Monthly Archives: July 2016

Disciplines that Bring Us Close

Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.  (Mal 4:4-6)

We are finally ending Malachi!

God concludes this book by urging his people to not forget his law.  And then he foretells the coming of Elijah.  This is so cool.  Because when the angel comes to Zechariah in Luke 1 and tells him about his son who is to be born, the angel refers to this passage.

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  Luke 1:17

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John the Baptist would be “Elijah!”  He would be the one who was prophesied about in Malachi 4!

And what does it say would John’s mission be?  To turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents.

Okay, my head is swimming.  What does this mean?  Because we know that John the Baptist didn’t start this instant love fest between families.

Yet on another level, maybe reconciliation was one intent of God with the coming of the new age ushered in by John, and later by Jesus.  Surely people were called to honor their parents as part of their repentance.  Maybe even as people repented and were baptized by John, they began to get along better.  After all, look in Luke 3 at the things John told them to do.  If they had two shirts they were to share one of them with someone in need.  If they were tax collectors they were not to overcharge.  If they were soldiers they were to treat people fairly.  This had to have led to better relations between people.

So anyway, I turned to the experts to find out how they explained this passage.  Most commentators said that the word “parents” here refers to the teachings of the Jewish fathers.   God wanted to turn the hearts of the people back to a true respect for him and his word.  As one commentary I read said, “he (Elijah/John) shall bring many, both of the rising and the declining age, to that real piety toward God.” (Benson)  God’s children, the Jews, had gotten away from what their attitude towards God should be.  God intended, with the coming of the John the Baptist, to begin the process of bringing them back to true worship.

I love the thought of applying this today!  We, too, want true worship!   We want to get away from half-heartedness and artifice, and serve God with a pure heart!

Here are a few ways I’ve been learning to serve God with a pure heart.

Maintain eye contact with God.

apple of eye

Ps 17:8  Keep me as the apple of your eye. 

I got this from the awesome Saturday Women’s Program at the REACH conference.

If you could physically look God in the eye right now, what would you see in his gaze towards you?  Disappointment?  Disapproval?  Or would it be adoration?

I think it would be the latter.  God dotes on us!  I just spent some time with my 25 year old daughter, and she is the joy of my heart.

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Sure, she isn’t perfect, she has ways she needs to grow.  But as I look at her, my love for her overshadows everything else.

The “apple of your eye” literally means, “little man in your eye.”  It means our reflection in someone’s eye as we are looking at them.

So for God to keep us as the apple of his eye, we have to maintain eye contact with him.  We have to keep our inner gaze on his devoted face.  We can’t let ourselves become distracted to the point where our focus is fixated on other things.

Maintain surrender 

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Ah, the attitudes that war against us.  We wrestle them down, and the next day they pop up again, like rabid whack a moles.

I have learned that one of the most important things I need to do is engage in battle with my attitude each morning, and give it completely into God’s hands.  I need to I tell him, “I trust you with this. Only you know how to work a solution.”

Jesus is my inspiration in this.  He trusted entirely in God’s goodness.

I’ve been reading a great book, “Jesus the Same,” by Charles Edward Jefferson.”  Jefferson says that the foremost characteristic of Jesus was his trust in the goodness of God: “To trust in the goodness and mercy of the good Father was his own intensest and fullest delight.”  I love the way this author describes the way Jesus felt about trust:  “It was the heaven above his head, the earth beneath his feet, the atmosphere he daily breathed, the spirit in which he was saturated, the music that ran all through his conversation, the inspiration of his life.”

What a wonderful goal, to learn to trust as Jesus did!

Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.  Ps 143:8

Maintain forgiveness.

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Oh boy.  If only I could forgive someone once, and it would last.  Those grumpy feelings towards the person who “wronged” me keep resurfacing.  Before I know it, I’m all tangled up again in hurt and indignation.

I think that’s why Jesus made forgiveness front and center when he taught his disciples to pray:  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. ”  Forgiving others needs to be  a discipline. 

I am so glad the parable of the unmerciful servant is in the Bible. (Matt 18:21-25)  It convicts me to forgive when nothing else does.

It reminds me that I owe God more than I could ever repay, and He forgives me.

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Whew!  How could I then turn around and be unforgiving with someone else?

Maintain gratitude

I talk about this a lot, but I’m still going to keep on mentioning it, because it’s so vital.  Whenever we thank God, we’re rewriting the narrative of our life.  We’re saying, “The day was not a failure filled with mishaps.  God was in my day.  He showed me his love.  He orchestrated my times.”

I was reading back through my gratitude journal recently, and I was struck by how many of the things I am grateful for have to do with people. I am so blessed by having a relationship with so many wonderful individuals!!

Mini Reunion

Here is a picture of some of the women I got to have lunch with at the REACH conference.  Three of them are members of our church who have moved to other cities — New York, Baltimore and Phoenix. I was so happy to get to spend time with them!

Gratitude changes our perspective.  I’ve talked to two women recently who have been working on gratitude, and have had breakthroughs in their marriage because they viewed their husbands differently.

We can have breakthroughs in our heart as well, if we will SEE God and how he gives to us.

Maintain humility.

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Humility is like going on a road trip with God.

We don’t say, “Here’s where I’m going today.”  We say, “God, where are we going today?”  And then we trust that whatever happens is a part of the trip God is laying out for us.

When we hit a roadblock or challenge, we don’t freak out.  We say, “Okay, Father, you brought me to this.  Show me what to do.  Help me deal with it.”

When we pray, we don’t petition and then forget.  We watch to see how God is answering these prayers.  “In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”  Ps 5:3b

And when a situation seems too hard, we tell God, “I know your grace is sufficient and it will get me through this moment, this tough circumstance, this day.”  (II Cor 12:9)

It’s being reactive, not proactive.  Yes, we should be intentional and do things, but we’re not setting out on our own, we’re always seeking to see what God is doing and keep in step with that.

“…the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19

“The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”  John 8:29

God concludes Malachi with a dire warning.  If the people do not turn their hearts back to him, there will be total destruction.  Literally, this word means they will be cursed!

Surely this is true for us as well.  “. . . every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished.  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation . . . ?”  Heb. 2:1b-2a

As encouraging as I believe God’s grace is, as merciful, longsuffering and patient that he is, we must keep working on our hearts!! God wants true worship!

It is a discipline, but the discipline is sweet, bringing us closer to our wonderful Lord.

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Quiet Time, July 7, 2016

Sisters, let’s do something different today.  Let’s have a quiet time together.

First, let’s thank God for the gifts he gave us yesterday.  I keep a gratitude journal and try to write in it every day. I have over 1850 entries right now.  It really helps me keep the positive in perspective.

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My gratitude journal, part of my quiet time.

Father, I thank you so much for having more energy yesterday, after struggling with a urinary tract infection in days prior.  I thank you for the rain that sluiced down upon my poor dry yard and flowers. Thank you for the lovely purple Mexican poppies facing me this morning.  Thank you for the great talk I had with Jessica, and the adorable pictures she sent me of little Josiah. Thank you for Mitchell and Lorena coming over last night, and the laughs we shared, and the spiritual encouragement we gave each other, and for their friendship. (I’ll stop here in the interest of time.)

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Now, tell God what you are grateful for…..

Next, let’s pray by breathing in the Spirit and breathing out sin. I heard someone mention this technique, and it is a great thing to do throughout the day.  Everyone knows meditation is helpful.  Classic meditation is focusing on your breaths.  So let’s focus on taking spiritual breaths.

Breathe in the first fruit of the Spirit, which is love.  Feel God’s amazing love for you, how much he cares about each detail of your life.  Breathe out all of your animosity, the bad attitudes towards others, the resentments, and so on.

Breathe in God’s joy.  Picture him in the heavens, rejoicing over all of his splendid creation.  Picture him looking with joy at all the people who have given their lives to him and serve him.  Now breathe out your angst.  Breathe out the things that brings you down.

Breathe in peace.  I envision a vast shining network of threads stretching over the earth, and God controls them all.  He is the grand orchestrater.  Nothing escapes his will.  He will accomplish his purpose.  Breathe out all of your inner turmoil.  Put your worries in God’s hands.

Breathe in patience.  Remember that God is long suffering with us, slow to anger.  His patience is like a tempering force in the universe.  Breathe out all your impatience, the frustration over the things you want to change.

Breathe in kindness.  Feel God’s good will towards you. Remember the blessings he gives, even though you don’t deserve them.  Breathe out the unkind thoughts you have towards others.

Breathe in goodness.  God is light.  In him there is no darkness at all.  When you pray, you are surrounded by his goodness on every side.  Breathe out anything that is rancid in your thoughts and character.

Breathe in faithfulness.  If you are a disciple, God is totally committed to you. He will always do right be you.  But God is also committed to each person, because they are his beloved creation that he watches over.  Breathe out all your doubts and your wishi-washiness.

Breathe in gentleness.  Know that God practices such restraint.  We are his children and he treats us with a careful loving hand.  Breathe out all of your harshness.

Breathe in self control.  Feel God strengthening you to serve him in the right ways today.  Breathe out all of your laziness and lack of commitment.

That was wonderful!!  Now let’s petition God and go down our prayer lists.  I’m including prayers for the REACH conference and the people who are traveling.  I’m praying that my return to health will continue, and that I won’t have any complications.  I am especially praying that we can find someone who can be our campus minister.  If we found someone at REACH, that would be awesome!!

Pray now…..

Next, let’s look at the Bible.  I’ve been studying Malachi, and I’m almost done.  Here is Malachi 4:1–

Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

This verse talks about a judgement day that is coming.  This can be the fall of Jerusalem.  It can also be the final judgement.

The thing that concerns me with this verse is that arrogance is put on the same scale as being a wicked evil doer whose fate is to be set on fire.  Let’s watch ourselves.  I just finished a quick read through Matthew, listing all the passages that dealt with sin.  There really aren’t that many things Jesus condemned as sin.  But a major one is pride.  He talks about not doing things for show, to be seen.  This verse sums up his attitude:

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  Matt 23:12

Let’s examine ourselves and think of how we exalt ourselves.  Do we think we’re better than others?  “No!” we proclaim.  But as I thought about it more, I realize that I make a thousand little judgements through the day and look down on the way people dress and conduct their lives.  There’s just something about trying to be my best for God that makes me look at others and decide they aren’t doing what they should do.

Reading Romans 14 helps me in this. Here are a few highlights: “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. . . Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. . . . You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”

There is much more I could say on this, but read it for yourself.  We must somehow balance calling one another to righteousness with forbearance.  We must be humble, because we are ALL SINNERS!!!   I love what Guy Hammond, a minister who struggles with same sex attraction, says about this:  “Love the sinner.  Hate our own sin.”

Okay, moving on.  This verse in Malachi echos a theme found elsewhere in the Bible.  Look at Isaiah 5:24: “Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.”

And check out what John the Baptist said:  “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  Matt 3:11-12

Yikes!  John talks about a side of Jesus we don’t want to think about.  It is a great reminder that Jesus isn’t all soft compassion and fluff.  He also expects people to toe the line, and will help execute judgement on those who don’t.

There have been a lot of fires lately.  Here is one in the Kern River Valley in California on June 24.

Fire

Credit: Michael Cuffe

The fire was especially bad because the area is so dry.  Notice the words God uses for those who will be burned up — stubble, straw, dry grass, chaff. All of these refer to dry, useless vegetation.

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Aftermath of Kern fire

So what should be our goal?  To be like the tree planted by water that always drinks in God! “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.” (Ps 1:2-3a)  When we prayed earlier, didn’t you feel strengthened and enriched?  Didn’t your brittle coarse attitudes fade away?

And this is what God says next in Malachi 4. “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.

When we seek God, when we follow Jesus, we feel better.  We are healed.  We leap for joy!!

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, quoted part of this verse when he prophesied about his son:

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  Luke 1:78

Thank you, God, for these wonderful verses.  Thank you that they give us direction in our lives.  Thank you that so much peace and encouragement can be found in you.  Thank you that you sent your son to give us hope and a way to be closer to you.  Help us to be humble.  Forgive us of our pride.  Help us to be serious about sin.  Help us to always come to you, the SOURCE.  May we walk with strength and joy today. May all of this be always and only for your glory.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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