Monthly Archives: July 2014

Great Lessons from Haggai 1

Haggai

When it comes to spiritual work, we’re procrastinators.  These people say it’s not the right time to rebuild the house of the LORD.  Hag 1:2

We know what we should be doing for God, but we always think we’ll do it later.  We keep waiting for the “right time”  — that day when we’re not so busy, and have plenty of energy and motivation.

And then we wonder why things aren’t going right in our lives!  Read on. . .

Things don’t go right because we’re not putting God firstNow, this is what the LORD of Armies says: Carefully consider your ways! You planted a lot, but you harvested little. You eat, but you’re never full. You drink, but you’re still thirsty.

You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.  Hag 1:5-6,9

We treat God as just another one of our pursuits, instead of the most important thing.  We invest in ourselves instead of Him.

The result is that our lives are like a cup with holes in it.  We keep trying to fill it with the things we need, only to find it’s empty.

The key is fearing the Lord.  Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.  Hag 1:12

Do we respect God enough to obey him?  We have things we need to work on in our spiritual character, but what will it take for us to change them?  Do we recognize that we’ll only be able to change with God’s help?  That we need to do things God’s way, because doing things our way only puts us up against a brick wall?  Do we recognize the utter supremacy of God, and the folly of continuing to think we are the center of the universe?

We will only be able to “build God’s house” in our lives when we start to fear Him.

We have help!  “I am with you, declares the LORD. . . So the Lord stirred up . . .  the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God.  Hag 1:13-14

So much of the time it’s too intimidating to do what we need to do.  We feel overwhelmed.  We have to realize that we’re not going to have to do it by ourselves.  God will be with us, giving us strength and guidance.  He will even give us motivation in our spirit!

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Seven Things I Am Learning

book my story

1. God believes in my story! 

If Jesus died for me, and me alone, then my story is important to him.

Each day is significant, a piece of my narrative.  Each season of my life is a vital chapter.

And God believes I can get through to the next chapter, get out of this experience what I need to.

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

And if this is true, then. . .

happily ever after

2.  I have to trust the end of the story.

Sometimes lately I feel like my glory days are over.  I am tired and grumpy, and often can’t do what I used to.  My husband, who used to seem like the lazy one, runs circles around me.  It seems at every point that I am faced with evidence that I fall short.  And on top of this, some of my prayers have been answered, but not in the way I imagined, but in a way that has brought me a new set of trials.  This makes me feel discouraged.

How different would my attitude be if I believed that the story isn’t over, that the end of the story is still good?

“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness.  You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. . . You crown the year with your bounty. ” Ps 65:5, 11

He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion.  Phil 1:6

The end of the story is GOOD, because God is righteous.  He will be faithful to us.  He wants good things for us. 

It is like the verse in Eph. 3:20, “To him who is able to give immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.”  God certainly gave me more than I could ask or imagine in my marriage, and in other areas.  He  is the hope, the only hope, for me, and for everyone on earth. 

half full glass

3. Battle negativity.  “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. . . .  purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  James 4:7-10

Joann Acosta just moved to Enterprise.  Her husband is in the military, so they had no choice but to move there.  There are no churches of our fellowship there.  She and her husband drive two hours to be with us.  The school systems aren’t good, and she will have to home school.  But it is encouraging to see how positive and faithful she is.

“You have to be a glass-half-full kind of person,”  she shared in our Women’s Class last Wednesday.  She said that whatever comes in life, we have to see it as a great thing, not as a bad thing.

CU081219_002HR2

4. God is patient!  As I was telling my best friend, Nancy, about the difficulties of growing older and being more irritable, Nancy reminded me of the story of Jonah.  Jonah was a selfish grump who didn’t respect God’s will!  But God was incredibly patient with him.  He saved Jonah when the prophet foolishly ran away, and even endangered all on the ship.  He patiently taught Jonah when he got angry about the vine withering, and still didn’t care about the people of Ninevah.

In the same way, God can be patient with me with I am a selfish grump.  Since I’ve read this, I’ve seen so many other examples of God being patient.  This is so helpful to me right now.  After all, “It does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy.”  Romans 9:16

stumbling block

5. Pride is a huge stumbling block.  It can mess me up.  It can impede God’s will.  It can be detrimental to others.

Recently I had a critical attitude about something.  I shared what I was struggling about with my husband.  Later, he made a choice that was affected by what I had told him.  I was sobered as I saw how influential bad attitudes can be.

It reminds me of many times over the course of my life when I was sure I was making the right choice, only to realize it was a big mistake.  I need to stop being so sure of myself, so indignant when things don’t go the way I think they need to.

“Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.”  Prov. 22:4

For our communion service Sunday, Ryan told us to envision ourselves in prison, waiting to be executed because of our crimes of sin.  As I did this, the sin I pictured most for myself was pride.  I could see clearly how major a sin pride is, and how majorly it defines me.

I am having some struggles right now, but on one level, I thank God for them, because they are revealing my pride as never before, and how repugnant it is.  If this helps me be more humble, it will be a good thing.

bread

6.  Let Him be my only fuel.

You are the air I breath…your Holy Spirit, living in me.

You are my daily bread.  Your very word, spoken to me.  (From Breathe by Michael W. Smith)

I need to remember to not work from my own energy.  God gives us manna in the morning. . . and all through the day.  I need to continually breathe in Christ, settle into His will, and act from that.

eeyore

7.  No pity parties!

As I feel that I can’t do as much as I used to do, it is really hard for me not to feel sorry for myself.  “My husband works all day, and he has energy to get with a brother at 9:30 at night,” I tell myself.  “I’m a slug next to him.”  I can feel like no one needs me anymore.

I was reading the story of Elijah in I Kings 19, about how Elijah ran away from Jezebel and had a big pity party, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

What did God say to Elijah?  He didn’t coddle him.  He didn’t berate him.  He just told Elijah, “Go back. . . ”  Even when everything seems like it is falling apart, God wants us to continue trusting and obeying, doing what we are supposed to be doing.

 

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The Spacious Place

skinnedknee

Yesterday, I went to run in the early morning hours and was having a great workout when I tripped over an uneven place on the sidewalk and fell hard.  It hurt.  My knee, elbows, and palms were bloody.  My jarred joints became swollen and sore.

It was just one more thing in a series of discouragements.  I have really had to fight for my heart lately.

Last week we had a women’s devotional where the older women taught the younger.  One of Alicia’s main points was that, as busy women trying to do everything, it’s essential that we learn how to be content.   We can’t be good at everything, and we have to be able to find peace in the things we CAN do.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.  Phil 4:12-13

lifting weights

Contentment is a muscle.  It’s not easy, it takes strength to be content.   Every message around us is telling us that we need to have more — more stuff, more accomplishments.  Every message also tells us that we need to have less — less weaknesses, less imperfections.

And the irony is that the weaknesses and imperfections actually give us the strength to be content.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is strongest when you are weak.” II Cor 12:9

The same root word, dynamis,  is used in both Phil. 4:13 and II Cor 12:9.    Just as Paul needed strength to be content when he was hungry and in want, he also needed strength to be content when he was struggling physically and emotionally.

Paul says earlier in II Corinthians 1:8-9, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure. . . . But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

It is when we rely on God, that we can find the strength to be content.  Our tough situations remind us that we don’t have the sufficiency in ourselves, but in God, we have an abundance!  Paul goes on to describe the disciples in II Cor 6:10 as, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

But it’s more than just having perspective.  Contentment is a gift.  I believe it’s something we can only find supernaturally.  We rely on God to put in our heart what we ourselves cannot.

That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil–this is the gift of God.  Ecc 3:13

gift

In closing, I want to share a song that has really helped me through the years.  It’s several verses strung together and put to rhyme. It calms my heart in a way only the words of the Spirit can.  I’ve followed it with a picture my cousin Carey Lynn took in New Mexico when we were there a few weeks ago.  It is such a great illustration of a spacious place.

You brought me to a spacious place

Forgave my sin, that grievous weight.

We went through water, went through fire

You brought me where abundance lies

The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places.

Surely my allotment is fine and gracious

For you, Oh Lord, have delivered my soul from death,

My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,

That I may walk before you in the light of life,

Run in your path for you have set me free.

New Mexico

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Savor Gratitude

raining on crops

“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.”  Heb 6:7

I am showered with good things from God every day.  If I “drink these in,” if I am grateful for them, my heart expands and produces fruit — a full and abundant life.

But I can also be like the land that is hard, and doesn’t drink in the rain.  I can ignore the good things.  I can instead focus on what I don’t have.  My heart turns hard and bitter, and I become like soil that can’t grow anything but thorns and weeds.

Dry earth

Gratitude creates fertile soil from which a rich future can grow.

I recently read a devotional by Sherry Rouse about gratitude.  This is what she said she has learned:

Doing well spiritually includes, more than anything, learning to be grateful.  “I think that over the last year I would not have ‘survived’ spiritually if I had not concentrated on gratefulness.”  (Sherry Rouse)

Sherry started listing what she is grateful for, and her list is up to 500.  But she said that after awhile, she stopped writing numerous things every day on her list,  “I needed to savor the gratefulness. So one or two things a day is all I list.”

SAVOR THE GRATEFULNESS.  I like that.  Surely, as Mary treasured the happenings surrounding the birth of Jesus in her heart (Luke 2:19), we need to also treasure meaningful things. We need to hold onto the goodness, keep it close to us, be defined by it.

Life can be hard.  The constant discouragement can be like hot sun on our hearts, making them dry and crusty.  We have to recognize the rain, the blessings, and let them penetrate us to the depth of our souls.

rain on dry ground

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Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

How much should we actively love those who don’t reciprocate?

My modus operandi has been to continually expend myself to show love to others, no matter what they do. Isn’t this what Christians do?

Much of my motivation comes from a desire to make each person know that they are important.  No one else might reach out to them, or be faithful to them, but I will.  Maybe this motivation comes from wanting to treat others the way I wish I would have been treated over the years.

And certainly Jesus considers each one of us as important, so important that he died for us.  In spite of our sins.  In spite of us being responsible for his death.

Jesus saves the lost sheep

Jesus saves the lost sheep

But lately I’ve been challenged to reevaluate how I spend my time and attention —  challenged to not keep giving to those who don’t really respond.  And I’ve struggled with this.  Is this Christ’s example?  Aren’t we all weak at times?  Wasn’t I once where they were?

When I researched this, a contrary view hit me right in the face.  The Bible clearly says there are times that we DON’T keep reaching out.

  • Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 2 Thes 3:6
  • I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.   Rom 16:7
  • I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. . . But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.   I Cor 5:9, 11
  • Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer. 2 Thes 3:14
  • . . . having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 2 Tim 3:5
  • If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.  2 John 1:10

I know, I know.  That’s all a bit harsh.  These verses don’t apply to most of my situations.  But they do remind me that God doesn’t mean for me to always keep giving to people, no matter what.

It’s true that I must love others, even my enemies.  I must wash their feet, serve them, be willing to die for them.

But I am not to throw my pearls before swine.

Jesus didn’t run repeatedly after people.  He did reach out to them.  He did tell them the truth that would help them.  He did heal  them.

Follow Jesus

But he also told them, “Come, follow me.”  He expected them to show some initiative.

There is such an emphasis in the Bible on being a seeker.  One of the first verses we study with people is Jeremiah 29:13:  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  I was reading II Chronicles today, and it says in 15:15, “They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.”

Christianity is unique in that God pursues man.  But God also wants man to put some effort into pursuing Him.

The writer of Hebrews told people they needed to grow up and start eating solid spiritual food:  “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”  Heb 5:12

feeding toddler

Maybe I am babying people too much.  Maybe I am doing them a disservice by allowing them to just be receivers, instead of expecting them to step up and take ownership.  I am not helping them to mature.

And I am not helping them to have the joy they could have.  When they don’t do things for themselves, they don’t see the value in it.  They are not recognizing their great treasure.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21)

So my conclusion at this point is that I will LOVE EVERYONE.  My hand will always be out to them.  But I will also. . .

  1. Look for those who are seeking God.  God is working on certain individuals.  “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.”  (I Thes 1:4-5)  
  2. Expect people to take the initiative.  Both seekers and disciples need to take ownership of their spiritual growth, and not sit back and be given to all the time.

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.  I Thes 5:14

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