1 Corinthians 12:31b (NAS)

And I show you a still more excellent way.
1Corinthians 12:31b (NAS)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Even Before I Knew

 In the early morning darkness, I watched as she walked down the steps and to the street where the school bus was waiting.  As it disappeared around the corner, it occurred to me that we hadn't prayed.  In the 45 minutes since the alarm clock went off, we had hurriedly dressed, combed her hair, breakfasted, and checked her backpack for homework.  But in that span of time we had never stopped to thank God for rest or ask his help and direction for the day. 

I quickly offered a prayer for protection for Hannah and then I realize, God has been here all along; his holy angels are ever watching and guarding his little ones.  Once again, I am awed by how wonderful our God is.  He is faithful, even when I am not.  He never forgets me.  He is never too busy or distracted to care for me.  He was thinking of me while I slept.  Each morning he wakes the sun and pushed the darkness away just for me.  He gives me all I need for life, and he does it faithfully every morning.

"Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations."  Deuteronomy 7:9

Rest assured, God is way ahead of us.  He planned for this moment long before I even knew him.  He knows exactly what I need even before I ask.  He is ever working in my behalf to teach me, to lead me, to care for me, and to prepare me for the things that lie ahead. 

"But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8

Comforting, isn't it?  Even before I knew I needed a savior, he provided one!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

God Speaks Through Trials

Trials!  Ugh....don't you just hate that word!  Nobody in their right mind wants to have trials.  Our trials slow us down, cause us pain and sadness, and frustrate us to no end.  No one is immune either; they are common to us all.  Trials are the stuff-of-life; our path is laden on every side with setbacks and struggles and suffering. 

For years, I have not wanted to admit that suffering is part of the Christian experience.  I would skip over the Bible verses about trials, sweep them under the rug, so to speak.  I believed that my faith in Christ would somehow shield me from suffering, and there is some truth to this idea, because Jesus suffered for us, taking our place when he died on the cross for our sins.  So, there is great comfort in the fact that Christ has paid the just penalty for my sins and I am no longer charged as guilty of those  sins.

A good place to go to find out more about the topic of suffering is the Bible, of course.  One major theme of the book of 1Peter is the willingness of Christians to suffer for Christ's sake.  So, it is there that we will look to find some answers to the problem of suffering.  Here we find that Christ suffered for our sake, to bring us to God (1Peter 3:18).  We learn that Christ's suffering was an example for us to follow (1Peter 2:21) and the trial of our faith is more precious than gold (1Peter1:7).

We can be certain then, that we will have trials.  Experience has proven that I was not exempt from suffering even though my life was hidden in Christ.  Like everyone else, I have had my share of trials and problems to deal with.  These trials and problems were the very "things" that have shaped my life.   "Things" I encountered, like financial woes caused by debt and over-spending, "things" like difficulty in relationships caused by divorce and estrangement and unforgivness, and "things" like the heartbreak of caring for a child with a disability.

Suffering is inevitable because we live in a fallen world.  When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they died as a result of that one act and today we still live under the curse of that one act.  We are born in sin and unless we accept God's salvation through Christ, we will die in sin and be eternally separated from God.

Let's look again at 1Peter 4:12-19; here we find some answers as to why we suffer and how we are to respond to trials whenever they come our way.  We are instructed in verse 12 to think it not strange; to understand that it is normal, something to be expected.  We will encounter persecution and opposition because we have an enemy of our souls and we are engaged in a war between the forces of good and evil.  Our response to suffering, we see in verse 13, is to rejoice because  Christ is glorified in us when we suffer.  This is a reminder to us that even though we live in this world; this world is not our home.  We are to live for the world to come.  We are to invest in the kingdom of heaven.  And we are to lay down our lives for the sake of others.     Finally, in verse 19 we see that our response to trials is to commit the keeping of our souls to him in well-doing.  This is where our faith takes over; we believe that God is in control, that he knows where we are and what we are going through, and he will bring us through it.

Most everyone who has suffered will admit that now, looking back on that time, they can see that God was at work in their life.  God speaks to us through trials; it is at these difficult times that God has our full attention.  We are brought to the end of ourself and we realize that we need his help.  We grow stronger in our faith as we endure,and in time, like gold that is tried by fire, we too are purified and strengthened by the fire of suffering.  The key is to endure; to remain true to Christ, to keep-on, keeping-on.  God is speaking through trials.....but, are we listening?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The One Thing Necessary

"But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;  but only a few things are necessary, really only one; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."  Luke 10:41-42. 

Jesus had a way of cutting right to the heart of the matter.  He said that there was only one thing necessary.  Wow, only one.  Out of all the things that we have to worry about and he brings it down to one.  I believe Jesus was making the point that we should not worry and make a fuss over "things".   

I can relate to Martha's frustration with Mary's lack of concern for the things that needed to be done for the meal preparation.  I had felt the pressure involved with making sure the food taste delicious and is the proper temperature,  and is not over cooked or under cooked, and is served attractively.  I'm sure Martha just wanted everything to be "just right" for Jesus. But,  even our best intentions can go array.  Verse 40 tells us that she was distracted with all her preparations. 

We, too,  have been guilty of being distracted.  Have you ever been too busy?  Have you been so pressed for time  that you forgot to do something important?  Have you ever missed an important appointment because you were in the middle of something else?  Have you you ever been too busy.  I think Martha was too busy and she had forgotten what was really important.  Why had she invited Jesus to come and have a meal with her and her sister and brother?  She had invited him because she wanted to spend time with him.   And now he is there and she doesn't feel that she has time to sit down and listen to him. 

Mary, on the other hand, is not distracted at all.   She knows somehow, the importance of this moment.  She has chosen the one thing that is necessary.  Mary is seated at Jesus feet, (verse 39) and she is listening to the Lord's word.  Sitting at Jesus feet and hanging on to his every word is worship.  Worship is the one thing necessary.  All those other things will work out OK.  The meal will be eaten and forgotten, but Jesus words live on for all eternity. 

Give me a heart like Mary, Lord; a heart that worships.  May I choose the one  thing necessary and not be burdened with the busyness of life and all it's distractions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

..............VALENTINE POEM............

Be my Valentine, Lord!
My heart, yours entire;
All that I hope for
And all I desire.

Be my first thought
When day has begun
And linger there always,
My treasure, Dear One

Be near to comfort,
Your presence, so sweet;
Teach me and guide me
My soul to complete.

Be the center of everything
Dear to my heart.
Indwell me, Divine Master,
And fill every part.

Be my object of devotion,
My reason to live,
To tell all the world
Of the love that you give.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Greatest Commandment

Deuteronomy 6:5, "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."

A. W. Tozar writes in The Pursuit of God, that God formed us for himself, that all things were created for his pleasure, and God's desire is that we would see him and live with him and draw our lives from him.  The soul of a believer longs to worship; in fact we were created to worship God. 
The Pursuit of God  is one of those books that stirs the heart every time you read it.  The first time I read it was in 1981 and it kindled a fire in my bosom that has never gone out.  It was then that I joined the ranks of what A. W. Tozar, it's author, called the "fellowship of the burning heart": those who seek to love God with all their heart, soul, and might. 

One such man was Frederick Faber, a poet, songwriter, and a theologian.  Tozar included some of Faber's works in The Pursuit of God.  One of those poems impressed me so that I memorized it and have never forgotten it.  I have included it below for your pleasure.

Only to sit and think of God.
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name;
Earth has no higher bliss.

Father of Jesus, Love's reward!
What rapture it will be,
Prostrate before thy throne to lie,
And gaze and gaze on Thee!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why Are You in Despair, O My Soul?

My body betrays me.  This week I have had upset stomach and numerous aches and pains;  all of which made me feel tired and old. 

My emotions betray me.  For some reason, I felt heart-sick, and sad; with a heaviness that stole my joy.

My mind betrays me.  I struggle with lethargy and discontent;  which makes me question all that I believe in.

My will betrays me.  Because even when I know what to do,  I am too weak to do it.

A sad situation wouldn't you say.  I felt kind of like the psalmist in Psalm 42 when he said, Why are you in despair, O my soul?   Do you ever talk to yourself like that?  Sometimes that's what we have to do to get to the bottom of our problem; give our self a good "talkin" to.  But, when we are in that place of despair it may be difficult to see the way out because we are overcome by the oppression of our enemy.  In verse 10 we see the enemy's method of attack,  As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, while they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"

The next time you find yourself in this place,  know this, you cannot trust your body or soul,  they will let you down and disappoint you.  Your emotions cannot be trusted and your mind cannot save you.  They are a part of you that we refer to as the "Flesh", and there is a struggle in the heart of every Christian between the "Flesh" and the "Spirit".  1Corinthians 10:3-4,  For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

Our "Spirit", on the other hand, has been "born again" from above and it is through the Holy Spirit who now lives in us that we will be victorious over all our adversaries.  Hear the words of the psalmist in Psalm 43:3, O send out thy light and thy truth, let them lead me;  let them bring me to thy holy hill, and to thy dwelling places.  We are to walk after the "Spirit" and not after the "Flesh" for the flesh brings death, but the spirit brings life.  And if we are not careful, we will give-in to the desires of our flesh and miss  out on what God wants to do in our hearts. 

Lets look again at Psalm 42-43.  God's Word is our best offensive weapon to use when under attack.  What did the  psalmist do?
  • Psalm 42:4 - He poured out his soul to God.  Meaning?  He prayed and he admitted his need of help.  So, don't be afraid to tell God how  you feel, but, then be ready to listen to what he has to say. 
  • Psalm 42:6 - He remembered the times in the past when he was happy and felt that God was near.  Take some time to reflect on what God has done in the past for you.
  • Psalm 42:11 - He declares his faith.  His hope is in God and he knows that he will again praise him.  He believes that God is with him and will never forsake him.  Say it out loud.  Declare your faith in God and do not believe the lies of the enemy.
  • Psalm 43:4 - He worships.  He goes to the alter of God and he praises him on the lyre.  Where is your alter?  Your alter is the place you go to spend time alone with God, the place you lay down your life in surrender to him and his will.  And when you have done that, then you will praise him. 
And worship changes everything.  It changes our attitude and our outlook.  It takes the focus off my problem (sickness, depression, self-pity, etc.) and puts the focus back on Christ, who is God and has the power to make all things right. 

Eternal King, rule and reign in my life; spirit, soul, and body.  Be enthroned in my heart, so that I may walk, not according to the flesh, but, according to the spirit.  Let your glory be over all the earth.  Amen

Monday, February 6, 2012

Reaching the Homeless

At 7a.m. I dropped off Hannah and Abbey at the high school.  The sun had just made it's way over the mountains as I turned east and started home.  I reached for the visor to shield my eyes from it's brilliance while my mind was already racing through the days schedule.  I turned my car onto the Taneycomo bridge following one of those bouncing, low-riding cars.  In the rear window was a bumper sticker that read, No low-life, no life.  I contemplated it's meaning and decided this must be someone from out-of-town. 

So, I didn't see the young man until the traffic stopped at the red light.  He was standing on the sidewalk wearing a brown t-shirt and khaki shorts.  He wore glasses and his hair was cut short.  I could not make out the handwritten message on the cardboard sign that he held in this hand.  He quickly turned away, embarrassed by his predicament.  He kept looking in the other direction, away from me,  but there were no cars coming from that direction. 

"Let me see your sign," I whispered.  A moment later he turned and I read Homeless & Hungry.  I rolled down the window on the passenger side and he walked over to my car. 

"We've been walking all night and she's sleeping." he said.  I must have looked confused because he repeated it.  "We've been walking all night and we're tired.  She's sleeping over there,"  And he pointed in the direction of the light pole.  Then I saw her.  She was curled up on the concrete wrapped in whatever extra clothing they had.

"What do I have?  How can I help them?" I thought as I scanned the inside of my car.  There was a bowl of half-eaten oatmeal, toast crust, and a bag of grapes; the remains of Hannah's breakfast.  I quickly reached inside my purse for my wallet.  I had $7.  I took the $5 and handed it to him along with the bag of grapes.  "God bless you." I said through the window.  The light was green and I had to move on.  "God bless you."  he said in return. 

As I pulled away, my heart was broken as I realized this young couple had spent the night on a dirty highway and I wondered.  "How do you get to this place.....tired, hungry, with no place to sleep?  What was this young man's story?"  He seemed educated.  He looked healthy.  He could have been one of my son's friends.  But, there he stood with a cardboard sign asking for help.  No money, no car, no home, no job, no food, no bed, and no friends or family.

Tears rolled down my cheeks and I did all that I know to do.  I prayed for that young man and his companion.  I prayed that God would reach into his heart and make himself real to him.  I prayed that God would rescue him from this lifestyle and provide for his needs.  I prayed that he might come to know how great God's love is for him, a love expressed perfectly in the life, death, and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ.  Does this young man know that God gave his son to die for sinners like us?  Yes, we are all sinners.  And without God, we are tired and hungry and poor and needy, waiting for someone to rescue us.  God made a way for us to be saved;  that way is through his son, Jesus Christ who died on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins.  We can be forgiven and we can have eternal life if we believe in Jesus as our Savior. 

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  1John 4:9

It was a brief encounter, just a few seconds.  "God bless you."  A quick greeting offered in haste, but powerful words when spoken in faith and part of a prayer that reaches the ears of God whose love is perfect and can reach the heart of that young man.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

God Speaks Through His Holy Spirit

In the Listening section of my prayer journal I have written what I like to call my marching orders.  My marching orders are little notes I make to myself during prayer time of the things that I should do, like write a note of encouragement to a friend who is going through a trial or maybe I am reminded to buy Larry a pair of pants or call Melanie and invite her to lunch.  I have learned over the years that these nudges are from the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit is one of the ways that God speaks to us.  Jesus told his disciples in John 14 that he was leaving, but he would send the Comforter who will abide with us and teach us and remind of Jesus words.  The Holy Spirit is a gift that has been given to every believer to help us live a life that is pleasing to God.  If you are a believer, you are a child of God and you have the Holy Spirit living inside you and you can learn to listen and hear his voice. 

Whenever I say that the Holy Spirit speaks to me, it's not an audible voice that I hear.  It's more like a thought that comes across my mind.  He may remind me of a scripture that I have read or he may inspire me to reach out to help another,  And all of this takes place in my mind;  ideas, inspiration, discernment, and answers to prayers.

If you are a young Christian you may not have learned to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit.  But, with practice, you can learn to listen and hear when God speaks through his Holy Spirit.  Quiet yourself before the Lord as we are told to do in Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God" and then record what you feel he is saying to you.  If it is something that will lead you astray, then it is probably you own thoughts or thoughts from the enemy.  If it is something that agrees with scripture, then you can rest assured it is the voice of the Good Shepherd. 

God will speak to us in these planned moments of quiet, but he is not limited to these times only.  He may speak to you at other times as well.  In 1Kings 19 we have the story of Elijah the prophet when he was fleeing Jezebel who had sworn to kill him.  Elijah is hiding in a cave when the Word of the Lord comes to him.  First, there is a strong wind, then an earthquake, and then a fire, but God does not speak in any of these.  Last of all, there came a still, small voice that spoke to him, encouraging him and giving him instructions.  If you will listen, you too can hear God's still, small voice as he speaks to you through his Holy Spirit.  God is speaking.....Are you listening?

Thursday, February 2, 2012


You are.....
the one thing needful,
my heart's desire,
my soul's longing
my body's craving.

You are.....
my ever-waking thought,
my meditation,
my song's theme,
my story's happy ending,
my peaceful sleep.

You are.....
heaven's glory,
earth's treasure,
yesterday's memory,
today's confidence,
and tomorrow's hope.

You are.....
love's reward,
passion's prize,
life's goal.