Friday, September 23, 2011

Above All, Love

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." - 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

God gave me a sound spanking this morning. Then smacked me upside the head. You know, He knew just what I needed! Anger -- the thing that gets in the way of my relationship with Him -- got ahold of me yesterday afternoon and held on tightly. Wrapped itself around me, strangled me, held me captive. Completely, totally. Why, you ask? Because I let an inconvenience, a deviation to MY plans, rob me of my love for the person who I perceived to be the cause of the disruption.

Dennis ran out of gas -- gasp! how dare he! -- down the street and called to ask me to bring him a gas can. I had just put hair color on my hair -- yes, I admit, the grays are taking over -- and wasn't dressed. So, fine, I'll bring you the can -- said with attitude, I'll admit it. Before I could put my grandkids in the car, I told the youngest to go to the potty. At that point, I found out he had messed in his underwear. So, now I had to clean him up, which increased my irritation. I had to get the rest of the color in my hair and was going to go over the time limit for that...up went the irritation level. Didn't Dennis realize he was low on gas? He had told me a few days ago that his gas gauge was wrong; why didn't he put a gas can in the truck? How dare he interrupt my day by not being prepared!! 'Round and 'round these thoughts went. By the time I got the kids in the car, the gas can full of gas in the Tahoe -- no cap on it, hoping it didn't tip over -- and headed down the road, my hair full of Loreal Excellence, wearing my slippers and a robe (Lord, don't let me get pulled over!!), I was so mad that if I had been a teapot, steam would have been coming out my ears. I pulled up behind Dennis, he came and got the gas can out of the back, said Thank You...and I said nothing. My granddaughter put me in my place by saying, "You're welcome." Then she said to me, "I told Poppa, 'You're welcome' for you, Mia." Oh boy...God started working. I resisted....I like to be angry, you see. Makes me feel in least that's what I convince myself of when I'm angry. God continued to work in me through Bible study -- I needed that, I'll tell you! Then I came home and read the last two chapters of Matthew -- about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Okay, Lord, I get it, I get it. I'll apologize for overreacting. So I did, but I didn't fully mean it. Then I went to bed.

God knew my heart. He knew I was still irritated. Not full blown angry anymore, just annoyed. I knew it I prayed about it before I fell asleep. And, again when I woke up this morning. And His answer? This verse. Above all, love, because it covers a multitude of sins. Jesus loves me so much, He gave His life for me. Who am I to become angry over something so trivial as a disruption of my schedule? I'm not perfect, yet Jesus loves me anyway. His love for me covered ALL of my sins. Lord, forgive me and help me to be forgiving.

So, I will truly apologize this morning when Dennis wakes up. I'll mean it, too. I'm going to post this verse where it catches my attention daily. Maybe I'll make it my screen saver!! Because, above all, I really do love my husband. Even when he runs out of gas.

"Love is an act of endless forgiveness." - Jean Vanier

Dear Lord, I'm not perfect so why do I expect everyone else to be? Blind me to the shortcomings of others but open my eyes to my own.  Fill me with Your love because my own is insufficient. Guide me to live this verse today. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why Am I So Afraid?

"He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm." - Matthew 8:26 (NIV)

Storms of life are inevitable - they're going to come whether I like it or not. Nothing I say or do is going to stop them from forming. Unfortunately, my first reaction, like the disciples', is to worry and fear. The reason for that is, again like the disciples', not enough faith. And every time it happens, I hear Jesus asking me, "Why are you so afraid?"

The Bible tells me over and over to trust God and not worry. My heart knows that; my head is another matter. Worry begins in the brain. Satan takes over my thoughts. In my heart I know Jesus can calm the storm; my head asks, "How?". My heart knows I should leave it to Jesus to handle; my head tells me, "You've got to figure this out!". Why am I so afraid to leave it in His more than capable hands? Because I take my focus off of Him and place it on the problem. I lose the self-control I blogged about a couple of days ago. It's during the storm that I need to lean on 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV): "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." I have to choose to take control of my thoughts. Choose to bring my focus back to Jesus. Choose to become obedient to Him and His Word. Choose to trust God and refuse to worry. Choose to not be afraid.

I LOVE the last five words of this verse: "and it was completely calm". What a powerful statement! What a way to live my life! Completely calm and unafraid. Is it possible? Oh, yeah!! Exodus 15:2a (NIV) gives me the basis for believing that possibility: "The Lord is my strength and my song". God's strength can empower me to weather any storm, if I choose to lean on Him. He can help me find His song, His joy, in any situation, if I choose to allow His Presence to fill me. By myself, my storms will overwhelm me. The winds of worry and waves of fear will overpower me. I choose to take my thoughts captive today and stand firm on God's promises. Today, I won't worry and God will take care of tomorrow. Completely calm and unafraid.

"Faith in God is the antidote to worry. Faith in God is the foundation of courage and the source of power." - Daily Devotions

Awesome God, thank You for this reminder that I don't have to be afraid. Help me to take my thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. Fill me with faith to trust You and Your promises and know that I am safe and secure against the storms of this life. I choose to lean on Your strength and be filled with Your joy today. I pray this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recharging My Batteries

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint." - Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

Some days, no matter what I do, nothing seems to get done. I'll start the day with a list of things I need to do but at the end of the day, I haven't crossed one thing off the list. There will still be dishes in the sink, laundry that hasn't been done, groceries that didn't get bought, bills that didn't get paid, emails that I didn't respond to, phone calls that I didn't return....what in the world did I do all day?? And, to top it all off, I'm exhausted!! How does that happen?

This verse tells me exactly what happens on those days. I didn't turn to God for the wisdom to prioritize my day. I just took off on my own strength, my own "batteries". I didn't say no to the things I should have. I don't know about you, but I tend to fit as much into a 24-hour time period as I possibly can. As soon as my feet hit the floor, I'm off and running. Gotta do this, gotta do that, gotta go here, gotta go there. Round and round and round! Busy, busy, busy! To the point of exhaustion, irritation, anger. I'm unable to enjoy any leisure time because the list of things I still have to do keeps running through my brain. Gotta keep on going, keep on going, keep on going. Like the Energizer Bunny. Until God, in His ultimate wisdom, says, "ENOUGH! Talk with me. Let me help."

When I start my day in prayer and in His Word and ask for His wisdom to guide me through my day, things get done. I cross things off my "to do" list. He gives me the strength to get through my day and not become tired and irritated. At the end of the day, I can sit back, relax and enjoy my family and friends without anything "undone" running through my head. He knows exactly what my priorities should be. If I need to be like the Energizer Bunny and keep going, He will provide the strength for me to do so. He will recharge my "batteries". Recharging through God....what an awesome way to get through my day!

"The strength that we claim from God's Word does not depend on circumstances. Circumstances will be difficult, but our strength will be sufficient." - Corrie ten Boom

Awesome Father, I ask You for the wisdom to prioritize my day. Give me the strength to fulfill my responsibilities. Open my eyes to what is important and what isn't. Give me the courage and grace to say "No" to the unimportant things. Recharge my "batteries" today, Lord. It's in Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Keeping My Eye on the Prize

"I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." - 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NIV)

In this verse, Paul is admonishing us to be disciplined and to be diligent about it. He doesn't literally beat his body; he is saying he has disciplined himself so that he is not a slave to it but is in control of it. Not just his body, but his mind also. He does this so that he will be worthy of the prize that is waiting for him --- Heaven!

Self-control, self-discipline, self-denial....whatever you want to call it....isn't fun nor is it easy. But it's what God calls us to have. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) says this: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." And 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV) tells us, "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." When we diligently practice being disciplined in our thoughts and actions, God will reward us.

What does diligently practicing discipline look like? I can only speak for myself, but, for me, it's being in constant contact with Jesus. It's asking Him to help me with my decisions throughout the day. Do I really need that piece of cake? Should I watch a violent movie? What can I do to help someone in need? Do I really need to spend money on a new blouse? Why are these mean, judgemental thoughts running around in my brain? Should I really say that? Do I want to participate in what everyone else is doing? Why am I so upset because this didn't turn out like I hoped? Why am I worrying about this? I could go on and on. But, when I view things through His perspective, He will change my view of the world. He will guide me into making the correct decisions, into being disciplined and self-controlled.

What happens if we don't practice self-control? The Bible is clear on that, too. In James 3:16 (NIV) we are told, "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice." Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV) spells it out even more clearly: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." WOW!! Talk about taking our eyes off the prize!!

As I said, discipline is not fun or easy. Whether it's coming from God or I do it for myself, my sinful nature rebels against it....big time!! However, it is the best thing that can happen to me. The prize waiting for me - Heaven - and the riches God has for me there, are worth keeping my eye on.

"To go to Heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here." - Jonathan Edwards

Dear Lord, the Bible clearly spells out Your expectation that I live a disciplined life. I ask that You remind me, constantly, of Your Presence and of Your desire that I turn to You in all areas and decisions in my life. Help me to filter my view of the world through Your Son. May I give all control to You each day and keep my eye on the prize You have waiting for me. In Jesus' name I ask, Amen.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stand Firm

"Moses answered the people, 'Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.'" - Exodus 14:13 (NIV)

There is a daily battle being waged for control of my mind. The world versus God. The world wants my mind to focus on my troubles, to be fearful, to worry, to take control. It wants to sap me of my courage and confidence in the face of my circumstances. Then there's God. He wants my mind to focus on Him and the peace, joy, hope and comfort He offers. He wants to build me up with His courage and confidence. I get to choose who wins this daily battle.

Jesus won the victory over sin and death for me. He faced the cross with strength and courage, through His Father. I can do the same with my cross, my circumstances. God is always near, His Presence surrounds me, He is my protector and my deliverer. He promised to give me His courage, strength and confidence. If I will stand firm on the Word of God, He will deliver me from my circumstances.

How do I stand firm? It's easier said than done. The world, Satan, the enemy....however I choose to think of sneaky. The news is full of doom and gloom: the economy is tanking, unemployment is rising, flooding in some areas, drought in others. People going hungry, thirsty, living in their cars, in storage units. On and on and on. TV shows are filled with adultery, hate, cheating, stealing, me-first attitudes. The radio is filled with songs about killing, sex, pain, unhappiness. We are constantly being bombarded with things telling us that there is nothing more important than ourselves. Even some Christians are grumbling, complaining, back-stabbing. It's much easier to give in to all of this and let my mind be flooded by fear, worry, and anger. Standing firm means I fully trust in God and believe His promises. It means continually turning to Him, in prayer, worship, and study. I don't mean on a daily basis. I mean on a minute by minute basis, constantly, continually, again and again. It means choosing to acknowledge His Presence in all things and believing that, no matter what is going on, He is in control.  It means choosing to be joyful, to be hopeful, to be at peace in ALL circumstances. It is being strong in my faith, being alert and aware of the battle being waged. It is focusing my mind on Heaven, on an eternity free of pain, unhappiness and strife. No retreat, no surrender to the things of this world.

In my daily battle, I guarantee the world wins more often than I like. I don't always pray when I should, I don't turn to His Word for guidance in the midst of a crisis, I don't ask Him for help in decisions I make, I don't stand firm. I allow fear and worry to take hold. I allow anger to flood my mind. But, the war isn't over. I can make different choices. I can become more aware of when I'm letting the enemy win and choose, at that moment, to ask God to give me His courage, confidence, strength and wisdom to turn the tide against the onslaught. The more I choose to turn to God, the easier it will become to place my feet on the foundation of His promises and stand firm.

"Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm." - Abraham Lincoln

Heavenly Father, give me Your courage and confidence to stand firm against the world. When my mind is being bombarded in the daily battle, remind me of Your Presence and Your love. Remind me to trust in Your promises and to place my feet upon their foundation. When I begin to tire of the battle, fill me with Your strength, Lord. Give me the wisdom to choose You over the world. In Jesus' name, Amen.

My Children's Children

I will be posting two blogs today, yesterday's and today's.

"But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children's children -- with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts." - Psalm 103:17-18 (NIV)

"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong." Most of us know this song; we learned it in church from the time we were young. Another song that comes to mind is "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world." Have you ever really paid attention to the words of these songs?

Jesus loves children. He became indignant with His disciples when they wouldn't let the children go to Him. In Mark 10:14, He tells them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these." He knows how trusting and loving children are. He wants them to come to know Him from a young age. As we become older, we become cynical, less trusting, unable to fully believe that God loves us unconditionally. It's much harder for us to accept Jesus as our Saviour, much less our Lord. Not so with children. It's easier for them to accept that Jesus loves them and that He died for their sins. But, it's up to us adults to make sure they are being brought up with that knowledge. They need to see us keeping His commandments, serving Him, loving Him, praying to Him, obeying Him....fearing Him.

What exactly does it mean to fear God? I had to do some research on this. My idea of fear is a heart-pounding, sweat-inducing, adrenalin-fueling feeling that something or someone is getting ready to hurt me and hurt me badly. It's an awareness that something's not right. That's not what fearing the Lord is, though. Fearing Him is being in true reverence, true worship of Him -- serving Him, cleaving or turning to Him in all things and swearing by His name, His promises. When we fear Him in this manner, in front of our children, we are showing them what it means to love God and accept His love in return.

My biggest regret in my life is that my faith wasn't stronger when my children were young. Church was hit or miss, mostly miss. They didn't see me in prayer, in Bible study. The only time I turned to God was when something was going wrong and I couldn't handle it myself. Only by His grace did my children come to know Him. Only by His grace are my grandchildren being raised in church. Only by His grace do they now see me in prayer and in His Word. I am striving to be the example of God to my grandchildren that I wasn't to my children. Thank You, Lord, for second chances!!

God's love is eternal. It endures forever. He promises that salvation will be offered to all children's children. And, should Jesus tarry in His return, my grandchildren's children. It's up to me to begin to set the example for them to carry on: of loving and serving God, of teaching others about salvation, of obeying His commandments. Truly worshipping and revering Him. What a legacy to leave for children's children.

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see." - Neil Postman

Dear Jesus, may I be an example to my children and to their children of what it means to fear You. May they see & hear me loving You, serving You, trusting You. May they all come to know You as their Lord and Savior. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Do I Have a Purpose?

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever -- do not abandon the works of Your hands." - Psalm 138:8 (NIV)

I was at a girlfriend's conference at church yesterday so I didn't get the chance to post this blog.

I have to be honest and say I don't know what my purpose in life is. I may have said it before but it's still true. Why am I here? What does God want from me? At one of the leadership/personal growth seminars I've taken, the whole point was to find my purpose....I didn't. I thought I was going to have this BIG reveal, this Ah Ha! moment, when I just knew, deep down, what I am meant to do here on earth.......didn't happen.

I do know one thing, though. God's purpose for me isn't finished. How do I know that? I'm still here! He hasn't called me home to heaven yet. I woke up this morning, living, breathing, thinking, feeling. He still has work for me to do. Even though I don't know exactly what that work is...God knows. He will reveal it to me in His time. I don't have a clear picture of the direction my life is supposed to go in, but I am at peace with it. I know He created me for a reason. I know my future is in His hands.

Unfortunately, I try to control that future myself. I make plans....that's who I am. I'm a planner. I make lists for EVERYTHING. My husband and kids will vouch for that. I can't grocery shop without planning what our meals are going to be and making a list. I can't go on a vacation without researching our destination and planning what we're going to see and do. I'm not a "by the seat of my pants" type of girl. I want to know ahead of time what is going to happen, where I'm going to go, what I'm going to do, how I'm going to do it. But, God, with His wonderful sense of humor, loves to throw monkey wrenches into my best laid plans. He loves to remind me that HE is in control, that my plans, my choices, may not be what's best for me. He knows what is.

He promises He will fulfill His purpose for me....says so here in Psalms. He created me; I am the work of His hands and He won't abandon me....again, says so right here in this verse. My job is to be at peace with my life, to be patient until He reveals His full purpose to me. In the meantime, I am going to continue to serve Him where I'm at, pray for His will to be done in me and trust in His timing to show me what my purpose is. And He will!!

"As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit." - Emmanuel Teney

Dear God, I know you have a purpose for my life. I trust in You to reveal it to me when You know I'm ready. Let me live each day until then for You, in peace, in faith and in love. May Your light shine through me onto every person I come into contact with. I commit my life and my plans into Your hands. Do with them as You will. In Jesus' name, Amen.