Monthly Archives: November 2014

Open Hands of Thanksgiving

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I realized recently that my hands are not open to receive because I am too intent on what I am “supposed” to be doing.  It becomes all about me, and less about God, even as I’m focused on serving Him.  I am so busy trying to make things happen, do the right thing, that I am not open to what GOD is doing in this situation.  The very thing I seek is the thing that stands in my way.

 “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.”  John 5:19

So much of this stems from my insecurity.  I am constantly trying to validate myself.  But Christianity doesn’t exist so we can validate ourselves.  It is all to glorify God.

I think the solution here is to be thankful more.  Being thankful puts me in communion with God.  It makes me receptive.  It creates interactions, instead of actions.

He who offers thanksgiving is he who will glorify me;

there I shall show him the way of the salvation of our God.

Ps 50:23,  Arabic Bible in Plain English

When I am thankful, it becomes about God and His glory.  When I am thankful, God shows me what HE is doing, the road for me to walk that day.

I need to open my hands and let life happen more, just enjoy the smiles on the faces, be able to appreciate the little foibles that make each person special.

A woman who lived a sinful life in that city found out that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house. So she took a bottle of perfume and knelt at his feet. She was crying and washed his feet with her tears. Then she dried his feet with her hair, kissed them over and over again, and poured the perfume on them. . .   Luke 7:37,38

I need to come back to Jesus like this woman, like the grateful leper.  He is the only source.  Nothing brings real change and healing but him.

As I told a friend who is seeking ago, Jesus is the one who chose me, who took a bullet for me, who is at my side, longing to present me radiant.  I forget this.  I forget him.  I need to come back to him time and time again, be rich towards him as the sinful woman was.

I have to lose my life to save it.  I have to stop trying to validate myself.  Instead of acting, I need to react.  I need to GIVE thanks.  THIS is how I am rich towards God,  recognizing how rich He is to me, and falling at the feet of Jesus, overflowing with appreciation.

Perhaps what is more true is that I will receive from God, not based on what I do, but based on my thankfulness for what He is doing.

Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over–will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  Luke 6:38

measure running over

 

 

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Glory Above All, Gratitude, Having the Right Heart, Self Worth, Things I Am Learning

Grace Always Provides a Window

window2

Grace ALWAYS provides a window.  There IS a way.   A way to get through temptation.  A way to get through impossible situations.  A way for the impossible to happen.

  • He who did not spare his own son, will he not graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32
  • No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  I Cor 10:13

Grace provides a window because God WILL be glorified.

  • Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.  John 12:28
  • I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols  Isa 42:8
  • For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
      Isa 48:11
  • Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known.  Ps 106:8
  • But for the sake of my name, I brought them out of Egypt. I did it to keep my name from being profaned in the eyes of the nations.  Ezek 20:9
  • 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
  • “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” John 14:13

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Filed under Favorite, Glory Above All, Grace

Building Good With Others

build

How much should we focus on sin in one another?  I am wrestling with this.  Should we focus on it more, apply verses like Colossians 1:28:?  “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”

Or should we focus more on the positive:  “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  ( Peter 4:8)

There is a place for both of these things.

I was talking with one of my best long time friends yesterday about how she has been working for years on not being late.   In the last week or so she finally has really been having some victories in being on time.  In discussing how others react to her lateness, or to her confession that it is a problem, she said one thing that really struck me, “People usually give me a bye. ”

I realized this is something I’ve been depending on for awhile.  I confess my sins to my friends, but know they will usually give me a bye.  They acknowledge my action or attitude is wrong and assume  I will work on it.  I do the same for them.

So how much do we give people the space to work on things themselves? How much do we call them to be intentional, hold them accountable, etc?  As we get with people, do we have an agenda of things we want to address in their character, or do we allow them to set the pace of sharing about their life and what they need to address?  Are we the driving force or are they?

Ephesians 4 has helped me a lot as I sort through this:

…as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head. He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  Eph 4:15-16

If we’re not speaking the truth to one another, the church isn’t going to grow.

But the same is true for love, if we’re not loving one another, the church isn’t going to grow.  So if we speak the truth, and others don’t feel loved, it ISN’T going to work.  People have to feel loved, valued.  They can’t feel like we always just want to get on them because they aren’t doing well enough.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Eph 4:29

I broke this verse down this morning, and it is awesome!

Unwholesome talk:  primarily, of vegetable and animal substances, expresses what is of poor quality, unfit for use, putrid, rotten.  So our talk should be leavened with the truth.  It should be untainted by worldliness, selfish ambition, anger, bitterness, etc.  I think we are far too lazy with our talk, saying any old thing that strikes us.  We need to choose our words carefully, because they shape perceptions.

Let . . . come out:  We control what comes out of our mouth.  There are all kinds of things in our heart, some good, some not.  Just because we have negative feelings, doesn’t mean we have to express them, to spread them around like a bad germ.  “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”  Matt 12:35

Building:  Constructing a structure.  Our words can strengthen someone’s foundation.  They can help someone fashion rooms of new convictions, new insight, new ways to serve.

Helpful:  Literally “intrinsically good.”  So our words should only render what is GOOD in people.  We want to help build them up in a good way.

Need:  Necessity.  We are talking to meet peoples needs.  It isn’t just idle chatter.  We are shepherds.  We are taking care of people.  We are helping them to build the faith that will sustain them all the way into heaven, that will glorify God, that will grow them up into the person who reflects immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.

Benefit:  Literally “give grace.”  Our words are gifts to others.  We’re passing on the very best from God, so that others may be encouraged, that the dry places in their heart can be nourished.

So in summary, we are helping people to build their lives on a solid foundation, with solid materials.  We’re giving them the truth.  We’re stressing the good things:  love, joy, peace, patience, and so on.  We’re helping them to identify to them the rotten timbers they have — the lies, the worldliness, etc. — so that they can have the vibrant life Christ came to give.

And how much do we help people?  It depends on their maturity.

“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  Heb 5:14

Young Christians will need help identifying the rotten planks.  They haven’t learned to see clearly yet.  There’s a reason it says in Hebrews 3 that we encourage one another because sin is deceitful.  (Note that encouragement is a key word here.)  It’s hard to distinguish the faulty materials we use to build.  It takes practice and wisdom.

Young Christians will also need someone to provide them with the truth and good things — two by fours they can take and implement into their strong building of faith.  Actually, ALL of us need these things, but the immature need it more.

I just started watching “Build”, a new musical written by Steve Johnson.

One good point he brings out in the play is that Jesus learned much of what he would need to build the kingdom through the craft of carpentry.  Building is the same everywhere.  You have to build on a good foundation, with good materials.

Our relationships are designed to help us build in a GOOD way.  I still haven’t figured this all out, but in studying this out,  I am excited to build!

 

 

 

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One More Rep!!

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Gal 6:9

A couple people have read that verse to me lately.  And it’s good, I have a case of the end-of-the-year fatigue, the kind where I wonder what all my effort was for.

I need to keep on doing the right things, the things I believe so fervently in.   I can’t give up!

My illustration for this is the exercise class I’ve started: Pure Barre.  People ask me if I like it.  I tell them I don’t like it at all when I’m doing it.  It’s like taking one muscle group and torturing it as much as you can, and then move to the next muscle group.

These women doing Pure Barre look happy.  I do NOT look like this when I exercise!

These women doing Pure Barre look happy. I do NOT look like this when I exercise!

But after I’m done, I like it.  I feel good, and I’m glad I stuck it out.  Even if I only stuck it out because no one else in the class was quitting, so I didn’t want to quit either!

And this is the perfect illustration because so many times during Pure Barre I want to quit.  It starts burning.  My muscle starts to shake.  I just want to stop.  (By the way, getting your muscles to shake is the goal of the class.  Bizarre.)

One thing that has really helped me lately is I Corinthians 10:13.  I did a study of it yesterday, looking at the Greek words.  I’ll put the whole verse below, and then break it down.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not allow you be tempted beyond your ability. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can be able to endure it.

Overtaken: “of that which when taken is not let go; metaphorically, of affections or evils seizing on a man.”

So temptation feels like something has hold of you that you cannot get rid of.  It can be an overwhelming FEELING, a strong emotion that takes over.  It seems hopeless.  You feel powerless and trapped.

This is certainly true for me.  I can be swept away, held hostage by such powerful feelings, I can’t even remember how to fight them.  My first reaction is to hunker down against the onslaught, to seek relief somehow.

But God is faithful:  God will NOT let us drown in our temptation.  He cares about our miserable plight.  I love how Ps 19 words it –

The ropes of death had become tangled around me. The torrents of destruction had overwhelmed me. . . I cried to my God for help. He heard my voice from his temple . . . Then the earth shook and quaked. . . because he was angry. He reached down from high above and took hold of me. He pulled me out of the raging water.

Allow: to permit.  The big point here is that the chaos of temptation isn’t being unleashed on us, God allows it.  He controls the force of the temptation, and how much reaches us.  Even through it feels overwhelming, God really does not want to give us more than we can bear.

(Beyond your) Ability: the Greek “dunomai,” which has the same root word as dynamite, the word for strength and power.  Thus, we’re not just talking about the facility to deal with temptation, we’re talking about the strength and power to address it.  God makes sure that the temptation isn’t more than our portion of strength.  This also implies that we DO have strength.  There are things we absolutely CAN do, even though we feel like we can’t.

That is why the Pure Barre has been a great illustration for me. As my muscles scream, I think I can’t do the isometric reps any more.  It seems too painful.  But then I find that I can!

Provide : create, fashion.  God doesn’t show us a way out that is already there.  He, the Creator, actually creates a way out for us.  How cool is that?

Way out:   escape, result; “the (successful) way out” which also goes on to what is new (desirable).  In other words, it isn’t just getting away from the temptation, it is moving towards being in a better place.  We aren’t just running from Satan, we are growing, becoming more holy, maturing through discipline, just as we were designed to do.  It is the same word as is used in this passage:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Heb 13:7

Able: This is the same word, “dunomai,” that was used earlier.  God isn’t helping us to escape the temptation.  God provides a way for us to have the strength and ability to deal with temptation!!!

Endure it: to bear by being under (a thing placed on one’s shoulders).  So it is the sense that we can shoulder the heavy weight of the temptation.  Just like I found my body is capable of exercising more than I thought, we can carry the heavy overwhelming emotions more than we thought, we can endure those tough situations more than we thought.

But again, it’s not making the situation go away, it’s not running away from the situation.

It’s the ability to do one more grueling rep, and then another one.

The strength to share with one more person, serve one more time, think one more positive thing, instead of succumbing to fatigue and discouragement.

The fortitude to pray when we’d rather retreat; to pray and pray until we get some relief, just as Jesus did.

It is so much better to think we can endure something, that we are strong enough, than to feel that we have to run away and escape.  When I exercise, if I push through, there is such a sense of accomplishment.  I did it!  What do you know, I am strong!

God wants the same for us.  He wants us to be victorious. He wants us to know that with him, we can do anything.  Nothing is impossible!  Good things are coming, if we’ll just keep doing the reps.  And as we keep doing the reps, even though it seems impossible to go on, each day, through each trial, He’ll CREATE a way so we can do one more, and then one more again.

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Thankfulness and Faith

I realized lately that I had lost some of my faith. I had gotten discouraged.  I had stopped believing that things would work out.  I was tired of feeling hormonally depressed and moody.  I was feeling like my work hadn’t been effective.  Many of my studies had petered out.

It was so good to do a study on some of the passages where Jesus gives thanks and praise to God.

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me…” (John 11:41-42)

Jesus took it for granted. God ALWAYS heard him. And God ALWAYS hears me as well. I need to have this same confidence. I need to thank God that He hears me. AND, as Jesus did, this thanks needs to be expressed BEFORE my prayers are answered.

  • This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. I John 5:14
  • …in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil 4:6

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. . . At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.  (Matt 11:23-26)

This passage is amazing to me.  Jesus failed in many places.  He didn’t just preach the Word, he did miracles, and people STILL didn’t believe.

That is encouraging to me because I wonder sometimes why more people don’t respond to the gospel, why more people don’t want to give their whole heart.  It is helpful to realize that Jesus, who was much more effective, was up against the same thing.

Yet he didn’t get discouraged!  He thanked God.  How mind blowing is that?  Jesus saw the people who DID get it, and he thanked God for them.

So as I was feeling discouraged, I remembered the people who got it.  Douglas is a new Auburn student from Brazil.  We have enjoyed having him at our house a couple of times.  He studied the Bible and responded to the message, in spite of severe persecution from his parents.  He had to count the cost more than anyone I’ve seen in a while. But he said, “How can I not respond to the cross?” He GOT it. And I AM so very thankful.

Douglas just baptized, along with Daiana and campus girls.

Douglas just baptized, along with Daiana and campus girls.

We have a young woman from Brazil, Daiana, who is also studying.  She also seems to get it.  She is so excited about the church family she has found.  She told me that coming to church makes her feel clean.  She told me, face glowing, that she wants to get baptized as well.

I have to always remember to thank God for the people who get it.  God’s will, His good pleasure, IS very definitely being accomplished.  There is nothing I can do but PRAISE!

“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

And this is one of the very next things Jesus says.  We focus on this passage so much as a stand alone passage, but maybe it is connected to the words above.  Maybe Jesus said to come to him for rest because we also are weary and discouraged by those who don’t get it.

As Jesus said a few verses earlier, “How can I describe the people who are living now? They are like children who sit in the marketplaces and shout to other children, ‘We played music for you, but you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song, but you didn’t show any sadness.’ (Matt 11:16-17)

 People often don’t get it. I don’t know why.  I don’t know how to fix it, any more than Jesus did.

I do know some things that are effective, and I will continue to do these things.  I will pray, fast even, and THANK GOD as I pray. I will serve and love people, share my life with them, expose them to the power of the Word.

But I must come to Jesus and rest.   If I am discouraged, something is wrong.  The Christian walk cannot be a heavy load.  It instead should be punctuated by thanksgiving and praise, defined by a trusting faith that God IS achieving His good pleasure.

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Filling Up With His Goodness

Yesterday I went outside to do some yard work.  I was feeling this hormonal funk that I’ve been having lately, and thought being outdoors would help me.  As I worked on trimming the hedges, I tried to be in a better mood.  But I kept seeing all the things that needed to be done — the dirty front columns with their chipped paint, the place a dog had dug through the wood chips.

Then my neighbor stopped and rolled down her window as she drove by.  “Your yard looks so nice,” she told me.  I wanted to tell her how much there was to be done, but I thanked her instead.  It was a good reminder that I was looking at the wrong things.

I do have a nice yard.  And as I continued working, I was able to look a the small things — the fall wind gently blowing under an overcast sky, the white camellias starting to bloom.  And I thought how all of these things were a reflection of the goodness of God.  Throughout my day of emotional yuckiness there were things all around me, morsels of God’s goodness, that I could fill up on.

My camellias coming into bloom.

My camellias coming into bloom.

I thought of the never ending abundance of God, and it was a comfort.  Although I want to feel like things are failing, this never describes God.    “His compassions never fail.”  (Lam 3:22)  “Love never fails.”  (I Cor 13:8) 

I thought of this verse:  “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  Ps 27:13

Every day, I SEE the goodness of the Lord.  It is something I can bank on.  It will ALWAYS be there.

As I prayed while I jogged this morning I just thanked God.  Sometimes I think we need to keep thanking God until our tank is full.  We don’t need to move onto petitioning until we feel our heart change, and peace and joy settle into us.  Otherwise petitioning can deplete us.

I thanked God for the carpet of beautifully shaped leaves beneath my feet as I ran.  I  thanked Him as I recalled things that happened yesterday — phone conversations, encouraging words, the heartfelt prayers of a sister.  I realized that, despite my leaden perceptions, God does give me many gifts of goodness throughout the day.  My downcast heart seems to dominate and define the day.  But there are patches of goodness, like tropical islands in a stormy sea.

Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life.  Ps 23:6

The goodness of God surrounds me.  It is there, hiding in the slate grey rain, the the enthusiastic smile of a friend, the shared laughter, the missive from afar, the opportunity to share good news, the spiritual growth of friend, the words of a loved one.  These things are like balm to a fevered body.

A week ago I had the Auburn campus and singles over for lunch following church.  After they left, I wanted to feel that strange sense that it somehow hadn’t gone well enough.  Then I thought, “My house was FILLED with people I love, people who are happy and laughing.  It embodied what is best in the world.”

Campus

Campus

God gives us the best.  It is there for eyes that see, and hands that open to receive it.

 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.  Ps 31:19

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Beauty of God, Diary, Gratitude

Today’s QT — God is the Only Source

Father, my sin is rife.  My insecurity overwhelms me.  My guilt is ever present.  The Accuser barks constantly.  I feel downcast.  I don’t know what to do.

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way.  Ps 142:3

I am looking at Luke 5 for solace and direction.

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5

Peter reached a point where he felt ineffective. But Jesus said, “The solution is with me. Just stick with me.”

“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Luke 5:8

There are times when we feel our sin keenly.

“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” Luke 5:10

Jesus recognizes our fear of our sin and failure.  He has a solution.  HE will MAKE US fishers of men.  That is our purpose, none other.

…a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Luke 5:12-13

 My insecurity feels like leprosy.  Jesus is willing to heal me, if I ask.

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16

People do have so many needs – more than we can ever meet.  Jesus’ solution to feeling overwhelmed was to withdraw and PRAY, not to work harder. The solution is always to pray.

Now I want to get perspective from the Old Testament —

But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.  Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,”  Jer 2:11-12

I have found things other than God as sources of happiness. I have found that even certain ways of serving God can become my idols, because I make them my sources of happiness, not God.

My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. Jer 2:3

GOD is the spring of living water. He is the only place to go for sustenance. He gives me my daily bread, the manna that helps me get through the day. He gives me wisdom. He is the only place to go for endurance. I have to go to him. I have to get down on my knees more when I feel insecure, when I don’t have the motivation, when I am down and moody.

The result will be good.  The end of the story will be blessings —

Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.  In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land . . .  At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord.  No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.  Jer 3:15-17

I pray to be led with knowledge and understanding.  I pray for our numbers to increase greatly.  I pray that many people will gather to honor the name of the Lord.  I pray that many will no longer follow the stubbornness of their hearts.

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