Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lent Day 34 - God's Grace & Joy in Suffering

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold, which perished even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  1 Peter 1:6-7

I have heard people say that nothing comes to us that doesn’t first pass through God’s hands. If he causes it or allows it there is purpose in it. What purpose?

  • To help us focus/refocus on him
  • To teach us something about him, ourselves, our purpose
  • To remind us that we are dependent on him
  • To bring glory to himself
  • To be a witness to others by the way we handle adversity

Can you think of others?

Sometimes we suffer because of our own bad choices. Sometimes it is because of the bad choices or reckless behavior of others. And sometimes it is simply because we live in a world made imperfect because of sin. Life can be difficult, and it is not always fair from a human perspective, but we can always be assured of this: that God works everything for good to those called by him. That means us.

We sometimes make a mistake and think that all suffering is caused by sin. While that is true in a broad sense, not every adversity that we face is caused by sin. Also, the emotions that come with suffering and adversity are not sinful. God made us as emotional beings to laugh, cry, be confused, frustrated, disappointed, excited, etc. Remember the verse that says, “In your anger do not sin,”? The feelings are not sinful, but the actions that come from them certainly can be.

If you are facing adversity in some area of your life right now ask God to help you not to sin because of your emotions. Thank him that even though you are discouraged, sad, disappointed, angry…he is still God and still in control. There is great freedom in knowing that our emotions can never derail God or his plan. He is the anchor that holds us in place even as it allows us to be human.

Even if you don’t feel like it, praise him for the opportunity he has given you, and for the assurance that he will never leave you. Sometimes adversity is part of God’s plan for us for reasons we may never know. Trust him to make something beautiful out of your difficult situation. Ask him to help your own actions reflect your faith and trust in a God who never makes mistakes.

Pray for others who are going through adversity and who are suffering, and let them know you are doing it. You don’t need the details. God knows them. We all need to be reminded that even in our darkest times we are not alone.

 “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b

I am praying for you today. 


Friday, March 30, 2012

Lent Day 33 - Waiting on God

 “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchman wait for the morning, yes, more than watchman wait for the morning.”    Psalm 130:5-6

If you look at several different translations of the bible you see that the terms “wait for” and “trust in” are often used interchangeably. That makes sense when you consider that waiting on God takes trust in him; trust that he will keep his promises, and that he has not forgotten us.

God’s timing is always perfect for his plan; his, not ours. God cares about every concern that we have – even the little, seemingly insignificant ones. When he responds to those concerns – whatever that response may be – it is in keeping with his plan to bring restoration and healing to this world, and ultimately to return as the conquering King to reign over all the earth.

Mankind has been waiting for 2000 years for the second coming of Christ. Countless groups over the years have tried to determine when the end will come. We all know about December 2012. While we don’t have the date and time - Matthew 24:36 says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” - we do have the assurance of his return. In the meantime, we have the assurance of his presence with us and the knowledge that he is at work in us, working out his plan in us.

We all have prayers and hopes that we take before the Lord. A time of waiting can be a time of learning and preparing, growing and refining. It can also be one of the hardest things we do.

As you pray about the ministry God has for you, pray for the wisdom and discipline to wait on him. Not waiting as in putting off service to him, but learning not to get ahead of him by following our own plan because we don’t want to wait for his. We need to pray for God’s peace in the waiting, and use that time for prayer, meditation on his word, and preparation. Waiting does not mean being idle. It means we continue where we are, doing the things he requires of us: praise, prayer, mediation on his word, and service, until he tells us to move on.

The Israelites had a cloud and a pillar of fire to follow. When it moved they moved. When it stopped, they stayed still until it moved again. It would be great to have something that tangible and visible as a sign. Remember, though, that even with such a sign, the children of Israel got restless and grumbled, and were exceptionally disobedient. Waiting is not just a matter of physically being still. It is a matter of the heart. It is remembering God’s promise, and resting in the assurance that he always keeps his word, in his time. It is faith and hope, and excited anticipation for what he will do next.

Let’s wait on the Lord together and anticipate with excitement and praise where he will lead us. Know that God is active in our hearts as we wait, changing and refining us, and preparing us to join him in his plan.

I am praying for you today. 


How do you wait on God?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lent Day 32 - How Little Becomes Much

“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.
Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowds away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.’
He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’
They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish – unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’ (About five thousand men were there.)
But he said to his disciples, ‘Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’
The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of broken pieces that were left over.”
Luke 9:10-17

God has given each of us gifts and talents. Some of those are primary and we demonstrate them in the way we make a living, and in the service we give to our church and our community. Other gifts and talents may not be so highly developed, but if we have them we can be assured that they are there with purpose, and not some genetic mutation. We can also be confident that along with that talent, however unimpressive we may believe it to be, there will come an opportunity to use it for someone’s benefit and to God’s glory.

The disciples were unequipped spiritually, physically, and mentally, to meet the needs of the five thousand. We can give them credit for recognizing the need of the people to eat – maybe because they recognized their own need, and they did take that need to Jesus – in case he missed it.

Jesus gave a two-fold lesson that day on the hill. First, he would not let them pass the problem on to others. They were in a remote place, far from the resources they needed. Jesus basically said, ‘You’re the ones who are here right now; you take care of the need I have placed before you.’ Then knowing that on their own they could not possibly begin to scratch the surface of that need, he told them to bring what they had to him.

He calls each of us to do that every day. Bring what we have to him. Think about the things you can do. It may be something so mundane that you don’t even consider it a talent. It’s not really a talent if everyone can do it, right? Making phone calls, stuffing envelopes, cleaning a house…anyone can do that. Maybe you can’t sing very well, but someone needs you to sing with the children this Sunday. Maybe you’re not a gourmet cook, but a family you know needs a meal prepared while the mother is sick. Maybe you don’t have the biggest, grandest home, but a new couple in church needs to make friends and feel welcome. The list could go on and on.

Let’s remember two things: we don’t have permission to ignore or pass to someone else a need that God places before us, and he will never place a need before us that he will not meet abundantly. Verse seventeen says, “They all ate and were satisfied.” Wouldn’t it be great at the end of the day to look back at something we had done that day and KNOW it was God because we KNOW it couldn’t have been us?

In your prayer time today, thank God for the abilities, talents, gifts and resources you have – great and small – and give them back to him to use as he will. Thank him for what he will do with your loaves and fish today.

I am praying for you today. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lent Day 31 - Time to Grow Up

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instructions about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.”
Hebrews 5:11 – 6:3

How long have you been a Christian? How old are you in Christ? Old enough to know better? Isn’t that what we say to our kids? As children get older we expect their control to become more internal rather than external. We expect them to discipline themselves, rule over themselves with increasing success because they know that to be self-controlled and disciplined is a sign of maturity. When we see signs of maturity in our children we know that we can trust them with more freedom. We don’t expect the behavior of a four-year-old child in a teenager who is sixteen.

In the same way maturity is a normal, expected physical, emotion, and mental process, so is spiritual maturity expected in us. 1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

So many times as Christians we struggle with even the most basic of spiritual concepts and disciplines. I think that at some point God expects us to ‘get it’. Do we really need to be reminded all the time that we need to be in God’s word? What would you think of a grown man or woman who still doesn’t get that they need to brush their teeth every day, or bathe regularly, or change clothes once in a while? Would you think that they were lazy, crazy, ‘special’, weird…? There’s something going on in a situation like that…we may not know what, but we know there’s a problem.

In the same way, we know there’s a problem when people who have been Christians for years still do not have regular bible study, time with God to pray and meditate, hearts of compassion ready to serve.

There’s a reason why these things are called disciplines. They take time, commitment and a deliberate, intentional choice to engage in them daily. Just like we practice daily disciplines to keep our bodies functioning as they should, we need to practice the daily spiritual disciplines that keep us in tune with God and ready to be used by him.

God is preparing places of ministry and service for us beyond the walls of our churches. We will do spiritual battle – face people and situations that will challenge and frustrate us, and that will have the power to defeat us if we are not mature enough to see them for what they are, and to stand firmly in the promises of God that we have learned and leaned on. Read the scripture from Hebrews again. Look at the phrase in bold letters. By constant use. That’s exercise, practice, doing it until it becomes second nature for us.

We will always struggle to learn more about God and who he is, what he wants for us, how his word applies to us. That kind of struggle is not a sin, it is how we learn. The problem is when we are still struggling years later with the most basic of concepts. If we really don’t get it, that’s one issue. If we still struggle because we don’t apply it and practice it, that’s another. Ask God to help you search yourself. Ask him to convict you of any spiritual laziness, forgive you for it, and give you the strength, courage and commitment to grow up.

It’s a scary world out there with big problems. Time to put on your big girl panties or big boy briefs (whichever is appropriate for you – please do not feel free to share!) and get out there like spiritual adults. God has work for us to do.  

What do you say? What discipline do you need to finally get right? Are you asking God to help you work on it?

I am praying for you today. 


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lent Day 30 - Dying to Self...

Well, if anything in us has to be a ‘God thing’…this is it.

The bottom line of this is our becoming more like Christ. As we are doing that, our lives reflect him and his love, and our worship and service to him flows out of his presence in us. We cannot die to self and serve others in our own power. It goes against our very nature. First, we have to be totally sold out to the Lord and be willing to let him change us – every day – into a truer likeness of him.

Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer you bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be willing to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Read Romans 14. It talks about the weak and the strong in the faith. We have a responsibility to one another that will sometimes require us to set aside our own rights to protect someone of weaker faith. “For none of us lives to himself alone…we live to the Lord…”

No personal freedom is worth breaking fellowship with God, and none is worth causing a brother or sister to stumble, or a lost person to turn away from God.

Luke 17:1-3 “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.’”

We are free in Christ, but we are not allowed to exercise that freedom to the point of confusing others and leading them away from the Lord.

In your prayer time today, ask God to show you any area of your life that needs to be “crucified with Christ”. Ask him to show you anything that might be causing someone to be confused about who God is. It may be something very obvious; it may be something so subtle that you would not even give a thought to it, but we all have areas that need to be surrendered to the Lord. Thank God for the freedom you have in Christ. Ask him to help you share the good news of that freedom – from all kinds of bondage – with someone who needs to hear it.

I am praying for you today. 


Monday, March 26, 2012

Lent Day 29 - Pray for God's Favor

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless." Psalm 84:11

If you look up the definition of grace you will see, among others, this description: ‘the love and favor of God toward man.’ Favor is described as: ‘friendly regard; approval… partiality…a kind or obliging act…to approve or like, be partial to, to support, advocate, help.’

We know that God is ‘partial to’ us; he gave his son to die for us. Would he make such a great sacrifice to just leave us alone and on our own? No. He is our strongest advocate, the source of our strength; he is our ‘enough’. His grace allows us to be strong even in our weakness, because it is in our weakness that He is strong.

God’s favor is not material blessings, earthly rewards, or an easy life, although it may at times include those things. God’s favor is the ability to stand firm in times of trouble, the assurance that God is always in control and the hope with confidence that he is always at work on his plan for us and the world. It is the ability to live a life of blessing that leads others to want what we have. It is being set apart from the world, living differently, thinking differently, responding differently in a way that is noticeable and makes people wonder what we have that allows us to live this way. It is living in peaceful assurance that God is sovereign and is not mocked or fooled or caught off guard by the circumstances of this life.

God has been granting us his favor since the beginning of time. He ‘graces’ us with his favor every day. Read Psalm 84:11 again. He bestows favor and honor and does not withhold any good thing from those whose walk is blameless. Now read Psalm 19:13: “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”

Sometimes we know what our willful sins are, but sometimes we have kept them for so long that we found a way to justify them (at least to ourselves) to the point that we don’t even recognize them as sin anymore. Ask God to open your heart and your eyes to see what willful sin you may be harboring. Then ask for his grace to lay it down and walk away from it. Whatever it is, it isn’t worth the break in your relationship with him.

Pray that God will grant you his favor and blessing and that he will provide you with opportunities to bless others with the favor and grace of God.

Leave a comment: How has God shown favor to you?

I am praying for you today. 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Celebration Day

Celebrate with Praise and Thanksgiving

Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
Psalm 150

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lent Day 28 - Pray for your Spiritual Leaders

"Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other." 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.

Our pastors have an awesome responsibility. Not only are they responsible for their own spiritual walk, they are responsible to God for leading us as well. Being a pastor or other church staff member can be a double-edged sword. One minute it can be one of the most uplifting, fulfilling callings, and in the next moment, it can turn into the most devastating, doubt-inducing pits you can imagine.

Ministers are people, too. They are people first. They are human just like the rest of us, with all of the flaws and ugly spots that the rest of us have. They are more aware than any of us what those flaws are and rarely need for us to point them out! What they need is for us to lift them up. We need to pray for them – specific prayers when we can – and we need to let them know we are praying for them.

What can we pray?

  • That they will trust God and acknowledge him in all ways – Prov. 3:4-6
  • That they will not have a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind - 1 Timothy 1:7
  • That they will seek God first in all things – Matt. 6:33
  • That they will trust God for the words to say in every situation – Matt 10:19
  • That they will hunger and thirst for God – Psalm 42:1-2; Matt 5:6
  • That they will know God’s visions for us – Proverbs 29:18
  • That they will have unity in their vision for our church – Rom 15:5
  • That they will have times of rest and restoration – Psalm 23:1-3; Matt 11:28-30
  • That they will find comfort when it is needed – Psalm 119:76; 2 Cor 1:3-5
  • That they will have joy – Nehemiah 8:10
  • That they will stand firm in the faith, protected by the armor of God – Eph 6:10-18
  • That they will know peace – Col 3:15
  • That God will meet all their needs – Isaiah 58:11; Phil 4:19

There are so many other scriptures that we can pray over our pastors and spiritual leaders. Choose one or two of these scriptures to incorporate into your prayers for them. Pray them out loud. There is power in the spoken word.

Sometime today, take time to write a note to them, thanking them for their service and letting them know that they are loved and appreciated and are being lifted up in prayer. Pray that God will show you how to love them and support them, then be sure to follow through. 

Leave a comment:  How do you show appreciation and support to your spiritual leaders?  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lent Day 27 - Got Balance?

  Insecurity vs. Pride

Insecurity and pride: two extremes that are both displeasing to God. They can also prevent us from serving God to the fullest. Ironically, both extremes indicate a focus on ourselves – often as compared to others – instead of a focus on God. Reduced to its simplest terms, that is idolatry.

Perhaps the biggest problem with insecurity is that it brings God down to our level. It says “I’m so messed up and worthless that there is no way I can be useful to God.” That kind of thinking puts all of the responsibility on us and totally discounts the power of God. How many times do we read in scripture that nothing is impossible with God? “Is anything too difficult for me?” How many times in scripture did God use flawed, imperfect, really messed up people? EVERY TIME! Start a list and you’ll fill up this page. The amazing thing about God is that the more messed up we are, the greater his glory shines when he makes something beautiful of our lives. The more incapable we are to do a task, the greater his glory when it is successful and furthers his plan.

Insecurity is fear. We fear because we focus on ourselves and what we are incapable of doing instead of God and what he is capable of bringing about. He has not given us a spirit of fear…that is from the enemy and a great lie to keep up from serving the Lord as we are called to do.

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,
you will receive what he has promised."  Hebrews 10:35-36

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, 
whose confidence is in him."  Jeremiah 17:7

The opposite extreme is pride. That too, focuses on us instead of God. It blinds us to the fact that everything we have and are comes from and belongs to God, and is to be used for his purpose. Pride leads us to put ourselves above others, as better than they are. That is sin. We are to consider others before ourselves. That takes humility and understanding our relationship to God, and then others. Pride blinds us to our own faults and weaknesses and denies that we need God for anything. Isn’t God lucky to have someone like me taking care of things for him?

"The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and
humility comes before honor."  Proverbs 15:33

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in
humility consider others better than yourselves."  Philippians 2:3

Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is the right attitude that we all should seek. It is often times a balancing act between pride and insecurity, and like every other spiritual discipline, it requires that we stay close to the Lord daily. God has given each of us talents and gifts to be used for his kingdom. He does not expect mediocrity. He equips us to do great works for his kingdom. To do that we need to know what our gifts and talents are. We need to nurture them, practice using them, educate ourselves and CONFIDENTLY use them. We are called to be bold for Christ. If God has given you a gift – and he has – give it back to him. Dedicate it to him and pray for his guidance in using it. When people praise you for a talent or gift, use it as an opportunity to praise God and give him the glory for it.

 Be bold and confident, not in yourself or in your gift, but in the God who gave it, sustains it, and has chosen you to join him in his plan for the world. That is always the purpose of our gifts, to use them for the glory of God and to bring others into relationship with him. Praise and thank him today for your gifts. If you don’t know what they are, ask him to show you, and talk to mature Christians who know you and can help lead you to discover what God has placed in you. Ask him to help you use these gifts with confidence and power today. See what happens!

I am praying for you. 


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lent Day 26 - It's truly a God thing!

Do you ever just want to


Surprises are great, aren't they? Well, sometimes they're great. Sometimes all they're great for is inducing panic. Yesterday morning I was preparing to speak to some high school kids about suicide. It was something that had been in the news recently and many of the kids at this school knew the girl who killed herself. The school wanted to offer some information and hope and support, so my chaplain volunteered me. Thanks, ever so much!

As I was preparing and making some copies of things to hand out he said, "That's not going to be enough." 

I said, "How many kids do they have in two classes?"

He said, "It's not just a single class. It's all the eleventh and twelfth graders, then all the ninth and tenth graders. In the auditorium."

He sent a text to the administrator and five minutes later I found out the groups of 15-20 I had been expecting were actually groups of 350 - 400! OH my goodness! Now preparation for the two groups is totally different and so is the fear that accompanies it. I'm not a dynamic speaker and have difficulty sometimes collecting my thoughts in front of large crowds. I had one hour to revamp my outline and prepare myself mentally to stand up in front of these two large groups and make some sense out of my notes. 

I asked people to pray and sent a text to my husband to pray as well, explaining this situation. I went into the bathroom - the only place you can be alone in our office - and prayed. I just gave it all to God because that's all I could do. There wasn't time for anything else and backing out just wasn't an option. I knew that what I had to do was going to be completely in God's hands and in his power. As I prayed and released it and myself to God I felt a strange and wonderful peace in my heart. It was so beautiful! I was still nervous and still would have chickened out if given the chance, but there was also that peace that God promises to give me the words to say when I need them, and that he never calls me to do something that his power can't deliver. 

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:13

This verse and the promise in it stayed in my head and heart throughout the morning. I didn't suddenly become the greatest public speaker in the world, but I did get the message across, and we were able to spend time with several students who needed help. 

Was it worth it? For several reasons, yes, not least of which it was a time when I truly had to rely on God to get me through.

This wasn't an earth shattering, life-altering situation but it could have been. For some of you it is right now, even as you read this. Will God do the same thing for you that he did for me? Absolutely!

It doesn't matter how different our situations may be, God is who he is - all the time. He never changes, and he never fails. Trust him to be faithful. He is waiting to empower you. 

Your turn:  What situations have you faced or face now that you only get through by God's power? What promises do you lean on besides this one in Philippians?

I am praying for you today. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lent Day 25 - Earthly Authorities: Submit and Pray

"Everyone must submit 

himself to the governing

authorities, for there is no 

authority except that which

God has established.  

The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good...Give everyone what you own him: If you own taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."  Romans 13:1-4a, 7.

2012 - Election Year

If you're like most people you are already sick to death of political ads, debates, phone calls and fliers, and we still have 8 months to go before election day. 

The purpose of this post is simple. There is no political viewpoint espoused here. There is only this: God established governments and authorities on earth because he knew we needed them. The world is too big and there are too many people for all of us to do our own thing. That would be anarchy, total chaos, and God is a God of order. 

This is not to say that governments and/or politicians are good and perfect. They're not. They're people. Enough said. They are people with extraordinary responsibility. Some serve well and with honor, others most certainly do not. 

As Christians if we are not praying about the upcoming election and for those already in service we are missing a perfect opportunity to create change. We are also abdicating our responsibility to cover them in pray. Their job is a terrible, awesome one and no one should be in a position of power anywhere without prayer cover - lots of it!

There are good Christians on both - or all - sides of the political arena and good people must agree to disagree at times. We are called to pray for our leaders and to hold them accountable. It's easy to criticize and complain. We all do it. If we're doing that without praying for them - shame on us!

Let this scripture and this post remind you today to pray regularly for our leaders and the upcoming election. God is sovereign. He is in complete control, and no matter who is elected his plan will not be derailed. 

Let's remember that we see only a small part of the picture right now. God knows what he is doing. Let's not forget Whom we serve. Take a moment right now and pray for our country and it's leaders and the election. If you're not registered to vote, register today. Participate as much as you can, and vote as God leads you. 

It's an awesome responsibility. It's also a wonderful privilege to vote and be able to speak our minds. Speak your concerns to God, ask for his guidance and wisdom as you consider political candidates. Most of all, thank him that we are not at the mercy of elected officials and governments. We are safe in his hands. We are directed by his Spirit for his purpose and for his glory. 

Educate yourself, listen, learn and pray. Then vote on election day. 

Let's be praying together!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lent Day 24 - Stop staring at the icky things!

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is
excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or
received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.
And the God of peace will be with you."  Philippians 4:8-9

My dog was playing on the floor by my desk one day - he's a party all by himself!. I suddenly realized that he'd gotten very still and quiet so I looked over to see what he was up to. He was sitting on the floor like a sphinx -just that still - staring at something right in front of him. I looked to see what it was, and - OH YUCK - it was a dead roach. Bleh! Now a dead roach is only slightly better than a live one, but not by much. Just the sight of it makes my skin crawl. In fact, as I was looking for a picture to go with this post I started by looking at pictures of bugs but just couldn't stand it. Even in pictures they're revolting! When you start having emotional and physical responses to pictures it's time to stop looking! Which brings me to my point...

I told Riley to stop staring at that icky thing. Why would you want that picture burned into your brain? Then I started thinking about the verses in Philippians that tell us what to think about and set our minds on and I saw a connection there. 

Let's face it...the world is full of icky things. You can't listen to the radio or watch TV without being bombarded with the lasted horrific crime or suicide bombing or domestic dispute or missing person or the state of the economy or...

We probably all know people who have actually stopped watching the news just for that reason. Anne Murray had a song years ago with the line:  "sure could use a little good news today". Isn't that just the truth. 

The reality is we live in a fallen world, damaged and sickened by sin and that's not going to change until Jesus comes back to get us. We will continue to hear about the bad stuff because it will always be a part of life for now. We are also called to bring God's light and love and healing into this broken, sinful mess, so you know God is not saying to ignore the problems and the pain. 

What he is saying is, we need to keep our focus on the good things, the things of God. In doing that our perspective and focus remain clear and as our mind dwells on Christ he protects us and keeps us from being overwhelmed by the icky things. 

There are many things beyond our control that blast their way into our consciousness every day. There are also many choices that we make every day that determine where our mind goes. 
  • what music do we listen to?
  • what TV shows and movies do we watch?
  • what internet sites do we frequent?
  • what conversations do we participate in on social networking sites?
  • what books and magazines do we read?
  • what friends do we have lunch with and spend time on the phone with?
  • how much time do we spend with these things as opposed to time in the Word and in prayer?
Look at the last line of this instruction from Paul. It's a promise:

"And the peace of God will be with you."

Could you use some peace? The answer to that is always yes. When your mind races with the problems of the day keeping you from sleeping, when your attitude becomes bleak and hopeless, when you feel discouraged and overwhelmed...

Search for things that are - 
  • true
  • noble
  • right
  • pure lovely
  • admirable
  • excellent
  • praiseworthy
You will find them in God's word along with his many promises, not the least of which is this: 

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do 
not give to you as this world gives. Do not let your hearts be
troubled and do not be afraid."

Could you use a little peace in your life? If the answer is yes, stop looking at the icky things and focus instead on the things of God. He always keeps his promises. 

I am praying for you today. 


Monday, March 19, 2012

Lent Day 23 - Grace and Good Works

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the
gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared 
in advance for us to do."  Ephesians 2: 9-10

Isn't is funny..
What would happen if someone bought a lottery ticket for you for Christmas and it turned out to be the winning ticket in the weekly Powerball drawing? I know, you would thank the lottery board but turn down the money because you hadn't earned it and wouldn't really feel right about taking all that free money. Right?


You would call in sick Monday morning and be on the road to Tallahassee (or wherever your lottery office is) to collect your winnings. You might not just call in sick - you might call in rich! On the other hand, you might just keep it quiet and hire an attorney to collect your winnings, not wanting anyone to know. Relatives coming out of the woodwork and all that...

I've never heard of anyone turning down money from the lottery - ever! 

So, why is it that we would eagerly accept money we did not earn but we continue to try to 'earn' grace and forgiveness? 

Look at the contrast between the two verses in the way they describe good works. There is a clear distinction there. Verse 9 says we were not saved by works. We are sometimes quick to take credit for things we really didn't have a part in, aren't we? Good deeds, food taken to the neighbors, going to church every time the doors are open, giving money to charities, volunteering...all good works. None of them able to save our souls. 

Verse 10 says that although we were not saved by good works, we were created to do them. Not saved to do them, but created for them. God planned ahead for us to do good things.It has been his plan from the beginning. King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13: 
"I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.
That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God."

Salvation is a gift from God. So are good works and finding satisfaction in what we do. We just need to be careful that we don't confuse the two and have the mindset that we are somehow earning salvation by doing good. 

It is a subtle thing, this thought process. We find ourselves sometimes keeping score, tallying up all of our good deeds. It's a dangerous trap! Every day we need to make a clear distinction between what God has done for us -SALVATION - and what he calls us to do - GOOD WORKS. 

Let's get personal for a minute. Think about the good works in your life. Do you get satisfaction and a good feeling from doing them? That is fine and as it should be. Reread the verse above if you're having a problem with that. 

On the other hand, do you sometimes start to think that you're better than someone else or more 'spiritual' than someone else because of what you are doing? Be honest. No one wants to admit to that little bit of arrogant thinking, but we've all been there. 

The best way to keep things straight in your head and your heart is to continuously pray and thank God for the gift of forgiveness and salvation, and for the privilege of serving him. Take a minute now and list those 'good works'. Now give them back to God. Thank him for the opportunities you have every day to serve him by your good works, and through them to show the love of God to others. 

Nothing keeps our perspective straight like regular conversation with the Source of grace and good works. 

Are you still trying to earn your salvation? There is great freedom in knowing that you can't. Let that go, and follow the advice of Solomon...

be good...and find satisfaction in all you do

It's better than the winning lottery ticket any day of the week!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Season of Lent - Celebration Day

A Psalm of Praise from David -  1 Chronicles 16:23-29

"Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations, 
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy in his dwelling place.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength,
ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.
Bring an offering and come before him;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lent Day 22 - Living Free - Today

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom." 2 Corinthians 3:17

Sometimes I forget this. In fact, it's embarrassing to think just how often I forget it and live in the bondage of stress, fear, hopelessness, frustration...  Are you that way?

I had a beautiful two week vacation, relaxing and enjoying the sights and people of another country. It truly was getting away from it all. I've now had one week back at work and I feel like I need to go on vacation again. For another two weeks! I have too much going on again already - deadlines, things I'm not really comfortable with but have to do anyway... you know how that goes.

Yesterday I got an email that broke my heart and discouraged me. A project I'm involved with is undergoing a big change and I'm not at all sure what all is involved in it. I just know that every time I remember it and think about it again I get that feeling in my heart. The sad one that just won't go away. 

I want to run away! But I'm a grown-up with responsibilities so I can't do that. 

More than that, though, I'm a Christian with a God who is in control, not only of my life, but of everything. EVERYTHING! 

In everything there is purpose. Some of that purpose is to continue to teach me to seek and trust God. Some of it may be things that I will never know or understand, but I can always trust that it is there. God doesn't get bogged down in busy work just so he has something to do. Everything is carefully thought out and planned by Someone who knows what the goal is. He knows how it ends and he's working to get us ready. 

Each task I face in the coming weeks has purpose. The ripple effects will carry beyond what I will know in this lifetime. God has it worked out and I have to remember that he already knows what needs to be said in each situation. He is the master of time - if I need time to get something done, he will provide it. He has promised to give me the words to say in each situation. He knows what my audience will need to hear. He knows how the project turns out. It is his to do with as he pleases. 

And there is my all belongs to him. I don't have to manage it all today. Its success or failure doesn't depend on me. My task is simply to be obedient. Trust him, offer my projects, tasks, and myself to him and let him lead where I need to go. 

That used to be harder for me to do. Now the hard part for me is remembering to do that before I have worked myself into a stressed out mess. I don't like to be stressed. It doesn't feel good! I am more than happy to turn it over to him, ask for his blessing and guidance and let him do his thing. It's always so much better when he leads!

How about you? What do you face in the week to come? What about just today? Is there something on your heart and mind that is weighing you down? Do you have a 10 hour day with 15 hours worth of stuff to do? 

Do you want to be free from the bondage of that? Pray. Write everything down and present that list to God. He will make a way for it to get done. He may change your perspective about what is vital and what is not. 

Is your heart burdened by something beyond your control? Praise God for it and thank him for what he will do through the situation. Ask him to help you see the works of his hands in it and to give you a Spirit of anticipation as you wait for him. 

That's freedom. Not that we don't ever feel stressed or heart-broken again, but that we don't stop there! We know God. We trust him. We have the power of his Spirit with us every day. 

There is nothing too trivial to take before him. Think about it. In some ways, everything human is trivial to God, not because he doesn't care about it or us, we know he does, but nothing - NOTHING! - is difficult for him. He's got it covered. He doesn't get nervous or worried - ever! 

If something concerns us he cares about it, because he cares about us. When something worries or stresses us it has our attention, doesn't it? That's a perfect time for God to work in our hearts and lives teaching us and making us more like him.

What has you in chains today? A schedule, a wayward child, a task that feels beyond your capability? What is it? It is not too hard for God. Have you offered it to him yet? If not, do so right now. Just stop reading this and take it to him right now. You can experience the freedom of God's Spirit before you reach the end of this post!

God may not take away the situation, but he can relieve you of the burden of trying to do it in your own power. Don't think that you ever do anything in your own power, whether you pray or not! Think about that. 

Christ died to set us free. Live in that freedom today. You will quickly get used to that and want it for your life every day. And you know what? You can have it. 

Let's lift one another up in prayer today. Live free my friends. Christ has guaranteed that freedom for you. 

I am praying for you. 


Friday, March 16, 2012

Lent Day 21 - A Clean Conscience

My grandfather was a wonderful man. One of the things I remember most about him was his response in the morning to the question, "how did you sleep?" He always said the same thing:

"I slept like a baby. My conscience was clear."

Simple, huh? It was and still is an amazing concept to someone like me - a very poor sleeper. He is long gone now, but I was reminded again of his recipe for sleep as I read this scripture. See what you think.

Hebrews 9: 13-14
"The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer 
sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean
sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.
How much more then, will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,
so that we may serve the living God!"

The definition of the word cleanse is: to make clean and pure. Could your conscience use a good cleansing? Mine sure could.

The picture I get with this scripture is of someone filthy and mud-caked, standing beneath a waterfall with their face tipped back and their arms open wide as the water flows down with enough force to push away the dirt and grime. It is cool, clear water that refreshes as it cleanses, pumping energy and life back into a soul that has been weighted down with heat and nastiness. 

Just as we would have to step willingly into the flow of the water to be physically cleansed, God waits for us to turn to him for cleansing of our souls and conscience. Salvation washed away the things of this world. "As far as the east is from the west," remember? That is how far he has removed the filth and dirt from us. That same renewal is available to us anytime we need it. 

Do a little self check here. How is your conscience? Do you have unconfessed sin that needs to be cleansed? Is there a reason that you hold on to it?

Whether anyone else ever finds out or not, God knows all your secrets. He know the dirt, where you stash it, and why you cling to it. If it's fear that is keeping you silent, remember that anticipation is often much worse than experience. If you will trust God enough to allow him access to your most secret self, he will come in and do what he does best - forgive, cleanse and redeem. 

God sacrificed his most precious Son to save you. If you are worth all that to him, don't you think that he will be anxious to cleanse you and make you whole again? Look at the last line of the scripture above:

" that we may serve the living God."

God has a plan for you - an amazing one. He is faithful to forgive and cleanse and make us new again - as many times as we need it. 

So...if your conscience needs a little help don't put it off. Take it to the Lord right now, today. Confess what you need to, ask his forgiveness and help to walk away from the things of the world and to turn to him to know the way to live.

 He is faithful.

 He is loving. 

He is waiting for you. 

I am praying for you.