Monthly Archives: October 2013

Seeking His Glory

Sometimes in life I see something clearly that I didn’t see before.

What I have seen lately is that my life is SO much about me.  There are many times when I don’t feel good.  I’m getting a lot of experience with pushing through.   And as I’ve examined the motivation I use to push through, I’ve realized that it is for my glory, not God’s. I have this standard for myself of maintaining a certain level of productivity.  I am not happy when I fall short.

This is pride.  This is selfish ambition.

The pride takes the form of insecurity.  I focus so much on what I think I am supposed to be.   The pride takes the form of  jealousy.  I want glory for myself.

So I’ve gone back to a mind blowing quote that always helps put things into perspective.

“Give thanks for every weakness, fault and imperfection you have.  Accept it as a favor of God.  Remember if God has chosen to shrink your swelling pride, he has made it that much easier to enter the narrow way.”  Jeremy Taylor

My pride is not just a pesky character fault I’m dealing with.  It is huge heavy baggage that impedes my relationship with God and my growth towards holiness.

Taylor uses this passage in his devotional to accompany his quote:

“When Jesus noticed how the guests always chose the places of honor. So he used this illustration when he spoke to them: When someone invites you to a wedding, don’t take the place of honor. Maybe someone more important than you was invited. Then your host would say to you, ‘Give this person your place.’ Embarrassed, you would have to take the place of least honor. 1So when you’re invited, take the place of least honor. Then, when your host comes, he will tell you, ‘Friend, move to a more honorable place.’ Then all the other guests will see how you are honored. Those who honor themselves will be humbled, but people who humble themselves will be honored.'” Luke 14:7-11

Oh man.  Those who honor themselves will be humbled.  That is me.  I try to work on my pride, but it is slippery.  I think I am getting a handle on it, only to find out I am deceived.

So I want to say only one thing all day long:  SEEK HIS GLORY.  Seek HIS honor, not mine.

This time in my life has brought out to me how hard it is for me to not be able to accomplish things.  I have many works I would like to do to advance God’s kingdom.  I can put a lot of pressure on myself to get these things done.

But these things will not validate me.  Only God can validate me.

If God wants me to get something to get done, if it is His will, He will enable me to do it.  This must be my peace.

May His will be done.  May He become greater and I become less.  May His glory increase always.  Amen.

 

 

 

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Praise for the Power

autumn tree

Hallelujah, holy, holy
God Almighty, the great I AM
Who is worthy, none beside Thee
God Almighty, the great I AM   (Phillips, Craig & Dean)

It’s about praise!  I have been reading some scriptures in I Peter from the God’s Word Translation, and I have been so encouraged to find new treasures in these passages.

Peter starts by praising God.  And that is what it is all about for Peter.  The book of I Peter was probably written at least 30 years after Jesus died.  Peter had seen the church go through a lot of persecution.  Yet all he can communicate is how much we should praise God.

Here are some of the heart lifting things I found in I Peter:

Praise for the SPIRIT– The Spirit is designed to be an integral help to us.  “God the Father knew you long ago and chose you to live holy lives with the Spirit’s help so that you are obedient to Jesus Christ and are sprinkled with his blood.”

Praise for His GREAT MERCY“God has given us a new birth because of his great mercy.”

Praise because we can be completely CONFIDENT in our salvation.    We have a “confidence that is alive.” We are “guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed at the end of time.”  Peter tells us: “Place your confidence completely in what God’s kindness will bring you when Jesus Christ appears again. ”

Praise because of the EXCELLENCY of the SACRIFICE Jesus made.  “Realize that you weren’t set free from the worthless life handed down to you from your ancestors by a payment of silver or gold which can be destroyed. Rather, the payment that freed you was the precious blood of Christ, the lamb with no defects or imperfections.”

Praise that we can LOVE: “After all, you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth. As a result you have a sincere love for each other.”

Praise for the everlasting power of the WORD, which REGENERATES us:  “You have been born again, not from a seed that can be destroyed, but through God’s everlasting word that can’t be destroyed.”

Praise because we are GOD’S CHOSEN AND BELOVED PEOPLE:  “However, you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God.” 

Praise because this salvation is so wonderful: “who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  “You were like lost sheep.  But now you have come back to the shepherd and bishop of your lives.”

Praise for the POWER that will always get us through:  “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Peter ends his letter, To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”  Amen!   God is the All Mighty.   All that we praise God for starts and ends with his power.  How utterly comforting it is that no power of the world is stronger.

The demons run and flee
At the mention of the name, King of majesty
There is no power in hell or any who can stand
Before the power and the presence of the great I AM  (“A”Great I Am” by Phillips Craig & Dean)

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Friend #12 — Keep on Going

GRAVITY

I am still making friends.

I’ve met some interesting people.  Carol and I met a motorcycle grandma who showed us the tattoo she got back before tattoos were cool.  I met a sweet blond haired store clerk at Good Will whose job used to be to teach motorcycle safety to soldiers.  I talked with the guy at the license tag counter about musicals of all things — which ones he and I and seen recently, and which ones we wanted to see.  I got to know the nail technician from Vietnam as she gave me a pedicure and talked to me in broken English.  So many of the manicurists stay to themselves.  This one cared about me, asked me about my life, and told me about hers.  She has been in Auburn 5 months and is lonely for her mother, father and grandmother back home.

I have been working on relationships.  Our married group had a game night last night and I invited all sorts of people.  None of them came, but I had a great conversation with a friend I met when I worked for the school of pharmacy.  I exchanged funny texts with my next door neighbor that I don’t know very well about our husbands who don’t really like to play cards.  I got back in touch with the used car salesman I met, and he thanked me for the invitation, even though he and his wife already had plans.

None of these interactions bore visible fruit.  But I am going to keep on going.  We are going to keep on going.  Alicia couldn’t find the game night last night.  But instead of getting discouraged, she went to the library.  She texted me, “I made a friend there, like you make friends. :)”

Ken and I went to see “Gravity” this evening.  What impressed me about the movie is how Sandra Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone, kept on going.  At one point she did get discouraged and even gave up, but without giving away the movie, she found the inspiration and strength to make a bold attempt to save her life.  And this led to her continuing to make heroic efforts to keep on going until the end.

We are going to keep on going to the end, by God’s grace. We will keep caring about people.  We will live out I Peter 1:22, “Love each other with a warm love that comes from the heart. After all, you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth. As a result you have a sincere love for each other.” I Peter 1:22 (God’s Word Translation)

Today I had a great quiet time that started with Exodus 19:5-6: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

God wants to bring people close to him to be the apple of his eye, the joy of his heart, his treasured possession.
This is as true for me, and for people today, as it was in the day of Moses. 

  • But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9

This is a powerful motivation.  Let me keep on going in spite of the challenges I’ve been experiencing.  Let me focus on all the things God is doing — the baptism last weekend, the Bible studies I’ve been a part of, answered prayer — and stand in awe.

(SPOILER ALERT**)  At the end of “Gravity,” Ryan Stone, who had never prayed in her life because no one had ever taught her, clasps the earth once more in her hands and says, “Thank you.”

Thank you, God.  Thank you for getting us this far.  Thank you for saving our lives.

Thank you that we can express our gratitude and enrich our lives by making friends.  May they come to know, as we do, the immeasurable wonders and riches of God.

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Filed under A Friend A Day, Grace, Old Testament Survey, One Another Relationships

The Place of In-Between

It is hard to be in the place of in-between.

Yesterday I was reading a chapter in “How to Study the Bible for All It’s Worth.”  It talked about how focused the Jewish people were during the time of Jesus on the coming of the kingdom of God.  They thought it was something that was going to happen all at once, like a magic day when everything would be changed.  The book discussed how the early Christians had to deal with a changed paradigm — that the kingdom was not something that came all at once, but something that had begun and was developing.  They had some of the blessings of the kingdom, but the ultimate fulfillment was still to come.  They were living in an in-between time.

It struck me how much all of us are living in an in-between time.  Here in Auburn we are waiting for the church to become a large stable church.  In my own life I have people I am praying for to become Christians.  I have ways I need to grow, and I see ways others need to grow.  We are all stuck in the middle of our journey.

God often placed people in the place of in-between.  Abraham wandered in the desert and it took years for God to fulfill his promise of a child to him.  Joseph spent years in prison.  The Israelites wandered in the desert.  Later, the Jewish nation was taken into captivity.   Then there were 400 years of silence from God, without prophets, before Jesus came.

The thing that is frustrating about being in-between is that you see so much that needs to happen to get to place you want to go.  For me, there are people to reach out to, people to study with, people to build relationships with, people to shepherd.  I can get overwhelmed.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42

I can be like Martha, even in serving God.  I get more focused on thing things I need to do, than on the heart that needs to go behind the things to do.

One thing done well, out of love and faith, is good.  One prayer for someone that is conducted out of genuine concern and acknowledgement that I stand in awe of how God will work.  One phone call to express how much I care.  One act of love towards God.

In Ezekiel 36, God had a magnificent promise for the Israelites who were in the place of in-between.  “Therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign Lord. He speaks to the hills and mountains, ravines and valleys, and to ruined wastes and long-deserted cities that have been destroyed and mocked by the surrounding nations… the mountains of Israel will produce heavy crops of fruit for my people—for they will be coming home again soon! I will greatly increase the population of Israel, and the ruined cities will be rebuilt and filled with people. ….I will make you even more prosperous than you were before. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”

God gives us what we need to get through the dry barren places on our spiritual journey. Here are some things we can know while we are in the place of in-between.

To know that Your hand is upon us…

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.  Ps 139:9-10

To know that Your focus is upon us…

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.  Isa 49:16

To know that Your help is always there for us…

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,  Ps 46:1-2

To know that Your good purpose will always prevail…

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”  Ps 46:10

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Phil 1

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Old Testament Survey, Patience, Relationship with God

The Music of Beauty

I have to live with beauty.  It is a need in me so deep.

My friend Lin told me yesterday about an illustration a sister used in a Bible study they were having — that reading and applying Bible verses can be like playing notes of music: it will be wooden unless you do it from your heart.

Life to me is wooden if I just play the notes, go through the motions.  I need to feel the beauty in every moment.  I need to reflect the beauty in every action I take.

And so I take a moment here to acknowledge the beauty that is swirling around me, the news of a baptism over the weekend, the time with Alicia talking about our lives and looking at her garden, the encouraging phone conversations I had, the way others demonstrated true caring, my husband taking the time after a long day to reach out to someone, the people who are living out their faith, the great conversation I had with the woman at Good Will.

It is like the video I watched this morning of a sort of flash mob playing Beethoven on the street.  The crowd didn’t expect anything, they could have walked on by, but suddenly there was something divine that changed their whole mood.  There is unexpected beauty that surprises us as well, if we will look for it and appreciate it.

http://http://mostexcitingworld.com/videobest-coin-ever-spent/#cvMRo4pBzWqrotsd.01

Beauty is the grace I have received “as grace extends to more and more people it may cause the giving of thanks to abound, to the glory of God.”  II Cor 4:15  The grace of the cross is a wonderful healing thing.  When I took communion this past Sunday I was moved to tears once more as I thought of how I am important enough that Jesus suffered unspeakably just for me.  Sometimes lately I have felt unimportant, ineffectual, as if others are moving forward radiantly and I am shuffling dully along, behind on my to do list.  But Jesus chose and saved me.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  Gal 6:14

Beauty is trusting in God.  “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”  Ps 62:5

We DO need to wait quietly for God.  We need to stand in awe, anticipating the mighty way He will work.  I love the passage Alicia sent me this morning from “The Kingdom of God” by Tom Jones and Steve Brown.  “We need to stand in awe of a plan that has been unfolding for centuries and that we know prophets longed to see. We need to be in awe of a reign that can touch the hearts of men and women from every culture and nations and bring them together at one table and into one family We need to stand in awe of the wisdom of God that accomplishes this in ways man would never imagine.”

Alicia sent this because both of us would like to be more effective for God.  It is good to realize that we will see God will expand His kingdom in a mighty way.  I would like to be a part of this, and I am.  Just as practice helps me learn to write better, and study the Bible with others better, it will help me learn to reach out better — IF I keep on trying to grow in it.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Ps 46:10

Yesterday I read the first four chapters of II Corinthians.  It was awesome.  There are so many amazing verses there that give me strength.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer selfc is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

My outward self sometimes feels tired and weak.  But God plays an orchestra to my inner self, and I am renewed with beauty upon beauty.   “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”  John 1:16  May I live that way as well, grace upon grace, one beautiful act after another.

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Friend #11: My Soul He Doth Restore

Taken by Danielle Sofge at the Marriage Retreat

Taken by Danielle Sofge at the Marriage Retreat

He restores my soul.  Ps 23:3

Yesterday I went for yet another trip to the doctor’s office to have a lab test performed.  I had to fast and for some reason my chemistry was off by the time I got to the doctor’s office.  I felt lousy.  I sat there blearily in the waiting room listening to a man with gaps in his teeth who told me he was a bipolar extrovert, and proceeded to relate his life’s story to me.

As I was listening to him, and then chatting with the lab techs later, it was one of those times I felt ineffective.  I couldn’t think of anything to say.  It was like life was rolling over me and I wanted to participate in the process and make a difference somehow, but I felt small and feeble.

But then I started feeling better.  I was restored!  Maybe it was the test.  They injected me with synthetic ACTH, which stimulated my cortisol production.  Steroids do give you more energy!

And as I went back out to the waiting room, the restoration experience continued.  There was a woman there with her adult daughter who was developmentally disabled.  I began to converse with them, and the conversation transformed the whole waiting room.  The daughter was talking about how she couldn’t wait for the upcoming Auburn football game, and she showed us with her hands curled how Auburn was going to pounce on Texas A&M.  As I looked around, I saw smiles of enjoyment on people who had been lost in their phones or staring into space.

It is so true, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Everyone has a place and a purpose.  This young woman with the mind of a child was powerful in her own way.  She could make others smile, and forget their protective bubbles.  We were actually having a good time in the waiting room!

And then when I went back to the lab to give yet another sample of blood, I was able to follow up with one of the techs about checking out the Columbus Bible talk, and she wants to try it. Things came together.  I felt like my soul was restored.  Later in the day I shared my faith in the grocery store.  I am not where I want to be yet, but I have been given what I need to soldier on.

This past weekend was restorative as well.  I was at a marriage retreat at Callaway Gardens.  My romance with my husband was strengthened.  I felt renewed as I walked through the beautiful garden estate and finally slowed down enough to appreciate the details of the beauty of creation, the astounding patterns and colors on a butterfly wing.

We all have been restored in so many ways.  My last blog was on redemption.  Focusing on this has been one of the most refreshing, heart changing times for me.  Here is one of my latest favorite passages:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3)

The thing about Titus is that it doesn’t just describe the restorative grace of God, it stresses what our response to the redemption should be:  “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”  Titus also says, “And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”

Being restored means that we are given to bounteously, so we in turn give to others.  Typical of the Spirit, I have heard this theme time and time again recently.  Anne Brigitte told us at the marriage seminar that we need to focus on how God has treated us, and use this as a motivation to treat our husbands better.  She said God has a right to be angry with us.  But he chooses to forgive us.  Grace is not conditional, so neither can we be.

I also read a passage in a book called “True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia” by Jerry Bridges that convicted me.   He said, “Our gifts are not our property to use as we please; they are a trust committed to us by God to use for others and for His glory as He directs.”  Bridges cited a couple of verses that opened my eyes to this in a way I hadn’t seen before.

  • “A spiritual gift (the manifestation of the Spirit) is given to each of us for the common good.”  I Cor 12:7
  • “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  (I Peter 4:10)

God restores our souls.  He refreshes us.  He rains down blessings from heaven upon us.  He surrounds us with his beauty.  He gives us what we need at just the right time, like manna to sustain us.  Just when we think the world is bleak and we have failed, he puts a bright shining light of answered prayer in our life, the embodiment of His grace.

As I went outside with Ken this morning to exercise and I saw the glistening of so many stars in the clear dark sky of autumn, more stars than I have seen perhaps all year, I thought about how God’s mercies are like this.   He encourages us with something new and lovely every day.  It brought to mind the classic hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”  Morning by morning new mercies I see.  May this last verse of that hymn resonate with you, as it has with me:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

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Redemption So Vast

gravity

Redemption that is vast, far beyond what we can comprehend.  That is the story of the Bible.  That is the story of our lives.  That is at the core of all that is meaningful in my life.

I have been studying mercy.  I love this verse in Exodus, where God describes himself.  Mercy is so much an intrinsic part of His character:

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,  maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Ex 34:6

Jake taught a super inspiring class on Wednesday on Old Testament narratives.  He related how all of the narratives of the Bible revolve around one theme — redemption. From the time of Adam and Eve in the garden, through Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets, God has been reconciling man to himself, even though man has not deserved it.  God has created a way for people to be His very own people, people He can lavish His love on.  All through history, even though He has given to them immeasurably, people have rebelled and rejected Him.  But the MOST AMAZING THING is that God continued to make a way for people to be close to his heart, in spite of the rebellion and rejection.

This is the story of my life.  I started making a list of all of all the ways God has given to me.  I have a wonderful way of serving Him here in Auburn.    My ministry, my marriage, my friendships, my family, my personal growth — all of these are more than I could ask or imagine.  I am so grateful.  I am so thankful simply that I know Him.

I made a list of the ways I see God working lately — people he is drawing closer to Him through Bible studies, answered prayer in my kids’ lives, friends who are growing, people who have been baptized, relationships I am building, people who are moving into our ministry, excellent ways disciples are using their talents, activities we are having that fill our hearts with encouragement.

When I list all of these things, it is mind boggling to begin to realize the mercy I have been shown.  I think of the sins I’ve committed, from my teenage years on.  It is so much God’s mercy that I was allowed to find Him, instead of experiencing the consequences of these sins.  It is so much His mercy that He put me in a great ministry to grow and flourish in.  It is so much His mercy that I have great kids.  It is so much His mercy that I am allowed to continue serving Him in spite of my mess-ups and sins.

I have been redeemed from a miserable, empty, painful way of life.  I am still being redeemed. It is more epic than I can understand.

How can we take something like this for granted?

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

I haven’t seen the movie “Gravity” yet, but my friend Lin saw it and it made her reflect on how our relationship with God is like gravity.  We move away from Him, but just like when we jump and end up coming back down to the earth, God always calls us back to Him.  Even if we get in a rocket that shoots into the atmosphere, when we run out of fuel, we come back down.  We all like sheep have gone astray, but NO MATTER HOW FAR we have strayed, God can bring us close to Him.

That is mercy.  That is redemption. 

Jake ended his lesson talking about how we try to make the Old Testament narratives all about us, instead of being all about God.  As  we are grateful beyond measure for His redemption, may our lives be less about self, and always, always more about Him.

Here are a couple of verses of songs that help set my heart in this.  The first is from “Empty” by Jeremy Camp, and second is a song I wrote to prepare my heart for worship.

Holy fire burn away
My desire for anything
That is not of you and is of me
I want more of you
And less of me

Let me worship You with my whole heart today
All of my mind, strength and soul, I pray
May the distractions leave my mind
All of the worries left behind
‘Til at last your peace I find
So ready, so ready, to worship you
I’m praying, I’m singing, I worship you
I’m praising, adoring, I worship you.
To You be all glory, I worship you.

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