Thursday, December 31, 2009

Clearer Vision

“Then I saw…” Revelation 21:1

Just as John shared his visions of “a new heaven and a new earth”, I’ve been reflecting over all the Lord has shown me this past year as I’ve walked daily through His Word. I too have seen the Lord in the pages of Genesis to Revelation.

I believe Aaron Jeoffrey says it best in his writing, “He Is”. As you read the following, stop and pause. Have you met Him on each line and in each phrase as we've walked a sacred journey this year?

He Is
by Aaron Jeoffrey

In Genesis, He's the breath of life
In Exodus, the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus, He's our High Priest
Numbers, The fire by night
Deuteronomy, He's Moses' voice
In Joshua, He is salvation's choice
Judges, law giver
In Ruth, the kinsmen-redeemer
First and Second Samuel, our trusted prophet
In Kings and Chronicles, He's sovereign
Ezra, the true and faithful scribe
Nehemiah, He's the rebuilder of broken walls and lives
In Esther, He's Mordecai's courage
In Job, the timeless redeemer
In Psalms, He is our morning song
In Proverbs, wisdom's cry
Ecclesiastes, the time and season
In the Song of Solomon, He is the lover's dream
He is, He is, HE IS!
In Isaiah, He's Prince of Peace
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet
In Lamentations, the cry for Israel
Ezekiel, He's the call from sin
In Daniel, the stranger in the fire
In Hosea, He is forever faithful
In Joel, He's the Spirits power
In Amos, the arms that carry us
In Obadiah, He's the Lord our Savior
In Jonah, He's the great missionary
In Micah, the promise of peace
In Nahum, He is our strength and our shield
In Habakkuk and Zephaniah, He's pleading for revival
In Haggai, He restores a lost heritage
In Zechariah, our fountain
In Malachi, He is the son of righteousness rising with healing in His wings
He is, He is, HE IS!
In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, He is God, Man, Messiah
In the book of Acts, He is fire from heaven
In Romans, He's the grace of God
In Corinthians, the power of love
In Galatians, He is freedom from the curse of sin
Ephesians, our glorious treasure
Philippians, the servants heart
In Colossians, He's the Godhead Trinity
Thessalonians, our coming King
In Timothy, Titus, Philemon He's our mediator and our faithful Pastor
In Hebrews, the everlasting covenant
In James, the one who heals the sick.
In First and Second Peter, he is our Shepherd
In John and in Jude, He is the lover coming for His bride
In the Revelation, He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords
He is, He is, HE IS!
The prince of peace
The Son of man
The Lamb of God
The great I AM
He's the alpha and omega
Our God and our Savior
He is Jesus Christ the Lord and when time is no more
He is, HE IS!

As I've pondered all the ways that I have seen the Lord this year, another truth has been unveiled. I saw the Lord, but He also saw me. He saw the days I awoke extra early, anticipating His Word with excitement. He saw the days when sun had almost set before I made time for Him. He saw each joy and sorrow. He heard each laugh and held each tear. He captured each thought and knew each word. He never took His eyes off of me for one second. He was my Beginning and End of 2009.

Sharing with you over this past year has been a pure delight. You have so often been champion, encourager, listener, accountability partner, prayer warrior, teacher, but most of all friend. It's hard saying 'goodbye', yet it's to answer a call to God's new 'hello'.

"I'm not sure anything has ever been harder for me - the utterance of goodbyes, the playing out of them, their finality, their void, their distance. Yet there are some distances, some chasms, some signing offs that are purely necessary for life to blossom. Certain things...keep us from new hellos. They deserve a farewell." "Still we cling because the...familiar is often more comfortable than the foreign amazing." (Kelly Minter, "No Other Gods")

God is asking me to take hold of the passing of a new torch for next years race. Just as each Olympic runner only holds this symbol of the race for a brief time, the igniting of the flame of our life is short. Our days are numbered. The distance of each run already determined. We must run with excellence and obedience. The Lord is leading down a different path for 2010, but one day I pray I'll meet you all at the Finish Line. Let's keep running to win.

"As surely as the ones which passed - we've miles left to go
Despite your inconsistencies, Oh, child, I'll love you so
You'll one day hold this journal, too and think of where you've been
Ink-filled pages tying those beginnings to their ends
You'll find those same old words - they'll puzzle you again
Lined face will sigh and wonder,
'And I thought I loved you then.'"
(Beth Moore, final stanza of "The Journal".)

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.
Amen. So be it. Amen.



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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Momentary Rapture

“Come with me” Revelation 17:1

“There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads;
A place than all besides more sweet,
It is the blood-bought mercy seat.”
From the hymn, “From Every Stormy Wind that Blows” by Hugh Stowell

It was a year ago I heard God’s call to “come with Me”.

Come with Me, through the pages of My Word. Take a journey from Paradise Lost to Paradise Found. Beyond the people, events and history, meet Me afresh. Go deeper into My heart. Discover Me anew.

As the year closes the Lord is repeating His call. A call to come deeper still. Another invitation is being extended. His desire that He might refill me with His Spirit, renew me with His love, refresh me with His presence, refocus my priorities, revive my heart, restore my vision, and remove sinful thoughts and ways.

We all need regular, repeated times of rest, refreshment and renewal. Life can rob us of life and we need to retreat into Christ. To the extent that we live in His presence, we are filled with His joy.

Just as God told Noah to build, Daniel to pray, Jonah to go, Joshua to march, Rahab to hide, Moses to leave, His call to me is come.

Answering the call to a daily, momentary rapture.

Risking my heart to rediscover You.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Call of the Wild

“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days” Revelation 12:6

The wilderness. A place of spiritual refuge and protection.

I’m feeling the call to flee into a place of wilderness. A place where I must walk alone, where amazing things are hidden and require deep digging.

For the past 363 days thus far, I have been committed to sharing His Word here as I’ve pondered in His presence. I am so thankful to God’s faithfulness and humbled by His invitation to share my heart in this way. It has been quite a journey and has carried me through the seasons of 2009 well. Every paragraph, sentence and word has flowed from a heart seeking Him alone. But now the wilderness beckons.

The treasure in the wilderness? God. The wilderness purifies the soul of everything that hinders our relationship with God and our ability to serve Him. The Lord is asking me the same two questions He asked Hagar in the desert, “…where have you come from, and where are you going?”

As 2009 is drawing to a close, God is asking me to stand on my “red dot”, my current place of location, and take a look at where I am. Just like those mall maps indicate position with a “red dot” proclaiming, “You are here”, the Lord desires that I assess, answer and then accept His invitation and come away. My wilderness experience will become my identity. God is asking me to see Him as all sufficient. The One who supplies. He is protector and provider and will be all the resource needed for the wilderness.

I’m reminded of Deuteronomy 8 where God led His people through the wilderness. A place where God revealed hearts, humbled, increased hunger, fed in ways that thrilled, disciplined and tested. He bought them out, to bring them in.

In to His presence, purposes and promised land. There is so much that God needs to work on, and in me, so that I can emerge pure and prepared for ministry.

Christ entered His wilderness full of the Spirit and came out in the power of the Spirit. Father, my prayer is that I may do the same.



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Monday, December 28, 2009

Sealed

For Renee. Love ya friend.

"And I saw another angel coming up from the east, carrying the seal of the living God." Rev.7:2

According to the NLT Life Application Bible, a seal on a scroll or document identified and protected its contents.

My mind recalls just a few days ago while my son was writing Christmas cards. He had purchased three special cards, and after signing them, he was searching the bag for the "gold crown" seal that Hallmark always supplies with each card purchase. This time the saleslady had forgotten. There were no stickers in the bag. My son was so disappointed. He wanted that final fastener fixed. A declaration of identification, completion and authenticity.

There is another crown that declares identification, completion and authenticity as well. It is a seal of assurance and security. It establishes our salvation and confirms our heritage. It is a crown of thorns. This symbol of redemption reminds us of Christ's sacrfice, suffering and promises.

God places His own seal upon our lives, declaring we are His own, guaranteeing His protection over our souls. We are of great value to Him, and nothing can touch us, or pass His seal on our lives, that He doesn't allow.

If you have received Christ as your Savior, you can rest assured today that God's seal on you has been firmly fastened. You are held secure, identified as His, and no-one else can break His seal over your life. Absolutely nothing can disturb that seal without His permission. Your life is contained by His.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wake Up Call

“Wake up!” Revelation 3:2

Can I be brutally honest and admit that I wasn’t looking forward to reading the book of Revelation? There’s so much I question and don’t fully understand. I like “feel good” passages and scripture that challenges my daily walk and calls me to a deeper commitment, but I struggle with comprehending much of the teaching in this final book of God’s Word. Yet, today, my heart is so full, I hardly know where to begin. God definitely has woken me from apathy to John’s inspired writing here.

Today’s reading began with a call to “Wake up!” God is calling us not to sleep on the pillow of past accomplishments. Don’t be chronic reminiscer’s, but vibrantly alive with a weekly God story. God is speaking. Calling us from yesterdays longing of contentment to today’s yearning for holiness.

Do we need to summon spiritual smelling salts? We can’t drift into spiritual vibrancy. It takes a drastic move on our part. Are we awake? Faith that acts alive IS alive. God says that those who are awake, “walk with me” (vs. 4). WOW!

Revelation 3:8 tells us that God has “opened a door” for us. He has placed before us an open door. New possibilities. I don’t want to be known as one who had potential, but as one who seized opportunities. Any thresholds I need to cross today?

No “lukewarm” faith that was evidenced in the church of Laodicea, described in Revelation 3:16. Are you aware of the geographical position of Laodicea? It is located between Colossae, a place with snow peaks, and Hierapolis, known for it’s hot springs. Hot is therapeutic and cold is refreshing, but, in between, lukewarm is useless. The church there was described as “blind” and “naked”. They were a leading country in the areas of eye care and clothing. They said they were rich (vs. 17), but there is a wealth that leads to spiritual poverty.

The Lord says, let Me come in and dine with you (vs. 20). The original word used here is translated “dinner”, not breakfast or lunch. Dining implies lingering long and sharing fellowship around the table. That’s God’s desire.

Oh friends, let’s heed God’s morning alarm call to wake up from coasting and complacency, finishing this year with renewed commitment and enthusiasm. A door stands open before us today.

(Some thoughts today inspired by a couple of different messages I've heard my Pastor, Pastor Rick Baker, share over five years ago.)



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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Our Keeper

“Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you…” Jude 24

God’s promises are practical and personal. He is able to keep you. Keep you.

It’s a continued action. He retains possession. He prevents. He perseveres. He provides. He protects. He maintains. He supplies. He sustains. He supports.

However, being able to do these things does not guarantee that He will. God is ready and willing, but we must continue to look to Him in trust and obedience. There is never a deficiency in His power, but there may be in our faith.

I love how the book of Jude begins and ends with God’s keeping power. “I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ.” (vs.1) This keeping power is not just a benediction (vs. 24), but an invocation, as He invites us to trust His keeping ability.

Remember today that you are as secure as God is able.



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Friday, December 25, 2009

There

“Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.” 3 John 15

Personal greetings to each of our friends “there”.

This morning my thoughts wander to another ‘there’.

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” Luke 2:6

"There". A place of new beginnings.

“There”. The place were God has positioned you right now. A place of promise, provision and purpose.

Where is your “there”?

As I reflect back over this year, my “there” found our family walking unwanted paths this year. My Dad was hospitalized for eight months and our time “there” taught us patience and trust. Our “there” ushered in questions, pain and confusion, but also deeper trust and faith.

“There” also required dependence on God this year as my husband's job hung in the balance for awhile. We are so thankful that he is still employed by General Motors.

Physically my health brought challenges in another place of “there”, but God was so kind to intervene and restore.

“There” also finds my son seeking guidance for University next fall. We are praying for God’s “there” to be revealed as he sends out applications for further study.

In the next month my son will also complete his A.R.C.T. solo performer’s exam and we marvel that the Lord has brought him “there”.

Some family concerns continue to call us to walk a “there” that has us seeking God alone. Circumstances not our choice, yet still allowed through God’s sovereignty and grace.

A “there” with several new friendships has brought much delight, as God has placed us purposefully in the lives of others.

In the verse above, Mary’s place of “there” was a place of deliverance. There is something God desires to release in us, through us and around us in our place of “there”.

I pray that today will find you “there”.
“There” beside the manger.
“There” surrendered to His will.
“There” receiving God’s promise.
“There” listening to His heartbeat.
“There” surrendered in obedience.
“There” kneeling before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
“There” held in His embrace.

My prayers are with you in your place of “there”. Know wherever you are, you are loved…much loved.

Merry Christmas and God's richest blessings. May His presence be your best present today and always.

(I just read the following blog post written by my friend Leah at "The Point". Please click over and read her thoughts. She is sharing the names of God, and here she shares about Jehovah-shammah, "The Lord is there".)

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Real Deal

“Our actions show that we belong to the truth…” 1 John 3:19

In the last 24 hours, I’ve consciously held my tongue four times. Four times I’ve had opportunity to respond in a way that, although true, would truly serve no purpose, except to justify self. Four times I’ve had to pray for the Holy Spirit to guard my lips.

Almost seven years ago now, my Pastor shared a sermon entitled, “Are You the Real Deal?” In his message he shared four proofs that serve as tests of authenticity. We find those proofs in our reading today.

1. Right Choices: The Moral Test (1 John 2:3-6)
Too often our tendency is to be selective in our obedience. We do what is easy and convenient or what seems “important”. We obey “Thou shall not murder” and “Thou shall not steal”, but what about tithing or stealing someone else’s reputation? Each act of obedience moves us one step closer to Jesus.

2. Right Love: The Social Test (1 John 2:7-17)
A selfless love saves you from stumbling (2:10). A seductive love leads you to sin (2:15-17). A couple of tests for true love are found in answering the following two questions: How easily am I offended? And “How quickly do I diminish other’s accomplishments?

3. Right Belief: The Doctrinal Test (1 John 2:18-28) We are to remain in community (2:19); remain in original teaching (2:24); and remain in Christ (2:24,27).

4. Right Living: The Parentage Test (1 John 2:29-3:10)
We should show evidence of some family resemblance. The DNA of God is placed in us at salvation and it cannot be removed. Does my life reflect my Father?

Jesus obeyed the Father, loved people, believed doctrine and lived right. Our life is the best proof of Christianity. Are you the "real deal"?



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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Know Him

“…know him…” 2 Peter 1:3

I’ve been on an intentional, concentrated journey to “know Him” through His Word, since January 1st of this year. There is such a vast difference between knowing about God and actually knowing God. One is head, the other is heart. Our lives change when the knowledge of God’s Word is received with understanding and personalized and applied.

I had a friend encourage me years ago to stop attending Christian conferences, stop reading Christian literature and start living. Although her directive may seem a bit harsh, I was well aware of the point she was trying to make. It is tragic, that as believers, we can sometimes have so much spiritual education with so little true understanding. So much learning and so little life.

There’s an old hymn that I just love. The chorus says, “Jesus I am resting in the joy of what Thou art, I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.”

Have you been finding out that greatness this year? Do you know Him better today, than yesterday? Not because you’ve read more, but because you’ve experienced more.

I want to share a poem with you today that I wrote back in February of 2005. I’m sure most of you reading this, whether you’ve received Jesus into your heart or not, are familiar with the childhood chorus, “Jesus Loves Me”. That song is profound. As children probably many of us learned that song quickly and sang it easily, but has the message truly penetrated your life? Do you really know Him and have you personally experienced His love for you?

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
How often I have sung those words
My mind believes, my hearts not heard

I long to feel His warm embrace
Or look into His precious face
To see His smile, sense His touch
And yet I feel I ask too much

So many times I've claimed this truth
For others, and I've seen it proved
But for myself I can't believe
And in my heart His love receive

For who am I to ask for this
Awaken with the Kings own kiss
A love that's found in fairytales
But on the cross became the nails

Oh, can't I see He died for me
For me He came to set me free
He calls me now to be His bride
Oh why still do I run and hide

Ashamed of how my life has been
The secrets only He has seen
The darkest places of my heart
He really wants to love that part?

My child, I love you as you are
You never can wander out so far
That My love does not woo you still
It is your heart I long to fill

With all of Me, My hopes and dreams
I have plans for you you've never seen
Stop trying now to understand
Just reach out and take My hand

With trembling soul I looked at Him
And suddenly all else grew dim
How could I doubt the love I saw
That beckoned me closer to draw

Oh Lord, I said, You've waited long
For me to know, accept this song
You love me, yes, You really do
And Father, Savior, I love You.

(Joy Brown, February 2005)

Praying you will truly "know Him" and His love for you today.



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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cast Away

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7

While looking up this verse on BibleGateway, I noticed that most translations use the word “cast” in place of “give”. Give is to place; cast is to project. Give is a transfer; cast is a throwing. Give is to cause to have; cast is to cause to hurl. 'Cast’ seems to be accompanied with more force and desire. There’s a deep longing to rid oneself of the burden of concern.

I don’t know about you, but my fishing line often gets tangled. Instead of casting, I keep. My life gets bound and overwhelmed with all that I need to surrender and cast away. Why? Because too often I hold the “line” too long. Casting implies a quick, sudden motion. I need to take my concerns to God immediately. Holding onto and meditating on cares only increases the burden to my heart.

We don’t throw away, but we throw onto. We don’t run away, but we run into. We reject the worry, refuse to be burdened with anxiety and rest in the Lord.

I awoke this morning around 5am. Many worries and cares have filled my mind. I have a friend who is not only waiting for Dr’s results for herself, but caring for her mom just coming through surgery, adjusting to life after recently adopting a little girl, making deadlines for a book publication, travelling with speaking opportunities, the busyness of being a wife and mother of three children, and she just heard news that her dad requires quadruple bypass open heart surgery tomorrow. God is saying, cast all your cares on Me.

My heart was saddened yesterday upon hearing that another friend lost her dad very unexpectedly on the weekend. He had gone to the church to turn on the heat in preparation for Sunday’s services, and upon returning home he commented to his wife that he wasn’t feeling well and moments later he was gone. God is saying, cast all your cares on Me.

Another friend very recently lost her son to cancer. He was only 12 years old. It was a horrendous four month battle. Although he is now completely healed, this families life is forever changed. God is saying, cast all your cares on Me.

Yet another friend has expressed that the previous 7 days have felt like 30! The death of two precious people, the death of a marriage, a friend's job loss, a friend with some serious health news, a single mom with complicated health issues while battling custody issues, another single mom with custody issues, and she says believe it or not the list goes on. God is saying, cast all your cares on Me.

I travel a personal path not burden free either. Daily worry fills my mind. Health concerns. Questions about my son’s future. Economic and employment related anxieties. Relationship struggles. The weight of unsaved family and friends. The stress of the season. A prodigal nephew living contrary to God’s Word. God is saying, cast all your cares on Me.

Psalm 55:22 echoes this directive. “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Father, sometimes it's impossible to find enough strength to cast. Our concerns have left us weak and overwhelmed. Thank You that if we just breathe the word, You enable the release. Father...they are Yours. Thank You for caring for me.

PS. Since originally posting this writing, I have learned another lesson. After writing the above, I decided to put my own words into practice. I physically began going through the motion of 'casting' my cares onto the Lord. I made a discovery. I'm good at the casting out, but unfortunately even better at the reeling back in. The Lord only calls us to cast. Needing to leave my 'line' out at sea.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Eat Up!

"Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness." 1 Peter 2:2-3

Taste and see that the Lord is good. It's an individual, personal tasting. Second-hand savoring isn't good enough.

God's Word provides all the nourishment we need and the more we feed on His truths the more our spiritual appetite will increase. One way to mature in Christ is by feasting on His Word. Nibbling and sampling doesn't suffice. As my Pastor shared in a sermon once, God's banqueting table is full. Every imaginable delicacy is available. Are you coming hungry in need of His filling? There is no need to ever walk away empty. He is our constant supply.

Life for today requires the provision of God today. Yesterday's manna will not satisfy. Apetite is developed through consistancy. Daily intake prevents spiritual starvation. Sadly, we too often eat out of habit, and not out of hunger. Asking the Lord to increase my desire for Him, so that I will have a constant craving. With desire comes the delight of knowing that God is more than enough.

"Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;...Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance." Isaiah 54:1-2



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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Listen With Your Face

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith". Hebrews 12:2

A friend of mine was visiting with her daughter one afternoon, and as they shared some precious time of fellowship together, her 2 year old grandson played nearby. At one point the little fellow had something he wanted to tell his mommy. He called for her several times, but his mom was so caught up in her conversation, she appeared unaware of his voice that continued to gain volume, demanding her attention. In frustration, he managed to hoist his short legs up onto the couch where his mother was sitting, and standing on the cushions in front of her, he cupped her face in his sweet hands and said, 'Mommy, listen with your face'!

After hearing this story and enjoying a chuckle, I began to wonder how many times the Lord has called my name and tried to get my attention and He's been met with no response. Does He long to hold my face tenderly in His Hands and call me to "listen with my face"? When He speaks, am I really attentive or do I only give half an ear to His voice. Are distractions causing me to look away, or am I always gazing intently into my Saviors face? Has the noise of this world caused me to become hard of hearing and has His voice become a dull murmur that I ignore? Hebrews 12:25 says, "Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking."

In the Gospels we read about Peter walking on the water. He heard Christ's voice and in exuberance Peter leaps over the side of the boat and without hesitation begins defying all laws of physics as his feet are supported by the sea. Suddenly the reality of his circumstance crashes as the waves around him, and he begins to sink. He calls out to the Lord and immediately Jesus rescues his heart from its drowning faith.

In a more modern day illustration, consider 'Maggie Carpenter' in the movie, "Runaway Bride". As long as 'Maggie' kept her eyes on the groom waiting for her at the altar she continued walking down the aisle, but the moment she was distracted by the guests in the church, she turned and ran.

All three of these stories remind us where we should fix our eyes. We are the Bride of Christ and He is our Bridegroom. If we keep our gaze focused on Christ, situations around us may threaten or call for our attention, but as we look to Jesus, we will discover He will more than supply our every need. He will strengthen our faith, remove our fear and give us direction.

What is the Lord trying to tell you today? When He calls your name, give Him your undivided attention and "listen with your face".



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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Together

"...let us not neglect our meeting together..." Hebrews 10:25

Today we did not neglect meeting together. A few years ago we decided to start having our Christmas dinner a week before Christmas so that Christmas day could be more relaxing. Relatives all still come over on Christmas day, but our focus is faith, fellowship, fun and family, not frenzy, frantic and food.

Here are a few pictures from tonight. Hope you enjoy!

The table is set and ready to welcome family.

My sister and her husband delivered an edible bouquet. Delicious!

The gangs all here!

Chris and his "friend girl" Stephanie. He obviously was thinking of her while he decorated his gingerbread house! Cute!

Chris and Steph opening surprise gifts from "Santa".

The moment of discovery.

"Highschool Girl" and "Highschool Boy" t-shirts. (They sign all their notes to one another with these signatures.)

Checking out the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie trailer.

Those Chipmunks are hilarious!

My sister Japhia and I.


A happy time of celebration. Thank you Lord for family and friends.



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Friday, December 18, 2009

How's Your Grip?

“…let us hold firmly to what we believe.” Hebrews 4:14

Holding tightly to his hand, we navigated our way through the crowd. My grip on my young son was prompted by a sea of people and the fear of separation. Love wrapped itself around his palm and held on.

Another day I remember that same hold after a night of freezing rain. Driving to school was impossible. Walking was treacherous. With his little hand in mine we slid across slippery sidewalks. He was confident I wouldn’t let him fall.

Tempted to disobey, I reached over and took his hand. No, he couldn’t run over there. It was dangerous. For safety’s sake, my grip tightened. Safety from peril and sin would cue my clasp.

The verse above has caused me to access my grip on God. Is it secure? Is it a resolute hold? Is my following with firm determination? The same obstacles threaten to pry my life from His grip of grace.

Sea of people
Separation
Slippery sidewalks
Sin

Father, help me hold firmly to You. Just last night my heart was sickened by the sight of one who let go. Their life no longer following the belief they once embraced. Lord, don’t let anything or anyone pry our hands apart. When other things and other people want to hold my hand, give me courage not to make that exchange. Strengthen my grip through Your Word…through prayer…through experience. Let me hold firmly to what I believe. Let me hold tight to You.



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Thursday, December 17, 2009

His Rest

“…God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today.” Hebrews 4:7

Rest. Peace. Ease. Refreshment. Sleep. Relief from anything distressing. Inactivity. Mental and emotional calm. Tranquillity. It can also be defined as a place of shelter. Something that offers support. Silence or pause in a piece of music. What is left after part is taken away. Remainder.

If your life is anything like mine right now, it is not characterized by rest. Chaos and stress may better define your days. Hurried and harassed, your worn, worry and weary are fuelling exhaustion. The Christmas season is anything but restful.

Shopping. Wrapping. Writing. Mailing. Cooking. Preparing. Decorating. Cleaning. Visiting. Hosting. Going. Doing. No time for slowing and stopping. Robbed of rest we become discouraged and overwhelmed. Difficulties momentarily overshadow the reality of God’s presence, power, peace and promises. Uncertainties and unexpected arrive unannounced and we are unprepared.

How I long for rest, not only personally, but for several dear friends. Rest from the burden of care. Rest from the pain of separation. Rest from the ache of loss. Rest from the anxiety of the unknown. Rest from the doubt of possibility. Rest from the longing for love. Rest from the uncertainty of the economic situation. Rest from the concern over children. Rest from the strain of caring for elderly parents. Rest from the challenges in waking up every morning. Rest from the fear of failure. Rest from expectations, real and imagined.

A precious friend’s e-mail yesterday expressed this yearning for release. She wrote: “I am so weary and worn. I just want a week off from no trials and just enjoy the holiday, can you relate? I feel like I am too tired to even worry…I just want to go to sleep.”

Another friend writes of being "overwhelmed", her "mind cluttered", "crying for no reason", not understanding herself, and wondering if she is all alone. "I'm working a lot. Finances are tight. Everyone needs me and I'm depleted...I have too much on my plate."

Even early this morning I have read of three other friends expressing the following: "I need some sustaining now...The travel from last week has caught up with me." "I found myself thinking to myself alot yesterday 'WHY ME?! Why do I have to be the one that is going through this, especially right now at Christmas?' Why did God ask me to do this extremely hard thing?" "I have been up praying for my life."

We can know earthly rest, eternal rest and everlasting rest. Lord, I pray that You will fill my friends with peace that passes understanding. Your Word says that You give your beloved rest. Lord, may these dear ones trust in Your strength to enable them to let go and trust completely in You. In the midst of todays trials, may Your Spirit minister bringing hope and encouragement. Resign all into His hands. What seems difficult now is part of His plan. May God reveal Himself to you in new ways. Do not be afraid. Hold firmly to His Word. Do not walk the path of human reason. You are in His embrace. As I was so wonderfully reminded this morning, "He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command" Hebrews 1:3.

Let Him sustain you. The time to enter His rest is today. Leaning on Him, be still.



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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Serving or Servant

"No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everday life, so that he many please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." 2 Timothy 2:4

This Sunday will find me on the floor surrounded by precious little three year olds. It was just over a year ago now that my Pastor happened to mention a necessity for more workers in the area of Children's Ministries. I attend a fairly large, active, growing church and with the increase in attendance brings the need for a greater number of teachers in all our programs.

As my husband and I drove home from church that morning, I must confess to complaining in the car. I was annoyed that in a church our size we didn't have a superfluity of workers. Our demand does not exceed our supply - at least not in numbers, but maybe in willingness. I was discouraged, as once again the saying appeared to be true - 10% of the people were doing 90% of the work. After grumbling for a few moments, I decided I should keep my mouth shut. After all, I wasn't teaching in Children's Ministries!

As that Sunday afternoon wore on, I felt the Lord calling me to be open to the idea of being an answer to this need. At first I argued that although I wasn't serving in this area, I was involved in Women's Ministry and leading Bible Study. The Lord just didn't seem to accept that excuse, and by the time I was heading to bed that evening, I felt strongly convicted that I needed to respond.

To confirm God's prompting, my devotional the following morning was entitled, "We Serve God by Serving Others". All day Monday it was my intention to contact our Children's Ministry Pastor, but busyness and the tyranny of the urgent crowded out my obedience. As the day was ending I thought I had better make a list of where and when I would be available to serve. You see, my husband and I attend the early service together, so I wanted to help during the 11:00am hour. I'm not really a 'baby' person, so I definitely didn't want to work in the nursery - my diaper days were over! We have a trailer at Muskoka Bible Conference Center, so I didn't want to have to give up my summer weekends. My list continued to get longer and longer. I had quite a few stipulations. As I crawled into bed, I tucked my 'wish list' (maybe more my 'list of demands') in my Bible, promising the Lord I would send an e-mail first thing in the morning.

Bright and early Tuesday morning I reached for my laptop. True to my word, I was going to send that message and oh, how pleased everyone would be with my willingness. I was responding to God's call. As I pulled out the list I had written hours earlier, I opened my e-mail to send my message and an on-line devotional had arrived. I clicked into it. God's timing was unbelievable. The key verse might as well have been in LARGE BOLD letters. This is what I read, "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everday life, so that he many please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." 2 Timothy 2:4

The devotional went on to say that real servants make themselves available and don't limit their availability. The author wrote, "If you only serve when it's convenient for you, you're not a real servant. Are you available to God anytime? As a servant you don't get to pick and choose when or where you will serve. Being a servant means giving up the right to control your schedule and allowing God to interrupt it whenever He needs to."

With tears streaming down my face I looked at my list of demands still held in my hand. Oh Father, how could I? I am so ashamed for my lack of surrender. Wasn't it just days ago I wrote, "You are my Passion", and I told You it was my desire to say, "To the ends of the earth I will follow, there is NOTHING that I wouldn't do"? Already self had taken the throne once again.

With complete humility and abandonment I did write that e-mail. Not the one I had originally planned. I shared that if they could use me, I would be available whenever and wherever.

There is a vast difference between serving and being a servant. One is self-motivated, the other is in response to the love for the One you are serving. One is a duty, the other a delight. One feels more like an obligation, while the other springs from a heart of obedience. One is a responsibility, the other refreshes. While serving, quite often we're looking for something to gain, while being a servant is all about giving.

Is God calling you to some area of ministry? It doesn't have to be in the church. Whatever and whenever God summons you, can you willingly follow? God isn't looking for you to be doing more, but joyfully being used in the plans and purposes He designed for you before you were born. Have you given God a conditional offer, or are you allowing Him to cultivate in you a true servants heart?

The week after volunteering, God had me teaching a room full of precious little 3 year olds...at 11am...on a rotation basis of once every five weeks. Do you see how He perfectly looked after all of my desires as well? He's not out to make life miserable for us by placing us in areas that don't coincide with the gifts and personality He has given us. He knows us better than we know ourselves and as He calls us to be His servants and follow His example in sweet surrender, He is maturing us and changing our character into His likeness. Oh if I would only trust Him more.



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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Be Rich

“They should be rich…” 1 Timothy 6:18

I want to “be rich”, not I want to “get rich”.

In what does the Lord desire for us to be rich? My Pastor encouraged us from God’s Word at the beginning of this year, to be rich in four areas:

Be rich in contentment.
Be rich in faith.
Be rich in hope.
Be rich in good deeds.

To be rich in God, I must first recognize His value. Where do I invest my interest, time, passion and knowledge? Gaze at God. Spend time with Him. To invest in God is a sure investment. I must learn to live my life fully in front of the panicked, paranoid and paralyzed.

Do I truly comprehend the value of what is already mine? Lord, You have blessed me abundantly. The numbers in my bank account may not signify worldly wealth, but I am storing up for myself treasures in heaven. Father, may You alone satisfy me with Yourself.

“All I have in You, is more than enough.”

Yes, I am a millionaire!



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Monday, December 14, 2009

What's Age Got To Do With It?

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Earlier this year my son was offered a specific ministry opportunity, but because he felt he was too young to respond he missed out on doing something he thoroughly enjoys. How we need to find that balance between encouragement and expectation. To spur our children on to greatness without demanding genius. We want our young people to live to their full potential without being paralyzed by perfectionism.

Just a couple of days ago I was admitting I was a perfectionist. My standards are high and I am most likely my own worst enemy.

I read recently of a would-be author being questioned by a psychologist. The psychologist asked the writer the following question, “You can write a good book, can’t you?” She said, paraphrased, the true question here was “Do you have to do something great? Can you be happy to do something really good?” The desire for great disables and dismisses good.

Don’t misunderstand. We always want to give God our best, but is our motivation pure? God wants our words, way and walk to be an example to others. It’s not about seniority, but sensitivity to His voice. A list of accolades pale beside abiding. Obedience trumps knowledge.

Many of you reading this are years younger than me. You are my example. Your enthusiasm, passion and love for the Lord is evident. Continue to model Christlikeness. Age has nothing to do with usage.



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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Turnarounds

“My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” James 5:19-20

Not being an airplane traveller, as many of you know, when my family visit’s the States we always drive. Our trips to Florida provide hours and hours of fun, family fellowship. We love seeing sights that we miss living North of the border.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a runaway truck ramp. This traffic device enables vehicles that are struggling to brake, an opportunity of escape to safely stop. They are long, steep, inclines designed to accommodate trucks. They can help avert an accident and potentially save lives. I’m thinking the church could use some “runaway ramps” to prevent peril and salvage souls.

The verse above speaks of wanderers. Fellow travellers who have strayed from the trail. They are wandering spiritually. Trials and temptations have pushed a new pace in a different direction. Meandering through emotions of guilt and pain, they turn from God and feel unaccepted in the church, where failures too often aren’t accepted and second chances aren’t given.

James encourages that they be “brought back”. The hand of God’s grace needs to be extended, not to attack but receive. Don’t show them the door, but offer to help restore. Let’s care and not condemn. Often the hurting heart longs to return, but sees no example in the church. There is an implication here that the wanderer accepts and acknowledges their sin. There isn't denial, but disclosure and desire to admit error.

Is there a wanderer you need to welcome home? Let’s be agents of restoration. Let’s never give up on restoring grace. Let’s share God’s heart for search and rescue. Let’s build escape routes and emergency exits for a weary, wounded traveller’s turnaround.



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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

I'm doing something today I haven't done all year. It's not because I'm busy. It's not because the Lord didn't speak to me through His Word this morning. It's not because I don't have much to say. It's because God directed, and I'm being obedient.

This morning my dear sweet friend Melissa posted a writing on her blog that she wrote last year. The scripture above was foundational in her writing. I am the "another friend" quoted in Melissa's article. I think many of you know that I struggle with anxiety and experienced a year of depression. Melissa has written such a powerful, precise, purposeful, personal perspective on anxiety and depression, I believe everyone should read it. Please click on Melissa's name...and tell her Joy sent you :)

Love to you all today!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Exceeding Peace

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

Falling to my knees I prayed these very verses yesterday morning. I could feel my stress level rising. So much needs to be accomplished by this weekend. Deadlines loom before me. Feeling completely overwhelmed, I did the only thing I could do, I fell before the Lord and surrendered my "anything" and prayed about "everything".

Lord, my Christmas cards still aren't done.
My Christmas devotional is written, but not printed. I still need to purchase paper for that too.
Gifts for mailing need to be wrapped and packaged.
Shopping isn't finished.
Need to prepare my list for our dinner next week. Where will I find a turkey big enough?
Mom needs to go grocery shopping. Do I have time to take her?
The house needs a thorough cleaning and we have friends coming over Sunday. Help them not see my mess.
Concert at the church tomorrow. I would wait to go Sunday for the performance, but my son has two friends attending with their mom. Should I be there to meet her?
Chris writes his 3 hour music exam at 9:30. His stress has become my stress.
A Dr's appointment at 3:30 means at least 4:15, so more time lost.
Friends are calling to 'do' coffee. I want to see them, but it just adds pressure.
Lord, this time of year always fills me with hectic, hurry, health issues, hassles and haste.
Where's the harmony, hope, hallelujah and holy?

I need that peace that guards my mind and exceeds my understanding.

"Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then..."

Lord, I've been good at the 'telling', but not so faithful in the 'thanking'. Both are pre-requisites to peace. Looking back over my list above, Lord...

I thank You that over half of my Christmas cards are written.
I thank You for the idea that prompted my Christmas devotional this year and for the message shared. I thank You that my sister heard of my need and is supplying the beautiful, decorated paper for printing.
I thank You for helping me order my day yesterday so that now parcels are ready for the mail.
I thank You that 95% of my shopping is complete and for the many bargains You led me to so that I could be a good steward of the resources You've entrusted to me.
I thank You that my husband is going to look after finding the turkey.
I thank You that I still have the opportunity of ministering to my precious parents.
I thank You for my home, even when it needs cleaning.
I thank You for my son's witnessing and for his friends and their families attending the Christmas presentation tonight. Lord, prepare their hearts to believe and receive.
I thank You for the abilities You have given my son. Calm his nerves. Bring to his remembrance all he has learned as he writes his exam this morning at 9:30.
I thank You for my Dr. and for the time he gives once in his office. He is attentive and thorough. Thank You for the time You have provided in that waiting room to sit and be still and know that You are God.
I thank You for friends who want to spend time with me. When many walk with loneliness, I am so blessed.

Lord, as my focus changes, may You guard my heart and mind with Your peace. Protect me from the worry and anxiety that is my tendency and fill with Your calm. May my heartbeat slow. May my blood pressure drop. May my thoughts become captive. May I rest in You alone.



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Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Not About Me

"...consider others..." Philippians 2:3

Yesterday was a day filled with prayer requests. Big requests. Demanding needs. Hurt. Pain. Loss. Confusion. Hope deferred. Heartache. Tears. Questions.

Hearing of circumstances and situations that others are currently facing gave me a fresh dose of perspective. I have recently had my eyes selfishly fixed on me, myself and I. Personal stress has blocked my view and kept me self-centered instead of ministering to others. I have been so consumed with my own anxieties that I have missed opportunities to show compassion and genuine concern to others. I have now turned the magnifying glass from my heart and I'm looking into the eyes of others. Coming along side their suffering. Shedding a tear with them. Listening. Embracing.

It took a completely selfless prayer request from a special friend to grab my attention. Father forgive me for the many times I've neglected those so dear to me and been more concerned about my own interests. Lord teach me how to reach out with Your love.



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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13

How fitting that after two days of struggle, sin, Satan and self, the Lord speaks to my heart concerning forgiveness.

“Make allowance”. Don’t be too sensitive. Cut some slack. Lighten up. Don’t take things so personally. Many times the incident isn’t intentional.

Forgive freely. No marionette forgiveness. Remove the strings. Drop the grudge. Remember, Paul is talking to the church. These are brothers and sisters in the Lord. Yes, they can be guilty and the grievance can be real, but our response should still be grace.

Whether the incident was intentional or not, our forgiveness can be on purpose. It is a choice, not of words, but of heart. It is not excusing the behaviour or denying the hurt, but letting go of resentment. Brennan Manning writes, “Our resentments reveal that the signature of Jesus is still not written on my life.” Christ’s signature involves transformation.

Lord, mark my life with Your signature. May I be signed, sealed and delivered.



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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

War of the Worlds

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:10-12

"Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not." (Aragorn, Lord of the Rings)

I should have anticipated this assault. Scheduled to speak at a Ladies Christmas Tea this morning the evil one is trying to undermine my testimony and make me feel inadequate and unworthy. A situation was totally blown out of proportion last night. Stress levels ran high. Again I failed in my response. I feel like the very last person who should be going and sharing with these precious ladies in just a couple of hours.

Open war is upon our family...upon me. The thief has come to steal my trust, kill and sacrifice my life and destroy my spiritual progress. Demonic opposition is delivering oppression. Hell has been enraged and satanic forces are hurling their mightiest weapons. Fiery arrows of doubt, anger, unkind words, resentment and judgement are positioned and aimed, waiting to make the kill.

It's not peaceful in the invisible. A war of worlds is being fought. The evil one has a plan and an army behind the scenes and he's looking for an intentional attack moment to terrorize and torture. He knows my weakness and the battle for my life is raging with intensity.

Lord, I pray you will bind satan from further assault. Father give victory. The powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil are wielding weapons, but they cannot stand against You. Give me strength to take up all of Your armor. Lord, "deep inside this armor this warrior is a child" and again I fall before You, drop my sword, and cry for just awhile.



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Monday, December 7, 2009

A New Attitude

"...let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes." Ephesians 4:23

"I'm feelin' good from my head to my shoes
Know where I'm goin' and I know what He'll do
God tidied up my point of view
And gave a new attitude."

As you can see, I took a few liberties with one of the songs Patti LaBelle made famous, "New Attitude".

I'm sensing I need that shift today. I love when God speaks immediately to a situation, even if it is a lecture, with an index finger shaking and pointing directly at me.

Last week it appeared some decisions were made, without my knowing, in an area where I give support and encouragement. The decisions made will have great impact on my involvement and my time. My initial response has been to resist. I felt I was being forced to take on new responsibilities and new committments without any consideration. Although I would have likely said 'yes', you know how it is when you feel presumed upon? Suddenly something within rises in opposition. I hate it when that happens! I have been really struggling with my reaction.

"...let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes."

Lord, I need you to purge me from this internal feeling that is being expressed outwardly in a disposition of difficulty. I do not believe what has happened was intentional, nor was it to burden me. In actual fact, the motive behind the change was to protect my position and provide possibilities for future participation.

Father forgive me for my reactions. Remove the desire to justify my response. My reactions are my responsibility. Situations and other people may influence my emotions, but no one can dictate how I respond. I cannot blame the decisions handed down to me on my disposition. My attitude remains a choice. Bring it into obedience to Your will and Your Word. Help me put on Your new nature of righteousness and holiness. Replace this rebellious attitude with one of submission. Change my pattern of thinking. Give me Your new attitude.



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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chosen

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:3-8

I sat behind her that night. She sat erect. Back straight. Head held high. Hands clasped. With each name called I saw the longing. She sat in hopeful silence. Barely breathing she waited. Yearning written all across her appearance. Her hands sometimes figeted in nervousness and anticipation. Until the last name was called. She stood with poise and refinement and left quickly. She had not received an award.

My heart ached for her. That was my High School story too. Being second or third didn't bring the accolation. "Close" or "Almost" didn't receive the medal. She wasn't chosen.

This morning reading the passage above, I remembered this young girl, feeling again her disappointment, rejection, failure. Whatever you are going through today remember that you are special to God. You are blessed, loved, chosen, adopted, favoured, redeemed and forgiven.

"Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:8

If you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, one day your name will be called and the reward you will receive will be greater than any earthly trophy. He's applauding and giving a standing ovation for you today - Well done, good and faithful servant.



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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Anchor A Way

“When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor…” “Acts 27:13

A slight change in the weather. A few calm breezes offered encouragement. Despite Paul’s warning, the owner of the ship desired to take advantage of the momentary, peaceful calm and they “pulled up anchor”.

When storms in our lives cease for periods of time, do we “pull up anchor”? Jesus is the One who holds our life, but when things are going well are we just as sensitive to His presence and as attentive to His leading? Do we start trusting ourselves because of the false sense of security provided by the “light wind” and gentle breeze? We must never pull up anchor and give way to the sea. When hardships appear, making us feel powerless, we can only survive by giving way to the Master of the storm.

Let’s not be fooled. We need that anchor of hope. We need the anchor of reality. We need the anchor of faith. Our passage on this sea of life is not without hurricane force winds. Storms are inevitable, but our response is always optional. Our faith can remain in our Anchor. Our hope in Christ, is a strong and mighty anchor for our souls. It leads us…into God’s inner sanctuary. (Hebrews 6:19)

“Any sailor will tell you that only as the storm rages do we realize the strength of the anchor.” (Charles Swindoll) Paul’s anchor was in God. He trusted Him in the storm and listened and believed His voice. “For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.” Acts 27:23-25

Did you see where God was positioned? God stands beside us today in our storms as well. Not only is He close to us, but He knows the way through uncharted waters. Paul was going to Rome. He will never lead us anywhere that He has not already planned and prepared for our sailing ashore.

Is your anchor secure? Don’t “pull up anchor”, place it firmly in Christ. Let's anchor a way by holding fast to God. Some storms seem endless, but He will see you through. Don’t take my word, take His.



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Friday, December 4, 2009

Fateful Choice of Convenience

“As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. ‘Go away for now,’ he replied. ‘When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.’” Acts 24:25

Wanting a time that was more convenient, I kept putting it off and putting it off. Finally I had convenienced myself out of a wonderful opportunity, while waiting for the perfect moment. I lost out, and it was too late. The opportunity was gone.

Convenience. A time more suited to our comfort, purpose or need.

Do you know there is no record of Felix ever finding a future “convenient” time to receive God?

Author Denis Waitley says, “there is not such thing as a future decision. You face only present decisions that will affect what will happen in the future.”

Author Ann Mainse writes, “…putting off the most important decision of your life is indeed dangerous procrastination.”

Satan’s most effective tool is having people believe they have plenty of time. We need to choose life today. 2 Corinthians 6:2 encourages, “Today is the day of salvation.”

I’ve heard it said that the tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.

Waiting on convenience we miss the joy of obedience and the acceptance of repentance. Maybe it’s not convenient, but what if Christ had felt the same way as He faced the cross? My salvation came because Jesus inconvenienced Himself for me.



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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Finding Spectacular in Simple

“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me.” Acts 21:6

In my years of growing up in the church, I’ve heard some pretty amazing testimonies. Reformed drug addicts and alcoholics. Near death stories that resulted in salvation. Prodigals returning home. Paul’s transformation described here was none less spectacular. What a dramatic conversion he describes. Makes my little story seem boring and meaningless.

My testimony isn’t filled with captivating before and after illustrations. As an eight year old I hadn’t tried drugs, hadn’t left home, been a victim of abuse, surrendered to passion or committed a serious crime. Although a light from heaven didn’t surround me as it did Paul, I have come to understand something very valuable. A light did shine within me that opened the eyes of a little girl’s heart. Beth Moore writes, “Every conversion cost the same amount of Christ’s blood shed on the cross. Every conversion was worth the loss of God’s only Son to Him.”

The day I gave my heart to Jesus and asked for forgiveness of sins was very exciting. Just as many angels rejoiced. I am thankful for all God saved me from experiencing. I’m thankful for experiences missed. I’m grateful for opportunities lost. I praise God for less drama and less pain.

“You don’t have to see a bright light from heaven to have a story to tell. The determining factor is not how exciting your conversion was but how excited you are now about your conversion. The simplest testimony from a person thankful to be saved is more powerful than the most dramatic testimony from someone who has told it so methodically that it has lost its fervor.” Beth Moore

Yesterday as I practiced the message I will be sharing with a group of ladies at a Christmas Brunch this coming Tuesday, my eyes filled with tears and goose bumps covered my body as the memories of God’s goodness, forgiveness and provision flooded my heart. Oh Lord, may I never take for granted all You have done for me.

Today, if God gives opportunity, let’s share our testimonies. No one can share it better than you. The simplest of salvation stories is still spectacular.



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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Model Ministry

“I have been a constant example…” Acts 20:35

Looking at Paul’s life we see a man who modelled ministry. His life had tremendous influence. He led others by serving. He became a servant leader by being a leading servant. He led as he followed Christ.

He did “the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears.” (vs.19) He endured trials and never shrank back. Ministry , although often thrilling, brings tears. He was authentic and vulnerable. He wasn’t afraid to express himself and let others see his emotions. Pain challenges and breaks us. A. W. Tozer writes that it is doubtful God can ever use us greatly until he breaks us. Breaking releases God’s power and God’s vision.

Paul demonstrated tremendous courage. He was aware that jail and suffering marked his path (vs.23), but he pressed on. He didn’t hesitate to follow Jesus as close as he could. Paul taught us that God is bigger than all our fears.

Paul was faithful to his responsibilities (vs.26). He showed commitment. In a world today that gives up and gives in at the slightest indication that effort will be required, Paul was diligent. He was faithful to God’s character, His Word and to His call on his life.

Paul didn’t focus on himself, but he did give careful attention to guard himself (vs.28). We can so easily burn out in ministry and then be of no use to anyone.

Our life speaks more than our words. More than knowledge there needs to be evidence. Most of our problem is not that we don’t know the Bible, but that we don’t live it out. If only we lived out half of what we know. Paul was a model for ministry. He writes, “I have been a constant example…” (vs.35).

Asking myself, how am I modelling ministry today?



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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thorn Theology

"...I was given a thorn in my flesh..." 2 Corinthians 12:7

A thorn. Unidentified, yet not a stranger to many of us. It irritates and causes pain, unwanted and often undiagnosed. I believe the reason God does not specifically define Paul's thorn, is so that we can apply this thorn theology individually. It could be physical. It could be people. It's always personal.

Where did the thorn come from? We see the immediate cause was Satan (vs.7), but the ultimate cause was God.

What to do with a thorn? Pray. Paul makes a request. He gets a response. His life replies.

Paul asked three times for the thorn to be removed. He begged the Lord to take it away. Other translations say he "implored". It was an earnest desire that came from his heart to give God glory.

The answer he receives is "no". When God says 'no', He gives us something else that is better than what we thought we needed. This 'no' ushered in more grace. "He giveth more grace when the burdens get greater." "No" is never the end of the story.

Paul accepts God's answer. God strengthened Paul as Satan tried to destroy him. Paul doesn't just endure his thorn, he embraces it. He receives it with gladness (vs.9). Paul says, "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (vs.10) The "when" moment. At the very second of weakness, God makes us strong.

Paul teaches us here that with burdens come blessings. Each hardship is especially chosen for us by God. Thorns aren't accidental. God brings us exactly what we need to bring us to a point of obedience. "I was given..." The thorn was timed and tailor-made.

Sufficient grace can only come through sufficient faith. Let's confess the sin of self-pity and bitterness and allow God to fill us with His grace. Then, after committing the 'thorn' to God, let it go. Let's change the petition prayer to one of praise, remembering that God's power works best in weakness (vs.9).

If you would like someone to pray with you about your 'thorn', if you share your need in the comments, I will join with you for God's grace to carry you as He allows and uses this burden to change you into the image of His son. Our thorns may not be the same, but our response can be, whether the thorns are removed or remain.



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Monday, November 30, 2009

The Titus Touch

"...God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus." 2 Corinthians 7:6

Friends are so valuable. Titus was God's gift to Paul at the perfect time.

"...the arrival of Titus." Titus just showed up. "His presence was a joy..." vs.7

Sometimes God allows someone to just "show up" in our life as well. Just when we think we can't go another day, a phone call, a note, the doorbell and God's presence is evidenced in a personal way.

Maybe today you could give or receive the Titus touch.



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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Never Ending Story

"Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This 'letter' is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts." 2 Corinthians 2:2-3

It's funny the things that can get me reminiscing about the past. All of a sudden an aroma, a word, a song, a touch invades my thoughts and my mind drifts back to a memory held forever captive in my heart. That happened the other night for me.

I was watching a movie when an event depicted had me journeying back to a moment in my childhood. The Mom portrayed in this film was explaining to her adopted, illiterate daughter the joy of reading. My heart beat quicker with each adjective. I was one who lost herself in books as a child.

My parents took my sister and I to the Children's Library every Saturday and I can recall the anticipation of choosing stories that would transport me to another world. A land where I would become heroine - a girl of outstanding nobility and courage. I would travel to exotic places. Slay dragons. Capture thieves. Love and be loved.

I'd close my eyes and breathe in the scent of books. I would come home from the Library with my treasure, my arms holding hours of wonder and adventure. I would inhale each word. Let the book become a part of me. I would laugh, cry, turn pages in eager anticipation. I would read by flashlight under the covers when bedtime came too early and a tale still had to be told before this little girl could close her eyes and rest.

I've had a passion for words all my life. Watching "The Music Man" at every opportunity, I dreamed of becoming "Marion the Librarian". I wanted to surround myself with sentences, phrases, conjunctions, dotted "i's" and crossed "t's". Should a handsome man find me there, amongst the pages, as one found Marion, that would be wonderful too.

My dream became reality almost 30 years ago when my first job was working as a Library Clerk at a Children's Library. I thoroughly enjoyed each day of the twelve years I was employed there. In between doing the clerical jobs that were my responsibility, I was able to share my passion of the written word with children. Storytimes and reading clubs allowed me to remain a child myself, far past what the years would allow, opening up the hearts of children to the delight of reading.

The other day I purchased a new book - a Bible study. I lingered over the artists cover design. I opened it so carefully as if holding gold, turning each page tenderly, feasting on the truths unveiled. The Scripture passages take me down roads, into far away towns. I share in the lives of Kings and paupers. I weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh. I read of great joys and unbearable sorrows. I meet a baby whose birth has changed my life forever.

Then, this Author, who holds pen over my life, continues to write sentences over me. Sentences will become paragraphs. Paragraphs becoming chapters. A never-ending story that will continue for all eternity. Do the pages of my life rise as a sweet aroma to Christ? (2 Corinthians 2:15) My life is to be a letter from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on the tablet of a human heart.

Tomorrow is a blank page, a clean slate. Words wait to be written. An award winning novel, a best seller, a captivating love story between a Princess and her King. Your life is the most beautiful story being written. Surrender to His plot. Trust His conclusion. I can guarantee it will be happily every after!

(As an aside, my son's school is presenting "The Music Man" as their musical this year. My son is playing the keyboard part in the Pit Band. As I listen to him practice, the music is stirring so many memories. Can't wait to see the production in the Spring.)



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Saturday, November 28, 2009

F.R.O.G.

"...we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God...We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety." 2 Corinthians 1:9-11

My son and his "friend girl" often refer to one another as "FROG" friends. They encourage one another to Fully Rely On God.

Fully - to the greatest degree or extent; completely or entirely; in full; without lack
Rely - trust: have confidence or faith in; fully satisfied of the veracity, integrity, or ability of persons, or of the certainty of facts or of evidence; to depend

There is no 'me', 'myself' or 'I'. No place for doubt or despair. No room for worry or wasted energy. Complete and total trust, not in ourselves, but in our God.

Where do you need to trust Him? Finances? Relationship? Plans? Guidance? Health? Job? A prodigal? Anxiety? Decisions? _____________?

We can rely on God in everything. Sometimes the wait is long, but He can be trusted. "For all of God's promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding 'Yes!'". 2 Corinthians 1:20

I have a very dear friend who trusted the Lord in a journey that lasted over four years. She never lost hope. She cried many tears, but she still trusted. She never stopped looking towards the horizon and the dawning of a new day. She never stopped checking her mailbox or eagerly answering her phone. She never allowed exhaustion to detour her as she filled out more paperwork. She never stopped preparing, believing that her day would come. She celebrated with others who's dreams became certainty long before hers became reality. Twenty-five days ago her prayers became sight. On that day, her precious little daughter from China was placed in her arms.

Here are just a few pictures of the joy to come when we fully rely on God.









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Friday, November 27, 2009

A Not So Simple Song

"If we live, it's to honor the Lord. And if we die, it's to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." Romans 14:8

I have a friend, Deanna, with six children who all have been blessed with amazing musical ability. Their harmonies are absolutely gorgeous and they have recorded two CD's. They call themselves, "simplesong", the name of their title track, a song Deanna's daddy, Ross Seabrook wrote. The lyrics say:

"Come and sing a simple song of Jesus
Sing it like you never sang before
Tell it everywhere; He is alive and cares
Give no place to doubting anymore

Chorus:
If I live, praise the Lord
If I die, praise the Lord
If I live or die, my only cry
Will be Jesus in me, praise the Lord."

I can't tell you the number of times I have pulled that CD out and listened to this song when life was going well. It requires little effort to sing the lyrics loudly when the living is easy. What about when uncertainties are scattered on the path? Can my voice find volume? Is this still a "simple song"?

At times along our journey we have to come face to face with this truth. Can I say with Paul in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain"? Although we can reason that truth in our heads, the struggle to surrender still comes. Yes, "in acceptance lieth peace".

A crossroad of decision. A resolute position taken. Ofen times through tears. Singing today a not so simple song.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Groanings to Guidance

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:26-28

Not being able to sleep, I climbed out of bed, picked up my Bible and began to read. I wasn't very far into today's reading before I came to the passage above and tears began to flow. That's exactly where I am. I am weak. I don't know what God wants. I'm wordless. But, God is working.

Not knowing the undisclosed will of God, should I be praying for relief or endurance? As some of you know, I went for my yearly physical this past Thursday. I was feeling great going into the exam. During the internal something happened. I have been in much abdominal pain over the last five days. Going back to my Dr's office on Monday, he wanted me scheduled for two different ultrasounds. The receptionist called the clinic and I was scheduled for Tuesday, December 8th in the afternoon. (I'm speaking at a Ladies Christmas Tea in the morning.) Without any prompting from me, before hanging up the phone the receptionist asked if they ever have cancellations and could they call me if something came up sooner. Do you know that my cell phone was ringing as I pulled in my driveway minutes later? Could I come Thursday morning at 8:30am instead? That's today! That's God! Before we call He answers. I honestly don't know how I would have lasted another 12 days of being in this much discomfort without someone doing a further exam. (Just to clarify the word "discomfort". I have a very high pain tolerance. My appendix almost ruptured years ago because I wasn't demonstrating that I was in enough pain. So, "discomfort" to me would probably translate to severe pain for someone else.)

Although I am so thankful how God has brought today to dawn, I'm scared. If you read yesterday's post, you know the evil one has been attacking my mind with endless worry. The verses above have spoken to my heart. God's timing is perfect.

I am so thankful that the Spirit knows what I do not know, namely God's revealed will. When life is against me, God is for me. The Holy Spirit is praying and interceding on my behalf. Times of deepest perplexity are times of deepest communion. The Spirit translates my uncertainty with divine certainty, making my confusion exactly what I should pray. The will of God is being taken to the heart of God on my behalf.

God is good all the time, but everything is not good all the time, yet He is causing everything to happen according to His purpose. I do believe that nothing happens accidentally. In all things God is working out His plan. God is not working for those, but to those, on those. God cares about Christlikeness, not convenience and comfort. He is calling me to trust Him in this.

This health concern may appear to be ruining my life right now, but it is ramping up God's plans. God foreknew, pre-destined, called, justified and He will be glorified, even in this circumstance. I must walk forward today, confident in Christ. God will not allow anything to get in the way of how He is conforming me. When I pray God's will, I know He hears me, and if He hears me, He has the answers I truly long to receive. It's not knowing what to pray that is important, but that I pray. I will go from groanings to guidance.

Lord, help me not to waste nasty, unexpected circumstances. You can use them to reveal Jesus in me. Sometimes God doesn't remove a 'thorn' because we can experience the perfection of His power in us and show God off. What God allows is often challenging, but we know He loves us and He is still in control.

Take my prayers God way so that God can take my life Christ way.

(Many thoughts taken from a sermon I heard back in the summer of 2006, Pastor Rick Baker)

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

War of Worlds

"So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace." Romans 8:6

A war has waged in my mind today. A war between panic and peace. A war between sin and Spirit. Worry has caused my heart to walk a path of death today instead of life.

"Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not." (Aragorn, Lord of the Rings)

Open war is upon me. The thief has come to steal my trust, kill and sacrifice my life and destroy my spiritual progress. Demonic opposition is delivering oppression. Hell has been enraged and satanic forces are hurling their mightiest weapons.

It's not peaceful in the invisible. A war of worlds is being fought. The evil one has a plan and an army behind the scenes and he's looking for an intentional attack moment to terrorize, torture and immobilize. He knows my weakness and the battle for my life is raging with intensity. Ground zero has been my mind.

Health concerns and medical appointments tomorrow morning have caused concern. My mind is racing to possible what if's. It hasn't helped to read today of being called to share in Christ's suffering (Romans 8:17), and encouraged to rejoice in trials (Romans 5:3).

Lord, I pray you will bind satan from further assault. Father give victory. The powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil are wielding weapons at my mind, but they cannot stand against You.





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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Faith

“…Abraham’s faith did not weaken…” “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.” Romans 4:19-21

Didn’t weaken. Never wavered. Grew stronger. Brought glory. Fully convinced. Is able.

Each of these couplets characterized Abraham’s faith. I'm jealous of such faith.

Faith that holds on. Faith that trusts an invisible hand. Faith that knows God is at work. Faith that says, I cannot change certain circumstances, but I know You are in the midst of them. Faith that sees beyond the perplexities to the promises. Faith that resists doubt and discouragement. Faith that isn’t hindered or handicapped, frustrated or fearful. Faith that accepts without understanding. Faith that takes root and grows in the soil of our soul. Faith that meets triumph and trials and treats both the same. Faith that sustains through silences, silently. Faith that stands and stays. Faith that perseveres personal loss and public misunderstanding. Faith that pivots destiny. Faith that sings at the midnight hour. Faith that hears the songs still to be written. Faith in the lot and little. Faith in the much and the more.

“Faith that believes in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” Philip Yancey

Lord, today I pray for such faith. A faith that says, through tears, I trust You even in this. Hold me. I surrender again to all Your plans for me. I want my life to bring You glory, whatever path that will walk. Not my will, but Thine be done.



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Monday, November 23, 2009

Grammar Lesson

“…Paul felt compelled…” “…God has given us the privilege…” “…I am eager to come to you…” “…I am not ashamed…” Acts 19:23, Romans 1: 5,15,16

I was captivated today by some adverbs, nouns, adjectives and verbs.

Compelled. Privilege. Eager. Not ashamed.

Have I ever felt compelled to do something for Christ?

Do I view sharing what God has done for me a privilege?

Am I eager to tell others about Jesus?

Can I say I am not ashamed of the Good News?

My life needs to be so much more than words. Desiring to live in the active, not passive voice.



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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Footing

“…stand firm…” “be strong and immovable.” 1 Corinthians 15:1, 58

"Cause when push comes to shove
You taste what you're made of
You might bend, till you break
Cause its all you can take
On your knees you look up
Decide you’ve had enough
You get mad you get strong
Wipe your hands shake it off
Then you stand,
Then you stand"

(Rascal Flatt's "Stand")

Interesting that Paul starts and ends this chapter with a reference to our footing. Much content that has found it's way to the table of debate and discussion fills the 56 verses inbetween.

When struggles come how sure is your anchor? Sometimes storms come to see if you’re sea-worthy. A ship is sent out, not to see if it will sink, but float. Trials come, not to necessarily test our faith, but to see if we have faith. Paul gives voice to this in 1 Corinthians 15:34, “For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.”

We are being admonished here to not give in under pressure and not give up our faith. The resource for standing firm is available to us. God’s Word says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able to bear, but with the temptation will make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it.” God Himself is our Resource. He will supply the strength to stand firm and be strong and immovable.

Does anything we experience exceed the power of God? Standing firm and holding ground is most often not a physical battle, but a mental and spiritual conflict. God’s power is the same during times of crisis and times of calm. As Christ followers we know that something within us is immoveable.

Stand firm, giving loyalty to Truth.



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