Thursday, November 10, 2011

Week #31 Deuteronomy 4:29 "It's Never Too Late"

"But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul."

Do you ever screw up?

Silly question, you might say. Of course we screw up. Some of us screw up a bit everyday.

Some days, we make choices that not only displease God, we displease ourselves, too. Everyone goes through those times when we walk our own way, ignore godly advice and worship self over the Almighty. And we hate it. We really do.

I've been there, too. I think that's why so many of us identify with the Apostle Peter. One minute he's swearing his eternal allegiance and devotion to Jesus, the next day he's denying Him publicly not once, but three times. It's enough to make the hardiest believer into a pile of mush.

So what's a discouraged, wayward Christian to do?

Simple. Seek God.

When I first read this verse from Deuteronomy, the initial question in my mind was this: The verse begins with "...if from there you seek the LORD...". But where is "there"? Where would Israel be coming from when Moses spoke this to them?

Deuteronomy 4 is a wonderful piece of scripture. It is a prime example of how God took this man Moses, who was "slow of speech and of tongue" and made him into an extraordinary preacher and prophet.

Moses was exhorting the Israelites to take the Promised Land God had given to them. But, this land flowing with milk and honey came with a price. The Children of Israel needed to heed God's commands and live a life of obedience. This obedient lifestyle involved turning away from idolatry and anything that would take God's place in their lives.

So, after hearing such a moving and rousing sermon from their man Moses, did the nation of Israel live the rest of their existence in obedience and godliness? History answers us with a resounding NO.

In other words, they screwed up. A lot.

And Moses warned them ahead of time that the consequences were dire. "...If you become corrupt and make any kind of idol...I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you." vs. 25-27


But praise God! Although these verses are about Israel (and all of us, to be sure), these verses are also about God, the Forgiver of the unforgivable, and the Lover of the unlovable.

Moses tells Israel that "if from there (meaning, from a life of disobedience and rebellion) you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him..."

What does this tell me? It comforts me in the message that it's never too late. Even when (in my best intentions to remain a faithful follower), I still screw up, God will forever be there if only I seek Him with all my heart and soul.

And the good news doesn't stop there. Moses goes on to remind Israel that no one has ever been as privileged and blessed as they. God was not simply a stern task-master, always cracking the whip of obedience at them. He was the Giver of all gifts, the Blesser of His children and the Savior to those desperately needing salvation.

It is the same for us today. No matter what wilderness you find yourself wandering through, no matter what idol you find yourself bowing to, He is there. All we have to do is look for Him.

God isn't hiding from us. If we look for Him, His loving hand will be right there to meet you.

Praise God for His unmatchable love.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Week#30 Ephesians 5:1-2 "That's My Girl!"

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

There's a well-known poem by Dorothy Law Nolte called "Children Learn What They Live." You may be familiar with it. It tells us that if children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. But it also says, on the other hand, that if children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

From where I sit, that about sums up our Christian life. It also sums up nicely what the Apostle Paul is telling us in this verse from Ephesians.

The Book of Ephesians is an incredible encouragement to me. It reminds me of what it is to be a believer, a child of God, and what it means to be His church.

Here is what God is reminding me of today. I hope you find encouragement in this as well.

One, God is reminding me that, if I am to truly be an imitator of Him, I must focus on love. In these verses, I am reminded that I am dearly loved by God. Christ loved me by giving Himself up for me. And I am, in turn, to live a life of love.

Although God's love for us is not an earthly, human love that can sometimes spoil or indulge the child, God's love began for us before we were even born. Earlier in Ephesians (2:4-5), Paul says that because of God's deep love for us, He made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sin.

What does that tell me? That God totally accepts me just as I am, warts and all. I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. I will try my best to do the right things, but I will fall down on occasion. I will do the very things I tell myself not to do. But, (good news!) that won't stop God from loving me just as I am. So, can we cranky, self-centered (but very human) members of Christ's church still live a life of love? Yes we can. Because we are accepted and loved. That gives us the ability to do the same for others.

Two, God reminds me that, when Christ loved us (and sacrificed Himself for us), it was to God, a fragrant offering. Remember that word: fragrant. It paints a picture of something that is pleasing, beautiful, aromatic, precious.

I have not yet given myself to others in the way Jesus did. The things I have been asked to do may not be anything that involves intense suffering and mortal sacrifice. But we all have been asked to give of ourselves in ways that may not always be pleasant.

How about all those afternoons you spent with that frightened and uncooperative child you'd been asked to tutor after school? Or that day you spent weeding and cleaning up the church grounds that left you with a sore back and blistered hands? Remember that holiday food drive you organized when it seemed all the thanks you got was criticism and stress?

Well, God remembers it, too. To us, those times were challenging, at best. But, God smelled a lovely fragrant offering. It pleased Him. It made Him smile.

I understand why He smiled. I have the same reaction when one of my own sons displays a talent or behavior that I know I taught him. I smile proudly and say, "That's my boy!" So, when we are imitators of Him, I believe He smiles just like that!

That's one of my greatest hopes. That God will see what I am trying to do, and trying to be, and smile to Himself and declare, "That's my girl!"

Thank you, Father.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Week #29 Psalm 119:2 "Seeking God With All My Heart"

"Blessed are they who keep His statues and seek Him with all their hearts."

Wow....I am way behind on my blogging! It's already November, and I am only on my 29th bible verse of the year. Last blog post: August. Ouch.

Life sometimes gets busy. Then we start to put off things that are important.

But, look what also happened. My "busy-ness" has become a habit. That means I have put things off, important things like meditating and sharing God's Word. That, unfortunately, has become a casualty of my busy life.

So, it is no accident (there are NO accidents in our life with God, don't you think?) that He has called me back to His word with this verse from the Psalms. "Blessed are they Him with all their hearts."

Seeking God. What exactly does that mean for us busy, computer-connected folks of the 21st century? are a couple of ideas that have been laid on my heart today.

First, seeking God involves something that might seem obvious. Prayer. Getting on my knees, lifting my eyes to Him and telling Him the deepest thoughts and feelings I have.

Don't worry if you can't always physically kneel. Sometimes deep, heart-felt prayer must occur in places and situations where you can't actually get on your knees. While driving in the car. At work. During an emotional business meeting. Getting on my knees to pray is a matter of attitude. It means I need God. It means I humble myself before my Father and tell Him what His little girl (me!) is feeling. Yes, there's no substitute for this type of prayer.

Second, seeking God means making Him and His word a habit. This might mean reading a bit of scripture each day. No, it doesn't have to be a long passage of scripture that is difficult to understand. It can be just one verse. One verse that our Father has given you, to instruct you, admonish you or to just tell you how much He loves you.

Making God a habit also means for me, keeping up with my blog posts. That is a habit that helps me to focus on Him. He speaks to me as I write. He comforts me and encourages me through this blog, and yes, through your responses to me in the comment section!

And finally, seeking God means looking for God's presence and wisdom in our everyday life. Was that piece of advice from your co-worker today a word of encouragement from the LORD? And that tree with those beautiful leaves of changing fall color? Could that be God's glory in your neighborhood? How about that song that was just played on the radio? God's love song to you, perhaps? You get the idea.

So, I thank you, LORD, and I thank you, dear Readers, for reminding me to seek God. I needed that today. I need it everyday, but praise God it happened today.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Week #28 John 3:16 "I Am Valuable"

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

This was probably one of the first bible verses I learned after becoming a Christian many years ago.  It is famous.  It is well-known. So well-known that maybe we have taken it for granted?

When this particular verse popped up (on a verse-a-day website) as my next blogging topic, it gave me the opportunity to ponder this verse anew.

So, what "new" insight have I been given?  Nothing new, but here is what perspective I have been pondering.

I have zero-ed in on the word "gave."  God gave.  God gave to the world.  God gave His Son.  God gave out of love.  God gave to whoever believes in Him.  God gave so that we could have eternal life.

Wow...that's a LOT of giving.

Most of the time, I am very aware (and thankful) for what I have been given.  I have been given a wonderful husband and family.  I have been given a comfortable life, with privileges and blessings not available to many others around the globe.

I have been given resources and skills that can benefit my family, church and community.  I have been given interests, personality traits and silly quirks within that personality that occasionally amuse others, keep life interesting and can be used for God's glory.

But there are times in my life when I don't feel so blessed.  There are times when I look in the mirror and wonder why I wasn't given the gift of a flawless complexion.  Sometimes I watch other actors on stage and wonder why I wasn't given the level of talent they have.  I often wonder why I wasn't given the personality of an out-going, personable charmer, instead of my introverted, melancholy spirit.

So, when I heard the word "gave" and pondered it in my heart, I was moved.  I know that life isn't fair.  Some are born with more physical beauty and talents than others.  Some live in relative wealth while others live in poverty.  Some have radiant, attractive personalities, and others have personalities that are harder to appreciate.

But there is one thing we have ALL been given.  Jesus.

God isn't a stingy deity spending His days plotting to bring us deprivation.  God is a generous, giving Father who longs to bless us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  And on top of that, He gave us the most precious gift He could ever give us:  His Son.  Anyone who's ever raised a son (or a daughter) would understand how precious and valuable that is.

Sure, there will still be days when I feel "deprived" and indulge in a self-pity party.  Life has a way of doing that to us.

But God gave me His most valuable and sacrificial possession possible.  That means I am loved.  It means I am also valuable to Him.  It means I count.

The reflection in the mirror doesn't make me valuable, nor will my acting ability on stage, my "wealth" or my personality.  God makes me valuable.  I am the recipient of a most valuable gift.  John 3:16 tells me so.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Week #27 Hebrews 11:11 "My Own Miracle from God"

"By faith Abraham, even though he was past age - - and Sarah herself was barren - - was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise."

I love God's promises. I think we all do. And, according to this verse, Abraham and Sarah really loved His promises. It reassured them. It encouraged them. It built their faith. And, what is most exciting for me, God's promise to them worked miracles.

Abraham was old, past the age when men fathered children. Sarah was "barren" and had also reached the age when women no longer considered childbirth. In other words, it should have been impossible for such a couple to bear a child.

But, God promised them a family. In fact, God promised them that they would be the father and mother of a great nation. They were to be the start of a nation, chosen by God, who would bless the people of the earth. Their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. That's quite a promise. All this, to an old, childless couple.

But, when God speaks, and God wills, don't worry about the odds. They're already beaten.

And this promise to Abraham and Sarah, was also their life calling. God chose them, God called them and God worked miracles to enable them to fulfill that calling.

I often think so many things are impossible for me. I spend a lot of time wishing. I wish for miracles, and for that calling from God that will change the world, or at least my corner of the world.

I keep forgetting that, if God calls me to serve Him, miracles will follow. It may not be the Red Sea parting, or I may not walk on water. But miracles, those unexpected gifts and inexplicable circumstances that could only come from Divine Intervention, will follow.

Those miracles will help me serve Him in ways I never thought possible. Miracles will make a way for things to happen that never could have, if left to my own power. Miracles are those "coincidences" or "lucky breaks" that I didn't see coming. Miracles enable me, like Abraham, to become who God intended me to be.

So, if you're like me, and sometimes feel like an old, useless person, remember that a great nation (or a great ministry, a great idea, a great act of love) may come from you anyway. All you have to do is listen to God's promise and calling. You can beat the odds. God will see to it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Week #26 1 Cor. 3:18-19a "A Fool for God"

"Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise. For this wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight."

I spend a fair amount of time with people who consider themselves educated, intellectual and open-minded. As a whole, these are good traits to possess.

I am all for education. I am also highly in favor of developing the intellect and of being willing to hear other perspectives and ideas. I also try to see a bit more of the "big picture" that makes up God's universe. It helps me to get over myself, see past my own troubles and circumstances and look at life from a more eternal perspective.

After all, life doesn't end with our death, God created a universe that is vast and infinite, and the course of human history is not dependent on mankind getting its act together and saving itself.

So...considering the big picture perspective that the Bible teaches us, why is Christianity still called "foolishness" by the world?

Well, for one thing, we Christians have been accused of being closed-minded. Non-believers sneer at our faith because we claim to testify of the truth. We are told we are intolerant of other belief systems because we can't agree with philosophies and religions that don't acknowledge God and His Son Jesus.

We are also told that we are crazy because we hope in the Second Coming of Christ, the Rapture (which has gotten a bad rap lately, thanks to a misguided "prophet" named Harold Camping) and eternal life with the LORD in heaven.

In other words, we Christians are fools. Closed-minded fools.

But look at what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3. We Christians ARE "fools," and we should seek to be foolish. But look, too, at how foolishness is defined in these verses. "Wisdom" is associated with deception, the standards of the age, and the world. "Foolishness" is associated with God's sight.

So, what does the world tell us is "wise"? There are a lot of things, too numerous to list. But I will list one thing our world (here in the USA, at least) values: open-mindedness. Open-mindedness that claims that all systems of thought and religion are valid and true. Open-mindedness that says to preach the Bible as if it were God's truth shows intolerance, ignorance and stupidity.

At what does God say is "foolish"? The "wisdom" of this world.

I prefer not to call myself open-minded. I prefer the term big picture-thinker. My God is bigger than any philosophy or world view can contain. His universe and knowledge is infinite. His love for us is beyond imaginable. His peace passes all understanding.

I also know these things to be true, because I know God, and He is truth. If that makes me closed-minded and a fool, then praise God! I am a fool for God.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Week #25 1 John 4:13 "Not Merely an Emotion"

"We know that we live in Him and He is us, because He has given us of His Spirit."

If you're anything like me, you have found that there is a lot of confusion and disagreement surrounding the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is, for many of us, the most mysterious and hard to understand person in the Trinity.

But, the Spirit is worth trying to understand. After all, I find that the quality of my relationship with God, how I process what is happening in my life and in the world, and even my preferred style of worship on Sunday morning is affected by my beliefs about the Holy Spirit.

In fact, if it weren't for the Holy Spirit, I may never have experienced healing from my depression. (Although my depression still pops up once in a while.) I probably wouldn't still be a Christian...I would have gotten too discouraged and given that up a long time ago. And I definitely couldn't have made some of the difficult decisions in life that I have without His guidance and assurance.

So, who is this Spirit anyway, and why do I give Him so much credit? I am no expert, but here are some of the most valuable things I have learned.

First, the Holy Spirit is not an emotion. The Holy Spirit is not the same thing as "school spirit" during a college football game or a wave of emotion that we get caught up in during a moving and inspirational moment. Yes, there are times that the Spirit speaks to our feelings and uses them to guide us, but He is not primarily a feeling.

Second, the Holy Spirit is a person. No, that doesn't mean that He is a human being. It means that He has qualities that the Bible defines in personal terms. He teaches, comforts, guides and speaks. He has emotions and intellect. He is united with God and Jesus, but is also individually His own person.

Thirdly, I have learned that the Spirit speaks to and guides us even today. The New Testament is filled with stories of early believers being guided and enlightened by the Spirit. That still happens today, to all of us "regular" Christians as well. I know from experience that it does.

And fourthly, I know that the Holy Spirit dwells in me and is my constant companion. He gives me the words to say during those times I must speak God's thoughts to others. He assures me that I am loved when the people in my life snub me or ignore me. He reminds me of just the right Bible verse to help me through a tough situation.

No, a mere emotion or group wave of consciousness could ever do that. Only a personal, divine companion can accomplish that.

So, as 1 John tells us, we know that we belong to God because God gave us His Spirit. I know my faith in God is not just an intellectual assent to His existence. It is not just a theoretical understanding of His principles and values. My faith is a real relationship that transforms my life from aloneness to united-ness (is that even a word?).

You get what I mean.

Thanks to the indwelling companionship and mentorship of the Holy Spirit, I am never alone. And neither are you.

Thank you, God.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Week #24 Matthew 22:37 "It's All About Love"

"Jesus replied, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." "

Listen to these thoughts and ask yourselves if any of this sounds like you. "I don't know how God can bless and use a person like me." "I wish I knew God's will for my life." "How am I supposed to live the Christian life? It's impossible to do!"

Sound familiar? If you're like me, I have found myself saying these things on more than one occasion. A Christian life that is pleasing to God can be a tough one. Sometimes I feel like giving up. It all seems so complicated!

But, wait. Before I throw in the towel and sit out the Christian walk, I need to ask myself the old adage, "What Would Jesus Do?"

Look at the above verse. What DID Jesus do, and what is He telling US to do?

Matthew 22:37 is often times referred to as The Greatest Commandment. It's easy to see why. Jesus summed up (basically) the entire aim of the Christian life in this one sentence. We who call ourselves Christ Followers are to do exactly what Jesus would do: Love God.

Wow...can it really be that simple? Well, yes, it can. Love God. Period.

While that may be simple, it isn't easy. Loving doesn't always come naturally for me. I become selfish. I want to control my life and my surroundings (including the people in my life) to suit my own purposes. I don't always feel loving. I get lazy and can't always do the loving thing. And that's just a picture of how bad I am at loving people.

Loving God is even harder. He's invisible. He can seem silent and distant. He's hard to understand. His ways are not my ways. Sometimes He asks us to do hard things. But Jesus doesn't let us off the hook. He tells us to love God with our entire being. Our hearts, souls and minds are to lead the way.

I can't say that I entirely understand what loving God means. But, God Himself gives us a few clues. As His beloved child, I have experienced what it means to be loved BY God. God always forgives me. God accepts me for who I am. God believes in me and patiently teaches me a better way. Sometimes God disciplines me when I need it. All of these things suggest a logical and natural response from us. That's a good place to start.

And Jesus....He's the greatest role model in history for what it means to love God. He obeyed God unto death...even death on the cross. He is united with God in purpose and lived to please God and do His work on earth.

I am not perfect, I cannot love perfectly like Jesus could. But I can make love my aim (1Cor. 14:1). I can focus on learning to love God better.

So, I guess it's all about love, and the things that love leads us to do and to be. What is God's will for my life? How will God use me to do His work on earth? By showing me how to love.

I can start right now. Even as I write this blog entry, I am experiencing the blessing of being with God, of hearing His thoughts and sharing them (in love!) with others. I can't give any of you specific steps toward achieving The Loving Life. But I can tell you that you, too, can start right now. Spend a little time with God today. Tell Him you love Him and you want to learn to love Him even more. He'll help you. That will give Him joy.

It's that simple. Once you start on your journey toward loving God, He will lead you. All you need to do next is to follow. Then, you will be on your way to understanding God's will for your life and how He can use you for His kingdom. It's all about love, my friends.

Thank you, LORD.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Week #23 Jeremiah 29:11 "Always the Loving Father"

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I love this verse. I love it so much that I have a framed copy of it hanging on my wall in beautiful calligraphy with the words "Be Encouraged" at the top of the picture.

Yes, this is one of those bible verses that we believers like to quote when the chips are down, when we need to know there is hope and more prosperous times ahead. This verse can indeed be quite encouraging.

But wait. Before we run away with visions of wealth and financial freedom, there are a few important questions we need ask first.

Is this prophecy from Jeremiah too good to be true? Does God really promise all believers prosperity and an limitless future? Is this one of those biblical promises that we can "take to the bank?" Just what is Jeremiah saying here, and to whom?

I think it is helpful to remember that Jeremiah was speaking to the Children of Israel during the time of their exile in Babylon. The Israelites had lost their homes, their freedom and (for some of them) their faith. Due to their chronic disobedience toward God, the LORD allowed their enemies to conquer them and take them into captivity.

But, despite their unfaithfulness, God showed Himself to be ever faithful and always the loving Father. He tells them that His plans for His people hadn't been cancelled. His love for them hadn't changed. Their future as God's children was still intact.

During a time when Israel felt they were at their lowest point, when their unfaithfulness resulted in mass incarceration, God went out of His way to tell them how much He still loved them. His plans for "prosperity" didn't mean financial gain, either. Instead, God was promising them an end to their time of trouble and restoration to their land and to Himself. And no, it wasn't a "get rich quick" scheme. Israel's captivity lasted 70 years. Not exactly instant gratification.

So, if God isn't necessarily promising all Christians prosperity and a great future in this verse, why do I love it so much?

I love Jeremiah 29:11 because it reminds me of God's faithfulness, no matter what. I, myself, have been in bad situations, many times due to my own poor choices. Although I end up paying a price for those life choices, God has never abandoned me. Yes, I've gone through tough times, and I expect that more tough times may be in my future as well. But this verse is God's encouragement to me during those times.

I know I won't get rich by becoming a Christian. I know that my trials and times of trouble may last a long time. But, I know that, no matter how much I've fallen short of the Glory of God, I am always welcome to sit at the feet of my LORD and rest in His presence.

He loves me all the time. I never want to forget that.

Thank you, Father.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week #22 Proverbs 19:22a "Blessing Others"

"What a man desires is unfailing love."

About a month ago, my son and I visited a church that my dear friend and her husband are pastoring. At their church, they have an unusual custom that they practice. When visitors come on a Sunday morning for worship service, they hand each visitor a two-dollar bill. They tell the guest that the bill represents a blessing from God. It is their way to wish each guest God's best, with the hope that the two dollars will either bless them or someone else.

I asked my son today if he still had his bill. He told me, "No, I spent it long ago."

That's okay. The modest amount of money obviously blessed him. He needed it for a good reason.

I still have my bill. I told myself that I would give it, perhaps, to a homeless person or someone else in great need. So far, I have had at least two or three panhandlers approach me asking for a couple of dollars. One person was given two dollars, but it wasn't the two-dollar bill I received at church. Quite honestly, I had forgotten about that two-dollar bill. So, I gave the person two one-dollar bills instead.

But, the desire to bless someone with that two-dollar bill still rests in my heart. What am I waiting for? A directive from God? A burning bush, or a voice from above? Maybe.

This verse in Proverbs tells us that one of the best desires to have in our hearts is the ability to show unfailing love (translation: kindness). As Matthew Henry's commentary so poetically states,
"It is far better to have a heart to do good, and want ability for it, than to have ability for it, and want a heart to it."

This is great news. Most of us feel we have limited means to give, but God tells us in this verse that just the DESIRE to show kindness and charity is the real blessing for us. He doesn't judge us according to our ability to give, or the dollar amount we contribute. He looks at our hearts, not our bank accounts.

So, when I received my two-dollar bill, I accepted it as God's call to me to be kind, generous and to find creative ways to bless others. The blessing I pass on might be money, or it might be my time, my undivided attention or my friendship.

I know I won't always be successful in this. There are times when I feel too busy, too self-involved or too scared to step out and serve another. But, overall, I know I want to bless others. That two-dollar bill reminds me of that. It encourages me to bless. It motivates me toward kindness.

So, I guess I won't be giving away that dollar bill any time soon. I need that reminder, for now. I need to open my wallet and remember to look for ways to bless someone. I need to know that I am investing in God's work, not just in the supermarkets or coffee houses that usually receive my cash.

My friend and her pastor husband showed a bit of brilliance that Sunday morning. They handed me two dollars, with the hope that someone would be blessed with that amount of cash. As it turns out, that two dollars will probably be worth much more. God willing, over time, multiple persons will be blessed with gifts worth much more than a mere two bucks.

But the person with the biggest blessing will be me. I will have had the privilege of giving and showing kindness. God has entrusted me with much. The opportunities that lie before me to bless someone makes me smile already. What joy!

Thank you, LORD.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Week #21 Proverbs 17:10 "When Discipleship Hurts"

"A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool."


Here is a verse that I really didn't want to reflect on and blog about. Rebukes, lashes, fools...what a verse.

But, the LORD puts His word before us for a reason. That includes not only the "Promise Verses" (the ones we like) but also the "Warning Verses" (the ones we'd like to avoid). This is one of the latter.

When I gave my life over to God many years ago, I expected to experience a multitude of blessings, deep fellowship with the saints and (to be honest) the euphoria of a new believer. I can attest to the blessings and fellowship, but somehow missed out on the spiritual high of the insanely cheerful believer.

That's probably a good thing. My periods of greatest growth as a Christian have been during times of deep fellowship and even deeper wrestling with my faith, my life, my sometimes faulty assumptions and with God Himself. It isn't always "fun" or "cheerful" when this happens. Many times it is downright painful.

So, when a rebuke (I'd rather call it "corrective advice") comes my way, it isn't easy. I am an insecure person by nature. Correction isn't always welcomed in my fragile world. With people offering advice, counsel, rebukes or complaints that touch on sensitive areas of my life and identity, it is easy to ignore, become defensive or shoot back in anger. I have done all three.

But, upon close examination of Proverbs 17, it is important to read the word "discernment." A person of discernment will take a rebuke to heart more deeply than a fool takes 100 lashes. What this also tells me is that a man of God will be discerning when a rebuke is from the LORD and when it is simply from man.

When being corrected, I must remember to put aside my injured ego and ask God if this correction is from Him. If it is, then I must listen, despite the hurt, and take it to heart. If it is not, then I must be gracious to the well-intended person, regardless of why they corrected me.

We've all been led down an unfortunate path when we've listened to erroneous rebukes. We've also been down this same unfortunate path when we've failed to heed godly advice.

Here is my take-away from this verse: 1) Ask the LORD if a rebuke (or any piece of advice) is from Him and 2) if the rebuke is godly, then thank Him for His correction. It doesn't mean that God is mad at me, or is punishing me. It means that He loves me. It means I am His child.

Oh yes, there is a step 3. When I receive a godly rebuke, I need to remind myself that the hurt will take time to stop hurting. Even well-intentioned pain still hurts. I heal slowly. That's my sensitive nature. It doesn't mean I'm any less spiritual than a believer who recovers quickly. But, praise God, eventually I do recover.

Thank you, LORD.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Week #20 Psalm 62:1 "Resting in God"

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him."

I realized last week that I am behind schedule. It is now the 22nd week of the year, and I am blogging for week #20. My mistake. I missed a couple of weeks somewhere in April or May.

But, I also am a firm believer in Romans 8:28, that all things (including my miscalculations) work together for good. So, I may be late in my blogging schedule, but God is blessing my blogging for today, according to His schedule.

What am I talking about? Well, today is Memorial Day. This is a day when we Americans stop and remember those who gave their lives in the service of their country. It's a special day for us in the United States, for the that reason. But, fortunately, it is also special for us because Memorial Day is a national holiday. For most of us, that means we have the day off from our work or school responsibilities. It is a day of rest.

My son is spending the day at Safeco Field watching the Mariners. My husband is doing some simple work around the house and then taking the rest of the day for leisure. On an unusual Monday, we get to rest.

So, I thought about what the Psalmist says here, that our souls find our rest in God alone. It makes me ponder the concept of rest. Resting from our jobs or schoolwork....and resting in God.

For us Americans observing Memorial Day, we are taking a rest from our labor, the occupation that not only supplies our basic needs (via the paycheck we receive), but gives us a sense of identity and purpose. All these things are essential to the human life.

But the Bible also tells us that we have those same things when we put our faith in God. He supplies all our needs (Phil.4:19), give us our identities (1 Pet. 1:9-10) and gives us purpose (John 20:21). So, what's the difference between resting from our jobs, and resting in God?

Simple. Our rest on a holiday is something we earn because we work at our jobs all the other weeks of the year. Our resting in God is something we are gifted with because of the work Jesus did on the cross. We didn't earn it, Jesus did it for us.

This is why our rest in God is so wonderful. We can now cease striving, stop trying to prove our goodness. We can't anyhow.

But we can pray without ceasing. We can fill our mouths with thanksgiving and praise. We can tell God how much we love Him. Most of all, we can celebrate our day of rest on any day we wish, because God's rest is 24/7. Every day is a holiday for God's people.

Thank you, God.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Week #19 Proverbs 31:30 "The 21st Century Proverbs 31 Woman"

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

Oh yes....Proverbs 31. You all remember that chapter in the Old Testament. The biblical laundry list for "the perfect woman." The woman that all serious Christian men want (and sometimes demand) in a wife. Oh yeah...THAT Proverbs 31.

Please excuse the sarcasm here. It stems from a lifetime of disappointment and criticism.

Instead of finding encouragement in these verses, sometimes I see a standard that is impossible for me to attain. That Proverbs 31 lady is a tough act to follow. She works tirelessly to make a beautiful and nurturing home for her family. She is a shrewd businesswoman. She is charitable and compassionate. She is praised by her family for her wisdom and noble deeds. And on top of that, she's one serious seamstress.

But wait. She also seems to have a well-respected and (by inference) equally hard working husband. Her children are respectful toward her and don't appear to take all her hard work for granted. They are told specifically in these verses to praise their wife/mother.

Okay....I guess the "impossible standard" here applies to all members of the family. Life was hard back in those days. No Kitchen Aid technology, packaged foods, and 9 - 5 work days to neatly fit into their lives. Men, women and children all had to work hard, work together and work joyfully in order to thrive in that world. Making a home was much more than shopping at the mall for just the right comforter to go with that new Tempur-Pedic mattress set. It was sheer labor.

So...Proverbs 31 tells me, among other things, that being the virtuous woman/wife/mother is a labor of love. It's all about love for God and love for our families. Okay, we DO have the luxury of shopping malls and kitchen appliances today, so the 21st Century Proverbs 31 Woman doesn't have to "select wool and flax" or "make linen garments" by her own hands. We can use modern technology to help us meet our family's needs.

But we do need to do it all with love and joy. And yes, we CAN do that. That is not an impossible standard to live by. I don't do all things perfectly. My house still doesn't meet that quality outlined in Proverbs 31. But I can take my work as the LORD's work. I can see my family as part of my holy calling. I can rejoice that God gave me the privilege of such a wonderful calling.

And the best part of it all? Look at verse 30. None of this is dependent on my charm or beauty, two things that the world overly values in women. God looks at our character, our lives and our hearts when He sees us. Not our flawless complexions, flat stomachs or flirty eyelashes.

He sees us. And He loves who He sees.

Thank you, LORD.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Week #18 Revelation 3:20 "Opening the door to Jesus"

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me."

Back in the day when I first became a Christ-follower, this is the key verse I was given.

It explained the process that I had just gone through in becoming a Christian. I had just asked Jesus into my heart, and opened that proverbial door to my heart and invited Him in.

Yes, I got that. It meant a lot to me back then. It still does. Declaring your faith in Jesus Christ and trusting Him as your LORD and savior is huge. It's live-giving. It's live-changing. It's the door to life itself.

But, almost 40 years later, this verse still is dear to me. Not simply for the memories of giving my life over to God, but for my present life as a middle-aged believer.

The process of giving ourselves to God never ends. At least it shouldn't. You see, on some days, I find it's easier to live my humdrum life on my own shallow terms. Sometimes I can almost see how an atheist can exist day to day without even once considering if God loved me, is pleased with me or has a perfect and loving purpose for my life.


Those moments of amnesia about God are fleeting for me. I know I walk with Him and He walks with me. I know there isn't anything in this world that would separate me from His love.

But, I do have those moments when I want to go my own way. I want to live in the immediate, the obvious, the superficial. It is during those times I need to open the door once again to my heart and ask Jesus to enter. That heart door is annoyingly good at closing.

Unfortunately, that door might stay closed even longer than it does, if it weren't for the first part of Rev. 3:20. Jesus tells us that He stands at the door and knocks. He knocks, and thank God He does.

No, Jesus isn't pestering us. He isn't simply prompting us to listen and obey. What His knocking at the door of our hearts tells me, is that He seeks us. He invites us. He pursues us. Just like a lover woos the object of his affection, Jesus woos us with an indescribable love. No one is more loved than we are.

So, why do I need to "hear" a knock at the door of my heart before I respond? I don't know. It makes me sad to think about it.

But, I thank God that He never stops pursuing me. I am loved. I am worth it.

Thank you, Jesus.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Week #17 Matthew 9:22 "Touching Jesus' Robe"

"Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' He said, 'your faith has healed you.' And the woman was healed from that moment."

This beautiful verse is taken from the story of the woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. Instead of coming directly to Jesus and asking for healing, she merely touched the edge of his robe, knowing that simply touching his garment would transmit Jesus' healing power to her.

She was right. But, not only did she receive the cure for her chronic bleeding, she received a couple other things that are just as precious.

For one, she got the attention of Jesus. Jesus was a busy man. At that moment, He and His disciples were hurrying to the home of a ruler whose daughter had just died. He was constantly being called upon to heal, counsel, and in this case, raise someone from the dead.

But here was a most unfortunate woman, whose suffering (and probable social ostracism) was great. Her reluctance to speak to Jesus face-to-face was understandable, considering her "unclean" status in society and the poor self esteem it brought. So, even with a timid touch to the edge of his cloak, Jesus faced this woman and gave her His undivided and loving attention. For this woman, this undoubtedly showed her how much she was loved.

Also, Jesus commended her faith as He healed her. What an honor this was for her! A woman, who spent the past 12 years being dismissed by polite society and probably accused of having a weak faith (otherwise, she would have been healed sooner, they concluded), was told her faith was strong and sincere enough to receive Jesus' healing.

If she were anything like me, she would have spent much of those 12 years doubting her faith, her worth and her God. She would have suffered from the "Why me?" syndrome. On a good day, she would have simply resigned herself to her fate and humbly accepted whatever charity or kind attention she got from anyone.

But Jesus didn't simply give her a pat on the head or a few denarii for her troubles. He did much more than that. He met her deepest needs: emotional healing, faith, and love.

Sometimes our physical healing doesn't happen the way we wish. But, Jesus always wants to meet our deepest needs. How often do I come to Jesus and touch the edge of His garment? How much do I believe that touching His robe will meet my needs?

Also notice that, until Jesus turned to her and spoke, not a word was exchanged between the two. My long-winded prayers aren't always necessary. But I can touch Jesus' robe at any moment during my day. In my greatest need, when words fail me, I can still touch His robe. Sometimes, that's the best my faith can do.

But, during those times, that's all that is needed. Praise God.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Week #16 Romans 4:25 "He is Risen"

"Jesus Christ was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

Today is Easter Sunday, and I have heard the same quote from Christian author and humorist Barbara Johnson twice, once from the pulpit, and once on Facebook. She describes our Christian faith saying, "We are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world."

Wow. Powerful words, that.

The thought hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes, we are an Easter people. But why don't I realize this but once a year? Why do I need to see Easter lilies, Cadbury eggs and sing "Christ the LORD is Risen Today" in order to celebrate and proclaim that my LORD is risen?

Is He not risen everyday of my life? Do I not have eternal life because He has conquered death and, therefore, allowed me to share in this eternal life with Him?

Romans 4:25 tells us that Jesus died for our sins, and rose again to life for our justification. This is true. Jesus did die a horrific death on the cross because of my sins. And when He died, we believers died with Him. We died to the world and its philosophies. We died to ourselves and our own foolish ways.

But, three days later, He rose from the dead! He did this not because of my sins, or my foolishness. He rose by the power of God. It was that same power that turned those early disciples from fearful men hiding in the Upper Room into God's fearless witnesses.

It is God's power that can take a self-centered wimp like me and make me rise again into a modern woman who proclaims and celebrates His salvation, love and power while living in a violent, hopeless and godless world.

First, let me say that I am in no way minimizing the power or cost of the cross. Jesus' death is why we are able to live. We can never thank Him enough for what He did on the cross.

But, what if, instead of only concentrating on Christ's death, we celebrate His resurrection every day? What if, in addition to the crucifix, the most recognizable symbol of Christianity became an empty tomb?

The Apostle Paul in Romans 4 got it right. Our life of faith is about both the death AND the resurrection of Jesus. We weep over His death, because we weep over our sin and what it cost our LORD. But we celebrate His resurrection. It is what gives us life and gives us cause to rejoice.

I wish every Sunday was Easter. I love proclaiming His resurrection to others. I love telling the world that I don't serve a dead master. I serve a Living God. A God that has risen.

But, if I am an Easter person, I don't need the calendar to tell me when to proclaim He is risen. I can do it every day. After all, every day of my life, He is risen.

He is risen indeed!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Week #15 Romans 12:9-10 "Clinging to Good"

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves."

These verses have several ideas and exhortations in them. But there is one particular word that stands out for me. "Hate."

Hate. Here's a word that makes headlines. When it comes to popular culture and media, "hate" is bantered about in social and political discussions across the country. (How I wish I could be inundated with more theological discussions in my social circle. How refreshing that would be!!)

"Hate speech." "Hate crimes." "Hate groups." "I hate (pick the group or attitude of your choice)."
And the list goes on and on...

For a Christian, hating what is evil can be a tricky thing. No one will argue that we Christians have a major PR problem in the United States today. We are regularly condemned for being "un-Christian" if we express any critical thought about society, politics or culture. We are told we are un-loving if we hate anything.

Yet, here Paul exhorts us to hate evil. When we try to explain that we don't hate people, just the evil that can come from some humans and their institutions, we still aren't off the hook. The name-calling continues. Christians are un-loving. Christians are hypocrites. Christians are being un-Christian. Sigh....

So, when it comes to evil, we can't win. We can't beat Satan at his own game, and we can't make the world understand us either. So what's a nice, evil-hating Christian to do?

I think the answer is contained in the second half of the phrase. "Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."

I need to cling to the good. The godly. The God in the world. My love must be sincere. I must be devoted to my fellow believers and honor them in love.

Subtle forms of evil may disguise itself as good, fun and cool. But it ultimately has no power over good. It may not seem like it, if you take a look at the world today. It looks like evil is winning.

But, the opera ain't over. No, the "fat lady" isn't going to sing, but one day the Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30). At that time, Jesus will set the record straight. Evil will no longer be able to masquerade as cool and enticing. Good will be cool. Good will be praised. Love will win out in the end.

I can't wait for that day. Until then, however, I must strive to cling to good, cling to God. And I must reflect His goodness in my life.

A real challenge, that is. But when I cling to God, it doesn't mean I can rise to the challenge. It means that God rises to the challenge through me. Praise God.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week #14 Romans 6:23 "Forgiveness Granted"

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our LORD." is such a politically incorrect term nowadays. No one, Christians included, wants to believe that sin actually exists in us. Some people don't want to think that sin exists at all.

They prefer the word "imperfection" or , when describing a sinful world, "morally relative or ambiguous." Truth be told, I sort of like those terms as well.

But, if sin is simply a word to describe our weaknesses and our "C- behavior in an A+ world," why would God be so unmerciful as to mete out the death penalty for such common and understandable human traits?

Is God an abusive and mean-spirited kill joy? Does he actually expect perfection out of imperfect beings?

I have wrestled with this question for years. During those times in my life when I was painfully aware of my moral imperfections, my "C- behavior" that drove others away from me, I shouted and whined at God about how He made me, and what He really expected out of me.

After years of wrestling and asking, this is what I have learned.

First, God does not call our mistakes and imperfections "sin." For example, if you forgot to pay the light bill and now you and your family live in the dark and cold, that is a mistake. Though it had unfortunate consequences, your forgetfulness is not a sin.

Second, sin is always a deliberate act of rebellion against God and His will. I don't "accidentally" sin. When I sin, I know that I am sinning. Even though I know I am sinning, I sin anyway. There are a variety of reasons for this, but here is one of the chief reasons.

In my life, usually sin occurs when I trust my power to handle life and my short-sighted solutions over what God can do. I fight God over the circumstances of my life. I assume His way is harder and won't work for me. Usually I doubt my own ability to do things God's way, because I see myself as a poor quality Christian who can't make the grade. I also assume that, since I've blown it so often before, God wouldn't come to my aid anyway.

Of course, God knows better than that. Sometimes I do, too, but for those other times, praise God that His gift is eternal life in Jesus. I need Jesus' life. I need Jesus' forgiveness. I need Jesus' priesthood that intercedes on my behalf to God, and assures God's grace to me. In my sinfulness, I need all that. I can't do it for myself.

So, what does God really expect out of me? Perfection? No. Sinlessness? Definitely not.

He expects me to come to Him. In my sin, in my moments of doubt, rebellion, fear and anger, He expects me to remember my sin and come to Him anyway. I'm always welcome, no matter what I've done. My loving Heavenly Father doesn't want me to die. He wants me to live with Him.

I need to remember that.