her.  Maybe we will see her when we are out for a walk.

“He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”  Ps 23:3

At first, when I thought about what i would write for this blog, I thought about how I still feel that I haven’t gotten it yet.  I am missing something in getting to know people.  I need to genuinely care about them more, perhaps.

But then I realized that it is always all about God, and I want Him to get the glory.  It’s not about me and my efforts.  I have to believe what I have been reading, that he is shepherding me, that I AM going the direction I need to go!  I need to trust his guidance in the journey.  He knows I am weak, and he works with that.

All of God’s paths are righteous.  When He is leading, it is always in the right direction.  By His grace, I will grow as I need to grow and learn what I need to learn.

In the few minutes before they put me under anesthesia, I asked myself if there was anything I wanted to make right with God.  The thing I thought of is being less prideful.  I need to grow in humility.  If these past few days have taught me nothing else, they have taught me that.  I live in utter spoiled comfort.  To me, my recent challenges are just aberrations until I go back to my normal of an easy life.  But for other people, these challenges are their reality.  Their reality is living with poor health that requires uncomfortable medical attention.  Their reality is death that is looming for them, or for loved ones.

May I be more sober.  May I be more compassionate.  May I be more humbled, and look to God as my shepherd.  To Him be the glory!

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The Immutable Plan of God

“He (Jacob) blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, The angel who has delivered me from all harm, Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”…Gen 48:16

There is such a heavy sense of importance in this blessing.  Jacob has a profound conviction that it is God who has been the center of his life.  His heritage from his father and grandfather is God.  His guiding force in life is God.  He credits where he is to God — that he hasn’t been harmed or killed.

Jacob sees clearly that his responsibility is to continue God’s plan through his lineage.  He takes the business of blessing very seriously.  What is God’s plan?  That the descendents would be multiply prolifically, and that rulers would come from their midst.  Thus, Jacob blesses Joseph’s children that they would become a multitude, and that they would perpetuate the purpose of the patriarchs,  the purpose of God.  Jacob’s blessing to Joseph reflects how clearly he sees that God has had his hand on Joseph, and it commends Joseph for maintaining his integrity through all of his trials.

Joseph is a fruitful vine,…With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you…with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb.  Gen 49:22-25

There is a theme here — those who have lived their lives with integrity are blessed with the privilege of having God’s plan work through them and their descendents.  Those who made bad choices are left out of this.  Reuben slept with his father’s concubine and so did not get the rights of the first born.  Simeon and Levi avenged their sister’s rape with much bloodshed, and jeopardized the relations of Jacob’s tribe with the surrounding tribes.  Their blessing is more of a curse.

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” Gen 49:10

Judah, the fourth son, gets the most important heritage.  From his offspring will come a ruler.  It is interesting to note that God made sure that Judah had a worthy son to carry this out.  Er, Judah’s first born, was wicked and the Lord put him to death.  The second son, Onan, wouldn’t produce an heir with Er’s wife, so he was put to death also.  Finally Er’s wife, Tamar, tricked Judah into getting her pregnant, and it is one of the two twins born, Perez, who becomes the ancestor of King David.  (Genesis 38)

All of this gives me peace and confidence in God.  He has always had a plan.  His plan has always prevailed.  He has zealously and faithfully guarded and watched over His plan’s implementation.

And today I believe we are still carrying out this plan.  Our purpose is also to multiply — to go and make disciples of all nations.  Our purpose also involves establishing a ruler — Christ.  We need to lead every knee to bow to him.

As God was with the patriarchs, God will surely also be with us, to establish his plan and expand it ever more.  May we make right choices and be worthy, and may His grace be sufficient.  May the confidence of Joseph speak to us through our trials —

  • “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  Gen 50:20
  • “I am about to die.  But surely God will come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  50:24

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit”  Zech 4:6

 

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Friend #6: On the Receiving End

During the first days of this make-a-friend-a-day challenge I set for myself, it was all me doing the reaching out.  For the past couple of days, people have reached out to me.

In my last blog I wrote of my car wreck.  Two women in separate vehicles immediately stopped and ran over to make sure I was okay, and then stayed with me until all of the police business was finished.  They encouraged and supported me, and we almost wanted to hug to say goodbye.  At that point I was too befuddled to find out much about them, but they gave to me out of the warmth of their hearts and I was so appreciative.

The next day I stayed home and recuperated.  Today I used Ken’s car to run errands.  I got some blood labs done in the morning, and had a great talk with the lab technician, a gentle friendly woman I’ve talked with before.  When I shared with her how my week had gone, and about my accident, she opened up about some challenges she was having in her life as well.  She gave me great spiritual advice about how to cope.  I invited her to our upcoming chili cookoff and she loved the idea and said she would like to come.  It was a very encouraging time, even if I did have to have three vials of blood taken from my arm!

Then this afternoon I went to get my bangs trimmed.  My hair dresser and I chatted about what is going on in our lives. She is a very sweet woman, Southern to the core — one of those eternal caretakers who is raising her second family.  As I left, she threw her arms around me and held me tight as she prayed for my recovery, and for blessings for me.

I want my life to be about giving to others.  I admit, I had just written a blog about no excuses, but I didn’t push through to reach out to others on the day of my wreck.  But God is gracious.  He provided friends for me, instead of the other way around.  There are many good people in the world.  To God be the glory!

 

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Friend #5: No Excuses

no-excuses

I have started taking a new medication after my doctor visit, and it makes me SLEEPY.  My motivation and zing have become nonexistent at times.

So when I went to Walmart yesterday it was really difficult to focus on making a friend and sticking to my goal of making a friend a day.  I wandered, spacey, through the aisles, put the items in my cart that I needed, but didn’t get anything going as far as a conversation went.  It would have been so easy to follow my pattern of the past and just tell myself that it could wait for another day.  I told myself that I wasn’t feeling up to it, and there wasn’t anyone to talk to.

But then I remembered my sisters who are trying to build good habits — coming to church more regularly, reading their Bibles more regularly — and I decided that I couldn’t encourage them to work on consistency if I couldn’t achieve it in my own life.  So I told myself, “NO EXCUSES!”

I prayed for God to show me how to talk with someone before I left.  Where on earth was I going to find this person?  I saw people hanging around in the home fix-it department, ordering paint, looking at rollers.  Perfect!  I started conversing with a woman about her plans to paint her house.  A woman of a “mature” age, she had red hair and the bluest eyes.  She was recovering from a fall she had had off of her porch balcony where she broke both of her wrists, and she was finally able to paint again.  She told me about her grandchildren, and even her great grandchildren.  It wasn’t easy to talk to this woman because I felt tired and out of it, but I was doing it!

Then, as I walked towards the checkout, I made a comment to the nurse giving flu shots, and we started having a great conversation.  We talked about health challenges we have and she gave me some good insight into, of all things, parathyroid function. (I think mine might be deficient, I am going to get it checked.)  She looked way too young to have grown children, but she told me about her daughter who is in the Navy.  But best of all, we talked about church, and how she would like to start attending somewhere regularly.  I gave her an invitation.

God is good!  I am so glad to have had victories.  It feels great to get a little further out of my longtime rut.

(Jesus) said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Luke 9:59-60

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