Thursday, February 25, 2010

How's Your Soil?

“…and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.”
Mark 4:17  The Parable of the Sower

My husband is a farmer. He will be planting his crop as soon as the ground thaws a bit more. The process of sowing and reaping is a very real concept for us. We depend on it for our living. How much more important is this process when we depend on it for our effectiveness in the Kingdom, and even our eternal status.

The shallow, superficial state of character is a dangerous place to be. Someone comes by to share, or you read the word of God and say Yes, I want that—I agree. But since we are hardened on the outside by our own foolishness or negative outlook, the seed that was sown doesn’t have a way to send down roots that will sustain it in tough times. The wind just picks it up and carries it away.

If our wheat crop doesn’t have the right conditions to send down deep roots, several things happen. First, it will not get the nourishing water and nutrients that are vital to its health. Second, it will not produce the fruit—the wheat that it was meant to. Third, it will not survive any adversity. The snow, wind, and freezing temperatures will kill it where it stands. The roots are what make it survive. The deeper the better.

How clever of Jesus to use this cycle of life as a parable to explain the importance of environment. If you do not cultivate the ground, or in this case your heart, the roots will have no chance. Those of us who take for granted the opportunities to prepare our soil will lose out on the harvest.

There is nothing more disturbing to a farmer than to see his seeds wasted. Or to see a field of wheat destroyed by disaster. How must God feel when He so graciously and lovingly plants the eternal seeds, only to see them whither and die? He has provided everything we need to send down good roots, and be strong enough to remain standing.

Dear Lord, I receive your seeds of life, and I will make sure that my soil is in good condition to provide growth and health for my spiritual life.  

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Who is Our Defender?

Psalm 35:22-24 (New Living Translation)

 22 O Lord, you know all about this.
      Do not stay silent.
      Do not abandon me now, O Lord.
 23 Wake up! Rise to my defense!
      Take up my case, my God and my Lord.
 24 Declare me not guilty, O Lord my God, for you give justice.
      Don’t let my enemies laugh about me in my troubles.

It happens to all of us eventually. Someone misinterprets a situation and turns it against you. You are slandered and punished for something that wasn’t your fault. It happened to me last week. I was shocked and stunned to experience repercussions from an innocent misunderstanding. Someone felt they could only save face by passing the buck and pointing the finger at me, ending our collaboration.

I was crushed. Not because I lost out on a beneficial opportunity, but because my reputation had been tarnished for no reason. As the Psalm says, “Don’t let my enemies laugh about me in my troubles.” I got over it pretty quickly by God’s grace.

So how do we find a defense for the wrong done to us? We don’t always have any recourse. In my case, I did write a letter to the powers that be to explain the truth of the matter. But who knows if it will take the blame off me. My only real defender is the Lord. He has seen the situation from the beginning. He knew it would happen, and He is the only One who can raise the sword of defense. I have made my claim and can do no more. The rest is up to God.

We cry out for God to declare us not guilty, but He may not always rush to set things right. He may want to see how we react, behave, pray and grow from the incident before He takes up our case. When we submit to his will for our lives, He will make things right—his way and in his time.

My ultimate goal is to do what Jesus would do. He knows what false accusations feel like. He knows what it is like to have to wait for the Father to rescue. Ultimately, He wants to see our character changed to be more like him. This is not our home, and someday all our accusers will bow—not for what they did to us, but in recognition of the Lord who is our defender.

Lord, please come to our rescue. But mold me in the process. Help me to know You will take care of any situation that distresses me. Thank you for defending me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

There but by the grace of God......

I am reminded today of the great mercy of God. I am thankful that he shows undeserved mercy to me when I stumble. Most of us don't have to air our sins in front of the cameras for everyone who has a TV to see. You may not be a golf fan, but celebrities have the disadvantage of living in a fish bow. We at least can hide behind closed doors.

I don't know if Tiger Woods is a believer - it's not for me to judge. But I know that he at least might be considering his spiritual life in these dark days. It could be that someone will enter his life at this time and offer him the answers to his questions. I would want that for any sinner - even me.

I do know that the compassion Jesus feels over the pain of those of us who stumble, is a miraculous thing. He cares for all of his children the same and gave his life for all the Tiger Woods in the world. It's a humbling thought to consider. Sin is sin, pain is pain, and God is the judge and healer.

I hope we will pray for Tiger today. It may sound silly, but it would be like praying for all of us who fall and rise again to face another day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Used to Draw

I used to draw. 

Found an old envelope full of pictures I drew back in junior high. I used to sit for hours in my room drawing everything I could see. If I liked a picture in a book, I would sit down and draw it freehand. Then I would sit down and write a story.

It was my world for many years until I found another outlet - singing. So the music began and the drawing and story telling was set aside. Now the story telling is back after all these years, but what happened to the artist in me? Is it still in there somewhere?

It's like that with the things we see and hear throughout our lives. The images and sounds and noises are still in there somewhere waiting to be extracted. When we reach in and pull them out, they can come alive again in our writing. How much more wonderful would our stories be if we could duplicate the emotion of our own life story on paper.

What have you tucked away that should be pulled out to put in your story?

Who, me?

Her children stand and bless her.
      Her husband praises her:
 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
      but you surpass them all!”
 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
      but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
 Reward her for all she has done.
      Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
Proverbs 31:28-31

I used to hate reading this passage in the bible. Only a man could describe such a perfect woman. She sounds like the kind of woman I could never be. She sounds like the woman that other women have a hard time being friends with. It would be too difficult to measure up to a friend like her.

But this woman is only an ideal. This fictional woman doesn’t exist exactly as she is written. What is not written about this woman is that she has low moments, temptations, distractions, hormones and bad hair days. Just like you an me! Yet an entire chapter is devoted to this accomplished woman. Hard not to be jealous, huh.

Well, guess what…God sees us as that woman. He knows who and what we could be, and always looks at us through the eyes of great love—despite out shortcomings, failures and bad moods. When we see a haggard, frazzled woman who is always one step behind, He sees a woman of value—“more precious than rubies” (v. 10).

We can’t be this woman in all aspects every day of the week, but if we set our hearts toward pleasing God, we will gather in her attributes. In fact, we may be even a bit more wonderful. After all, she didn’t have to run the kids to soccer practice, bake cakes for the fundraiser at school, fight the crowds at Walmart, change all the batteries in Johnny’s electric toys, put up and take down all the Christmas decorations….well, you get my point.

So give yourself some credit and a break. You don’t have to be the Proverbs 31 woman 24/7, and God loves you even when you fail at it. Keep your eye on the prize of God’s eternal love and mercy, and when you see Him face to face, you won’t be ashamed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day Every Day

The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”  Mark 12:31

It’s that time again. The time of year when all we see and hear on TV, billboards and ads is about the coming holiday – Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. Candy stores and flower shops all over the country are gearing up for big sales for the sake of love. Fine restaurants will be filled with couples celebrating the day. Valentines will fill the postman’s bag, and e-cards will by flying across the airwaves.

Yes, most of us have loved this holiday since our days in grade school. Dropping our Valentines in the little decorated bags at the front of each desk was the highlight of the year—especially if you had a crush on a fellow classmate.

As much as we all love this holiday devoted to our sweetheart, I wish there was a day on the calendar that encouraged us to love our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, our enemies. That may sound silly, but when you read through the scriptures on love, you soon discover what priority God places on loving our fellow man—yes, even our enemies.

The lover of our souls, the One who gave his life for us, is always ready to teach us how to truly love. His love knows no boundaries, is available to all without asking for it. He loves us no matter what, and there is nothing we can do about it. What a world this would be if we applied those principles to our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, and our enemies. It could be Valentine’s day every day!

As you remember that special someone on Sunday, take the time to do a little loving for other’s who may not have that special someone in their life. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Plan, The Victory, and The Praise

“He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”  2 Chronicles 20:15

King Jehoshaphat was pretty shook up when he was told there was a great army on their way to make war on him and his kingdom. He gathered all the people he could in Jerusalem to fast and pray for guidance from God. Things looked grim until the Spirit of God fell upon one of the men there. His message was clear—fear not, this is My battle.

What seemed impossible to the people was already in the hands of their God. When they obeyed Him and went into battle with song and shouting praise to God, the enemy was defeated before the battle even began. God had a plan—therefore the battle did not belong to Jehoshaphat’s kingdom. It belonged to the One with the plan. God gave instruction for the plan and the people believed and followed.

God received the glory for the victory because He shared his plan with the army. If they had gone their own way and either froze in fear or marched in at the wrong time, they surely would have been defeated by the enemy.

Do you want your battles to be won? Do you want God to have the glory for your victories? Then follow his plan. You need not fear if you will listen for his voice of command. He will go before you, and as you praise Him and stand your ground, He will provide a miracle for you. The children of God from the Old Testament were familiar with God’s voice, and had already seen his hand upon his people. They had practiced trusting Him for generations. They knew when God was speaking.

Listen, praise, stand, trust, obey and rest in the spoils of your victory won by God. The battle is really not yours. Give it to the One with the plan.

Monday, February 8, 2010

There is a Storm Coming

"Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? 'Father, get me out of this'? No, this is why I came in the first place. I'll say, 'Father, put your glory on display.'" A voice came out of the sky: "I have glorified it, and I'll glorify it again." John 12:27

Are you in the midst of a storm? What are the seas like in your life right now? Are the waters nice and calm, and you are enjoying smooth sailing?

Be on guard. The storm will come. The storms and trials of life come to us all. God allows them to strengthen us and bring glory to Him. He never promised us calm seas all the time—they are a blessing to have when we need rest, but we don’t learn much about persevering when there is no challenge to get through. When our boat is sailing along on water smooth as glass, there is no opportunity to sharpen our skills and learn how to maneuver in rough seas.

It’s the crashing waves and tossing wind that really gets our attention. This is when we need to know how to steer the boat. A fierce storm can arise at any moment—catching us off guard. If we have used our time of rest to prepare for it, we will be better equipped to take the helm with confidence.

Use your time wisely when you are in between storms. Search the word of God and pray. Let Him teach you what you need to survive the next storm. Yes, it will come. Don’t be the one whose boat is capsized by it. The Lord is always willing and ready to guide us through our trials, and if we are caught unaware, He still provides a lifeline.

Don’t take your smooth sailing for granted. Be on your guard.

Friday, February 5, 2010

How Do You Know?

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:1 & 3

My sister is a teacher, and has worked for 20+ years at a partially underground school. She has spent many hundreds of hours in that place. Over the last 8 years, she and 4 other long time teachers in the building developed breast cancer, and several others experienced other major health problems. The building is equipped with a radon filtering system that has not always worked properly, and hardly ever maintained. The EPA is finally getting involved in an investigation.

Even though there is no clinical indication yet that this invisible radon causes breast cancer, my sister and her colleagues are convinced without a doubt that there is a link between their cancer and radon, or some other unseen thing in that property. They have witnessed the effects, and no matter what the outcome of the investigation, they will go to their grave believing the evidence.

So it is with those of us who have faith in a God that we cannot see, smell, taste or touch. We have witness in our hearts and minds that tell us He is near to us and will greatly effect our lives. Like the invisible radon gas, the more time we spend with Him, the more He touches our lives. The only difference is that radon kills, and God gives us life, rest, peace, joy and an opportunity to spend eternity with him.

Why is it so hard for people to bow to a God like that? Why is it easier to spend time fighting an unseen gas, than it is to spend time with an unseen God who wants to communicate his love to us personally? Maybe that sounds silly, but it’s true. The world will chase the unseen things that will never last, but will ignore the loving God of the universe.

The scientists cannot prove He doesn’t exist, any more than they can prove that radon causes breast cancer. But He does exist. The evidence is all around us. I know that I know that I know, and like the uncounted other Christians in this world, I will go to my grave believing and serving my Creator.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's time

"Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."
Romans 13:10-12

Oh, how we love to slumber. It relieves tension, takes us away from our responsibilities - even if for just a little while. But the bible refers to slumber in a negative connotation for the most part. God calls us to awake from out slumber and take note of the late hour. There is much to be done for the Kingdom, and time has a way of slipping away.

In his book "To Be Told", Dan Allender says "Something must awaken us to the fact that we are asleep. And what awakens us is usually a moment of exposure when we see that the conventions that guide our steps and promise us a good life are nothing more that illusions."

It is often that we go the way of our own choosing and arrive at a rude awakening because of our folly. How much better it would be to have the gentle whispering of God to wake us from our slumber. When we follow His agenda, He will prescribe the right time for rest, and give us strength to accomplish much in our calling.

Let us heed the gentle shaking from God, and wake up to see the needs of others. Knowing that time is short, ignore the world's illusions. They will never satisfy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Knock, Knock, who's there?

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21

The Word of God tells us that He has made himself known to us through his Spirit, his word and through creation. Our inner conscience has witness of Him when He enters our lives. Nothing will fulfill our longing for God except communion with Him. It’s not enough to admire the creation, attend church, or say grace at the dinner table. It’s fellowship we need.

Knowing about God isn’t sufficient to enter into the kind of fellowship He desires to have with us. Our love, worship and service for and to Him must be genuine—seeking to know Him more. It’s in these times when He speaks to us, and shows us his way of living. God communicates his will for our lives whenever we care to listen. More than listen—we must hear. It’s our choice.

The result of rejecting intimacy with God is that our Christianity is ineffective. When there is no true fellowship we cannot know what He wants for us. If we don’t know what He wants for us, we can’t do his will. If we don’t do his will, He won’t get the glory. See the cycle?

Who wants a heart that is darkened by futile thinking? Of course, none of us do. Yet the more we refuse to hear Him, and the more we neglect to worship and praise Him, the farther we get from his voice.

What an awesome thing that the God of the universe would want to commune with us. The Bible says He stands at the door and knocks. It’s our decision to let Him in to fellowship.