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Showing posts with label Wednesday's Word. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wednesday's Word. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When the lamp goes out

We've spent several  posts on how to keep our lamp burning, how to strengthen ourselves in body, soul, and spirit so that His light can shine in the dark nights of life.

But sometimes, in some places, for all of us, the lamp goes out. We get tired or discouraged or just plain"burned out".  And we feel defeated. In fact, we can feel so defeated that we don't try to get the lamp back on. Countless Christ-followers have found themselves in dark places and felt so hopeless they just decided to stay there. They didn't think there was any way out. So they spend the rest of their lives feeling depressed or useless or trying to medicate themselves out of it with all sorts of remedies.

I don't want that for you and me. I want us to know that, if somehow we find ourselves in the dark night of despair, if we've lost our joy and our lamp has gone out, we don't have to stay there. We can get the light back on.

I know I love lists and this seems too complex a subject to "list" our way out but I do think it's helpful to have some action to move us out, some steps to take to climb up, some things to do to find hope.

So here is my "A" list for Attacking Depression- I pray you find some encouragement. And, let me hear from you - I really do care.  My address is  I'm leaving the light on for you....

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Still keeping the light on

She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
18 She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.  Proverbs 31:17,18

We've established that we need to be strong in order to keep our lights shining, to not burn out, to have a life message for the world and the next generation. We've seen that such strength is not merely physical, but also from our soul.Even if we become limited in physical strength, we can always increase in soul and spirit strength - those are the most important!
 And in the last post we learned how to strengthen our soul.

Now - how to strengthen our spirit...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Keeping the light on for you

I am studying the Proverbs 31 Woman with a great group of gals. We are having a wonderful time learning not to resent or be intimidated by Scripture's portrayal of this woman but rather to glean from God's Word how He wants to manifest these Truths in our own lives.

As always, His Word is rich and deep...and life-changing.

We recently examined verses 17 & 18. I want to share with you what we found...

She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
18 She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Refugee Crisis: A Biblical Response

If your social media outlets are like mine, they are absolutely blowing up with opinions on the refugee crisis. Some are informative, but others are so toxic that I have considered disconnecting. I am all for open dialogue but let's be civil, please!

I digress.

That's not the point of this post.

What should our response be to this crisis? As followers of Christ.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Stop trying to be popular

Not one single person I know wants to be unpopular. Not one. In fact, nearly all of the people I know are likeable, and well-liked. (I say "nearly" because we all know there are some grumps out there - in everybody's life!)

So is this a bad thing? Especially for Christians? Aren't we called by Christ to love others, to do good to all, to be kind and generous? And that kind of behavior makes us popular, right?

Ummmmmm maybe not.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Conformed or Transformed?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, and perfect.
Romans 12:2

When you go through times of disappointment or heartache or stress, it's tempting to doubt God. To wonder why He didn't "fix this" like you asked or to wish He would step in and use His power to "set things right" or to whine that He would let "whatever" happen.

This verse has some help for that.

And it has some help for parent-pain, which, if you haven't experienced it, let me assure you that you have missed the deepest, most grievous anguish that can ever be felt. The agony of not only watching your child hurt but especially the helplessness of not being able to remedy it is gut-wrenching.

It happens from the time they are preschoolers all the way through adulthood. And my own Mom tells me it is exponentially so when it's your grands. Oh my. I cannot bear the thought.

Maybe Jonathan and Mary Alice and Lucy should wear warning labels that announce to teachers and friends that they have these women in their family....
I digress...
Back to the verse.
Back to the help of being victorious in the midst of pain...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Other Woman

I'm in a Bible study with a cool group of women (of all ages and life seasons) and we are studying Proverbs 31. The P31 Woman. Lots to learn about this rather intimidating figure that the mother of the King exhorted him to marry.

As I was pondering this role model, I realized that Proverbs talks quite a bit about women. These 22 verses are not the only mention of women in the book. In fact, there are alot more than 22 other verses in there about "The  Other Woman".

The woman that we can be if we are not intentional about seeking God's grace and mercy to become more like the P31 gal.

There may be more than these but I find at least 4 types of "The Other Woman"....

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What's in store for 2017

It is healthy, beneficial, advisable to mark the end of one thing and the beginning of another. To celebrate and anticipate. That's what ceremonies for graduations and weddings do for us. Even funerals are the opportunity to grieve the end and to hope for the reunion on That Day.

God instructed the Israelites to do this many times in the Old Testament, to set up markers as reminders of His marvelous works, to enable one generation to tell the next of His faithfulness, to offer encouragement of more to come.

Too often we miss the point of celebrations and expend our energy solely on temporal things like decorations, food, gifts...partying for the sake of partying. We should indeed celebrate - in fact Christians should outdo everyone else in how to celebrate - but we are much more advantaged if those props are the aids to our celebrations and not the reason.

We just ended a year. The new one is beginning.
Instead of just passing from one day to the next, turning the page of the calendar robotically, let's be purposeful.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thoughts on "The Election"

Are you tired of hearing about "The Election"?

Me, too. 

Tired of hearing not only the pundits banter on and on about what it all means but also the everyday folks pontificate the ups and downs for our country come January.

Enough already.

This blog is not that at all. Not about why who won and who lost and what that says about the electorate and what ramifications we can expect.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Being there

I have concluded that one of THE most important traits of a good friend is being there. Just being there. Being there when the new baby is born or the daughter gets married...or the first book is released. When the dream dies or the marriage is in peril or a parent is gone. Being there for celebrations or poignant milestones or painful journeys...just being there.

It's not necessary to have "the answer" or even "the right thing to say". No, it's just being there. Presence. (Although bringing food to anyone at any time is always a great idea...just sayin...) Presence. Just being there.

I think about that trait in the lives of so many people that I am privileged enough to claim as a"friend".  Their commitment to "being there" makes them immensely important to so many people, not just me; these are folks that somehow manage to "just be there" for others, scores of others. Folks that quietly carve out the time from busy schedules, summon the brainpower to remember, and possess the capacity of heart that cares enough to make being there a priority. Sometimes physical presence isn't a possibility so this kind of friend supplies a presence with a call or a text. The
 point is...they are there. With you. To grieve or celebrate or enjoy or endure. There.

Treasures. These folks are treasures.

I have experienced a lot of this in my life. Friends that flood my life with blessing by being there. Just being there. As I thanked God for these gifts in my life, I was reminded that the idea of "being there" originated with God.

He walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8) and chatted with Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3:2-8). He accompanied the Israelites in the desert, displaying His presence in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night (Exodus 13:21,22) He promises to not only be there when we're winning the game but also when we are surrounded by circumstances or people that seem bent on our demise (Psalm 23:5).

And especially at Christmas, we celebrate that, He who was in the beginning with God - in fact IS God - became flesh and dwelt among us. And, as we behold His Glory, we see Who God is. (John 1:1-14) And we understand what the prophet Isaiah foretold and the disciple Matthew explained
Behold the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means " God with us."    Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23

Wow. Major importance - God with us.

Being there. Not distant or aloof or apart. With us. Here. And this priority of being there was the basis of His promise to always be with us (Matthew 28:20) and the heart of His prayer, pouring out His desire to His Father to have US with HIM (John 17:24).

Being there.

The greatest gift we can give one another.

The greatest gift God has given. The gift of His Presence.
By this, the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  (I John 4:9)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Peace to you

Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6,7

Such a sweet passage.  Such a comforting and familiar passage.

So familiar in fact, that we might just gloss over it so quickly that we miss the treasures packed inside.

So let's unpack it together, shall we?

I see three truths in these two verses, three powerful truths: a command, an instruction, and a promise.

First, the command,  Do not be anxious.

Do not be anxious.  In other words, do not worry. 

How succinct that the Greek word translated as "anxious" means "to be pulled in different directions"! Isn't that an apt description of worry? Isn't that what happens in our minds when we are waiting for the results of that biopsy? Or when it's past time for our newly licensed driver to make it home? Or the wondering of how to make things work when there is more month left at the end of the money?
Pulled in different directions. To places of frightening speculation or fretful imaginations. Places where we face problems without answers and burdens without strength to bear them. Scary places.
Time and time again we find ourselves in these places...and time and time again we find no resolution. We tell ourselves not to worry. We tell ourselves that most of the things we worry about never happen. We promise ourselves that we will trust God and not worry.
But then things happen.
Bills pile up.
A bruise won't go away.
The trusted relationship is strained.
We cannot stop our mind from fretting.

And yet the command is not be anxious. Not to be pulled into those scary and worrisome places.

But rather to go to one place. To The Place.

Next, the instruction.
Instead of being pulled into unproductive - even destructive - directions, we are instructed how to resolve the worry.

The place of God's presence.

And in His presence, there are five things to remember:
1.  In everything
     Nothing is too insignificant or too insurmountable to be addressed                                                    I find this so encouraging, so comforting, so exciting - we are to pray about everything! If you are like I am, you probably veer off from time to time in one direction or another. Either something seems so pressing, looms so large, feels so weighty that we act as though God cannot handle it alone and we must "help" Him by trying to figure it out on our own. Or something seems so small that it never occurs to us to pray about it so we just get stressed about it instead.
God instructs us here that everything is a potential for anxiety so He gives us instructions on how to handle everything victoriously.

2.  By prayer
It is significant that our conversation with God is described in 4 different ways in this passage. Prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, requests
I don't think God is being redundant - I think He is conveying 4 different components to the worry solution.
By "prayer", I think He is instructing us to come into the presence of I AM. To bow before His power, majesty, and holiness .To recognize Who He Is. This first step towards peace sets the tone for the steps that follow.

3. And supplication
"Supplication" is often seen as our petitions, our requests. But there is a subtle - and very significant
- difference. The use of this word connotes humility. This is definitely not a coming to God with our demands, or even our wish list. Not at all. This is coming to Him with the attitude of "not my will, but Yours". Acknowledging His claim on our lives and His right to do whatever He wills.

4. With thanksgiving
How gracious of God to include this phrase! This lets us know that, not only does God have the right to do whatever He wills, but also that we can trust Him to do only what is good and loving and faithful. Regardless of what it may look like to us, we can trust that all that His does is for our highest good and His highest glory.  Because of that confidence, we can thank Him.  In all things.
So, as we approach Him in worship (prayer) and humility (supplication), it is also in trust (with thanksgiving). Because He is good. All the time.

5. Let your requests be made known to God
   This is where we get to bring our petitions, our desires, our the only One who can fulfill them. After we have come to Him in worship, humility, and trust, then we can pour our heart out in longing. This approach often changes what we ask for! He wants us to tell Him what we want...and then trust Him to answer with the best.
I love the phrase "be made known to God" - it sorta sounds like we have to tell Him because He doesn't already know! That is laughable! The Divine, Omnipotent, OMNISCIENT God most surely knows not only what need but also what we are going to ask for - long before there is even a thought formed in our little brains! So what does this phrase intend to convey to us? I think it means the realization on our part of our dependence on Him. The recognition of our reliance on His goodness and mercy and grace to supply what we need, to grant what we are asking. Making known our requests is acknowledging that He alone is the giver of all good gifts. And that is why we come to Him - that is the essence of faith, the antithesis of worry!
 When we are in His Holy presence, realizing Who He is...and who we are not, when we are able to desire His Will higher than our own, then we can freely say, as Henry Blackaby puts it "Lord, here is what I think I want, but if you have something better in mind, well, then, just cancel my request!"

And then what happens?
After the command and the instruction...the result.

When we turn to prayer with these steps of worship and humility and trust and faith, then He gives peace. Peace that guards our hearts (our feelings) and our minds (our thoughts) against worry. Peace - the confidence in the goodness of God - which comes when we choose to pray instead of to worry...and this peace which results is also what guards us against future worry. Prayer begats peace which defeats worry. And when we find Him faithful, we turn to prayer instead of worry. Which begats peace...which guards us against worry...and He proves faithful...again and again and again.

Oh, one more thing.  A couple of verses later, there is a phrase that offers tremendous encouragement. Perhaps we read these exhortations and agree with them, but down deep, we know the truth - and the truth is we still worry. We want to experience His peace; we want to pray and trust instead of fretting. But that's not our reality.
What to do?

Verse 9 tells us - The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace shall be with you.

All these things that God urges us to do, so that we can have His peace?
Well, it's OK if you don't get it right every time.
Keep practicing.
Don't quit.
Practice what He shows us in these verses.
And, soon, you will find as I have that you won't be a worrier anymore. When trouble comes or panic threatens tranquility, you will find your default has become to pray. To trust. To thank Him. And to express your needs and hopes and desires to The Only One who gives good and perfect gifts.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Don't Quit

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” Hebrews 10:36.

We need endurance all the time. We need it in times of pain and difficulty, so as not to give up. We need it in times of temptation, so that we won’t give in. We need it when we are weary of the battle and no sign of victory is in sight. We need endurance in prayer when the answers are not coming…and when the answer comes and it is “no”. We need it when the attacks of the Enemy are so very real and frightening that we feel defeat is inevitable. We need it when we feel that no one notices – or cares – about our battles and our pain.   And we need it in times of prosperity so that we won’t give away our faith and find our pleasure in that which will not satisfy truly. We need endurance, that consistent satisfaction in knowing Christ and making Him known, all the time.

How can we endure to the end, how can we persevere throughout the valleys and mountains of life? Probably lots of things are helpful but I want to focus on a couple today -

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Beautiful art

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them Ephesians 2:10

I have a painting hung above the fireplace in my basement. It depicts an old barn in a hay field, done in browns and beiges. To the discerning art critic, it probably wouldn’t merit a great deal of attention. Likely no one in sophisticated circles would long to own it.

But to me, it is priceless. I would never give it away or even sell it to the highest bidder. To me, it is beautiful and irreplaceably treasured.

Not because the scene is so beautiful nor because it is so rare.

But because of who painted it and gave it to me.

A friend who became so dear to me in college and then moved to the mission field tried her hand at painting before she left. She found she had a good bit of talent for it and she completed a few pieces, just for fun. One such piece is displayed in my home, a precious reminder of one I love so very much.

The painting is valuable because of who made it.

Regardless of what the art experts may think about my painting, I know beyond a shadow of doubt they may cast upon it that this painting is of inestimable value.

Girlfriends, it’s the same for you and me. We are His workmanship. The Master Designer has conceived and created us according to His flawless plan. We must not listen to the amateur art critics who try and speak into our lives, those who judge us according to temporal standards and find us lacking. Our design is not only intentional…it is also good. We are of infinite value because of Who made us. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.

Unlike my precious painting, however, the designs of the Master are not created to just hang around and get looked upon. We have been created with purpose. Purpose that is not incidental but rather priority – for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 Let’s be about discovering what those are for each day.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What if?

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord;I will take joy in the God of my salvation Habakkuk 3:17-18

Joy. Not just any joy but joy that will sustain us when times are hard.

We spend a lot of time speculating “what if”.  “What if” I lose my job or “what if” that test result shows cancer. “What if” my children rebel or “what if” I never get to be a wife or a mom. “What if” my friendships betray me or the car repairs are more than I have in the bank or my marriage dissolves. What will I do if this happens or that? And we can spiral down into despair over these imaginings if we are not careful.

Most of the time, our speculations never materialize beyond our imagination. And we do well to remember to “think only” on truth, not speculations!

But what about those times when the worst possible thing does happen?
 What about when the diagnosis is bad, the loss comes, the dreaded fear becomes reality? What then?

The prophet Habakkuk covers that for us. He says even in times of great loss – no food,no source of sweet pleasure, not even any potential for income – it is possible to have joy. Habakkuk reminds us that our welfare – even our very existence – is not dependent on fig trees or olives or livestock. Nor paychecks or relationships or elected officials. Our existence – our joy – our security is found in the self-existent I AM.

Knowing Him and His glory is the source of our joy and security. Even if all the circumstances of our lives should turn out to be the worst we could imagine, there is still cause  for joy because God is in control and His purposes are love. He cares for us in our heartbreaks and He provides hope for us in our despair. Knowing Him – in the midst of suffering and disappointment – will sustain us. Knowing that He is faithful and worthy of our trust produces joy. Contentment. Satisfaction.

Even in the midst of great pain and loss.

When we resolve to rejoice in the God of our salvation even in – especially in – the midst of great fear and  sad valleys, then we will find great strength. Great joy.We will be able to say with the prophet Habakkuk – And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet and makes me walk on high places.





Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sometimes you just need a nap...

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”  Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”  And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”  And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.  And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”  And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. I Kings 19:1-8

Sometimes after the highs of our lives (wonderful blessings or even great spiritual victories as was the case with Elijah), we experience quite undesirable lows. How gracious of our God to include in His Holy Word this story of Elijah’s journey from depression back to joy! Tucked into the books of I Kings is a prescription that we can use in our fight for joy. Let’s see what is included in this passage…

Here’s the background – Elijah, prophet of God, was witness and catalyst to a mighty display of God’s glory. He invited the prophets of the false god Baal to a showdown between their god and the One True God. I hope that in Eternity, God will pull back the curtain of time to let us witness this amazing event where God shows those misguided people Who He is! Talk about a blaze of Glory! (For the details, check out I Kings 18)

In spite of this great victory, Elijah is human. And that means he is susceptible to doubt and fear. He falls prey to the temptation to fear what man could do to him (or in this case, a woman!) and he subsequently doubts God’s care for him. In this state, he runs away from the problem, hides out, and prefers death to living this way. God shows such tender mercy to him! Instead of telling him to straighten up and face things like a man, God is so gentle, so kind, so compassionate. Look up Psalm 103:13,14 for a reminder of how God sees us.

This passage above has a message for us about our own tendency to dip into depression. First, don’t be taken off guard. Know that we are all vulnerable in this way and be intentional about resting in Him always, especially in the aftermath of those “mountaintop experiences”.

But if you find yourself in the valley, take a page out of Elijah’s story. Take care of your body. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is to take a nap! We are physical beings, not just spiritual ones! And when our bodies are exhausted or ill, that can definitely take a toll on our spirit.
Take a nap. Eat healthy. Go for a walk. Get a physical. Maybe there is a physiological cure to your spiritual woes!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Help has's been here all along actually

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”  He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17

I believe with all my heart that one of the activities in Heaven is going to be for God to show us “behind the scenes” what was going on throughout our life. And then we will get to see how God protected us, guided us, and provided for us through His Heavenly messengers. That is going to be so very exciting! I sort of imagine that I might sit down with Jesus with a Heavenly bowl of popcorn in front of a screen stretched out across Eternity and watch with Heavenly eyes how the events of my life played out. And I’ll not only be able to see things I’ve never seen before but I also will view them through the lens of Eternity…I’ll be able to see what God was up to, how He was accomplishing His plan for me and through me. What a truly incredible showing that is going to be!

When I think about that, about what is going on around me that I cannot see, I find encouragement. Instead of feeling defeated by the battle I am in or discouraged by the attack I am under, I am strengthened by the assurance that God is fighting for me. And His warriors are stronger than those of the enemy.

Is there a battle going on in your life that has you scared, or at least worried? Maybe you feel panicked or even hopeless as a result of the attack. Maybe the enemy seems not only to outnumber you but also to be racking up victories at your expense. But the truth is, there is more that’s for you than against you. You just can’t see it when you’re in the midst of the attack unless God opens your eyes.

Like Elisha, we just need to ask. And then God will open our eyes to see that He is at work on our behalf in a thousand different ways. He is preserving us, He is unfolding His plan…He is not absent nor unwilling or unable to help. His warriors are all around us…ask Him to let you see with spiritual eyes what He is doing…how He is fighting for you…and the help He has provided.

And like the young servant, let that assuage your fear. Do not dismay. Do not give up. Help is here!



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Image building and idol worship

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.  Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages,  that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.  And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”  Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  Daniel 3:1-7

This is the beginning of a story familiar to any of us who grew up in Sunday School.  The king demanded idol worship; three courageous Hebrews refused; he threw them into a fiery furnace; God miraculously protected them.  Definitely one of the most favorite stories from the Old Testament.

Today we're going to look at a different angle of it - that of the king and his idol, or as Scripture calls it, "an image".

This is not the only time in God's Word that we read about idols.  But in most every other mention, the word "idol" is used, not "image".  The idol is often described as the real thing it represents - a calf or other animal, for example.  But here, the word "image" is used. It is made of gold and ninety feet tall... And Scripture repeats the phrase "that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up" over and over.  The impression is given that this "image" is the likeness of the king himself!  Sure sounds like a major ego trip, doesn't it?

Before we write this off as something we are not,  never have been, and will never be guilty of, let's ask ourselves some questions....

Do we ever try to appear as something better than we are?  Are there things we do or say in an attempt  to make us look better, more important, more whatever than is really true?  Do we project an image to others that is not really who we are? In hopes that others will worship us,too?

Now don't think I am saying it's idol worship to color our hair or belong to a certain club, but maybe we all need to take a peek inside our hearts to see what is driving some of our decisions.  I think it's quite likely that this king's statue building and subsequent demands of worship were rooted in a deep insecurity of feeling that he wasn't good enough.  And he felt a need to appear bigger and better than he really was in order to merit the approval of others.

God designed each of us with a need to be valued, to feel significant, to receive approval.  Those feelings that drive us aren't the problem.  The problem comes when we seek to satisfy those needs with things that can never suffice.  When we think that presenting an "image" or making an impression that is different than our reality will make us feel valued, significant, approved. 

Just like the people surrounding the Babylonian King, our culture seems to applaud the setting up of our images.  We are encouraged (expected?) to strive for physical beauty (the standards of which are ever-changing and elusive), financial success (or at least the trappings of such - even if it requires indebtedness to acquire!), and popularity (currently measured, at least in part, by FB likes and followers on Instagram).  Even the church is not immune.  We consider large attendance "success" and hyper-involvement as "spiritual maturity".  And,  voicing a different opinion than the "important" people often results in  being labeled and marginalized!

All for the sake of "image".  "Image" that promises the security of approval, the esteem of being significant, and the pleasure of being valued.  It seems to work - all around us we see the likes of the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces - the important people of our world - bowing down to these images.  Arranging their lives around the worship of this image. Preferring to fall on the floor before these false ideals rather than risk the repercussions of rejecting the lies that images are built on.

Maybe you and I are more like the "officials" listed here and not like the king.  Maybe we haven't built an image of ourselves that we expect others to admire, trying to make others seem small so that we can feel tall.  Instead of that, we are controlled by a sense of never measuring up.  We compare ourselves to those around us  - and decide we are inferior.  Humility is one thing - a fragile self-esteem is another.  Being plagued by feelings of inferiority (and the resulting behavior of worshipping those we decide are more worthy) is just another form of pride.  It's no different than King Nebuchadnezzar's golden image -- both are manifestations of self-absorption! Just like image-building, idol worship is self-focused.  Whether fearful of reprisal or hopeful of attaining personal advantage, bowing down (or "kissing up"!!) to someone or something is rooted in pride.

No one and no image is worthy of our adoration.
Except for the King of Kings.

And He says  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you I Peter 5:6

Lord. help us not respond to our insecurity by either building an image that looks better than reality nor by falling on our face before those we think are in control of our well-being.  Help us see that You and You alone are worthy of our devotion...and under Your mighty hand is the highest position our hearts long for!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What is it about Daniel.....

And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.  And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved(some translations say "highly esteemed"), understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.  Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.  The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.” Daniel 10:10-14

This passage describes a time in the life of Daniel when he was fervently praying for answers and help…and none came.  Yet he persevered, trusting that God would respond.  And, oh, how He did! God sent an angel to deliver a message to his servant Daniel.  In the chapters that follow this encounter, God gave to Daniel a vision that reveals His plan for history.  After all, it is HISstory! J  We aren’t looking at that vision but I urge you to examine it for yourself.  It is so very exciting, especially since we are in the opportune place to be able to look back and see the precise fulfillment of His revelation…and we can look forward in anticipation of His fulfilling the rest – hopefully in our very near future!

For today, let’s just look at these few verses from Daniel 10 and marvel at the wonders of our mighty God!  He sent a messenger – an angel to Daniel. What are angels?  They are created beings, spiritual beings without physical bodies that you and I can see…unless God chooses to put them in visible form to accomplish a mission or unless He opens our spiritual eyes for us to view them.  Whichever He choose in this case, we know that Daniel saw this angel!  One moment he was praying his knees off and the next, he saw this messenger. And received an explanation of what took so long.  He was engaged in spiritual combat with another messenger – one that was also created and has missions…but is opposed to the King of Kings.  And, based on this passage, seeks to detain the messengers of God from fulfilling their missions.
Let’s ponder that for a moment. Right now, at this very moment, an unseen war is being waged all around you and me.  Just because we cannot see it does not make it any less true.  (You cannot see electricity, can you?  Or wind?  But you can definitely see their effects! And if you are confident of their existence, you can harness their power for your benefit) 

There are indeed wars going on all around us.  Wars that we cannot see, where the forces of God are wrestling with the forces of the Enemy.  Just like the angels of God are on a mission, so are these other messengers.  Once, in Eternity past, these beings were created to fulfill God’s purposes and plans.  Satan himself was one of these.  Ezekiel 28:12-19 describes his past place of prominence before God…and his subsequent fall into eternal damnation.  When Satan (Lucifer)’s pride corrupted him out of Heaven, Scripture reveals to us that 1/3 of God’s angels – his “stars of heaven” – followed him in blind arrogance.

These are the spiritual beings that seek to prevent humans from coming to Christ, to frustrate the transformation into Christlikeness of those that do, and to actually rob the saints not only of unity and joy but literally of life.  For this reason, Ephesians 6 tells us that “our struggle(battle)is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the power, and the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness”.  It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it?  In our daily living, we can often get the enemy confused.  We can think instead that it is our job or our church or our family.  Sometimes we even think that God is our enemy!  And when we get the enemy confused, we fight the wrong one.  Just like Satan wants us to. We wrestle against our circumstances or political parties or our spouse, hoping to make them change, hoping to “win” our way.

But we see from Daniel that’s the wrong war to wage, the wrong place to be.

Where was Daniel waging the war?  On his hands and knees.

And that’s where the answer came to him. 

What was it about Daniel that caused God to grant favor to him, to have an angel deem him "highly esteemed"?  What is it about Daniel that we should want to emulate?

 Here is what I see:

1.  Humility   While it is true that we cannot earn God’s favor, it is also true that He commits Himself to pour out His grace on the humble and to set Himself in opposition to the proud.  Daniel is humble.  Humble enough to pray.  On his face.  (He had to be brought UP to be on his hands and knees!) Before God.  Crying out, asking for answers and help and strength.  If we want what Daniel had (and we should), we have to know that being a person that God shows Himself to mightily begins with our recognition of our place before Him, our need of Him, and our faith in Him.  Humility

2. Perseverance   If we are tempted to think that humility sounds like weakness, this trait will underscore that it is definitely not.  This passage shows us that, yes, Daniel humbled himself to pray but he did more than that.  He persevered when the answers didn’t come. He didn’t quit.  He didn’t claim “well I tried but it didn’t work” and then give up.  He pressed on, apparently in the midst of an intense struggle.  He might not have been able to see the battle being fought around him but he knew that his part was to keep praying and not give up.

3.  Resolve  I love this about Daniel.  He had resolve.  Scripture puts it this way – “set your heart to understand”.  This is not the first mention of Daniel’s resolve; in the very first chapter of the same book, we read that “Daniel made up his mind” about his conduct and acted accordingly.  Yes, God will accomplish His plan through whomever He chooses and yes, it’s all grace working through those He chooses but when we set our mind to obey Him, to seek to understand, to humble ourselves before Him in desperate need of His grace, well, that’s when He moves in response.

May we dare to be a Daniel today.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Love...bears, believes, hopes, endures

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things  I Corinthians 13:4-7

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The idea conveyed here is similar to what we ended with last week – that of love covering.  Perhaps the best way to think of it is that love does not cave under the pressure of all things put upon it.  Love is so strong that it will not collapse, it will not give up, no matter what.  This is not saying that love is na├»ve or gullible but it means that love does not despair or lose confidence in what God says is true. Love withstands failures and setbacks, trusting in God’s ability to accomplish what He desires.  Love is not an unrealistic “Pollyanna” but it does persist with a positive, persevering attitude regardless of what circumstances seem to dictate.  Love refuses to be discouraged or dismayed but delights in finding joy in the Lord’s truth.

This love is what enables us to remain in difficult situations and refuse to say “I can’t take it anymore”.  This love is what holds us in a marriage that others say is hopeless.  This love places trust in what God says, not what we can see.  One of my favorite sayings is that God’s Word is tru-er than our circumstances.  That’s what love clings to.

Take some time today and ask the Lord to speak to you about places in your heart where you have given up, where you have succumbed to the pressure of difficulties, or where you are not hoping in Him but rather are walking by sight.    He wants His children to be mighty in spirit, to not grow weary in well-doing, to remain courageous under pressure.  He longs to answer these prayers for you.  Run to Him.  Remain in His arms…abide in His love.  Endure.



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Love does...not....

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things  I Corinthians 13:4-7

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth.

 This aspect of love is not referring to our actions but instead calls up our relationship with others.  This description reveals that when we lack love, we are guilty of an attitude which is glad (secretly or otherwise) over the faults, failures, or misfortunes of others.  Love, on the other hand, is grieved by such and rather rejoices when others walk in truth and enjoy the blessings of that.

One commentator described it this way:  “…the malicious pleasure which comes to most of us when we hear something derogatory about someone else.”  Ouch.  Does that prick your heart like it does mine?  It brings to mind I Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another because love covers a multitude of sins.  Love does not want to expose the sins of others – it longs rather to protect, to shield, to redeem.  When confrontation is necessary (Galatians 6:1, Matthew 18:15-17), it is done gently, privately, with restoration as the goal, not exposure.  The “covering” is not a denial of sin but rather a protection, a desire to see the person walk uprightly and avoid the consequences of sin.

Love is glad for another’s righteousness and finds pleasure in the blessings that brings.  This reminds us of the basic nature of love – that of unselfishness.  Of delighting in the highest good of others.

Let’s pause for a moment and let the light of His truth penetrate our hearts.  Is it shining on any dark spots of wrongly rejoicing?  Take a few moments and confess this, knowing that He is faithful and just to forgive us when we do.

Then ask Him for the gift of repentance so that we can walk forward in truth.