Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Patience, NOW!

Are you waiting? I am. It seems like there is always something I am longing for, looking toward, or praying to completion. I can find myself so engrossed in the future that I forget about the present. Today. Now. This beautiful day created for us by God, a day we can look to him and follow his will, a day where we should walk with him moment by moment. It seems simple, but too often our gaze is so firmly fixed on the future that the present slips by unnoticed. But back to the future. :) 

Why do we want tomorrow's blessings today?

Beth Moore gives some great words in her Esther study, and here's one: it's hard to balance passion with patience. Think about that. Those things about which we are most passionate are the very ones we long to see complete, the ones for which we petition God, the ones that drive us to dream about tomorrow. These are the things that make us forget who is in control. 

I guess I've grown a little impatient lately, because the Lord has bombarded me with scripture and studies on patience. It amazes me how God works! He has shown me time and time again that He is in control and I just better not forget it. Having said that, let me allow him to work through His word. Consider this:
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!     Isaiah 30:18  
Here is something I learned. This blew me away. Look at the words I put in italics. They are THE SAME word in Hebrew. The Lord longs to bless us just as we long for him to do it. The Lord waits to bless us but those who wait will be blessed. We wait together! How incredible is it that we share this with Him! OK, but He is God. He doesn't have to wait. 

So why does He? 

God sees everything. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. We are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "There is a time for everything." And there is. There is a time for God to bless us. He longs to bless us now, but He knows our future and He will not act until the time is perfect.

So we wait. Here are scriptures to ponder today (got to make the most of it!) while you wait for your time to come:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight."   Proverbs 3:5
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:3 (italics mine)
We have joy set before us, don't we? Are we willing to endure our cross until the time is right for our joy to arrive? Phillippians 4:19 answers to those who wait:
"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
He will meet all your needs, according to his riches in Christ. Worth waiting for, isn't it? Poor Lazarus had to wait. He waited two days for Jesus to come and heal him. Lazarus died. But his death wasn't without purpose:
"Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Then he said to his disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.'"  John 11:5-7
When Jesus arrived in Judea, Lazarus had died.  And that was perfect. Jesus knew when Lazarus' death would take place and waited for it to pass before he returned. The wait presented the opportunity for Jesus to perform a miracle greater than healing disease. It gave him the opportunity to raise Lazarus from the dead. By doing so, he showed the disciples his power over death. He performed a miracle central to our faith, resurrection from the dead.  I am sure Lazarus and his loved ones longed for his healing. The disciples surely raised eyebrows when Jesus chose to wait two days after hearing of Lazarus' sickness. Why not now? they thought. In the end, Jesus blessed Lazarus with healing. And by waiting, he accomplished much more.

Finally, lest you fall captive to weariness and lose sight of God, read the words of Jeremiah 29:11-14. They give hope for the future, and a plan for now.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.'"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A fresh perspective

The Bible amazes me. This morning I read a familiar story and its effect reminded me of a hymn I sang during childhood: 

"Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me."

The words of the Bible, although unchanging, are able to fall afresh on our hearts. Each time we study scripture, there lies the possibility of unearthing buried treasure. This morning I read about the miracle of Jesus walking on water. It has always been just that....the miracle where Jesus walks on water. But today I read the passage differently. I focused on the disciples. Have you ever wondered why they were so scared when Jesus appeared to them on the water? They thought he was a ghost! The very one who already performed miracles before them, the one they laid down their lives to follow, it was he who shocked them by showing up on the water. I'm sure the sight of a figure walking on water made them jump, but was it really such a surprise? Are we surprised when our Lord shows up? Should have the disciples, in their faith, called out to him? Should they have expected him? 

Do we?

This fresh perspective confirmed the day's words of my devotional: God is a God of abundance. He doesn't run out of miracles, or answers, time to listen to requests, or ability to answer prayer. He is a God of details. He is everywhere. We can expect Him to be with us always. But the disciples didn't expect Jesus to show up. There are times I haven't either. This is not the faith that says, "He won't come." It is not the faith that says, "He will come." It is the faith that has not yet grasped how big our God is. We believe, but we don't yet expect.

And the disciples? They fought strong wind and rough waters in their attempt to row to shore. Then Jesus came aboard, and "immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. "  

Expect God, in His abundance, to help you reach your shore. 


Monday, March 16, 2009

Prayers for Africa

Africa is a continent in need.  There exists war, hunger, and disease, which lead to war atrocities, starvation, an orphan crisis, homelessness, slavery, and corruption. This is a partial list. The bottom line is simple...Africa is a continent in need. 

There are videos and stories that will break your heart. Children left to starve. Women used. Young boys forced to fight and kill. Death due to preventable disease. Unimaginable situations are common. I don't know how I ever looked past the plight of these people. It is devastating, yet it was once so easy to look past it as someone else's problem. Now, it is my problem. It is our problem. These are God's children, and they suffer.  What will we do?

God is moving in Africa. I despair over the pain and suffering and hopelessness and heartache that continue, but I rejoice because I know He is there.  I watch Him use His people to introduce hope. Hope comes in many forms. It arrives through gifts of clean water, orphan care, mosquito nets, adoption, medical care, church-planting, and refugee assistance. The greatest of these is the Hope found in Christ. Africa needs a Savior.

I am privileged to know a few of God's people who serve Africa. Following are links to their blogs and websites. I also will include others I follow. Please take a moment to read their stories and learn how God is using them to reach the people of Africa. Please pray for them. As you become more aware of the needs in Africa, please pray for your role. Each of us may not be called as missionaries or to adopt, but we all are called to serve those in need.  


Adoption: Hood Family


Articles of Awareness
warning: content may be graphic

This list is far from complete. Please send me your ideas and I will include them! 

Please continue to pray for the African people and thank God for the work He is doing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Surrender and the Church Lady

God's call to wholly surrender my life to Him came several months ago. I shared the experience here. Surrender is not an isolated event without lasting consequences. It is a long-term deal that continuously calls us to release control to God. I withheld pockets of my life and in spite of the ones I surrendered, the few I kept were thorns in my side. He allowed me to release them and, WOW, do I feel free. The release allows Him to move freely within, around, and through us. I want to share with you His movement in my life since I "let it all go," with the hope it might encourage you to do the same.

My children are a source of struggle for me. Hang on, that's not what it sounds like! I have a plan for their future, and it is hard for me to imagine anything different. God's call to surrender demanded change and coincided with some decisions we faced regarding our children. Nice timing, isn't it? I couldn't help but notice how tightly I held the reins of their future. Thankfully God intervened. He allowed me to more fully understand several things, which consequently provided the peace I needed to let go. First, they are His children, entrusted to my care. He knows what is best. Second, He sees their lives from a much greater perspective than I. He knows their future; I imagine it. Finally, their lives were created to fulfill His will, not mine. Is that not what we hope and pray for, that our children will pursue His will for their lives? Then we, too, should pursue His will for their lives. It begins in the decisions we make for them every day. And what became of the decision we faced? I tried to beat down the door I wanted opened to near exhaustion. I finally gave it up and handed it to God. It took a lot of prayer and determination to "walk by faith," but I released. Enter God. Within weeks, He graciously opened the door I tried many times to beat down. I had the most joyful run of my life (with what seemed like endless energy) after the door opened and could think of nothing to offer but, "Thank you, Father. Thank you! Thank you!" God is so good, and so kind. He gives far more than I deserve.

Our Father places ideas in our minds and passions in our hearts. It is one of the Spirit's ways of accomplishing His work through us. Of course, we must listen. I allowed numerous ideas to wither and die. The call to surrender challenged me to follow His lead when His inspiration strikes. The blog is one example of listening to Him. Another is my post about my passion for Africa and dream to establish a school there. I walked far out a high limb to place into public view a dream of mine for which I had NO PLAN. How many times did I think, What if this doesn't work? How stupid will I look if this never happens? The fear of failure can be a huge stumbling block, but I've seen God shine through other's weakness and I have faith He will do the same for me.  So I put the vision on the blog. Enter God. I received an email from a friend who had read the post. She has ideas..... and contacts. Suddenly, out of the clear blue sky, my "no plan" vision is taking shape. It is a plan that could really make this happen, Lord willing. It was as easy as starting a blog I didn't want to start and sharing a vision I wanted to keep secret. Thank you, Father!! He is all about the details. 

There is one other side-effect of surrender that I experienced. I will again, for sure. This one needs a warning, so here's a clue:

Put on your church lady face and say it with me: "Could it beeeeeeeeeeee.....Satan?" Yes, it's true, surrendering to God's will is a tried and true method of inviting in the Enemy. It just happened to me. First, please believe me that I am not an angry person. I can't remember the last time I was burning mad about something. Surprise, surprise, I recently felt anger take root in my heart and grow like kudzu. I was so mad I could have spit fire, blown steam out of my ears, and worn a path around the house from stomping my feet so hard. I did not know how to handle it. It never happens to me. Why now? Only when I noticed the "coincidental" timing between my surrender and my festering anger did the fighter in me come to life. I remembered a recent lesson from my bible study, and please take note because I don't want to scare off anyone from surrender! Here's the good news:
The Enemy never wins.
God reigns supreme over everything. There is no victory to be had for the Enemy, but there is distraction. Distraction disables us. Anger took my focus off God. If it consumes me, I will slowly withdraw from pursuing His will, and the Enemy wins. The Lord showed me that I needed simply to refocus.....on Him. Sometimes I have to be very deliberate in directing my thoughts. The spiritual weapons found in Ephesians 6:13-17 are invaluable when we sense the Enemy lurking. The following scripture, too, encourages us as we fight:
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (italics mine)
Our Father wants to accomplish His purpose in our lives. I felt God pulling at my heart, asking for every bit of it. I experienced the peace that accompanies surrender. I marvel now as He accomplishes His purpose in a way that brings me great, unexpected joy. I watch as He attends to the tiniest of details. I praise Him because I am overwhelmed.

Father, reveal to us the reins still clenched in our hands and give us the strength to release them to You.  Help us demolish the stongholds of the Enemy as we take captive our thoughts and make them obedient to You. Open our eyes that we may see you at work around us. Help us focus, Lord, that we may be the vessels You use to accomplish Your purpose. Thank you for the joy we find in You.

Friday, March 06, 2009

What's Your IQ?

There is an advertisement online that challenges us to a battle of IQ's against a celebrity. Picture an image of Simon Cowell with a "122" over his head (we're supposed to believe that's his IQ) and the question, "Think you're smarter?" I've never clicked the ad. I can take one look at the photo and give a yes or no, although that may be a bit shallow on my part. However, I can think of one reason I might take the challenge: Simon Cowell is a huge, international star. I am not, and for the sake of argument, say that bothers me. I'll feel better about myself if I take the test and somehow, my IQ is higher than his. He may be rich and famous, but at least I'm smarter. I can forever look at his photo and say (think in your best Simon accent), "You are horrrrrendous!"  

Why do we try to measure the intelligence and worth of those around us? Why do we compare? Why do we do whatever it takes to make ourselves look good? Why do we slip negative comments about others into conversation? There are many answers to these questions. We feel inferior. We are insecure. We put too much stock in other people's opinions. We feel threatened. We want to be better than everyone else. 

We miss the point of who we are in Christ when our worth resides outside of Him. Ephesians 1:4 states, 
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."
 He chose us to be forgiven through Christ so we can be holy and blameless in his sight. We will always find someone smarter or richer than ourselves but we will never find one who values us more than God.  We also miss the unique destiny He created for each of us.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
He values us, He has plans for us......why shouldn't He be our focus and why wouldn't we want to find our worth in the One who holds us in such high esteem?

Our worth in Christ and our destiny in Him is not lost due to our weaknesses. He accepts our weakness, but we point out each other's and find shame in our own.  The Lord said to Paul in Second Corinthians,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
 His grace fills the gap of our imperfection. He can use us for His purpose not only in spite of our weaknesses, but because of them.  Society mocks weakness and finds fault, but even the most weak and faulty vessels can be filled with His light and used for His service. Second Corinthians 4:7 claims,
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

Do not be caught in the snare of "other people." The disappointment that awaits when we live our life in comparison to or guided by others is great. Go to the place where every IQ is high, every profession is worthy, and every weakness can be strength. It is in Christ. 

Happy weekend!