Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas--Live the Moment

In many ways this is one of the most enjoyable pre-Christmas years ever. I asked the Lord to motivate me to do what needed to be done and leave the rest to Him. Amid stomach flu, colds, allergies, school programs, and the host of holiday activities, God has heard and answered my prayer. I am so thankful! Yesterday as I sat down to read Mark 14:1-11 for the third day in a row (it takes a while to put all the pieces together sometimes), this stood out to me:

v. 1,3: Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him…. He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table….

Jesus’ death was two days away--and He knew it (v. 8). He would face betrayal, unjust accusations, the malice and wrath of influential men, strong and powerful men, but here He was, "reclining at the table" with His friend, Simon. He was not hurried or harried. He lived each day, trusting the Father’s will and plan(1 Peter 2:23). He was not concerned with how He should respond along the way. He was not concerned with the pain, difficulty, or how to change the circumstances. He did not worry about the outcome of His death. He lived each moment as the Father gave it. He rested in each moment, each encounter, each circumstance, trusting that God would accomplish His purpose.

Application: How content am I in each moment?  Am I able to "recline" and enjoy fellowship with those I love or am I churning and worrying about other things? Jesus left us an example of living life to the full--an abundant life (John 10:10), but how often we forfeit that abundant life for something less. What a beautiful picture of “leaning on the everlasting arms” in each and every circumstance.

May you be blessed in each moment of the Christmas season as you walk in His footsteps, entrusting each moment, each difficulty, each victory to Him.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

As the Lord Wills

I have been looking forward to the next week and half for a long time--few extra obligations or teaching commitments, lots of time for wrapping and sending gifts, Christmas letters, baking.  But God had other plans.  Hit with the stomach flu, I am hesitant to bake--or even send gifts to family.  Do viruses travel through the mail?  I was so excited that I forgot to plan, "if the Lord wills."

This morning, sighing that my mother-in-law may not get her homemade biscotti and peppermint bark on time, David reminded me that "God is sovereign" and it will probably get done, just not on my timetable.  So for today, perhaps I'll stay in my jammies and let the world do what it will.  I, for one, will sit back and wait on the Lord--as one more child sleeps with a bucket next to her head.... 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Jesus We Miss at Christmas

Christmas is full of glitz:  the stores, the music, the streets.  We all like a little bling, some more than others, but bling is fun.  It's festive.  It's exciting.  It's both reminiscent and new.  Over and over, the book of Mark contrasts man's desire for bling with Christ's humility.  At His birth he was surrounded by hay and beasts of burden instead of gold and scores of people, angels and shepherds instead of trumpets and processions.  And, in Mark chapter eleven, a donkey and commoners in the place of a war horse and royalty.

Passage: Mark 11:1-11

v.  4-7: They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. Some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission. They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Life Among The Who's Who

No fancy introduction to grab your attention today, just a simple thought from my personal Bible reading that will refresh and refocus my ministry--maybe yours as well.

Mark 9:34-37: But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37“Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

Impression:  The disciples got carried away with their own importance even as Jesus talked about His suffering, death, and resurrection.  We could argue that, in church, we don't disagree about who's the greatest.  We know it's wrong and we have this example to correct us.  But we still do it.  Often we tweak it and change it the slightest bit.  We won't say "I'm better than you," but in our own words (over and over!) we share, "I'm busier than you."  We may not put others down in their presence, but we are quick to compare the importance of what we do and how much time we spend doing it.  What would Jesus do?  In this case he took a child—who accomplishes no adult task, carries no adult responsibilities, boasts no achievements—and directs His disciples to receive such a one. Ouch.  Is that where I put my value?  Is that where I invest my energy, time, abilities, and resources?  In those who cannot repay, in those who have no worldly value, in those who are often overlooked? 

Application:  When life becomes more about how busy I am or what I am accomplishing than Who I’m serving, it’s out of balance.  It’s not about the what, it’s about the Who.  And when Jesus is first, when I know Him, depend on Him, and desire to serve Him, the other who’s of life will fall into place  (Matthew 6:33).  The what’s of life will happen.  The when and the where won’t matter.  And the how?  With my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith, denying myself, taking up my cross and following Him (Hebrews 12:2, Mark 8:34).

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Maybe the time change last week was a breeze for you--in which case I'd argue you're not a toddler or a getting-old person like myself.  When the world around us changes we give each other a measure of grace, knowing change takes time.  But when it comes to changing ourselves--oy, vey!  Others make excuses for us, "they're just like that," and we make excuses for ourselves, "that's just the way I am."  Jesus said it differently.  He said that as I follow Him, I will leave myself behind, lose my life, only to find it again.

In Mark 8:33-38, Jesus gives timeless insight for change, for the true meaning of life, for how to be transformed. 

Verses 34-35 say, " And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.'"

There is nothing more difficult or impossible than giving up one’s desires, wants, and ways.  I have found it to be a constant, daily struggle, one that grows with time.  When I was younger, I thought it would get easier.  I looked at old people, Godly people, "It must be easier for them than it is for me."  Ha!  It's been many years now and I know it's not true.  Habits make choices easier (good and bad), but making new changes is still as difficult, as impossible, as ever.  It is a fight to give up myself and depend on God and God alone to work the change.

So what will I do with Jesus' words today?  Remind myself not to give up.  Coach myself to keep striving toward Godliness.  Understand that there is no such thing as too much denial if I walk in sensitivity to the Spirit and choose obedience. 

The problem is that too often I push myself, I make denial the center of my choices or cross-bearing my focus.  It is then that I find wallow in failure, pitfalls, my own depravity.  But that is not what Jesus said.  It's not about self-denial, ultimately, it's about following Him.  If I my heart is set on Jesus, if my mind is settled on His love, then as I draw close to Him, as my footsteps match His, self will fall by the wayside (James 4:8). Repentance.  Forgiveness.  Gratitude.  Change.  And in it all, humble dependence. I will wake up to the reality of becoming more like Him and less like myself.  It must be about Jesus.  Not me.  Not obedience.  Not self-flagellation.  Not success.  Not spiritual awakening.  Jesus.  Just Jesus.  Nothing, no one, but Jesus.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

That Box of Chocolates!

Remember Forest Gump's saying, "Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates...?"  It always makes my mouth water--thinking about a box of chocolates, one with all my favorites.  Which, perhaps, is why I've put back on some of the forty-plus pounds I shed years ago.  If weight is not your struggle, perhaps you have another that takes you around and around the ring, hitting you high and low, in both expected and unexpected places.

As I read Mark earlier this week, I was struck by Jesus comments to two individuals in the same arena.  He told one woman, "your faith has made you well," and another, "Do not be afraid any longer, only believe."  If only that would help me, I thought, bemoaning tighter-than-comfortable clothing.  In that same passage (Mark 5:21-43), everything happened "immediately" (v. 29, 30, 42).  Grrr....

The next day I read about Jesus returning to his hometown. "He could do no miracle there...and He wondered at their unbelief" (Mark 6:5-6).  Belief is key.  But how does it work?  What does it look like?  James says that faith without works is no faith at all (James 2:14-26).  So what did Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood do to show their faith in Mark chapter 5?

Jairus went to Jesus.  He implored Him earnestly.  He stated His faith simply.  He waited.  He obeyed.  The woman fought her way through the crowd.  She found Jesus.  She reached out and touched His robe.  If Jairus had had faith without works, he would have stayed home.  If the woman had had faith without works, she would never have made the effort to get to Jesus or touch His robe.  Their faith was evident in a choice, a motion, an action, that accompanied their words and desire.

So, in my (perhaps silly) personal example, I realized that I have been asking God to help me gain control over my eating, exercising, and caring for my body, expecting Him to make it happen apart from my effort.  I know it is a good thing based on numerous Scripture passages.  But until I get up out of the chair, make choices in line with goodness, and step onto the treadmill, I cannot expect God to bring about the results.  My faith is as good as dead.

What is it that God desires for you, based on His Word?  Will you walk in obedience, putting your faith in action, and trusting God with the results?  Will we actively seek to do His will, or will He shake His head and wonder at your unbelief, at my unbelief?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Being vs. Doing

I received this comparison of Super Woman vs. Abiding Woman from my brother, Sam, the other day and have been thinking on it ever since.  Perhaps you've seen it and been encouraged.  I was in that frame of mind when I sat down to read the book of Mark this morning and saw the phrase about the disciples taking Jesus away from the crowds in a boat "just as He was," before the storm.

Mark 4:35-41. 
v. 36-37:  Leaving the crowd, [the disciples] took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.  And there arouse a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.

Impression:  Jesus was.  He didn’t act, or put on a show or pull out all the stops.  He simply walked and talked and healed and loved because of who He is.  It did not keep the storms at bay.  It did not keep life from happening around Him.  Life, in fact, was full of more difficulties as a result, not less.  He was unharried, unhurried, undisturbed; patient, kind, compassionate.  It’s Who He is.

Application:  By His Spirit, I can respond the same way.  I don’t have to do, to accomplish, to perform.  I am called to be—to be His workmanship, His vessel, part of His Body—where I am.  Even in the storm.  The storm will come.  People will clamor.  Needs will surmount.  And I cannot do it all.  I am only called to trust and obey, to do my part, as the Lord does His.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jesus, a Boy, and a Football Game

The best part of the football game happened outside the fence. Our daughters and I went to the game late. Hoping we wouldn't have to pay but not knowing, I stuffed paper bills in my pocket. It wasn't  enough. I sent the girls inside and watched from an open spot along the chain-link fence. 

As I stood alone, a 5th-grader approached.  "Did you already start Good News Club?" (see link for Child Evangelism Fellowship and look up Good News Club).  Another boy joined us .

"Who's that Jesus guy again?" he asked. I was thrilled. The first child left as the second boy and I talked about Jesus. He asked a lot of questions about Jesus, T.V. shows, and movies. And I got to share again about Jesus, sin, God, hell, and forgiveness.  He apologized for being distracted in Good News Club--but God was at work. It wasn't long before the teacher on duty invited me in. The little fellow was called away by his older brother and I joined the spectators in the stands.

As I've been reading the book of Mark I've been impressed with people's need and desire for Jesus.  They want Him. They follow Him. They surround and press in on Him.  From the beginning of the book people bring their friends to Jesus (1:32, 2:3).  The lame and ill could not get there themselves, but those who were well intervened. The theme ringing in my head has been, "bring them to Jesus."  When I care for our children and help them resolve differences I need to bring them to Jesus. When those around me are hurting or scared I need to bring them to Jesus. As I teach our women's Bible study--regardless of the topic--I need to bring them to Jesus.

In putting words on paper I am convicted of the many times my speech is contrary to His, my desires and motivations get twisted, my goals and mindset give in to distractions. If only I could keep others' need and Jesus' supremacy foremost in my mind, remembering my own great need for Him, then I would be ready to do His work (2 Timothy 4:2, John 6:38-40).  Today, let's bring them to Jesus.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

O Be Careful, Little _____ What You ______

Ezekiel 44

v. 2,4:  The LORD said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut....”  Then He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the house; and I looked, and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD, and I fell on my face.

Impression:  How lightly and casually we regard the LORD God in our thinking, our speaking, our doing.  Perhaps the greatest sin—one that opens the door to so many others—is to think too little of God.  We presume upon the body and blood of the Lord Jesus an intimacy of brotherhood. But God is our Father—not our buddy.  God remains the awesome, commanding, sovereign Lord of the universe.  If we but understood His power, greatness, and wisdom we, too, would tremble and fall.  We would be unable to stand and go about our daily business for fear of the LORD GOD.

Application:  How might a better understanding of God affect my prayer life?  To recognize His awesome might and sovereign control would put my requests and desires in perspective.  Would I still ask for the petty things that please me?  How would a better knowledge of God affect my actions?  If I lived out the children’s song, “For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little _________ how you ________,” what would change?  My personal entertainment, my indulgent eating, my relaxed laziness?  But I don’t want to.  I don’t want to know God because, yes, it would demand change.  It would remove the self-indulgence and shackle my desires, my efforts, my time, my resources to God and God alone.  But what better place to be?  “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10)

God is glorious.  God is gracious.  God is lovingly kind.  God is merciful.  God is peace.  God is joy.  God is the Provider and Protector of His people.  Because of Christ’s substitutionary death, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” (Song of Solomon 2:16).  But never at the cost of flippancy or contemporary causality.  God is.  My existence depends on that.  Past.  Present.  Future.  He is the I AM.  I am a dependent clause.  May God allow us to fear Him that we might walk in humble service and gratitude.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

There's Not Enough Time

Melissa and I were bent over picking straw flowers and purple statice in her dusty Wyoming garden when she stood, tears in her eyes, and said, "There's not enough time...  He died on Sunday and if he hadn't been at Bible School the week before," her voice dropped off.  A little previously unknown fellow had visited their Vacation Bible School and trusted Jesus as his Savior.  That next weekend he and his family were instantly killed in a vehicle accident.

At this time of year when life is swirling and it doesn't seem everything that needs to be done will get done, I remember Melissa's dark brown eyes and the tears running down her freckled cheeks.  "There's not enough time to reach them all."

May we never lose the urgency of loving and serving, reaching others with the good news of Jesus' substitutionary death, trusting that He will sovereignly direct our steps.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I had a moment of realization the other day that the Bible reading and meditating I did more than a month ago is finally bearing fruit.  I often have the expectation that my daily reading will affect that day--that what I read in God's Word today is my daily bread, and tomorrow God will provide another day's worth of bread, etc.  But as I sat in Sunday school this week I realized that I am not "wanting what I want" like I did earlier this summer.  Hurray!  Yay, God!

I distinctly remember sitting in the coffee shop at church camp last month, early in the morning, and praying over Proverbs 13:25, "The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, But the stomach of the wicked is in need."  My question that day, and the remainder of the week was, "Am I choosing to be satisfied?"  God has given me all I need.  He is my Shepherd and I am not in want (Psalm 23:1).  So am I living as one who is satisfied?

Now as our women's Bible study groups are beginning the book of James, I can see the discontent.  The twelve tribes James is writing to: don't like trials (James 1:2-4; 5:10-11), they don't have enough money (1:9-10, 4:13-14, 5:1-6), they aren't getting what they want (1:13-16, 4:1-5, 11-12; 5:9), they want more (2:3-4, 3:14-16, 4:2-3, 13-16; 5:1-5), and their selfishness results in hurtful words, actions, and attitudes (1:20-21, 26; 2:1-7, 13; 3:2-12, 14-16; 4:1-4, 11-12, 16; 5:1-6, 9, 12).  James is calling them to obedience. 

Contentment comes through obedience.  When I get busy doing what God has called me to do, I don't have time or interest for other things.  It is a call to refocus, not on what I don't have, but on the many things I do have.  It is a call to put Christ first, to trust Him with my wants and needs, and to serve others over and above myself.  After all, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"  (Romans 8:32).

James is a book of action, but more than that, it is a book that calls us to a choice:  am I satisfied, truly satisfied, with Jesus?  Does life reflect greed or gratitude?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pick on Me!

One of my greatest struggles is wanting to be known.  I can tell myself I'm not the center of the universe, but on some level I want to be recognized, acknowledged, appreciated, thought of.  We all do.  It's a God thing.  The sin in me seeks recognition and acknowledgement from other people through means that are self-centered, stealing the reputation of others, creating envy and strife.  The Christ centered part of me knows that God gave His all to recognize and save me.  That is more than enough.  It is a characteristic of God--a part of being made in His image--to be known.

The book of Ezekiel is all about God revealing Himself to mankind.  The phrase, "Then they will know that I am the LORD," is used 65 times.  In Ezekiel 35:11, He says, “therefore as I live... I will deal with you according to your anger and according to your envy which you showed because of your hatred... so I will make Myself known among them when I judge you.”

God makes Himself known in judgment as well as prosperity.  He meets out punishment in accordance with our sin and rebellion.  We deserve nothing more than just recompense for our actions, thoughts, words, and choices.  Our good does not outweigh our bad.  Good is not equal to bad.  Good is expected.  Good is required.  Perfect goodness is the baseline (James 2:10-13).  So, in reality, I deserve God's punishment regardless of any good work of my own--I can't make the cut.  But He Himself paid the penalty of my sin.  Amazing!  Only God could do that--or would do that.

Have I seen or sought Him in difficulty?  Have I acknowledged His hand in blessings, in pleasant experiences and prosperity?  Either way His desire and goal is to make Himself known.  If I fail to look to Him, depend on Him, seek, worship and acknowledge Him in the good, He will reveal Himself in other ways.  That is the focus, the goal, the treasure:  God and God alone.  

Am I looking, listening, acknowledging His supremacy today?  There will be a day when "every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).  May that day be today in my life....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I've Got Your Back!

"I've got your back!"  I love it!  It's what we say to each other whether we're a parent of teenagers (I know) or a law enforcement officer (I'm glad I don't know). I joke with my son's best friend about eating his vegetables then whisper to his mom, "I've got your back!"

In Ezekiel chapter 33 God gives Ezekiel charge of Israel's back as a watchman.  He has the responsibility of warning the people of coming judgment.  If he does his job, the people will bear the weight of their choices.  If he fails to warn them then he, personally, will bear the guilt of their demise.

To personalize this and put myself in the place of Ezekiel is frightening.  It is a call to personal responsibility for national failure.  But this was written to Ezekiel--for my learning (Romans 15:4)--but to Ezekiel for the direct benefit of Israel.  How does it relate to me?

You may or may not argue that each of us, personally,  bears the weight of our nation's sin.  Either way God's warning should be taken seriously.  The New Testament gives us further motivation to speak truth:  "God...reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. " 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

God has blessed me in incredible, eternal,  bountiful ways through the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Now, with a heart of love and gratitude, I have the privilege of calling others, not to judgment, but to that same life-giving Source!  What a privilege!  What a goal!  What a passion!  I know that I am free from judgment and condemnation (Romans 8:1-3), I have eternal life--now (John 6:47), I live with an eternal perspective and purpose (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10).  To know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings compels me to share Him with others (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). 

Whose back do I have?  I know Jesus has mine!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Focus Regained

It happened.  I allowed myself to become too busy and now I'm regretting it.  I lost sight of the reality of life and gave in to the demands of life.  They were all necessary things, but they overwhelmed the one good thing--my daily time with God.  Sick children, prior commitments, pricks at pride that persuaded me to take on just one more task.  Poof!  My morning time started with running feet instead of bended knee.

Last night as I tossed after my own bout with stomach flu I took comfort in hearing Scripture and here I am, again, to lean on and discover the fear of the Lord.  It is not an immediate find, nor a once-a-day pill.  It is not a task to check off my to-do list or to write on the calendar.  It is a searching, seeking, consuming, integral mindset that guides my life and determines my choices.  It is an awareness of the cross, of my dying Savior, of my living Lord, of my constant need and wretchedness.  The fear of the Lord is a humility of thinking, of speaking, of waiting, of living that pushes aside the razzle-dazzle and walks in faith, one step at a time.  It does not depend on the future or the finances or the forecast, but on the being in the here and now as I am conformed to the image of the Son, Jesus Christ.  This is the fear of Lord.

Back to the Book....

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Privilege of Prayer

Ahhh, a day to clean house.  When our children were small we spent a lot of time at home.  Now that they're older summer has a different pace.  Today was an unusually quiet day at home.  No bags to pack.  No children to send off.  No laundry to chase.  Instead I found joy in cleaning bathrooms and floors--and I'm not being sarcastic!  It's lovely to see the smile of shiny floors and hear the squeak of clean shower stalls.

It's hard to listen to music, however, while vacuuming.  So against the dull roar God brought individuals to mind:  a Muslim couple and their premature baby, a young cellist seeking a job, a young man at BYU for the first time, a reunited military family, the list rolled on.  As I prayed for each, for God's personal work and revelation in their lives, the sun seemed to open on the beauty of prayer.  I have no way of knowing how each of them is right now.  And they have no idea who is praying--or that anyone in particular is praying--just for them.  But as God answers prayer and speaks into their lives, gratitude is lifted to Him and Him alone.  It's not my prayers or my concern or my interest in their lives that makes a difference; it's God Himself.  What a joy to be anonymous in prayer! 

It was then that my mind turned to God's provision in my own life and how thankful I am for the anonymous voices that have echoed God's work.  What a great God--to prompt and empower His people to serve Him through the simplicity of entrusting others to His care!

"For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins"  (Colossians 1:9-14, NKJV).   

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Give it Up

I didn't want to read my Bible today.  After the last couple of days it felt like no matter what I read, it would spell failure for the day.  Two days ago I meditated on Proverbs 8:13 about how the fear of God is hatred of perverse speech.  All day my thoughts were full of critical, judgmental thoughts that I struggled to harness.  I thought Proverbs was about hating the twisted words of others--but, no, I found them in myself.  Yesterday I meditated on Ezekiel 12 and God reminded me that difficult circumstances are there to drive me to Him.  Wouldn't you know that the circumstances nearly overcame me? I found myself grumbling and justifying my grumpiness while listening to a gravelly Star Wars voice echo, "The flesh is strong with this one."

How would I fail today?  Only God knows, but I knew my options were limitless.  As my husband, David, and I read Jeremiah together I was reminded that God doesn't want fancy-schmancy sacrifices (Jeremiah 8:20).  He simply calls me to do it His way--to depend on Him, to walk in the death and resurrection of Jesus instead of my own strength.  Today's motto:  give it up.  Whatever I'm holding onto to make myself good, better, or righteous.  I don't need it.  It won't work.  I only need Him.  So, those critical thoughts?  Give em up.  It's not my job to "fix" others.  My reaction to difficult circumstances? Give it up.  It's not my job to "fix" the circumstances. 

Are you ready to give it up?  Or are you afraid to read your Bible too?

Friday, July 22, 2011

When All Else Fails

It's raining.  Yesterday and the day before and the day before the heat index was unbearable.  Most days it would be an inconvenience.  Today it's creating a near nail-biting reaction.  We're headed into the last day of Vacation Bible School--ALL day vacation Bible school--with a class full of children who won't be able to go outside.  We'll have game time... inside.  We'll have recess... inside.  We'll eat lunch inside...again.
I am so thankful for this reminder from God's Word.  The plight of the people in Israel's day is far, very far, from what I will experience in VBS today (I hope!), but God remains the same.

“So they will know that I am the LORD when I scatter them among the nations and spread them among the countries.  But I will spare a few of them from the sword, the famine and the pestilence that they may tell all their abominations among the nations where they go, and may know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 12:15-16)

Whether they are scattered or spared, God desired that they come to know and fear Him and His awesome power.  The circumstances were nothing more than a vehicle to carry them from thoughts of themselves to thoughts of Him.  When the circumstances get too big, there’s a point at which I have to look for help outside my own efforts and resources.

So? Will I allow God to use the circumstances of today to turn me away from my own efforts and resources and back to dependence on Him?  On my own, in my strength and “wisdom,” I can do nothing—there will be no real eternal fruit from my labor, I will not be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, the effects of the day will be worthless.  But as I allow Him to fill and use me He will, and can, do great things.

Ahhhh, I'm so thankful that God's desire is that we would know Him and serve Him in His strength, not that we would conquer or win or accomplish or do.  I pray that His faithfulness will carry you through whatever lies in store for you today as well.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Multi Media

Have you ever pictured something in your mind only to find it's very different in real life?  I've had that experience a couple of times lately and it's turned into a rather deep realization.  You may be shocked at how shallow I am, but here goes....

I read True Grit* this summer while our daughter took swimming lessons.  One of the young lifeguards noticed and said, "Whoa!  That was a seriously deep movie."  "Really?"  I asked, about twenty pages in,  "I think it's hilarious!"  I finished the book complete with oohs, aahs, holding my breath in some places and sighing in others.  It was a great book with surprisingly bang-on theology.  Then I watched the movie and was left with bittersweet angst. 

The difference was that reading drew me into the mind of the narrator, watching revealed the entirety of the situation.  When I read I took the place of the storyteller.  I saw what she saw  and felt what she felt.  I reasoned from her point of view.  But to see the protagonist's innocence and vulnerability as an outsider gave the story depth I had missed while reading.

The same has been true as I've started listening to the Word of Promise regularly.  In my desire to become better acquainted with the book of Proverbs I downloaded it to my MP3 player.  Yesterday I added the book of Ezekiel.  Hearing the words and voices gives the text deeper meaning.  Things stand out and make sense like they didn't before.  To experience God's Word with my mouth, ears and eyes adds meaning.  Then, by His Spirit, God extends it to my mind and hands and feet.

In the days of the Old and New Testament, Scripture was always read aloud in large chunks unlike most of our worship services and fellowships today.  Be challenged to read and listen aloud as well as quietly.  Open your ears (literally) to what God has to say.  You'll be blessed! (1 Timothy 4:13, Revelation 1:3).

*Disclaimer--True Grit has descriptive Western violence and language.  It's not a children's book (although it's written from a 14-year-old's point of view), nor is it fluffy.  It's not a nice, clean story, but it's an excellent one. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

More of Jesus

John 20:1-18

v. 1-2, 10-11:  Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.  So she ran… the disciples went away again to their own homes.  But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping….

Impression:  Mary went early—while it was still dark—to see Jesus.  He wasn’t there.  She ran and told the disciples.  Two of them went back with her.  The men saw the empty tomb, entered and believed (v.8) then went home (v. 10).  But Mary stayed and looked and waited and cried and wondered.  She was attended by angels, but could not be comforted.  Finally the Lord appeared to her, rewarding her perseverance.  She saw Him.  She rejoiced in Him.  He gave her a command and she obeyed.

She did not come to Jesus’ tomb for any reason but love and devotion.  Even in death, she wanted to serve and be near Him.  She had no expectation apart from seeing His body and ministering to it.  But He was not there.  When she could not find Him, she searched and wept and could not be comforted—even by angels!  I have never searched to that degree nor have I seen angels.  I cannot imagine the wonder it must have been, but she was not content.  She wanted Jesus.  Only Jesus.  When He made Himself known, she was overwhelmed with joy.  Her joy gave way to immediate, enthusiastic obedience (v. 17-18).

Application:  Wow.  How diligently do I seek Jesus?  Do I get complacent knowing He is always with me (Mt. 28:20) and fail to seek Him out?  Am I content with lesser things—hearing His Word in the background, listening to Christian music or speakers, looking at piles of books that disseminate knowledge about Him?  How often does my world halt so I can look intently for Jesus?  Only Jesus.  How often do I seek Him in worship—for no reason other than His Person?  How much of my day is spent in rapt wonder at His love for me?

This is the root of my disobedience—a disbelief in who He is.  When I fail to walk in the reality of His love and the wonder of who He is, I fail to be empowered to do His will.  My disbelief is evident in my selfishness, self-indulgence, self-sufficiency, self-focus.  How He desires to change me and fill my life with Jesusness, Jesus-indulgence, Jesus-sufficiency, Jesus-focus!

It’s time to fall on my knees worship.  Now.  Before the day begins.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ideas Anyone? (Help with Proverbs)

I'm continuing my study into Proverbs and had a great idea during Sunday's sermon (which, by the way, was from Proverbs!). One of the women who attends our weekly Bible studies brought in the book of Romans this last year to show us what she had learned in her personal study. She had printed each chapter of the book on one page in a column. She did a word study of each chapter, color-coding significant words. Then, she taped all the pages together sideways and began drawing arrows and connecting ideas and words. Her key word for Romans? Righteousness. The next day she was reading in Jeremiah and came across the words, " righteousness." It was a beautiful example of how God teaches us the riches of His Word as we seek Him.

So--I'm writing today to ask for ideas as I look into the book Proverbs to begin sticking it in my head. I am in the process of printing out the chapters. My question is--do I color-code specific words ("wise," "foolish," etc.) or do I color-code topics, ("speech," "marriage," etc.)? Perhaps I need to do it more than once....

If I do a topical study, what topics do you see in the book of Proverbs? These are the topics that come easily to my mind, I am looking for more: speech, marriage, parenting, work. I begin looking through the book and get overwhelmed. Thanks for participating with me!

In All Your Ways Acknowledge Him

John 19:1-30
v. 19, 21-22:  Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross.  It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Impression:  How easy it is to accede that Jesus is King without actually acknowledging Jesus is King.  Pilate did.  The chief priests did (they “slipped” and misread the sign—“THE King,” in their own words).  They could speak it with their lips, or write it on a sign, or put Jesus’ name before others, but they refused to bow the knee to His authority and lordship.

Application:  Again, again, again—how often I fail to acknowledge God in my daily life.  It is easy to quote Proverbs 3:5-6, but to acknowledge God with obedience in the decisions of life is a very different thing.  Most of the time I am simply unaware that I am making a choice and I fail to consider its eternal effects.  Some of the time I am aware that I am making a choice and follow my own natural tendencies.  A few times each day I realize I am about to make a choice that requires a different response, but I choose my own way anyway.  “Oh wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin (Rom. 7:24-25).


Lord, please empower the servitude of my mind to overcome the servitude of my flesh.  Fill my mind with the goodness of Your Word—of Your Spirit, of Your Person—that I might overcome the pull and guerilla tactics of my sinful self.  Help me to hate my selfish tendencies with the passion they deserve.  Help me to fight myself relentlessly, diligently, whole-heartedly. Help me to give myself wholly to Your ways, Your power, and Your work.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Slow and Steady

With summer here, I have more  time for more personal Bible study (as versus ministry-driven Bible study*) and my goal is to learn the book of Proverbs! 

The last couple of years I have been challenged by speakers who easily and firmly quote specific Proverbs for specific situations.  This week I contacted one of the speakers and asked for her "secret recipe."  Surprise, surprise--it isn't fast and easy.  She recommended reading daily from Proverbs, taking notes, and making flash cards.  This is what I learned today:

Proverbs 1:8-19
v. 16:  For their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed blood.

Impression:  The life of the Christian is a “walk” with the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit does not run.  But an evil intent comes with running and hastening. 

Application:  When I am tempted to pick up the pace and move faster into a situation, I need to keep my head up and be very aware of 1) my companions and 2) the destination.  There is a good chance they are headed for evil and wreckage. 
I tend toward either being stationary or moving too quickly.  To keep a steady walking pace with God is difficult (Galatians 5:16, 24-26), so it is easy to run and hasten toward evil.  Once I am running, it is more difficult to change direction as God does without crashing into an obstacle or backing up and turning around in shame.  As wise Aesop once said, “slow and steady wins the race.”

May I slow down and "take His yoke upon me", walking side-by-side, knowing that He will work out His obedience and abundant joy in my life.

* God has provided 14 different women to lead our weekly women's Bible study this summer!  Our summer study is entitled, "A Talk in the Park"  and has eight free week-by-week studies designed for sporadic summer schedules.  If you would like information for yourself or your church, comment or send an email to  . There are currently three topics available:  Assurance, The book of Luke, and Spiritual Disciplines. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Tight Connection

John 15

v. 4-6  “Abide in Me, and I in you.  As he branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless I abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”

Impression:  Jesus is talking about HIMSELF as the vine—and the removal of branches (individuals) from Himself.  Some have extrapolated this to see US as the vine and the things we do/invest in as the branches God removes or uses to produce fruit.  That’s not what Jesus said.  Sooo-according to Jesus, 1) we are the branches, 2) we must remain connected to the vine to retain any usefulness, and 3) the fruit that results is a direct result of God-connectedness (the fruit of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22-23).

Application:  My greatest (dare I say only?) concern as a believer is to stay connected to—to abide in—Jesus.  Or, as James says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (4:8).  As I make His Word a priority, rely on Him moment by moment, day by day, with my hands and heart open, He will do His work in and through me.  It’s not my job to “make” Godliness happen.  It’s God’s (Eph. 5:26, 1 Thess. 5:23, Heb. 13:12).  
On the other hand, if I close the door to my heart or demand my own outcome the fruit subsides.  A lack of love, a lack of joy or peace in my life means there’s a kink in the hose of connectedness.  Am I impatient, brash, thinking evil thoughts?  It’s time to check the conduit for a hairball of sin.  Do I struggle with being faithful, or gentle or self-controlled?  To what or to whom am I connected?  Where am I placing my dependence?  Probably in myself.  How quaint.  Not. But, 
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There's just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all Heaven and Earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms
Will all pass away
But there's something about that Name.
(Gloria Gaither)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Glorification Today!

Summer vacation is here--along with many new opportunities to indulge (did you hear the words, "ice cream" and "sleep in?").  I'm so thankful for God's Word, that His mercies are new every morning.  This is where I'm at today.
John 13:21-38

v. 31-32:  Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him;  if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately.”

Impression:  Jesus the Son and God the Father were glorified in the crucifixion.  It doesn’t fit with our idea of being glorified.  It didn’t fit the disciples’ idea, either.  But God is God.  If He glorified Jesus in His death and was magnified by it, He continues to be magnified.  What do I know about God that makes sense of this?  God is glorified when I depend on Him and when I choose to obey Him instead of self, just like Jesus did.   Jesus obeyed to the point of death, physical death.  The death I am called to is so much less.  Every decision I make that is reliant on Him and places His decrees above my own desires glorifies Him. (Ps. 37:4-6, 7, 23-26).

Application:  Whom will I choose to glorify today?  Even the smallest decisions and tasks are opportunities to glorify God.  How will I choose to put God ahead of myself?  If I set my mind to think ahead and choose God instead of self….but, oooh, it is so hard in that moment!  I need a Scripture verse for inertia.  So perhaps even as I come to a trying decision to say, “Now is the Son of Man glorified....”  If I can’t say it and mean it, it’s a “me” decision not a “Jesus” decision.  If God will work change in me today, just today, I’ll tackle tomorrow when it comes…

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

To Serve as Jesus Served

Summer vacation is here and our four children are home from school.   It's 7:00 a.m., the day after Memorial Day, and two of our girls just came in from sleeping outside in hammocks.  One is overly tired, the other is disagreeable (one and the same?).  Perhaps you, like me, find it easy to serve some at some times and difficult to serve others at other times.  Thankfully, this is the passage I read this morning:

John 13:1-20

v. 2-4:  During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

Impression:  Jesus’ service to the disciples was not dependent on who they were or how they would respond to His service.  His blessing of them was dependent on His security in the Father.  Because God sovereignly orchestrates all circumstances, and because Jesus fully trusted the Father’s outcome, He let go of Himself and gave to others.  There was no clinging to pretense or reputation or pride, there was only a complete surrender that loved others with the love of the Father.

Application:  It is only when I am content with God, satisfied with His provision, and trusting in His care that I can love others selflessly.  When I am insecure I cling tenaciously to that which is mine.  When I trust God, I let go of the reigns and love others with abandon.  My love for others is a measure of the center of my life.  Humble, selfless service result from a loving knowledge of and trust in God.  Tight-fisted giving with pre-determined boundaries results from insecurity and self-love.  What do my attitudes and actions reveal?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Everywhere We Go-oh, People Want to Know-ow

How can I think things in my head, even agree that they're good (during the sermon!), but have such a hard time doing it?  Sigh.  The human condition.   I can easily share on paper what I read today, but if you see me in person, you have permission to hold me accountable for this one because it's going to take a lot of practice!

John 11:1-54

v. 41-42:  So they removed the stone.  Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”

Impression:  It was important for people to know that Jesus wasn’t empowered by Himself, because of who He is—even though He is God.  He wanted others to know, unquestionably, that His power and ability came from the Father.  He stated it over and over.

Application:  If it was that important for Jesus to rely on God and communicate that reliance to others, how obvious is it that I should do the same?  As a simple, finite, fickle person I have a need, a desperate emptiness, that can only be met by God.  To act and live and speak as if I do what I do in my own strength and wisdom is foolish.  There is no way any of us lives, or breathes, or plans, apart from the grace of God.  But to live in reliance—to be aware of our reliance and to speak it--is very different.  My pride fights it.  My arrogance and desire for self-reliance fight it.  That is one of the ways Jesus and I are so different.  He was God, but in humility, He transferred all honor and power to its true source, His Father.  With His help, and by His Spirit, may I learn to do the same…

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Shepherd

As I looked out from the kitchen window yesterday, I watched a lamb, half-grown by now, wander up the hill, it's coat smeared with mud and filth diluted by rain.  Our sheep trail through the pasture keeping their own schedule of grazing, masticating, and resting--accompanied by a lone Holstein, his black and white contrast visible above the fresh green grass.  Years of working with and enjoying them make passages like this both personal and meaningful:

John 10:1-21
v. 14-15:  I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

Impression:  My relationship with Jesus and the Father is based on His care for me and the giving of His life for me, the sheep.  The dumb, unworthy, filthy, wretched little sheep.  Why would a shepherd die for a sheep?  Sheep are many.  They can easily be replaced.  They  are quite useless to the shepherd—they do not protect him or serve him or do things to make his job easier.  They are simply His charge, they are at His mercy.  They are cared for because of the affection of the shepherd or a charge given.  Nor more, no less.

Application:  What a great God!  To love and care and bless and lead us apart from benefit to Himself; in spite of our tendency to wander, to get lost, and hurt, and dirty, and into trouble.  There is no justification for His saving grace apart from Himself—His love and mercy.  The Lord is  my shepherd, I shall not want….

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Learning Humility I

"From the moment I awake, I've learned to make statements to God about my dependence upon God, and in this way I'm humbling myself before God."  So writes C.J. Mahaney in his book, Humility: True Greatness (p. 69).  The focus, the constant focus, is the cross of Christ.  The death of Christ on my behalf.  "Far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness, and we can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit."  (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p.12)

So, as I'm exercising practical steps toward humility this morning, I invite you to join me in acknowledging your need of God, and only God.  Are you wholly, humbly in need?  I have a hard time getting to that place in the lap of so many good things, but I must. 

In coming to the book of Leviticus this morning I am asking: God, make me your under-rower today.  Make me the one under the ship who puts his whole back into it, pleasing the Master, unconcerned about the direction, trusting You with the goal.  Give me the heart of one who serves because I am served; one who loves, because I am loved; one who gives freely because I freely receive.  Change me until the only part of me that exists is You."

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Putting the Extra into Ordinary

Simon Estes is singing in my kitchen as I write!  Yesterday Grace turned on the CD player and it about blasted her out of the room.  "Mom!  Were you rockin' out in the kitchen?"
"No, I just cranked up Mr. Estes so he could help me do housework."

Mr. Estes came to our high school last Friday and Saturday.  Our older children had the opportunity to listen to and interact with him at an all-school assembly Friday afternoon.  Saturday night Matthew sang in the choir as Mr. Estes joined us and I had the privilege of accompanying them.  Now, as I listen to his album of spirituals, I continue to be touched by messages of equality, angst, Providence and hope.  We were also blessed by his guest, Chris Johnson, who chose selections that took any focus off himself and emphasized the goodness of God.

God has groomed Simon Estes to be a man of gentleness, deep reverence, humility and uncanny excellence.  All credit and appreciation for his gifts are redirected to God, the Giver of all good things.  I cannot put into words the fullness of participating alongside him, receiving his thanks, and bowing hand-in-hand to the appreciation of the audience.

David Roper, in his book, A Man to Match the Mountain, describes Jesus as a beautiful man full of grace and truth.  "Everything he did was truthful, and yet He was unfailingly gracious."  Simon Estes represented Christ in this same way.  May we remember that, "True goodness is not doing extraordinary things.  It is doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way." (Roper, Seeing God, p. 129). Most of us will never have a platform like Simon Estes, but our daily lives can reflect the grace and truth of God in the integrity of our decisions.  It is not what is seen that makes a man, but what is unseen.

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have not reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


After checking in on Tara Barthel's blog, Considerable Grace, I am ashamed of not being more faithful and diligent here.  Thanks, Tara, the the inspiration!

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours writing to an inmate about his desire to be baptized.  The question he had was whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation.  It is a great question that led me to write more than the usual one-page letter.*  As Scripture came to mind, I was reminded of what an amazing God we serve.  There is nothing we, as faulted humans, can do to merit God's favor.

Titus says this, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7

While reading the Psalms, I became aware of the disparity between what God does and what He calls us to do.  So, even in the passage from Titus, I have started to mark my Bible differentiating what God does and what He has called me to do.  Surprisingly, there is very little for me to contribute.  To rewrite the above passage with that emphasis would look like this:

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appearedhe saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."

In that passage, there is nothing we contribute.  Our calling, then, is to humble ourselves and push our own agenda aside in light of God's grace.  F.B. Meyer said it this way, "We must remember to maintain within our hearts the spirit of Sabbath calm and peace, not fussy, not anxious, nor fretful nor impetuous; refraining our feet from own paths, our hand from our own devices, refusing to make our own joy and do our own works.  It is only when we are fully resolved to act thus, allowing God to originate His own plans and to work in us for their accomplishment that we enter into rest."

David Roper adds to this, "What keeps us from entering into God's rest?  Unbelief.  Underlying all our worry and compulsive self-effort is the thought that God cannot or will not come through." (Seeing God, p.111)

Even if it's not Sunday, are you enjoying the Sabbath rest God promises His people?  Are you resting in God's work in and through you?  Or are you striving to work for Him, to accomplish self-imposed demands and goals?  May God bless you with complete, full days as He extends Himself through you to your immediate family, to His Body, and those who are lost, watching and waiting.

*If you have a burden for inmates who desire to know God, investigate Crossroads Bible Institute and how to become an instructor. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011


We've been blessed to have the same pastor for almost ten years.  One of the things I appreciate about the way he works with the Body is his attitude toward new ministries.  Shortly after he came, a friend complained that we didn't have a specific ministry for her perceived need.  When I mentioned it to our pastor, he said, "When someone has a vision and burden for that ministry, it is God's provision for the need."  His philosophy of ministry didn't include running around the congregation and tapping individuals because of a complaint or a great idea.

I found the same principle in Leviticus chapters nine and ten this week.

Passage:  Leviticus 9-10:14

Specific Verses:  9:1, 7: Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.... Moses then said to Aaron, “Come near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, that you may make atonement for yourself and for the people; then make the offering for the people, that you may make atonement for them just as the LORD has commanded.”

There was a process, a time period, and set of procedures for Aaron and his sons to follow before they were able and ready to intercede on behalf of the people. It didn’t just happen.  God had a specific set of instructions and an intentional process.  Moses modeled it "just as the LORD commanded."  They weren't given an instruction manual and told to show up first thing in the morning.  They were given instructions that would take them through the very same process as the people they would minister to. They could not provide sanctification for the people until they themselves had been cleansed.  This is the same principle Jesus taught when he instructed us to remove the log from our own eye before attending to the speck of another (Matthew 5).

Interestingly, the two oldest sons were so impressed with God's display of power that they tried to manipulate God.  God's work in our lives can be humbly accepted and acknowledged for what it is, or twisted to fit our prideful perception.  In the hands of God it is awesome to behold, in the hands of man it is fatal.  God struck them dead—He will not be played with.

Perhaps you have had that same experience.  God has prepared and walked you through difficulty and shown Himself mighty.  Don't be surprised then when He asks you to extend that same service as a ministry to others.  God prepares and uses His people in their own circumstances before using them.  He sanctifies them, walks them through, and sets the expectations before allowing them to take positions of leadership that influence others.  If you have outstanding areas of sin or rebellion in your own life, don't expect God to use you to in meeting the needs of others.  He must have access to your heart before He gives you access to the hearts of others.

What's the take-away?  If I look critically at the circumstances in my life and respond with humility and obedience, I will be prepared for God to use my experience at a later time.  With eyes on Him and a heart stayed with fear of His power and confidence in His unwavering love, I can walk through the valley with purpose.  No ministry or outreach is necessary apart from the work of God.  But God is faithful.  He provides for the needs of His people--and always at just the right time. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Back Snap

Although this is generally a blog about Christian service, I am writing about yesterday's rather revealing life experience to encourage my own humility, compassion, and empathy for future reference.  As I was getting ready for church, putting on pantyhose no less, my hands seized and I felt a pop just below my right shoulder blade.  I couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't call for help.  There I sat, immobilized, in excruciating pain.  When the worst had passed I managed, with effort, to get to my feet and make my way downstairs, sending the family off to church. 

Most of my day was spent enduring spasms while lying on heat and ice. The rest of my body was pain-free, but I couldn't get my focus off the sporadic schisms that stabbed from my back through to my sternum, creating some kind of muscular knot.  I did wonder if the Body of Christ should respond to a wounded member with this kind of extreme focus, but more than that, I wanted relief.

Later, much later, I remembered last week's Bible lesson on suffering and was mindful that in discomfort I really didn't care--or want to care--what God had in mind for that moment.   Hadn't we read Scripture and discussed how God allows suffering for His glory and our good?  That we are to endure and bear up under it, dependent on His grace, exhibiting the character of Christ (Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Peter 2)?  Quite honestly, that was the last thing on my mind.

The take-away?  No matter how much we know or how much God has taught us to rely on Him, each of us is one hundred percent human.  There are periods and circumstances when all we can do it hold onto some form of life and sanity, praying for light at the end of the tunnel.  My pain became bearable within a short period of time, but there are others--many others--who suffer chronic illness, pain, family situations, and life circumstances that cloud all but the most immediate.  It was a brief lesson in empathy...and I'm chronicling it here in hopes it will not soon be forgotten.