Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Diva, Don't Shut The Door!

The Bible tells us that we are to instruct our children (Proverbs 22:6). Though, often times, our children end up teaching us! Such was the case today as I once again left my Mom Life meeting. It’s amazing how Mom Life days often end up being days where I learn little things from God. Maybe it’s because I have been “primed” in the first place by going, listening, and learning (in fact, we talked about prayer and hearing from God today and how He speaks to us in MANY different ways - through everything!).

With that being said, it’s obviously no coincidence that I received from God yet another spiritual lesson as Gianna and I were coming home today. It was my turn to help with breakfast this morning, so I had a casserole dish to carry into the house - along with my normal handful of things (purse, Gianna’s toys, etc.). I opened my door and picked up as much as I could while opening the sliding door to let Gianna out. As she got out, I proceeded to slide the door shut as I watched in annoyance as Gianna shut MY van door. “Gianna! Why did you do that?” I said in frustration as she eagerly and happily ran up to the front door reminding me that she wanted a portion of my leftover food. She didn’t care about my irritation. She didn’t even know what she had done. She was only focused on her own goal. Under my breath, I pitifully muttered about how she always has to make things harder for me; and that heaven forbid my life should be any easier. I had left my door open because I had more stuff I was going to pile in my hands from my driver’s seat before I kicked the door closed with my foot. Now, I would have to go and make another trip to the van after I got her majesty inside the house.

As Little Miss Anxious went inside, I made my way back to the van to retrieve the rest of my stuff (which, oddly enough, was the FOOD that she wanted and had closed the door on!). As I walked, I paused in my stride. I thought to myself about how many times I probably shut the door on God or slam the door in His face. How often do I make His job (and my life) harder because I‘m chasing after my own agenda instead of His? Thinking, like Gianna, that I am “helping” Him out, I close the door on something before He’s through; possibly the very thing I wanted in the first place!

I get so impatient with my kids (particularly Gianna). I hate it when they rush ahead of me or do things that I’m sure they think will help me out, but only interfere with my “master plan.” When they get in the way of my efficient and thought-out plans of action, it irks me because I don’t want to lose or waste time. It just messes everything up! Such is the case with us and God. We run ahead, we shut open doors (or try to open closed ones) and we just generally waste time instead of following His master plan. Of course, the end goal can and will get accomplished. However, because of the interference, it will take longer and new plans of action must be made.

I am SO THANKFUL that even when I screw up, and shut the door on what God is trying to do, He is MORE than patient with me. He doesn’t lose His temper with me, like I do too often with my kids. He is slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 86:15). He probably just chuckles and thinks to Himself what I often say to Gianna “Ok, Miss Diva. Have it your way. You’ll just make it harder on yourself.” Yes, I do make it harder on myself sometimes. Thank goodness, however, for the fact that God reopens doors and gives me second chances when I totally blow it (or when I think that my “helping” God along - as if He needed it - is something I need to be doing!).

I wanted to share a song with you. I heard it in the grocery store a week or so ago (and it used to be one of my favorites!). I know it’s a secular song, but if you really take in the words, you can apply them to you and God. It’s a song by Whitney Houston called “I Am Nothing”. Watch the video and listen to the song. Read the lyrics…..don’t close the door on Him (after all, He is knocking - Revelation 3:20). You don’t have to hurt anymore (Psalm 30:2). Stay in HIS arms. He will NEVER walk away from You (Deuteronomy 31:8, Psalm 9:10). We are NOTHING if we don’t have Him (John 15:5)! It’s in HIM that we have love, life, worth, and being (Acts 17:28). He sees into your heart and breaks down the walls (1 Samuel 16:7, Job 36:15, Psalm 18:2, Proverbs 21:2). You don’t have to run and hide from Him; or from yourself (as if you could anyways!). If there is to be any hiding, HIDE IN HIM (Psalm 143:9). You don’t have to “imagine” He’s there; He’s ALWAYS there! RIGHT WITH YOU; working in You and through you (John 14:26, Acts 1:8, Romans 5:5)!!

Father, I hear You loud and clear!! When there is an open door in my life, I need to be still and wait on You until You are finished with whatever You’re doing. I can’t be quick to shut the door on what You’re trying to empty out; or any blessing you want to pour in. Just as You were the one to close the door on Noah’s ark, YOU need to be the one to close/seal things for me when they need closed. I don’t want to interfere with Your plans and skip ahead of You. I don’t want to follow my own ways and meaninglessly chase the wind; I want to chase after You! I thank You that You love me and are not finished with me yet (Philippians 1:6). Thank You for Your infinite love, mercy, and patience!! May the only door that is NEVER closed be the one to my heart! In Jesus name I pray, Amen!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Be Aglow

A while back, Scott Kaehr gave the message at church. Since I didn’t blog about it as quickly as I usually do, I will probably miss a lot of details. As always, though, you can listen to the church sermons online at www.missionoflife.com

Scott talked about how God provides for us; just like He provided the manna for the children of Israel. Each day, they gathered their daily bread. They were only supposed to take what was needed for that day. If they took more than that, it would spoil. The whole thing was an issue of trust more than anything. Would they trust God to provide that same manna the next day, or would they hoard more than they should for fear they wouldn’t have enough? If one truly knows the unfailing nature of God, they know the answer to that question. God loves His children and He provides for them.

So, do we have that same trust when it comes to our personal calling? Do we have a passion for it; real and righteous passion like the kind of passionate pursuit that God has for His people? What is the mission that rests in the core of your soul? What ignites the fire? Scott said something really neat: “Let Christ set you on fire and people will come and watch you burn.” Amen to that!! Christ IS the light! If He sets you on fire, people are going to notice!!

To burn as brightly as possible, Scott talked about how we need to continue to allow God to work on us. We have to allow Him to prune away the dead branches and chip our old selves away chunk by chunk. One by one, issue by issue, we keep getting refined in the fires that we persevere through. Every small step we take is just a greater step in the bigger picture of things. Then, as we look back on our progress, we see just how far we have come!!

Scott encouraged us to “Be aglow.” If there is anything stopping us from shinning, we need to take it to Jesus. He said we should ask the question: “What keeps me from loving you?” Tough to ask isn’t it? We don’t always want to hear the answer do we? Sometimes, dealing with the answer is more than we think we can handle. But, as Philippians 4:13 assures us, we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us!!! NOTHING is impossible!!

In a world that seems darker and colder than ever, I pray that this world will heat up with the fires that should be ablaze in the hearts of God’s people. May we all be aglow; burning brightly and turning up the heat as we radiate His love!! God bless you all, and may His grace and peace be with you!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Crazy Foolish Love

It's February. It's time, once again, to talk about Valentine's day, love, and every romantic thing under the sun. Though, just like I wrote about back in December, there is "nothing new under the sun." February 14th comes around every year; always yielding the same things: cards, flowers, candy, chocolate, true love (or monstrous heartbreak and loneliness), etc. The day is sweet and blissful for many, but sad and depressing for others.

Just like any holiday, we are losing sight of what we are celebrating. There is much history surrounding February 14th. You can read all about it at www.wikipedia.org. Though, to give a little background, there was once a Saint Valentine. He was a Roman priest who was imprisoned and eventually martyred because he dared to marry Christian couples (Christians were heavily and violently persecuted during that time - the likes of which many of us have never seen/experienced). Additionally, I also read once that the Romans were trying to build their army and they wanted to prevent single men from marrying and avoiding their call to serve.

The foundation of the day we celebrate is based on the bold, courageous, and passionate desire to risk all for what is good; in the name of genuine true love. Saint Valentine died because he believed that the marriage covenant between a man and a woman shouldn't be stifled by anyone. Furthermore, he was killed by the Emperor because of his attempt to evangelize and convert him during his imprisonment.

Maybe love really is blind, crazy, and foolish. After all, what person would willingly lay his life on the line in the name of love? Saint Valentine knew the risks before him, and yet he dared to love and encourage others to love too! Why? Because true love is worth living (and dying) for!! Saint Valentine knew what true love was because he believed in the one who modeled it for us: Jesus Christ. John 15:13 says: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Saint Valentine was following in the footsteps of his Master; The One who laid down His life for us as the ultimate expression of true love. How blessed we are that Jesus is so "crazily" and "foolishly" in love with us! If only we could be as crazy and foolish in loving others too!!

Like anyone else, I "love" Valentine's day. Everyone likes to love and be loved; to give and get things as an expression of those mushy feelings. However, as I mentioned, there is a greater love that is beyond anything we feel or do for the special people in our lives on Valentine's day. REAL love is a conscious and purposeful choice that we are to live out every day! We do that by looking to the cross, and allowing our heart to beat with that same sacrificial love that Christ has always had for us! Love is beyond feelings and emotions. Love is a person's heart in action - like the old DC Talk says, "Luv is a Verb". Love is real, tough, and not for the timid! Love conquers and covers all!! (1 Corinthians 13, 1 Peter 4:8). It pushes beyond the boundaries of safety. It's bold, risky, courageous, and good. It may be expensive and cost all you have (like it did for Jesus) but it's worth it! There will be times where your heart breaks and you may become discouraged when it comes to "going all out" to love others. You will likely be trampled on for loving people the way Jesus instructed us to, but wouldn't you rather be a "good Samaritan" and not the kind of person that just "passes by on the other side"? (Remember when Chad preached about that? Re-read this blog!).

I hope everyone has a blessed Valentine's day; filled with the hope and knowledge of what real love is! I pray that the core of what it means to love is something that we will cherish and display to people EVERY day beyond the 14th of February. I also pray that we would love beyond our spouses, family, friends, etc. Let us love those that don't love us back (Matthew 5:43-48), and go beyond what is necessary to show others what real love is! Let us bring the hope and joy of true love into the lives of those that know no hope or joy. Jesus invites us all to "be mine" and belong to Him; He died to make that possible! He's the GREATEST love because HE IS LOVE!! Amen!!

Grace and peace to all you "love fools." Continue being "crazy" about sharing God's ultimate valentine with the world!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Have A Nice Day!"

I can’t even begin to write about the many times that I have felt defeated, depressed, or less than wonderful. Neither could I begin to describe the pain that my friends have often described to me about their own anguish and frustration at their lives and circumstances. Because of the nature of this fallen world, we experience pain and struggles. However, there is hope!!

If you have had a bad day, week, month, year, etc. please continue reading (don‘t be scared by the length - it‘s worth it)!! What I am going to share are some awesome insights that I learned from the final lesson in the Beth Moore study “Living Beyond Yourself”. I think these principles of “victorious living” are very encouraging and helpful! They’ll ensure that you have a “good day” every day if you put these things into practice!

First off, Beth mentions something that I have always thought to be very important. She talks about starting off your day with God. Like any coach will tell you, the first “play” of the game is always the most important. It sets the tone of the game. Likewise, your first “play” of your day is going to set the tone/mood for you as well. So, what better way than starting it off with God?! Jesus modeled that very thing for us (Mark 1:35). King David even wrote in Psalm 5:3 about presenting his requests before God first thing in the morning and waiting on the Lord. Morning quiet time (even if it’s but a short time) is WORTH the time!! (Yep, even if you are not a morning person - like me! LOL Make God first in your day!).

Beth then lays out the following steps for abundant victory (see Psalm 63):

1. Acknowledge His authority! (v. 1)
2. Abound in His presence! (v. 1)
3. Ask to see His glory and power! (v. 2)
4. Award Him with your mouth! (v. 3)
5. Approach Him with praise! (v. 4)
6. Attribute all satisfaction to Him! (v. 5, & Psalm 65:4)
7. Audit the manifold blessings! (v. 6)
8. Allow yourself to rest in His arms! (v. 7-8)

Let’s break it down……

Beth says: “The moment you awake, settle the issue of authority. Awaken every morning to the challenge, ‘Choose this day whom you will serve!’ (Joshua 24:15). Remember, any day not surrendered to the Spirit is virtually surrendered to the flesh by simple default! We will slip back into what comes most naturally to us: our sin nature! Remember, the things of the Spirit come supernaturally to us by God’s invitation.”

Amen to that!! She also says to “confess to Him any thoughts, words, or deeds performed outside the realm of His authority. This is a perfect time for the repentance of all unconfessed sin and places Him in proper perspective and you in proper perspective. All sin boils down to an issue of authority. His will or my will?”

After you have given God charge of your day, invite Him to FILL your day! More importantly (since you have just been emptied out through confession and repentance) ask for Him to fill YOU!! Don’t have an empty house!! (Matthew 12:43-45). Beth gives this equation: “cleansing + yielding = filling, and with the filling of the Spirit comes the fruit of the Spirit!” That power of the Holy Spirit will enable you to truly live “beyond yourself” because in our flesh, we cannot exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

Next, ask to see His glory and power! Do you want to see God working wonders?! Read and heed Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Beth explains it this way: “Only through the filling of the Holy Spirit can you truly see God in the daily grind of living because the things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned, and only those filled with the Spirit are spiritually discerning. Being filled with the Spirit means having our spiritual eyes opened. Like Elisha’s servant, we will see God work in ways to which the carnal Christian is blinded!” Beth also cautions us not to limit God to only the “big things.” God is all around you, but if you’re only looking for the obvious “Oh there He is!” moments, you are going to MISS Him more often than not! Pay attention to the small things!

Beth continues by urging us to glorify God with our mouths. We ought to “muzzle” our mouths and keep them from sin (Psalm 39:1). Like the old saying goes: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” Choose your words carefully, and speak only what is good, beneficial, and encouraging to others (Ephesians 4:29). If we are going to open our mouths, it should be to have God fill it (Psalm 81:10) so that we can speak of His blessed truth, love, salvation, etc. (Psalm 40:10).

That leads us right into the next point: praise!! Even if you can’t think of a single thing to praise Him for, muster up that sacrifice of praise and do it anyways because HE IS WORTHY! Beth says that she’s always listening to praise music because it conditions her to praise God more and more! She’s filling her mind and heart with the praises of God because, as she put so truthfully, “I have a strong carnal nature and I cannot afford to allow my mind to be idle. Music is one of the greatest praise catalysts as well as spiritual pleasures in my life.”

Praise is one of those big keys to the next point which is satisfaction. When we are giving praise to God, we will find more and more reasons to be thankful, content, and satisfied. Contentment goes a LONG way!! Without it, pride, greed, and unhappiness abound and creates some remarkably horrid attitudes and a pathetic self-pitying view of life!!

With that being said, the next point emphasizes counting your blessings. Beth shares a great way of doing so: “If you asked in the morning to see His power and His glory, and you allowed Him to adjust your spiritual vision and sought Him with all your heart, then you can be sure He worked in the course of the day. Recount His faithfulness to you. In your journal record the ways you have seen Him that day. Keep a diary of His activity in your life. A record of your history with God is an immeasurable asset to your Christian experience. How do you know He will care for you today? Because He cared for you yesterday! And the day before! And the day before! He never changes. He’ll never forget you. When He discloses Himself to you, remember it, praise Him for it, and record it! Nighttime is prime time for remembering the day.”

Finally, we come to a principle that many of us forget (and yet it’s so vitally important!): REST in His arms! This world is “busy, busy, busy.” Can you imagine how much different our lives would be if we all took a little time to REST? When was the last time you were still and just rested in the fact that God is sovereign and in control? When was the last time you allowed His peace and comfort to flood your soul and sweep away your worries? If the answer is “too long”, I encourage you to make the time (even a few minutes) just to do nothing, and bask in His peace. It will do wonders for your mind, body, and soul!!

Grace and peace to all of you!! God bless all who read this and take it into their hearts!! May these things enable you to truly “have a nice day!”