Sunday, February 28, 2016

By Grace

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12


Grace is an amazing thing. It comforts us, protect us, provides for us and certainly enables us. Just a few days ago I was given an opportunity to walk in grace, to offer grace to another person. My flesh wanted to scream! I wanted to rail against a clear injustice. See, the other person is wrong. That person is hurting not just me but many other people I love. Sadly, it's her choice to do that. The circumstances are such that all the power in the situation are in her hands.

There it was, an obvious offense, an affront and my humanity reared up ready for the fight but before I could throw the first verbal punch the Holy Spirit intervened. I spoke the truth in love. There was no sugar coating. I said what I needed to say but I said it in kindness, leaving room for future conversations and hope for moving past the hurt into a more loving place.

Note my use of the word I. I spoke the truth in love, I gave grace, I left room. Technically that is true. It was my voice but the words were gifts as was the tone of those words. God in His immense mercy and wisdom allowed me to live out one of my favorite verses, “Do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8. My heart was bleeding in my chest. I felt hurt, betrayed and sad but my words and actions were covered by the Comforter. When it was all said and done I didn't have to add guilt to my list of negative emotions.

The three days between that conversation and this morning have been difficult. I cannot share this with anyone. Oh, I could but that would color the hearers' perceptions of the other person and that's not right. Sharing this just causes more hurt and I don't want that. So, I walk alone but not alone and maybe not even walking as the presence of the Holy Spirit is carrying me through. It's been a mixed bag of feeling so close to God and so grateful that His grace for me, allowed me to be gracious while feeling the sting of the incident.

This morning my Abba added another layer of blessing to this event. I realized that I have given the person who offended me a gift that I have wanted for years from someone else. I will never receive that gift but that's okay because now I have something so very much better. I can see God moving in me through this. I've been able to live our Matthew 7:12 and Micah 6:8. The thrill of obedient behavior is running through me and it is so great! In this I've learned so much about grace, obedience and justice. I am reminded of Joseph and his brothers. But Joseph said to them, “Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good...” Genesis 50:19-20a

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Powerful Thoughts


 

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life

Proverbs 4:23 NCV

Your thoughts run your life. We know this is true because it comes from the sacred word of God, every word of which is truth. But do you agree with it? Do you think it's true for you?

Look closer. You hear a song on the radio. It reminds you a great time you had at the beach when you were a kid. Your mood brightens and you feel a little burst of happiness, maybe even energy. The beach, you think, hm, when was the last time I went to the beach? If it's been longer than you want to think about, your mood starts to shift. Poor you, you haven't been to the beach in far too long. Now how's your mood? Still happy? Still energetic? No. Now you're feeling a little sad. What just happened? Did your life in the moment change? Not at all but your perspective did and you became dissatisfied. Letting go of the joy of the Lord.

All around us there are things vying for our attention, commercials, songs, conversations, memories, to name just a few. If we don't own our thoughts, they will own us. If we don't take those same thoughts and make them captive to God (2 Corinthians 10:5) the enemy will gladly use them to take us captive.

There's a woman who is quite successful. She's confident. She's well liked. She has a full life. Things are going her way. Then one day she hears her husband on the phone. He's saying something negative about her. Maybe it's her weight, the way she cooks or cleans, her new hairstyle, whatever it is, he doesn't like it. Much to her dismay she realizes he's speaking to another woman. Suddenly and drastically her life begins to change. No longer is she confident, which means before long her likeability suffers, her career suffers. Her full life is still full but now it's full of doubt and fear. What if he leaves her? What if he's right about her? Our thoughts are so very powerful.

Not long ago my husband and I spent time with some friends. They're in a far better financial position then we are which gives them far different life experiences from our own. Otto asked me if I was bothered by the discrepancies in our lifestyles. I was quick to assure him that I was not. They have money but they don't know our Savior which to me gives us the better lifestyle.

What if he hadn't asked me? What if he had just let his thoughts take over. He would see me as dissatisfied and himself as unable to provide what I most surely, in his mind, wanted.

Millions of thoughts cross our minds each day and they can make or break us. If we follow the directive of 2 Corinthians 10:5 our hearts and minds will be in much better shape.

The NIV says, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23 Same verse, different wording. Our hearts, our very lives are at the mercy of our thoughts. Best that we give them over to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Great Privilege


 

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:18-19


The other day I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to my granddaughters, Faith and Madelyn about God's Word. Unfortunately the opportunity arose because someone had given the girls some very erroneous information about God. Thankfully they asked me if what the young man had said was correct. It took everything in me not to scream... No!

Instead I walked through the door they opened.

Faith started the conversation by telling me that this young man had told her there is no peace in heaven. I quickly countered that one by paraphrasing Revelation 21:4. When she went on to say that he had told her there aren't any houses there either I quoted John 14: 2-4. That is when Madelyn chimed in to tell us that this guy had told her that God is bad and all there is in heaven is war, just like here because God likes war.

With a slight concern for my blood pressure and that young man's life. I told both girls to stop and look at me, to listen carefully. I then quoted them John 15:13 and 1 John 3:16. We talked about those verses for a minute. Madelyn decided that this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Faith told me that the next time he told her there were no houses in heaven she was going to tell him he was right. There are only mansions.

Great! I had an opportunity to share Scripture with my granddaughters and they quickly chose truth over nonsense. Then it occurred to me. They are ten and eight year old girls who don't particularly like the young man in question. What happens when it is someone they do like, someone they want to impress?

Before I could let myself worry about something that wasn't happening, I chose to be grateful for what was happening. My granddaughters asked me spiritual questions and by God's grace I had answers, answers that He provided. I choose to fix His Word in my heart and share it with my children, grandchildren and anyone who will offer me on opportunity. Because God first loved me, I can offer His love to other people. He has given me the desire for His Word. He has planted it in my heart. He has graciously given me a love for Scripture that has seen me through hard times, made the joyous times even brighter, given me answers for my own children( even when that was the last thing they wanted to hear) and now gives me a way to answer my granddaughters doubts and fears.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

All the answers we will ever need are available to us. We just have to know where to look.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Because I Said So

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God

and the Word was God. John 1:1

Are you a parent? Teacher? Boss? Have you for any reason ever used the expression, “because I said so”? It's a cop out line sometimes. I'm out of good reasons, patience, time or whatever else so I go with “because I said so!” – usually in a fairly loud voice. Spoken that way “because I said so” doesn't sound very inviting.

Let's turn it over. My child comes to me frightened or worried and I promise that things will work out. Unfortunately I can't tell her why in that moment, so I say, “I promise you.” And when she questions me, I add, “because I said so.” There's nothing to worry about because I said so. If my child can trust me, she can trust my word. Used this way, it's an assurance not a way out.

Now, let's look at what happened when God “said so,”

  • there was light Genesis 1:3
  • there was sky Genesis 1:6
  • there was land Genesis 1:10
  • there was man Genesis 1:26
  • a child was healed John 4:50
  • a man rose from the dead Matthew 28:1-10

And that is just a partial list, very partial. The world, the sky, the waters, animals, vegetation, people, healing and resurrection happened. Why? Because God said so.

Words are incredibly powerful. I use them in much to cavalier a fashion. Maybe you do too. I'm working on that right now but it's an ongoing battle for me and I'm counting on God's help to win. Even at my worst, I've always believed that a promise is a promise and have done my very best to keep my promises. My children grew very tired of the words, “we'll see” when they were young. They wanted that promise but I didn't give them unless I was pretty sure I could keep them. After all you're only as good as your word.

So we're back to because I said so. “You're going to school, because I said so.” “No we are not playing outside in the rain, because I said so.” “As long as I have a home you'll have a home, because I said so.”

Which brings us back to God's because I said so. We're never alone. We don't have to worry. We will never be orphaned. We do not have to be afraid. We will be victorious. We have a home waiting for us that is beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Why? Because He said so.




Saturday, February 13, 2016

Temptation


. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:13


Are those words familiar to you? They come from the answer Jesus gave when his apostles asked him how they should pray. He instructed them with the words we refer to as the Lord's Prayer or the Our Father. It is an all encompassing prayer, acknowledging God's sovereignty, submitting to His will, asking for His provision and His protection.
“Lead us not into temptation.” I saw a t-shirt once that said, “Lead me not into temptation. I can find it myself.” Amen! I don't even have to look! I woke up this morning steeped in temptations. I was tempted to be fearful due to the content of my dreams. I was tempted to feel sorry for myself with no apparent motivation. I was tempted to complain, though about what I'm not really sure. That's where the hint that all of this temptation was piling up and needed to be demolish, came to mind.

The overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction seemed out of line, considering that my plans for the day involve several of my favorite people, a celebration and the opportunity to give to others. Hm.... so what's the problem? Oh right, the enemy doesn't want me to do any of those things.

It could very easily have turned into an ugly morning, leading to a stressful afternoon, sucking all the joy out of the evening. No! Here's what happened next.

Not at all willing to walk around in discomfort I went to prayer. I was completely unable to focus. Every item in the room led to a distraction and many of those led to negative thoughts. I closed my eyes, not much better. Then I felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit, “You're a writer, write.” So I did. I wrote my prayers, praise, needs, thanksgivings and I became very aware of the presence of my Abba. It could have been a bad day but God..... Those are two of my favorite words because when we acknowledge God's presence with us, things get brighter.

As I read through my devotional messages one referenced the Lord's prayer and that's when it all came together. “Lead me not into temptation” is followed by “but deliver us from the evil one.” Jesus knows that temptations will come. As a man He was tempted. He knows the answer is to run to Abba, to submit to “our Father in heaven” and allow Him to “deliver us from the evil one. “

The choice is always our own. Give into the temptations or turn them over to God. In other words, bondage or freedom. I promise you no matter how appealing the temptation might be, it is not from God therefore it will not lead to peace, joy or liberty. Resist the devil, run to your Father and experience victorious joy.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


To Compare Or Not To Compare

I am not saying this because I am not in need, for I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11


Spoiler alert, the answer is don't compare, ever for any reason.

There is something that I really want. When I say “really want” you should picture a two year old's tenacity and stubbornness, the emotional dedication of a teenager asking for a later curfew and the hunger of a puppy left home alone all day, all rolled into one. I really want this thing. Really.

So I pray and hope and stand on biblical promises and trust my Abba and badger my Abba and cry out to my Abba.... I'm pretty sure you get the idea by now.

There are a few people of whom I am painfully aware, who have exactly what I want and have it in neon letters, on steroids and with great potential to continue right along their happy way. To say that a couple of those people, one in particular, annoy me is a vast understatement. What is that emotion again? Oh, right jealousy. Ugh! I hate being jealous.

I'm jealous because they have what I want, sure but that jealousy grows and festers and becomes well known to all around me because I compare. I look at Mr. X and I think, then say, how it's just not right that he should have what I want. Then I move on to the other ones, the ones I see as slightly less offensive and mentally list why I should have what they have or better. At that point I can wave good-bye to contentment godly or otherwise.

The flip side of comparisons is when I do receive a blessing and feel badly because I feel that someone else deserves it more. While that “why me” may seem lovely and altruistic, it's still the enemy of my contentment. It still causes me to judge God. Yes, you read that right, I said judge God and trust me friend, I am not alone in judging God.

We do it every time we question why this one is blessed and that one isn't, why there is sickness or hatred in the world or when things will get better. We do it when we bring our prayers to the throne only to pick them up again and think we can handle them better than the Savior of the world. In all of those examples and so many more, we judge God.

Our Abba is perfect. His will is right and best. If our eyes are focused on Him there is no room for comparisons and without comparisons it is much easier to stay content.