Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall Worship


Let them all praise the name of the Lord. For his name is very great… Psalm 148:13

It’s peak of fall color here in Maryland. As I revel in the beauty of the colors during the day, the clearness of the sky and crystal sparkle of the stars at night, I can’t help but raise my voice in praise, joining all of creation in worship of the One who sustains it all, who created it all from nothing. Will you join your voice to mine?

 


Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens!
    Praise him from the skies!

Praise him, all his angels!
    Praise him, all the armies of heaven!

Praise him, sun and moon!
    Praise him, all you twinkling stars!

Praise him, skies above!
    Praise him, vapors high above the clouds!

Let every created thing give praise to the Lord,
    for he issued his command, and they came into being.

He set them in place forever and ever.
    His decree will never be revoked.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you creatures of the ocean depths,

fire and hail, snow and clouds,

    wind and weather that obey him,

mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,

wild animals and all livestock,
    small scurrying animals and birds,

kings of the earth and all people,
    rulers and judges of the earth,

young men and young women,
    old men and children.

Let them all praise the name of the Lord.
    For his name is very great;

    his glory towers over the earth and heaven!

He has made his people strong,
    honoring his faithful ones—

    the people of Israel who are close to him.

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 148


 
 

Friday, October 24, 2014

On Offering of Miscellaneous Thoughts

This week has been a bit intense. Several meetings. Much mental processing at the job. Many highs. Some lows. It’s felt a bit of a jumble.

And so here it’s already Friday and no succinct, coherent thought has transpired to share with you today. So I thought I’d share in the same pattern as my week – a jumbled collection of miscellaneous thoughts from my quiet times.

These are the quotes and comments that caught my heart’s attention and challenged me to keep perspective and priority this week. I offer them to you in hopes you’ll find challenge and encouragement as well.

My Utmost for His Highest ~ Oswald Chambers

 
“Our Lord has told us how love to Him is to manifest itself. ‘Lovest thou Me.’ ‘Feed My sheep’ – identify yourself with My interests in other people, not, identify Me with your interests in other people.”

 

“You have no idea of where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you either at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in over-active energies instead of getting into soak on the great fundamental truths of God’s Redemption, you will snap with the strain comes.”

 

“It is not a question of whether God is willing to sanctify me; is it my will? Am I willing to let God do in me all that has been made possible by the Atonement? Am I willing to let Jesus be made sanctification to me…Beware of saying – Oh, I am longing to be sanctified….stop longing and make it a matter of transaction!”

 

“We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently. But it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus.”

 

“How are we going to get the life that has no lust, no self-interest, no sensitiveness to pokes, the love that is not provoked, that thinketh no evil, that is always kind? The only way is by allowing not a bit of the old life to be left.”



“There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

God Keeps His Word

God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through? Numbers 23:19

 
I’ve had a few let downs lately. People who have said something and then didn’t follow through. Once in a while if that happens, you understand. Life can get in the way for all of us. But when it happens repeatedly, when a lifestyle pattern seems to develop, that gets harder to take.

It erodes your trust in that person.
How can you trust someone who doesn’t keep their word?

As I pondered these situations and prayed for the various individuals involved, a thought suddenly caught my attention.

You know, God’s not like that.

Do we really appreciate that truth?
Do we really live our lives like we believe it?

God never breaks a promise. God never says something that doesn’t come to pass. God is a God of His Word.

How would my life be different if I really believed that? Actively trusted that? Lived out of that?

That truth extinguishes fear, quenches worry, and squelches doubt.

Whenever any problem comes- any diagnosis, any failure, any challenge- God’s promises hold true.

I am with you.
I will never leave you or forsake you.
My grace is sufficient for you.
If God is for me, who can be against me?

This truth doesn’t mean I’m guaranteed what I want. Nor does it promise the result will be comfortable and easy.

It does mean that God’s answer will manifest in His timing and is guaranteed to be the best solution.

Pause to reflect on this truth this week.
God keeps His Word.
He is not a man that he could change or lie.
God keeps His Word.

Let it change your perspective, your thoughts, and your actions today.

 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Redefining Challenge

And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8

Two more days and Peter would have turned 17. 17! That fact hits hard at times. I desperately miss sharing life with him. Earlier this week I wept at the longing. It never ends. It never changes. It’s always there.

You might have one of those kinds of challenges too. It might not be the loss of your child, though it could be. It might be the loss of a parent, a sibling, or someone else close.

It might be financial hardship you can never overcome. It might be a loveless marriage or remaining single. It might be your status as care giver or your own chronic pain.

But whatever the circumstance, this challenge is defined by endless, hard, overwhelming, and pain. How could it be God’s best?

This week as I sat in tears I did what I’ve finally grown confident in doing. I took my pain to God. I didn’t run to him in anger. I didn’t beg for him to end it. I turned to him simply in the reality of my pain.

God, get me through.
Through this wilderness.
Through this darkness.
Through this cross.

And God brought to mind the perspective of Oswald Chambers. He spoke about God’s silences. In reference to Jesus choice to wait to come when Lazarus died, he said

“God’s silences are His answers. Think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything analogous to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking for a visible answer?...His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into a marvelous understanding of Himself…He saw that you could stand a bigger revelation.”

Through that God taught me to redefine challenge. He showed me to look at the challenge – this endless grief – with eyes of faith, eyes of trust. He gave me a new synonym for challenge: Opportunity.

When we face challenges, they are simply gifts of God’s grace for us to understand him, to experience Him, in a deeper, more intimate way.

The missing of my boys feels endless. It will last until I see Jesus and then them face to face. But it will end.

In the meantime God has given me a unique opportunity to lean hard on Him. Every time the grief swells, I get the opportunity to witness His comfort, to receive His strength, to experience Him in a special way.

God trusts me with this.

And God trusts you. He trusts you to lean hard on Him. He trusts you are ready to know more about Him. He trusts you to experience Him in a way that you can in turn share with others.

It’s hard, this trust. I remember many days in the walking out of Andrew’s and Peter’s illnesses when I cried out to God how nothing seemed worth this. How could He be so cruel? To them? To me?

But that was a voice of fear. That was a voice of distrust.

When Jesus cried out on the cross, My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?, I think the answer to that question gave Jesus strength. Could remembering the why of His obedience, provide the sustaining strength to obey?

May Chamber’s words provide an answer to your why and strengthen you as well.

Yes it is hard. But God has allowed us an opportunity in our challenge, an opportunity to experience Him in a new, deep and meaningful way. Press into Him, into that revelation. The comfort, wisdom and strength He gives will not only change your world, but in time, become a revelation to give to others. May our lives make Him known.

Father God, you see this hard place. You see my pain. You see my weariness. Don’t let me be overcome with fear. Thank you for trusting me with this challenge, this opportunity, to know you deeper. That is a hard thing to pray. Especially right now. Deep down I know it’s true. Let its truth seep into my heart and give me peace. Be the comfort I need right now. Let me experience your everlasting faithfulness, a faithfulness that lasts much longer than my pain. Let me experience your strength, a strength more powerful than my pain and fatigue. Let me experience your provision, resources greater than the deep pit in which I sit. You’ve trusted me with this opportunity to know you greater. Help me see your hand. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Questions


Music is such a critical tool in my life. God uses it regularly to speak into my heart, to challenge me, to instruct. This week two songs intersected and their words keep ringing through my thoughts.
As I worked out this week, Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, Take Another Step, from his Glorious Awakening CD came onto my iTouch. The bridge of the song jumped out at me:
If there is an ocean in front of you,
You know what you’ve got to do:
Take another step and another step.
Maybe he’ll turn the water into land
Or maybe he’ll take your hand and say
Let’s take a walk on the waves
Will you trust me either way
And take another step?
 
God always knows the best way to deal with the oceans in our lives. Our challenge is trusting his choice. We want the water turned into land, into familiar, into known. But sometimes he does ask us to walk on the waves. The key question, for my life…, for your life… is Will you trust me either way?
Then as that question continued to churn within, Oceans by Hillsong United came on the radio as I drove to school. The lyrics continued the challenge:
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
 
Will I allow my trust to grow so that it has no borders?
Can I reach a point of no end to my trust?
Will the depths of the waters, the height of the waves, the absence of familiar, the lack of control no longer inhibit my trust?
And even more importantly, do I have the courage to pray those words?
Do I really want to trust?
Am I willing to do whatever, go wherever, to develop that kind of trust, that kind of faith, that kind of intimacy with the Father?
Is He my greatest desire?
 
These are the questions wrestling within this week. Do they resonate within your heart as well?
My mind says yes, this is what I want. But my heart knows it will come at a cost, a cost worth paying for sure, but a cost nonetheless.
Father give me the courage to truly say yes … yes with all my mind, all my heart, all my body, all my soul. Lead me to a trust without borders. Help me to trust regardless if we walk on water or land. May I settle for nothing less than You.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Getting Real

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

Are you familiar with Oswald Chamber’s classic My Utmost For His Highest?  This week’s series of readings have dealt with the concept of sin. It challenged my understanding to the point I’m still processing on it. So I thought I’d bring it to our conversation here this week.
 
In his text, Chambers claims sin is not wrong doing, it is wrong being: deliberate and emphatic independence of God.
 
So often have I struggled over the concept of sin as the individual actions I’ve taken contrary to God’s commands? …times I’ve stretched the truth, times I puffed in pride instead of bowed in humility, times I’ve spoken angry words to strike pain instead of offering grace or peace or forgiveness. But it wasn’t each individual action that is a sin.
 
Based on Chamber’s perspective, sin is the root behind all of those actions: the motive.
 
The disposition of sin is not immorality and wrong doing, but the disposition of self-realization -- I am my own god.
 
The problem with my above choices is not the individual actions but this mindset, this disposition, that I can do what I want rather than what God wants. THIS is sin.
 
Chambers claims this disposition may work out in decorous morality or in indecorous immorality, but it has the one basis, my claim to my right to myself.
 
The concept of sin deals with my decision to call the shots. Will I declare myself independent and in charge, or will I live surrendered? Will I try to control my destiny or will I release control to God?
 
This is what salvation, dependence on Christ, is all about.
 
I must confess as I look back over my 40+ years of walking with Jesus, I can’t always say I’ve lived surrendered even though I desired Jesus’ forgiveness of my sin.
 
So many years I still tried to tell God how he should handle my life. My prayers were about my comfort, my future, my goals and dreams. Then when His will interrupted my life with the boys’ illnesses, it became very apparent what resided in my heart. I wanted to follow God as long as He did things my way. When He didn’t, I didn’t want to follow. I didn’t want to live surrendered. I questioned His right to lead as He chose. I questioned His right to my children and taking control of their lives. I challenged His authority.
 
That my friends is sin right there.
Black and White.
No getting around it.
 
We face this decision every second of every day.
Will I obey?
 
When I’m stressed and worried, will I turn to God and trust in His provision? Or will I seek false comfort in my snack foods and the momentary pleasures and distraction of physical sensation?
 
When life gets overwhelming, will I bend my knee in prayer and cast all my cares on God or will I pick up the phone and vent my frustration to a friend who has no power to fix my problem?
 
When someone causes pain and inconvenience, whether intentional or not, will I strike back in vengeance or offer the same grace God granted me?
 
These are some of my challenges. The sin nature in me deals with one thing alone: will I obey? The issue is control not the individual manifestations. That’s why it says in James 4:17, So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (emphasis added)
 
Because I have declared my dependence on Jesus Christ and asked him to change this disposition, I now have His character, His disposition, in me. But as I live out my salvation, I have to choose. Who will I let live? Will I insist on my desires, my rights, my wants? Or will I let His character manifest in me instead?
 
Walking with Jesus is not about following rules. It’s about following Him. And when where He leads contradicts my comfort and convenience, I have a choice to make. This is where it gets real.
 
Will I die to self and let Him reign?
Will I trust Him?
Is my love and obedience and allegiance to Jesus more important than anything else in my life, in my mind, in my heart?
 
This is what it means to live surrendered.
This is what I want to define my life, my choices, my actions.
 
After thinking on all of these ideas this week, these questions continue to stir my soul.
 
If I’ve declared my dependence upon Christ, do I really trust Him?
Will I really follow wherever He leads?
Will I obey whatever He tells me to do?
 
May they challenge your heart as well.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Computer Issues

Just a heads up that I'm having computer issues. My video card is acting up and I can't see a thing on my screen! So bear with me while I work to get things fixed/updated.  I promise to get back to posting within a week.

Juli