Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Seeking God



In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Woe to me!” I cried, “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:1, 4

The past couple of weeks have not been easy ones. It seems that the enemy is not content to attack one area of my life but rather likes to hit multiple targets and he has great aim. There is no avoiding the attacks. They are blatant, loud and disturbing. On one front I'd made up my mind to just not look at it. Ignore it and it will fade away. That didn't work. Meanwhile I continued doing what I do, seeking God first thing every morning, meeting with Him in prayer, reading and simply being together. From there I've had the strength to face each day and though there are dents in my joy by evening, I have my nightly refresher with my Abba and as promised in Scripture, joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Our Bible tells us repeatedly that God is faithful, mighty to save and that He is our strength. We are called and encouraged to seek God, to draw close to Him and we are promised that when we seek Him we will find Him and we do. We are also promised that when we draw close to Him, He will draw us closer still and He does. It is easy then to see the Abba/Daddy side of God, to get used to His protection and nearness and forget about His majestic side. We minimize the depth and reach of His power.

The other day our pastor was talking about Isaiah's reaction to seeing God. He made a slightly chagrined, cowering posture to demonstrate how Isaiah might have reacted. He went on to say that we would most certainly react in similar fashion when face to face with God. I'm sure he's right. When we see God face to face everything else will disappear in the light of His glory.

What my pastor's words made me realize is that through this rough patch in my life I am experiencing a version of that revelation every day. As I said, each day I wake up and embrace the renewed joy the Lord has promised us. I speak to Abba, using words that He gave me, to claim that joy and peace. I then spend time with Him and I see His face, so to speak. I see where He is working in my life. I feel the comfort of His love flowing over all the things I perceive as problems and truly, though I know I will leave that quiet, sacred time and space and move into the ordinary, trying challenges of this current season in my life, I know the way to not just survive but to grow, maybe even to flourish and thrive. It's not a big secret. It's what we learn through the stories of Peter attempting to walk on the water, of Stephen before the Sanhedrin, of Daniel in the lion's den. Keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. His beauty and majesty will eclipse all of life's issues. We'll still feel the sting of our circumstances until we get through. We'll feel the heat of the fire but we won't be burned, not if we love, serve and seek our mighty God.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Salvation

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

On Sunday I took part in a class on authentic faith. The object of the class is to make people comfortable with sharing their faith journey. There are various levels of comfort in sharing something that personal. This was my third time participating in this class and I've seen everything from total comfort, an eagerness to share, to the “okay but this is uncomfortable” all the way to the not there yet, maybe someday but not today response. The latter I understand completely while the former is maybe somewhere in my future, I sit in that midrange, mostly dependent on who is listening.

The group I was with on Sunday is easily my favorite so far. It was comprised of lovely, open, absolutely delightful people. One in particular is a young woman named Olivia. I met her shortly after I joined this church and immediately loved her. She is a beautiful girl, inside and out. She also has a great sense of humor.

While we were talking about the various questions people ask once they know you're a Christian, the “when were you saved?” question came up. Olivia said that she would like to tell people she was saved two thousandish years ago when Jesus came to the world for just that purpose. Great answer, right? Olivia's mom seemed to think people might not take it well, especially coming from such a young person.

In truth, Olivia did deliver the answer a bit tongue in cheek. We laughed and moved on with the class but her answer stayed with me. When were you saved? I can't definitively answer that question. I've been aware of God's presence in my life for all of my life. When did I fall in love with Jesus? Again, for me, that's a gradual process or as my husband says, “a long and winding road.” I know some people encounter Jesus in a huge and dramatic way and can say, “April 10, 1999” or whatever. I cannot and most of the people I know can't either.

I think the better question is, “when did you decide to live in response to Jesus' sacrifice?” We've done nothing, not one thing to become “saved.” We accept the gift, the very much free and beautiful gift of salvation but the act of salvation is not ours.

When were you saved? Olivia is right. We were all saved when Jesus Christ came and lived and died to save us, to take on all our junk and lead us home. If we are wise enough to accept that gift then we will share it, at some point in some way and always with God's help.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Divine Protection


Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. Matthew 12:29
Several of my friends are gun owners. I joke that a gun in my hand is weapon for whoever is coming against me because I have no clue how to use a gun. I do however, have weapons that can keep my worst enemy away and those are praise, worship and thanksgiving.

My life has never been threatened by someone with a gun. I've never been in danger of losing my possessions to anyone holding a gun. I have been threatened by someone, namely Satan, attempting to steal my peace, my joy and my faith. Satan could care less if I own a gun or whether or not I can use it. He is not deterred by guns. What does deter him is any attention that I give to God.

In the past few days I've been challenged on both the professional and personal fronts of my life. In my humanness I felt attacked, disrespected and hurt. It would have been easy for the enemy to carry off my joy, my peace and my strength. My faith is a bit more secure these days so it wouldn't have been carried off but it could have been dented. If I had let him, “tie me up” with cords of anger, bitterness and self pity he would be victorious and I would be a heap on the floor. None of that happened because I used my weapons.

Even as I was complaining to friends about the job situation, I was saying, “but I believe that God has a plan. I'm trusting that He is working this for my good.” In my private moments with God I was singing praise, quoting Scripture, remembering whose I am rather than thinking about what I might have to do. It wasn't easy but I dare say that it's a much more pleasant experience than having to defend yourself with a gun. For while I felt and still feel, injured and a bit insecure, I also know that my Defender is standing right beside me. He is going before me and He most certainly has my back covered. Beyond that, focusing on Him increases my joy in ways I can't fully explain.

The personal attack is a bit more difficult because I can't reach out to anyone. In part because it is that personal but mostly because I'm at a loss for a words to express my feelings. Again I used the weapons I was given and again I felt surrounded on all sides by my Savior and King.

Matthew 12:37 says, “For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.” No matter how hard the enemy comes against us we need to fight back with praise, worship and thanksgiving. The God of angel armies is absolutely on our side and no weapon forged against us shall prevail. (Isaiah 54:17)

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Gift of Faith


 

But because of his great love of us God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions, – it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:5

It is part of my morning to time with God to write down ten blessings. It's a great way for me to start my day. On a good day when I wake up feeling just fine or better, it's an excellent reminder of why I have that contentment. On a bad day, when I feel challenged or ill, it's a way to switch my focus off of what isn't going well and onto the gifts I've been given.

This morning one of the things I wrote was, “the gift of faith.” Just seeing the words in print made me feel so, so blessed. Faith isn't something I set out to earn. It is a blessing. It is absolutely a gift.

I love to talk to people who are aware of that truth, the kind of people who recognize the truth of James 1:17, that every good and perfect gift comes from our Father in heaven. The look of joy in their eyes, the awe that comes from knowing that no matter how much we think we understand there is so much more than we know and best of all, the humility.

On the other hand, I am quite put off by people who claim a knowledge and love of God's grace but throw it out there as an achievement, as if their hard work and perseverance earned them a spot on God's team. Um, no.

Yesterday I was blessed to sit with a group of people who are not at all new to a life of faith but still have that childlike wonder that we are called to have. Listening to each one I wanted our somewhat limited time to never end. There is in that group, such a desire to share that faith, that wonder with other people.

That's another difference between people who recognize the truth that says our faith is a gift, they really want to share it. While the people who think it is something that they can earn want to keep it exclusive. It's not worth much if just anybody can have it, right? Wrong! Our faith is the most precious thing we will ever have, our relationship with Jesus, who was so gracious to come and die so that we could have faith, is a gift we need to share because in sharing it, it grows by leaps and bounds.

Faith is a gift, given by grace, which as I was taught years ago, could stand for, God's Riches At Christ's Expense. A free gift to us, bought at a price beyond our comprehension.

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Simple Prayer


Your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10

Those words are familiar to most Christians. In some denominations they are prayed so often that for some people, for most people at some point, it's just words.

Think for a moment about those words. “Your kingdom come.” If you've read the Bible you know that the condition of our world today is pretty far away from God's kingdom. What words come to mind when you think of heaven?

For me it's words like beauty, peace, joy, love, warmth, comfort, caring, grace and mercy. Those things are pretty hard to find in the news today. I avoid the news as much as possible. The words that come to me when I think of the current state of the world, the “news” are words like selfishness, greed, darkness, fear, hatred, pride, disaster, anger, and death.

Every now and then, however, I see glimpses of God's kingdom. Thankfully I'm currently attending a church where, for the most part, I see God's people acting like God's people. I see caring, mercy, and warmth. I would hope so, it's church. I love bumping up against God's love when I'm in the community. When I see someone go out of their way for a person they don't know. When I catch a snippet of conversation and I hear words that speak of God's love.

“Your kingdom come” we pray and we hope it will be sooner rather than later because the world perspective is getting farther and farther away from what God intended.

The next words say, “Your will be done.” Ah, there it is. This could be why we are moving with breakneck speed away from mercy, love, peace and forbearance and headlong into judgment, hatred, anger and destruction. It's easy to say, “Your will be done.” It's harder to mean it.

“Your will be done.” As long as I can still roll my eyes at that jerk across the street. “Your will be done” unless it means I have to be nice to those people who look different or have different beliefs. “Your will be done” unless that means I have to put You first, give You my first-fruits, promote Your way instead of my own. “Your will” is all fine and dandy until it infringes on mine.

I tease my Bible study ladies all the time because they're terrified to pray out loud. It seems to them to be this huge challenge. If they look at this verse they will find the perfect prayer. “Your will be done.” If more of us prayed that more often and meant it, the world would be a different place, a better place. His will is perfect, right and best. Try it pray the simplest, most complete prayer there is, “Your will be done.”

Monday, August 1, 2016

God's Will Be Done


 

May the Lord grant all your requests Psalm 20:5b

Read that verse again. “May the Lord grant all your requests.” Hm... At first that seems great, doesn't it? I know I've read it many, many times because it is in Psalm 20 which includes verse 7, one of my favorites, “Some trust in chariots, some in horses but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” I love that verse! I go back to it a lot and often read the whole psalm so clearly, I've read verse 5 before. Today, however, those words really grabbed my attention. Instead of thinking, “Yes! Please grant all my requests!” I was overtaken with dread.

What if God really did answer all of my requests? Not the well thought out, continually prayed requests that really might do some good or be in my best interest or that of a loved one but what if He granted all of my requests? As I thought about it several small, petty, self-serving requests came to mind. Then, horrifyingly, some bigger things, like saying that I want one of my children to have children who treat him just as he has treated his father and me. What if God granted that request? Then at least one of my sweet grandchildren would have a hard, angst filled road in front of them and I do not want that! That request was spoken, sad to say, more than once, in the heat of the moment, from the pain of heartbreak. No, I do not truly want God to grant that request.

How about the off hand thought that an inclement weather day, just ugly enough to close the schools could occur? So God says yes to me, because after all I just want an extra day off. What of the people who are hit the hardest by that weather? Do I truly want people to lose their homes or family members so that I can be lazy for a day? Of course not but I'm only thinking as far as I can see, about my tiny world not the world at large.

I appreciate the psalmist sentiment. I do want God to grant my heartfelt prayers for people who are ill, for my loved ones to be safe and have joy, to have an inviting and infectious spirit that will draw others to Him. Those are great requests. Some simple ones are okay too. Like, please let the dinner I'm making for my family be delicious and please them. Help me find someone who needs encouragement and then encourage them.

Oh.... maybe the trouble is not with the verse after all. Maybe the trouble is with my requests. Yeah, you saw that already didn't you? Still, I know that I will make sad, sorry, pathetic requests that should be answered no. I will also make requests that are seemingly great but may not be in God's eyes. Any prayer for healing is good, right? Maybe. The truth is, I do not know the big plan. Only God can see the whole picture.

I am hoping to be more mindful of how and what I request. At the end of the day, I know that God says yes for a reason and no for a reason and that His way is right, good and best.