Monthly Archives: May 2014

It’s Symbiotic!

Beating Heart

Everything is symbiotic.

Yesterday a sister was telling me how busy she is and how she doesn’t feel like she has much time for fellowship.  We read I Cor. 12 together and talked about how we are created to interact with one another to function properly.  She needs people in her life, but also, we need her in our lives.

And this morning as I was praying,  feeling God bless me with much needed peace, and thinking about how I need to tap into the wisdom God can give me more, I thought that perhaps the relationship with God is also symbiotic.  I need Him so much all day long, but He benefits from praise and love.

As I wrote in my last blog, everything should be for the glory of God.  This is what He seeks, not because He is egotistical, but because it is right.  He IS supreme.

And surely, if God created us in his image, then just as we need love, He needs love.  Maybe even because He is so vast, He has a vast need for love.  After all, the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, strength, soul and mind.

Notice the symbiotic relationship between Christ and the church: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church.”  Eph 5:25-27

Christ and the church is to be like a big living, breathing organism, in which all the members constantly benefit from one another.

Like a heart beating.  Like breathing.  God gives to us.  We give to God.

Look how God speaks of his people.  God gets something out of his relationship with us.

  • Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the LORD.
  • “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  Luke 22:15
  • He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph 3:17
  • “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
  • Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,”  John 17:24

It’s symbiotic.  He is the vine.  We are the branches.

vine and branches

Whatever we ask in His name, we will receive.  Apart from him we can do nothing.

And as He gives, as He fills us, as He works in us, we GROW.  And as we grow, He is GLORIFIED to the maximum extent.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.  Eph 3:10

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Eph 3:20-21

 

 

 

 

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Shattered

shattered

Yesterday I dropped the lid to my crockpot and it shattered all over the kitchen floor.   Of course, it happened at the worst time, when I was juggling several things (not the lid!)  to try to get as much done as possible.  I was feeling overwhelmed, and then the lid slips and pretty crystal bits of glass go everywhere!

Interestingly, the glass kept on popping and cracking after it broke.  It sounded like Rise Crispies!  It would even jump a bit.

But I digress.  The lid breaking seemed to be a metaphor for how I was feeling.  My focus was shattered.

An hour or so later, at yoga,  the leader read a devotional that said, “Don’t let your focus be shattered.  Keep your eyes and thoughts on Jesus.”

Wow.  That word “shattered.”  That exactly applied to me!  The pressures of life make me feel fragmented.  The smallest thing happens and I  disintegrate.

I am trying to learn instead how to stay focused, centered,  in that sweet spot where I am resting in Jesus, in tune with Him, connected to Him.

So I’m looking at how Jesus stayed centered.  Here is one way:

 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.”  Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.”

Jesus was centered by focusing on bringing glory to God.

Here’s another verse along that line that has been magical to me over the years:

“Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”  John 7:18

We are PURE, single-minded, when we seek God’s glory.  We are not distracted by other motivations, most notably desire to please self or others.

To finish this morning’s devotional, I read the PERFECT thing — a selection from Gordon Ferguson’s book, “Golden Rule Leadership.”  In it, Ferguson talks about how to focus on God better, and not on self.  Here is what I loved that I read:

“Seeing great things happen in the church is not determined by the talent of the group.  It is determined by our understanding of and our convictions about how to gain strength for the task.

“The biggest mistake we make as leaders is when we take stock of our strengths and weaknesses, and then we rely on our strengths.   . . If we lead spiritually by relying on our strengths, we are doomed to fail.  (This) leads to arrogance, pride, competitiveness and humanism.

“Spiritual leadership first and foremost involves being spiritual.  And being spiritual first and foremost involves crucifying our dependence on self and replacing it with reliance on God.   We truly rely on God by focusing on our weaknesses and on God’s call to lead his people.  . . We will say, ‘Woe is me.  I need help,’ like in Isaiah 6.”

Here are some awesome verses about this:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.  Is 31:1

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD.  Jer 17:5

But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors  Hos 10:13

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  II Cor 1:9

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  II Cor 12:8-9

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  II Cor 3:4-5

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It Doesn’t Revolve Around Man

holy is your name

It’s all about God.  I keep forgetting that.  In my egocentricity, I keep thinking it’s about me, it’s about us, it’s about man.

And God has done amazing things on behalf of man.

But still, the world doesn’t revolve around man, it’s about God.

What did Jesus tell us should be the first thing to pray?  About us and our needs?  No, “Our Father in heaven, HOLY IS YOUR NAME.”

What is the greatest commandment?  To love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.

What does God say about himself and his purpose?   “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Ex 9:16

God’s name must be proclaimed.  He must be glorified as the almighty and only supreme being.  Here are some other verses about this:

  • I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. Ex 36:23
  • If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name–the LORD your God—Deut 28:58
  • As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm  I Kings 8:41-42  (Solomon praying at the dedication of the temple.)
  • I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. Is 42:8
  • I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay on them. Eze 39:21
  • For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Hab 2:1

One thing I am growing in recently is an appreciation of the need to glorify God.  I think we have a deep need to worship a transcendent God, and this can only happen when we appreciate the awesome and majestic holiness of God.

It’s all about God, and we are happiest when we acknowledge this.  Worship expresses the utter truth.

Yesterday I got with Marge, our women’s leader, and we started talking about the different women in our ministry.  As we talked, I started to get more and more anxious.  There are so many needs, and not enough of me to go around and meet those needs!  Finally I got out my guitar and sang some psalms to God.  I had to get the focus off of myself.

Sometimes I think I want it to be about me, but if it were really about me, I would explode.  I can’t be God.  It needs to be about HIM and only HIM.

This morning as I was praying, I remembered a song that reflects this insight:

This day is not my day
These possessions are not mine.
Time and physical existence
Are the Lord’s domain —  a matrix of God
In Him we live and move and have our being.
So what conceit to live apart from Him.
The way to be in harmony with God,
with everything around us
Is just to praise, just to praise.
Every particle of my being
Wants to resonate with praise.
It is right, it is right
What I was created to do.

It’s all about God, and this needs to be more of my mindset.  I’m looking forward to reading more verses that help me to grow in this.  And may I leave a trail of God’s glory behind me as I go.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. I Cor 10:31

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, Having the Right Heart, Holiness

Is it Good News?

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”  Mark 1:15

Why would Jesus have to preach that people SHOULD believe the good news?  If it’s good news, wouldn’t it be something people would WANT to believe?

But believing is hard. Because true belief means you change your life.

If you believe there’s a fire coming, you pack your things and get out of the house.  My father just went through this.  There was a fire only a mile from his house.  They had their car packed and ready to go.

Fire threatening my father's house

Fire threatening my father’s house

They believed the disaster was coming, but  how many people think that the disaster is not going to affect them?  How many people tried to sit out some of the devastating recent hurricanes?

All through history the Israelites didn’t really believe that disaster would come if they kept on sinning.  Moses warned them, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.” Deut 8:17-19

Which brings us to the chief culprit when it comes to disbelief — PRIDE.  We begin think it’s all about us, and we forget how much of it is about God.

True belief requires humility. 

If we truly believe, we have to believe that God’s in control, not us.  God has the power, not us.  God gets the credit, not us.

I got with someone yesterday who is struggling in her faith.  She was perceptive enough to see that her pride is the reason she is struggling.  She can see that she has started to want God on her terms.  She’s started having an attitude with God if He can’t answer all her questions.

And God doesn’t give us  an answer to all our questions.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.  He says, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Job 38:2  When we question him, we speak words without knowledge.  When we think we know better than God, we obscure His plans.  Job finally realizes, “I have stated things I didn’t understand, things too mysterious for me to know.. . .” Job 42:3

I just listened to a great lesson on pride by Jon Sherwood.  Check it out.  Nebuchadnezzar: A Proud King

So we have to stay humble.  Here’s the realization we have to come to.  GOD —  WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE’S DONE — IS THE VERY BEST  “GOOD NEWS.”

This week there was a huge Facebook discussion going on concerning whether the gospel is really good news or not.  The question was asked, “How can the gospel be good news if the majority of people aren’t going to be saved?”

Here is part of my answer:

“All through time, from Noah to the history of the Israelites, God gave people chance after chance and they didn’t just sin a little, they sinned big time, embracing idolatry, injustices, etc. So God implemented plan in place whereby he would atone for our sin with his son, where he would put his law in our hearts (Jer 31:33), where he swore never to be angry again (Isa 54:9). He gave us his righteousness. (2 Cor 5:21) The Holy Almighty bent over backwards, and then some, to help us out of our sinful predicament. If this isn’t good news, I don’t know what is!”

Writing this reminded me that what I have is GOOD NEWS.  Sometimes I forget now good it is.  True belief is seeing that we DO have good news.

I’m studying the Bible with someone right now, and I’ve been reluctant to talk to her about life changes she needs to make.  They’re big uncomfortable ones.  I keep thinking about what she has to give up.

But what I am giving her is so much more!  We studied the cross, and I remembered the vast scheme of God to exert His divine power, stretch and reach out to man time and time again, give His very best.

I watched a video this morning that illustrates this so much.  It’s about a guy who met and studied the Bible with someone.  This person became a Christian, and went on to meet a wonderful young woman and get married.  I thought, “This is what I’m doing — helping people write wonderful stories for their lives.”  Check out this video here

We can help write wonderful stories for people, and for ourselves.  The irony is, that we do this by NOT focusing on writing it ourselves.  If I seek to craft a wonderful life for myself, I will fail.  But if I serve God, and seek to glorify Him through helping others, the wonderful story is the result.  THAT is good news!!

We lose our lives to gain them.  We humble ourselves and He lifts us up.  In closing, here are some scriptures on being poor in spirit that have helped me to gain a better perspective.

  • These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. Is 66:2
  • The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit Ps 34:8
  • And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
  • My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Ps 51:17
  • Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. Ezra 9:4
  • Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. II Chron 34:27

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Evangelism, Faith, Good news, Humility

Enjoy the Ride! — 6 Things I Am Learning

1. That prayer is an act of service.  The BEST thing I can do to serve others is to pray.

1538897_10151996838831767_7546064721706188674_n

2. That I need to be filled by God before I pray or serve.  There has to be time spent in praise.  It is like opening the sunroof of my heart so God can shine in.

sunroof

3. “People are starving for the awe of God. . . they’ve left untouched the most ancient and aching need, the one stitched into the fabric of their souls:   to know and love a transcendent God.  . . Our souls find satisfaction only in the God who is grand enough to worship and close enough to love.”  From this book:

Yawning At Tigers

Incredible star birth captured by Hubble

Incredible star birth captured by Hubble

4. Take deep, centering breaths that focus me on God. In my Christian yoga class I’ve learned that focusing on deep breathing, while being aware of God, is one of the most relaxing and centering things there is.  Whenever I do it, the distractions drop away and the world comes into perspective.

yoga breath

5. Trust, and enjoy the ride! I am so performance oriented.  I can get anxious in the many situations life puts me in.  When I realize that God is a serving God, and He is taking care of me, I can trust.  I can roll with the ups and downs. 

roller coaster

6.  God is the only one who can work things out the right way.  I face so many challenging circumstances.  How am I going to get through this?  How will there be a favorable outcome instead of the negative one that seems certain to come to pass.  In each situation, I remember that only God can work the right way forward.  Only God can construct the correct outcome.

path of light

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Faith, Prayer, Things I Am Learning, Uncategorized

Daniel – Radiant Clarity

candles

Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.  Dan 10:12

With flattery he will corrupt those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will be strong and take action.  Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered.   Dan 11:32-33

God builds the future and works His plan through those who genuinely seek to understand him.

That is the  person I want to be.

So many of us are egocentric.  We view everything in terms of self.  And this keeps us from seeing God as He truly is.  We are blind, just as the Israelites were.

  • In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. ” Matt 13:14-15

If we open our eyes, what do we see?

  • The magnitude of the holiness of God.
  • His unbelievable love for us on an individual basis.
  • The importance of humility.
  • The importance of mercy and compassion.
  • What sin is.
  • That it’s about the heart.

And I could go on and on.

Notice what the verses say knowing God brings:the people who know their God will be strong and take action.”  It gives us STRENGTH to endure great trials.   In addition, we don’t just profess our faith and revere our God.  We become PEOPLE OF ACTION.

Daniel goes on in Chapter 12 to say what type of action those who know God will take:  “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” Dan 12:3

Those who are wise will lead others to righteousness.  Those who see God clearly will help others to see Him clearly.

It’s like Jesus stressed:  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”  Matt 5:14

We are the light.  WE KNOW.  We have been given a clear glimpse into the heart of God.  “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”  II Cor 4:6

We have also been given a clear view of what displeases God.

And  this light of knowledge must shine like the brightness of heaven.  It must galvanize us.  We who have been given a singular vision have a singular task:  to help others SEE AND KNOW what is so amazing, so comforting so inspiring, so rational.

‘Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?’ declares the Lord.  Jer. 20:21

Let us make this our lifelong quest: to fervently seek to understand God.  This is what He honors.  And when we are allowed a glimpse of how powerful He is, how faithful, how glorious, how fearsome, may this give us strength for our days.  May the longing of our hearts then only be, that we can actively share this radiant clarity with others.

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, daniel, Evangelism, Having the Right Heart, Humility

This is THE VOICE! (No, not the TV show)

JasMin (center) receiving her award

JasMin (center) receiving her award

Earlier this week Ken and I went to go celebrate with a friend, JasMin, who received a prestigious award for nursing.  It was great to see her honored, and remember the process that went into her receiving the award.  I remember JasMin when she had just started working at Jackson Hospital, and what she went through as a new nurse.  I remember her discussing her ideas to improve the nursing program.

The cool thing about JasMin’s story is that she went out on a limb and tried to implement her ideas.  It’s like an illustration of the parable of the talents.  She didn’t sit on her talents.  She didn’t give into procrastination.  She didn’t remain in the land of good intentions.  She took a risk and approached the charge nurse and told her about what she would like to do.  And then she pushed herself through the process of executing her ideas.

And it all paid off.  JasMin was able to create a program to help new nurses acclimate into the hospital environment.  She also implemented a program to allow oncology patients access to sterile wipes.

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more.The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more.But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.  (Matt 25)

What did God say to the servant who hid the money?  “You wicked and lazy servant!” 

Why was the servant wicked? What a strong word! The servant was wicked because there was so much good that could have been done, that didn’t get done. The servant was wicked because he had no faith. He didn’t believe God would support his efforts, or use them.  And the servant was lazy. Lazy people allow excuses to be valid. They are not only lazy, they’re cowardly, because they don’t want to take risks. The sluggard says, ‘There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in the public square!’” Prov. 22:13

The parable of the talents has also been illustrated in a big way this week, because I’ve been attending graduations. My days have been filled with cheering for people who went out on a limb, and worked hard and made sacrifices to achieve an end.

It is easy to see a contrast between them and me as I think of my creative dreams on the back burner, stuck there by a pattern of procrastination, fatigue and discouragement. “Remember your Creator when you are young, before the days of trouble come and the years catch up with you. . . Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets.” (Ecc 2,5)

I’m not negating at all the things I’m doing for God in other ways. I just know that I have been seeking to find ways to use my creative talents.  I have many ideas, but they mostly remain in the realm of good intentions.

Thankfully, the graduations have also been a source of inspiration. There is no less potential for me than for the young. I love that one of the commencement speakers pointed me to the words of Steve Jobs in his last speech. I went back and read the speech. Jobs talked about the ups and downs of his life, and how setbacks actually set the stage for success and fulfillment in his future, “ . . . you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

I feel like I am treading water in parts of my life, wasting time, wasting opportunities. But I need to TRUST that the foundation is being laid for my future with the things I am doing now, that the dots will connect.

One thing I am doing now is participating in a writing group. It’s something that just sort of happened.  Ken and I saw Jo, a woman I’d been in a writing group with in the past, one day, and my husband told us, “You should start the writing group again.”  She said, “I’m game,” and two years later, we’re still meeting every Monday.

I’ve realized lately that the writing group has helped me to find my voice.  I’ve tried writing in different styles, and I’m learning what is ME, what comes from my deepest place, what feels right and natural. This is becoming true in other areas of my life. I am learning to find what is authentic inside of me, and to let this be reflected more in my living.

Finding your voice is important, as Jobs went on to say, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. . . ”

So, in closing, here are some points from Galatians that reflect this theme:

1. “Whatever you plant is what you’ll harvest.” (Gal 6:8) I can’t expect to achieve something if I’m not putting myself out there. I can’t let past failures paralyze me. I have to apply my talents and trust that God will use them.

2. “Whenever we have the opportunity, we have to do what is good for everyone, especially for the family of believers.” (Gal 6:10)People can benefit from my creative abilities.  I have opportunities, and I need to make the most of them, not keep passing them by.

I was exchanging Facebook postings this week with Kevin Darby, who leads the music ministry in Athens. He told me, “The world (and especially US) NEEDS the gift that all of our creative expressions really are – and I think that’s what is so beautiful. Those in your world need your creative side – try not to give it your left-overs.”

That is great advice!  Our latent talents are important. We often neglect them in the pursuit of hard work for the kingdom.  May we find what is authentic for us, our “voice.” May we be intentional and STEP OUT of our comfort zone in faith to achieve the good purposes we were created for.

 

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